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.