Traveling Tuesday Part IV: Strangers and the Mediterranean Sea

We actually made it to the Mediterranean?!

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Let me return to the beginning of the day. When I get excited, sometimes I get ahead of myself.

Today we decided to hit the tourist spots early, both for the sake of avoiding the heat and the crowds. While neither was possible, we certainly were in better spirits for starting at least ahead of each. That and Rick Steves saved our ever-loving asses with his advice on how best to tackle the Coliseum, both in regard to where to get the tickets as well as how to navigate the Palatine, Forum, and the Coliseum itself. So huge, this place!

And the fact they are still excavating cells and tunnels and other evidence of all-terrible-reasons-to-break-the-law in Ancient Rome is just amazing to me, especially because the history is as intense as it is hypocritical (Really, guys, mounting a huge cross in the place that witnessed the gruesome death of thousands of lives, human and animal alike? Is that what Jesus would do?).

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I return to the size of things again, just because it blows my mind. No motor driven tools–only thousands of men using things like levers and planes and chisels–and they were able to erect not only masterpieces of doom but also things like an arc ten stories tall to honor the legality of Christianity. Boggles. The. Mind.

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After our trip to Ancient Rome we returned to the apartment for lunch and a nap before going out to meet Lyena’s sister, Tatiana, who I swear was sent straight from Heaven. I know this because she welcomed us like we’d known each other for years, she provided us an opportunity I had literally prayed for without her even knowing that was my wish, and she challenged my fears in a way only the divine can do.

Too fast again. I’ll momentarily take this further back for the sake of clarity. The one aspect I couldn’t reconcile in my non-planning form of planning this trip (something new I was trying, a challenge at best) was the fact I wasn’t going to get to the coast of Italy. Something called me there so seriously but I couldn’t see how to get there in any reasonable way. In the theme of my non-planning, planning, I prayed on it and let it go.

So there I am in my bedroom packing for this crazy trip at 10pm with a car coming for us at 4:30am the next morning, when I get a message from Lyena. How did she not know we were going to Rome? She has an awesome sister in Rome! I don’t know how she didn’t know, maybe because my husband had the subject on public lockdown for fear our house would be robbed while we were gone for a month, and then the moment he released that fear I blurted all over town (and Facebook).

I love Lyena, but I don’t love meeting the family of strangers, even awesome sisters like hers. I didn’t even work to find my own family here in Rome because I’m just not the kind of girl who is into meeting people in intimate settings with no escape route (no common language + no car of my own + strangers at a dining room table = a nightmare in my racing mind and heart). It’s the anxiety and introvert combo speaking, I get it. Still.

But, my husband (Mr. Mayor, as we like to call him) is all about strangers. He says he’s not a dog person, but I swear, with the exception of the tail wagging, he bears a great likeness to our Mario when he even talks to people for the first time. Case in point: Lyena’s awesome sister.

Three days into Rome I had lost my mind–the heat, it makes a person crazy!–and sent Tatiana a message that we were here. Within the hour she called and next thing I know she and Craig are talking merrily on the phone, making plans for the next day to go to the beach and then to her house for dinner afterwards.

Wait, what? I was sending a courtesy email because I told my friend I would. I wasn’t serious about making plans, much less plans that involved going to a stranger’s house! Why did I let him answer that damned phone?

By that time we were in deep, though, so I had no choice but to be gracious (My desire for Grace overrides my desire to hide in my anxiety, so much so that I had the word tattooed on my arm on my fortieth birthday. No, I’m not kidding.). That said, I laid into Craig when he hung up the phone.

“What the hell are you doing?” I cried, literally crying, “You know I hate to meet strangers, and you have us going to the beach and to her house? Have you lost your mind?”

“Just what beach do you think we’re going to?”

Hmm. When I heard the word “beach” it didn’t ring an angel’s bell for me. I say the “beach” and I’m talking about a sand strip about a mile long that runs between the San Francisco Bay and my town.

Not so for Tatiana, however. Come to realize, when she says the “beach,” she means the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. Craig knew I’d hate going, but he also knew how much I wanted to get to the Mediterranean. Anxiety out, elation in.

“Oh My God!” Now I’m the person with the proverbial wagging tail. And he is smug because he knows he’s got me, strangers or no strangers. What a pain in the ass this guy is.

So here we are, back in current time, rested after our nap, picked up by the kind and gracious Tatiana at a train station not remotely close to her house, after a lovely car ride taking in the sights of the city of Rome way outside the city of Rome, sitting on a lounge chair watching my children frolic in the Mediterranean Sea. The sand is warm, fine, and soft. The water is blue and warm and beautiful.

The place she took us had an east coast style situation where we (she) rented a little section of beach with chairs and an umbrella so we could rest and take it all in.

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 And every few minutes I just kept thinking, We’re here! We’re here!

“Mom!” Tommy yells, running up from the water, “Did you know we can’t drown here because the salt content is so high?” I raised my eyebrows at this prospect and he ran back toward the water, apparently just wanting to reassure me that there was no need to watch him because not only was this fun, it was safe as can be. I was not reassured, but amused, and happy Craig was out closer to the water keeping a close eye on our children in the impossible-to-drown-in water.

I digress for a moment to note that everything, in fact, does happen as it should. My non-planning form of planning needed an outlet for all my nervous energy so instead of planning the trip, I scoured travel blogs about what to pack. One site suggested a blow up beach ball for people who have low back trouble because it packs easily and you can blow it up to the size that works for you. Of course Craig thought I was ridiculous but look what happened. We ended up at the Mediterranean Sea and the kids had a ball to play with!

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A sign if there ever was one that God works with crazy, not against it.

Icing on the proverbial cake was the visit to Tatiana’s home for dinner after this glorious trip to the sea. Her husband just as kind as she, a younger version of my grandfathers in voice, look, and their affinity for the way children bring joy into a home. Her lovely house has a gorgeous view off the lush back yard where we ate a simple and exceptionally delicious meal, drank fantastic wine, and had a delightful time. With strangers.

To get to the sea, I had to go through strangers.

Both were varying degrees better than I expected.

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3 thoughts on “Traveling Tuesday Part IV: Strangers and the Mediterranean Sea

  1. “God works with crazy, not against it.” BRILLIANT!

    Also good to know that husbands being pains in the ass is universal:)

  2. Oh Nicole – this was wonderful, again. I felt I was with you and Crag and the boys. I have had the same adventure int Berlin with Jodi Lytel/s cousin who she had never met who took us under their wing and showed us so much of Berlin, a city I fell in love with, in a country I said I would never go. I am so happy you are having such a great time – it is all an adventure and the boys will never forget it. Keep the posts coming – I love them – Judy

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