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Aug 11, 1961 - Europe 1961    No Comments

Rome to Florence

We walked to the train station – only a block away – and found our seats on the train. It looked like a new one – air-conditioned – swankier than the Mistral – but much rougher. Harry said it was much lighter weight. Had an excellent meal, arrived Florence at around 2 – it was hot there also.

Can’t say much for the Hotel Astoria – also near the station – but we did get an air-conditioned room. We all slept or rested until 4, then got out and walked.

It was such a contrast with Rome – much more informal – small townish but completely charming. We easily found our way to the Duomo, Piazza della Republica, Piazza della Signoria, and then to Ponte Vechio. I went directly to Biagini which Becky had recommended and bought a bracelet for Serena and some charms. Harry and I wandered around & I found a sweet dress for Fay & bought some handkerchiefs at the same time.

We had a beer in the Piazza della Signoria – where there are many famous statues – and a copy of Michelangelo’s David. Harry got our courier to interpret for him and bought a “Tappatrice”, an instrument to cork wine bottles, and the corks. He was so pleased with his purchase – his first in EuropeThis must have been during the wine-making phase that he and Bud went through. Not to be confused with the still they had in the basement 30 years earlier or the beer-making phase or the bread-making phase..

With the Earlys, we walked to Piazza S. Marco and caught the trolley bus to Fiezols. It was dark so all we cold see were the lights of Florence but we were high above it. Ate dinner at Hotel Aurora – outside  in a patio – where we could look down over the city.

Back down by trolley bus and back to the hotel by taxi. I was dead tired & sleepy & ready for bed. Allen & J walked to Piazza della Republica to listen to the music.

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Aug 27, 1961 - Europe 1961    No Comments

Cologne to London

We were taken to the airport terminal by Cadillac, then to the airport by bus (an hour’s ride). We were to fly tourist class on Lufthansa but the had oversold it and as we were among the last checking in, we were put in first class. It was an hour & half flight to London – we were served coffee or a sandwich, given a bottle of Schnapps, a newspaper, our post cards were mailed free. Also a duty-free wagon was wheeled by with cigarettes, perfume, whiskey, etc. We had bought cigarettes (Winston) duty free at the airport for $1.75 a carton.

It had been cloudy & raining at Cologne but was clear & sunny in England. Went easily through customs & into town on another bus. Flowers everywhere here as on the continent – baby carriages prolific too. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to their driving on the “wrong” side of the street.

We were met at the terminal and taken to Mount Royal via one of the funny-looking cabs – there is no left hand door & the luggage is put in on that side. Our hotel is near Marble Arch & Hyde Park on Oxford St. – a tremendous hotel & a large room.

We had a sandwich in the room, unpacked & rested, then met the Early’s in the lobby. Rode a double-decker bus to Westminster Bridge – seeing many familiar names on the way. Rode down the Thames on an excursion boat to Greenwich seeing many landmarks along the way. The guide who point out things of interest was as hard to understand as the guides in Paris or Rome – his English wasn’t like ours! Twas Cockney! After the river trip, we caught another bus to the City of London, going thru Strand, Fleet St. to the Bank. But this turned out to be a mistake – the bars don’t open until 7 on Sundays – if at all. We wandered around through an old & interesting part of town – practically alone in the streets & finally found a “pub” open to try our first English beer.

Our destination was Simpsons where Bud had recommended but it was closed on Sunday. We rode a bus back to the Strand – found another pub open – with real character. Still looking for a restaurant, we walked to Leicester Square. It was full of activity – people of all races & types – mixed couples (black & white). Harry wanted chicken so we lucked into a cafeteria, leaving the Early’s to find a ritzier place while we ate.

After eating, we walked to Trafalgar Square to see the monument & fountains lighter. Then by the aid of the map, we rode the subway to Marble Arch, transferring once. The subways are easy to figure out, as are the buses. We must have set some kind of record today – we rode so many different kinds of vehicles.

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Sep 5, 1961 - Europe 1961    No Comments

Final Day!

It was so hot & sticky I had the bright idea of having a swim. It was delightfully refreshing. I packed – we had arranged to have our bags taken off separately so had not had to have them ready the night before.

It was foggy & terribly humid all morning – and we were barely moving. At one point it was announced that we would anchor at Ambrose Lighthouse at 11:30 and stay there until the fog lifted. This might mean having to wait until the late tide and docking at 9 o’clock instead of 2:30pm. We did anchor but it cleared and we slowly steamed past Long Island, past the Statue of Liberty into the Hudson. The first view of the city was so exciting, I could barely leave the railing. The tugs whistled, people waved, the fire boat saluted with a huge spray of water.

I ate hurriedly & as people were already lining up on B deck to get off, we did too. The heat there & on the pier was terrific. Harry grabbed a customs official as soon as our bags appeared & I called Braniff about our reservations. The customs inspector was thorough – he went into every bag & both cartons – but was very nice.

The porter situation was impossible so there was no choice but to carry the stuff ourselves. We managed some how & finally got out the gate, found someone to help us get downstairs & into a taxi. It was then about 3:30 and it took us an hour to get to Idlewild – traffic was heavy.

We made it to the deck just in time but they rushed us through so fast, we didn’t have time to call home or telegraph – and they didn’t have time to weigh all our luggage – with wine press & all, it must have weighed 200 lbs.

We were both breathless and exhausted from the effort – and then the plane sat on the ground for 30 minutes before taking off – with no air conditioning.

Drinks were served immediately however and were never needed worse. Then a grand dinner which I enjoyed – and which Harry couldn’t even look at.

Golly it was wonderful to get to Texas. We called Allen to borrow a car & took a taxi out to their house. Stayed long enough for Harry to eat something & then started home.

Arrived here at 9:30 – Serena bouncing out to welcome us, Gus, the cat, then Mrs. Bartley & Fay. Bud & Nelwyn came over with a bottle of champagne to put a perfect ending to a perfect trip!

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