ceramic bowls from different countries

Judi Travel CaricatureIt’s raining outside and the wind is blowing the trees around. However, walking down my stairs to prepare breakfast my mind is far from the gloomy skies of New Jersey. Instead I’m pretending to be in Italy as I  gaze at my two favorite paintings from my 2019 trip to Sicily. One is of the clock tower Porta di Mezzo in downtown Taormina, the other of Mt. Etna. Both have a way of transporting me back to those glorious June days when I was able to stroll along the Piazza Duomo (without a mask) and huff and puff my way up and around Europe’s most active volcano. Ooh, ooh, ooh, take me back to Sicily. 

Mt. Etna painting

This scene of Mt. Etna brings me back to Sicily

Are you ready to go globe-trotting with me this week?

Before I step into my kitchen to make my morning coffee, I take a pass through Paris. On either side of the archway are a duo of prints of La boulangerie and Au Cadet de Gascogne. I purchased this pair while on a food tour in the Montmartre district. It’s the arrondissement near the famous Moulin Rouge cabaret and where Picasso and other artists and musicians lived and partied into the night.

la boulangerie painting

Sweet artwork from the Montmartre district in Paris

I loved, loved, loved this vacation to France with my BFF L in 2018. We were two foodies celebrating our mutual 60th birthdays, spending the first half of the week in the culinary capital of Lyon and ending with a few days in Paris. Oh, la, la, it was the best of times! Hopefully this quarantine will be over so L and I can plan our next getaway to honor our 65th or 70th together. What do you say BBF L, ready to sample some authentic pizza in Rome?

Touring the world one ceramic bowl at a time

When I began to travel more internationally during my life after 50, I started collecting small handcrafted ceramic bowls as souvenirs from each city. Over the years, I’ve amassed quite a few from my adventures abroad. They pack well and don’t take much space in a suitcase.

ceramic bowls from different countries

Each tiny ceramic bowl has a unique backstory

There are backstories galore when my bowls grace the table — whether it be from the Isle of Capri (literally one of the best days of my life) or a Copenhagen food market tour in Denmark — each bowl prompts a place I have been on the map. Wonder where my next ceramic bowl will be from? Could it be Croatia after the Covid-19 vaccine arrives in 2021?

The mammals of Norway and Finland

You can’t go to Norway or Finland without bringing back some type of memento with a mammal. Two years ago, when my sister N and I stopped in Bergen while on the Viking Homelands Ocean Cruise, I found a red metal moose napkin holder. Every time I set the table it’s a a reminder of my voyage to the Scandinavian countries.

moose napkin holder

The moose napkin holder reminds me of my time in Bergen, Norway

My living room is decked out with reindeer paraphernalia from my journey to Lapland courtesy of the Collette Travel Northern Lights of Finland Tour. A plush reindeer stuffed animal from the Kakslauttananen Arctic Resort (to be given to my future grand child when and if I ever have one) sits on my leather chair and a warm and cozy woolen reindeer blanket drapes my couch. I bought the blanket at the Ivalo Airport as a last minute gift to myself before departing from the arctic. Airports always seem to have some nice items that make people on vacation forget about their steep prices.

Reindeer wool blanket

I couldn’t resist this woolen reindeer blanket at the Ivalo Airport in Lapland

Prized pieces of nature

The wonderful thing about traveling is that you can bring back prized pieces of nature that don’t cost anything. For example, on my shelves mingled between books are a speckled rock carried back from the Greek shores of Santorini’s Black Beach, a one-of-a-kind sand dollar found on California’s Venice Beach, and a shell collection from my stay on Florida’s Sanibel Island. Last summer, I even pocketed a piece of hard ash from Mt Etna.

sand dollar from Venice Beach

The sand dollar was a rare find on California’s Venice Beach

Making travel memories to last a lifetime

I miss traveling but am staying optimistic that I will be able to add to my mementos in the future.

The British actor Michael Palin says, “Once the travel bug bites, there is no known antidote, and I know that I shall be happily infected until the end of my life.” Guess that’s how I feel too. For now, I’m savoring all the memories from my previous global adventures and contemplating where I’ll go in the future when I feel safe to fly again.

Portugal rooster apron and souvenir

I also collect aprons from my travels including this one with Portugal’s Rooster of Barcelos, a symbol of faith, good luck and justice

Taking a vacation from myself

It’s hard to believe that the summer of 2020 is almost over. To relax the last two weeks of August, I’m taking a vacation from myself. ¥ep, I’m giving my Type A personality a reprieve and going to chillax (as my son D and daughter A would say). I’m planning to soak up some sun at my condo on the corner at the Jersey shore (and take walks on the beach with the sandpipers), read some good books (A Burning by Megha Majumdar which takes place in India, one of my bucket list places, is the first novel on my list), and sit in my lounge chair on my back deck (a great place to daydream of all the places I want to visit post 60).

Brigantine Beach

I’m taking the rest of August to ‘stop, breathe, and be’ at the Jersey shore

Be well. Be safe.

See you in September.