My Journey, My Way…Solo at 50!

At the Trevi Fountain in Rome, Italy.

I don’t remember a time when I didn’t want to travel, when I didn’t want to see what else was out there. And, for me, even though I’ve traveled extensively throughout the U.S., exploring the World beyond my country’s borders has always been this dream of mine.

When my son, Vernon, and daughter-in-law, Charlene decided so graciously to send me to Paris for my 50th birthday, I jumped for joy. No, really, I literally jumped for joy. These two loving people even encouraged me to bring a friend. But, this was one trip I needed to complete for myself, by myself and with myself. And, I did exactly that. From April 1-22, 2006, I spent three weeks with my Rick Steves guide books and journal on my own to explore Rome, Florence, Venice, Paris and London.

Landed in Rome, stayed at the Hotel Italia, walked the trail of Ancient Rome from the Colosseum to the Capitole, was disturbed by the riches of the Vatican and gazed in awe at Michaelangelo’s stunning artwork on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. I was captivated by the beauty of St. Peter’s Basicalla, the dome of the Pantheon, the art of the Borghese Gallery, the romance of the Trevi Fountain, the spectacular visions of the Villa de’ Este in Tivoli and the ancient ruins of the Ostia Antica. Rome was enchanting.

I took the train to Florence, staying at the Davanzati Hotel, and for me, the best thing about Florence was Michaelangelo’s The David at the Accademia Gallery. He is stunning and must be seen in person.

From Florence, I was off to Venice. Ah! Venice! But, I didn’t feel that way my first day there. It was crowded and commercial. But, that all changed the next day when I ventured out, walked along the Canal, rode the vaporetti, explored St. Mark’s Square and visited Peggy Guggenheim’s home and art work.

Left Venice in the a.m. and arrived in Paris by train in the p.m. In my journal I wrote, “My body was born in New York, but my soul was born in Paris.” The cab ride to my hotel, the Splendid, and the views along the way were everything I dreamed Paris to be. I waved to the Eiffel Tower from my hotel room. I went to sleep in Paris, and spent the next day walking the streets of Paris even taking a boat ride on the River Seine. I did my laundry in Paris, I rode the Metro in Paris and I spent two whole days at the Louvre loving every single minute of it.

Took the channel tunnel from Paris to London, where I explored the city atop the Big Bus Company tour, gazed at the Crown jewels in the Tower of London, loved the British Museum, Buckingham Palace and the Victoria and Albert Museum.

This adventure, this journey opened the door to that longing desire to see the world. At 50, it was time for me to explore my dreams and I jumped at the opportunity.

At the Trevi Fountain in Rome, Italy. April 2, 2006
I’m standing outside the Pantheon in Rome. Originally built in 27-25 B.C. but was burned down in 80 AD and completely reconstructed in 125 AD by Hadrian, a cosmopolitan emperor who had traveled widely in the East. It is the burial place of several important Italians (including Raphael, the artist) and remains an active church. April 2, 2006
The ancient ruins in Rome, Italy, including the Temple of Saturn (left) and the Temple of Vespasian and Titus at the west end of the Imperial Forum.
The gorgeous Trevi Fountain in Rome, Italy. April 2, 2006
Me tossing a coin into the Trevi Fountain in Rome, Italy. Coins are purportedly meant to be thrown using the right hand over the left shoulder. This was the theme of the 1954 movie “Three Coins in the Fountain” and the Academy Award-winning song that accompanied the movie. April 2, 2006
The Roman Forum with its impressive ancient ruins in Rome, Italy. Two remaining arches, the Arch of Septimius Severus built in AD 203 and the Arch of Titus built in AD 81. April 4, 2006
Construction of the Colosseum began in AD 72 and was completed in AD 80. Emperors used the Colosseum to entertain the public with free games that usually began with comical acts and displays of exotic animals and ended with fights to the death between animals and gladiators or between gladiators. These fighters were usually slaves, prisoners of war or condemned criminals. April 4, 2006
Inside the ancient Roman Colosseum. April 4, 2006
Palatine Hill is the centermost of the Seven Hills of Rome and is one of the most ancient parts of the city. April 4, 2006
El Duomo in Florence, which began in the late 11th century, is a cathedral that has been a work in progress for many hundreds of years. The current facade dates back to 1888. April 6, 2006
The Ponte Vecchio in Florence, Italy, is a medieval bridge over the Arno River. Butchers initially occupied the shops along it, however the present tenants are jewelers and art dealers. April 6, 2006
St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice, Italy’s Piazza San Marco. April 9, 2006
A view of the canal in Venice from the Rialto Bridge. April 9, 2006
I can’t say I was impressed with Venice at first sight because of all the stores, but after I began exploring and spent time in art collector Peggy Guggenheim’s museum, I truly began to experience the sheer beauty and history of this green-watered floating island. I was enamored with the Academia, St. Mark’s Square, the vaporetto (water taxi) and the magnificent views from this, the Rialto Bridge. April 9, 2006
A view of the River Seine and the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France. April 11, 2006
Coming to Paris in my world always meant seeing the Louvre. During this trip, I was reading Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code.” In a way, reading the book and exploring Paris all came together so perfectly. It was the Louvre that connected everything for me. Originally, I had scheduled to spend one day at the Louvre and the next day in Versailles. But, I woke up late the next day and in all honesty, just hand’t had enough of the Louvre from the day before. So, I went back. The beauty of this trip was that there was no one to say, “Why are you going back to the Louvre?” I wanted to go back and I did. I love the Louvre. April 12, 2006
The Louvre in Paris, France. April 12, 2006
Tower Bridge and the River Thames in London, England. April 17, 2006
Me at the Tower of London in London, England. April 18, 2006