Finding Ourselves in Venice, Florence, Rome, & Barcelona: Review

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It’s no secret that I love to travel. I particularly love European travel, and I made seven trips there between the ages of 18 and 31 (yes, I would dearly love to return, since it’s been a few decades since then!). When Sunny Lockwood contacted me to ask if I’d like to read and review a book she and her husband Al had written about a European travel adventure they’d recently taken, I said yes. I am glad I did!

A little background: Sunny and Al Lockwood are senior citizens who met and married later in life. They both have wanderlust: “the longing simply to be somewhere different, breathing air filled with unfamiliar tension or sweet, enticing fragrances, where nothing is ‘common’ and everything is new.” As a fellow travel aficionado, I understand this feeling entirely.

The Lockwoods have taken several trips, but the one chronicled in this book took them to Venice, Florence, Rome, and Barcelona. Sunny shares some of her methods on planning these trips (she likes a frugal approach). She determined that it would be cheaper to take a “repositioning cruise” back to America after their European stint’s end than to fly, so they did that. I was fascinated by this; I’d never heard of a repositioning cruise (for the record, a repositioning cruise is what they call moving a ship from one region to another at the end of the season). What a neat find!

Sunny Attitudes

Part of what made this book so appealing were Al and Sunny’s attitudes. Sunny truly lives up to her name, always finding the positives in aspects of their trip. One familiarĀ  theme would be something the couple planned to see, but couldn’t for some reason (construction, fatigue, etc). Instead of being upset, they would just think, “We’ll just have to come back.” Sunny explains that this “keeps me from feeling too sad over disappointments. It keeps me upbeat and flexible in the face of unexpected letdowns.”

Sunny often refers to Al as “Sweetheart.” When I visited Europe in my 20s, it was usually in tour groups with lots of older retired couples. These people were almost always so friendly and nice. I picture Al and Sunny being a couple just like these!

Neuschwanstein Castle entrance

Me outside of Neuschwanstein Castle with a friendly man from one tour (more fellow tourists in the background)

Vicarious Trip to Europe

Since I’ve visited Venice, Florence, and Rome, I really enjoyed hearing the Lockwoods’ take on these cities. I imagined all the sites they visited, and enjoyed the book’s excellent photographs of many of these sites as well. I could fully relate to the allure of Italian gelato.

I feel like Sunny is a kindred spirit in some ways, because so often while reading this book I’d find something she’d say that I could have written myself. For instance: “Interestingly, when I travel, I notice beauty in things I wouldn’t look at twice back home. Crumbling, deteriorating buildings appear beautiful to my traveler’s eyes. Back home they might just look like slums.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought this.

Or another observation: “I realize I’d forgotten how beautiful the Italians are. Everyone looks stylish.” This is so true! I remember remarking to my penpal, when I stayed with her in her Florence home for 2 weeks, that I hadn’t seen a single ugly person in Italy. She laughed, but it was really true. Apparently, “people of Walmart” only exist in America šŸ™‚

And yet another — “more experienced travelers, the kind who write guide books, might say that restaurants and cafes beside the Duomo are designed for tourists and therefore serve less authentic dishes and charge more than they should. But we find this sidewalk restaurant perfect for us.” I’ve felt the same way. I have encountered several what I’ll call “travel snobs” who eschew various typical tourist things abroad (a couple that come to mind, that I’ve enjoyed but that I’ve heard criticized online, are the London Dungeon and Rick Steves travel books). I love traveling and doing the things *I* enjoy, regardless of what someone moreĀ  … elite? cultured? may think.

I’ve never been to Spain (and honestly, it’s one of Europe’s countries that doesn’t call to me all that much), so I was curious to see if I’d enjoy the Lockwoods’ take on Barcelona. I really did! The Sagrada Familia, a huge cathedral there, sounded so wonderful that I almost want to add Barcelona to my bucket list just to see it.

If you enjoy travel, I’d encourage you to check out Finding Ourselves in Venice, Florence, Rome, & Barcelona. Al and Sunny have a few other travel tales, too. They are a wonderful — and inexpensive — way to vicariously tour Europe.

 

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5 thoughts on “Finding Ourselves in Venice, Florence, Rome, & Barcelona: Review

  1. Sounds fun! You can also sometimes get passage on freight ships. Royal trivia: Queen Victoria’s granddaughter, Princess Alice Countess of Athlone (married Queen Mary’s brother) lived to her 90s. She traveled by city bus in London and took a freighter to (iirc) Jamaica (one of those islands) each winter!!

  2. I enjoyed your blog today so much. What an interesting book! And I loved hearing about your trips to Europe. I’ve been a few places but not Europe. Now I’m afraid to travel anywhere in Europe because of the terrorism, which of course, is what the terrorists want: for me to be afraid! The picture of you in your Disney tee is so cute!!

  3. I traveled to Spain the year I studied in Belgium. My roommate and I went there to spend Christmas with some friends she had there. It was absolutely delightful! I’d do it again in a heartbeat, if I were healthy enough. We went to Zaragoza, I believe. The trip down there by train was absolutely breathtaking. I remember passing through hilly countryside, seeing sheep pasturing on those hillsides. Oh, yes! It was lovely.

  4. This post was very enjoyable! Like you, Spain has never been high on my travel list. However, a cousin of mine tells me that I should go there, especially to see the beautiful cathedrals. Lots of gold ornamentation, I’ve heard and seen in pictures. Hope that my foreign travel days are not quite over yet, because I have my Father’s wanderlust learned early in life when we drove and camped all of the way to CA to visit his aunts and cousins. I was only 10 at the time, but I still remember almost everything from the National Parks along the way to Disneyland, Knott’s Berry Farm, Catalina Island, and San Francisco.
    I love hearing the stories and experiences of other travelers! Fortunately, I have been to both Europe and South America on some very memorable trips.

  5. What a fun escape from a mundane Tuesday! You did an awesome job reviewing this book! You made travel sound so cool and alluring!

Thanks for taking the time to comment. I enjoy hearing from you.