I have decided to spend my 58th birthday, August 4, 2013, in the City of Light. I remember seeing the Eiffel Tower the first time, two days after turning 19 – almost 40 years ago. Growing up I had often stared at a picture of my father flying under it on his golden birthday, August 25, 1944. I am sure his feeling of exhilaration of this accomplishment was mixed with the horror of the last 10 weeks of his life in combat. And on that special day I am sure that he was not thinking of four months later when he would again fly dangerously low, this time over enemy lines at the Battle of the Bulge. For the Eiffel Tower stunt he got a photo and lifetime of memories, for the bravery at Bastogne he would receive the Silver Star from the future President Eisenhower.
I joined my father and mother in Paris in 1981 to celebrate my father’s retirement from decades of holding two jobs to ensure that his children would never know the economic hardship of his childhood. Returning from over three years in the Peace Corps in Cameroon, I had stopped in Greece for six weeks before coming to Paris. It was in Greece that I came out after meeting someone in Mykonos. David joined us in Paris for three magical days with my parents – days that I will never forget. The City of Light, the City of Love – to me there is no place as magical as Paris to look into someone’s eyes and really let yourself go.
When we were planning our 2013 schedule for Brand g Vacations, I decided that it was time to share my love for Paris with other travelers. Our two days there will precede one of the first-ever LGBT cruise down the Rhone River. This cruise is such a great way to see the varied French countryside, without having to unpack, for seven days. From the verdant vineyards of Burgundy to the ancient ruins of Arles, our guests will have the opportunity to taste great wine in the fields where the grapes were harvested, or climb the massive Pont du Gard to try and understand the ingenuity of the Roman architecture that built this massive aqueduct. But perhaps the greatest moments will simply be sailing along France’s greatest river and watching the world go by, surrounded by 130 friendly people who share the experience of having seen the great leap forward of the LGBT community in the last few years. Perhaps France will soon offer full marriage equality to its LGBT community?
And after the cruise, I look forward to the optional two-day excursion in Barcelona, for which I have fond memories as well. I doubt I could have imagined in 1974 when I was first there and the country was still shackled by the dictatorship of Francisco Franco that Barcelona could change much in 38 years. I was there again in July of 1995 with a cruise ship of 220 LGBT passengers, and I remember to this day an excursion bus driver saying that he didn’t think there were 220 of “us” in the entire world. I am sure that 10 years later, when Spain passed full marriage equality, he finally understood that there were many more than 200!
Great cities, countries, and memories for me. I hope that you will join me in creating more.