At some point during my cancer saga I remember likening the experience to travel. Some trips are better than others, and all of them hold unexpected surprises, not all good ones, either. Sure enough my observations have proven themselves once again. Highlights of the trip were many. Among them
• Shopping at Tiffany’s in LA with Allison (as poor Don waited outside hanging onto his seat with white knuckled trepidation)!
• Sharing Mom and Dad’s 60th wedding anniversary
• My best girlfriend driving five hours to see us, even when she was sick
• Meeting for the first time my one year old grand niece and newest member of the family
• Seeing the play ‘Red’ in Chicago’s Goodman Theatre
• Delicious organic food at the Hunter’s Head and renewing a friendship in Great Falls
• A close encounter with Hugh Grant (only for the novelty factor)
• The sights and tastes of Berlin, Potsdam and the KaDeWe
• The delight of discovering that ‘Pili’ our cruise director from last year was to guide us again this year. She was perfection, on both counts!
• Monet’s ‘jewel’ of water lilies, L’Orangerie in Paris
• Cruising peacefully (at times!) down the Rhone River
• The food delights of Lyon, including the Sunday market and a particularly convivial lunch in a French style ‘pub’ ending with the best creme brûlée I have ever eaten!
• Fresh nougat with almonds and macadamia nuts purchased at the market in Avignon.
• In Avignon we discovered a charming ‘jewel’ of a tiny private museum displaying works of Vuillard, Sisely, Van Gogh and Manet… stunning.
• Visiting a medieval village named Vivier in the black of night
• An olive farm in Provence where we tasted freshly pressed extra virgin olive oil
• A lovely French tour guide named Michelle who was the epitome of the French lady and who took us to a fromagerie and helped me buy ‘fromage blanc’ so that I could taste it. Don and I were the only two in her group on a rainy day and it was wonderful
• The Papal Palace in Avignon where the building blocks have retained the original tradesmen’s ‘signatures’, the marks of the human hands made hundreds of years ago.
• The charming city of Arles that was Van Gogh’s inspiration a hundred years previously (and just quietly was the birthplace of fashion designer Christian Lacroix)
• The genius of Antonio Gaudi and his legacy in Barcelona
• Watching the Sardana being danced in front of the Barcelona Cathedral
• Montserrat, mountain home of Benedictine Monks who have carved out, and rescued, a cultural treasure for Spain and the world.
And perhaps the best of all surprises, making new friends with a Chicago couple we met on the cruise.

Peppered throughout these wonderful memories were days of tiring travel, sickness for both Don and I, rain, wind and colder than expected temperatures. There were bad meals, lots of annoying people, a would-be pick pocket, a rude waiter (or two!), a few interminably long and miserable days, scaffolds and building cranes everywhere to ruin one’s photos, and tiredness day after day. Am I glad we did it? You bet. Do I want to do it again? No way. Am feeling every minute of my 58 years of living and looking forward to some quiet days at home for a while.