The Palace of Versailles Revisited: A Letter to Future Jen

Paris, July 1988

Dear Future Jen,

Thirty years from now, almost to the day, you’ll be here. At the Palace of Versailles. Standing in front of Apollo’s fountain, having your picture taken.

In 1988, you’re fresh off of a month of studying in the South of France, where you not only earned a university credit, but met a boy and fell in love. You’ve been away from him for three days. It feels like longer. You’ll spend three days in Paris. It will feel like fewer. He’ll tell you he’s the one. He’s not.

In 2018, it will be your husband of 21 years taking your picture, while your two children (who are practically-13 and almost-15) look on (which is remarkable because for years you’ll insist you don’t want kids–or a husband for that matter). They’ll be hot and tired and cranky (both hubby and the kids) because France is experiencing record high temperatures, you just spent an hour and a half on the metro, then the train, to the outskirts of Paris, and the line-up to enter the palace proper is so long by the time you get there (snaking up and down and filling the massive Cour d’Honneur) that you’ll decide (yes, at the hottest point of the hottest day) to wander the gardens first and see if maybe the line-up to get in will be shorter later in the day.

It will be.

You always swore you’d go back to France. You didn’t think it would take 30 years though. In fact, the path you’ll take to get here doesn’t even remotely resemble what you thought it would.

  • In 1989, instead of going to university in Belgium (which you’ll figure is close enough to France to count), you’ll stay in London and go to Western instead. (Part of it is the money. Part of it is not being ready to be so far away from home for so long. All of it is the universe looking out for you.)
  • The boy you meet in 1990? You’ll think he’s the one. He’s not.
  • The boy you meet in 1991? You’ll think he’s the one. He’s not.
  • The boy you meet in 1992? You’ll think he’s the one. He’s not.
  • You’ll move to Ottawa in 1993 and meet your best friend there. You won’t realize it the day you meet her, but thank your lucky stars you go for a drink after a particularly taxing translation class one day and bond over Wildberry coolers and stories of asshole boyfriends who weren’t the one. (She’ll have a few too.) 
  • The boy you meet in 1994? The one you meet the same night you announce to your best friend (who you never would have met had you gone to Brussels ) that you don’t care if you never go on another date as long as you live? He’s the one. Be thankful for the assholes of ’90, ’91 and ’92. You won’t recognize him otherwise.
  • In 1994, Mom will be diagnosed with cancer. You’ll think it’s the end of the world. It’s not. She’ll live to see you marry the love of your life in 1996.
  • And then she’ll die. On May 15, 1999. You’ll think it’s the end of the world. It’s not.
  • In 2000, you’ll change your mind about not wanting kids. For all the wrong reasons. Thank the universe that the love of your life knew better and said no.
  • In 2001, you’ll convince yourself you don’t want kids again.
  • In 2002, you’ll change your mind again. For all the right reasons. Thank the love of your life for being there when the universe doesn’t agree and says no. 
  • In 2003 you’ll have the son you never knew you wanted.
  • In 2005 you’ll have the daughter you never knew you needed.
  • From 2006 to 2018 you’ll live through a blur of days that take forever and years that fly by. You’ll work and play and eat and sleep and read and write and drink and shop and laugh and cry. You’ll love your family and build a home and travel to places you always wanted to go.
  • And yes, in 30 years, you’ll make it back to France.

But today you are 18 years old. It’s the summer of 1988. You’re in France. Having your picture taken in front of Apollo’s fountain at the Palace of Versailles by a girl you were sure you’d be friends with forever, who you’ll lose touch with within a year.

Not everything will turn out the way you planned.

And really, it’s not supposed to.

So look at the camera. Tilt your head. Smile.

And trust me. Don’t change a thing.

Check out what Luc has to say about the Palace of Versailles.



Top 5 Places I’d Love to Visit (if money weren’t an issue…)

Luc and the kids and I just got back from our first BIG FAMILY VACATION.

Three guesses where we went.

OK, yes, it was Disney World.

The thing about Disney is that you either love it or hate it. It’s either a magical place you visited as a kid that you enjoyed so much you absolutely have to share this unforgettable experience with your own kids (that would be me) or a scary animatronics freak show where they track your every move with biometrics and practice mind control through piped-in music (that would be Luc). More to come on our Disney vacation in a upcoming post…

Just getting back from vacation has gotten Luc and I thinking about where our next vacation might be. We even pulled out the atlas this morning and started dreaming big.

Jobs, vacation days and costs aside, here are the top 5 places I’d love to visit:

  1. Machu Picchu: I’ve seen a number of documentaries on this 15th-century Inca site in the mountains of Peru, and am fascinated by it. I know its very existence is threatened by the number of tourists who are drawn to it every year and that I’d only be adding to the problem by going on my own pilgrimage there, but there’s just something incredibly magical about it. Not Disney magical. Sacred, overwhelmingly beautiful, find-your-purpose-in-life magical.
  2. Maldives: One day last year, we received a glitzy travel magazine in the newspaper. One of those thick, beautifully bound, glossy promos full of gorgeous photos of places I’ve never heard of. Oh yes, and no prices (if you have to ask, you can’t afford to go). One of the places I was drawn to was the Maldive Islands (based purely on the photos of impossibly white sand beaches, painfully turquoise waters, luxury villas built on stilts and breathtaking coral reefs…and not at all on any knowledge of it as an actual functioning country). I even had to Google it to find out where it was (Indian Ocean, south of Sri Lanka). Then I found this spa in Maldives which clinched the deal. The minute I win the lottery I am SO going THERE.
  3. Greece: If ever I get to Greece, I’ll probably need a month or two to see everything I want to see there. And I’m thinking this would be the perfect opportunity for a luxury cruise too.  I’ve never been on a cruise, but if I were to take one, a meander through the Greek Isles would be my first choice.
  4. Aruba: My family travelled down South several times when I was a kid (Cuba, Dominican Republic, St. Maarten…oh yes, and Disney World when I was 9…that’s what started all of this!). I remember poring over travel brochures and dreaming about the warm weather resorts we would visit during those cold Canadian winters. For whatever reason, Aruba was always my favourite. Maybe because it’s got the most number of sunny days per year of any Caribbean island (I like sun). Maybe because it has some of the top-rated beaches in the world (I like beaches). Maybe because it was always just a little more exotic (and just a little more expensive) than any of the places we ever ended up (I like exotic and expensive). In any case, I still think for a down-south-all-inclusive-kick-back-and-read-a-book-on-the-beach vacation, Aruba would be it for me.
  5. France: This one’s a bit of a cheat, because I’ve already been there. But it’s been a full 25 years since I vowed I’d go back again and it has yet to happen. France felt so much like home to me (more than anywhere I’ve ever visited) that I know I’ll see it again one day.

Part of me believes that there are too many amazing places in the world to visit to waste time going back to the same place again. That’s why we’re telling the kids Disney World was a one-shot deal. Just don’t tell them I’m planning to go back to France. Or that I’ve been to Ireland twice. And Cuba twice. Oh yes, and Mexico four times. Oh never mind!

Check out the top 5 places Luc would like to visit.