Roman Wind

Good morning! In my Facebook memory feed the other day was a reminder that it’s been five years since I was in Italy with a friend. I looked back on some of my writing and memories from that trip, and thought I would re-share an original post from here, called Roman Wind. Enjoy my little journey through Rome and what it taught me that day! (and boy does it make me want to pack up my little family and explore Europe!)

Bike, Rome, Italy

There’s this picture that I have framed at home that reminds me of a special day. A moment in time I will never forget. It’s a portion of a bike, the one you see to the left. Let me take you to that day …

I visited Rome, Italy with a friend last fall. We had six days filled with pizza, pictures, and people in masses. It. Was. Delightful!  On the final day my friend and I decided to go our separate ways for a few hours. I had been doing some research on Trip Advisor that week and REALLY wanted to rent a scooter. Hello Audrey Hepburn. I had envisioned a scarf-adorned up-do with large sunglasses and an ice cream cone in hand whilst whipping through Roman traffic. Well, not really. But the thought of driving a scooter in Rome sure appealed to me! Everything I read online however cautioned against Rome traffic with eager foreigners and I ultimately opted for safety over adventure.

Feeling a little bummed, I received a text from a friend in London about it all. He said the most brilliant thing that set me free to do what I pleased that final day. He said, “As long as you remember some things are coolest because Lani found them at 4:58pm with her own wind.”

It may not have been a scooter, but it did have two wheels, a basket and a dingling bell that made me smile! So, for several hours on that sunny Friday I was the happiest girl on a bicycle meandering Rome’s cobbled alleys as I passed pizzerias and leather shops.  I nearly hit several people in my glee-ish state, but I didn’t even care.  Scusi.

After I risked my life winding through some traffic, I decided I’d better stay on the quiet and narrow streets of Rome! During my bike escapade I stopped in Piazza Navona . This square of artists and musicians is surrounded by restaurants and the waiters stand outside, charming and beckoning you to enjoy their services. Cappuccino per favore.

I leaned my bike up to the restaurant while he steamed me a delicious beverage, and then took this photo. Coffee break, I call it.

I sat by the fountain outside the restaurant sipping my latte and enjoyed the live music. I was soon on my way towards the river, as that was my destination. After bartering for two purses with a persistent man on the bridge and nearly being attacked to purchase said purses, I turned around towards “home”.

On my way back to the bike rental place, I stopped in a leather shop and bought a purse. I was excited and savoured the Italian leather smell. About 20 minutes later, I stopped at a cash machine to get more Euro and as I reached into my backpack, my heart stopped. My camera was gone. My first thought, rationally lacking in rational, was that it had been stolen blind off my back. I kicked myself mentally and started saying “Jesus. Jesus. NO! My camera. Jesus.”  Glee was gone. My camera and the whole week of memories were ruined.

As I walked (yes, walked) my bike past the crowds surrounding the Pantheon, people stared. Mascara running in streams down my face no doubt. I returned the bike, paid my 10 euro reluctantly, and found my friend. As I talked through with her when I last used my camera, I remembered the leather shop and thought maybe, just maybe I had left it there.  To me it was a miracle, because half an hour later we retraced my sobbing steps back to the leather shop, and lo and behold there was a relieved sales lady holding my camera.  How we ever found our way back there is beyond me. Thankful for honest Italians, we hit up an espresso bar and ate some chocolate. As you do😉

I had found a piece of my own wind on the bike that day. I nearly lost my wind on the bike that day. And I believe God led me right back to where I needed Him to … on that day.

That day two wheels and a map of Rome, with no specific plan, will stick with me always.

You know, I think God sets in each of our hearts little things just like that. That makes us smile. It’s like a little gift meant just for us.

Psalm 139 talks all about how He has intricately woven our hearts, and knows our every thought.  He says that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. We are deeply known and created with such love and intent, that I think it’s a shame if we live our lives with the wind knocked out of us.

That bike picture will always be a reminder to follow my heart and of my God that sees much more than my eyes can see.

Whether it’s meandering happily on a bike, or something else that you need to find that makes you smile like it does for no one else, then do it! Try new things. Because I believe that even along the way, God is with us in that pursuit and makes it so memorable.

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We’ll Always Have Paris

One of my besties and I entered our 30’s in the last year and we wanted to do something to celebrate and hallmark the new season. It finally worked out, and she came to visit England and we had three days in Paris together. I was there six years ago, but it was her first time. We mapped out the “must sees”, booked a decent Eurostar/hotel package and figured we would wing the rest.

From what I have heard, Paris is very French. I know, “Really?!”  Everywhere we turned there were patisseries with locals stopping for their morning or evening baguette.  We smelled like smoke at the end of a day’s journey. Paris, like any European city, is full of fantastic old architecture with floral shops on the corner, even in winter.  I attempted to order a croissant in French and found myself uttering Italian in thanks. In embarrassment, I realized I was attempting three languages and botching it all!

We were travelling on a budget and neither of us fancy seafood or delicacies so our food experiences could’ve been much different than some. On one particular night we decided we would “eat out” and spend a bit more. We looked at the menu of one restaurant and agreed there was something we’d both like. I was craving a good steak, as even in England I find the beef is just not like home! (Oh how excited I am for a barbequed Alberta steak!) We both ordered steak and fries (that was the side offered). However, it looked more like raw hide leathered thin to the embarrassment of the animal sacrificed for our delight. We thought, “Ok. This is steak in Paris.” There was no gristle (as expected on a steak). It tasted off. I didn’t finish it. Later this week we were told that we likely had horse in Paris as if it didn’t say “beef” it likely wasn’t. Images of my little horse Flicka danced through my mind and I shuddered thinking of that steak!

Later that same night, we agreed to go out for dessert. Note to self and all travellers: you pay for location. We were in the Trocadero district, which provides a fantastic night view of the Eiffel Tower. After finding a menu that offered desserts from about 5-8 euro we went in. Welcomed with a “bonsoir”, we were shown to a table. I opted for the homemade chocolate cake and my friend the flan (pronounced “flah-n” as she was corrected when ordering!) Excited at the presentation we saw at the bakery counter, we were sure that our splurge would prove good. However, we looked over our shoulder and saw the waitress take my “homemade chocolate cake” out of plastic, toss it on plate, and ta da, there was my piece of chocolate loaf and her flah-n, 11 euros later.

So our night where we decided to splurge a bit, we were fed horse and packaged desserts!! We laugh about it now, and I guess we got a story!

We could see the Eiffel Tower from our hotel balcony, off in the distant haze of the city.  The metro in Paris is very easy to use and they make it quite navigable to get to all the main sites. The Montmarte area of Paris proved to be a favourite with a lucky stumble upon a good quiche in a teeny French country bakery. On our third day we took a train ride 40 minutes out of Paris to a palace at Fontainbleau. Riding the train through French villages, then arriving to eat crepes with the sun shining was a great way to spend our last day in France!

For shopping, we found the best street was Rue de Rivoli, the same street the Louvre is on. Champs Elysses is cool, but not realistic for “normal shoppers” 😉

Paris is lovely, and you should go someday. Bundle up if you go in the wintertime! I have been told if you can enjoy a city when it is cold, then you know that it’s an amazing city.  I wouldn’t expect a whole lot out of customer service or food if you’re on a budget (aside from croissants and coffee!), but you should go.  There is something thrilling and surreal about the Eiffel Tower, and that in itself is worth a train ticket, expensive coffee and packaged dessert!

Again I repeat, while feeling a bit like “Dorothy”, the red shoes are fun to wear for a time in life, but there really is no place like home.  My friend and I rang in 31 with memories, laughs, and an adventure. We both returned with a very thankful heart for home!

So my friend and to anyone else just entering their thirties —-  here’s to our 30’s being full of great expectations, surprises, adventures with those we love, and finding home along the way.

Golden Girls

A short story written in 15 minute, non-stop

They do a trip like this every year. They would pick a spot somewhere in the UK that was yet unexplored and trek off for a few days on a bus or train. The annual trip made by the Golden Girls, so they called themselves.

Hailing from north Scotland, they found themselves this day on the Mersey Ferries in Liverpool.  Anice. Cumina. Torri. Lucile. They were a pair of a pair wrapped in sheep’s wool from the farms of the Inverness area.

“Did you get the camera from the boot? I can’t remember. It was in a wee Canon bag,” asked Cumina to Torri.

“I thought you did. No? Ay mate what are we going to do with no pictures of our trip?” responded Torri.

“Just have to meet someone, give them our email and make some new friends,” winked Lucile as she primped her hair and added another layer of pink rouge to her lips.

Lucile had lost her husband four years ago and was set on finding someone to take his spot to warm the other side of the bed. In marriage of course. She may be a flirt but she was old fashion, and would not welcome any man into her room until he put a ring on her finger. Love should make the man hurt with commitment for a bit!  She would say to her friends.

Cumina had a dear man of 47 years. Anice didn’t get married until 45 so she was still technically in the honeymoon stage, even though she was 63. And Torri, well, this trip was for her. She had just lost her husband three months ago and the Golden Girls were set on bringing comfort. It was her who chose Liverpool.

It was a dull misty Friday morning in Liverpool as the four robust ladies waited their turn on the waters for their voyage on the Mersey Ferries.  Lovers of history, they stood there imagining what it would’ve been like as slave, awaiting the impending pain on a ship, or as a family of low states, waiting to board a ship to the Americas in hopes of a new beginning. No matter, there was something about boarding a ship that echoed ‘something new’ to them all.

“Excuse me. Excuse me. Yep. Thanks. Please sir, your cane is in my way….” And here came Anice.

“Where were you Anice? Making out with Gerry?” teased Lucile. Then she noticed the brown paper bag in Anice’s hands. “Ahhh, you didn’t? That’s my girl!”

In Anice’s hands was a small brown paper bag. Fudge. She loved her fudge and Lucile loved her for it. A weakness of the Golden Girls was dark chocolate fudge with walnuts.

The passengers boarded, some 150 of them for the 11:00am tour. It would only be one hour but the Golden Girls still prepared for it as though they were going on a seven day journey. Aside from the camera, they had sweets, scarves and suntan lotion. Can never be too prepared, they all agreed.

The Girls found a seat at the back of the Ferry talking loudly for all to hear.

Must be their first time away in a long time!  Thought a young Canadian passenger off to the side.

I love the Irish accent! Thought another young lad. Even though he was wrong, his fascination was justified.

“Oh, Cumina. Look at those two. They’re handsome and they have a camera,” prodded Lucile.

“Why me? You’re the one set on meeting your match on this trip. YOU go ask! Or maybe Anice should.”

“I’m having my own love affair with this fudge. You two go,” Anice smiled as she licked her fingers clean with a smacking sound.

“I’ll go,” was Torri’s call out, shocking all other three ladies.

“That’a girl Torri!” clapped Lucile. “Wait a minute, I’ll come with you.”

So as Anice and Cumina enjoyed the fudge and the history lesson of Liverpool and how many passengers had rode the Mersey Ferries over hundreds of years, Torri and Lucile sauntered up to two grey-haired gentleman, trying to figure out their digital camera, laughing.

“You seem to be having some trouble,” started Lucille.

The gentlemen looked up.

“I’m really good with cameras. Perhaps I can help. But on one condition,” bargained Torri. “You wonderful men take our picture. Me, and my three friends.”

The taller man looked at the shorter. The shorter shrugged. And then spoke to Lucile and Torri.

“We no speak-o English. From, Tibet.” As he put his hand on his heart, gesturing that he wasn’t from here.

“Oh, um, well….” For once Lucille was at a loss for words. And suggestions.

“Thank you. Thank you.” Torri held both her hands in front of her, as though saying grace and bowed to the gentleman and backed away, pulling Lucille with her.

Once a few feet away, they broke out in laughter.

Anice and Cumina questioned what had just happened of the other pair.

“You look as though you just either had the most euphoric experience or broke a window and don’t want anyone to know! What happened?!” asked Cumina in her calm kind manner.

“Oh, just Torri here. Stepping out into unchartered territory and she approaches Tibetans who don’t speak a word of English!” gasped Lucille in between giggles. Her and Lucille were still bent over each other, holding the other up.

“Oh I don’t know. Maybe a man who doesn’t speak my language is what I need!” and all of a sudden her laughing tears turned into real tears.

The Golden Girls looked at each other as Torri near lost it, and gathered around their friend.

“It’s okay my dear. We’re here for you. One foot in front of the other. You just tried something totally new and I’m so proud of you.  Just promise me something,” said Lucille as she hugged her friend Torri. “Never, never, never give up or settle. You’re too golden for that.”

And on that note, they all broke into laughter and tears and a mess of emotion. The other passengers on the Ferry were trying to understand what just happened, but chalked it up to culturally Scottish and went on enjoying the sights of the sea and the crash of the waves along the boat.

Anice pulled something out of her pocket and handed it to Torri.

“Here, have some fudge. Sometimes all you need is friendship and fudge.”