The Last Day

First published in Victoria Magazine in 2002
Why is it that the last day of a trip is always the best? 
Doing all the things you put off on the other days, you leave no stone unturned—you can’t put it off, it’s the last day.  You savor the sights, sounds, and smells, drinking in the views as you rush to squeeze in everything. On the last day, you hike through historic houses, gardens and cemeteries (Pere Lachaise, Paris).  You hail a taxi to visit a distant and lovely shop praised by a dear friend.  Monuments and cathedrals you shuffled past now get a quick tour.  Perhaps you even take a fast, adventurous trek into the subterranean crypt, its cold walls and floors lined with the graves of the ancient rich and famous; recently redecorated with a gift shop and café (St. Paul’s, London)
On the last day, you go ahead and buy the overpriced lace tablecloth (street vendor in Spain), the cheap t-shirts and postcards, a recording of the local folk music, and Lavender bubble bath for Aunt Pearl.  Money is spent like water; it’s ‘trip money,’ as easy to part with as the cash in a Monopoly game.
On the last day, you take pictures like crazy, hoping the camera will capture your exuberant mood.  You try to memorize this town that has treated you so well for a few hours, days or weeks, where you’ve eaten luxurious meals and basked in its history, art and culture.  How you long to take this feeling home with you. And since the best trips end with a grand meal, you carefully choose where to spend your last hours and pennies: a café in St. Mark’s Piazza in Venice, Altitude ’95 in the Eiffel Tower.  You try to remember the wine and the traditional local specialties you tasted earlier.  Do you have more of that, or try something new?  It’s your last chance.  Or, if you’re just about out of cash, crepes from street vendor and a bottle of wine from the grocery store will do nicely.  They are consumed cheerfully on the banks of the Seine while the sun sets behind Notre Dame, and you keep taking pictures.
You eat slowly, savoring the local flavors that just aren’t the same anywhere else.  You toast the trip, the city, your love.  You get desert, and then coffee, clinging to the visit in the present tense, before it all slips into a memory and a photo album. Tomorrow will be filled with packing and repacking, hauling your overstuffed luggage to a car, train or plane.  Trying to get away in time; struggling to get home without losing the entire joy of the experience.  But tonight is tonight, and we’re still here. 
“Champagne, anyone?”

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