I’ve never seen Paris.
But I am led to believe that it is a wonderful site to sight. Full of art, food, fashion, romance, wine, and wonderful shops. And that the citizens of the city are charming and welcoming.
The problem is that I am debarred from participating and enjoying this by my lack of facility with the French language. Many years of life have scrubbed most of the high school French from my mind – I would be at a loss to conduct the most rudimentary of conversations or deal with the tourist’s life. How to overcome this – and to overcome a similar language barrier in Germany, Italy, Hungary, Austria, etc.?
Berlitz? Alliance Francaise? Goethe Society? Well, at 70 years old, I doubt my ability to absorb enough of any of these fine languages in time to actually enjoy a trip. I need another solution – I am going to look for it in the idea of a dedicated valet.
That sounds a little old-fashioned, but it’s just another word for a courier or translator or guide. But I need someone who can make a dedicated effort for my welfare that may go beyond just getting me a train ticket and pointing my in the vague direction of the turnstiles. I need someone who will plan out an itinerary that can be changed radically, that will research social and cultural items, that will find accommodation suitable and make sure that I am comfortable. Someone who will see me fed and watered, and not cheated in the bar or newsagency. In short, a companion with their eyes open.
The good news is they need not be this forever. A European vacation can be a long thing or a short thing, but the fact that each country visit may not be longer than 2 weeks means that whoever does the French portion need not be on duty for longer than a fortnight. Likewise the German, Ukranian, etc. And each day need not go for longer than a standard job – I poop out in 8 hours and if I’ve seen that day’s amusement and eaten that evening’s dinner, I can be hung back up on the rack in the early evening. All I need is assurance that the valet will be there just after breakfast to start again.
The valet will make all this simple if they plan ahead – they will house me in a friendly hotel, find me a friendly bar, and search out a friendly restaurant. Their real translation skills will come in the shops, galleries, and transportation, and as I would hire them for local knowledge they should be able to make these transactions as painless as possible. I do not require to go to bad neighbourhoods nor to deal with horrible people. I wish to be polite and pleasant.
Now – how to find such paragons? Is there a service just like this already extant? Is it affordable? I would be willing to pay premium prices for a good experience. I think it is time to start my research…