Delores E. Topliff
Taking a computer along saves travelers money. Buying train and bus tickets online was 33-50% cheaper than standing in line at the depot. Our hotel’s main desk printed tickets for us free with a smile. We made one mistake by unwittingly buying a return trip from Venice for 8:06 (which turned out to be a.m.), earlier than our departure--hard to do. But just as the train office in Venice was closing, a clerk adjusted our tickets to the midnight train for only seven more Euros each. The complication was Bologna’s city buses don’t run after midnight, but three of us sharing a cab was worth it. One young barefoot Italian woman got put off the midnight train for a repeat offense of riding with no ticket. We all heard her loud screams of protest.
Venice and its gorgeous lagoon is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its history began around 400 AD when people from prosperous Italian mainland cities fled to lagoon islands for refuge when Barbarian invaders overwhelmed the Roman Empire and precipitated its collapse. Today Venice is associated with centuries of highly successful trade (Marco Polo for starters), romance, singing gondoliers, and lovers (George Clooney). Sunset beautifully highlights richly painted old buildings including majestic sites like St. Mark’s Basilica Square, the Doge’s Palace, and other stately edifices where splendor reaches galactic levels but you still find bargains. It’s tempting to think about traveling more by starting an import/export business, including travel writing.
Next, ancient Ravenna was capital of the Western Roman Empire from 402 until 476 AD when the Ostrogoths took over, and then the Lombards. It originally bordered the Adriatic Sea but is now 11 km. away and is reached by a major canal. The city has eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites displaying wonderful mosaics and monuments from the 5th and 6th centuries. For me the most outstanding was the splendid Basilica of San Vitale, an octagonal building in mid-Roman and Byzantine style. The interior is filled with mosaics on the floor, walls, and ceiling including lots of gold and Christian symbols.
July saw record-breaking temperatures soar above 40 C. (well over 100 F) across Southern Europe, so it helped to travel early and carefully plan where to be when. After returning to Madrid, the continuing great heat made me more willing to say farewell to my two amigas knowing my next stops in Ireland and Scotland would be vastly cooler. What I didn’t know was both of those countries were so much cooler than the hot Sahara-drenched winds baking Italy and Spain that I froze and borrowed heavier clothing and piled on blankets.
Those fine days saw less travel exploration and more quality visiting times spent with other friends, former students and families, and connected church groups. The lovely home I stayed in in the Wicklow Mountains 40 minutes from Dublin airport, is a Georgian Manor housing a wonderful Christian community. I also enjoyed dear friends I hadn't seen for six years in Northern Ireland where like the song says the Mountains of Mourne sweep down to the sea.
Next I returned to a smaller equally wonderful group on Scotland’s Mull of Kintyre who live in a manor whose original part once sheltered Robert the Bruce for several days before eventual victories made him Scotland’s king.
Even during days with steady rain, a soft light sheen shines over everything showcasing the grays, moss greens, blues, browns and muted shades that appear in Scottish tartans, especially the Harris tweeds displayed in a shop in Oban, beautifully capturing their world in all seasons, weather phases, or times of day or night.
And then finally many pictures were snapped, memories made, and all of the allotted days had passed. As Dorothy says in The Wizard of Oz, “There’s no place like home,” but trips like this filled with heart-warming experiences show me that home and family are also much bigger and stretch further than I ever imagined.
What am I doing now? Dreaming about when circumstances might permit me to go again, plus inviting my friends to visit here.
What about you. What is your best trip ever? Which trip would you like to take next, and why?