Celebration of continuity; A memorable place
Anna and I met in our teens and have maintained a close friendship for 30 years despite the ocean that separates us. For a year before each of us married, she and I shared a flat in London. Otherwise, we've lived on different continents. Yet, we have stayed close through letters and visits.
When she called from Scotland and asked if we could come over, I knew if was for her birthday. She and I have been leap-frogging decade birthday visits for years. But this time, I didn't think we could pull it off. Too many obstacles. But it was too important a birthday to ignore. She was turning 50, when it hits us that life is a finite business. It's a birthday for taking stock, for gratitude for the past and for seizing the moment.
Gary, who couldn't go, said to take our 13-year-old daughter, Abby, and leave him home with our son. I'd never done a trip like that; nevertheless, I made plans.
In July, Anna and her youngest daughter, 15-year-old Shona, met Abby and me at Gatwick Airport. We drove to Portsmouth, England, and caught a ferry to France, where we stayed in Le Dauphin, a restored, 13th-century priory in Caen. The place embodied timelessness and a sense of continuity, the perfect setting for a life milestone.
We walked the medieval ramparts of William the Conqueror's chateau and visited the cathedrals. We spent one afternoon at the D-Day Memorial, and made the pilgrimage to Monet's garden at Giverny.
The girls drank it all in - the soaring spires of the Abbaye aux Hommes in Caen, the 15th-century houses of Lisieux, the elegant 18th-century chateau at Bizey, the countryside speckled with ancient thatch-roofed cottages and the lush gardens at Giverny. They walked ahead of us, talking nonstop, much as their mothers had been doing on trips for 30 years. I first saw Amsterdam with Anna, toured Paris with her and have driven the length of Britain with her in sporadic bursts.
"I'm not bothered about growing older," she said as we watched our daughters, nearly young women now, in the glow of the Caen street lamps. "I feel as though I'm reaping the rewards of years of work."
Our children are growing into adulthood with a sense of joy in exploration, the result, in part, of Anna's and my friendship. The night before her birthday, the four of us sat in Le Dauphin's tavern and raised a glass to Anna's health.
For me and Anna, Caen was the renewal of a treasured friendship. Perhaps for Abby and Shona, it's the beginning of their own trans-Atlantic connection.
Nancy Taylor Robson lives in Galena. Barcelona, Spain
Mary Jane Mitchell, Ellicott City
"Beautiful, cosmopolitan Barcelona is a city of amazing color and contrast. Dazzling architectural wonders delight the eye - Gaudi's Sangrada Familia, an ethereal modern masterpiece, is matched by equally inspiring 13th-century Gothic cathedrals. Walk down the Rhambla, a delightful pedestrian boulevard, and partake of tapas, those inspired Spanish appetizers, and one immediately becomes Barcelonian by adoption."
Merrie Street, Bel Air
"Cozumel is a top destination for recreational scuba divers because of the ease of drift diving. Scores of dive operations drop divers off into the crystal clear waters to drift along with the current as they spot turtles, octopus, plenty of barracuda and where curious groupers the size of some of the divers (they looked that big to me; my husband says I'm exaggerating) follow along. For a 'dive' family that spends most of its vacation time underwater, Cozumel offers just enough sun, shopping and entertainment on dry land to suit almost everyone's taste."
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Pub Date: 9/13/98