I’m a Little Bit Sad

“I’m a little bit sad,” my son used to say to me when he was three. “I miss my Tatie.”

And by Tatie he meant his best friend Katie who he’d just seen the day before. Or maybe an hour before.

“It’s okay, buddy,” I’d tell him, giving him a hug. “We’ll see Katie soon.”

My son would say this often about Katie when he wasn’t with her and my husband and I found this adorable. “I’m a little bit sad,” became vernacular for us.

“I’m a little bit sad Alias isn’t on anymore,” my husband would say as he was flipping channels after the show ended because of his crush on Jennifer Garner.

“I’m a lot a bit sad,” I’d tell him because it was Alias that introduced me to my forever #1 boyfriend Bradley Cooper.

Or, “I’m a little bit sad we’re not going to Italy this summer,” I’d say as we pulled the camping gear out of the shed for our yearly vacation.

“You’re going to be a little bit sad for a lot of summers,” he’d joke.

To us, “I’m a little bit sad,” was funny. A reminder of our sweet and sensitive toddler.

But Jennifer Garner doesn’t play college students anymore. Now she plays middle aged moms.

And we still don’t get to go to Italy this summer, but we also haven’t gone on a family camping trip in a really long time.

Because while still sweet and sensitive (a little), my son is not a toddler anymore. He graduated from college two weeks ago. Today he starts a five month engineering internship 375 miles away that will likely lead to a job. And even though he’s been away at school for four years it’s different this time. Permanent.

And I’m so happy for him and so proud of him. Happier and prouder than I’ve ever been.

But also, as he drove away a tear unexpectedly rolled down my face.

I’m a little bit sad.

Planning my Dream 20th Anniversary Vacation with GoWithOh

In March Dave and I will be celebrating our 20th wedding anniversary. In the early years of our marriage, I pictured celebrating our 10 year anniversary in Vegas renewing our vows with an Elvis impersonator. (Fat Elvis – duh!) Instead we set up camp in two beach houses with my family – about 15 of us total, dining on chili cheese dogs and sleeping on an air mattress; all the hoopla reserved my for nephew’s first birthday celebration instead of our ten year union.

Life never really does turn out as planned, does it?

For our 20th wedding anniversary I’ve always dreamed of returning to where we got engaged – Italy.

But… (almost) 20 years later – two moves, different jobs, financial ups and downs, a mortgage, two kids – one less than two years away from college… life and those plans right? While we are lucky to be rich in love (most days), our current bank balance suggests that we’re much more likely to be celebrating our 20th by clinking our Chianti glasses at our favorite Italian restaurant with views of the hills of Agoura, than at a quaint trattoria with views of the hills of Tuscany.

But last week I read this blog and found out about a contest called “Be Our Guest Tester” hosted by the website GowithOh.

GowithOh rents vacation apartments to travelers in 17 European cities – five of them in Italy. (Florence. Milan. Rome. Pisa. Venice. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. And yes!) To enter the contest all I have to do is write a blog post about which apartment I would chose from their site and why, and tag the post on Twitter using the hashtag ##GwOGuestTester. Fantastic!

When Dave and I travel to Europe we love staying in quaint pensions, small bed and breakfasts, or apartments like Europeans do. Sure, luxury hotels are lovely, but if you’re going to experience another country, I think the best way to do it is by traveling -and living- like a local.

GowithOh just happens to have 255 apartments located in my favorite Italian city – Florence. We returned to Italy and visited Florence on our second anniversary. I immediately fell madly and deeply in love. I wept when I stood next to The David, I was so overcome with its beauty. I raised my hands in victory when I climbed all 463 steps to the top of Il Duomo. We crossed the Arno River and picnicked on a hillside taking in the wonderful Tuscan views. And you want to talk tears of joy? I think I cried every time I ate because the food was so fresh and so incredibly delicious, it made me the happiest I’d ever been every time I ate. (Which was as often as possible.)

So Dave and I started cruising the GoWithOh website to pick out our dream 20th anniversary trip apartment. Where would we stay if money was no object? It was almost impossible to choose.

We loved ceilings and the uniqueness of this one.

Go-with-oh-Florence-apartment

And we loved the traditional Florentine style of this one.

Go-with-oh-Florence-apartment

But this one simply took my breath away. That view? Are you kidding? This is where Dave and I would choose to spend our 20th Anniversary 2nd Honeymoon.

Apartment-with-Go-with-oh-Florence-apartment
Yes please!

But wait… there’s more…

We’ll spend our afternoons resting from sightseeing and rejuvenating before heading out to the piazza for an evening stroll and (a tears-of-joy-inducing) dinner here.

GoWithOh.livingroom.Florence

We’ll prepare a simple breakfast here…

GoWithOh-kitchen-Florence

Then eat it here…

Balcony-in-Florence

None of your business what we’ll be doing here. (But it might or might not rhyme with peeping. Shut up! Sightseeing makes you tired!)

Florence-apartment-bedroom

And trust me, for a European bathroom – this one is HUGE! (Love that tub!)

Italian-bathroom

I might not win the GoWithOh Guest Tester contest, but that’s okay. We’ve had a great time perusing at the apartments they have to offer. Looking at all the pictures and planning our dream trip (even if it is only in our hearts and our heads) was almost as fun as being there.

Almost.

ParisLondonBerlin… where would you go with GoWithOh?

Where Would YOU Go if Money Was No Object?

This post was inspired by Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshop. I chose prompt #5:  8 places you’d go this summer if money wasn’t an object.

Hmmm… do I have to do them all this summer? I guess I’d better get started. And since we’re talking Lotto Dreams travel, I’ll have to hire a Lear Jet so I don’t have to mingle with the type of people who fly tourist. (Which is pretty much me!)

Earth
Earth – photo credit Tonynetone via Creative Commons

#1 Istanbul

When I was in college a favorite marketing professor of mine told tales of her backpacking trips abroad. She was the one who sparked the desire in me to backpack across Europe during the summer of 1986. She traveled to many places and her favorite place hands down was Istanbul. She made it sound so magical I’ve wanted to go ever since. She especially loved the Grand Bazaar where haggling for beautiful and unique treasures was an art form. Most Saturdays Chandler and I go yard saling and haggle over prices of used junk unique treasures. I cherish the time with him and I enjoy our little treasure hunts, but somehow I think shopping for shit we don’t need in Turkey would be way better.

Istanbul-Grand-Bazaar
Istanbul Grand Bazaar Photo credit Brian Snelson via Creative Commons

#2 Italy

I became engaged in Italy and it holds a very special place in my heart. The food, the art, the culture, the people, the gorgeous countryside, the art, the wine, the fooood (yeah, there’s a reason Elizabeth Gilbert ate her way through Italy) – I am madly in love with Italy. However, I have not spent any time at the lake district or on the Italian coast. (Unless you count those nine hours in 1986 when I sat at the very unattractive port of Brindisi waiting for the ferry to the party nation of Greece.) I would love to rent a villa at Lake Como or the Amalfi Coast and spend an entire summer there lying around doing absolutely nothing but drinking wine and eating. (Except that I have six more destinations to visit!)

Verona-Italy-Juliet-balcony
Standing on Juliet’s balcony in Verona, Italy the day after my engagement.

#3 London

I spent a semester of college attending school in London and it quickly became one of my favorite cities. Dave and I have often talked about how we would love to live in London for a year or two. I love the museums and the architecture, the parks and the pubs. I love shopping on Portobello Road and Kensington High Street. I can’t wait to take my kids to London one day and show them the sights. My kids don’t really love cities, but I think London would turn them around.

London-Big-Ben
Lovely London – Photo credit Tim Morris via Creative Commons

#4 Greece

Was that nine hour wait in the industrial port of Brindisi and 24 hour barf-over-the-side ferry ride worth it? You bet. During that 1986 trip I went to Athens (don’t bother) and Ios (party paradise) and then returned to Greece in 1988 (before starting my semester in London) to visit Ios once again, and added Mykonos and Santorini. The stark contrast of the white stucco buildings and bright blue sea is just breathtaking. I think I’d skip Ios this time (mostly out of fear that they wouldn’t let me off the boat because I’m too old!) But I would love to spend some serious time there lounging on the beaches of Santori, Mykonos and Corfu reading a book and eating  a lot of simple Mediterranean food and not much else. Ah yes, the art of doing nothing!

Brindisi-to-Greece
Heading to Greece via huge ferry slumber party

#5 New York City

Well, I’m halfway through my fantasy travel summer and of course a trip to New York is mandatory. I haven’t been to New York in eight years and I miss it desperately. I always feel so alive in that city. I love the shops and restaurants. I love the bars and seeing plays both on and off Broadway. I love walking everywhere. And I simply adore the fashion. People don’t dress up in California like they do in New York.  I could stand on the streets of Manhattan and people watch all day.

Side note:  I follow a fabulous blog called Fashables that features street style photography. (Photographs taken of random people walking down the street.) It helps me get my New York fix. But I am dying to go back soon for reals.

Fashables collage
New York street style photography by Ryan Shell of Fashables

# 6 Napa Valley/San Francisco 

Napa/San Francisco totally counts as one place right? I went to Napa earlier this year for the 2013 Wine Sisterhood trip (did I mention it was amazing) and can’t wait to go back. The trip I went on was a girlfriend’s trip, but I’d love to take my husband there. We went in 1990 when we were dating and we are well overdue for a trip back. And since this is a money-is-no-object fantasy, I’d like to hire a limo to take us to all the wineries and restaurants (yes every single one) and drink until I start to slur and eat until I start to waddle. I think a week should do it. I loved the Andaz Napa Hotel and would definitely stay there again. And a trip to San Fransicso on the way to our next destination would definitely be in order.

Chappellet-vineyards
Beautiful Chappellet vineyards in Napa Valley

#7 Hawaii

Dave and I have been there three times – twice to Maui (once before we were married and for our honeymoon) and once to Kauai when Chandler was just under two. As much as I love Hawaii (and I do), I probably wouldn’t put it in my Top 8, but Marley is dying to go to Hawaii. She finds it horribly unfair that Chandler has been to Hawaii and she hasn’t. The fact that Chandler doesn’t remember the trip at all does not seem to sway her thinking about this gross injustice we have committed against her.

Maui-honeymoon
Honeymooning in Maui

Hmmm… now that I’ve looked over my list I’m not sure I’ve really chosen that wisely. Maybe I should ditch London and Greece and tell Marley too bad about Hawaii and choose an African Safari or Costa Rica or Machu Picchu or Puerto Rico. I also love the Canadian Rockies and I’d like to see Columbia and Brazil and Berlin and Croatia. Eight is just not enough. So where would my final destination be?…

#8 Michigan

Michigan? What?! Instead of an African Safari? Well, I’ve already decided to ditch Hawaii (sorry Marley) and all this traveling has made me rather tired. And my mom and uncle own a lovely little cottage on a small lake in Michigan and my cousins own the house next door. It’s like we have our own little family compound. And while it’s not exactly rustic, it’s not very luxurious either -somewhere in between. Just right as Goldilocks would say. There are boats and wave runners and kayaks for sport and plenty of lounge chairs for reading and napping. The trees are green and the people are friendly. (Like scary-weird friendly.) It’s a little bit of heaven right smack in the middle of the country and it feels like home. At the end of a long journey (even an imaginary one) there’s no place like home.

White Lake Sunrise
Michigan Sunrise

What 8 places would you travel to if money were no object? I’d love to know!

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