The Five Most Fabulous Moments in France and England
The Side Eye–
Meet Andrea. Andrea made my entire trip across the pond possible by opening her beautiful home up to me. She even sanitized everything for me prior to my arrival to minimize sickness and infection. She never stopped asking, “Do you have everything you need?” Upon my arrival, I found products for disinfecting on the shelf in my room. In other words, Andrea loves the chronically ill well.
One particular day in Oxford as we were hopping off of the “hop on/hop off bus” she gave the bus driver a little side eye on my behalf, which melted my heart. It turns out; he’d driven past our stop, taking us farther away from our final destination. As we asked about the easiest way to get back to our intended destination he made several comments about “the walk not being that long” and “not needing to take a taxi.”
Sweet, gentle Andrea officially flashed him the side-eye. Later, as we talked she said, “I’m sorry you had to hear that.” I hadn’t said a word. Not a, “Man, that bus driver really ticked me off” or a “Did you hear that guy?” Yet, she knew. And that was like a thousand Christmas presents rolled into one. She knew you don’t always know what “far” is for someone else or what someone else does or does not need.
Now, I don’t generally endorse the giving of the side-eye, but in this instance: the side-eye=love.
The Bar Fight–
My precious, tiny friend Terri, the last person I would have expected to get into a bar fight. I think that’s what makes it so delicious. They say laughter is the best medicine and I honestly can’t remember the last time I laughed this hard. So, Oxford was by far my favorite stop in our journey, but by this late hour in the day, I was done. My joints were hurling profanities at me. I struggled to piece coherent sentences together. I’d been ready to head back to the house hours ago. My stomach was eating itself. And yet, what if I had missed the pub fight? My life would be incomplete.
We settled on dinner at a tiny pub called, “The White Horse” where the history and charm were palpable. Unfortunately, the seating was not. The pub felt a bit like a secret underground tree house, which was wondrous and magical, unless you were looking for somewhere to sit. That’s when a bloke named Daryl came to our rescue.
Drowning in a sea of shopping bags, Daryl explained that his lovely wife, who’d done a bit of shopping that day, was in the restroom, and as soon as she returned, we could have their table. So, we waited and we waited and we waited some more. Eventually, sweet Terri said something along the lines of, “If you don’t clear out of this table pretty soon, I’m gonna have to punch you.” To which the bloke named Daryl replied, “Oh yeah? Bring it!” And she did… Never in my whole life have I ever rushed for my phone so quickly as I did when trying to capture precious Terri in her first pub fight. You see, prior to this, she’d never punched anyone, excluding siblings (and who counts them, anyway?)
Instantly, I was rejuvenated. Daryl was the best of sports. My admiration of Terri grew by at least ten miles. Laughter (and maybe a good pub fight) really is the best medicine.
The Eiffel Tower–
I’ve had a yearning to visit the Eiffel Tower my whole life long. It wasn’t spurred on by a particularly well-known movie or book. To be honest, I don’t know where it came from. It’s just always been. When I knew I was going to London, I immediately started dreaming of Paris. Some of my travel friends had been before, some weren’t able to go, but two precious friends agreed to take Eurostar over to Paris with me. What an adventure we had! We missed our first train in because of fashion week, which worked out in our favor. (Hello fancy hotel rooms and first class train tickets!)
My dear friends are pro travelers. They know how to get the most out of a day. They scope out venues and attractions. They know the places most tourists don’t. The Eiffel Tower wasn’t on their radar. And yet, they let me drag them, through two rounds of security, up a lift with bodies pressed against one another to the second floor of the Eiffel Tower. And I will love them for it for all of my days.
The view, the majestic, breath-taking view was more than I had dreamed. We wandered around like little kids, wanting to see from every possible angle. We took 459685498649587 pictures. I lived fully in the moment. My friend said, “I was expecting this to be a cheesy, over-rated tourist thing. But it’s not. It’s incredible.” And it was.
The Rare Books–
I believe I have mentioned on more than one occasion, how deeply I treasure words. I may have even told you about how each of my books is a tiny fiber of my being. So, imagine me, upstairs in Blackwell’s bookstore, touching all the rare and first edition books! Some were older than America and worth three times my house. Truly, one of the coolest moments of my life!
The Secret Signing–
So if you’re a fan of C.S. Lewis, you may be familiar with the “Eagle and Child” restaurant in Oxford. It’s an amazing, fun, place to eat and write where the history is literally written on the walls. It’s where C.S. Lewis and Tolkien, among other greats, sat, ate, talked and wrote.
Hidden on one of the shelves is a secret book for writers, first written in by C.S. Lewis, where you inscribe a message of your choosing.
This was a deeply meaningful moment for me. I chose: “I made it. I began.” For this was to be the year I began, began really living again, began chasing wild dreams, began doing the impossible. And if sitting in Oxford, writing in a secret book, started by the great authors who’d gone before me, surrounded by precious friends wasn’t really living, wasn’t chasing my dreams, what in the world was?
The truth is, I never knew any of this could happen. I never believed my body could go overseas, or I could experience any of these things. So thank you, to everyone who taught me it was possible, and thank you to everyone who made it physically possible for me. You have widened my horizons and blessed me far beyond what you could ever know.