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I had a Christmas-morning sense of excitement the day before I left for my big European trip.  It wasn’t my first time out of the country, that had been when I was seven years old and went to Bermuda.  My memory is not that great, and Bermuda seems more like a dream than an actual vacation in my life.  So I consider Europe my true first time traveling experience.  Before boarding the plane I was giddy, my stomach refused to un-clench, and I had a stupid grin on my face the entire time.

We left on a plane to France at around five-o-clock in the evening after an airport dinner. Before I go any further I have to explain that I was taking this trip with other recent graduates and rising 12th graders from my high school.  My varsity lacrosse coach was leading the trip.  Altogether there were about forty-five of us, including chaperons.  Even though they were chaperons in name, we pretty much got to do whatever we wanted to do.  Anyway, getting back to the series of events, the plane ride was only seven hours, but it felt longer sandwiched between two men.  I was eighteen and excited and could not stop blabbing to these two fellows about my upcoming trip.  They were both so excited for me; as business men they told me that they traveled a lot, and I could tell they found my sense of enthusiasm refreshing (go figure).

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We arrived in France in the morning. Where we took a two hour plane ride to Italy.The first city in Italy that we visited was Rome.  Rome was very beautiful, very…sexy. The men were beautiful, the old buildings were beautiful, and the language was beautiful. Everywhere I looked my eyes feasted on raw beauty.  The first hotel that we stayed at looked out onto scenic gardens and multitudes of reddish brown, simple, town buildings. The air was sweet but filled with smoke, everyone smoked in Italy. Our small room led out onto a patio which led to the roof.  I would have been content to sit out on the deck and just take time to soak up my surroundings.  I had never been in a place so different from home.  It was a shock to my system that such a place even existed.

But, alas, the negative thing about group tours is that you are always on a schedule.  So even though I was tired after flying, there was no rest for the weary.  We changed quickly and set off for the Trivey fountain. The Trivey fountain is the largest and most elaborate fountain that I had ever seen.  Afternoon sunshine simply danced off the water.  The sunlight in Italy somehow is different from any sunshine I have ever seen; it is soft and glowing.  My friend and I made wishes in the Trivey fountain, throwing our left hand over our left shoulder, per tradition.  I don’t remember exactly what I wished for, and I wouldn’t tell you even if I did.  After the fountain we have a couple of hours before we have to eat dinner.  So my small group of friends and I diverse to do some walking and shopping. I don’t buy any souvenirs that first day. I do buy gelato, a kind of Italian ice cream.  Which was absolutely amazing.

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After a couple of hours of wandering the streets of Rome our whole group then went off to dinner- Pizza, in Italy.   To say I was excited would be an understatement.  But I actually wasn’t that impressed with the pizza; I have had better pizza in my small hometown.  By the end of dinner everyone in the group was literally falling asleep at our plates, and the curfew was 10:30.  So we  went to our rooms and slept with the door opened, listening and falling asleep to the night sounds in Italy.  The first night, before I fell asleep, I climbed out, looking down at the city and up at the moon lit and star filled sky.  A sense of wonderment filled me.  I felt an ache in my chest, but it was a good kind of ache.  An ache that made you happy to be alive, and happy that you could see and smell and breathe.  My lust for travel had begun.

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