In my last post about my visit to Cinque Terre I tantalised my readers with the following words :  “I was on the home stretch of Journey 2.   I had one famous sight to see (i.e. Cinque Terre) then it would be a slow return via Italian countryside to Courcheval, through the Mont Blanc tunnel, to my home in France just outside Geneva.  It would be on this last, leisurely leg that I would have a profound and mysterious experience, inexplicable to my rational mind, that would bring together all the different effects and impacts of my Journey into a completed, if incomprehensible, whole.   But more of that in my next post.”

So here I am, trying to describe, if unable to explain, what occurred on the final steps of my second solo journey around Europe.

At Cinque Terre I put a pin in the map at a place that looked like the next sensible place to pause on my drive home and did a search for accommodation.   What I found was a room in a vineyard in the countryside near a village called Rocca Grimalda in Piedmont, north of Genoa.  Rocca Grimalda itself wasn’t even on my maps, but the weather was hot and the rustic “agriturismo” vineyard looked attractive and had a pool.

Unbeknown to me at that moment, I had chosen a very special place and later wrote in my journal : “What foresight made me book this peaceful place just at the end of my journey?”

For the Montebello Estate was heavenly, with a beautiful serenity that drew me into its calm centre.   My room looked over rows of vines and the hills of Alto Monferrato and, what became supremely important, I soon discovered that there was nothing to DO or visit nearby.  No major towns, churches, monasteries or museums.  Just simplicity and the countryside.

The agriturismo lodging on the Montebello Estate

On my first night I stood in the grounds looking up at the planets.  A friend later told me it had been a new moon and, due to its unusual conjunction with Mercury, astrologers were associating it with transformation, new beginnings and ‘the need to mould and shape things so that they can turn out the best that they can be’.

The next day I set off on a long walk through the vineyards and a local hamlet and it was then that the magic happened.

As I set off I was surprised by the number of butterflies flitting around the grapes as they seemed out of place but thought no more of it.  Later I learned that butterflies are, obviously, a symbol of transformation.

My walk through the vineyards

Soon I began reflecting on the end of my travels.  Quite suddenly I was infused with what I can only describe as a feeling of ‘wholeness’.  I cannot find other words to adequately describe it, except what it would feel like to be completely healed from all one’s wounds.  It was like being a jar that was suddenly filled to the brim.   The experience was totally unexpected, and has not left me to this day, though it is not such an intense emotion as it was during that walk.  That day in the vineyard the impact left me feeling emotional, sensitive, tearful and joyful.

As my rational brain tried to kick in I reflected on the things that I had learned, developed or experienced on my two journeys that might have contributed logically to this mood … the healthy growth in my independence after 28 years of marriage; the time for me alone after motherhood and a caring career; learning about the gifts available to me through solitude and silence; and time away from everyday life to wallow in the beauty of the places I had visited.

But that was the thinking brain talking.  My sense of wholeness had not come from my intellect.

I walked on feeling suffused with this unfamiliar, novel emotion of completeness which in time morphed into another sensation.  I realised that I now felt absolutely ready and energised to re-enter the world, as I described it, and start new projects.  I felt as if I could do anything I set my heart and mind to.   Remember, I had left my last job to travel and was coming up to my 60th birthday – which I felt was a landmark age to the next phase of my life that I passionately wanted to be as positive as the former ones.  Like the butterflies, I now reflect, I had been in a chrysalis stage during this period and I was now emerging – renewed, transformed to start my future.

Back to my diary I wrote that, whilst I had given rational explanations for my need to go on my solo journeys (for example to travel whilst I was fit enough to do so), I now saw that I had never really understood my inner motivation and that “today I think I know.  I believe I was really led to come on these journeys as part of my soul’s journey – transformation to my next phase of life.”     Strangely (but maybe not), as I write this I am looking at a booklet on Rocca Grimaldi that I picked up at the time.  I had not noticed these words : “St James was a popular saint in the area because a pilgrimage road to Santiago de Compostela in Spain passed right through these lands.”    I had had such a special time travelling on that ‘chemin’ through France and Spain so somehow I am not surprised that the last touches of that mysterious circle were drawn together at the end of my Journey.

The sunset on that transformative day

That evening, after a glorious sunset, I ordered a slap-up meal and the best of the Estate’s wine to celebrate how happy and festive I was feeling.  I was alone in the restaurant looking out over the green hills and vines, listening to beautiful music.  I was in a heightened state of sensitivity and ended my journal with the terribly corny but true words “Today is the first day of the rest of my life”.


When I started this blog I never dreamt that I would have the courage to write about such personal experiences and emotions.  I had journeyed over five and a half thousand kilometres on this second trip, but further in my heart and being.  The wholeness has not left me and I have begun various meaningful projects which are meeting my inner sense of purpose.  Soon after my return I started a light-hearted online magazine about positive ageing called agewithme.org  and now run a Geneva branch of  ConsciousCafe  as well as helping a voluntary organisation with its representation at the United Nations.

I told you it was a magical story.

It feels right to end Journey 2, which may be my last solo trip – who knows – with a quote from TS Eliot’s Little Gidding.  If you have been, I hope you enjoyed following my Journeys.


 Little Gidding

What we call the beginning is often the end

And to make an end is to make a beginning.

The end is where we start from.   …….


We shall not cease from exploration

And the end of all our exploring

Will be to arrive where we started

And know the place for the first time.

Through the unknown, unremembered gate

When the last of earth left to discover

Is that which was the beginning;

At the source of the longest river

The voice of the hidden waterfall

And the children in the apple-tree

Not known, because not looked for

But heard, half-heard, in the stillness

Between two waves of the sea.

Quick now, here, now, always —

A condition of complete simplicity

(Costing not less than everything)

And all shall be well and

All manner of thing shall be well

When the tongues of flame are in-folded

Into the crowned knot of fire

And the fire and the rose are one.


  1. Anette Bogstad says:

    Thank you for sharing these journeys! I have not followed every step, but those I did were very inspiring, not the least this last one.
    Warm regards from Denmark.

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