As Art made his way onto the bus, seeking a seat for the two-hour ride from Pinellas Park to Sanford, he spotted a woman with curly brown hair and cotton candy-blue eyes. He hesitated, then asked to sit next to her.
"I saw her face. I just love her face," Art recalls.
The bus, carrying a swarm of curious seniors, made its way to the St. Johns River, where they would board a paddle wheel boat called Rivership Romance (nice foreshadowing there) for a day cruise. Art and Paulette chatted the whole way. On the boat, they were inseparable, which catapulted them into a relationship neither of them expected.
Art had traveled most of his life, and now that Paulette was retired, she wanted to travel, too. Boy, was Art ready to show her a good time.
They have cruised four to five times each year since they met in August 2008; a couple of those were trans-Atlantic voyages that took them to Great Britain, France, Switzerland and Germany. When they visited the Alps, the mammoth Matterhorn stood right outside their hotel room window. In between cruises, they explored the United States. They saw Mexico, Central America, South America.
They flew to Rome three times in one year. Some of their best times took place in Art's native Italy. They sat in front of the famous Trevi Fountain, visited cathedrals, museums and the Vatican, ate pastas and pastries.
The longest period they were ever home: three months.
On a rainy day in Paris last April, Art did what many women dream of having a man do. He proposed to Paulette in front of the Eiffel Tower, arguably the most romantic place in the world.
"He didn't get down on one knee, though," Paulette says with a chuckle. "We wouldn't get him back up! We left that for the kids!"
Next up in their itinerary: a trip to Branson, Mo., where they'll visit theaters. They booked tickets for eight shows in four days. Something tells me, for these two, that's cake.