Lifestyle

European journey with daddy’s grown girl creates fine memories

Over the past few weeks, I have shared with you the experiences of traveling with grown children, in contrast to traveling with small children.

Our journey has ended now and on reflection, I have to say it was truly a great trip. One reality most families eventually deal with is that when your kids grow up, graduate from college and begin a life of their own, it is easy to grow apart, particularly if they live a distance away.

They have their own friends, interests and want their independence. It is a rare opportunity to have them set aside a few weeks to just be with you. Our trip will be one of those enduring memories that will be pretty special.

When traveling with small kids, in addition to all the work associated with it, sometimes they don’t necessarily understand or appreciate what they are seeing or doing. That is a function of their age and the world in which they live.

One of the great things about traveling with your grown kids is they can savor the experience. You can see the amazement and excitement on their faces when they see something for the first time and can fully grasp its significance in terms of its history, beauty, influence and uniqueness. One of my favorite quotes is from Augustine, who observed: “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only a page.”

It is true. One of the best educations a person can get is to see how other people in various countries and cultures live, work and play. To see the great works of art, ancient architecture, the history that has influenced our modern society is a true privilege.

After leaving the French Riviera and the beauty of Villefranche, Nice and Monte Carlo, our journey took us on to Florence, Rome, Naples, Sorrento, Pompeii and Palermo — ending with a few days in Paris to enjoy one of the most beautiful and inspiring cities in the world.

While Heather had visited Spain and Morocco before, these destinations were all new to her. Seeing the great artworks, the cathedral and tombs of Michelangelo, Galileo, Dante and others was inspiring for her.

The cultural treasure of Florence is significant beyond words. Seeing the ruins in Rome, standing in the picturesque Coliseum and the magnificence of St. Peter’s Basilica was truly an experience hard to describe for her. Throwing coins over her left shoulder into Trevi Fountain means she will return to Rome again someday, which I think would be just fine with her.

Her regular refrain was “Wow.” As we visited the seaside town of Sorrento with its stunning beauty and character, she added a new favorite place at each stop. Nothing can adequately describe the ambiance of the narrow and crowded shopping district and hearing the musical theme from “The Godfather” playing from unseen speakers. You have to pinch yourself and ask if you are really there.

As we get to Pompeii you can immediately see Heather is taken back by the size and scope of the ruins. As we tour them and see how well the frescos and other structures are preserved for over 2,000 years, it boggles the mind. It is an experience hard to match.

When we arrive in Palermo, Sicily, it is a new experience for both of us. We did a tour of the city along with a side trip to the incredible Monreale Cathedral, reputed to be the most beautiful temple in the world where the ceiling and top walls are adorned with over 68,000 square feet of intricate and colorful mosaics.

In between all of these spectacular ports of call, we were able to enjoy our ship and all it had to offer. The Voyager of the Seas is unique in its size and amenities. It is one of a handful of ships sporting a center promenade and ice rink. The ice show performance is probably one of the best entertainment events in the entire cruise industry, in my opinion.

Since writing about the experiences of traveling with grown children has been the topic of the past few columns, nothing could have brought it into sharper focus than our tablemates for dining onboard. We had a nice couple from Ireland at our table as well as a really neat family of five from Pennsylvania.

Tony and Amy seem the model parents with three kids: 15-year-old Joey, 11-year-old Tristan and a soon to be 4-year-old, Sofia. The kids were an absolute charm, well-mannered and disciplined, and typically just kids.

Amy and Tony would periodically have to do minor corrections and it pointed to the real differences between traveling with grown children and small children. Their activities and shore trips were much different than ours and tailored to the unique ages and interest of kids. While certainly a lot more work than for me with my 29-year-old daughter, I couldn’t help but yearn for times past when as a family we could savor those moments together.

As I indicated before, my lot in life has been as the father of daughters, so I guess I have a natural weakness there. Little Sofia and I became good friends, and she would come over at dinner and sit on my lap. We would have great discussions about really important stuff, like Godfrey her oversized monkey — or other things that came to her curious mind. What a personality! She added an element of fun to the trip that is hard to describe.

It is refreshing to see young families seeing the world together and building memories the kids will take with them to adulthood. Playing with Sofia also reminded me that no matter how old or big they get, daughters will always be daddy’s little girls.

Paris was the perfect ending point to a great trip. As I noted before, this was a work trip for me as I was escorting a group of 77 people. While a fair amount of my time was devoted to taking care of business with them, it had little effect on the experience Heather and I shared. It had been a few years since I had been to Paris, and I had forgotten just how beautiful it is.

We ended our extensive tour of the city with a final dinner at a charming outdoor French cafe enjoying fine wine, a nice meal and topping it off with a chocolate crepe. As I looked around, I couldn’t help but think: Ahh…life is good!

Jerry Vaughn is president of World Voyager Vacations in Federal Way. Contact: jvaughn@worldvoyagervacations.com.

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