Twenty-one years ago today, Don and I got married. It was a Sunday afternoon. It was raining. A bit, not a heavy rain, just enough to make the curls fall out of my hair pretty much instantly. And it’s supposed to be good luck if it rains on your wedding day, so there’s that.
The choir sang. My maid of honor overslept, and my other bridesmaid jumped right in and wrangled everyone. There was a floater (probably a piece of cork) in the ceremonial glass of wine that Don and I shared. We couldn’t stop smiling. I momentarily got confused about which was my left hand and which was my right. Well, nothing new there. It was a lovely day.
We were on a budget. We’d talked about going to Budapest for our honeymoon, but we really couldn’t swing it just then. Don was retired from the Air Force, so that made us eligible to fly space-available on military flights, and we talked about where we could go. Don mentioned that there was a naval air station in Keflavik, Iceland, and I said that I’d actually kind of like to go there sometime. Thus began several years of joking about going to Iceland. I’ll get to that later. For our honeymoon, we went to Cancun. That trip was in our budget.
Cancun wasn’t our first trip together, but it was our first long trip together, and the first one that didn’t involve visiting family. We stayed at an all-inclusive resort. We saw baby sea turtles going out to sea. We went to Chichen Itza. We went snorkeling. We had fun being together. We had fun. We enjoyed traveling together. Which was good, because we already knew that we both enjoyed traveling.
Over the years, we tried to travel as much as possible. Of course there were the trips to visit family. My family in New York and North Carolina. Don’s family in California and Idaho. And Don’s family cabin in Idaho. But we managed some other stuff, too. Family vacations to Disney World. We loved that place. Two trips to reunions at my summer camp in New Hampshire – and as long as we were up there – hey, why not a drive back to New York through Vermont and a stop in Albany?
In 1999, after years of joking about it, Don finally said to me, “we’ve been joking about this for so long. We’re doing it this summer. We’re going to Iceland.” So we did it. We flew space-available on a military med-evac to Keflavik. It was great! We saw a glacier, we went whale-watching, we saw geysers and spectacular waterfalls, and we went soaking in the Blue Lagoon. Oh, Iceland. It’s so beautiful.
Sometimes we traveled with the kids. Every now and then we got to get away just the two of us. And then we’d talk about how we missed the kids, or how they’d love it here or there.
We took a short cruise in the Bahamas. We danced on the ship. We stood out on the deck under the stars and looked out at the sea. We got rocked to sleep at night. We went snorkeling. Again.
There were trips around the U.S. and a couple of trips overseas. I loved traveling with Don. Well, mostly. i didn’t like sitting next to him on airplanes. Don was a pilot. He had a tendency to over-share. Sometimes, I just don’t need to know the whole truth, especially if there’s nothing I can do about it in the moment. But apart from that, I loved traveling with Don. Sure, we weren’t 100 percent in sync, but we were a pretty good match.
So last year at this time, we were getting ready for our big trip to France. It was our 20th anniversary, and although we hoped it wouldn’t be, we knew it might be the last trip we would take together.
We started out in Lourdes. Here’s a bit of travel advice for you. If you’re traveling from the U.S. and you want to go to Lourdes, the very best decision isn’t necessarily to fly to Paris, then take a train to Toulouse, then take a train to Lourdes, all in the same day. It makes for a very long two days. OK, now, back to your regularly-scheduled blog. Where was I? Oh yes, Lourdes. We went to Lourdes first. We spent two days there, and it was amazing. Beautiful. Holy. Peaceful.
Don went into the water. We both drank. We got blessings. We prayed.
From Lourdes, we went to Nice. Oh, Nice. I love a stony beach. The Mediterranean. Oh, and the food. One of my favorite memories is watching Don nearly inhale a filet mignon.
Don was sick in France, no question. He was on a chemo holiday, but he was still in treatment, and he was grumpy some of the time. He was entitled. Even so, we had so much fun.
We’d chosen France because neither of us had been there. We wanted to go someplace new to both of us.
After Nice, we took the TGV (Tres Grand Vitesse – literally very fast) to Paris. it rained nearly every day we were in Paris. I suddenly understood why there were so many paintings of Paris in the rain. Even so, we had so much fun. We ate…SO well. We went to mass at Notre Dame. We went to the Musee D’Orsay. That place is magnificent.
We took day trips to Chartres and Reims. We stood on the labyrinth in Chartres. We saw the rose windows. We had a fabulous champagne lunch in Reims, and then we saw the cathedral there, as well as another 12th-century church.
In Paris, we usually got breakfast at a patisserie around the corner from our hotel. We had outstanding wine wherever we went.
We watched French t.v. We got to know the Paris metro. Well, we got to know it a very little bit. Parts of it. We got crepes on the street. On the street! We had coffee. And wonderful cheese sandwiches. And we’d just look at things. On the Champs Elysees we laughed at some of the ridiculous fashions. We walked through Cartier. Because…Paris. We walked over bridges. We took a cruise on the Seine and went under bridges. We took a corny photo of Don leaning up against the Eiffel Tower.
Before we even left France, Don suggested that we bid on a friend’s Swiss chalet in our church auction. So when we got back, we did. And we won the bid. We were planning to go to Switzerland in July, but Don didn’t make it that far.
So now I have 21 years of memories. I wish I had more, but I’ll take what I’ve got. Baby sea turtles. Lunch on the beach in the Bahamas. Bathing in the Blue Lagoon. Gazing up at sequoias in the Muir Woods. And we’ll always have Paris.
That’s my mite. It’s all I’ve got.