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Great Britain - France - Switzerland - Italy- Vatican City
June, 1983

OK, when you think of an overseas destination for US easterners, the "biggies" of London, Paris and Rome come to mind, as this was now my chance! I went on an American Express deluxe tour arranged for families of Eastman Kodak employees. I went with my sisters Karen (my twin) and 16 month younger sister Lisa (the Kodaker).

What can one say about London? It was beyond expectations. A slice of home with an accent to boot! Big Ben, the Crown Jewels, Buckingham palace, and a boat trip to Greenwich, where I saw a NASA 747 jumbo jet flying over the city carrying the space shuttle mockup "Enterprise" to the yearly Paris air show. The big news was actually happening at our hotel, the world famous Waldorf, where Tom Sellek (years before "Friends") and a cast of hundreds in period attire were filming the Nazi era movie, "Lassider" during our entire stay. That was no big deal to me, but my sisters were thrilled, and I captured a great photo of Lisa with Tom signing an autograph. We Rochestarians always have our cameras ready with plenty of Kodak film loaded for anything that comes our way!

We flew to Paris for another three days. The city was beautiful and we saw all the main tourist attractions, but the people were more rude than words could describe. Below our hotel across from the Opera House was the renowned "Cafe de la Paix," which served great meals (and still does) at reasonable prices- as long as you eat outside, bistro-style! Inside were the white gloved servers, crystal and china, "atmosphere" and prices four times more expensive. Should you go, the best free viewing is atop the roof of the Galleries Lafayette department store, where you'll find best panoramic scene of the "City of Lights.". Versailles is a side trip not to be missed, about a half hour out of the city. The rooms, decor and gardens are exquisite.

We spent 3 hours on a train from Paris to Basel, on the Swiss boarder, then took a motor coach to Luzerne. None of us had heard of the place before, but it is a major tourist stop in center of Switzerland. After the city smog and traffic, the country air, enchanting lake and quaint atmosphere is just what we tourists needed! This was the place to buy watches and cookoo clocks, as long as you bought them from one of the larger establishments.

Onward to Venice, with a day long journey through the Italian Alps and scenic Lake Como district. I found quite a contrast at the boarder of Switzerland and Germany. German houses were all prim and proper, with flower baskets hanging from seemingly every window, with near slum conditions over the Italian line. In any case, it was fun riding on gondolas through the canals. I especially recall visits to a glass factory (remember my ceramic roots) and an inlaid tile manufacturer. There is no way we could have bought anything there, both for the price and delicate nature of the hand-crafted works. Of course, no tour to Florence wouldn't be complete without visiting the giant statue of David.

We drove to Padua on of all celebrations, its patron Saint Anthony's Day, whose shriveled tongue was on prominent display in the cathedral. We opted for the rest rooms instead. Past Perugia, famous for its chocolates, then to Florence.

Our hotel was near the train station, where all the action and night life was, and unusual human creatures of the night as well! There were plenty of leather shops throughout the city, which has some spectacular views of the surrounding hillsides. The Duomo's Place is a must to see ancient armor and all the 'fixins. I distinctly remember the flood water line at the library from their most recent catastrophe being several feet above my head. The spinach noodles were superb, but the pizza (even con fungi) was paper thin with no sauce and skimpy toppings. This American cuisine is best sampled in its country of origin. A side trip (in fact, more than two and a half hour away, was Pisa and the famous tower. Yes, it really does lean quite a bit, but more impressive were the steps to the top (the same ones to get down), literally having been "walked away" by the feet from several centuries of visitors, resulting in bowed marble steps.

On to Assisi and St. Francis' ornately decorated tomb, then the "Eternal City," Rome. It's really more than its cracked up to be, for you see, the place is in a constant state of ruin. No matter where they dig for public works projects, they keep finding more ruins, and have to abandon the area in favor of the archaeologists. I don't think I've ever visited so many churches before at one time in my life. Of course, nearly each one has some famous work from Michaelangelo in it, the most famous being "The Pieta" in St. Peter's in the Vatican. This was several years before some nut wacked at it with a sledge hammer, resulting in a restoration of several years and the result being entombed in a display case tighter than the crypts of the dead Popes one floor below. We never made it to the Vatican Museum, with its entrance seemingly a million miles from anywhere around the walled state. Did get to see the Colosseum of circa 70 AD, but it rained that day and our visit was very short. No matter, it's not much to look at. To cap the trip off on Alitalia, the stewardesses keeping a vigilant watch over a five year old Italian boy travelling by himself who entertained the plane by defecating constantly and regurgiting the mystery meat lunch! No great loss, as the meat didn't look that appetizing before making its round-trip journey to begin with.