Strolling through the piazza's of Rome, drifting along the Grand Canal in Venice, exploring the Accademia in Florence, and eating all the pizza and spaghetti you can get your hands on... 'nuff said. Italy here we come!
Before I embark on the story of our extraordinary honeymoon, however, I feel it’s necessary to set the stage with a little background information on our courtship and marriage. This will hopefully explain why we assumed that this beautiful, implausible honeymoon fantasy would have to wait until our retirement.
Ours is a second marriage. I don’t know that any marriage can be easily summarized or contorted into a small box with a label on it, but I’ll try with mine. We are mad, head over heals, didn’t know this kind of love existed crazy for each other. We are ridiculous and juvenile. We make those inane types of proclamations such as ‘we want everyone to experience this type of joy’. To me Perry is both Albert Einstein and Rhett Butler, and of course, I am his Golda Meir and Scarlet O’Hara. Well, come to think of it, that’s not such a flattering visual. Regardless, ours is a love match and, clearly, not a marriage of convenience which is an important fact as my story progresses.
Typical questions that often follow the joy and excitement upon hearing of a second marriage include:
How did you two meet? Oh, that one’s easy, no problem at all. I can answer that.
Are you taking a honeymoon? Do you have any children?
Hmm, now that one’s not as easy as you might think...
We met in the grocery store, blah, blah, blah... But before I answer the seemingly uncomplicated second round of questions, the one about the honeymoon and the kids, I have to swallow and gather my thoughts. The response I receive is never a brief, “oh, how nice.” My answer, in fact, usually stops the conversation (and sometimes traffic) dead in its tracks.
Eleven children, I answer boldly. My husband and I have 11 children, and no, I’m not kidding. Perry and I are the proud parents of 11 beautiful children, ranging in age from 2 to 17. More specifically, together we have 4 daughters and 7 sons. Or more specifically still, we have 11 children who are 17, 15, 15, 13, 12, 11, 10, 9, 7, 5, and 2. And we both work full time. No, there is no dog. Yet.
But yes, we actually did it! We took the trip of a lifetime to Italy for two full weeks in the beginning of August. This is how it happened:
When our friends and family heard the news of our engagement, the celebration was fierce. Behind our backs, our team players conspired to give us the best wedding gift they could think of. What do you give to a couple with 11 children? Going on an expensive honeymoon was simply out of the question for us. Even with skillful utilization of every possible hand-me-down available, from sneakers to bikes, kids do eventually need some of their own things. Braces, for instance, simply cannot be shared. Nevertheless, we adored each other and our multitude of children and were up to the task loving and raising them. We hoped that if we were lucky, and perhaps a little self indulgent after the wedding, we might be able to spring for a weekend in Vermont.
The long and short of the story is this – our friends found Traveler’s Joy on the web, compared it to other honeymoon registry sites and found this one to be the highest quality and value. They insisted that we find a cute picture, write a brief bio, and sign up. After absorbing the thrilling surprise, Perry and I tossed our initial discomfort aside and got down to the business of planning our trip. We couldn’t help but feel a little sheepish about this incredibly generous gift, but after all, they wanted to send us so much – we simply couldn’t let them down. Tossing our initial discomfort aside, after 5 whole minutes of deliberation, we signed up and got down to the business of planning our trip. It’s noteworthy to mention here, that complexities of planning an extensive 2 week honeymoon to Italy, is nothing compared to the monumental task of arranging coverage and activities for all 11 children for two weeks.
Our trip was amazing! We flew into Pisa, held up the Leaning Tower, and then traveled by train onto Florence. We marveled at the spectacular artwork in the Ufizzi Museum and got stuck, with about a zillion other tourists, in the Duomo, as gusts of wind and rain pelted the building and thunder crashed through the stained glass. From there, we rented a car and drove south down the coast stopping frequently for wine, romance, and of course, our steady diet of pizza and spaghetti. Tuscany was breathtaking; the views of the vineyard from the hills were picture perfect. Rome was alive with black cassocks, habits, leather pants and tank tops. We loved it! We could feel the pulse of the city as we rode atop our double Decker tour bus. Herculaneum was a sight that relatively few tourists visit but really should not be missed. It is a city preserved in astounding condition under centuries of molten lava spewed forth from Mt. Vesuvius. Traversing the country, we headed to the east coast and spent a few days lounging on beautiful beaches and soaking up the Mediterranean sun. All the while, creeping leisurely along the Autostrada at a mere 90 miles in our cute little Italian rental car as curses were hurled at us for driving so slowly. We meandered through charming little villages and picnicked on fresh mozzarella and pesto, crusty breads, and spicy olives. We arrived in Venice expecting to see gondolas and winding waterways that look so lovely in books. The real Venice, in person, was so extraordinary, so remarkable, that we had to pinch ourselves that this was not some Disney World set. Venice, with its painted brick facades teeming with flowering window boxes that hover over the shimmering water, was magnificent. We spent time hiking in Cinque Terra where the mountains wind around the blue ocean and finally back to Pisa. Exhilarated, exhausted, and missing the kids, we boarded our plane and haven’t stopped smiling since.