Inspiration at the Kitchen Table

Jimminy Crickets, it’s been a while since I’ve written. But I’ve got a story for you, sort of . . . a spur of the moment decision story of going to Italy. Here’s how it happened:

Later in the month, Zsolt and I  will be taking a train ride (a damn long train ride) to Prague to meet with friends and have fun. But we had the idea that Zsolt’s parents, Anna and Laszlo, could come along with us a couple days earlier and explore the city. Zsolt’s parents don’t speak English, so it limits their ability to travel. (Also, Anna gets really nervous when going to new places. She reads every single bit of travel information available, memorizes words from the dictionary, makes lists of translations . . . and then still gets completely lost whenever we arrive in town.)

Anyhow, while they wanted to go on a trip with us, they really didn’t want to go to Prague. This is so weird. My cousin told me it’s one of his favourite cities in Europe. He said, “You have to go to Prague.” I’ve heard nothing but rave reviews for this city. But Zsolt’s parents don’t want to go. And actually, Zsolt’s not so bothered either. Apparently it’s less charming because it’s Eastern European . . . less exotic for them, less alluring . . . also, Zsolt says it is a tiny city and there’s not much to do.

But it’s PRAGUE! It’s beautiful. What else does one need?

Anyhow, they suggested we go somewhere else. So there we are at the kitchen table, sitting around the plates of cheese, kolbasz (salami-like but better), peppers and bread, wondering were we could go. I suggested we just go up to Budapest and enjoy the baths and very inexpensive opera. But then somehow the conversation wound it’s way to other places . . . places that would take hours and hours by car, which then led to “Why don’t we fly somewhere?” But where? “Italy!” Which is when Zsolt’s dad become very, very excited – saying he’d do anything to go to Italy. I might not understand everything they say, but I know Laszlo is excited when he starts speaking really, really fast and then jumps up from his chair – runs out the room – and calls back to us that he’d “do anything to go to Italy!” (I can’t remember why he left the room. Let’s just leave that hanging.)

IMG_20130414_085348So, of course we look up flights and Ryan Air is having a sale. Maybe people in North America don’t know about Ryan Air. I’ve always been a bit suspicious of them, since their prices are so stupidly low . . . they are the lowest of low cost airlines in Europe. I think the owner once proposed to have people standing up on flights . . . it didn’t pass of course, but that just gives you an idea of how cheap they are.

Right. Anyhow, Ryan Air had a stupidly low price on flights to Pisa. And wham, bam, thank you ma’am, we are booked and flying to Florence! One second we’re at the kitchen table eating kobasz, the next we’re on the plane flying to Italy. Crazy!

It was an extremely fast trip. We arrived in Pisa, took a train to Florence, spent a day and a half in Florence, took the train back to Pisa, went up the leaning tower (where I had vertigo . . . it felt like there wasn’t enough room, and I was going to fall over, and nothing was safe. Mind you, every other person up there seemed just fine. That’s me in the picture trying not to have a breakdown, and displaying my conditioning to ‘always smile for the camera’), walked through a very exciting market where I bought a tiny (and wonderfully cheap) piece of art that I think will look fantastic alongside my other bits of art, grabbed the return plane and flew home.

Knackering! But also, a real privilege. It is such a privilege to see the world, to enjoy other cultures, to hear stories from Italian women about the sons who married English girls and now live in Scotland, to walk these ancient roads, to see masterpieces first-hand, to eat gelato non-stop, to explore . . . it was lovely, and it was a privilege.

So that’s the story of that. And there will be more travelling to come. I’ve been trying to fit in my work between flights, trains and car rides, and I have to say it’s great to be flexible in online engagement and ghost-blogging, and assistance giving. I love that I can live anywhere and still have a working life. That’s quite the privilege too. The hard part is that my computer screen totally died. This is the third time ACER COMPUTERS (if you are reading this post), and while I love the speed and convenience of my laptop . . . staring at a black screen makes it rather difficult to work. But it’s all being managed. Once back in Canada I’ll replace the screen.

On a side note, my drawing pad also died. I’m not sure if it just needs a new battery . . but time will tell.

So all of this wonderfulness was experienced this past weekend, and I’m very grateful.Then last Monday in the night I read about Boston and the bombings. And I have to ask, how does any of it make sense? How? This world is a gift. I’ve seen people be saints and savours to one another. Working in the online community of support, I’ve seen strangers comfort strangers, and compassion shared freely. Walking through the amazing streets of Europe, I think of all the beauty that’s been poured in here . . . and then at the same time, the wars, the holocaust, the massacres. . . I think of the goodness and the evil. And I don’t know what to say.

All I know – right down deep inside me – is that people want to be good, and people can always be better. The bombings were heartbreaking, and my thoughts are going out to the city of Boston. I know within that madness people were proving just how good they could be. But it still breaks my heart to hear of the hateful things.I just don’t know what to say.

I’m glad for what I’ve been given in life. And I hope that kindness, art, exploration, openness and compassion win-out over that dirty and destructive word, ‘hate’.

And that is the end of this post!

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6 thoughts on “Inspiration at the Kitchen Table

  1. Sounds like a great weekend! I have to say, I’m with Zsolt and his parents – I’d take almost anywhere in Italy over Prague (which I find a bit underwhelming) any day. Whatever the case, this is one of the things that worries me about the possibility of returning to Canada…I’ve become so accustomed to easy, affordable, exciting travel, which is simply logistically harder to do in Canada…

    Life *is* a gift, and I think all any of us can do is recognize that magical fact, breath it deeply, and spread love. I’m glad you’re doing all three 🙂

    • Thanks, Sadie. I have to be honest, I really do miss all the travel we enjoyed while in Europe. In Canada it is either car or high-priced airline tickets. The trainlines are weak, so popping off to a village for a day (like we used to do in England) isn’t really possible. But then there are the Canadian lakes, and rivers and big open spaces . . . can you put a price on that? Well, maybe!

  2. You chose a great city to visit, Florence. And Pisa is pretty cool to see.

    I get the point about becoming conditioned to smile at cameras … I had to learn how to do it, but in the end, it pays off with wonderful pictures and memories. You look great! You always do when you smile.

  3. I am jealous of your travels. After grad school my husband (then boyfriend) and I traveled around Europe for a month. I remember using Ryan Air to fly between countries and being baffled at how cheap the flights were! Take advantage while you can! We hope one day we can return with our family (when the kids are older obviously) and show them what we loved so much. As far as the Boston thing, it was a sad day here in the US. Being a runner and being around the sport of running I just felt so bad for those not directly affected but who were trying to run that race. It is many people’s dream to run Boston and what a way to ruin thousands of dreams and hurt innocent people all at once. We have all felt the pain of that tragedy. You are right though, we have to look for the good and from any event that occurs we come out stronger and united on the other side. You look great in your pic! Even if you are off balance!!

  4. dear catherine,

    what a fabulous post on your travel adventure! girl, you are an incredible writer. you do it with such gusto, such passion, such humor -truly, your blog is always a very good read. i know – the heartbreak of the boston tragedy, just awful. but i am with you – there is far more good, beauty, kindness and compassion to savor and to exchange with others. how fortunate we are to know that truth and believe in it. and how lucky your readers are to get to have your marvelous perspective on life – moving forward and well-lived.

    love to you, sweet friend, XOXO,

    karen, TC

  5. What a wonderful post! I’m glad you ended up in Italy. I was in Pisa and Florence in 2007 and loved every minute of it. Traveling is a marvel and I’m glad you got to partake. xo

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