Ten or so years ago, I won a painting by a Portuguese artist named Nagualero, that he was giving away in an online drawing. I felt very lucky to have won as there were many, many entrants. The painting’s title was, “Make Your Own Luck.” Phil and I take this sentiment to heart and try to make our own luck in life as much as possible.
I am very grateful to be able to enjoy a year of mid-career retirement to live in Spain. It is truly amazing and I am thankful everyday that things worked out for us to be able to live this dream. A few times since we’ve been here, I have had folks from back home tell me, “You are so lucky that you get to live in Spain.” While I know their intention was to express their happiness for me and us, my initial, internal reaction to this statement, was mild defensiveness. Why? Well, when I heard, “You’re so lucky,” I felt that it implied this is something that was given to us, like we won a scratch-off lotto ticket and the grand prize was a year in Spain.
Our move was something that took planning, hard work, and saving. We took funds from savings that would have gone toward our later life retirement and are using it now. Plus, we do not have children, so we do not have all of the expenses that go along with having kids. After my initial defensive thoughts, however, I thought about all the ways in which luck has indeed played a role in getting me here; I am educated, I have had good career opportunities and well paying jobs, I was born white and benefit from all of the privilege that it entails, and I have wonderful partner and love of my life who encourages me and cheers me on in accomplishing my goals.
To continue with making our own luck, Phil and I recently traveled to Italy. What started out as looking at cheap airfare to Romania, turned into buying tickets to Milan. We had been to Milan before and knew we did not want to spend much time there. We debated a bit about which way to travel from Milan and ultimately decided to visit Cinque Terre and Florence. After arriving in Milan around 10pm, we headed to our hotel near the train station, grabbed a quick bite; the first of many pizza margherita’s we would enjoy during our trip. The next morning, we headed to the train station and rode the three hour trip to La Spezia, a city just outside of Cinque Terre. La Spezia is conveniently located and much cheaper than staying in Cinque Terre. It also has its own happening vibe and we enjoyed our time there. In fact, we initially planned to drop our bags at our hotel in La Spezia and immediately head to Cinque Terre via the quick and easy train that runs throughout the day but we decided instead to explore La Spezia. We walked around the marina near the port and enjoyed leisurely drinks at a couple of spots near the water before heading to our dinner reservation.
Al Solita Posto was the name of the cute little place we had dinner. We chose a table outside and were the only diners. We passed several bustling patios on the walk there, so felt lucky to have the whole patio to ourselves. We wanted to try several dishes on the menu and opted to split them all as a favor to both our bank account and bellies. The chef was nice enough to plate our portions separately and the presentation was lovely. We ordered lamelle de anatra e carciofi friti (duck with fried artichokes), ravioli della nostra (a traditional ravioli in beef ragu), and pork belly with potatoes and rosemary. We did, however, each opt for a desert because, well, we like desert. I cannot remember the name of the deserts but were both really good. I’m just going to call them a pistachio ice cream yum and the other a chocolate something good.
After we ordered our food, Phil went inside to use the restroom and the waitress came outside to bring our wine. As she opened the bottle, she started asking about where we were from and what we were doing in Italy. I was feeling particularly chatty after Phil accidentally ordered us each a liter of freakin beer at the last place we stopped at in the marina, so I told her all about the pandemic being a wake up call and our process of moving from L. A. to Spain (you can read about what brought us to Spain here, if you haven’t already). After my needlessly long-winded answer to the sweet woman’s question, she replied very sincerely as she looked me in the eyes,”You are a very lucky girl” and the response that immediately popped into my head, which I did not say out-loud was “don’t I fucking know it, lady.” Instead, I simply said, “Yes, I am,” and she headed back inside. And that was that. I am lucky. I do know it. We’ve made our own luck and we’ve happened into luck but we are lucky. I am lucky.
The next day, we headed to the marina to get our tickets for the Cinque Terre boat taxi. Cinque Terre is a string of five, centuries old, seaside villages built into the cliff-side on the Italian riviera. Cinque Terre actually reminds me a lot of the Asturian village of Cudillero that I wrote about when my cousin, Hannah, visited. There are hiking trails between the villages and a train that runs through them all but we opted for the boat taxi and it was very cool to see each village from the water.
Our first stop was the village of Vernazza. We passed the crowds and restaurants of the main square and made our way up some of the narrow, climbing, stone staircases. We happened upon the coolest, family-run restaurant with breath-taking views near the top of a very narrow staircase. Years ago, I pinned the following photo to my Pinterest vision board (go ahead, roll your eyes):
At the time I pinned it, I had no idea where it was, just that it was a beautiful place and I thought, “I want to go there!” I am now almost certain the photo is of Cinque Terre. The restaurant Phil and I ate at recreated this vision for me almost exactly:
As I sat there with the man I love, looking town on the sea, the boats, and the village, I thought to myself, “I am a very lucky girl.”
Phil wrote about our trip to Italy here and here. We try not to write the same details or stories, so check out his blog for additional information and photos. Stay tuned for another post from me soon about our time in Florence.