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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!
Finding Ourselves in Venice, Florence, Rome, & Barcelona: Aging adventurers discover the power of place while exploring fascinating cities at their own relaxing pace
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!
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 familiar 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!
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 🙂
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 more … 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.