1. Waiting in the rain for a restaurant to open in Bologna because we were starving and in Italy, restaurants don't open until at least 7 for dinner. We crouched under awnings, raced across streets with ankle-deep puddles and were soaked to the bone by the time we reached the restaurant, which had barely opened. Good thing meals in Italy take so long, so we had plenty of time to dry off! We were rewarded with fresh tortellini and other delicacies that were definitely worth waiting for.
2. Wandering around Piazza del Duomo in Florence by myself while James climbed the dome early one morning. I studied the art on the church, the Baptistry doors, and even gave some tourists directions. Someone asked me if I was local, and I almost felt like I was. I attended church in the Duomo and just soaked up the city.
3. My beautiful evening in Ferrara, where we finally took it easy and strolled the streets like the locals. We admired the pink confection of the Duomo, bought candied nuts and listened to street musicians.
4. Touring ports with Joann and Calvin, our tablemates. They were the perfect companions for us: Joann, always armed with optimism, her camera and the willingness to ask anyone anything and Calvin, a man of few words, but who could actually put James in his place.
5. Our amazing Greek lunches by the water which lasted for hours and featured excellent conversation with wonderful people. The first, with Maria from Katakolon Express, and the second with our other tablemates, Mike and Debbie. I've never enjoyed al fresco dining as much as I did eating fresh feta by the sea.
6. Winning trivia with Jeannie and Paul, our brilliant teammates who made us the winningest trivia team I've ever been a part of. They became great friends, and we learned so much from them. We aspire to travel like they do one day.
It's funny. As I look at this list and think back, it occurs to me that none of them revolved around a single monument or piece of art. Of course we saw amazing things that I will never forget, but the more we travel, the more it becomes about the people and the authentic experiences. I would never have believed it before we first visited Europe, and I know that I will always be filling our days with museums and churches in the future, but now I understand how important it is to leave room for those impromptu experiences. They are what travel is all about!