How to turn 60 & go to Europe: be my sister’s sister

For the next few weeks, welcome to my travel blog. 

When I turned 50, I threw a girls-only sleep-over party. Dinner and breakfast were both co-ed affairs, with invitees welcome to show up for either or both.  

It was a glorious event, held at a friend’s mansion-turned-law-office. (You can see photos here.)

Judy (who flew in from Boston!) gave me the birthday soap. Annie took the photo,

In the years immediately preceding that milestone, I observed something no one in Mom’s generation had ever talked about.

Age 50 seemed to be the time the cosmic bill came due. I spent years watching people around me and wondering how it was possible that they could keep looking this good, keep being alive or keep their jobs while engaging in unhealthy, unethical and/or immoral behavior. 

Fifty was showing me the answers.

The handsome heartbreaker with the drinking problem looked busted. The morbidly obese guy died of a heart attack. The smug mansplainer who had seemed to have it all lost his professional license and standing.  

At 50, I had gotten myself to a great place – I was alive. I had finally acquired enough confidence to enjoy myself and I had the energy to do exactly that.

I knew I owed a lot of people. So that party was my way of thanking everyone who had ever been kind to me. Everyone who was invited and everyone who showed up doubled as proxies for everyone else to whom I was (and remain) eternally grateful. I said then that this would be the only party like that, all the ones going forward would be smaller affairs.

So this year, when I turned 60, I didn’t have a party. Just a series of little outings and experiences. Dinner with Sweetheart. Dinner with a friend who was also turning 60. And the Adult Reference meeting I hosted on the actual day, to which I brought a cheesecake from same bakery that made the cakes for my 50th

It tastes better than it looks, which is saying a lot.

Adult reference birthday party guests (aka a bunch of librarian types) enjoying a sugar high.

As far as presents, I wasn’t thinking about those so much, either. What I really want is to get our house excavated because we have too much extra stuff, and make it into a place I don’t feel stressed out in. That would be a great present. 

It will have to wait, though, because my sister, who is turning 60 next year, gave me a birthday present that falls squarely into the “things you always wanted but have made peace with never having” category. 

She and my brother-in-law are taking me to Europe. 

I always meant to get there, but that’s not the way my life lined up. When I had the time, I didn’t have the money. And when I didn’t have the time, I also didn’t have the money. Debby’s life lined up differently, so she’s been to Europe a gatrillion times and a lot of other cool places besides.

I have never been jealous. I made different choices and had different adventures. I was and remain happy traveling courtesy of books I read and movies I watch. Some have been set in places I think I’d enjoy experiencing in person.   

Which is why, when Debby asked me where I wanted to go, I didn’t have to think too hard. What started as a one-week trip to Italy has, through a lucky turn of events, morphed into a two-week trip that includes France. (Sweetheart is staying home with the livestock.) 

Here’s where we’re going:

  1. Sardinia (most of the trip)
  2. Florence (one full day, two nights)
  3. Rome (part of a day)
  4. Lyon (three days)
  5. Burgundy (one day)

I also didn’t have to think too hard about the way I wanted to travel. I don’t want to check a bag. I don’t want to worry about keeping track of a lot of stuff (read: wallet, pen, notebook, phone/camera) while we explore. And I want to be able to not sound like a complete moron while attempting to speak Italian. My next posts will be about what I’m doing to try and make those things happen.

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