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

All Aboard the Green Mountain Flyer

Beto and I recently had the lucky opportunity to take a lovely, relaxing fall foliage ride on the Green Mountain Flyer, a scenic ride on a vintage train from Chester to Rockingham in southern Vermont. The train whistle blasted our eardrums to oblivion as the ancient train noisily announced its arrival at Chester Depot. The bright red engine was pulling about five dark green cars, each labeled Green Mountain Railroad.  

Inside the Train

The fall foliage expedition on the Green Mountain Railroad was a free event sponsored by the OkemoValley Regional Chamber of Commerce, based in Ludlow, of which I am a
new member. We checked in with Diane, the organizer, and got into line while waiting for the refreshments to be loaded on the train. Finally, a young woman from the Chamber climbed up on the stairs and called out, “All Aboard!” and we boarded the train. 
 

 
Bob and I grabbed a forward-facing seat in the first car, in an open booth with an enormous wood table and another double seat across from us. The windows were huge and the view was great, but after 20 minutes or so I got a hankering for some refreshment and set out to explore the train.

Discovering the Bar Car

I wobbled back on the jerkily moving train, holding on to seats for dear life to keep my feet under me, through three cars that featured plush leatherette high-backed bench seats facing each other. Just when I thought I was at the end, I found a car with a table covered with white paper bags, and a narrow hallway ahead on the right. I inched through, and discovered a sweet little bar car with about 20 seats (some occupied by Chamber staff) and a musician, Bill Brink, singing and playing guitar and kazoo. I hustled back get Beto, ordered us up a couple of surprisingly good glasses of Chardonnay, and we settled in to enjoy the rest of the ride in the Bar Car.
 
 
Directly in front of us was the bright red engine chugging away. The engineer would occasionally walk jauntily along the jerking engine and enter our car from the front. ()
 
I tried to digitally capture the roaming engineer and
musician Bill Brink, but you can see the jerking motion
of the train did not allow for quality pictures.
We relaxed with our wine, bag dinners provided by the Chamber (courtesy of Mr.
Darcy’s Restaurant) and enjoyed the ride.

What We Saw

We rode alongside a scenic, winding river, passing a stunning river gorge that was almost past before we could get the cameras out, and crossing a heavy red iron bridge.
 
River gorge photo taken from a moving train
Vermont is famous for its spectacular autumn foliage, but we are still about three weeks before peak colors, so the ride featured mostly green foliage, with occasional bursts of bright yellow, fiery orange or deep red in sections of trees that acted as a precursor of things to come. The shrubs along riverbeds seem to have gotten the memo early, though, and preened with deep burgundy and crusty golden leaves.
 
We passed a couple of covered bridges, a signature sight in Vermont that never loses its appeal. One’s identifying sign read, “Built in 2012,” a melancholy reminder of the devastating floods caused by Hurricane Irene that September that washed away or severely damaged many of these classic structures throughout the Green Mountain State.
 
 
We saw (and smelled) cows grazing in fields, and admired field after field of corn stalks.  Lisa, a fellow CHamber member with a cow farm, told us those fields would be turned into mash for its farms to eat, but hers are grass-fed. (Beto plans to visit her farm this fall to serenade her cows on saxophone.)

Take a Ride Yourself!

If you‘re interested in taking a ride on the Green Mountain Flyer, you can learn more here. To learn more about the Okemo Valley, which offers so much more than its world-class ski mountain Okemo Mountain Resort, visit the Chamber’s website, yourplaceinvermont.com.
 
 
By Lisa Hamm-Greenawalt

Why We’re in Vermont for the Summer

I thought I’d take a step back and explain why we are suddenly blogging from Vermont instead of Mexico.

Our Vermont History

Friends who knew us when we lived in Mamaroneck, NY (1998-2008) know that during that time, we bought a couple of vacation rental houses in Vermont. We wanted a rural place to escape from the hustle bustle of the NY metro area, and we loved New England, where I lived for much of my childhood.

VT House #1: The Lake House

 
The first house we bought was meant to be our retirement home, and we nicknamed it “The Lake House.” 
 
 
It’s a six-bedroom chalet nestled on a wooded three-quarters of an acre across the street from 200-acre Lake Rescue, where we keep a dock with boats. The kids and I would escape for half of every summer to decompress in the Green Mountains, go swimming and boating, hike nearby trails, sit around a fire pit making s’mores and singing camp songs, gaze at stars and explore Vermont. 
 
We had a Zodiac boat with a motor that we used to go tubing. We also had two kayaks, a rowboat and a someone sailboat. Bob came up for vacation a couple of weeks each summer, and otherwise took Amtrak from NY every Friday for a weekend visit. During the winter, we came up on occasional weekends and some school breaks to ski nearby Okemo. I would XC ski on Lake Rescue.
 
The dock and boats at the Lake House
As soon as the contract was signed on the Lake House, we found ourselves in the vacation rental business, because it came with winter seasonal renters, and that was our plan for paying for it.

VT House #2: The Brook House

 
 
We bought the second house, which we call “The Brook House,” a couple of years later because the real estate market was booming, and it seemed like a good investment. The Brook House is a 120-year-old, five-bedroom former chicken coop that backs to a creek and Tiny Pond Recreation Area, 400 acres of state forest that no one seems to know exists. Echo Lake is less than a quarter-mile away. The yard is big and there’s a little country store across the street.
 
The Tyson Store, across the street
We also dubbed it, tongue in cheek, “The College Fund.” Alas, that real estate
“boom” turned out to be a bubble when the market tanked. The region is only now
recovering, so we still own both houses, though the Brook is on the market. One
rental home is quite enough to manage from a distance!
 
 
The creek out back

Two Houses Filled With Love

The houses, especially The Lake House, are an integral part of our family story, especially since we moved to Colorado in the middle of the kids’ childhoods, so this region served as an anchor for their lives. We filled the houses with people we loved whenever we could. Family – grandpa and grandmas, aunts and uncles, siblings and cousins – and friends came up to the lake for summer vacations, year after year, creating so many dear memories.
 
Welcome to the Lake House
 
 
 
Kayaking on the Black River with Aryk
Our friend Marie Laguerre brought her twins Omar and Kayla to attend Farm & Wilderness Barn Day Camp (eight miles up the road, and extraordinary) with my kids, and lived in the house for two weeks with us. I remember Omie would eat nothing but ramen noodles. Marya and Mickey Carter did the same with kids Spencer the bed at the Brook House (and I was so proud of myself for adding plastic covers to the mattresses that summer before their arrival), is now a brilliant athlete attending Harvard!
 
Cousin Jeanine Troisi came and learned to ski one year; another summer she ran a hilly 5K race along Echo Lake not long after giving up smoking. I was so proud of her! My brother Mike, sister-in-law Paula and their three kids visited; we rode bikes together around the lake with the smallest kids in kiddie seats. My nephew Jake and I kayaked into the middle of the lake to watch the Perseids Meteor Shower. Our friend Valerie Rasmussen, who has since passed away, came to hike and waterfall jump one summer, and to ski one winter.
 
My dear friends Mary and Sam Wiley brought live lobsters from Newport, RI, and we watched lawbstah races on the front deck of the Lake House before enjoying scrumptious steamed lobsters. I think of her whenever I see those lobster pots, which we still have, just waiting for her next visit. Mary came back another year and used the Brook House as a base while visiting colleges with her son Henry. Or was it Frank? I remember Lex’s stuffed lamb Buggeeya Guy disappeared during that visit, somewhere between going to car to leave for the Killington Adventure Zone to enjoy the alpine slide and arriving at the mountain. Forever a mystery.
 
Hiking at Echo Lake
View from the top
My cousin Loraine Carapellucci and husband Dave Handley brought their three daughters for a week, and our kids really bonded. I remember we had a merry time on the rope swing of Discovery Island, in the middle of Lake Rescue, giving kids Olympic scores for “poses” before they dropped into the water. Alas, that swing is gone now; the tree from which it hung was brought down in the Great Flood of 2012.
 
We even hosted a Dominican-American girl from the Bronx named Clarissa Delgado through the Fresh Air Fund, to give her her first nature experience. I remember watching stars with Clarissa, a phenomenal sight for a girl accustomed to bright street lights and no view of the starry sky, and teaching her how to fish. In fact, it seems I  spent countless summer hours putting worms on hooks and extricating fish from the same hooks over and over as I taught countless munchkins how to fish off the dock. I failed hopelessly to learn to fly fish, however, despite efforts summer after summer from my friend Eddie Eagan, who was director of the local Chamber of Commerce and
taught flyfishing on the side. 
 
I loved running around the lakes, and often woke up early to kayak on the misty lake, alone on 200 acres of calm water save for a couple of loons.
 
Misty morning, Lake Rescue
So many thousands of wonderful memories! When we moved to Colorado in early 2009, we were saddened to realize our Vermont summers were abruptly over. We took a financial hit from the recession that took years to recover from, and couldn’t afford to fly the family across the country. So the houses became vacation rental businesses that I managed from afar, and Bob and I would go back every couple of years to make improvements and do work on them.
 
We sort of forgot that the Lake House was originally supposed to be a home.  

Reconnecting with Vermont 

But this past November, we went up and stayed in the Brook House for five weeks after Bob retired. We took Bob’s mom and sister Beth, and it snowed a good two or three feet during our stay. Bob and I spent an hour every morning in the hot tub on the back deck sipping mimosas and enjoying the sound of the creek while snowflakes gently played with our hair and ice from 13-degree mornings formed little spikes on his beard. My brother Phil, wife Rose and son Philip came for Thanksgiving, and 2.0 (pronounced 2-point-oh, as we like to call Philip the 2nd) sat in the same highchair my kids had sat in as he dropped his pieces of stuffing on the rug. My niece Catherine and her daughter Audrey also came for a few days, and Aud built a snowman in the yard.
 
Audrey and Cat build a snowman
And suddenly we remembered that these weren’t just vacation rentals. They were our homes! And even though we had left Colorado behind for the traveling life and sort of felt homeless, we weren’t!

Part-Time VT Residents 

Aryk loved Vermont so much that this summer, they took a job as a counselor at Farm and Wilderness Camp, which they attended for eight summers before we moved to Colorado. Lex loved it so much that they chose to go to college at Champlain College in Burlington, VT.
 
So we have decided that we will live in Vermont during the summers. The houses give our kids a place to come to from college that feels like home. They can get summer jobs. They can visit their favorite ice cream place (the Ludlow Coffee Company, formerly Scoops) and eat at their favorite pizza joint (Goodman’s American Pie). They can feel anchored.
 

Another favorite ice cream place, Seward’s in Rutland.
I always order the Bittersweet Symphony!
Lex loves the Panda Paws.
We are working hard, though. Because we are trying to sell the Brook House, Bob and I are spending long hours making improvements – painting the house and some doors, pulling up a rug and refinishing a floor, planting grass and landscaping, buying furniture, and hiring and overseeing workmen. But we’re also going for long bike rides on scenic Route 100, a refreshing opportunity after the challenge of riding in Mexico. We’re hiking the Long/Appalachian Trail, enjoying our favorite ice cream places, trying to visit
every bar in the Okemo Valley. We’re running and doing yoga and lifting weights, and hanging out on the Tyson Store chatting with neighbors.
 
Hiking the Appalachian Trail
Come October, we will head back south of the border and explore Mexico for the next 9 months. But when Lex gets done with their first year at Champlain College in May, we’ll return to the Green Mountain State and move back into the Lake House for the summer. (Hopefully, the Brook House will be sold and college paid for with the proceeds!)
 
I relish the opportunity to enjoy the region and explore the Green Mountain State more, without the burden of juggling full-time work, as I did when my kids were young. I look forward to connecting to the community and making friends. And I urge our family and friends to come visit! Because the Lake House has, in fact, turned into our summer retirement home. And we want to build more memories!


(In fact, my sorority sister Eileen Armelin, sister Julie and brother-in-law Mark, hopefully with Audrey and Cat; possibly Marie again with husband Joe; and family friends Julles Marquez and Ian Miller are coming to visit soon, so we’re already starting!)

By Lisa Hamm-Greenawalt

Vermont – A Change in Plans

Over 15 years ago, when we were living in New York, we bought a house in Vermont that we began making plans to retire to. 
We called the six-bedroom chalet The Lake House because it has a private dock on 200-acre Lake Rescue. Lisa and the kids spent half the summers there, while the kids attended Farm & Wilderness Day Camps, and I came up by train from Manhattan every weekend and took two weeks vacation in late August.  Often extended family members and friends would join us. 
When the house wasn’t rented out (which is how we paid for it), we spent winter weekends there, as the kids learned to ski at nearby Okemo. We went up in spring and fall to do projects, such as building a new back deck and tiling the kitchen. We read in the hammock, watched shooting stars from the hot tub, pulled the kids around in inner tubes from the back of a Zodiac inflatable boat. Lisa taught a number of children how to fish off the dock, and got up early many mornings to kayaked in the mist. 
The Lake House
 Even when we moved to Colorado and couldn’t get there anymore, we didn’t sell the place because of all of the fond memories. We just rented it out year-round, going up every couple of years just to check on it and make repairs. But as our retirement thinking evolved, we wondered whether we even wanted to go there after we stopped working. It was so cold compared to Colorado.
However, as part of our circuitous route to Mexico, we visited family and spent Christmas on the East Coast. That included five weeks, including Thanksgiving, in our house in Vermont. Ski resorts in Vermont typically try to get some runs open by Thanksgiving, usually with man-made snow, but we were “treated” to several unexpected snowfalls and temperatures that only on a few days exceeded freezing. Ludlow had gotten three feet of snow by the time we left.
Yet, even though it was cold and icy, we rediscovered what we loved about Vermont. We got up each morning, shoveled a new path to the hot tub on the back deck, and enjoyed an hour of warm, splashy solitude with mimosas while gazing up at snow-covered pine trees. 
Snowy hot tub morning
In addition to hours and hours spent maintaining the house, hiring staff, and replacing a TV and a mattress, we played Pinochle or UNO at night. We cuddled up watching movies. Lisa had a rom-com marathon with Grandma. We worked on a 1,000-piece puzzle. We discovered new restaurants and revisited old favorites. We walked through the shops in downtown Ludlow, and did Christmas shopping in charming Woodstock. We enjoyed ice cream multiple times at Sewards, our favorite ice cream shop in Rutland. Lisa reconnected with friends from her summertime church. We had family members visit with babies that drooled all over Duplo and threw scraps of food to the cats. 
It was divine.
To add to our rediscovery, Lexie plans to attend Champlain College in Burlington, Vermont, beginning in August, and we want to help her get settled in. So instead of flying Lexie to college, we plan to drive back up from Mexico to Vermont in July and spend a few months at our house. We can enjoy Vermont in the summertime, our favorite season. Lexie may be able to get a summer job at the little store up the road, or the Italian restaurant down the road.  After we get Lexie settled into college in late August and return for Parents’ Weekend in late September, we may as well stay and enjoy the foliage season! Then we will head back to Mexico. 
That may be the plan for every year Lexie is in college — back to Vermont for the summer so she has a home to go to and make a little money, then return to Mexico for the remaining nine months of the year. 
We think this is a great way for us to get our fix of Vermont during a beautiful time of the year and still explore the world!
Running in the snow

Building a snowman

Visiting the Green Mountain Sugar House

Discovering Outback Pizza

Baking Christmas cookies