Life is an Adventure: Part II

The guided part of our trip was done by Adventures by Disney, which is fitting given the fact that Julianna was — well, Julianna.  (“All the Disney princesses are real — seriously!”).


(Yes, Disney does guided vacations – I didn’t know that either. And no, they are not led by Disney characters. But it was magical.)



Our fearless and energetic Adventure guides.


At check-in, our Adventure guides asked if we were celebrating anything special. I stayed quiet, because the truth is complicated. Were we celebrating? Running away? I had no idea…apparently, at one time, I thought it was a good idea to take a big trip on the first anniversary of my daughter’s death.

“We are celebrating the life of my granddaughter. She died a year ago, but we don’t want to make this a sad occasion,” said my mom.

“Yes,” I thought. “Exactly what she said.”

The truth will set you free, even when it iscomplicated.


For Julianna, life was a celebration and princesses were real.

Bella Italia

The Italian Lake District is just an hour away from Milan, but it feels like a different world. Our first few nights were spent in Stresa, a town that manages to be both stunningly beautiful and quaint.


Stresa sits on the banks of Lake Maggiore.




Near the town square in Stresa.


We stayed in a fancy hotel



and ate gelato (at least once) every day.



We visited Isola Bella (the beautiful island), site of a magnificent palace and gardens. It belongs to one of Italy’s noble family, the Borromeos.


Isola Bella


Garden side view of Isola Bella.


No shortage of chandeliers in this place…



Their mascot?



Just like us.




Switzerland is educated, prosperous and pristine. They are known for chocolate and neutrality. And, like the Disney princesses, it is real.

It’s also a ridiculously beautiful country. Photos run the risk of looking fake, it’s so pretty.

This, for example, is from a rest stop.


In full disclosure, it was a mildly forced spontaneous moment of beauty — we made Alex hold the unicorn.



And these are some of the highlights.

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On our last full day in Switzerland, we went to Mount Titlis (elevation 10,623′), one of the highest peaks in central Switzerland. You reach the top via gondola. About halfway up,  we stopped acclimate and take in another stunning Alpine vista.

On that gorgeous mountainside, our Adventure guides presented us with a unicorn, and we all celebrated the fact that Love is a Superpower.


(Later, I learned the backstory. The Swiss town we were visiting was devoid of unicorns, so our Adventure guides found a pony and fashioned a horn out of pipe cleaner and glue.    (Love + a bit of Swiss ingenuity = Swiss Unicorn. As Julianna would say, “Perfect!” And touching.)


And we went on one, last big adventure — the biggest of them all.

We sledded.

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Walked through a glacier cave,


The glacier ice was impossibly smooth, but somehow not slippery.


And it was very Frozen-esque.


and took a stroll on a suspension bridge — way, way up in the Alps.





At the farewell dinner, we enjoyed music from a trio of alphornists.


The alphorn is a musical instrument, but it was also used to communicate between villages.

Their final song: Amazing Grace, one of Julianna’s favorites.


For the parent who has outlived their child, the world is different. If we’re honest, it’s a little less dear, for it no longer contains all that is most important to us.

But there’s a lot of beauty left in this world.  It’s in the mountains and pastures and oceans and lakes, in people and gestures and laughter.

It heals, this beauty, because I know that it is but a fraction of what she sees. And it reminds me that life is still an adventure.





The last line of Julianna’s Adventures.

15 thoughts on “Life is an Adventure: Part II

  1. What a beautiful tribute to Princess Julianna! Thank you for sharing your adventures with us and allowing us to see such wonders. Julianna would definitely approve !


  2. So very beautiful and both you, your family and Julianna were very lucky to have each other as a family! Beautiful everlasting memories.


  3. Such beauty, some tears, and was how your mom stated the complex so simply.

    Hurry for gelato and unicorns.


  4. Thank you for sharing. It seems you had quite the adventure, as well as lots of moments to remember and celebrate Julianna. Best wishes, as always, to you and your family.


  5. Thank you for sharing. I’m happy you found beauty that you did not expect. These surprises will show up in life, never ever replacing your beautiful Julianna, but knowing that beauty is still in our world because Julianna was in this world…and she continues to be with you, your family, and so many who now share in the beauty that is beyond all beauty…a little girl named, Julianna! Blessings to you as you carry on…with beauty always.


  6. Michelle, one day we will meet. I happen to have followed your story about Julianna from the onset, as a now retired 10 yr. widowed nurse who has neuropathy with an interest in CMT. I too lost my daughter Camille 5 years ago. What I suspected was diagnosed as CMT 2 recently. Living in RiverView Terrace, I am a neighbor. I have appreciated your open sharing, and shed tears with you along your journey. Seeing beauty in the world has been healing for me as well. Germany, The Holy Land, Africa!, Hawaii, Belize mission trip (2 mo. After Camille’s death) We have much to share and talk about. Please feel free to email me.


  7. Sounds like you had a great holiday! Switzerland is very unique, with these little villages half-way up the mt, and cows grazing on the edges of cliffs. Roads winding up the mt.side, I never figured out how they pass on those narrow roads. What surprised me the most was how few people spoke English, even in Geneva. And best of all, Julianna found you – or you found her – in the chandeliers, the pink stone, the cute unicorn. See, she is still spreading love all over the world!! and she will never be forgotten. PS Alex has grown up so much this past year.


  8. What a wonderful tribute trip 💗 Julianna must be smiling down at her awesome family…thank you for the post….made me smile through my tears!


  9. So glad you came to terms with going to Disney, as you wrote almost a year ago something like you were not sure how to feel about going to DisneyLand. Interesting visit, almost something out of the Frozen song. 🙂 And Hey… nice call in making the choice to go on vacation. 🙂 🙂

    Steve is looking good, and by that i mean he does not appear to have gained much weight like most do after they enter civilian life. I hope he is adjusting to civilian life…it is alway a difficult transition but yeah, in your case it was far more complicated of a transition than most go through.
    It was so nice that you made the choice to go on the trip. I hope the decision for any future trip and then the trip itself is easier on you, is maybe a bit more enjoyable.

    Wow i hope it wasn’t too hard going up the mountains! Alex and his Grandmother must have found it to be a great experience! What a great family, you have been through so much, you have went so far.

    Finding life a little less dear is a new perspective, it is not necessarily negative because we all have to do what is best for us at the time. However you feel is right for this time in your lives. It is what you feel at that moment, and it is never wrong.

    As always it was so wonderful to read your words, as you are always interesting and wholesome to read. You and your family are each great people! Keep up the good work! 🙂


  10. What a beautiful way to celebrate Julianna’s life. And the unicorn — she’s smiling and dancing in heaven! ❤️


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