As the youngest member of the Untours team (I won’t tell you by how many years), my childhood memories are in a bit closer reach than some of my colleagues here in our office. While others tell tales of trips taken with their children, I reminisce about those taken while I was growing up…along with those from my adult life of course.
One of my fondest, and most prominent, memories is of my family’s mini “Euro-tour” in 2002 when we traveled to France, Germany and Switzerland. It was my first trek into continental Europe and gosh, was it fantastic.
Since my older brother and I were in school, we were forced to travel during the busy summer months – something that we here at Untours now recommend to avoid. Despite the crowds, the timing could not have been better as it was after my first year of middle-school French. Although I could barely make it past “Hello, my name is… Where is the bathroom?” I made sure that I mastered “J’adore crème brûlée” to inform those enchanting waiters of my sincere satisfaction with their culinary delights.
Our first stop was Paris, where we were blown away atop the Eiffel Tower and had a real taste of noble luxury at the Sun King’s Palace.
From there, we drove along the German Rhine admiring the centuries-old castles, cathedrals and sprawling grape vines – unfortunately (or fortunately for our wallets), I had not yet acquired the taste for wine at this point.
Our next stop was Switzerland, where we stayed in the small, picturesque village of Täsch, just around the mountain from Zermatt. I have vivid memories of hiking between the two towns, staring up in awe at the magnificent Alps while smelling the sweet wildflowers and the occasional goat droppings.
My Dad then had good fun (at the expense of our stomachs and nerves) driving from Switzerland down to the South of France, where we were joined by my maternal grandmother and uncle. We rented a gîte for a week outside of Salon de Provence from which we explored the former Papal Palace in Avignon, Roman ruins in Arles, the frigid water of Fontaine de Vaucluse and the natural beauty of the Camargue and Côte d’Azur. Ratatouille will forever be my favorite summer dish, and I still often find myself humming the tune of “Sur le pont d’Avignon.”
Looking back now on the trip, I am so thankful to my parents for providing me with this eye-opening opportunity. Although I may not have realized it over the years, it helped to shape who I am today. I went on to study French in college, study abroad twice and live in France for a year after I graduated.
I am now so happy to enable others to do the same though my work at Untours. Throughout my travels, I have learned that despite cultural and language barriers, candid kindness really is universal, that all efforts – whether big or small – are appreciated, and that a smile and open attitude are all you need to open doors.
So my advice to you this holiday season is to get out there, try something different, meet new people, and bring your kids! You could be shaping their future.