Dior 2012: Cinderella Goes to the Ball

Dior at des Invalides

Dior at des Invalides

Yes, it’s true … we were THERE, at the Dior Fashion Show at the Hotel Nationale des Invalides!

Friday, September 28, was the Dior spring/summer fashion extravaganza and the first pret-a-porter show for their new creative director, Raf Simons.  It was the talk of Paris and the fashion industry (and our dinner table) for days.

Of course we aren’t House of Dior clients. The story of how we were invited could be a blog entry itself, but the short version is that 30 years ago Perk worked with a young man at AC Nielsen who is now the CEO and Chairman of Christian Dior. When Sidney Toledano learned that we were in Paris for two months, he invited us to the event…and what an event!

Casual Chic

First, of course, I panicked … what to wear to a House of Dior fashion show! My niece Diana Lee, a knit designer for Proenza Schouler, calmed me. This event was not high fashion couture, but pret-a-porter, ready-to-wear clothes for spring and summer fun! I called and emailed friends in the States for advice.

At the Ball

Prince Charming and Cinderella

The attire for attendees was “casual chic.” I owned plenty of “casual,” but not much “chic,” so the next step was to go shopping! Much as I love my Chico’s, I didn’t think my “Travelers” would make the cut. Perk was amazing! For days I dragged him from one boutique to another searching for “chic.” After we found the dress, he patiently waited while I tried on every size 36 shoe in Paris before I settled on a pair of ankle-boots with 4-inch heels, and then listened to me worry that I would trip and make a spectacle of myself while wearing them. I bought slinky sexy black silk hose! (Perk? Ummm… he got a new tie.)

The Invitation to the Ball

The invitation was delivered on Thursday, just 24 hours before the show; it was on embossed card stock about a quarter of an inch thick (and unlikely to be able to be forged!) We put it away carefully, knowing that we would have to present it to enter the event; we didn’t want it to be tattered and wine-stained from lying on the kitchen counter!

Friday arrived. In honor of the event, we decided to forego the Metro and take a taxi. The driver was blasé about just another fashion show. But he loved that we were excited and enthusiastic, and promised to get us there by 2:30 PM despite the traffic.  He had obviously passed his NASCAR test, squeezing out buses and other taxis to get into the faster lanes. Carried away, Perk shouted, “Bravo” when we left a Peugeot driver blowing his horn in frustration at being cut off at the light.Crowd at Dior Entrance

The crush to get into the show was a television spectacle in itself! Autograph seekers pushed and shoved. Tour buses paused so their passengers could gape. A phalanx of photographers lined the ropes as we presented our invitation. A Dior “host” read it carefully to be sure that TWO names were on the ONE invitation Perk proffered – I was not going to be able to sneak in uninvited! (Sorry, Deb Evans, even if you had hopped the red eye, you couldn’t have come in!)

The Ball

The venue was unique with separate rooms where guests had assigned chairs. The models would not parade, turn and walk back on a raised catwalk as I had seen in countless videos. Instead they would walk from room to room through wide aisles among the guests. We were surprised  to find ourselves seated in the main room, the Rose Salon, in the section reserved for the Toledano’s, the Dior designers and the supermodels! Across the aisle were Robert DeNiro and Kanye West. Random photographers, who took our picture as we sat among the models and others of renown, are probably scouring their archives trying to figure out who we are and why we were there!

SHORT SKIRTSAt 3 PM the show started – pulsating music built the anticipation. Cameras clicked on, telescopic lens whined into position, and a series of reed-like models in aqua, lime green, orange or pink glittery cat’s eye make-up, strode past us, made an abrupt turn in front of the press photographers and continued their parade into another room. One every fifteen seconds. Ponytails swinging.Opulent in Organza One beautiful ready-to-wear item after another. Tuxedo bar suits. A-line dresses with sassy pleats. Floating, flowing organza gowns with shimmering designs. And short, SHORT skirts! Reviewers called the designs “edgy and minimalist.” I called them beautiful, but for the items to be “ready” for me “to wear,” I would need to add another 12-18 inches to the hems!

The Clock Strikes

It was over in 15 minutes! Raf Simons in a denim jacket jogged down the main aisle and waved. The models did a last high speed walk through the Rose Salon, and retreated. The supermodels posed for pictures. The reporters typed on their tablets. The buyers scurried into a private room to discuss their orders.

And Perk and I sauntered out into the sunlight of a beautiful fall Paris afternoon. Someone pressed a long-stemmed rose into my hand. We shook our heads – dazed a little by the long anticipation and the surprising quick delivery of the show. How could it be over so fast!?The Real World

No taxi was to be found, so we decided to walk to a restaurant, any restaurant, for a very late lunch. We turned into the first place we saw … a brasserie … that surprised us by offering off-track betting in addition to traditional fare. We sipped our wine. The men at the bar placed bets on televised horse races and cared nothing about couture.

The ball was over …

NASCAR: the Game – Paris Version



Why Perk and I decided to rent a car in Paris to drive to Normandy with our Colorado family was a flash of foolishness at best. We could have rented from Hertz somewhere on the Peripherique, the beltway of Paris. Instead we found ourselves in a real-life video game with heart-stopping action!  As in an arcade, NASCAR: the game – Perkins Paris Version begins simply, then escalates with challenges…

Level 1: Searching for Dante.  Push your way through the crowds at Gare du Nord to find the Hertz office (along with other rental agencies) in a subterranean catacomb. Take an elevator further down; descend a flight of stairs to find your car wedged in a stall with 2 inches to spare on either side. The lighting is dim, the cavern walls damp. Crawl across the gear shift to the driver’s side, wriggle the car out of the space, trying not to ride the clutch. You have completed the novice qualifying round!

Offer the keys to your son-in-law who has spent the last week driving a stick-shift through the Spanish Pyrenees and has a fearless attitude. He accepts the challenge and agrees to complete the course.

Earn 500 points

Level 2: The Corkscrew. Follow the exit signs to a circular ramp with such an incredibly tight screw that, for five levels, walls on both sides are scarred by the paint of past vehicles trying to escape: black, gray, blue and blood red scrapes reflect the screaming curses of previous drivers.  You creep out unscathed amid cheers and adulation from the passengers in the back seat!

Earn 1000 points

Cumulative Total: 1500 points

Street Market

Street Market

Level 3: The Street Market.  Debouche (we’re practicing French!) into a traffic jam; make a wrong turn and end up in the middle of a market.  The sliver of street has parked cars on one side; stalls of fruits and vegetables, handbags and scarves on the other. Vendors hawk their wares in strident pleas.  An elderly woman, back bent into a question mark and wearing a frayed pink cardigan staggers in front of your car while pulling her trolley of groceries home.  You do not hit her!

Earn 500 points

Cumulative Total: 2000 points

Cars, bicyclists and motor scooters clog the road. You try shortcuts, have no clue where you’re going. Your co-pilot pulls out the GPS.

Rose at the Roadside Rest

Rose at the Roadside Rest

Level 4: The Peripherique and the By-ways.  Take advantage of the straight-away and catch your breath.  Six lanes of organized traffic bring your heart beat back to normal. You stop for lunch and to smell the roses at a roadside rest. You dawdle through beautiful small towns in Normandy. It’s easy driving. Where’s the NASCAR challenge?

Lose 500 points

Cumulative Total: 1500 points

Level 5: Pick Up Speed. Resume the challenge when you return to Paris on the Peripherique. You need to buy gas or pay a $225 fee to Hertz.  Catch a glimpse of a gas pump icon on an exit to Place de la Porte Maillot– zoom across five lanes of traffic and swerve on to a city street. Brake quickly as you find yourself in the Bois de Boulogne, traffic inching along in stodgy lanes. Old men sit on benches; children squeal in the playground.  It is rush hour, but no one is rushing in the Bois. No gas station is to be seen.  You do not lose your temper!

Earn 500 points

Cumulative Total: 2000 points

Level 6: Pit Stop.  Circle back to the Place. Ask a gendarme for directions to the gas station. He says to go straight on and then descend into an underground parking area that also vends gasoline.  Miss the turn, circle back … plunge down the chute to the unvented parking garage filled with gas fumes. Fill the tank, then realize that the exit is a 45 degree uphill plane. Slam the car into gear, flatten the gas pedal and pray. You spurt out into the oncoming traffic that miraculously swerves around you!

Earn 1000 points

Cumulative Total: 3000 points

Level 7: Final Triumph.  Shoot along the Avenue de la Grande Armee. Undisciplined traffic bucks and plunges alongside the rental car as you circle the Arch of Triumph, holding the inside like a good racehorse. A bicyclist looks scornfully at your hand-held GPS as he dares you to hit him. Dodging scooters and delivery trucks, you dare a purple Mini Cooper to challenge your progress; she backs down with a look of dismay at being bested by a tourist.

Arch of Triumph

Arch of Triumph

Your breath becomes quick and shallow; you focus on speed, crevices in the traffic, and screech out of the circle – the exit to Avenue de Friedland, the final straight-away to Gare du Nord and the Hertz return.  You cruise through the last stretch. After a quick left and then an immediate right into the station, the checkered flag is waved!

Earn 2000 points

Cumulative total: 5000 points!

The Winner and CHAMPION with no scrapes, no dents, no penalties, no deaths!

(Next time we’ll go by train!)

Cheers! A Toast to Wine Glasses

Sacre Coeur

Sacre Coeur from Our Apartment

We are ensconced in our apartment in Montmartre, with its incredible view of the Sacre Coeur and the rooftops of Paris. At night music and cigarette smoke drift through the open balcony doors from the Square de Willette seven floors below.  Like Owen Wilson in Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris, I am quite sure that Hemingway, the Fitzgeralds and Sartre are driving about the streets, and I will run into them around the next corner!

The apartment is everything that it was advertised to be on the Vacation Rentals by Owner Website (VRBO). We have two bedrooms, a separate water closet, a dishwasher, and even a washing machine! But what we didn’t have was an extra supply of wine glasses for entertaining our family. Since the apartment had been recently refurbished with IKEA home design, we decided to buy some matching glassware. The nearest IKEA was in Roissy, at the Parc des Expositions. We felt very global – Americans searching out a Swedish store in France. But getting there without a car was the challenge!

From Hemingway to Hamlet

We consulted the Website for public transport directions: first a Metro, then a train, then a local bus.  We’re Metro pro’s now, so we were soon at Gare du Nord, one of the major train stations. Buying a train ticket presented the first predicament – the automatic machines took only coins, and we had bills. After fierce negotiations with the official at the Bureau de Change whose job, he reiterated emphatically, was to exchange foreign currency NOT Euro’s, we emerged victorious having traded our Euro paper for Euro coins.  We popped our money into the machine, and out popped two tickets.

To Go … or Not to Go?

Looping our way through the throngs, we arrived at the designated platform. A train was waiting … but was it ours?  As we puzzled through the list of stations searching for “Expositions,” the warning bell rang. To go … or not to go… that was the question!

Passengers crowded forward.  The bell rang again, and the doors began to close. We shrugged, and with inches to spare, we leaped aboard. What did we have to lose? If the train wasn’t going where we wanted to go, we could just get a return ticket at the “unknown destination.” Or, if the unknown destination turned out to be fun, perhaps we would buy a toothbrush and stay there for a day or two!

The train interior was utilitarian, with plush seats worn to a hard glaze. Outside, the cinder track beds ran alongside each other; power lines rusted overhead. I thought of black/white movies of troop trains going through a gray and rain-soaked Europe, but the houses along the track had colorful window boxes behind the hedges and shutters thrown wide to catch the afternoon sun. I wondered how they had looked when my uncles were part of the liberation in 1945.

How Do You Say IKEA?

IKEA at Roissy

After screeching stops at various stations, the train surprisingly halted at Parc des Expositions! We scrambled out of our seats and on to the platform. The Website had suggested bus number 640 or 23; each had its own bay and we settled uneasily between the two, ready to board quickly when one or the other arrived. Bus 640 rolled in and I approached the driver, “Est-ce quec’est  l’autobus du magasin …?”  I hesitated.  How do you say “IKEA” in French? I substituted. “…du magasin de la Suede? …Does this bus go to the store from Sweden?” The driver grinned. “Oui, madame. Cet autobus va EYE-KEY’-AH” . It sounded like the IKEA in Minneapolis, Houston, Denver, and probably in Sweden as well! He made sure we got off at the right stop.


Far more confident and many Euro’s less, we returned by bus, train and metro to the apartment … bearing wine glasses and other impulse purchases. We were impressed with ourselves – especially with our spontaneous decision to jump on the train to nowhere at the last minute! If we had ended up on the Riviera or in the Dordogne Valley, we would have bought toothbrushes. We have all the time in the world … or at least six more weeks!

We filled our glasses, stood on the balcony and saluted the Sacre Coeur with a good chardonnay!

Bourgeois, but Still “Adorable”

“You ride the Metro?!”  Parisian friends had been aghast that we would be so common, but then fearing they had offended us quickly modified their stance. “Well, I guess it works very well for tourists and students to get around Paris.” It also works very well for those of us who have decided to live the life of a Montmartre local for two months.

Anvers Metro

Friends also advised us that if we were determined to live local, we should buy a month’s metro pass which allowed unlimited rides. Key to its purchase was an “official” photo taken in one of the kiosks at a train station; the photo instructions were very clear: we were forbidden to smile, wear glasses, have any hair over our faces and we MUST look straight at the camera. The result was a true mug shot (missing the ID numbers) and worthy of a “most wanted” poster hanging in US Post Offices of yore. Perk looked particularly degenerate in his picture (I realized that I rarely see him without a smile!)

Worth 10,000 Words

With photos in hand we stood in line behind 30 or so others at the ticket/information booth at Gare du Nord .Only one attendant was on duty; we marveled aloud at his patience as he sold train tickets to London, answered questions about Metro connections, explained the value of Euros, sympathized with a couple who had missed their train to Amsterdam.  The blonde university student behind us in the queue listened to Perk and me chatter, and then asked in broken English why we had the photos. We explained about the month’s pass.

As the queue wound slowly forward, Perk worked with her to figure out which would be the most economical package for her three-week stay in Paris. (You know how he LOVES numbers!)  She decided on the month’s pass, but needed to get her picture taken. At least thirty more people had joined the queue behind us. She pondered. Were the savings worth losing her place in line?

“You get your picture taken, and we’ll save your spot,” we volunteered. The students behind her agreed to the plan and she loped toward the nearby kiosk.

Inspector Clouseau

Soon she was engaged in an argument with a uniformed agent. He kept shaking his head forcefully, “No, No, NO!” She kept arguing, gesturing toward Perk and me.  “Yes, Yes, YES!” The uniform eyed us suspiciously as she kept talking. What was she telling him? Why did he keep looking at us? Did he think we were smugglers, terrorists?  Had he seen Perk’s picture?

Perk’s Paris Metro Pass

The ticket line moved forward as they argued. Only two groups were ahead of us. Finally he shrugged, and she dodged into the photo booth; the uniform continued to watch us closely.

Within minutes and pictures in hand, she jumped into line behind us. The agent grimaced and moved away.

“Thank you,” she gasped.  “The kiosk attendant wanted to work on the machine. He said he would take 30 minutes. I said, ‘No, I must have my picture taken NOW.’ He argued.

“I said, ‘My parents are waiting in line for me. See, they are over there. I must hurry.’ He still didn’t believe me. ‘They will be angry if they have to get out of line after waiting so long. If you don’t believe they are my parents, go ask them!’”

“I know it was not nice of me to say such a lie. But I knew you would help me out. You are so gentille.”

“Adorable” in the US. “Gentille” in France. Either will do.

The Best Laid Plans

After the Search

After the Search

“Ma’am, what can I do to help you?” The IAH skycap hovered over me as I unzipped my suitcase at the curbside check-in and tried to stuff an armload of sweaters, pants and jackets into it. “Here, let me take those hangers. Can I sit on this bag for you? You have two minutes before they close the check-in.”  He was concerned. I, on the other hand, was near tears.

My husband and I had been planning our retirement and an extended trip to Paris for over six months; for weeks I lay in bed pondering the details, repeating quietly “I think I can …” I am a Virgo, I am organized, everything is under control.

A House is Not a Home

To add to the upheaval, we decided to sell our house before we left.  We rented a climate-controlled storage unit, and boxed up the personal things, changing the atmosphere from homey comfort to boring “a total stranger can imagine herself living in this house” décor.  Artwork by the grandchildren was stripped from the refrigerator.  My beloved amateur photographs went into cartons. Clothing was packed away so that the closets would look bigger and more spacious. We took a truckload of boxes and wardrobes to storage, and then waited … living in stressful cleanliness, fearing even to bake a pizza lest the tangy smell would drive away a possible buyer.

We set a deadline:  we were leaving for Paris on August 31st; the house had to be sold by midnight August 15, or it was going off the market!  We were DONE with living in anxiety!  At 9 PM on August 15th, we got an offer “that we couldn’t refuse” – recently divorced mother with infant who needed a family neighborhood. We couldn’t turn her down.

A Fortnight of Frenzy

My calm was in jeopardy! In fourteen days we had to:

  • Find an apartment big enough to house our major furniture
  • Pack thirty boxes of the extra belongings and move them into yet another storage unit
  • Wrestle with the buyer’s home inspector who said our AC was “suspect” (it wasn’t, but it took two service calls to prove him wrong)
  • Hire and supervise movers (Two Men and a Truck labored in 100 degree heat to lug our belongings to the second floor in a building with no elevator!)
  • Figure out how to close on the house when we were not living in the country, and the signing had to be done on “American Soil”
  • Pack clothing and essentials for two months’ vacation

Surviving on only four hours sleep per night helped. I finished my last week on the job; we got everything done – even threw a little “house-warming” party for ourselves the night before departure – and had a calm two hours to pack before heading to the airport. I had my list, so knew that everything was under control.  I told Perk to go ahead; I only needed a short time because I had everything set…

Perk finished; I went to my closet to start folding my clothes.

I rifled through plastic bags from the cleaners, but didn’t see what I needed. With a hint of anxiety, I started slitting the bags to see if my clothes were tucked between less important items. No.

The first twinge of panic was replaced by reason: they must be in some unopened boxes in the apartment. Friends had helped us pack; they may have been over-zealous.  I opened a few boxes carefully, found nothing except what was labeled on the box top. My anxiety was growing exponentially!

As my search grew more frantic, my husband told me to stop, offered to let me shop for an all new wardrobe in Paris, which only added to my panic. I knew we couldn’t afford that! As anxiety melted into dizziness, I began shredding the box tape with my fingernails!  I plunged into cartons, scattering books and kitchen utensils, linens and cleaning supplies.   The organized apartment became a maelstrom of chaos!  If we weren’t at the airport two hours in advance of an international flight, they could refuse to let us board. We had been planning for SIX MONTHS! I had ONE HOUR to get there! I couldn’t breathe!!

And then it hit me – I was too well organized!   My clothes were seven miles away, carefully stored on hangers, in dry-cleaning bags, in a cardboard wardrobe, in a climate-controlled storage unit, waiting to be packed…

Leave the Kitchen Sink

Hong Kong Shopping

I am going to Paris for two months with only one suitcase (thanks to the washing machine in the apartment we’ve rented). When my in-laws visited us, they drove a station wagon from Memphis to Minneapolis because my mother-in-law Mary brought everything in her closet!

My father-in-law’s belongings were relegated to a valise and his golf bag. A rod across the backseat held a rainbow of Mary’s silk and linen; the wagon’s rear storage contained a butterscotch soft-sided suitcase ballooning with undergarments and cosmetics, and a 3x3x3 foot box filled with women’s shoes – golf shoes, walking shoes, sandals, pumps and boots. She brought everything “because you never know what you’ll need.”

Although I adopted Mary’s philosophy enthusiastically, we scaled it down a bit and usually traveled with two suitcases for me, two for each of the children, two for Perk – plus assorted carry-on pieces – a tour group’s worth of baggage for four people. Of course we brought most of the clothes home unworn, but we always had everything we needed!

Pay more; bring it home…

And then I ran into an uncooperative airline agent. After a business trip to Malaysia and Hong Kong (and after too many non-business trips into the local markets) I was heading home with suitcases strapped shut.  Airline baggage restrictions had changed, but I hadn’t changed my habits.

“Of course, you can pay a little extra for your overweight baggage and not have to worry about it.” The agent was excessively cheerful.  “Or you can take the heavy things out of your suitcases and dispose of them in that bin over there.” Suddenly my pewter vases, picture frames and tableware, bargain hand-stitched shoes and fake Rolex watches were a lot more expensive!  I plunked $300 more on my Visa card and muttered, “Well, at least I’ll get mileage points …”

From that day forward, I weighed my luggage wih a handheld scale that lets me know if I’m going to run into any overwieight luggage problems. AND I vowed to have plenty of room in my suitcase for new items by taking less to begin with!

Take less; bring more home!

I created a travel planner that has made my vagabond life much easier! I enter the activities that I think I might be going to do each day; I choose the clothes and shoes that I might wear, and add them in the grid. Then I consider what I could possibly wear twice, and cut my list in half; I transfer the clothes into the bottom half of the planner for packing purposes… and voila! I can usually cut another third off the list when I see that I planned to take three black sweaters when I only need one (or maybe two).  I know that I have done a great job of planning when I return home and drop my suitcase by the washing machine because everything in the bag needs laundering!

The best part is that if I don’t have what I need, I “have” to go shopping. And whether I need those hand-stitched shoes and pewter vases or not, I now have plenty of room for them in my suitcase!

Save  time, save space, save money! Download the free and editable Cyndee Perkins basic travel planner from Google docs.

Count to Ten

Our first trip abroad was funded by your tax dollars – and we are grateful!

Mt. Etna: with permission from Jackie Croft

Shortly after we were married, my husband Perk was assigned a three-year stint of shore duty at Sigonella, the US Naval Air Facility at the foot of Mount Etna near Catania, Sicily.This sojourn established how we would operate the rest of our lives – Perk plans and organizes, I live in the moment.

In preparation, Perk encouraged me to learn Italian; he suggested that we study together using books, tapes and recordings. I was a French major in college and  tired of an organized study of language. I liked to talk, to communicate. I figured that I could simply add an “a” to my French vocabulary, change the accent, gesture broadly, and I would have a reasonable chance of being understood.

Not being foolish, I learned a few key phrases that I knew would be vital. Perk studied – and as a navy disbursing officer, he focused on numbers, learning the currency and counting – and expected me to do the same. He worried about my lack of knowledge. How would I know how to count my change?

Dov’e la gabinetta?

After a fraught-filled trip to New York City (a blog adventure in itself!), we flew to Rome and transferred to the domestic airport. We were hot, tired and apprehensive when we finally settled at the gate. I left Perk with the bags and books, found a kiosk and directed one of my key phrases to the attendant, “Dov’e la gabinetta? Where is the ladies room?” (I had also learned directions – left, right and straight ahead so that I could actually find it!) My needs attended to, I returned to the gate.

Expecting a helpful reply, Perk asked, “Where is the bathroom?”

I retorted, “Too bad you don’t know how to ask. I guess you’ll have to cross your legs and count to ten!”

Cyndee’s Key Phrases to Learn

In addition to the phrase discussed above, memorize some language basics before traveling to a foreign shore:

  • Please and Thank You
  • Excuse me
  • Hello and Goodbye
  • Good morning, afternoon, evening
  • I am so sorry that I do not speak your language. Do you speak English?

And carry a small Berlitz language book so that you have polite phrases at your fingertips. After a few days abroad, the paperback will fall open to the oft-used page that says:

Can you spare a moment while I look up my question in this book?

A Colorful Tale


Cornfields: With Permission from Todd Huffman

I learned at an early age that travel is filled with surprises – some bad, some good.  Growing up in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, just slightly west and across the state line from Lake Woebegone, my childhood was an episode from Prairie Home Companion. No surprises…until I was about four years old…

One of my favorite playthings was a table-top wooden map of the US, with each state cut separately and painted a bright color – the better to distinguish it from its neighbors. I loved putting the map together, hearing the slap of wood against wood as I plunked the states into place in the frame.

I always started with the easiest piece, Florida’s dangling peninsula; it was bright orange – a perfect color choice since oranges came from there. Blue California next to the ocean was second, then butter-bright Texas with its yellow roses. One-by-one I slipped the states next to each other until I had a paint-palette of geography. One day I overheard my mother and a friend discussing the Arizona desert. NOW I understood why the Arizona piece was tan!

South Dakota was deep green, of course – thick grass grew in our yard, leaf canopies shaded our house, and July’s knee-high corn covered the fields outside of town. Yes, the South Dakota puzzle piece was a satisfying, lush, expected green.

Are we there yet?

One summer evening, my parents announced that we were going to Iowa for the first time, and to see my grandparents who lived on a farm. My mother painted glorious pictures – I would be able to ride a horse, pick berries and go wading in the creek. Even so, my evident excitement surprised her. She had to make a calendar count-down to manage my enthusiasm!  Finally the last calendar number was torn away, and we were in the car. Hardly out of the driveway, I started the questions:

  • How long before we got to Iowa?
  • How far away would we be before I could see it?
  • How much further did we have to go?
  • Was it over the next hill?
  • Would I need sunglasses?

My parents were confused; Iowa was not a big deal. Why was I so excited?  And sunglasses?  I watched cornfields go by, regularly punctuated by the dwindling mile markers – Five miles to go, Four, Three – I was bouncing in my seat! Two, One!

“Here it is!” my mother exclaimed, looking at me expectantly … and I burst into tears.

Iowa was NOT pink!

The key to traveling anywhere in the world is simply to love the experience. I got over that Iowa was disappointingly green. I had a wonderful time riding the horses, picking berries and wading in the Chickasaw Creek. Since that fateful trip, I have learned a lot of travel lessons, most of which have been a result of making the wrong assumptions, not following directions, or just being too eager to jump into the middle of things.

Decades later, my first travel lesson has not been forgotten:

When I have unrealistic expectations about a travel adventure, I’m likely to be disappointed … but as soon as I “get over it,”  I have a great time!