It was a mild day in Marseilles. Temperatures were in the low 70s, with a slightly overcast sky, perfect for wandering around. I was freezing. It wasn’t the kind of cold that comes from the breeze across bare legs, but instead was the kind of chill that comes from within. Everywhere we explored, cold I stayed, goosebumps at full attention.

Then it was time for dinner. And I was sweating–a sweat that came from my face and left me unable to enjoy the bites of hot dinner our host had thoughtfully prepared for us. I pushed through though, pausing frequently to catch my breath and wipe my upper lip. After dinner, we went for another stroll through town, where I again became freezing. And then shivering.

“Oh!” I realized. “I have a fever. Of course.” So I cocooned myself into bed, shivering as boyfriend remarked about how hot it was in our stuffy room. And I pressed my cold feet against his legs, and he told me my skin felt warm, and I tried to ignore everything and just go to sleep.

Upon waking, my fever had broken, leaving me sweaty and disheveled and ready to catch our train to Nice, which would have been no issue, except for the fever had left in its wake a real problem of a stomach ache and a neck so sore I literally couldn’t turn my head. Once in Nice, I managed a 20-minute walk along the beach (which was made of pebbles and was delightful), a bit of pizza and a bath. Then it was to bed, stretched flat on my back, full of French painkillers and wearing an icy/hot patch that led me to wake up sweating again.

Next day, onto Firenze. Eager to finally push into Italy, we had our trains nicely reserved, and our kind hosts dropped us at the station with plenty of time to spare. But then there was a delay, and another delay, then we moved to the track, another delay, a track change, a massive illegal flood of passengers across 3 train tracks, and finally on our way. Twelve hours later, Firenze.

I say this all not to complain, though it was awful. I mention the icky mess several successive days became because quietly beside me the whole way was boyfriend, who if I wasn’t deeply appreciative of before, I am now. When, as we were attempting to leave Marseilles, I tripped trying to move my suitcase out of our tiny room, hit my ankle and gave up crying on the bed, he simply asked me if I was okay and what I needed, then stroked my back when I said I needed a hug. He also carried my suitcase the whole way to the train for me.

When I was basically comatose in Nice, and he was having a lovely time with our host, boyfriend came in to check on me and attend to my needs regularly. When I wanted to hold his hand to feel secure, he squeezed it tightly. When I couldn’t muster the energy to look both ways before I crossed the street, he did it for me.

A trip of this duration will test any travelers’ relationship, and I’m blessed to be realizing that my tests are making us stronger together as we take on the world as a team. When, today in Naples (which, by the way, is terrible. Its Floridian counterpart is far superior), we had a bad run of activities, instead of feeling frustrated and annoyed, we were able to just look at each other and laugh. And I am so grateful. Grateful for that love and unity and strength, and for these crazy memories we’re making that will last us our lives.