Last week I took a wonderful trip to Italy and Switzerland. It was kind of a spur of the moment thing. I went with one of my friends who had to go there for her job, so I had a free place to stay. I used my frequent flyer miles to get there, so the trip cost almost nothing. Don't you love getting something wonderful for almost nothing? I was very ambivalent about going, but I'm so glad I did. I've come back with a sense of peace and awe that I haven't felt since Andy passed away.
The Grand Tour:
Parma - home of Parmesan cheese and prosciutto ham. Parma has a cute little city center with cobblestone streets filled with cafes and shops. Probably the best part of Parma was the food. Food is everywhere there! You go for a drink, the bars have all kinds of food set out...incredible paper-thin ham and salami, cheeses, pastries. Breakfast is a vast buffet of meats, cheeses, yogurt, fruits, fresh-baked breads and pastries. It was truly breakfast fit for a king. And the coffee--just incredible, full of flavor, a great way to kick off your day. The good news is you walk so much that you don't gain weight! Parma was my introduction to Limoncello--nectar of the gods! It is a liqueur made from sugared lemons. It is very tasty and the most fun buzz I've ever experienced. The people there were so nice to us. I don't think I paid for more than one drink the whole time I was there. People bought us champagne, Limoncello, Prosecco wine. We had so much fun getting to know the locals, and though we didn't speak Italian and they spoke very little English, I felt like I made some great new friends.
Florence - city of art. How do I describe the beauty and awe of Florence? Everything there is ancient and on a grand scale. There is something sacred about seeing the great sculptures of Michelangelo. They were so big and so intricately detailed. It was absolutely incredible. I was just amazed that a human being could possess such talent and ability. Although Michelangelo was also an incredible painter, it is said that his true love was sculpting. Truly a great master. And then there were the cathedrals...huge works of art that in some cases appeared to be 4 blocks wide and reached high into the sky. They were towering structures, full of color and sculptures built into the facades. How did they do it??? We went into a monastery sanctuary. It was so quiet you could hear a pin drop, candles were burning on the altar, it was truly a holy place. The ceiling was an intricately carved mahogany work of art. I sat there for a long time with my eyes closed just drinking in the quiet and sacredness. I felt as close to God as I ever have. Then down into some neighborhoods, where there weren't a lot of tourists. The cobblestone streets were winding and narrow. People had their laundry hung out just like in the pictures you see. I loved it!
Lugano, Switzerland - my favorite place of all, and we ended up there totally on a fluke. One of our drivers told us not to go to Milan "just a big city" and go to Lugano instead. Boy, was he right. Lugano is an incredibly beautiful little town in the Swiss Alps. We went by bus, and as we were waiting, I got stung on the neck by a bee. Some sweet lady pulled a vial of some liquid out of her purse and poured it on my neck. It really helped! We passed through Lake Como and Bellaggio. I looked out the window with tears running down my face because Andy had been there as an exchange student and we had gone to the Alps together on vacation. I was filled with his spirit and a heart full of love and deeply precious memories of our time there together. I felt that he was right there beside me holding my hand and saying "didn't we have a wonderful time here, Mom?" It was one of the most precious moments of my life. You get to the center of town by walking down incredibly steep, curvy cobblestone streets, no cars allowed. There are hundreds of cute little shops and cafes. It felt like something out of a fairy tale. And the view!!!! Imagine a backdrop of the majestic Alps with homes, a whole village really, built into the side of the mountain, all overlooking the most beautiful, big lake. It felt like I had one foot in heaven.
I have felt like I have one foot in heaven since Andy died. Part of me, and half my heart went over with him, never to return. Being in this awe-inspiring place is the best way I can describe to you what I mean. And being there brought me a sense of peace and understanding of the grand scheme of things. I feel like part of a veil has been lifted for me...the veil that separates us from heaven. I understood that Andy can reach through that veil any time, and he does. He is not gone, and if I let my mind reach through, I can touch him and be near to him any time. Thank you Lugano for giving me this life-changing gift of understanding. I am truly at peace now, and I think I can go on and make it.