My first look at the Roman ruins, early evening.


Well kids, I’ve been been in Europe with my family and here I am — back home, bright awake at 3 a.m., feeling like it’s lunchtime.  There were many firsts, and first impressions, on this trip.  Here’s a short list.  You know I love a list.

1.  How is it possible I’ve lived this long without tromping through the Roman ruins?  I feel like a different person.  A person who needs to learn some Latin.

2.  Took my first helicopter taxi.  We were only 7 minutes in the air, but it was all over the ocean and all I could do was stare down at the water and think, “If this thing goes down will he set it down softly or hit the water with a bang and what about those rotors over head how fast how fast how fast can we swim the land doesn’t look all that far away I wonder how freezing cold it is and about those spinning blades on top of us jesus I never need to do this again.”

3.  We saw two concerts:  The Canadian Tenors and Seal.  Seal was a huge surprise.  The man can perform.  And it took everything I had not to cry when the tenors sang Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.”

4.  Addendum to #3 above:  these boys can sing, but they are also very easy on the eyes.  Very.

5.  Italy.  Pasta and pizza and wine and gelato, all day, every single day.  Best food on the planet.  Period.

6.  My kids are all grown up.  My girl who lived in Birkenstocks and flannel shirts … in a cocktail dress.  My boy who once wore only sweatpants … in a tuxedo.

7.  The Vatican.  For the first hour or so, all I could think was, “This is where all the money and power is.”  The Vatican is beyond magnificent, but this constant thought made me so very sad.  We stopped and studied a door, a giant door with no hardware — no locks, no knob or handle — on the outside, a door that can only be opened from the inside.  Hmmmm….

8.  We stayed at a small hotel that used to be a convent.  Some nuns still live there.  This place felt more spiritual than the Vatican.

9.  First swim off the shores of Cap Ferrat.  I never learned to swim properly, so being in the ocean has always been scary.  This is the first time I can remember not wanting to get out of the water.  Ever.

10.  Second helicopter taxi.  Holy shit.  7 more minutes of tamping down the terror.  We were all buckled in and set to go, but the engine wouldn’t start.  Some bored-looking mechanics carted out an old metal box and jumper cables.  Yes, I said JUMPER CABLES.  After a few tries to start the engine, the pilot continued arguing, in French, with the mechanics until finally — FINALLY — we all unbuckled and moved to a different helicopter.  (see all the same thoughts, and then some, with at #2 above)