Posted by: Kara Luker | October 9, 2022

A trip worth remembering

It was always our intention to go to Europe for our 10th anniversary. It had been 30 years since John’s lone visit after college and I had never been. Having hit the decade milestone in December, we began planning a springtime trip to France and Italy with one of our favorite couples, Sheree and Andrew. Between Covid, war and all the other uncertainties going on in the world, I was holding the trip loosely, expecting it to be postponed or canceled. But at the end of April, we set off on a European adventure for two weeks that now resides in memory as one of the best times I’ve ever had.

There were so many highlights, like our walk in Paris to a gourmet market where we stocked up on fine wine, the most luscious charcuterie elements and a tasty selection of macarons on our way to a sunset picnic right in front of the Eiffel tower. We drank, ate and laughed, people-watched, fended off vendors selling bottles of beer and cheap wine, then talked and took pictures and laughed some more as the sun went down and the tower began to glow. Sheree and I attempted to jump in unison for a photo op, acting more like the teenagers we were when we met than the middle aged women we are now.

One brisk morning John and I set off on bikes through the busy streets of Paris, planning to return to the Eiffel Tower so we could climb the steps and see the view. I had just complimented him on his navigation skills, which are always so spot-on, when we realized we had made a big circle and were back where we started. We giggled like school kids and set off again, weaving between cars and buses and people zipping by on electric bikes, and through the chaotic roundabout by the Arc de Triumph, making it to our destination which felt decidedly tame after the journey there. While we didn’t take any pictures of our ride, we considered our in-tact bodies a worthwhile souvenir and opted – for the sake of time and, perhaps, safety – to return by cab. 

I have never considered myself a city person but the walking… oh, how I loved the walking. Miles and miles of it. Not in yoga pants and walking shoes for the sake of “exercise.” But properly dressed to the cafe for cappuccinos and croissants and to museums and restaurants and train stations and parks and shops. And back to the hotel every once in a while for a rest or a change of clothes or when we had thoroughly spent the day and night called us back. I suddenly understood the shows we’ve watched when people give up their spacious U.S. homes to live in a small flat in a European city in the middle of it all. I don’t plan on doing that – yet, anyway – but I finally get the appeal.

Our stays in Italy were equally magical, each holding in their hands unique experiences and sweet memories full of laughter, food, wine and beauty. Andrew, humbled by this exquisite existence we were inhabiting, kept saying, “I’m just a regular guy.” I felt the same. Like, how does someone like me get to be somewhere like this? And yet, we couldn’t help but soak it in, feeling grateful and blessed. 

Our day trips into Florence were filled with stunning architecture, live music, the biggest, meatiest sandwiches we’ve ever eaten and more gelato than we will ever be able to burn off. We shopped at the marketplaces full of every leather good imaginable and spent an evening watching the sun go down beyond the duomo. The view was glorious, rivaled only by the joy of watching a handful of very enthusiastic (and perhaps intoxicated) young Italian guys joking around with each other and singing with contagious spirit and gusto.

The road back to our villa in the Tuscan hills wound right by the cemetery where John’s great uncle is buried, having lost his life during World War II. John and I ventured back one day to pause there, in that peaceful resting place with the river running by, and think about history and family and the cost of freedom. We facetimed a few of John’s older family members and breathed in the beauty of this unlikely reunion.

After having taken planes, trains, cabs, cars, bikes and our own two legs, we hopped on a ferry that carried us along the Amalfi coast and deposited us on the beach of Positano. We hiked 243 steps up to our Airbnb and, having already lost our literal breath, lost our figurative breath at the stunning view from the patio where we could have happily spent our entire stay. But there were adventures to be had as we walked a million steps up and a million steps down to explore restaurants and shops, taking in the vibrant colors and fun patterns of clothing that reflected the playful beachy vibe, discovered a vivid orange cocktail that was just as yummy to look at as to drink, shared the brisk sea with a surprising number of jellyfish and enjoyed dinner looking up through the darkening sky at the houses built right into the hill, their lights aglow, like a giant, festive Christmas tree.

Having little interest in history and an unrealized appreciation of city life, I was least excited for our last stop in Rome. How little did I know then how much this city would capture my affection, not just for the place but for the people we encountered along the way, like favorite characters out of a book who brought the story of Rome to life with heart and humor. The hysterical commentary provided by our taxi driver from the train station assured me from the start this is exactly where I wanted to be. Within minutes of dumping our luggage at our apartment, we had already made our way on foot to the Pantheon, the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish steps which were adorned with masses of flowering azaleas, placed there out of tradition yet seeming like a personal welcome just for me.

The rain was supposed to follow us to every city, causing me to wonder if we’d timed our trip wrong. But somehow it kept getting pushed off, never arriving even when the weather app assured us it was on its way. Then, while standing in the open air of the Colosseum, a powerful crack of thunder broke through the moody sky and released a single drop of rain onto my cheek. I braced myself for the downpour. But it didn’t loose itself until our tour was over and we’d trekked back to our flat, providing a perfectly-timed backdrop to our much-needed nap… then dwindled to a drizzle as we sauntered to dinner, wetting the cobblestone streets and reflecting the city lights as though we were walking through an impressionistic painting. How could I have thought this city wouldn’t capture my heart?

I thought that after two weeks’ time, I would be sick of traveling – and maybe our traveling buddies – and dying to go home, but in the end I wanted just one more day. Or maybe two. There was so much more to see and do. But it was time for all of us to get back to our lives and family, so we took one last taxi to the airport in Rome and, despite nearly missing our connection in Paris, flew back to the States, where we were happy to be home, fattened in body and soul, and looking forward to another trip… someday, somewhere.


Responses

  1. Jealous!

    • Understandable!! Hope you’ve been… or will be able to go!

  2. Kara I so enjoyed this post. Except for riding a bike in Paris, I think St one time or another I have done all the things you so beautifully described. I’m Positano our hotel even had a rounded window as in your photo. I, too, would love to spend a few months in a small flat seeing and enjoying life in a European city. I look forward to hearing more about your visit when we visit next year. 🧡🧡🧡

    >

    • I loved hearing about your adventures in Paris and I’m looking forward to our combined recollections when we see you!!

  3. Wow Kari – beautifully written (great memories) and beautiful photos!! Does looking at them make you feel like “just more day” – or were you ready to come home? Being alone is better than being with a whole tour group, I think. Thanks for the photos.

    • It really was the best trip and I’m so glad we have so many photos to remember it by! I guess it’s good to end on a high note and look forward to the next one 😊


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