European Vacation – August 22

I have mixed feelings today. We’ve been gone for 3 weeks, and I’m ready to go home. But I’m also sad about ending what has truly been the vacation of a lifetime. This has been a tremendous experience for us all, and each of us fully appreciate it. The experiences and memories have crowded their way into my consciousness, and I feel shell shocked at all we have seen and done.

I am so glad I’ve managed to keep this blog up, mainly written on numerous trains and planes. It has allowed me to keep a running timeline of the trip, and hopefully it will allow be to later slot the right memory in the right place. We have over 1500 photos between us, several hours of videotape, and between the blogs, the video and the pictures, I think we have managed to capture and chronicle the essence of our trip.

We have seen amazing pictures and sights, but for me, it will be people that form the most valuable memory. The generosity of Lina, Gaetan and our families in France, Nathalie negotiating with the French police in Paris, the unexpected hospitality of Didier and Nadine in Montvernier, the bicycle ride with Marc, Gilles and Yves through the French countryside, the sweetness of Gassime and his Nonna housekeeper in Florence, the surliness of the Italian tourists in Sorrento (I didn’t say they were all good memories), the new family I met in Calabria and “Go, go, go Hotchkiss” (which has since become yet another Hotchkiss insider joke) and the professional prowess of the staff at the Hilton in Rome. You know at the end of the Olympics when they flash the highlight reel and you feel a rush of bittersweet feelings (or is that just me)? That’s how I feel as I write this. The memories of the past 3 weeks are flashing through my mind, and it one way it seems like a years worth, and in another, it seems like we just departed yesterday.

It was with sadness that we departed the luxury of the Hilton this morning. Although it’s far removed for our regular lives, it was a sweet taste of luxury for all of us. Flori and Anna left early for one last tour down to Sorrento, Pompeii and Naples (they haven’t seen this part yet) and they’ll be flying back in 3 days. We packed and headed for the airport on a clear, hot Roman morning, Jill, Alanna and Lauren determined to squeeze a little last minute shopping in. We boarded the flight, with several more security checks due to the recent arrests in England, and right now I’m somewhere off the coast of Newfoundland, on my way to Atlanta. We still have a long day ahead, with another 5 hour flight to Portland, then a short hop to Seattle where we have our last overnight, then on to Kelowna tomorrow morning. I doubt I will bother blogging the rest. There’s nothing really exceptional about flying from Portland to Seattle, as nice as both those cities are.

This vacation was a challenge to take. I’ve never taken 3 weeks off before. Thank you to my incredible team at Enquiro for letting me do it with complete peace of mind. But I’m so glad we did. This was more than a vacation. I think for each of us, this changed us in a perceptible and significant way. The memories shared here will continue to build our family foundation. I’ve always wanted to expose my children to the treasures of the world, and this one trip has substantially moved that goal several steps forward.

I’ve also been able to temper my North American ambition with a European appreciation for the moments of life that I think we too often ignore on this side of the Atlantic. There is a balance there that is important, and I’ll be striving to find it more often in our lives. And I have fallen in love with France and Italy. Like all love affairs, the success lies in total acceptance, both of the gifts and faults. There is a lot to love, and a lot to find fault in. But really, the secret is just to enjoy it all, and leave it to stamp its own impression on you, rather than you on it.

Thank you so much, from all my family. We will be back! We’ve already started the planning.

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