Sunny D to Sangria

When I was 10-years old, I took my first vacation to Europe.  My adventurous grandparents decided to spend the summer venturing around Italy, France, Spain and England with me and my older brother, Forrest.   They were cool grandparents.  I mean, my grandmother shopped at Saks, wore silver leather flats and sported a stylish A-line bob.  He knew his way around the culinary hot spots of Washington, DC.  His genuine, cheery disposition was irresistible.  

Though ambivalent about this trip as it meant I would spend most of the summer away from my friends and beloved horse, I went.   The majority of the trip was spent with my grandfather, MJ 'Papa Jaydee'.  Forrest and I  reluctantly learned how to enjoy a breakfast consisting of hard French bread and preserves, in a parking lot, to steak tartar in the finest restaurant.  Planes, trains and weird automobiles became our summertime reality. I celebrated my 11-th birthday, in Paris, with a fantastic ice cream sundae, fresh air and sore feat (from exploring).  The beaches, especially, were very different from the quaint Gulf coast home I'd come from.  For instance, frisbee and other activities on the beach didn't require clothing.   I giggled my way through that and a myriad of other moments that challenged my norm.  

Along the way, we stayed one night at a boutique hotel in Spain.  There was a wedding going on in the ballroom.  Spanish music, lovely lace and merriment called my name.  So I ditched the boys and headed towards the fun.… a young 'wedding crasher'.   Later that night, I tasted sangria for the first time.  Don't judge.  It was only a sip ( or two).  And Europeans view that differently.  It was a blush pink and fruity and, frankly, the prettiest drink I'd ever laid eyes on.  At first taste, it knocked Sunny D right off my mental-top-shelf.   

Europe instilled a pure love of culture and art in me that led to my desire to study Art History and French in college; and to return there a few more times as an adult.  Better yet, it taught me how to think outside of myself.  How to dream big with a Carpe Diem spirit.  How to accept and love those who are different.  And it likely spurred my passion for event planning as I'm immersed in weddings nowadays.  

I wonder if he knew it would influence my course in such a way?  I suspect so.  You see my grandfather could read me like a book.  He was the other half to my best-friend-locket.  In 2006, he and I stole a moment away from my husband and two young daughters, and escaped to Harrods cafe, in London.  Though I was euro-low, he ordered strawberries and champagne for us.  It was a big splurge at the end of a two week venture through England and France.  I thanked him.  In reply he said, 'When will we ever be able to do this again?'  He was right, as usual.  

I'm 39 now and there isn't a day that passes that I don't thank God for my dear grandparents and their love.  This week, I put the finishing touches on three international vacations I've planned for 2015.  MJ came to mind repeatedly.  What a joy it would be to have his immense travel wisdom, humor and company.   His love of family and travel lives on in me and all of the 10-grandchildren he took to Europe over the course of several years.   

Here's to a New Year, exploring the world and to love that stands the test of time!

'The world is a book. and those who do not travel read only a page.' - Saint Augustine

Eva Clark