Last October, I turned 40. It was a milestone birthday for many reasons, including the fact that I felt I could ask my 3 sisters for a significant present. And I did. I asked them to come to Louisiana for Memorial Day 2018. Why? Because I wanted them to see that side of my life, because I wanted to share the delights of New Orleans and the Natalbany River with them, because I wanted them to meet my husband’s family (in particular his many brothers). And my sisters being who they are, humored me. Our time together surpassed all of our expectations… here are the highlights.
The highlight of my Louisiana trip was without a doubt my haircut. More than a haircut, it was an experience. As soon as I entered Paris Parker Prytania, I felt a positive buzzing energy. My hairdresser (and brother) Tatum Neill sat me down and gave me a “consultation” – something I had never experienced before. He asked me questions about my hair-styling routine and about the products I use. I confessed that other than shampoo, I don’t use any products, and was relieved when he assured me his questions were not about judging, but about understanding my hair. He then asked his apprentice to shampoo my hair and was very specific about which products to use – I loved knowing that even the shampoo treatment was personalized! While cutting my hair, he explained each movement to his apprentice – I loved being part of a teaching moment and it was extremely interesting to learn about hair cutting techniques. I have never had someone cut my hair with so much attention to detail, which resulted in the most perfect haircut I have ever had. Having understood how I deal with my hair, Tatum was able to recommend the perfect products to incorporate in my daily routine: Aveda Smooth Infusion. Everything was perfect. There is one problem however… I am now faced with the following dilemma: how do I reconcile the fact that I live in Switzerland with the fact that my favorite hairdresser lives in Louisiana? I guess the future holds many more trips to Louisiana!
I adore my sisters and brother-in-law, so every moment was magical – especially because for once we were outside of Switzerland. My highlight of the trip was the stroll we took in the French Quarter the day after we arrived. When I am on an adult-only vacation, I relish the complete lack of planning. As a working mom, my life is ruled by plans, by schedules, so my vacations need to be the opposite. This trip was all about making the best of our four days together, and there were things to check off the list, such as meeting the (fabulous) Neill brothers and family, wakeboarding, and more – there was a plan and there was a schedule. So this unscheduled afternoon spent meandering the streets, randomly entering boutiques (and bars!), trying (and buying) items from brands not available in Europe (including the amazing Krewe sunglasses), tasting absinthe for the first time and deciding to take it to go, being together but respecting each other’s rhythm was magical in two ways: I felt free, and in a “discovery mood” of this great city I fell in love with.
I could sense this vacation was going to be something special. This was the first time the four Polla sisters were together in the US since… well, ever! It was my first time in New Orleans and my first Memorial Day celebration. But I didn’t expect to live so many other “first times.” Here are my top 10 firsts:
First taste of a homemade southern breakfast with fried eggs, bacon, grits, and biscuits; first daydream on a porch swing; first attempt at wakeboarding on “Louisiana glass”; first swim with alligators; first hula-hoop game; first feel of warm rain; first topless water balloon contest; first sip of a “Worm Bucket” – a colorful and tasteful drink containing a wiggly piece of candy; first time seeing Kermit Ruffins live; first midnight hot tub.
Where to begin… My highlight of the trip has to be the various moments the Polla sisters got to spend with the Neill brothers. Both the Pollas and the Neills are such strong, large families, two families with family businesses – one family more girl-dominant, one family more boy-dominant. The moments (in the salon, on the boat, at the Prop Stop, at dinner, in their homes…) during which the Neill brothers saw the Polla sisters interact, and vice versa, are moments that I will cherish forever. Moments I will cherish for so many reasons, including because having met my sisters, the men who I call my brothers now know and understand me better; and having met my brothers, my sisters also now know and understand me better.
I can’t help but hope that this becomes an annual tradition…