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“People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel”. ~ Maya Angelou

“Empathy is about finding echoes of another person in yourself”.  ~Mohsin Hamid

I came upon this quote one day when I was trying to explain what I meant when I said someone was empathetic. I thought it was simple but beautiful.  I have met many individuals who will tell me that they know how it feels to experience something that I am feeling, and they may have had a similar experience or loss in life, but I guarantee that our experiences and feeling are different.  Our reactions are made up of different life experiences, so they are not exactly the same. Many people are sympathetic and kind, and compassionate.  It is a rare ability to be truly empathetic.

“Empathy begins with understanding life from another person’s perspective. Nobody has an objective experience of reality. It’s all through our own individual prisms.”  ~ Sterling K Brown

I saw a quote the other day that put it in simple terms. Sympathy is feeling sorry for another person’s hurt or pain. Empathy is walking in another person’s shoes.  Compassion is love in action.

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There are many times when someone does not know how it feels to be you, and that is okay.  It is perfectly ok.  Nonetheless, we can still be compassionate.  “I am sorry you are going through this.”  “This must be difficult.” And my personal favorite…

“How can I help?” 

Dr. Max Goodwin asks at every turn on NBC’s “ New Amsterdam ” when he becomes the new medical director at the eponymous fictional hospital. And he really, really means it. Not only does he repeat the phrase ad nauseam because he’s so damn earnest, but he also says it in Spanish.

Everyone needs to be heard, truly heard, not just the “I heard what you said” but the unsaid things, the body language, the sound of the person’s voice, the facial expressions, etc. It is not easy to really hear someone, and yet, it can be simple. In nursing school, we had an exercise where we would gather information from a patient. We had to gather the usual patient history but we had to sit with them, facing them, closed-door or curtain, taking out all of the distractions. We created a zone where the patient felt comfortable speaking, we asked open-ended questions, and we repeated what they said often starting with “What I heard you say was….. was that what you said?” We were looking for information that might now be given in asking the usual questions, and we were really fine-tuned in listening to what they said.

Today, the world feels overwhelmed with distractions. I can not remember the last time I was with a doctor when I felt I had their full attention. I have to write down the highlights of what I need to say during an appointment more often than not I leave feeling rushed and not heard.

“To be able to listen–really, wholly passively, self effacingly listen — without presupposing, classifying, improving, convertintng, evaluating, approving or dissaproving, without dueling with what is being said, without rehearsing the rebuttal in advance, without free associating to portions of what is being said so that the succeeding portions are not heard at all–such listening is rare”

Abraham Maslow

Listening, and really hearing what a person is trying to communicate is not simple. It is a skill, a gift, that comes from deep in one’s heart. One has to be willing to really be open to LISTEN to another! I am sometimes guilty of not hearing what a person is saying when I do not validate their feelings/story and rush to tell them my story. Often I have to focus and pause and let them say what they are trying to say in full without interruption. I have read a lot about how we should not need external validation for our feelings or actions, I tend to disagree. When we I feel that someone has acknowledged what I have said or done, even if they disagree or would have done or said something differently, it makes a difference. I feel heard.

To me, sincere interest in what a person is saying (with words or body language, tone, etc) is a vital part of being empathetic. Paying attention, not to what your story or reply will be, really listening, because you care, you want to hear what they are “saying” is a vital part of empathy. Every moment in life, every single story or tale does not cry out for the “are you really listening?” Often, the best response is nothing, just a nod of the head or in pre-pandemic times or a touch on the arm or a hug. I miss hugs, elbow bumps are not the same.

Kindness and empathy often go hand in hand. I think that some people do acts of kindness with no need for recognition but just because they know what a simple gesture would mean to the other person. I follow a group started in Australia called the Kindness Pandemic. The people who participate seem to be thoughtful, generous people. Small, random acts of kindness, paying it forward, or being grateful for receiving an act of kindness/empathy are abundant.

Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant?

~ Henry David Thoreau

Remember when it was safe to blow on a cake!!

It is sometimes difficult for me to understand why being empathetic is not second nature. I have been exceptionally blessed that my mom, Virginia, and my mother in law, Maryrose, were some of the kindest, most thoughtful, and empathetic individuals. They were loving and compassionate, and no matter what life handed them, they made time for others and cared.

In my nursing and volunteering careers, I have been fortunate to meet many amazing, compassionate, and empathetic nurses. When I was assigned to volunteer in the Heart Failure Clinic, I was afraid because I felt as if I might not fit in or be able to feel useful. Heart failure was not in my skillset, or so I believed. The nurses Charon, Marianna, Diane, Beth, and Hilary not only made me feel welcome and valued. They did their best to understood and empathize with the patients and families and went above and beyond. They tried to understand what the patients and families were going through and always did their best to help.

There is nothing wrong with kindness or sympathy. They are both wonderful attributes which everyone should have. The empathetic person often takes kindness and sympathy and takes it a step further. It is not telling your story to the person in pain, it’s trying to understand how their pain feels to them (mental or physical) and attempting to figure out what they need from you when sometimes they can not put it into words. Often, it is not advice or something physical, it’s just being there that makes a difference, often time a lasting memory

My children Dan, Becca, Kristen, and daughter in law Ann Taylor, are awesome listeners. They are compassionate and kind humans. My husband Skip often takes the time to just let me ramble on, he cares deeply and I honestly do not know how I would be here without him.

The great gift of human beings is that we have the power of empathy.” ~ Meryl Streep

I have a few people in my life that have told me they are here for me, when and if I just want to talk, they will listen. It means the world to me knowing that. Those are the type of people whose first comment is not “Well, at least…. ” or to offer suggestions what I might do. I understand the message, and it was probably something I had considered, but it is not necessarily what I need to hear at that moment. The message is perfectly appropriate and true, it just did not feel empathetic at that moment, mostly because I may have felt that they did not hear or acknowledge my feelings. Skip asked me when he previewed this blog what was the point I was trying to say as my blogs are often different than this one. First, I turned it around in an old consulting trick I learned and asked him “what do you think I was trying to say?” (Which I thought was hysterical). My point is never to make anyone feel unkind, but rather to explain my viewpoint on what it feels like to receive empathy and how wonderful it would be if everyone could be kind, caring, sympathetic, and empathetic.

By no means whatsoever am I the epitome of empathy. In life, and highlighted more so in the pandemic world, it feels like there is often more time for contemplation. Often in the middle of the night, I am awake and my mind will not shut down. Everyone had a lot going on in the past year and not in a good way. Even when one tries to look for the silver lining, it feels difficult and often impossible to find one. For myself, no inspirational quote or knowing that others had it worse in life than I did suddenly made everything better. Often, we give it the best we can. I want to tell you……

If someone leads with kindness you are on the right track. Understanding that someone may be hurting, even though you have not experienced what they are going through does not mean you should not try to help. Most times you can not “fix” what an individual is feeling, nor do you need to by actions or suggestions.

When we empathize with others, we give them space to process, time to feel heard, a chance to experience support, and the opportunity to feel validated in their feelings.” ~ Emily De La Torre

The following are the usual comments made to try to offer comfort, but yet not comforting: (and I have said some of these myself at times) “Everything happens for a reason, This too shall pass, Just look on the bright side; I know how you feel, or something better is just around the corner.”

An author, Shelby Leigh, suggests that statements such as these are often helpful to let the individual know that you are there for them and that you hear them. Often, validation helps.

“I am so sorry you are feeling this way.” “I hear you.” “No wonder you are upset.” “I am sorry you are going through this.” “That must be difficult,” or if fictional Doctor Max Goodwin of New Amsterdam asked, “How can I help.”

Whether you listen without comment, send a card or note, give an unexpected bouquet of flowers, hold someone’s hand, gift a giant chocolate candy or a bottle of wine, (or both), or surprise someone with a hug that you wish would never end, know that you are loved, you are appreciated and that you make a difference. Remember to try to be kind, loving, and empathetic to yourself, because you deserve it!

“You cannot do kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson.

“Let kindness write all the chapters of your life.” ~ Alexandria Vasiliu

“If someone truly loves you, they won’t tell you love stories, they will make a love story with you.” ~Anonymous

Dear Skip, I wanted to create a blog as today, September 28, 2020, is our 40th wedding anniversary. I wasn’t quite sure how to get started or what the plan would be, so as usual, I overthought what and how to say it. I know you would prefer a hours long conversation about “feelings,” (I can not even write that without laughing out loud). I thought I would chose forty photos and a couple of quotes to express my love for you, though I found that was impossible. When I got to one hundred and forty “most memorable” photos I noticed some common themes. I was humbled and perhaps a tad emotional as I fast forwarded though the memories of our first forty years. Sometimes, it has felt like Mr Toads Wild Ride in Disney and we are spinning in abandon not knowing what the future will bring.

“You know, there’s a philosopher who says, “As you live your life, it appears to be anarchy and chaos, and random events, no related events, smashing into each other and causing this situation or that situation and then this happens, and it’s overwhelming, and it just looks like what in the world is going on? And later, when you look back at it, it looks like a finely crafted novel. But at the time, it don’t.” ~ Joe Walsh

I thought at one point I would attempt to list forty things I love about you, but there were so many that how could I choose only forty. (My mama did not raise a fool!) So, without further ado, here are some of the reasons I love you in no particular order.

You have the best smile, which makes me smile.

You somehow fit perfectly into my family, and love them as much as they love you.

You love your family, and they love you.

You value friendship, in fact you treasure it!

“In the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter, and sharing of pleasures. For in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed.” ~ Khalil Gibran

“Fatherhood is great because you can ruin someone from scratch.”

~Jon Stewart

I love you because you love our children, and they love you.

Of course it goes without saying, that I love you for being you, and for being there for me, and in spite of my many imperfections, I can always count on you. You have helped me be strong when I thought I was weak. You took me on adventures to places I thought I’d never see. You’ve held me when I cried, and loved me when I did not feel lovable, and as from the first time I met you, over forty years ago, you make me laugh.

“Loved you yesterday, love you still, always have, always will.” ~ Anonymous

“Hey, What I like about you
You keep me warm at night
Never wanna let you go
Know you make me feel all right, yeah

Keep on whispering in my ear
Tell me all the things that I wanna hear
‘Cause it’s true
That’s what I like about you”

~ The Romantics, What I like About You

We have been so blessed in our lives, and even more blessed to have not only perfect children and daughter in law, but perfect grandchildren as well.

“To a small child, the perfect granddad is unafraid of big dogs and fierce storms but absolutely terrified of the word “boo.” Robert Brault

I used to think that in marriage the couple made up two half’s of a whole, but we are much more than that. You are part of my heart and soul and funny bone, we are not “better half’s” of each other, but together, we make each other better.

In case I forget to tell you, I have had a really good time these first forty years. I can not wait to make more memories in the next forty with you by my side.

“Through the years, as the fire starts to mellow
Burning lines in the book of our lives
Though the binding cracks and the pages start to yellow
I’ll be in love with you
I’ll be in love with you

Longer than there’ve been fishes in the ocean
Higher than any bird ever flew
Longer than there’ve been stars up in the heavens
I’ve been in love with you
I am in love with you”

~ Dan Folgelberg, Longer

“When Irish eyes are smiling. Sure it’s like a morning spring. In the lilt of Irish laughter, You can hear the angels sing. When Irish hearts are happy, All the world seems bright and gay. And when Irish eyes are smiling, Sure, they steal your heart away.” ~ Chauncy Olcot and George Graff, Jr

 

“There’s a tear in your eye, and I’m wondering why,
For it never should be there at all. With such power in your smile,
sure a stone you’d beguile, So there’s never a teardrop should fall.
When your sweet lilting laughter’s like some fairy song,
And your eyes twinkle bright as can be, You should laugh all the while
and all other times smile, And now smile a smile for me.”

When Irish Eyes Are Smiling – lyrics by Chauncy Olcott and George Graff, Jr

 

My father had the bluest of blue eyes. When I started to look at pictures of my dad after he passed away a few weeks ago to try to find a picture that showed his blue eyes, I was brought to tears and smiles to see that in almost every picture his eyes were smiling or he was making a face to make you smile. I would say his eyes twinkled, often with mischief.

When I think about my dad without tears clouding my vision, I remember how he did the best that he could. He came from very humble beginnings in a cold water flat in Bridgeport. He bragged that he was the first of his family to be born in a hospital, and was the first baby born in Bridgeport in 1927.

He was a proud man and one of the things he was proud about was his service in the US Army where he held the rank of Sargent and served overseas. He loved wearing his collection of caps, but he especially loved wearing his World War II cap.He was an active member of the VFW, and the American Legion. He acted as if he hated hearing people say “thank you for your service”, but he actually loved hearing that. One of his favorite things was sitting outside of the local grocery store distributing poppies in front of Stop and Shop with his friends. He loved collecting the most money and giving poppies away to the children. He would take multiple shifts for weeks and never missed one. No one could resist his smile it seemed. He had a large bit of blarney in him.

The best day of my dads life (second only to the day I was born) was the day he met my mom where he worked as an oil delivery man at Hoffman Fuel in Bridgeport. My mom and dad were a team. Mom managed all of the inside and raised the children while dad worked long hours and managed the outside and cars. This is one of the first pictures I remember taking of my mom and dad with a Brownie camera – it is still one of my favorites from 1971.



My parents were married for fifty- three years and had many challenges like most people in life. When my mom died a part of my dad did as well. For a long time I thought, without her he is not going to live long. Dad had diabetes, a heart condition, he had smoked and drank in former years. He lived though a ruptured appendix, fell off a ladder, once had a car bumper fall on his head, and I do not want to think about the number of times he probably electrocuted himself working on wiring he had no business doing. There were many times I believed that “this was it” yet it wasn’t. Dad was stubborn in many ways and always did things in his own timeline.

For my parents, their pride and joy of life was always family. My dad was a very proud man. In spite of the fact that they did not have money they always provided for their family. Dad worked long hours, especially in the winter, in a job that was physically taxing, to make sure we had a roof over our heads, food on the table, an education, a strong belief in God, and plenty of times to make good memories.

Despite the fact that dad drove a truck for a living, my parents would sit down with a map almost every year, and make a circle and find a place to drive to for a vacation. Even hours in a car before air conditioning, crowded in car was an adventure and a memory made. Not always a good memory, but a memory none the less.

Much of my dads life was centered around family. Most of that was my mom’s doing but my dad was happiest with the ones he loved most, his children.

If you asked me what my dad loved besides family and making people laugh I would say taking care of his yard. Fifty years ago my parent bought a fixer upper in Trumbull.  Trust me when I say it was desperately in need of repairs.  It had been a rental house that was abused and in need of some serious love. Over the years mom and dad lived there, I can honestly say they made that broken down house into a home. Here is a good snap of then and now. 

 

 

 

Dad loved his garden, his acre of yard, his lawn tractor and hundreds of garden tools.  Owning a home, using his own sweat and blood to build and repair that home was a huge part what made him happiest.  He tried to be a jack of all trades, and many times he succeeded and many times he did not, but that never seemed to stop him from trying.  

 

“What can go up the chimney down, but can’t go down the chimney up?”

~ Larry Condon Sr

If anyone had asked me which parent was the more social one I would have immediately answered that it was my mom.  My siblings and I held a surprise anniversary party for my parents.  After the initial surprise my mother worked the crowd like a politician raising funds and my dad stood frozen so our friend Tom remarked that someone needed to get that man a drink.  After my mother died however I realized just how engaging my father could be.  His love of riddles often brought me to embarrassment.  However, when I thought about it, it was his way of engaging people in conversation, it made people laugh (or groan) and it gave him a connection, which mattered. 

Although it was not often easy to see, dads connection to his family mattered most. 

In case you are wondering the answer to the riddle is umbrella.

“Children are the rainbow of life. Grandchildren are the pot of gold.” ~ Irish Blessing

Grandchildren, and great grandchildren, were a blessing to my dad.  Here was an entire new audience that he could torture, um I mean love, and he did both love endlessly and tease mercilessly his grandchildren, as he had done for many years to his own children.

My dad was blessed not be have dementia (dimension as he called it).  He often could not remember names so at one point numbered all the grandchildren from one to seven and had a giant picture of each of them showing their number on his living room coffee table.  He thought that was perfectly normal.  There are many days since he passed that I go to pick up the phone to call him, he was hungry for news of anything and anyone.  He often attempted to continue the conversation with “what else is new?”  When I was away and not sure if I could call as often, the neighbors would check in on him and my three children set up a schedule and would call him at least four times a day to check in.  When they were young and my husband Skip was traveling I would often go over my parents house for a few hours for an extra set of hands.  After my dad tortured them with a game of Giant Steps (“No, you may not take steps Becca, Dan you may take as many steps as you wish”) we’d have dinner and unlike in my youth, my children need not finish what was on their plates, it never mattered if they spilled their milk and they ALWAYS could have dessert of “pickled pigs feet” which was his name for ice cream.  

 

My dad had a love/hate relationship with being the center of attention.  He claimed to hate it, but in reality, it seemed more like he loved it.  Again, I think he loved the connection with people.  When he moved from his home to Independent and then Assisted Living, I was concerned that he would feel isolated.  He had habits of going to run Bingo at a local nursing home for over twenty-five years, he went to church and sat in the same pew every Sunday at 7:30 am mass, he put flags on the graves of the soldiers at a local cemetery, he knew the people at Dunkin Donuts in his local grocery store by name.  But just as one might not expect my dad to be the one to outlive all of his siblings, my dad flourished at Brightview Senior Living.  In the ten months he was there, although he may not have known your name, everyone knew his and loved him.  He was as he always had been, the life of the party.  

 

My dad saw a lot of hardship and a lot of joy in his 93 years on earth.  When I look back at the big picture, especially after the beautiful outpouring of emails and notes and calls after dad passed, I can say he was well loved and liked.  As Phyllis Diller said “A smile is the curve that sets everything straight.”

“Among those whom I like or admire, I can find no common denominator, but among those whom I love, I can: all of them make me laugh.” ~ W. H. Auden

 

“Smile though your heart is aching. Smile even though it’s breaking. When there are clouds in the sky, you’ll get by. If you smile through your fear and sorrow. Smile and maybe tomorrow. You’ll see the sun come shining through for you.”

“Light up your face with gladness. Hide every trace of sadness. Although a tear may be ever so near. That’s the time you must keep on trying. Smile, what’s the use of crying? You’ll find that life is still worthwhile. If you just smile.”

~ Nat King Cole in Smile

 

When we meet again dad, I’ll let you know what else is new!  

“A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.” ~Christopher Reeve

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about heroes. There’s an abundance of inspirational news (if you look for the positives) about the nurses, doctors, first responders, police etc being our heroes in this insane world of the Covid -19 pandemic. They are heroes, their actions in the face of such adversity is nothing less than heroic. There is also a lot of recognition of the truck drivers, grocery store workers, sanitation workers, delivery persons etc who are also heroes for showing up and going to work. In my opinion, there are many heroes and although it is correct and amazing to recognize a particular group, it should not minimize what each and everyone of us who are living life every day, to the best of our ability does.

There is a catch phrase that goes – “Not all heroes wear capes.” It is true. There are every day heroes and heroes that make some of us pause, and get that weird catchy feeling in their throat. “I am not crying you are” kind of feeling. We should all be kind, we should all say please and thank you. Maybe the good that comes out of all of this is not to alienate us from one another to say one person’s occupation is more valuable than another’s, is just to acknowledge, or my favorite term VALIDATE, that we all have value that needs to be recognized and maybe we can make it a part of every day life, not just crisis life.

This essay is not meant to diminish in any way shape or form the recognition that each and every person who is trying to manage life right now, those who are on the front lines, and those who are supporting those on the front lines, deserves.

“Heroes represent the best of ourselves, respecting that we are human beings. A hero can be anyone from Gandhi to your classroom teacher, anyone who can show courage when faced with a problem. A hero is someone who is willing to help others in his or her best capacity.”

~ Ricky Martin

I’d like to tell you a about a few of my personal heroes. My husband Skip is one for certain. He keeps me grounded more often than I realize no matter what he is going through he is always there for me. He is not perfect, which goes without saying despite the fact that I just said it. He posts an inordinate number of pictures of himself drinking scotch on the internet, and he tells long drawn out stories of his scotch experiences (don’t ask), none the less, he is always there for me, for our children, for our friends and family. He is my hero. (Just don’t tell him I said that.)

Skip drinking scotch while social distancing.

It should come as no surprise that my children, daughter in law and grandchildren are heroes to me. They work hard, they are always there to support each other. They make me laugh and fill me with love. They make life worth living. They are smart, and funny and kind. They check in on me every day and brighten my day. I think they love to face time my dogs primarily, but I am OK with that!

Support from Becca ❤

My dogs, Harry and Frankie, are NOT my heroes, but they are doing their part to social distance.

“Love is not just a noun, it is a verb—it is an act. It is what you do. It is an energy that, once created, can never be destroyed, but is instead is set forth into the universe in perpetual motion, where it will exist for all of us, always.” ~ Elana Miller

I’m incredibly blessed to have the best of friends and family and acquaintances. I’ve connected with many people who just say hello and how are you doing, just checking in, and many offering to help.

I ‘m not here to preach even though this may seem preachy. Just be kind as you can, be grateful, be generous with what you can. Check in on each other, make time for yourself and stay safe. I’m hoping and if there is room for prayer, praying that we all come out safe and sound and maybe even a little better, though it is not going to be easy. In fact it is going to be hard.

If I can help you in some way, let me know. I’ll do my very best to try to make it happen. Mr Rogers is a wise person, to some a hero.

“When I was very young, most of my childhood heroes wore capes, flew through the air, or picked up buildings with one arm. They were spectacular and got a lot of attention. But as I grew, my heroes changed, so that now I can honestly say that anyone who does anything to help a child is a hero to me.” ~Fred Rogers

Be happy, be well, be kind, be safe, may you be a hero to others and may your life be filled with those who are heroes to you, whether or not they wear capes.

“No story sits by itself. Our lives connect like threads on a loom, interwoven in ways we never realize.” ~ Mitch Albom

Today is our final vacation day technically, as tomorrow we leave to go back to reality. Reality is not such a bad thing, but vacation reality in wonderful places with friends that you have known and friends you have just made is better. Thank you to Lissa for sending me the title quote. Doctor Seuss may or may not have been talking about this trip, but the sentiment holds true.

“You know you’re in love when you can’t fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams.” 
~ Dr. Seuss

After breakfast we took a scenic bus trip to the Rhine Falls of Zurich. It is is the largest waterfall in Switzerland and Europe. It was breath taking. It was also pouring rain! But as Barbara Haas says, “we are addicted to fun,” and even the rain could not keep us from having fun!

Across a width of 492 feet and a height of 75.5 feet, over 22,000 cubic feet of water plunge over the falls. As the rivers were flowing due to recent rains and snow melt the sounds of the water rushing is deafening. We did not take one of the little boat rides below the falls thankfully!

We may have been soaked but that did not stop our photo ops or fun!

After lunch the sun came out and it was another picture perfect halcyon afternoon. It may have involved a little shopping, a little sightseeing and of course wine.

Tonight we got to celebrate again as a group at a lovely dinner hosted by Dave and Thiery Natale. Again, it was an evening of good food, good wine, good friends and unfortunately good byes.

“You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.” ~Mae West

“Because when you stop and look around, this life is pretty amazing.” ~ Doctor Seuss

“If you never go, you’ll never know.” ~ Unknown Author

This morning we repacked our suitcases and headed out for our final stop which is Zurich. After a couple more last minute shots of the Alps from my window, and one from last night we boarded the bus for a long but beautiful trip to Zurich mostly on the back roads of Switzerland. You can see the lights on the top of the mountain if you look closely.

There were quite a few off the bus, get back on the bus along the way but each stop was unique and interesting.

We took a brief but interesting ride on the Dolderbahn which is a three quarters of a mile rack railway. The line was opened in 1895 as a funicular railway and was converted to a rack railway in 1973. It was fast and interesting and brought us to the top of a mountain to see one of of the most beautiful hotels in the world, the Dolder Grand Hotel. Feel free to make me a reservation here (prepaid) any time!

There were more sights to see before we got to our hotel and I must admit I was a bit hungry and thirsty so I do not remember all of what we saw. Tomorrow is another day and I am grateful for the spectacular weather Dave has ordered up for us along our travels.

“You will never be completely home again, because part of your heart always will be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.”                              

~ Miriam Adeney

“It’s tough to find a place not to like in Switzerland.” ~ Michele Bachmann

The view from out hotel room at the Hotel Anker of the Alps is amazing. Every time I put my camera down last night and said “okay, enough pictures” I took it out for one more shot. Then I woke up this morning and took a few more.

We had a quick breakfast and then began a two hour (three mile) walking tour of the city of Lucerne. It is a lovely city which seems to be a combination of old and new. It is known for its preserved medieval architecture, sits amid snow capped mountains on Lake Lucerne. Our guide today was pleasant and informative as he showed us the churches and historial sites of Altstadt, which is also called old town. The covered Kapellbrücke (Chapel Bridge), built in 1333, links the Aldstadt to the Reuss River’s right bank. There was something to marvel at everywhere you looked.

The Jesuit Church with its magnificent organ was extremely beautiful.

We quickly passed by the farmers market, by the Chapel Bridge and a few more fountains where you were able to drink water straight from the alps.

We then took a one hour most delightful boat tour of Lake Lucerne. It is the fourth largest lake in Switzerland and the views from the boat were just stunning. I had a chance to sit next to a lovely eighty year old man and his wife from England. They travel for the love of travel and to see the world when they are still able. Lake Lucerne is just like Long Pond in Cape Cod according to Tom Haas, just with mountains in the background. I respectfully disagree.

“Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.”

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

“The world is not in your books and maps, it’s out there.” ~ Gandalf

This morning after a delicious breakfast we said goodbye to some of our traveling companions and boarded a bus for Basel, Switzerland. It’s borders are close to both Germany and France. We took a bus tour which always makes me drowsy and then a long walking tour though the city.

There were many interesting things to see in the city. We took a walk in market square and a quick view of the Basler Münster Cathedral and passed by an unusual fountain called the Tinguely Fountain.

We had a brief lunch and re-boarded the bus for our destination for the night, Lucerne, which I found to be a much more charming city than Basel. We took an afternoon stroll by the river, and stopped for a glass of wine!

The view of the Alps was stunning, and I am sure we will see more of them tomorrow.

“I urge you: go find buildings and mountains and oceans to swallow you whole. They will save you, in a way nothing else can.”                 ~Christopher Poindexter                   

“You and me, we are more than friends. We are like a small travel gang!”

Today was our last full day on the river cruise and we were both in Germany and France. We arrived in Breisach, Germany and toured the town of Riquewihr, France. It is one of the most beautiful villages in France, and appears to have retained its charm, not changing over centuries. The cobblestone streets date back to the sixteenth century and are lined with half-timbered winemakers’ shops and tasting rooms.

We spent a few hours with an educational tour of the city. Much of the town was spared from bombings of the wars and remains unchanged. The main industry is tourism and we did our best to be good tourists and support the local economy. They are known for Black Forest Cake and Black Forest Ham. Woodcarving and Black Forest Cuckoo Clocks are popular souvenirs.

In 1983 France started a program to repopulate the storks in Alsace, and it has been very successful. Today you see storks nesting on chimneys and rooftops and in trees, even in cities. Some small wine villages, also play host to growing numbers of storks. It was a bit of a challenge to get a long distance photo of a non cooperative stork nesting on top of a home!

“Everyone needs this friend that calls and says, “Get dressed, we’re going on an adventure.”

Luckily, we have been blessed with great travel companions, both people we have known for a few years and people we have just met. As we travel on to the next leg of our trip in Switzerland tomorrow, I am grateful for having Barbara, Tom, Pat, Rich, Diana, Lissa, Kim, Gary, Peggy , Ken and Clarissa. Last but not least to our fearless leader Dave for bringing us together, and most importantly to my husband and best friend, Skip, the leader of “Friends of Skip,” who has made our life an amazing journey.

“A journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles.”

~ Tim Cahill

“The use of travelling is to regulate imagination by reality, and instead of thinking how things may be, to see them as they are.” ~ Samuel Johnson

This morning was an earlier day than usual and we arrived in Strasbourg France. Strasbourg is one of the one of the three main capitals of the European Union. The city is also the seat of many non-European international institutions as the commission for navigation of the Rhine, and the International Union of Human Rights. After breakfast we took a brief bus tour around the city and then a lovely and informative tour of the city center. It was as if you were taken back in time. You almost expected Belle from Beauty and the Beast to come around a corner singing.

The city was a photographers paradise. We stopped to look at the majestic Cathédrale Notre Dame de Strasbourg .

We took a leisurely stroll back passing (and stopping in bakeries) towards the Petite France section of Strasbourg.

“I travel because it makes me realize how much I haven’t seen, how much I’m not going to see, and how much I still need to see.”
~ The Legacy Letters, by Carew Papritz”