Taking a European family vacation — FranklyStein Guest Blogger

Katie Europe Fam WThis week's FranklyStein is brought to you by Chesapeake Family Life freelance writer Katie Riley, who is guest blogging while I am on vacation.

This summer my family spent two weeks in Europe visiting Paris and London. Our family of five has traveled frequently in the U.S., but the idea of taking a 13-, 10-, and 7-year-old abroad was daunting.

It’s impossible not to think about Paris or London these days without considering the recent terrorist attacks. In the past two years, there have been almost a dozen major attacks in France and Great Britain, many of them at prominent tourist attractions.

I’m a nervous traveler. The thought of a short plane ride sends my heart racing. Although I had traveled through Europe alone in my 20s, I’m not what most people would describe as adventurous. And motherhood has long since tamed my wanderlust. I’m just as happy at the neighborhood pool with my kids in the summer as anywhere.

This spring with each new terror attack, my sense of dread over the trip increased. After the Manchester bombing and the Borough Market stabbings, my panic level reached an all-time high. We considered canceling many, many times. But the tickets had been bought, and the chance to spend 15 days in Paris and London was an opportunity we could not pass up.

Our plans were met by friends and family with equal parts reassurance and warning. “Avoid the crowds.” “Just stay alert” and “I’m sure you’ll be fine, what are the odds?” were a few of the ominous reminders we heard before stepping on the plane.

Katie france full fam WOne of the first things I noticed when we arrived in Paris was the soldiers with machine guns patrolling the Champs Elysee. They were present again at the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame and the Louvre, along with metal detectors and bag searches. In London, there were no visible soldiers, but the security measures existed all the same. Instead of serving as a reminder of ever-present danger, I found it reassuring.

My kids? They didn’t even notice. They were too busy marveling at the grandeur of the Sacre-Coeur Basilica, savoring each bite of their morning pain au chocolat, and jostling for viewing space in front of the Mona Lisa.

Me? It didn’t take long for my nerves to melt away as I watched my children navigate the London tube like natives or greet Parisians with a friendly “bonjour.” They biked the grounds of Versailles, climbed all 284 steps of the Arc de Triomphe, tried escargot and listened to tales of beheadings at the Tower of London — all without fear.

What had promised to be a trip filled with anxiety and precaution instead turned out to be the vacation of a lifetime.

The world is a scary place, now more than ever. But it is also astonishingly wonderful. And watching my kids experience it without worry or trepidation was the only reminder I ever needed.

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FranklyStein is a blog by Chesapeake Family Life editor Betsy Stein, who lives in Catonsville with her husband, Chris, and four children, Maggie, 18, Lilly, 16, Adam, 16, and Jonah, 12.