My Daughter, the Basilica of Santa Croce, and Image Number 186
It was 1973, my freshman year of high school, and Seals and Crofts’ hit single, We May Never Pass This Way (Again) topped the U.S. Billboard Easy Listening chart at number two. The sentiment was apt and relevant 43 years later as I texted my 17-year-old daughter (now in her junior year of high school) and asked her, “Do you want to go to Italy with me on a Food & Wine tour during your Spring Break?” Her response was immediate and decisive, “YES!!!”
My packing list: Passport, copy of passport, euros, airline tickets, tour confirmation documents, pajamas, underwear for 13 days, two pairs of wrinkle and water resistant pants, one skort, two tee-shirts, one long sleeve shirt, one sweater, one rain jacket, two pairs of sensible walking shoes, blood pressure medication, pain reliever caplets, allergy spray, anti-diarrhea pills, make-up, brush, comb, Band-Aids, Neosporin, contact lens case, extra contacts, prescription glasses, written eye prescription, toothbrush, toothpaste, earplugs (for her, because I’ve been known to snore), earplugs (for me, because she’s been known to talk in her sleep), Kindle, iPhone, chargers, digital camera, battery back-up for camera, digital voice recorder, and electrical converter.
Her packing list: Passport, clothes, iPod, Mom.
We both came with our own baggage and agendas. I was looking forward to capturing a list of my daughter’s firsts: first overseas plane ride, first organized tour group, first tour bus, first glass of wine (drinking age in Italy is 16), first hands-on pasta making class at Le Cordon Bleu in Florence, first time to kneel at the final resting place of historical legends such as Dante, Donatello, Galileo, Michelangelo, and Machiavelli. The list of possible firsts seemed never-ending and I wanted to capture them all, in print, on paper, on screen, but more importantly, in my heart and memory.
Italy did not disappoint.
Day Two of the tour we stepped inside the Basilica of Santa Croce, the largest Franciscan church in the entire world. With 16 chapels inside the church painted by Giotto and his pupils, the walls are awash in narrative frescos from floor to ceiling depicting the lives of Christ, St. Francis and St. John the Baptist. Bronze and marble sculptures of intimate and complex detail adorn both the floors and walls of the Basilica; and as I stood partially hidden by a stark white stoic angel, I followed the angel’s gaze out to the front of the main altar and captured image number 186 on my camera. Out of 1,800 images taken in almost two weeks, this is by far my favorite.
My beautiful daughter; a full inch taller than I am, blond hair up in a pony-tail and yet still hanging down to her waist, grey shorts covering black leggings met by black Converse high tops; left hand resting on a camera dangling around her neck, an umbrella clutched in her right hand and all but forgotten. Clear and inquisitive sea foam green eyes staring up at the altar ceiling from behind her black rimmed glasses. She stood completely entranced and traveling back in time, oblivious to both me and the swarm of camera clicking tourists that surrounded her. Her calm gaze would not be broken for 17 full minutes, one minute for each year of her life. It was a first that I had not anticipated. My heart squeezed that odd mix of pain and joy at the same time. A full 20 feet away from her, I have never felt closer to her.
There’s nothing quite like watching your children experience a new place, a new culture, right in front of you. This is why my daughter and I traveled together; a shared memory, a shared story. For a moment in time and space that may never pass this way again.
I could write out a long list of travel tips for you to keep in mind as you plan your summer adventures. Trust me; I’ve picked up quite a few. But I don’t think any of those suggestions would be as meaningful as this simple exhortation: treasure the moments when you travel with the people you love. Because no matter where you go or what you see, the special moments will be there. Don’t forget to look for them.
A Cordon Bleu chef, blogger and certified tour guide, Jeanne Stel founded Cooks with Wine to give people who appreciate food, wine and art the chance to strengthen their culinary skills in their own homes and through adventures abroad. Her online blog provides secrets, tricks and tips to whipping up irresistible meals, and for those who want more, she offers adventures unlike any other. With trips to Europe’s world-renowned culinary regions, Jeanne will take participants on 10-14 day tours of France, Italy or Spain in which she not only teaches guests how to cook dishes custom to the country, but also cooks meals for guests herself. Tours are open to anyone: couples, mother/daughter duos, or groups of girlfriends looking for a thrilling getaway can all enjoy the richness that Cooks with Wine trips offer.
To learn about upcoming tours, discover a new recipe or read more about Chef Jeanne, visit cookswithwine.com.