Friday, November 14, 2014

Serendipity in Sorrento

Outside it’s a chilly ten degrees.

I know because I just looked. Ten is what you can expect as a start to a January day in Minnesota if you’re lucky. 

This, however, is ten degrees at mid forenoon in the middle of November. Come on, really, we grumble. This is winter way too soon.

Luckily, a couple weeks ago some of us had a free vacation to Italy with an Adriatic and Mediterranean cruise thrown in.

Memories of sunshine and warmth are helping get us over this rough patch. Weather was mild, packing was minimal and when the cruise was over we were well traveled, well informed and well rested.

The free vacation didn’t make us any more ready for the cold that’s settling in. At least we have a cushion of well-being to fall back on, which is all to the good.

We didn’t win this vacation in a lottery. We didn’t sign up and our names were picked in a drawing. It was much easier than that.

Friends took a trip of a lifetime by mapping out a vacation that included train and bus travel in Italy with stays in Rome and Venice for sightseeing. 

When you’re about to say, “Wow, that’s some getaway”, the bigger share of their adventure begins.

They boarded their cruise ship in Venice on an itinerary that took them to the fruitful, sunny welcoming lands of Slovenia and Croatia and swung them around the boot heel of Italy to Sicily and so on back to Rome.

There were wonderful days of exploring on their own time before the cruise. There were the excellent land tours that are done as part of the cruise. Almost daily they emailed updates and photos.

The emails were looked forward to.They made us feel that the essence of the experience was ours to share in.

Almost every day they were somewhere interestingly new. Some places were new for us in every sense. We were unfamiliar with some of the ports they visited. We did a fair amount of googling of locations to keep up.

Usually an email came with just one photo attachment. Our friends didn’t wear us out by showing us everything. They gave enough to open the door to each place with the promise that there's so much more.

The emails were brief. They were kept to a couple lines each. We learned their current locations. There might be a comment on the weather. More than once there was mention of the delicious food.

The emails set the stage so we could travel along from our homes thousands of miles away. We had everything with us to enjoy this fall cruise. It didn’t entail passports or carry-on luggage to be there with them.

Their arrival home was followed by a long phone visit with them (after a decent interval for jet lag recovery). 

It was great fun to ask questions of the trip and to hear more about places they saw. In a way it was a chance for us to relive the Mediterranean cruise we took five years ago. 

The cruise we took was one of those experiences that come along that you call a life changer. Of course, we thought life changing meant we’d book another cruise soon and continue to put our passports to work. 

Time has elapsed and another cruise hasn’t happened. This is less important than that we had this time, used it advantageously and benefited from it.

Like us, their cruise stopped at Sorrento. I wanted their reaction to it believing they couldn't have escaped its charm.

We (meaning me for sure) left our hearts in Sorrento. The memorable noon meal that a Sorrento restaurant served our tour group, with much visiting among us at the table, with glasses of wine to reinforce the fact we were dining in Italy, is not to be forgotten.

The stroll through the lemon groves afterwards, the fragrance of lemons splendid and yellow as they grow on the trees, the sheer beauty of steep cliffs, and the blue sea with Capri and its famed Blue Grotto lying to the westward, captivated me differently from other places we took in.

My forebears could have come from here is what I thought. I drank in the scene along with the limoncello, the refreshing and potent Italian liqueur, which we enjoyed at some outside venue as we recall. I felt I was returning home.

I remarked to our friends on the fragrance of the lemons at Sorrento. There was a brief silence at the other end of the line. 

They don't have an association with lemons as we do by visiting in May. Lemons were out of season (harvesting is done by October) when they were there, they said. They missed the whole lemony sense of Sorrento which we embraced.  

Travel is a matter of serendipity we agreed. Season, time of day and weather all play a part in the impression you take in and the impression you take away.

Ro Giencke – November 14, 2014


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