Locking our Love Forever with Love Locks

Happy Valentine’s Day! We wanted to celebrate the annual day of love by sharing the story of our love locks.

A couple of weeks ago, Bob and I attached a little gold padlock to the new Love Lock Bridge near the Riverwalk in San Antonio to lock our love forever, then kissed and took a selfie to mark the occasion. On our lock was written in Sharpie “RG & LH,” inside a hand-drawn heart pierced by Cupid’s arrow. The bridge was actually a chainlink fence along the San Antonio River, but it was covered with hundreds of locks of other couples declaring their undying love.

It was the 15th time we have declared our forever love by placing a lock on a bridge. Normally we are not super-sentimental people, but love locks are a ritual we have grown to cherish during our travels, leaving our mark on bridges and walls all over the United States, Europe and Mexico (so far).

Paris, France

It all started in the summer of 2016, when I was planning to accompany Gavin’s scout troop on a week in the romantic city of Paris. Before we left, Bob gave me a padlock and asked me to write our initials on it and hang it on the Pont des Arts Bridge, which was famous for having so many lovers’ padlocks affixed to it that it groaned under the weight, and authorities had had to cut them off. He had seen the bridge during a weekend he spent alone in Paris during a business trip, and thought it would be nice to have our own lock there.

Surprised and touched by this rare sentimentality, I happily obliged. After the troop set off for the next leg of their trip, Switzerland, I went down to the River Seine and searched for the love locks. The city had decommissioned the Pont des Arts Bridge in 2015 because of the weight of the locks, so I went to the Pont Neuf. It was covered with thousands of lovers’ padlocks tumbling down the banisters and onto the railings of the river walls beyond. Across the River Seine from where I stood was a magnificent view of the Louvre. I locked our padlock, blew a kiss to Bob across the ocean, and took pictures. I’m sure if the locks get too heavy, authorities will cut them off again. But until then, RG & LH will grace the Pont Neuf in Paris, the city of lovers.

Paris

It was a grand, and small, gesture of love. It felt good. It made me think about why I had married this man, what we had experienced together, and how special our life was.

Hamburg, Germany

Three years later, we were visiting my brother Patrick in Hamburg, Germany, and walking along the Elbe River when we saw another bridge covered with lovers’ locks. We didn’t realize the tradition had expanded beyond Paris. Since we were leaving the country the next day, we went and found a hardware store to buy a lock, wrote RG & LH with a Sharpie and enlisted Patrick to hang it for us. A few weeks later, he sent a photo of our lock on the bridge. (Thanks, Pat!)

Hamburg

And with that, we were off, searching for love lock bridges, or creating our own, everywhere we went, together or apart. While on a five-week tour through Europe, we hung locks everywhere.

London, England

In London, we strolled across the pedestrian Jubilee Bridge and listened to a street musician playing Caribbean steel drums while we snapped our padlock in a spot all its own and kissed above the Thames River.

Rome, Italy

After a long day of sightseeing as a family in Rome, when Gavin’s and my feet were aching from miles of walking, Bob trekked back in the rain to hang a lock over the Tiber River. 

Rome

Sorrento, Italy

Farther south in Sorrento, on a solo weekend trip while I was off doing genealogy searching with some Italian cousins, Bob discovered an iron fence with love locks along the Mediterranean coastline about a mile from his hotel during his morning run. He spent the afternoon searching for a padlock and a Sharpie, but a torrential downpour forced him to wait to return until the next morning, when a break in the rain gave him time to quickly walk there and fix the lock in place before heading for the train station.

Sorrento

Hydra, Greece

In Greece, during a daylong boat trip, Hydra, an idyllic fishing village where bleached-white houses climb up the mountainside from the azure Mediterranean, offered herself as an entrancingly scenic host to our love lock.

Ludlow, Vermont

The tradition continued when we returned to North America. First, we affixed a love lock to a bridge in Ludlow, Vermont, where we have our second home.

New Orleans, Louisiana

Then we headed down to live in Mexico for the first six months of 2019. During a two-night on break the road trip south, we took the streetcar to hang a lock on a chain-link fence in New Orleans, under a banner that read Love Locks NOLA in front of the Eiffel Society, a club built from parts of a former Eiffel Tower eatery.   

Leon, Mexico

When we came to Mexico in January 2019, the first city we stayed in was Leon, where we found the Puente Del Amor (love locks bridge) at one end of the Causeway of Heroes, a wide pedestrian walkway that serves as the gateway into the old city. After spending an afternoon looking for ferreterias (hardware stores) to buy a padlock, we put our lock through the padlock of another lock at the top. The bridge looked down upon a highway, with mountains in the distance.

Lake Chapala, Mexico

We never found a good spot in Tlaquepaque, where we lived for four months, or Guadalajara, the city next door. But we visited beautiful Lake Chapala, half an hour south, for a day trip and walked out to the end of a fishing pier to hang our lock on a rusted turquoise railing overlooking Mexico’s largest freshwater lake. On the way, we had been stopped by announcers for a local radio station who were broadcasting live, and thus posed for the obligatory selfie in our new orange Guadalajara T-shirts.

Guanajuato, Mexico

By far the most interesting place to hang our lock was the magical town of Guanajuato, where there’s an alley so narrow that people can kiss from across two balconies. There’s a tragic legend of a young man who was killed for stealing a kiss from the daughter of a rich man. We put up our lock and kissed across the alley. (Fortunately, Bob survived.)

Montreal, Canada

We lived in Vermont during summer 2019, and took a couple of trips to Montreal, Canada, hanging one lock on a bridge overlooking Gay Village and the other on a small bridge in the main pedestrian area along the St. Lawrence River, looking out at a huge Ferris Wheel.

The Farm, Cascade, Pennsylvania

When we visited The Farm, the family homestead in the mountains of Central Pennsylvania where Lisa’s paternal grandmother grew up, we hung a love lock from the rusty metal rope that secures the entrance to the old lane.

Thwarted

We were occasionally thwarted in our efforts. In the beach town of Cambrils, Spain, there was no official Love Locks bridge, so we scouted the promenade along the ocean but never found a spot where we could thread a padlock. There was an official Love Locks spot in Barcelona, but we didn’t have time to visit it. We have looked several times while in Burlington, VT, but have not yet found a spot for a padlock.

Part of the tradition of the Love Locks is to throw the keys into the river to seal your eternal love, but we don’t do that because we don’t think it’s good for the health of the fish or the river. Thus we still hold all the keys to each other’s hearts.

Our Love Locks Map

Click on each pin to see an image of the lock in its home!

Up Next …

We have just arrived in Mexico City and are looking for a place to hang our 16th lock. We’ll keep you posted!

Enjoy the video of our love locks experiences on the Messy Suitcase YouTube Channel. Happy Valentine’s Day!

By Lisa & Bob

The HoHos (Hop-on, Hop-off Buses)

(We leave for Mexico soon, so we have to quickly churn out some of the European blogs we have in the can.)

One of the things we did in almost every city we visited in Europe was to take one of the Hop-on, Hop-off (hoHo) buses. We did it in Barcelona, London and Athens. I had a great time on them. Here’s the story!

Barcelona

In Barcelona, there were several routes to choose from. We all took Route 1, which took us through the downtown area and along the gorgeous port area and waterfront. We got off to look around at the unexpectedly beautiful Playa on a 75-degree day when we wished we had swimsuits on, and then at the world-famous Sagrada Familia, a strikingly original cathedral designed by Antonin Gaudi, for exploration and lunch.

View of the playa from the Barcelona HoHo

 When we got back to the starting point we walked with Lexie back to our apartment to give her a little break, and Lisa and I went back and took Route 2, which took us up onto the mountain, past the Olympic facilities, and then stopping at a Decathlon store for a little shopping before finishing well after dark.

We thought the HoHo buses were a great way to get an overall orientation of Barcelona, since we only had a couple of days. They allowed us to pick and choose where we would get off, and gave us ideas for what we wanted to explore in future days.

London

In London, Lexie and I again took the HoHo while Lisa went to the Warner Brothers Harry Potter studio. We started on top of the double-decker bus, as that always gives the best views, but it was just a little chilly for that and we eventually moved down inside. Since we had already been to the London Eye and were planning on doing something the following day with Lisa, Lexie and I essentially used the HoHo as a HoSo (Hop-on, Stay-on). We did get off in some now-forgotten neighborhood to have delicious fish and chips for lunch, and eventually got off at Buckingham Palace to walk around a bit.

Grand view from the top of the London HoHo

The London routes are pretty long and the literature told us that the routes would take over 4 hours in total, but by now it was getting close to 5:30. We were planning on staying on for another 15 minutes or so to meet up with Lisa in Trafalgar Square, but we were unceremoniously booted off the bus at Green Park and were told that the buses stopped running at that time. This was quite the shock to us since we had only days earlier ridden the Barcelona buses to well past 8 PM. Nonetheless, we were off the bus, and at rush hour, forcing Lexie and me to take a long walk to Trafalgar Square, essentially ruining our nice relaxing day of butt sitting and sightseeing. Nowhere in the literature did it mention the early stopping time, again a contrast with the Barcelona buses. I was quite mad, but there wasn’t anything we could do (except warn you!).

No HoHo in Rome

Rome has HoHos and it was our plan to take them. However, once we got there, examined their routes and did some research, we realized that they weren’t as convenient as Barcelona and London and didn’t get as close to some of the major tourist destinations as we would have liked due to city congestion and restrictions. Instead, we took the Metro and walked. Other than the information we might have heard during the tour, we don’t feel like we really missed out on anything.

Athens

The HoHo was just a block from our hotel in Athens, so we hopped on again the first day and got a great overview of the city. We saw some places we wanted to get off and visit in more depth. After going around the route, Lexie returned to the room and Lisa and I went around again so we could get off at the Olympic Stadium and walk to the Temple of Zeus, where we got some excellent sunset pictures. We finally made our way back to the hotel by walking through the Plaka, an old neighborhood with excellent shopping.

Rushing by Hadrian’s Arch on the Athens HoHo

The next day we used the HoHo as transportation to get us to the National Archaeological  Museum. It is considered one of the greatest museums in the world and contains the richest collection of artifacts from Greek antiquity worldwide. Given its reputation, we were surprised at how few people were actually in the museum. We stayed for several hours before getting tired and hungry and recatching the HoHo to get us back to our hotel.


What’s not to like?



In summary, we loved the HoHos. Sure, they’re touristy. But they are also a great way to get around, get an overview of a new city and get an idea of places you’d like to go back to and spend more time getting to know.

Extraordinary Weather

We were extraordinarily lucky with regards to weather on our trip. We knew that traveling in October and early November would be iffy, but other than just a few days, the weather was absolutely beautiful.

Iceland

We had one good weather day in Iceland, the rest not so great. This stop was the beginning of our trip, the first few days of October, and I’m glad it wasn’t at the end. To begin with, we were literally assaulted by the wind as soon as they opened the cabin doors of the plane so we could walk down the steps, onto the tarmac and into waiting buses. We should have expected that, as I could see the sideways rain and the water just being pushed across the runway as we taxied. 

Lexie holding onto her hat in Iceland
However, it was still a surprise when it was difficult to walk down the steps with what must have been 50 mph cold wind and driving rain.
(Note from Lisa: Airports generally protect you from the elements when you get off a plane and enter the terminal. But in Iceland, where weather can be brutal and winters are cold and windy, you walk down the airplane steps and across the tarmac to a bus completely exposed to whatever Mother Nature throws at you. And it didn’t help that we had flown out of sunny, 81-degree Northern Virginia!) 
It was even difficult driving the rental car, which kept getting pushed sideways by the ferocious wind. I’ve experienced that driving my high-profile truck, but a little car, on somewhat narrow roads, was a completely different story. We needed gloves and winter coats during our entire stay in Iceland.
The first thing Lisa and I did after we arrived at our goat farm lodging on the south coast was to hightail it to the nearest town with our swimsuits to sink into a hot spring and warm up!
The next day was our prime sightseeing day, and the weather cooperated beautifully: not too windy and no rain. And, it allowed us to see the Northern Lights!
The following day, we experienced wind, rain and even snow. Our visit to the waterfall was so brutal that Lexie stayed in the lodge. We still saw what we wanted to see, including geysers, waterfalls and a spectacular national park, but at times it wasn’t pleasant. The same could be said for our days in Reykjavik. We did and saw what we wanted, but the nasty weather was a significant obstacle to our enjoyment.
In the end, I went running in every place we visited except Iceland. I’m still torn on whether I should have run while we were there, but the wind was just too brutal.

Hamburg, Germany

Just absolutely perfect weather. Sunny every day, temperatures in the 60s, no wind. 
Glorious weather in Hamburg


Barcelona/Reus, Spain

Again, just absolutely perfect weather. Even warmer, low 70s! (Note from Lisa: I wished I had time to lie on the beach there, it was so nice!)
 

Great beach weather in Barcelona

England

We were certainly expecting the worst here, especially over the course of eight days, but again, absolutely perfect weather. Mostly sunny, high-40s at night, the mid-50s to mid-60s by day. Never a drop of rain, either in Newcastle-Under-Lyme visiting Aryk, or in London, sightseeing. 
Strolling on a sunny London afternoon

Italy

Rome – The weather we had for our stay in Rome was again perfect, until the last day. Then the rain started,  the morning Lexie and Lisa left for the train station for Naples. Since I was staying another day, I waited out the heavy morning rain and then headed out for my explorations. I did get drenched heading home that evening, but all in all, we had really nice weather while in Rome. 
During our stay in Italy, the entire country was seeing really bad weather. Venice was 75% flooded, schools throughout Italy were closed, and Italian television was continually showing mudslides, flooding and washed-out roads and bridges.
Rainy Rome the last day
Naples – It rained nonstop in Naples. One day there was such a violent windstorm/thunderstorm that the road to our lodging was closed down because of flying debris. We were going to go to the Archeological Museum that afternoon and decided to stay in and ride out the storm.
Pompeii – Our day in Pompeii was again just absolutely beautiful, sunny and high-60s. I remember walking around in a short-sleeved T-shirt.
Sorrento – The forecast was for one good day of weather while I was in Sorrento, so I took a boat tour to and around Capri. The weather started changing in the afternoon, and it was colder and windier on the boat trip back. The next day was, for the most part, rainy, which gave me the opportunity to have a relaxing, easy day. It rained the next day as I traveled back to Naples to meet up with Lexie and Lisa.

Athens

Again, Athens gave us just absolutely perfect weather. Warm and sunny.
Perfect weather for Greek island hopping

All in all, we couldn’t have asked for better weather. (Note from Lisa: Except maybe in Naples.) We know we were lucky and we took full advantage of that!

London, Part 3: Running & Other Activities

Running in Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park


The most wonderful surprise for Bob and me was the quality of the running in London. Truly magnificent! Kensington Gardens was a block and a half away from the flat we rented, and it is glorious. We were running along, talking about how it reminded us of Central Park, when we realized we were in the back yard of the Royal residences, separated by just a polo field. We speculated about which “cottage” (really, mansions) belonged to Wills and Kate, and which housed Harry and Meghan. Next thing you knew we were at Kensington Palace! Its gardens were beautful and it is actually open to visitors, though we never got there to see the Princess Diana Fashion Exhibit. 

We discovered Round Pond on one run, the Serpentine on another, the Princess Diana Memorial on another, and green parakeets that let people feed them out of their hands on another. The morning dew made the park glow eerily. 
Kensington Palace

And right beside Kensington Gardens was Hyde Park, not quite as Frederick Olmstead-like, but still large and lovely, with a huge grassy green in the center which doubtless hosts loads of picnickers and probably outdoor concerts in the summertime.

We agreed we would probably get in fantastic running shape if we lived in London, as Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park are only one example of London’s abundance of green spaces.

Other Highlights

Other highlights of our days in London included:
38,000-pound silverplate set at Harrods
Metal art at the V&A
  • We visited the Church of St. Martin in the Fields, near Leicester Square, where we attended a Mozart concert in the evening in tribute to my parents, who when they lived outside of London in the late 1980s used to attend classical concerts there.
  • We discovered the London Film Festival was going on and went to see the hysterically funny documentary “I Used to be Normal: A Boy Band Fangirl Story,” in a far-flung London neighborhood (ethnic, not touristy, sort of Queens-like) after an unusual and unexpectedly delicious meal at a Turkish restaurant.
  • We visited the Victoria and Albert Museum, aka the V&A, which focuses on design and saw a new history of photography exhibition that had been dedicated by Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge  (just Kate to us commoners), just a few days before. I loved the museum’s display of metal art, and we mostly passed on the paintings of dead people.
  • We spent a couple of hours in the world-famous, over-the-top luxurious Harrods’s Department store, where we perused 2000-pound ($2,600 US) coffeemakers, 38,000-pound ($50,000) silver-plate cutlery sets, 3050-pound ($4000) purses, swords, wine glasses (some only 45 pounds each – $$60) and so much more, each item more decadent, expensive and unnecessary than the next. We bought nothing but bought picnic food in the surprisingly reasonable little deli in the chocolate section and picnicked out in a courtyard by the Tube station.
  • On our last day, we visited the Tower of London, enjoying a tour by a very British Yeoman something-or-other, taking in the Crown Jewels, watching a video of Queen Elizabeth’s coronation in 1953 (poor girl looked terrified, in my opinion), and seeing the extreme excess and ostentatiousness of the soup tureens and salt containers for royal banquets hundreds of years past. We learned about the checkered and grisly past of the royal family, especially Henry IIX, and wondered if Meghan knows what she got herself into.
    Our guide
A beheading about to happen at the Tower of London
And now … goodbye London, off to Italy!

London, Part 2: Harry Potter & the HOHO

Warner Brothers Studio Tour

For me, the highlight of the trip to London was actually more than an hour away: the set where they made the Harry Potter movies.

I took a subway, train and then a bus to experience the Warner Brothers Studio Tour, where all the Harry Potter films were made over ten years. (I have read the series five times, consider JK Rowling my favorite author, and seen all the films multiple times. I think they have done a brilliant job capturing the amazing world that Rowling created.) Many of the sets were there, preserved meticulously, as well as thousands of props, costumes. This is a MUST for any Potterfile. It’s really an incredible interactive museum that celebrates the Harry Potter books and movies and teaches a vast amount about filmmaking and special effects.

You could push your cart of luggage through into the wall at Platform 9 ¾ at Kings Cross Station, walk down Diagon Alley, sit in a booth in the Hogwarts Express, drink Butterbeer, peer into the cupboard under the stairs at 67 Privet Drive, manipulate a CGI Dobby, learn to ride a broom

Other sets on display included the Potions classroom, the Burrow, the Ministry of Magic and Umbridge’s office, the Forbidden Forest (avoid if you are an anachrophobe), Dumbledore’s office. There were intricate plans for Hogwarts castle,
Learning how special effects were done – from shrinking the Knight bus through narrow spaces to making Hagrid tower over Dumbledore to creating a convincing high-speed Quidditch match to lighting up patronuses – was the most fascinating aspect of the tour.

OK, enough from me – read all about it here, and enjoy my Facebook photo album.

Dumbledore’s Office
Harry’s bed in Gryffindor Dorm

Wands

Hop On Hop Off Bus


View from the HoSo

While I was experiencing all things Harry Potter, Bob and Lexie experienced the Hop On Hop Off bus, which Bob calls the HOHO. Because their feet were extremely tired by then, they deemed it the HOSO, for Hop On Stay On, and planted their buts in the front row upstairs, under the glass cover.

For the record, although we have become fans of the HOHO concept when in a new city, we would NOT recommend the Big Bus, because the driver abruptly threw Bob and Lexie (and all other riders) off the bus without warning at 5 PM, saying they were closed. They were not even near a Tube station, and they had given no warning that the tour would end so early. Aryk and I took the Original Tour a year and a half ago and it was much better.

Next .. London, Part 3

London, Part 1: A Great International City

How do I begin to describe London? International, sophisticated. Incredibly diverse, both ethnically and culturally. Royal and earthy. Multi-faceted. Surprisingly, a foodie’s paradise.

We got lucky in London: Perfect weather – mostly sunny, in the 50s and 60s every single day. None of foggy London’s famous wetness whatsoever. Perfect location: A reasonably-priced two-bedroom flat just two blocks from Kensington Gardens, and two blocks from two subway stations on different lines.
We also got lucky by scoring Hamilton tickets.
So after a few days visiting our oldest child Aryk at Keele University in Newcastle-Under-Lyme, we drove 120 miles to London, a steering-wheel-gripping, teeth-clenching journey on the wrong side of the road through several traffic jams that took almost four hours and severely tested our marriage. After handing off the car to Europcar with relief, we happily relied on public transport for our five days in London.

First Up: The London Eye

We booked a combo ticket of the London Eye  and a Thames River Cruise because adding the boat ride cost just 6 pounds ($9 US). It was glorious! In 65-degree sun, we sat on the deck of a smallish boat and took in the sights of London from the river, enjoying witty, drily British commentary from our guide, John. It gave us a great lay of the land as we beheld the Tower Bridge, the Parliament Building and Big Ben (covered in scaffolding), the original site of the London Bridge, Royal Albert Hall, the Jubilee Bridge, Cleopatra’s Needle, the replica of Shakespeare’s Globe Theater,  London’s orb-shaped glass City Hall, and a number of shiny new high-rises such as the Walkie Talkie Building with its Sky Gardenthe Shard, and one with what looked like a generous backside that John nicknamed it “Kim Kardashian.”

When we got to the queue for the London Eye, Lexie looked up, shivered, and reminded me of a crucial fact that I had stupidly forgotten: she is afraid of the heights. So, 25 pounds ($33) squandered, the rest of us enjoyed the ride to the sky while Lexie waited in a park.

The London Eye is ridiculously, blatantly touristy and over-the-top, but nevertheless worth every penny for the incomparable views from its slowly rotating cylinders. The structure of the Eye makes it even more interesting. You can’t take a bad picture from it.


Hamilton and Zizzi’s, and then Zizzi’s again


That evening we went to see Hamilton, an event we have been dreaming about for several years. Lexie, Aryk and I have been Lin-Manuel Miranda fans since we discovered In The Heights, his first Tony-award-winning musical about an immigrant neighborhood in northern Manhattan, 2008. We bought and listened to the soundtrack 100 times, saw it at Denver Center for the Performing Arts (DCPA) and at several local theaters, and were really excited when Hamilton came out.
Similarly enthralled by its story and its ingenious blend of hip-hop and classic musical theater, we were dying to see it but failed to snag tickets in the lottery when it came to DCPA  or during a trip to NY in March. Luckily, I happened upon an article that said Hamilton was coming to London. A Google search revealed that a new batch of tickets had been released sale the day before, and I got three in the 11th row for just 400 pounds ($130) each.
The show surpassed expectations, and we were ecstatic to experience it. Afterward, we had a late dinner at Zizzi’s, an Italian Restaurant near the theater, where we had incredibly memorable dessert – melt-in-your-mouth tiramisu and a divine chocolate caramel brownie.
(We returned to Zizzi’s several days later for an encore presentation of the same scrumptious desserts.)
Altogether a  spectacular night!
Next .. London, Part 2: Harry Potter!

The Retirement Itinerary: Europe First

LISA

People are asking, “Why are you in Europe? We thought you were moving to Mexico!”

Well, we are … but not yet. We are not going to Mexico till January 2019.

First, Le Tour de Europe

First, we are launching our adventures with five weeks in Europe — Iceland, Germany, Spain, England, Italy and Greece.

We are visiting family — our oldest child Aryk at Keele U. in Newcastle Under Lyme, England, and then London because why not? (Also got tickets to Hamilton and the Harry Potter Studio Tour.)

We’re visiting Lisa’s brother Pat and his wife Ines and their family in Pinneberg, Germany, outside Hamburg.

First we gotta visit Aryk at uni!

We are spending a few days with the family of our awesome foreign exchange student, Laia,  around Barcelona and Reus.

We are joining Troisi (Lisa’s mother’s side) cousins in Italy as part of a family genealogy trip. So we’ll be in Rome, Naples and Solofra.

Then we’re wrapping it all up with a few days in Athens before flying home Nov. 7.

Then, New England

Then, we gotta hang out in Vermont!

We’ll be spending about a month at our vacation home in Ludlow, VT – hopefully taking a couple grandmas and Bob’s sister, Beth.

Next, Holidays with Family
We’ll spend the winter holidays in PA with Bob’s Mom and Lisa’s stepmom, sister Julie and any family we can see.

Finally, Mexico
After Aryk goes back to Uni after Winter Break, the first week of January, we’ll begin the next road trip, taking the cats and Lexie on the road from Pennsylvania to Tlaquepaque, Mexico. The trip is about 37 hours, so we will stop in Nashville and spend a couple of nights in New Orleans on the way.

Stay with us — it’s going to be a blast!