Ross and Julie Florence
Ross and Julie on an Italian adventure with Leigh and Chuck Smith.

Do you remember “Y2k”? Let me refresh your memory. Not too long ago, computers had just replaced the fax machine as the way for people to quickly communicate with the written word, especially for business.  It was a world before pocket mobile phones, though attaché sized car phones were sprinkled among the important few.

As the last century was winding down, the first “fake news” of the new millennium was taking hold: “Beware! All computers will dissolve and cease to function at midnight on December 31, 1999. Buy Brand X special software to protect your computer, your home, your business, your family and your future! For only $499.99 (the deluxe version is $999.99 with super-duper super powers) per computer you can buy peace of mind that your computer and your whole life is safe!”

Of course we all bought it, made some crook and liar a zillion dollars. So, to celebrate, my wife, Julie and I decided to host a “Scottish Hogmanay” in honor of a trip we had taken recently to our historical country of origin. (The Ross clan was, by legend, the royal guard for Bonnie Prince Charlie.) We procured a piper and polished our list of invitees down to practically everyone in our address books. After all, if our lives would cease to exist as the digital world was defining it, we might as well be with people we love.

At precisely midnight on December 31, 1999, our piper began to play Scotland the Brave, and our guests gathered in the front yard and processed into our home and into a new century. We had a rehoboam of Mumm Cordon Rouge and the party lasted until the wee hours of the morning. Friends brought musical instruments and we played the baby boomer song book. Some indulged us with gifts mostly of scotch and other delights and we ate and drank ourselves into the new year. Our neighbor, Cyril Isnard was manager of the Fairmont Hotel in downtown Dallas. He had a guest of the hotel visiting from France and asked if he could bring him along, as he was traveling on business.  We were delighted to say yes, and that is how we met Hugues Genot of Dijon, France.

Hugues walked into our lives on December 31, 1999 and we have maintained a close relationship with him ever since. I later asked Cyril,  a Paris native, how long he had known Hugues. His response was typical Cyril: “As long as you, I just met him.” It was a calculated risk on both our parts, but one we have been delighted to make for nearly two decades.

Hugues turned 50 this spring and his birthday party will be in Cannes. We received an invitation to help him celebrate. Like many of us these days, we look to economize where we can, and as expected, the airline tickets were prohibitive. But the internet is made by really smart people, and they figured out I was looking on line for tickets from DFW to Europe. A company I had never heard of,  justfly.com,  was offering round trip flights from Dallas to Milan for $380.00 per ticket, plus tax and fees, if we were agreeable to flying specific dates and times. After initially saying “sorry, but no” we were now able to say “À bientôt!”

This blog will attempt to advise on how things go during the journey and if we can recall how to do it, will include photos of our destinations. The catch of the cheap fare was that we were restricted to a flight on an airline, so after figuring out we could make that work, the rest was about figuring out how to get the cats fed, pool cleaned, yard mowed and mail collected. Thankfully we have family nearby and some trusted friends and contractors who will be here the whole time we are away.

Our departure from DFW has been preceded by a planning system that Julie and I developed for our daughter, Brannen’s, wedding. Our kitchen has tasks taped to the wall and they are removed as they are accomplished. Traveling isn’t just about walking out of the door any more. Bills, mail, newspapers, appointments, planning, packing, passports, drivers license, advising the credit card company , checking the weather, being situationally aware of travel bans and restrictions, Euros, exchange rate friendly credit cards, mobile phone plans, chargers, adapters, computer, cords, battery, readers, sunny’s, sunny see’ums, see’ums, Tux for the black tie party, gifts for our hosts, and a dozen other things all need to be checked and double checked so that the day or two before departure, you can relax and recall any items we may have over looked. We have grown into the habit of driving around the block before heading toward the highway on domestic driving trips. My mind seems to relax and zip through the lists of: is the iron on? stove off? water hose to the pool off and recoiled? garbage out? lights on? doors locked? If any of those questions are unanswered, we are not fully committed and can fix them and still keep to our “schedule.” Blog started? Check.

So, that’s where we are, a few days from departure. Our things are laid across our bedroom floor, bags open and at the ready, just waiting to be filled. Now, in what order? Random? Pack by day so we work our way through to the bottom of the bag? Keep items together by category? Does it matter? Yes it does.  Do we care? Yes we do. Why? Because our lives are so chaotic as it is, it is nice to feel like there is some symmetry to at least the getting started part. Because once we get through airport security, all bets are off, as things are bound to snag, and well, that’s just part of it. Being a go-with-the-flow traveler is the only way to fly. And with a little help from Mumm Cordon Rouge, we may just make it.

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