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The Best Laid Plans

Nida Spalding loves to read, travel, and spend time with family and friends. She believes that curiosity and persistence are key to happiness and success.

Planning a trip is a lot of work, but it's also exciting. Right after we rang in the year 2020, my friend, Rose, and I started planning a trip to Europe. She had just turned 60 years old and this is her birthday present to herself.

Rose had bought a beautiful book featuring Catholic churches in Europe that she wants to visit. I asked her how much time she has for this trip. She said, "Two weeks."

With only two weeks, we narrowed it down to two countries, France and Italy. I told her to list her ten must-see churches. I remind her we have to pace ourselves, knowing we'll be exhausted going from one place to another.

In France, we plan to visit the Notre Dame Church in Paris—the exterior only since it closed due to the fire in April 2019, the Sanctuary of our Lady of Lourdes in southern France, Saint Therese of Lisieux Church in northern France, the Chartres Cathedral southwest of Paris, and the Royal Chapel of Versailles. I also want to show Rose a few of the museums and gardens of Paris.

From Paris, we'll head to Rome on a high-speed train with a stop in Turin or Milan. We picked Turin. I hear it's gorgeous and Rose wants to see the Shroud of Turin. If feasible, we will visit Milan. There are three churches in Milan on her list. For sure, Rose wants to visit the San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore church.

We will spend two days in Rome to see the Vatican, the Sistine Chapel, Saint Peter's Basilica, and the basilicas of Saint John Lateran, Santa Maria Maggiore and Saint Paul's Outside the Walls. A must-see is the Father Pio Shrine near Foggia, three hours from Rome by train. If time allows, we will visit the Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi in Umbria—a day trip from Rome. My goal is to have slow days built into our travels.


Nourishment is essential while traveling. Rose asked if she would be able to buy peanut butter in France. A TripAdvisor reviewer named Good2Go shared that, "one can find peanut butter, the Skip or Jiffy variety, at the Monoprix"—a major French retail chain. Another suggested the Le Grand Epicerie de Paris, a 30,000 square foot department store that sells gourmet food, groceries, produce and wine.

I told Rose that since we'll be traveling by train to the places on our list, we must travel light. We agreed to each bring a purse or backpack and one carry-on luggage. Rose is focused in this trip as a pilgrimage, I intend to let her experience the sights and history of both these iconic cities.

While this will be my third trip to Paris, there is still so much to experience. While I've been to Naples, Rome, Pisa and Florence as day excursions during a Mediterranean cruise, this will be my first time to stay at Italian hotels and explore Italian culture and cuisine. Planning this trip gives me pleasure, except for this coronavirus that is gripping the world.

On February 24, while travelers were canceling their airline reservations, Rose and I booked an "open-jaw flight" flying into a city and departing from a different city, via United Airlines. We will fly from Sacramento, California to Paris then fly out of Rome back to Sacramento.

We were overly optimistic. The coronavirus situation in Italy worsened and on March 11, the World Health Organization announced it was now a global pandemic. Our trip is not until the end of October. We pray the coronavirus will be gone by then—or we change plans.

~ Nida Spalding
























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