3 Generations Make A Memory In Italy

Sometimes, I open my email and find better stories than I can weave. Here’s three generations making a memory  from reader BJ McCafferty.

Hi Andra,

I was in the audience when you spoke at the History on Tap Series in Crandon, WI. After we met, I read all three books and love them.  I especially liked “Not Without My Father“.

You wrote as you signed one of the books, “Make a Memory”.

I told you I was taking my granddaughter to Italy this summer.

We are beginning our journey next week, and Sofie(8) says it is going to be an “Epic” trip!  I believe her! I will record memories, but sometimes I’ll leave my camera behind and enjoy the moments.

May your Days be long and your Memories Bright,
BJ McCafferty

Grandma and granddaughter

Dear BJ:

I’ve thought often about your upcoming trip with Sofie. My grandmother never saw the ocean and only visited three states. Your adventurous spirit is going to inspire and mold your granddaughter. I hope you’ll tell me all about the trip.

If you’re going to Florence, visit Aqua Flor. I love their soaps and scented waters. The place looks like an old lab, and the proprietor is charming.

I’m also glad to hear you enjoyed my books. The fiction is the most fun for me to write, but I understand why NWMF appeals to so many people. I love what it’s done for Dad and me. His 83rd birthday is tomorrow, and we’re going to celebrate with him.

Please give everyone in Crandon my regards. I enjoyed my time with you so much and look forward to returning someday.


granddaughter and grandmother

Hi Andra,

Just a couple of photos of our trip.  It was epic!

I am so glad to have shared it with my granddaughter and my daughter. The first day in Rome we walked over 10 miles…..not quite 15 though. I have been sorting over 3,000 photos since our return.

All my best to you,
BJ McCafferty

Read more stories of people who made a memory.


My Swiss residency at Maison Binet conjured some surprising commentary.

Polly Glover sent me this remarkable Facebook message, and I wanted to share it with you.

My aunt, whom I loved dearly, lived in Trélex for 50 years right across the street. As a child, I met Mme. Binet and saw her weaving studio. She was such a beautiful woman, inside and out, as I remember. Madame Binet was close friends with my aunt, who kept up with her family until her death last fall.

When I googled Trélex, with the hopes to return there for a visit one day, your name and adventure came up. The family’s activities surprised and delighted me! How fabulous the artist in residence must be, especially in the village of Trélex.

Please take the strength from Trélex with you as you go out into the world, knowing you have been touched by an angel in Mme. Binet. Do what you love. She would want that. I have enjoyed reading about your adventures while in Trélex and wish you the best of life.

I love the thought of her protecting and inspiring the artists and writers who visit. Given everything I’ve been through in recent years, her message gave me much comfort.

And surprise! Even meticulous writers like me make gaffes.

A few corrections on the information I posted about Maison Binet, straight from the Trélex Residency’s curator.

Small correction on the story. Nina Rodin merely rents the place. The landlady’s father was Jean Binet, a composer. She was born in the house 80 years ago. The house is named after the composer now, but construction started in the 17th century. Some of it, including the yellow facade, is 19th century. It was a trading post for horse drawn transport between Switzerland and France. The space under the roof, now the studio, was probably the main warehouse space.


Dinosaur Provincial Park, the world’s largest cache of cretaceous fossils, is located in Alberta’s Badlands. Calgary, the closest international airport, is over two hours by car, to give readers a sense of how much nothing is nearby.

We did Dinosaur Provincial Park in one day.

Here’s how:


MTM, the fossil-finding expert.

Arrive early.

While the park offers ample campground space, visitors like me who want to sleep in a lodge are out of luck. We booked an Air B & B, set our alarm clocks, and made it to the park by 9am. The Badlands are a desert environment. Mid-afternoon gets hot. Booking a morning excursion keeps everybody more comfortable.


MTM found this gorgosaurus tooth.

Book at least one guided tour.

Dinosaur Provincial Park is massive, but much of it is a natural preserve for paleontologists and park staff. The natural preserve is only open to those on a guided tour. We chose the morning Fossil Safari and were picking our way through a fossil bed by 10am. A park guide helped us determine which of our finds were fossils (everything MTM found) and which were rocks (everything I dragged over.)

Take a gander at DPP’s guided tours HERE.


The men enjoying our picnic by the Red Deer River.

Take a picnic.

The park offers ample picnic areas, with tables and fire pits. Firewood is even available at a kiosk. With only one snack bar onsite and the town of Brooks a thirty-minute drive away, bringing a picnic equals the best shot at a full belly.


Because everybody puts gorgosaurus fossils in their mouths, right?

Be gobsmacked.

When we took our guideson Cooper to Dinosaur Provincial Park for his sixth birthday, we didn’t expect to enjoy it as adults. We booked a visit to the paleontology lab thinking it’d give us some blessed air conditioning. Instead, we took a fascinating tour with a real paleontologist and got a chance to touch real fossils. Outside, fossils were EVERYWHERE. By the time we boarded the bus for our sunset photography tour, we knew what to look for.


Dinosaur Provincial Park’s Natural Preserve near sunset.

The lesson? You never know what might happen when you book a trip you think you won’t like. We loved Dinosaur Provincial Park and are already planning a future trip to Alberta to expand our horizons.

Read all about Cooper in my NYT best selling memoir Not Without My Father. Click HERE to get a copy in your preferred format.

What places have surprised you?

Tell us about your experiences in a comment today.