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Your Story: Railway Surprise

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For one Charlotte family waiting at the Rome train station, a surprise passenger arrived just in time.

Standing tiptoe in the bustling Rome train station — one eye on her four kids and one eye on the lookout for their 11:30 train to Florence — Cece Curran again tried to wrap up that morning’s third call with her husband, whom she assumed was still in bed in their Charlotte, N.C., home. 

“I figured he was nervous about us traveling without him because he kept asking me where we were and if we’d boarded our train yet,” she said. “I thought, ‘oh Lord, if he’s going to be like this the whole time, I’m going to lose it!'"

That’s when her son’s face locked in on someone behind her and Cece spun around to see her husband, Mike, right there on the platform. 

“I was totally shocked. My jaw just dropped,” Cece said. “As it turns out, he was trying to figure out where I was the whole time we were talking!”

If Mike was a little on the anxious side, it was for good cause. Cece’s AAA Travel Agent, Mary Clark, had prepped Mike for the quick jaunt from the airport to the train station in Rome. She knew that Cece had no idea Mike’s work plans had changed and he would, in fact, be able to join their family’s Italian vacation. In fact, to keep the surprise, she’d gone so far as to give Cece fake travel vouchers for all their hotels, trains and tours after the Rome rendezvous point.  

“Mary was amazing. She was so covert with the whole thing, but I knew if I didn’t make it to the train station on time, Cece and the kids wouldn’t have the real vouchers for Florence,” Mike said. “I had a very small window from the time where my plane landed. But when I found them, it was just great. It was a really fun surprise to see the shock on all their faces.”

With their oldest child, Jesse, headed off to college, Cece had worked with Mary to plan a European adventure to showcase the art and culture they’d been reading about at school. 

Before Cece and the kids reunited with Mike, they’d already spent two days exploring Rome, including a visit to the Colosseum and Vatican. “We’d get up early in the morning and come rolling in at 9 o’clock at night,” Cece laughed. “My dad was in the Air Force, and I lived with my family in England and alone in Japan. I want my kids to be comfortable with traveling, and to experience a different way of thinking and getting about.”

The Currans’ arrival in Florence happened to coincide with the annual patron saint festival. “When we got off the train, it was almost like we’d landed in an elaborate movie set,” Cece remembered. 

“Everybody was wearing 16th-century costumes, and horses were traipsing around everywhere.” That night, the city treated them to a spectacular fireworks display. “We were able to secure a spot on the bridge, grabbed some dinner and stayed there for all the festivities.

“Our family is very close,” Cece said. “I was okay traveling to Italy without Mike because I wanted to seize the moment and not miss it for my kids, but it wasn’t the same without him. Mike’s surprise just made the whole trip — and after 23 years of marriage, it was very romantic.”      

Inspired to surprise a loved one with a dream trip? Stop by your local AAA office and speak with a AAA Travel Agent, or call 800-750-5386 and put your plan in motion.


(March/April 2017 Traveler)

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