April, 16 2013 | Written by: Jeff Paul | Found in: Europe, Travel | 0 Comments
Ever since Mormon Explorer launched in mid-2012, my wife and I had wanted to try it out. We love to travel and meet new people, so we figured Mormon Explorer would be the perfect way to do both, while saving money (another passion of ours). We couldn’t be more pleased with our experience traveling to Paris and staying with Georgette Lalaus and her amazing family.
We arrived at the Paris airport in a complete downpour late Sunday evening. We had prearranged the airport pickup time, but failed to confirm a location other than “meet me at the airport”. Lesson 1: Choose a specific meeting spot when making arrangements. Unfortunately, we did not have an international cellphone, so I was frantically trying to pick up wi-fi signals to connect with Georgette through Skype. I finally humbled myself enough to beg a stranger to let me borrow his phone to arrange a pickup location. When we finally found each other, all of us soaked from running around in the rain, I clearly remember Georgette’s huge smile on her face. She repeated several times the phrase, “I am so Happy!”. Her joy for life was contagious and I knew right then that we were going to have an amazing few days with her in Paris.
Her husband, Phillipe, drove us back to their apartment on the south-west side of town. Their apartment was a beautiful little haven from the crazy day of travel we had just been through. We were surprised to hear that they had moved their two boys out of their bedroom so that we could sleep in their room. Both Georgette and Phillipe had to wake up early to get to work, but that didn’t keep them from staying up late to help us plan our next day’s activities, nor did it keep them from waking up early to make sure there was delicious quiche for us when we woke up…very amazing family. Lesson 2: Make sure to thank hosts often for bending over backward for you.
The point of this blog isn’t to describe the amazing sites of Paris, which you can find detailed in any travel book. I want to focus instead on the unique experiences that we had that were only possible through our use of Mormon Explorer. Here are some of the highlights. The second day in Paris, Georgette was able to leave work a little early to give us a personal tour of the city. She introduced us to a parisian cafe where I tasted the best french onion soup I have had to date. We relaxed in the cafe and got to know Georgette better. Her conversations were deeper than most you would have over lunch. She delved into our life story by asking questions like, “when did you get your testimony?”, “what does the church mean for you?” Lesson 3: People who are open to letting you stay in their home also want you to open up to them. She could have easily been mistaken for a new member by her eagerness to talk about the gospel, but through our conversations we came to find out that she had been a member nearly her entire life, and was somehow able to keep her excitement for the church as if she’d been baptized yesterday.
She took us to the downtown Paris LDS chapel where we met some of the young adults who were involved in institute. Several of them were Americans on internships in Paris. You can always guarantee you will quickly become friends with a fellow American when you meet up in a new country, and this was no exception to that rule. She finished the evening by taking us to her friend’s house who is currently investigating the church. He let us in his home for several hours to discuss the gospel. As to be expected, the conversation also veered into topics such as food and art. His wife was an artist, so we were shown a number of her original pieces he had hanging on his walls. This was more memorable than some of the art galleries we visited thanks to the stories he was able to share behind each of paintings. We would have never expected to spend an evening in Paris doing missionary work, but that is exactly what we did thanks to Georgette.
We spent several more days with the Lalaus family, getting to know them and their city as best we could. We were always shown amazing kindness and felt indebted to them when it finally came time to go. Lesson 4: Leave your host family a gift or thoughtful letter. We found a toy for their son the night before we left, which we hope he enjoyed. It was the least we could do for him after giving up his bed for a few nights. After leaving, we wish we would have done more to show our appreciation. When Georgette reads this post, I hope this is one way of saying “thank you”. But even more importantly I hope that someday the Lalaus family will make it to our home in Texas and we can repay their kindness.
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