A Taste Of 20th Century Living

We are going to France on Saturday for seven days. Our destination is what has in recent years become our regular winter getaway. We’re going to the ski town of La Clusaz in the Alps:

[Entry roundabout, La Clusaz, France. Photo by me, 2015.]

Three years ago, it played an unexpected major role in helping me get going in writing Conventions: The Garden At Paris. (I’m hoping it may be of some writing “inspiration” in some way again.) It is an hour and a half from Geneva, a Swiss city that is a great destination in itself. (A year ago, on trains there, we also encountered a type of tourist among my fellow countrymen whom I had thought still existed only as historical humor in 1950s Gene Kelly dancing in Paris or Cary Grant romping in Europe films and could no longer possibly exist on any level for real. I was clearly mistaken: “How to spot an American in Europe?“😂)

At the last minute, an Irish friend, with her 14 year old daughter (who wants to ski), decided to join us. It should be some hygge week with those two along. We know them so well now – I first met her in Dublin in 1998 – they are practically family.

Yesterday, I went to see how many euros I might have. I can’t find any notes. But I do have some coins, as I posted to Instagram:

[Photo by me, 2019.]

Well, that ought to buy me perhaps one coffee in France!

As an outsider, if I may risk a small aesthetic opinion (and please no one be offended): I just find the euro to be sterile to look at. (The notes are a bit better, but not much.) For a continent of artists, *this* is what they came up with? It’s currency art as agreed by a gazillion sub-committees, about as resonant, appealing, and inspiring as the cover of your uni first year intro to macro-economics textbook.

I know, I know: it is proooooogress. But I miss the franc (as I once more there show my age). ***THAT*** was art on money!

I went looking afterwards to see if I could find any francs – the French currency for 200 years until the euro replaced it in 2000. I’m sure I have kept some someplace, but I couldn’t find them. I did, however, stumble upon this, which is in some ways far more interesting:

[Photo by me, 2019.]

That’s right. I saved it: from 1988. I can’t believe it.

That is my first ticket and boarding pass from my first flight to Europe, on the original Pan Am. You’ve heard of Pan Am, I presume? 🙂 You see also on that boarding pass how there were, in those old days, “smoking” sections on planes. (I traveled “non smoking.”)

Also I saved the Air Inter internal flight (from Clermont-Ferrand to Paris Orly) ticket I had booked when inside of France.

Neither of those two airlines exist any longer.

[Photo by me, 2019.]

Gather ’round, kids, and let me share with you a taste of 20th century living. We booked our coming trip entirely using the internet: flights, accommodation, taxi. Before the internet existed, to book an airline ticket it was commonplace in those olde days to visit a business – a physical building – that was called a “travel agency.” At one were booked not just airline tickets, but holidays overall, including hotels and all that went with travel.

The 2002 romantic comedy film My Big Fat Greek Wedding provides an historical example of a travel agency in action. As you see, I booked that trip at an agency on Long Island (near my parents’ house). As I also recall – having here cut out his name from the “thank you” line – the travel agent who handled it was a friendly Irishman who lived in the U.S. (I had forgotten him… until seeing his name appear on that itinerary. Amazing.)

Notice also that Pan Am ticket’s price. A JFK to Paris Charles de Gaulle round trip (or, as the English say, “return”) flight in January 1988 was $560 US dollars. And that included tax – although due to inflation it is important to bear in mind of course that $560 was “more money” in 1988 than $560 is now.

Have a good day, wherever you are. 🙂