My husband and I have always had a passion for travel, exploring the globe, and immersing in cultures far different than our own in the United States. It was natural that when we decided to start a family that our kids would come along for the ride. Triton and I were fortunate to be introduced to two amazing birthmothers and we adopted each of our daughters immediately from birth. Sophia is now 17 and Ava is 15, and together we’ve experienced some amazing adventures.
When our girls were seven and five years old, we decided for their first overseas trip we would like to introduce them to London and Paris. For years they had seen movies and read books about these two iconic European cities, and we knew it would be mind-blowing for them to see these places in real life. London was amazing, but Paris was unforgettable.
Traveling via the Chunnel from London on a high-speed Eurostar train, we pulled into the Paris Gare du Nord station just as it was starting to snow lightly. We made our way to our little hotel in the Marais, had a bite to eat and settled in for the night. When we woke the next morning, the dusting of snow had turned into a full-on heavy powder that had covered streets and rooftops. Since we live near the beach in San Diego, snow was a novelty to the girls and we spent time looking at individual snowflakes stuck to the outside of our hotel room windows. Refusing to let it dampen our adventures, we bundled up and set out for the day.
The good thing about unexpected snow in Paris? It brings the city to a standstill and we were able to walk freely through the parks and streets uninterrupted by the typical traffic and crowds. When we reached Notre Dame, the snow had stopped and we stood in the plaza looking up at the grand architecture covered like a gingerbread house. It was breathtaking to see the lights from inside the cathedral reflecting through the colorful, stained glass windows and on to the snow.
But with little kids, their attention spans are drastically short. To keep the girls entertained, I made a snowball and threw it at my husband, who laughed and threw one back. Before we knew it, the whole family was in a snowball fight with our laughing and screaming bouncing off the walls of the cathedral. (All I can say is that Sophia has a mean curve ball that surprised us.) Since no other soul was around, we had the entire plaza in front of Notre Dame to ourselves and it was magical.
From there, we made our way to the Eiffel Tower, where again we encountered almost no other visitors. That never happens! After some confusion about whether the tower was open or not, we bought tickets and girded ourselves for the climb. On our walk up the stairs to the top, there was more than a little slipping, sliding, and laughter. Looking back, it seems foolhardy to have braved those stairs with little ones, but they were such troopers that we made it up easily.
At last we reached the second platform. Just as we caught our breath, it began to snow again. Rather than let the poor visibility ruin our experience, the girls improvised by catching snowflakes on their tongues. In Paris. On the top of the Eiffel Tower. My husband and I will never forget that moment seeing them in their bright-colored winter coats and warm hats, laughing like it was just another playground.
This experience was pivotal for us as a family, because at that moment our girls fell in love with travel adventures as much as we had. They’ve come to realize that no matter where we are on the planet, there are some universal truths. Now we’ve been all over the world together and our girls have developed a healthy interest in learning as well as a reverence and respect for other cultures that only travel can foster. Seeing the world through their eyes has been amazing for us, and getting to be with them while they learn and grow from travel experiences is a great gift.
We’ve been to the ruins of Cambodia, the terraces of the Amalfi Coast, the canals of Amsterdam, the cloud forests of Costa Rica, and so much more. Even still, when we visit a destination for the first time, the look of wonder in their eyes makes me cry happy tears. I hope they never lose that wonder. And I hope we don’t either!
Photos by Jon Bailey.