Back home for more than two weeks now, and we are really not yet fully acclimated. It’s great to see our friends, enjoy Good Friday observances at Galatoire’s, recoil in horror with everyone else about Brussells (after all, we were in Paris only a month after the attack there) and generally try to return to life as it was before. But life will never be as it was before, because–just as we did some 21 years ago in the Caribbean–we have peeked behind the curtain and we have seen a different dimension of life.
And just like 21 years ago, everyone has the same three questions. And just like 21 years ago, the answers are pretty much the same.
- What was your favorite place?
A–All of them.
Paris is Paris. If you have been there, you know what I mean. If you read Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast about his and Hadley’s Paris years in the early 1920s, you will understand. We walked up exactly the same streets Hemingway did, stopped at the same bookstore, which is still there to this day, drank in the same bistros.
Nice was a delightful discovery. The first time we visited there, back in 1999, we really did not spend much time in the city. We traveled through Provence more than explored Nice, so this was really our first time in the city. We found great restaurants, wonderful bars, even more wonderful people. Walking along the promenade next to the Mediterranean will live with us forever.
Venice is Venice. Don’t bother with Carneval, but Venice is the meeting place of East and West, with mystery and history uniquely combined. Hemingway and every other writer loved it too, and we know why. Getting lost in Venice is a wondrous thing, but even more wonderful is actually giving a tourist directions to the Rialto.
Florence is the birthplace and the center of the Renaissance, all art, architecture, churches and history in one walkable place. Where else can you go to see no fewer than four Michelangelo sculptures in one museum? And none of them named David.
2. How did you stay married?
A–Living together on a boat or extended travel in a foreign country is quite similar. You learn to live by the “one thing a day” rule. Just do one thing each day, whether for pleasure or for chores (laundry). Lynn and I are a team. That’s not to say we never disagreed. But remember, you are on an adventure, so remember to have fun, even when sitting in a lavenderia watching your clothes spin in the washing machine.
3. Did you experience the “ugly American” reaction from the locals? (This is the European version of the question about encountering pirates in the Caribbean.)
A–No. Never. Europeans love Americans, even though our politics and culture mystify them sometimes. Actually, a lot. And we love Europeans for their way of life, their food, their wine, their history. One essential for living in Europe (or just about anywhere else, for that matter, outside the U.S.)–greet locals in their language with a “good morning” or “good evening” before engaging in your broken French or Italian. They will immediately respond in English that’s better than your broken French or Italian. But they will appreciate your effort. It’s just the way things are done there. Bon jour and ciao go a long way.