How fortunate I am that my two daughters treated me to a fabulous experience with them and their kids! My oldest daughter, her 19-year-old son and almost 16-year-old daughter and I flew to the Big Apple for four glorious days in rainy New York City! At week’s end, I flew to Paris to meet my youngest daughter and her 15-year-old and 13-year-old daughters in the hottest heat wave the City of Lights has had since 2003! A whirlwind two weeks that ended in Amsterdam, the city of Anne Frank and canals.
I’m from Southern and Northern California, we see rain from, maybe, December through, maybe April or May, so watching drenching downpours at the end of June is really a sight! But the sudden cloudbursts didn’t stop us from taking the ferry to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, walking Central Park, seeing a fabulous exhibit of “Camp Fashion” from the ‘50s at the MET, seeing Times Square and the Broadway show “The Cher Show,” touring Brooklyn and eating pizza for breakfast at Lombardi’s, the oldest Pizza Parlor in the US! And, of course, walking 5th Avenue.
The joy of all these sights, of which I have seen before, was to watch them through the eyes of my grandkids. Though I’m sure they wouldn’t admit it, probably not till they have grandkids, but their expressions of “ahhhhhh” when they were up close and personal to places they had heard about and seen on TV or in movies, warmed my heart. And for two reasons: That I had the opportunity to be there with them and see their faces, and to emphasize while on Ellis Island, that this is where my Bubbe and Pa walked through after a horrendous journey from Kiev, via Warsaw and Le Havre, France, so that they could grow up in their privileged community. It was very important to me that they saw the tired immigrant’s faces, heard their voices and felt compassion for what so many sacrificed so we could be born in the USA.
I’m from Los Angeles, I know what Palm Springs hot is, but the Paris heat was a melting, frizzy hair, continually dripping wet experience that drained every ounce of our energy! But it didn’t stop us from running around like crazy tourists taking in every possible sight! What’s shocking to Californians is that not every place has air conditioning and when you ask a cabby, “Can you please put on the AC?” they’d smirk and say, “Must be from California!” If they didn’t ask about Hollywood or had we ever seen any movie stars, we knew the California remark was not coming from a kind place! But like in New York, walking was the main mode of transportation. And people complain about California and New York drivers — OMG! They are crazy in Paris on the roads! My 15-year-old granddaughter was studying for her driver’s test during the trip and I watched her face while some of the drivers made maneuvers that freaked us out!!
And may I say a few words about how wonderful our airports are in the US? You drive up to “Departures,” get out of the car, wheel your luggage a few feet into the “Check-in” line, go through security, walk a bit to your gate. Not too different from your Sunday morning stroll. Charles de Gaulle Airport is the poorest designed airport EVER! Someone must have been drinking fine French wines when they drew the blueprints for this crazy maze of Olympian feats: My Health app showed that I walked 1.8 miles in the airport that day! Off the plane, take an elevator down, walk up a steep hill, get on a train, go up an elevator, walk up another steep hill while schlepping ALL your luggage! (Now, remember, I was in New York and then Europe so I had to pack for all occasions and weather! Plus I needed the extra bags for the gifts I was bringing back!)
So my daughter and the girls met me at de Gaulle. They were coming from Israel where my 13-year-old granddaughter had her Bat Mitzvah 10 days before, and they had already been in Italy before Israel. It took us one hour and forty-five minutes to FINALLY find each other in this crazy terminal!! We were already exhausted and it was only noon! I’m embarrassed to say that we had to take two cabs to our B&B because between the four of us, we had 8 pieces of luggage, 3 carry-ons, 4 backpacks and 4 purses! (Jewish women have to be prepared for every possible spontaneous event while traveling! Right?)
Needless to say we were beyond exhausted when we reached our fabulous 1500 square foot flat, decorated to the 9s, via 1950s retro, with artwork I would have left all my belongings for and smuggled out in my suitcases! Gorgeous! But no air conditioning! I immediately threw open the floor-to-ceiling French windows and let a slight breeze filter in until I heard my 13-year-old granddaughter screaming for mercy as I chased a yellow jacket for 20 minutes. Windows remained shut for the next six days.
The iconic highlights of Paris were the Eiffel Tower, and a ride to the top with an excellent guide…I especially loved all the WWII history of Paris. I wasn’t aware that there was a silent agreement between Hitler and a German general in Paris to not bomb Paris to keep the recognizable treasures out of harm’s way…The Louvre, Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame (so sad to see the destruction), Champs-Elysees, Jewish Quarter, Walking Food Tour — YUMMY! —Nighttime boat tour on the Seine, Moulin Rouge, Montmartre —my favorite part of Paris, Sacre’-Coeur.
Every day was a treat for me to just people watch! I loved the Paris fashion and how men’s shoes and belts matched, how women go to work looking like Audrey Hepburn in Chanel-like couture with their handbags and shoes matching! Ahhhhh, the good old days before shabby-chic and grunge! And what can I say about the food? Just C-H-E-E-S-E!
One day, after walking for over five hours in the grueling temperature, we were excited to go back to our flat, rest, shower and dress for a very lovely dinner. But we were most excited to sit in a cold air-conditioned room with French ambiance and delicacies. The doorman ushered us through the glitzy glass doors, while we anticipated feeling the cold of winter or at least the freeze of the Ed Sullivan Theater where everyone complained that David Letterman kept the air so cold but to our utter shock we hit a wall of desert fever as the maître d’ apologized for the broken air conditioning! Hence, the favorite picture of me from my Facebook followers in where I am cradling/hugging a cold bottle of Evian!
On our last day in Paris we awoke at 3:30 a.m. to catch a 6:30 a.m. train to Amsterdam. (It was about having enough time to schlep even more stuff because of all the goodies we bought!). Two more cabs to the train station and a lovely 3 hour/relaxing ride to our destination.
I love Amsterdam and my daughter and granddaughters instantly fell in love too! Our hotel was AMAZING! Look it up! Sir Adam! It is modern, a music lover’s fantasy with a record player in each room and a record, yes, I said record, library in the lobby with hundreds of LPs for you to take to your room! One elevator has a disco ball, mirrored walls and music for you to disco to, another elevator is a karaoke ride with a mic for you to sing and record your tune and the other elevator is a flashing wall right out of Laugh-In! Don’t ask how many times we went up and down the elevators! AND, at the top of the 22-story building is a gigantic swing that lobs you over the top of the roof overlooking the city! Hmmmmm, no, I didn’t partake
Walking the canal streets is my treasured memory. The girls were in awe that people actually live in the beautiful homes. We walked and walked and walked. The highlight was visiting the Ann Frank Museum where I watched my granddaughter’s faces tear-up as they listened to the plight of a girl their age. It’s one thing to read the book, but to be in her house, there are no words. This was the moment I will hold dearly that I shared with my teen-age granddaughters.
And to lighten up the day, at midnight, we took them to the Red-Light District, the infamous, Amsterdam Red-Light District! Good thing it was so dark out, well, almost because it doesn’t get dark in Paris and Amsterdam till 11:15-11:30ish pm, but I do believe I was blushing while trying to distract the girls from the girls in the windows, yeah, like the Doggy in the Window! And I loved the signs that read: NO PICTURES ALOUD SO AS TO KEEP THE INTEGRITY OF THE WOMEN….And there was security everywhere, no pictures were taken! Loved the canal boat tour, saw a wedding in a Catholic church and we met a wonderful Jewish family sitting next to us in a restaurant where we instantly connected while the kids talked about Jewish summer camp and we may see them when they come to San Francisco next year! Our favorite restaurant was The Avocado Show, tucked away in a residential neighborhood. EVERYTHING was made with avocados, delicious, except the ice cream and cheesecake and if I had my phone emojis, it would show a yucky looking face! Was sad the Café Mazzeltof was closed!
But once again, I had already experienced these sights so to stand next to my granddaughters, hoping every time they remember each of these worldly sights, a picture/memory of me sharing the time with them, well, I pray will be part of my legacy for them. As all four of my grandkids reminisce with their children and grandchildren sharing that wonderful trip in summer of 2019, I hope “Butzee” being with them comes up as part of the adventure. For me, I am grateful for my daughters for the fantastic treat, to my son who graced me with a Euro Visa card with hundreds of dollars to spend on myself and insisted I do not bring him any gifts, because, “I would be paying for my own gift!,” (of course I brought him gifts!). And I’m so happy to have all these pictorial memories at my fingertips via my phone and blessed we all arrived home safe and sound!
And may I add that the trinkets and little treasures I brought home in the too many suitcases do not compare to my jewels I call Marni, Randy, Joree, Jacob, Shayna, Ari and Kami.
As a Baby Boomer Bubbe who still feels 18 but has four grand kids to prove this is the 21 Century, Sandra writes to leave a legacy for the next generations. Her belief that these precious kids need to know their cultural and family’s past in order for them to live their future is all the muse she needs!
She has a Master’s Degree in Psychology and Cross Cultural studies, has written a family history, personal memoir and is completing her first novel.
Her grandmother’s journey to America and life is her source for her deep belief and love for Judaism.