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VOL. 130 | NO. 165 | Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Wiedower

Lance Wiedower

Travel Magic Happens at Sunrise

By LANCE WIEDOWER

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Waking up before 8 a.m. never seems like a good idea when I’m home.

But when traveling, especially if it means getting an early start to maximize the day, I’m a fan of early mornings. Sometimes it’s as simple as beating the lines to see Michelangelo’s “David” in Florence. Other times it’s to catch a flight or even a sunrise.

One of the worst aspects of travel is the crowds that flock to the popular destinations. With review sites, travel blogs and publications, social media and everyone’s infatuation with one-upping the next guy with cool experiences, there just aren’t any hidden gems anymore.

That is until you find yourself awake at dawn.

Many years ago I traveled on an overnight bus from London to Paris via a ferry across the English Channel. Trying to sleep on a bus was brutal.

But when we arrived in the Paris city center just as the sun was rising, there was something different about this experience.

Other than our fellow passengers, we had the streets of Paris to ourselves. My first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower came as we walked above ground from the Metro station near the River Seine. There, accompanying the birds singing their universally sweet melodies, was the sound of silence.

That’s right, there were no car horns or distant sirens, two sounds that remind me most of Paris. It was the early-morning colors of the day’s first light with the unknown promise of new day possibilities. And silence.

Maybe you have to be a parent to truly appreciate silence in the morning. But anyone can appreciate a sunrise done right.

And that takes me to a long-ago Florida sunrise.

After so many beach experiences on southern-facing coasts, I was excited to have an eastern-facing beach on this visit with friends in Neptune Beach. I might not have a beautiful sunset and its magnificent colors shining over the water, but I’d have a glorious sunrise over the horizon.

And it was glorious. As I walked down to the sand in the gray morning, the only sounds were a few birds singing in the bushes of these manicured lawns, just blocks from the Atlantic Ocean.

I found my spot in the sand as the gray turned to an off-blue. As I waited, the only sounds were the gentle crashing of the surf.

The gray became several shades of blue mixed with tints of orange and red. Then, it happened.

The shimmering top of an orange-red ball began to rise over the horizon. It was powerful and full of magic as it excited me to the unknown of the coming day. It was only minutes before the sky went from gray to the brightest of blue.

As the sun made its full entrance, I turned to discover joggers out for a morning run and a couple of dogs jumping in the ocean for a quick dip to begin the day.

It was a simple few minutes, but it’s the lasting image of an experience at the beach, one that will stay with me for years. And it’s all thanks to waking early.

Lance Wiedower can be reached at tripsbylance.com.

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