I love this picture of Raf because he's standing barefoot on La Grande Plage in Biarritz, France.
When I first pleaded for us to go to Europe as a family, I begged for Italy. It's my favorite European country and the place where I tend to feel most "at home" when traveling because I lived there for a few years as a teenager and have been back twice in recent years. It is familiar and easy to get around, comfortable in its chaos, a good place for families, kids, women, romance, art and food. I knew we could find a fabulous villa for a few weeks and rent a car to make day trips. I could guarantee a good time for a trip to Italy: food, wine, gelato, shopping, culture... it's all easily accessible. No one would make fun of our attempts to speak the language. The kids could eat as much pizza, bread and pasta as they wanted. C'mon, I said, it'll be a good introduction to Europe for our kids.
But Raf was steadfast in his wishes. If we're going to Europe, I've gotta surf, he said, citing a few of the famous surf cities that he's seen on his favorite surf docu-reality show Drive-Thru Europe. Kelly Slater and his gang of American surfers set up house in Hosseger (on the southern Atlantic coastline of France) and surfed Biarritz and Anglet. They crossed the border to Spain and surfed Zurriola and San Sebastian. But when they tried to surf in Rome, it wasn't as beautiful, the waves were choppy, the water was muddy-looking. The only saving grace was the food.
Okay, okay, I finally conceded. And then we started to plan our trip. We made Biarritz and San Sebastian our first stops so that Raf could bring his board on the plane and then ship it back home; then, since we're in Spain anyway, we'd see Barcelona. Since it was so close to the South of France, we'd tour around that area next. Paris is the best place to fly home from, so we decided to tack on a few days to tour Paris and see some famous sights with the girls. And then the trip was set. Italy seemed a little too far, a little too "much" to get to this time around, so we didn't push it. Another trip, we decided.
The irony is that Raf isn't surfing this trip. He decided it would be too much of a hassle to bring his board when he didn't even know the waves and could just rent a board here (which was a whole other drama when I mentioned this to him -- it's just not the same, he said, it'll take me days to feel comfortable on someone else's board.). But the trip has taken on a different flavor while we've been here. It's become an experiment in culture, both the culture of European travel and the internal culture of our own little family. How well do we work together as a unit? Can our kids exist on a diet of bread and ice cream? Can we just enjoy the moments as they present themselves?
And so this image of Raf, enjoying the what is-ness of Biarritz, a side trip on our European journey, means a lot to me... When I took it, I wondered if he had been contemplating how Biarritz really brought us to Europe, and whether he was bittersweet about the way that the trip had changed its flavor long before he stepped onto the shell-packed shore.
Turns out he was really just thinking about the Cuban cigars he wanted to buy in San Sebastian later that evening.