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

Europe In Pictures

Before we leave for Mexico, we wanted to share some of the best pictures from our trip to Europe.


Visiting six countries in five weeks, we saw some spectacular sights: Ancient ruins, mammoth rocks, jaw-dropping waterfalls, amazing architecture, turquoise seas, fiery sunsets and too much more to list!

Let’s let pictures tell the story:

Germany

Elbphilharmonie Concert Hall, Hamburg

St. Michael the Archangel Church, Hamburg

England

London Eye

London Eye

London Eye

Kensington Gardens

Kensington Palace

Spain

Gaudi rooftop

Montserrat

Greece

Temple of Zeus

Poros Island

Italy

Palatine Hill from Coloseo
Capri
Solofra countryside

Iceland

Skalatjorn Homestay, Iceland

Harpa Concert Hall, Reykjavik
Thingvellir National Park, Iceland
Skogafoss Waterfall, Iceland
Dryholaey Nature Preserve, Iceland

Italy, Part 6: Bob’s Extra Day in Rome

I wasn’t interested in all of Lisa’s family’s Naples and Solofra excursions, so from the beginning, I had planned on spending a day with her family and then exploring on my own.

Because we were so busy before the European trip, I hadn’t had time to even think about where I would go. I considered going to Venice, Florence or even taking an overnight ferry from Naples to Sicily. However, once we were in London, I realized that I needed to make some decisions so that I could make lodging and transportation arrangements.

I knew we were eventually going to fly out of Naples to Athens, and that Naples looked interesting enough to spend a day there. Pompeii and Mt. Vesuvius also interested me. Since going to Florence or Venice would necessitate more time devoted to travel than I wanted, I decided to spend an extra day in Rome after Lisa and Lexie left for Naples, spend a day and night with her family doing ancestry activities in Naples, then travel to Sorrento and use it as a base for visiting Pompeii, Mt. Vesuvius, Capri and the Amalfi coast.
I couldn’t stay in our Rome apartment an extra night because it was booked, but I was fortunate to find another one in the same complex, which would let me get in an hour after we left the first one. So on the day that Lisa and Lexie left for Naples, I left the apartment with them and found a coffee shop to spend an hour. That hour turned into two when I discovered that it was Daylight Savings Time fallback in Italy, and we could have slept another hour! During my coffee shop wait, the rain started, remaining relatively light until I got into the apartment, when it became torrential and I had to wait it out for a couple of hours.

A rainy Sunday in Rome, and cats

I really didn’t have a plan for the day, so once the rain stopped I decided to just get on the metro, get off at a stop we hadn’t used before, and just wander. I ended up getting off at Flaminio, at the Piazza del Popolo, and spent the day wandering down Via del Corso to the Piazza Venezia, taking in the shopping and sights along the way, including the recently excavated Forum ruins near the Palazzo Venezia.

Bob ran into the Pope!

A selfie binge

Cats of Rome

I ended the day at the cat sanctuary at Largo di Torre Argentina, the place where Caesar was murdered. Today it contains Torre Argentina Cat Sanctuary, a cat shelter overseen by a group of volunteers. About 130 cats call these ruins their home. The day ended with another rainstorm, through which I walked back to the apartment, crossing the Tiber and following our previous running route to the Vatican.

Naples, not impressive

The next day I caught an early train to Naples, where I joined Lisa, Lexie and Lisa’s cousins and sister on a walking tour of her grandfather’s former home. While most likely the neighborhood where we stayed and where her grandfather lived was typical old Naples, it was nonetheless dirty and cramped. With numerous people hanging out on the streets, I didn’t feel comfortable there, and was happy to leave the next day.

Looking at Lisa’s grandfather’s door

Pompeii

My original plan was to leave for Sorrento the next morning. However, I joined Lisa, Lexie, her cousin Loraine and Loraine’s husband Dave on a trip to Pompeii. When we got to Pompeii, I saw that the train station had baggage storage, and realized I should have brought my luggage along — I could have stored it and saved the trip back to Naples to get my bags!

The family in Pompeii
My plan for my 2+ days in Sorrento was to take a boat tour of Capri one day, take a tour down the Amalfi coast another day, and spend my last morning exploring Sorrento before returning to Naples to meet up with Lisa and Lexie before heading to Athens the next day.

Italy, Part 3: Rome

Rome was literally eye-popping. We stepped out of a subway for the first time and were immediately accosted by the enormous, imposing Coliseum. All three of us stopped and gasped simultaneously. The scale of it was, as Lexie put it, “incredible. I don’t even know how to describe it.”

That pretty much describes Rome: Larger than life.

The Colosseum

Since we only had a couple days in Italy’s capital, we decided we had no time to waste waiting in line unnecessarily. So we took a skip-the-line tour of the Colosseum, the largest amphitheater ever built, circa AD 70. (We picked the first person who approached us, but you might want to do more research than that.) Though it was partially destroyed by a major earthquake, it is surprisingly intact, and truly spectacular. We were able to climb fairly high and peered down at the space where gladiators fight and public executions were the spectacle of the day.
The Colosseum

It is flanked by the Roman Forum, which for centuries was the center of day-to-day life in Rome, and Palatine Hill, one of the most ancient parts of the city.

The Forum and Palatine Hill

Our Morning Walking Tour


The second morning, Lexie slept late while Bob and I took the subway to the Trevi Fountain, the largest Baroque fountain in the city and one of the most famous fountains in the world  Again, we got so much more than we expected. It was huge, built into the side of a big stone building, and glorious. Description, legend. It turned out we were there at the least crowded time of the day, so we were able to each throw a coin in the fountain over our left shoulders. (According to legend, one coin means you will return to Rome, two means you will find new romance and three means you will get married. We already have two and three covered.) Suddenly the 1950s song Three Coins in the Fountain makes more sense.

Trevi Fountain

We then had an overpriced breakfast of croissants and cappuccinos across the way from the fountain, basking in the location and the glorious leisure It is in a charming old section of Rome with narrow streets and no cars. We walked along, taking pictures of a large diversity of creative, small shop windows, and came along a Pinocchio shop – ah, yes, that childhood tale about Gepetto, the lonely shoemaker and his wooden doll who turned into a real boy, is Italian in origin!

Gepetto’s workshop

Our wanderings also took us through the Fifth Avenue of Rome – Gucci, Armani, Ermenegildo Zegna, etc. — to the famous Spanish Steps, which we had never heard of, but they are glorious and worth a visit.  It’s127 steps up, and nearby is the apartment where Keats died at the age  of 29 – just a little literary trivia.
Spanish Steps

We found the Pantheon, an ancient temple to the Roman gods converted to a Catholic Church that was simply amazing. It is circular, 142 feet wide and 142 feet tall, with a hole in the roof that lets light in as well as rain, and a drain in the floor. It is one of the best preserved of all Roman buildings because it has been in continuous use and is still used as a church and to host concerts today.  It was also not crowded, and had pews we could sit in to rest our tired feet.

Pantheon

The Vatican

We went back to our apartment (Homeaway did us right; our two-bedroom was gorgeous, comfortable and close to the subway, and since we booked an off-season rental only two weeks before, we were able to get the price lowered) to get Lexie, who had been sleeping late (she is 18, after all), and headed out for the obligatory tour of the Vatican. We chose a 3 PM tour to avoid the morning crowds, which Bob and I had witnessed firsthand the previous morning when we ran past the Vatican and had to dodge the lines. Again, we paid extra to skip the line, and were led through the Vatican Museums by a stylish Liberian woman whose English accent was too thick for Bob to decipher. (Thanks to time spent with a Liberian friend when I lived in New York, I understood her just fine.)
The Vatican Museum (actually, museums) is one of the largest museums in the world, featuring an immense collection amassed by popes throughout the centuries. The tour was a little too quick, but interesting nonetheless, especially the Map Room. I would like to go back in my own and take the time to linger. I also discovered the secret to seeing the Vatican without the crowds is to wait till the afternoon, a time when no Skip the Line premium would have been necessary. Here are some highlights:

The Sistine Chapel was a feast to behold, although Michelangelo’s famous creation image was surprisingly small in the center of the ceiling, and the elbow-to-elbow crowd made it challenging to view. (Sorry, no photos are allowed in the Sistine Chapel.)

St. Peter’s Square

St. Peter’s Basilica was glorious, but I was disappointed to be denied seeing the Pieta sculpture, which was behind a curtain and required a premium to view. I made sure to buy a couple of packable souvenirs and posted postcards to my brother John, who is a Catholic priest, and my stepmother, Katy. Because it was a Saturday evening, I could have gotten a free ticket to see the Pope say Mass the next morning from the nuns in the gift shop. Unfortunately, we planned to travel at the same time, so I didn’t. If you ever travel to Rome, you should know admission is free on the last Sunday of every month, so plan accordingly!

St. Peter’s Basilica

Cats of Rome


Bob stayed an extra day and visited Torre Argentina, the spot where Julius Caesar was killed, a ruin that is now a Cat Sanctuary.

Thoughts on Rome

A few thoughts on Rome:

  • It is OLD.
  • It is Catholic! I realized this, but still, it’s a surprise to see so many nuns and priests and monks in the streets of a city.
  • There are no footpaths or grassy places to run, though there is a path along the Tiber River, which was just a bit too far from our apartment.
  • Because of the density of the center or the city, public transit is limited to the edges and you have to walk a lot, on cobblestones. We skipped the Hop On Hop Off Bus because the reviews made clear the buses couldn’t actually get near the most popular sites, and stops were few and far between.
  • The menu is extremely limited: pizza and pasta. And more pizza. And more pasta. And gelato, gelato, gelato. It’s wonderful! But after a while, no matter how good it is, you get tired of the same menu.
  • There are a lot of beggars, who seemed like a throwback to another time. We saw women in scarves lying on the sidewalk with heads bowed in prayer and cup extended, and young men with gnarled legs and feet propelling themselves on skateboards, distorted hands inside of heavy boots and cups extended.
  • It is larger than life. From the Vatican to the Coliseum to the Fountain of Trevi, everything is so big, it takes your breath away.

Two and a half days was not enough time. We will be back!

Next up — Italy, Part 4: Solofra, and Radical Discoveries

Italy, Part 2: Why Italy

Why Italy?

Italy was actually the impetus for this whole European adventure. 

My cousin Janice Carapellucci has been passionately pursuing our family roots on the Troisi side for a decade, especially the artist Donato Buongiorno, who was my Italian grandfather Domenic Troisi’s uncle and his family’s sponsor when they came to the United States from Naples in 1907. (She collects his work, as he was a fairly prominent artist at the turn of the last century, and hopes to stage a show of his work in New York City in spring 2019. Her website is donatusbuongiorno.com.)
In addition, my sister Julie Holm and her husband Mark visited Italy about a decade ago and found the hometown where my grandfather was born, Solofra, a picturesque village of goldsmiths and leather tanners located in lush mountains about a half hour east of Salerno.
Janice has been planning a family expedition to Naples and Solofra for years. When my daughter Lexie decided to take a gap year before starting college, I decided the timing of the trip this fall provided a wonderful opportunity for her to learn about her Italian family history.
Then it turned into our travel version of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie: If we were going to be in Italy for the family reunion, we may as well go to Rome for a couple days first. And since Spain is close by, we might as well visit our exchange student, Laia, and her family, in Barcelona. And while we were in Europe, we should visit our oldest, Aryk, at Keele University in England. And if we were going to be in England, we need to spend time in London and get tickets to Hamilton in the West End.  And if we were going to be so close to Germany, we needed to visit my brother Pat and his family outside Hamburg. And since Icelandair, with the cheapest flight to Hamburg, offered a free stop-off in Reykjavik, we had to spend a few days in Iceland. And because Italy is so close to Greece, we added Athens.
So the Italy portion of our trip can be divided into two distinct sections: sightseeing in Rome and ancestry-seeking in Naples and Solofra. You’ve already seen a report from Naples. I realize we are going out of order, but that’s the nature of travel. These blogs need to be posted when they’re written. Thanks for being flexible!
Next … Italy, Part 3: Rome

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!