Month: July 2015

Leg Two: Marveling and Melting

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The second leg of our trip landed us in the storied city of Rome, which turned out to be the first city we’ve visited that I truly hope to return to one day.  We spent 4 days marveling at iconic and historic sites, but my memories of Rome will always be filled with copious amounts of sweating and lots of water breaks.  The temperatures surpassed 40 degrees every day we were there, so I had to embrace being wet and stinky, along with everyone else. I was also still recovering, from what I assume was some sort of injury from our Path Of The Gods day back on the Amalfi coast.  My left leg was swollen to an abnormal size, and I still couldn’t fully flex my foot for the whole time we were in Rome.  Despite being hot and uncomfortable, I LOVED this city!  We have over 400 pictures of our visit, so narrowing it down was a challenge, but here are the highlight shots.20150716_6580In front of Saint Peter’s Basilica.  The Vatican and SPB were easily one of my top three sites in Rome, and I’m not even Catholic.  It’s on my list of things to do again, if I return to this great city. 20150716_6620The ceiling in the Map Room at the Vatican.  There is enough beauty and art and detail in Rome to appreciate in one hundred visits. 20150716_6633Inside the dome of St. Peter’s. 20150716_7172The view of St. Peter’s square from the top. 20150716_6653Outside the dome, after our climb. 20150716_6659A ray of sunshine inside the Basilica. 20150717_7112We toured the Borghese Gallery, and while there were definitely a few sculptures that moved me, my favorite part, by far, was riding this adorable quad-bike around the gardens.  This is how the Hansens roll.  These gardens were the second of my top three sites in Rome. 20150717_7118Because it was blistering hot, these masterfully sculpted fountains doubled as the perfect cooling off spots. 20150717_7125Finding a sliver of shade on the Spanish Steps.  I don’t get why everyone goes to see these steps.  But, again, I really appreciated the pretty fountain spurting out free, cold water at the bottom. 20150718_7421Early morning at the Forum. 20150718_7425The history here boggles my mind. 20150718_7428The outside of the Colosseum is definitely my favorite part.  The Aspendos Theatre in Turkey is much more beautifully preserved inside, but there is no denying the power of the Colosseum for it’s stories and magnificence. 20150718_7445I wonder where they’ll want to go in their lives, given that they’ve seen some of these places at such a young age….

20150718_7542One of many marvelous Italian meals in one of many crowded Italian piazzas.  Love.20150719_7482Another ray of sunshine, this time inside the Pantheon.  Super cool inside.  Literally.  A good reprieve from the heat. 20150719_7492The Pantheon from the outside.  You know what I particularly liked about this place?  You didn’t have to buy a ticket or stand in line to get inside.  Marvelous indeed. 20150719_7496With my love at the Piazza Navona.  The Four Rivers Fountain was the third of my favorite sites in Rome.  This could be because the Trevi Fountain was covered in tarps and under restoration, but I found this fountain amazing and inspiring. 20150719_7504

And also very practical for drinking and cooling off. 😉


Who’s To Say?

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20150712_6349I was standing on the deck of a ferry enjoying a sunset view of the Amalfi coast and I was overcome by a sense of joy at finally coming to Italy. In that moment I was unexpectedly reminded of the dozens of comments I’d heard over the decades from people about marriage and travel and life. It comes out differently from each person, but the essence of the comment is that people shouldn’t get married young because they will never see the world. I heard it a lot in my dating/engagement/early-married years, but it continued well into my 30’s: if you want to travel, you need to do it before you get married, and especially before you have kids.

But you know what? That’s kinda mean to say to a 21-year old who is madly in love, longs to see the world, and is really broke. I was certain I wanted to marry Dwayne, but I was always made to feel that this meant I had to give up my hopes of traveling, since we didn’t have the means to do so in our early 20’s. And yet, even though I didn’t really know when it would happen, I still held onto my dream of actually seeing the faraway places that captivated me.

And then…there I was, at 39 years old, on the Mediterranean sea, sailing along the beautiful coast line with my husband and my children. Not only was I experiencing it myself, but I was enjoying it with my life partner and sharing the gift with my children. And the impact this trip is having on me in my late 30’s is different than what it would have been in my early 20’s. Not better or worse, just different. But it’s my experience and my dream. I never would have imagined my life unfolding the way it has, especially in recent years. Who could have ever predicted I’d have a new life on the other side of the world? But things took a turn and that means some of my oldest dreams are coming to fruition through unexpected avenues.

So, there were two things that came to my mind on that boat:

Number one: every major life decision has enough heaviness of it’s own without being weighed down further by other people’s baggage. Their preconceived notions and assumptions about life simply don’t apply to you. No one knows the path anyone else’s life will take. Who’s to say you can’t get married young and have kids and then see the world together? Or who’s to say you can’t get married at 40 and start a family and settle down then? There’s no prescribed timetable or order of events. There’s not an inevitable way to do it. There’s more than one way to carve out a beautiful life.

Number two: I wouldn’t trade 18 years of life with Dwayne for any trip in the world. Italy is dreamy, but I’d rather never see it at all than give up the years I’ve had married to this great man. In all my life, with the choices right in front of me, I have only ever aimed to make the best and wisest decision at the time, and trusted that the future details would work themselves out. When I meet a young person now, whether they’re getting married, traveling, going to school, starting a new venture, or whatever, I make a point of saying, “Great! Bless you! Run with that decision. Your life path is wide open, and this is just one of the first turns. Enjoy the journey.” I don’t always word it so clearly, but I hope, as much as possible, to ease every young person’s decision load with encouragement and hope and to bolster them on their way. And then I carry on with my own unfolding journey.

Leg One: The P’s

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So, we’re off on our first European Adventure!  We’ve planned 7 legs in 7 different cities, and our first stop was at the east end of the Amalfi Coast in a city called Salerno.  We chose it because we heard that it’s less busy and crowded than other stops on the coast, and also close to some temples we wanted to see further south.  In trying to summarize my thoughts on this first part of the trip, I noticed an alphabetical theme, so I ran with it.  This is what stood out to me about Leg One:

Pizza.  Seriously.  I mean, I knew there would be pizza here, but it’s over the top.  Every third store is a pizzeria.  And you can get a huge piece for 1 euro.  Our kids had that for dinner, something like 4 of the 5 nights we were in Salerno.


Prego.  A jack-of-all trades sort of word meaning “you’re welcome,” “how can I help you?” “by all means, help yourself,” “of course.”  Basically, if you’re not sure what to say, say prego.  We have been picking up some key Italian phrases on this first leg of the trip, like please, thank you, hello and goodbye.  And most importantly, when the heat and humidity make it feel like 40 degrees every day, “quattro acqua.”

Path of the gods.  This was the day I was most looking forward to.  A ferry ride to Amalfi, a ride up the mountain to Bomerano, a 7 km hike high above the sea, a descent into Positano, and a ferry ride back to Salerno.  It proved to be a deep breath of fresh air to my desert-parched soul, but also an excruciating experience for my house-bound legs.  The hike itself was quite easy, although it was 35 degrees, so there was more than a little bit of sweating going on.  But it was manageable and breathtaking and unforgettable.  When you finish the path in Nocelle, you have to descend 1700 steps to the town of Positano below.  When I read this online before we left, it really didn’t register in my mind that this could be quite challenging.  But, the fact is, we’d just finished a hot, 3 hour hike, and hadn’t done anything this physically challenging in a year, so our bodies were less than prepared for what we asked of them.  There were a couple of times on the way down where I seriously considered laying down on a step and finishing the next day.  I didn’t think we could go on.  All 4 of us stopped at various times, considering new positions our bodies could assume to get down a step.  And then, to add insult to injury, when we staggered off the last of the 1700 steps, we still had to walk 2kms into the town of Positano!  I’m pretty sure I looked like Gumby, stumbling along that narrow, windy road, desperate for a cold drink.  We did finally reach a gorgeous little cafe overlooking the sea and city below.
Positano.  After enjoying/enduring the hike of our lives, we were rewarded with what turned out to be one of the prettiest lunchtime views we’d ever seen.  It’s the kind of place you can’t believe you’re seeing in person.  I soaked that moment up like nobody’s business.  We finished our much-deserved lunch, and stumbled through the town to get down to the ferry dock.  This region is famous for it’s lemons, which are generally the size of cantaloupes, so I couldn’t resist a fresh lemon slush as we walked through town.  We had an hour and a half to wait for our boat, so the kids jumped in the water and played in the waves.  The beach was packed and rocky, but when it’s that hot, all that matters is that the water is wet and cool.  And the view looking back up is almost as stunning as the view from the top looking down.


Pain.  The price we paid for that gorgeous experience was days of pain.  And when you’ve planned a vacation that is centered around walking every single day, the pain is no joke.  I literally could not walk down stairs.  Or hills.  Or slight downward inclines.  Uphill wasn’t great either.  Or moving forward or backward in any way.  Basically any movement at all led to wincing and pain.  So, you can imagine how nice that made our next couple of days of walking.  I had a whole new appreciation for people who walk with pain every day.

Paestum.  We took a bus south from Salerno to the town of Paestum, where there are beautifully preserved Greek temples and a beautiful sandy beach to boot.  This was a super impressive experience, except that there was so much walking…


Pompeii.  This blew my mind.  Haunting images of Pompeii are stuck in my mind from grade 7 social studies, and I’ve always wanted to go and see it in person.  But I assumed this would be more fallen down ruins with some fascinating alabaster human remains.  I guess my expectations were low, but they were blown out of the water.  This city is unbelievably well preserved.  Entire buildings still in tact and even paintings on the walls inside of homes.  And the surroundings are so lush and inspiring.  The view of the mountains and the water, trees and flowering shrubs everywhere, courtyards and fountains.  You can literally imagine people walking the streets and living their regular lives almost 2000 years ago in this bustling beach city.  It was really moving.  Although, there was a lot of walking…

20150714_651320150714_653020150714_656620150714_657720150714_6521On to Leg Two!