This is one of those vacation stories that you just can’t make up, and honestly, the pictures speak for themselves. Pour yourself a glass of wine and settle in for this one.
In 2013, one random weekday afternoon, my sister, Sarah, and I exchanged a couple of emails and two hours later we were booked for Italy. That’s usually how we do it. Initiate vacation. Pull trigger. Go. We don’t mess around when it comes to travel. Details are details. It all gets figured out in the end.
The Italian adventure we were about to embark on consisted of us staying at a hillside bed and breakfast overlooking the ocean. This B&B also served as a cooking school. Now, I can easily play Martha in the kitchen any day of the week, but my sister will attest to the fact that she’s not a Crocker or a Contessa. I was ready to whip up some shiz from the beautifully grown gardens of Italy, taste some nice, vintage wines and plot out at least two self-guided pizza tours, even if it meant having to buy a size up in pants when I returned. Carb load now, pay later, no regrets.
I love international flights for a handful of reasons: people watching, hot towels, free movies, and free drinks (or open airplane bar). Time passed quickly and it was just about time to land in Paris for our connecting flight. At this point in my life, I had not been to Paris yet, but I was certain it was going to be outstanding. Paris!
Upon deplaning, it was on to find macaroons in the airport. Between a lack of sleep, jet lag kicking in, and the few cocktails still swimming through my system, it only seemed like the right thing to do to find a macaroon breakfast. Plus, I wasn’t going to judge myself too harshly, especially since it was close to 2am Minneapolis time. I mean…I was just keeping pace from afar.
I charged through the airport to our gate, a sleeve of macaroons in my hand. I found my sister hovering around the boarding area and looking annoyed, a regular emotion when she’s dealing with my shenanigans.
Sarah: Seriously?!?! What the hell?? We almost missed our plane.
Me: Yeah, but these macaroons are really good. You sure you don’t want one? I only got four, but I guess I can spare the pistachio one. I can’t tell if I’m buzzed or tired.
Sarah: Maybe. But let’s wait till we’re on the…
(With excitement, I interrupt.)
Me: Heeeeeey, I know him!
Sarah: Of course you do. For real?
Me: Yes!!!! I DO! I don’t remember from where. It’s been a while, though. Trust me (as I walk to board behind him and his wife, ala extra smooth).
As it turns out, we’re “stuck” (wink, wink) behind this gentleman and his wife waiting to board. This gave me time to chat about the trip and gather more details as to where I may have known this guy from. We carried on for about five or ten minutes, and then the moment I had been waiting for…he was asked to take out his passport and boarding pass! How could I know someone for so long and blank on their name like that? Ugh!
All 5’1 of Sneaky McGee Me thought it would be less creepy (it was still creepy) to peek around his left side as he handed over his ticket to the flight attendant. I mean, given more height, I totally could have avoided the creeper situation, maybe. When I’m determined, there’s no stopping me.
He must have sensed (or felt) me on his heels, so he turned around and smiled at me. I, with the most charming demeanor I could muster up in that moment, shot him a dazzler right back. He winks. I shrug. He says, “Yep, I am who you think I am.”
And then it all came together for me…
With the most nonchalant “we’ve been best friends for years” tone I say, “Oh, of course. You’re Billy!”
It was Andrew. Freakin’. Shue.
Billy from Melrose place!
My dreamboat, the one all the girls had a crush on in high school. I loved how this trip was starting off when, technically, it hadn’t started at all.
Once we landed in Italy, Billy and I said our goodbyes and parted ways. Tuscany was calling for him and his wife, and the coast was calling for Sarah and me. Upon arrival to our destination, we were greeted by the family that runs the B&B. We were shown to our rooms and then brought outside to the patio for meats, cheeses, and wine. In that moment, as tired as I was, I couldn’t ask for more in life. The moment was perfect and simple, and I hadn’t felt this free and detached from the bustle of ‘Merica. I’d give up quite a few things to feel that way again.
Sarah and I wandered the town for a while, for pizza of course, where we ran into the B&B owner’s son. He carried a “murse” (man purse) meets fanny pack thing that I later discovered was a very common accessory for males in Italy – and it put my purse to shame. Murse was with a few friends and asked if we wanted to meet up with them to go out. The geriatric in me was hoping we’d meet by 7 pm and be home by 10 pm. “We meet at midnight and come back by 6 am,” Murse said. I’ve never felt so old in my life.
Despite feeling like I’d been up for days, I rallied for the adventure. What I thought may be a social gathering of wine and cards with Murse and his buddies ended up being a bus load of men with some significant others in tow, and “The Americans” as we were called. This was the Italian futbol team we were with for the evening.
Because these men are high-profile athletes, apparently they hang out in le grotte (cave)?! Actually, I think they were having a rave in a cave, and it felt very Goonies-esque.
The rest of the trip was more subtle, thank goodness, and full of cultural adventures and excursions. Most days, we’d be out at local markets engaging with business owners and selecting ingredients for our evening cooking lesson. There’s even an art to making mozzarella!
We spent time endlessly exploring history, from cathedrals to Pompeii.
Each day was filled with new adventures: hikes with astonishing views, boating to Capri and, my favorite, wine tasting at Cantina Del Vesuvio, a volcano vineyard on the hill of Mount Vesuvius. Pretty cool, right?
For anyone out there that has money burning a hole in your pocket, go visit Capri. If you don’t have the money to go, beg, borrow or steal from someone who does. The water is sparkling, the food is delectable and you can smell pretentiousness a mile away. Imagine how Murse felt when I told him I ran into a mutual friend of ours and whose man bag he wears…
This trip has been a favorite to date. Italy revealed to me that there’s more than one pace to life, a slower one which provides appreciation and simplicity to each day. Before returning home, I made a promise to continually reground myself in that first feeling of stillness and peace and learn how to operate outside of the confines of day-to-day demand. Italy was a slow but gradual turning point in how I would choose to live my life moving forward, and I have continued to pay attention to how I’m living each and every day.
Pairs Well With… “That’s Amore” by Dean Martin + Cantina del Vesuvio Wines
The week upon my return to the real world, I found myself back at my desk in Corporate America. I had a question stemming from one of the thousand emails taking up space in my inbox. I hollered over to my colleague across the row to get a project update. She flagged me away saying she was on a conference call and would swing over as soon as the call ended.
Colleague: Sorry about that. I was on a call. We landed a new spokesperson for the project while you were away and were onboarding he and his team.
Me: Oh, that’s great! Where did we land? Who did we lock in?
Colleague: Andrew Shue! Remember Billy from Melrose Place?
This “Where Are They Now?” moment has been brought to you by none other than Pairs Well With…
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