The Travel Test: Would Our First Trip Be A Disaster Or A Delight?

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bikes in europe
A first vacation to Italy tests the tenacity of the author's relationship.

Tucked away in a cobblestone courtyard on the Via della Croce, near the Spanish Steps, Otello alla Concordia was a favorite of theirs, and of Fellini's. The boyfriend stuffed me with Roman specialties: fried zucchini florets, fried anchovies, and zuppa de pesce.

For the boyfriend, an inveterate history buff, Rome is the cradle of civilization, the road map to the modern world. To me, it's a lot of crusty old buildings. But I was finding out what made him happy—and finding that that made me happy—so I agreed to learn about gladiators as long as I got to go to Gucci.

My shopping was strictly of the window variety (the Prada outlet and that ridiculously expensive grape lamp from Murano had filled my quota), but the boyfriend was in a buying mood. As he tried on an insane mustard plaid mohair suit at Etro, I remembered that a friend once compared my personality to a crazy outfit that many men might admire but few could, or would, actually wear.

But here was a guy not only willing to try on the crazy outfit, but also eager to buy it—if only it were his size. "They only made one for all the stores," said the apologetic shopkeeper. "Some things, too strong!"

Instead, the boyfriend bought a black wool Gucci coat (I hoped the metaphor ended there), and we had one last night out in Rome. We went to Trastevere, the bohemian district famous for its lively piazzas. As I watched the street performers, jugglers, and stilt walkers, the magnitude of the gift I'd been given began to sink in.

The trip wasn't just a vacation; it was an amazing life experience. With an amazing person. Who, despite everything, was still speaking to me. And I to him. Un miracolo!

Tues: Basta, Alitalia!

The next morning at the airline check-in counter, however, my warm glow turned into extreme anxiety. Despite the multiple, lengthy phone calls, the airline had no reservation information of any kind for our return. And since our tickets were still in Florence, we had nothing to prove we were on this—or any other—flight.

With the last plane leaving for New York in less than an hour, there wasn't time to argue. We'd already stolen an extra day, and jobs, commitments, and reality awaited us back home. The boyfriend threw up his hands, forked over the credit card, and charged $3,000 worth of new tickets. I dragged him to the airport police station to fill out a stolen-ticket report, hoping we'd get the cash back eventually, then we raced to catch the flight and plopped down, spent, into our seats.

Shortly after takeoff, an episode of The Flintstones came on the boyfriend's tiny TV, and he began laughing merrily.

"How can you be in such a good mood?" I demanded.

"This is the most expensive flight of my life," he said. "I may as well enjoy myself."

And suddenly, the future seemed rather bright and shiny.

Kendall Morgan married the boyfriend, Tim, six months later. Their next trip was to Jamaica for their wedding and honeymoon.

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