This year's trip to Europe was different on several fronts. First, it was a bit earlier than usual which created a different experience. April in Paris was quiet because it was cold and rainy. No fighting for those oh-so-handsome chairs in the Tuileries, lines at L'As Du Falafel were short and chocolate a l'ancien at Angelina was really about warming up, not just about the sugar rush. The less crowded streets actually made the always stunning Parisian architecture seem even more significant. Paris is my go to city, one in which all other get measured against and it was a treat experiencing it under less than ideal weather. It made me love it even more.
So to further diverge from my normal traveling routine (going someplace, and staying there), I not only visited Paris, but Florence, Rome and Malta as well. Moving about (and frequently) was exhausting and limited what I was able to see and do in each of these places. That being said, what I did see in those few short days in each place,was amazing. Florence was all about walking around and discovering this beautiful old city. The architecture and setting is spectacular and the food was far better than remembered from past visits. I stayed clear of all the "must do's that is in every guidebook and visited smaller, less traveled sites becoming immersed in all that is Florentine.
A brief 4 days in Rome followed Florence. Rome = Amazing. It had been 30 years since my last trip and I obviously wasn't paying attention the first time because back then I didn't like it. Under the guidance of a teacher of Roman history, I toured the ancient city and gained a whole new appreciation for the scale, scope and cohesiveness of these buildings. The coliseum was built in 7 years. By hand. Out of stone. With NO electric tools. These days it would take that long to get a permit and fight every special interest group along the way. The history was palpable. Following Rome was a handful of days in Malta. Malta is an interesting place, but more from the perspective of its colorful and often troubled past than what it currently is. Not quite Italian, not quite Middle-Eastern, not quite British and inherently beige, Malta suffers from an identity crisis. The setting of Valetta with is archipelago-like setting is really lovely but I just wasn't feeling the connection that I have for so many other places.
The cumulative result of experiencing different parts of the world is that it makes me feel grounded and connected to humanity. Regardless of how I feel about a certain place, what is undeniable is that these places and these experiences open my eyes and mind and all of us here have a commonality. There is no substitute for experience and certainly no way to compete with history. It is supremely humbling to stand at the base of a 80' Roman column that is perfect and it makes me wonder why, with all the resources we have at our disposal today, do buildings not endure. Something to ponder on next year's journey.