“My friends have made the story of my life.” Helen Keller
I remember writing in my first post almost two years ago that it is the people that we meet along the way that make traveling the wonderful adventure that it is. This past week has confirmed that notion like no other week.
On Thursday I took a bus tour to Siena, one of my most favorite places in the world. It’s stunningly beautiful and otherworldly – the whole city is medieval. It has seventeen wards or “contradas” and each contrada is represented by an animal or mascot that is pictured on the flags that flutter throughout the streets. I went there one evening years ago with my friend from Florence to discover that Andrea Boccellli was performing in an open-air concert. We sat on a blanket with our gelato surrounded by thousands of people and the stars. I still can’t quite get over it.
Another time by happy accident I visited the city on July 2, the day of Il Palio, the annual horse race that is held in the Piazza del Campo. Ten of the seventeen wards – they take turns from year to year – are represented in the race by riders who ride bareback in a ninety-second race. Thousands of spectators sit on the field and in the stands.
Today because it’s June 29, the town is alive with preparations for the big race and the people of the wards are singing and parading in waves. I am so happy that I have met a new friend on the bus, a beautiful spirit from London who is away from her husband and children for the first time in her life. A few minutes into the conversation, she tells me that she has her father’s ashes with her. His request was that she scatter his ashes in Italy. And instead of following along for the history tour, we break off from the group to find the best gelato in the world – no, really, they won the contest – and then later, pizza, and then later still, drinks. Taking in the wonders of Siena at this special time of the year is made sweeter because I shared the day with a new friend.
And then on Saturday I had to say arrivederci to Florence and my friend who lives there. A few tears mingled into my last cappuccino! I was in the Florence airport for six hours before they finally admitted that the flight was canceled. And that they were going to bus us to Pisa. It would have been dismal were it not for another kindred spirit who just happened to sit next to me. In all of my travels she was one of the kindest people I have ever met. She reminded me of a young Julie Christie. She too loves Florence as much as I do and she wanted to show the city to her daughter, Rosa. The two of them were adorable together. Once in Pisa, we waited for the flight to Birmingham, England, their final destination. We waited together which made all the difference.
By the time we made it to Birmingham we were fast friends. Chris and her daughter went home, and I went to the hotel across the street from the airport because by now it was midnight.
The next afternoon I was finally in Dublin, but without my computer. I figured out that when they patted me down at the Birmingham airport, the bin with my laptop must have gotten ahead of the rest of my things and I missed it somehow. I had a meltdown and needed to tell all of my friends and relatives all about it. I went to The Oak to tell Stephen about the disaster that was my life. Within seconds he played, “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” and then he gave me his writing tablet. So funny, so kind… (I think I’ve already mentioned he’s a prince among men.)
I decided to give up on writing, but then another kind Irishman, Michael, who also writes a blog, sent me the WordPress app so that I could write this from my phone. And then more encouragement came from Chris who emailed from Birmingham to say, “You must keep writing!” Love, Chris xx
And from Susie, Gail, and Danyelle back home, I got lots of positive thoughts and moral support.
And then finally after three long days, the airport contacted me this afternoon to let me know that my computer has been recovered. Hoorah. Helen has graciously offered to have my Apple shipped to her workplace. So I’m sending hugs, thank yous, and undying gratitude to my circle of friends, old and new. You have made the story of my week a happy one.