It has been said that there are three types of travel with your spouse: a holiday, a vacation, and a trip. And you’d best agree on which you are on before you set out.
A holiday is to visit family. For some, this might be fun; for others, it is the dreaded, obligatory “time poorly spent” rehashing who is the smartest, prettiest, cleverest sibling and every family story heard hundreds of times before.
A vacation, on the other hand, is personally defined: for me, it’s the prerequisite 2 or 3 weeks off from work. My husband defines it as palm trees and a lounge chair, with something cold delivered at whim by a gorgeous young woman in a skimpy outfit. I’m not fond of vacations.
My favorite is a trip: sightseeing in beautiful villages in remote locations, exploring vibrant cities, meeting interesting fellow travelers, and learning new cultures. And shopping of course.
Luckily. Tim and I agree on this. So, this has been a year of trips, with a few moments of vacation thrown in (to keep Mr. Tim happy). The year began with the closing of the sale of Canvas Ranch on December 10, 2016. The previous fall doesn’t count, even though we traveled to see the new little farmhouse in Italy we bought . The stress of the finalizing of that sale and the sale of the ranch meant I was still working to keep all the balls in play.
We spent a “vacation” house-sitting the lovely home of friends in Santa Rosa the first three months of 2017. We are so grateful to Betsy and Craig and our dear friend Nan who lent us a car for that time. It was a much-needed break from the previous fall, and gave us a chance to host a great party for close friends from our two previous lives – corporate Santa Rosa and farming Petaluma.
On March 30th, we boarded a flight to London for the start of THE BIRTHDAY CELEBRATION (Tim’s 70th). We stayed at the perfect Rubens Hotel across the street from Buckingham Palace, had perfect weather, and outstanding meals. (You can read more about all of this in previous posts.)
Then it was off to Paris on the TGV train through the Chunnel and three days of art and croissants. Tim’s favorite city, Avignon, was next, where we spent eight days and his actual birthday on April 14th. Provence is beautiful any time of the year, but this year it was especially perfect. We ventured on a “trip” to I’sle sur la Sorgue to the annual antique fair and had a great time reconnecting with two people we had met two years earlier.
Next came a short plane ride from Marseilles to Rome, a rental car, a drive to our home in Santa Fiora, a drive back to Sorgue to pick up all the furniture we bought at the antique fair, and two days in the gorgeous Grand Hotel Henri. Home again via the Italian Riviera and another grand hotel.
Returning to Santa Fiora on April 25th was truly a homecoming. Our good pal Bruno who had spent the previous two months in 7 different hospitals in Italy clinging to life was
finally out of the woods. Our neighbors Sandro, Simona, Corinna, Corrado, and Emilio welcomed us back. Sandro had overseen the painting of the upstairs and refinishing of the wood beams on the vaulted ceilings of the bedrooms. The piazza was once again buzzing with men gossiping and families enjoying the spring air, and Christian at Barilotto welcomed me and “Mr. Tim” with big hugs.
For the next three months, I read, wrote, and planted and tended my garden (vacation for me) and Tim refinished doors, designed the remodeled kitchen, worked with the plumber, electrician, and painter to add systems for a washer and new fridge, and cooked and cleaned (a new type of vacation for him).
During this time, my new, high-speed satellite internet (better than anything in the US) allowed me to check Zillow daily for houses to buy. On May 5th, I emailed our friend and realtor, Timo, about a house on Saint Helena Ave in the McDonald Historic District of Santa Rosa. He and his wife, their dog, and close friend Nan went to see it, did a video walk-through, and sent it to us with a unanimous thumbs-up. It had been in escrow, so the pest reports had been done and Timo sent those to us. Our son Adam went to inspect what the reports had to say. We knew we had to act fast, so we made an offer and wired a deposit on May 7th. It was accepted the next day and we closed on May 23rd – all from Italy!
On July 12th, we flew back to SFO via Rome and London stop-overs. Nan was there at the airporter to meet us, provide us with a car again, and we took off for Santa Rosa. This time we imposed on long-time friends/family Susan and David and their spare bedroom (thank you and sorry we outstayed the fish limit!).
The next day we got our first look at the new house. Despite how small it looked on the video, it felt like the perfect size for us. 1400 square feet, living room, large kitchen and dining room, two small bedrooms, one bathroom, and small front and back yards, plus a nice-sized garage offset from the house for Tim’s studio. The amazing thing is that this is exactly what I described when I imagined our new home. (Ah, those intentions!) The neighborhood is awesome, the architecture of the house is great, and it is full of light. Even our furniture fit!
We spent the next two weeks “moving in” from our two PODS and getting the place ready for our friend/house sitter Barb to come the day we leave. And we had quite the social whirl getting together with friends for amazing dinners, wine, and fun. Thank you one and all!
We flew back to Europe from Oakland to Barcelona on July 30th, taking advantage of a $295 round trip ticket. Never again Oakland Airport and never again Iberia, thank you very much. But our hotel in Barcelona . . . Hotel Omm is magnificent! Stay there. Or at least have cocktails on the rooftop deck overlooking the city. It was extremely hot and muggy, so we didn’t do as much walking as I would have liked. Just means we will have to be back.
But something special happened (as only happens on trips) the last night we were there. We got in an elevator at the hotel with another couple, politely chatted, and followed them into the lobby. As I was about to ask the clerk for a restaurant recommendation, I just turned to the couple and said, “So where are you headed for dinner?” They mentioned a restaurant and I asked (in my best stalker voice) if they minded if we followed them. “Of course not,” they warily returned. So we did. But as we waited to cross streets, we started talking.
All the way to the restaurant we talked. They were from Los Altos Hills, he was a retired investment banker (yes, that kind) and current Professor of Finance at San Jose State and she was a recently retired elementary principal. They suggested they would change their reservation to a table for four, we objected (several times), but he gave the maître d enough to get a table together. By this time we were really enjoying each other’s company. For the next 3½ hours we shared stories of our travels and all measure of other things. Tim and Frank talked about politics and New York. Sally and I talked about our lives, likes, and dislikes. We ate paella and drank wine and champagne. It was a very special kismet adventure, one we will not forget.
So here we are back in our home in Santa Fiora (yes, both Santa Fiora and Santa Rosa feel like home). The heat wave that is plaguing all of Europe has also hit us in what are the usually cooler green hills of Tuscany. But this year there has been very little rain and heavy heat – 98 degrees last week. We are here until our exciting trip to Sardinia with Petaluma friends Ben and Eileen the first part of September, then its off to Perugia and Umbertide in Umbria with Santa Rosa friends Michael and Darlene and John and Laura. Back in Santa Fiora for the first half of October (chestnuts and olive oil!) and then Tim and I head to Majorca for a week on our way home to Santa Rosa.
Yes, this has certainly been a magical year of tripping. Hope you and yours are well and that we get together somewhere somehow soon!