This was a good vacation. The highlites were swimming with the dolphin and reef sharks.
Powered Paragliding. A most Personal form of Flight
A most personal form of flight
This is a lightly edited trip log from a trip to Europe with my Great Aunt Rose in 1969. The spelling has been mostly corrected and occasionally I fixed some horrible sentence structure but it remains true to the original diary of a thirteen year old boy.
20,000 ft above the Pacific Ocean
HI… Well Today was the day. We all got up at 6:00am and went to early mass. Then the to breakfast and the airport. After sad goodbyes, Auntie Rose and I flew to Chicago, then Montreal Canada and now we are on our way to Ireland. Tonight we saw the moon come up from the airplane and it was so pretty. Air Lingus is a great airline, they feed us every hour on the hour.
Hi… Today a young girl named Kathleen, (she is quite a tomato), came over to pick us up at the hotel and take us out to lunch with Ursula and her family. Auntie Rose knew Ursula from before and she is going to show us Ireland. After lunch we went to a small mountain and took a hike. This land is beautiful. Kathleen has a little sister who is a real pill. Then we went over and bought fish and chips. And played with all of the kids (there are 7 in this family). The oldest boy has a motorbike and wanted to let me ride it but I’m to small and have never rode one before. Later, Ursula made us Irish bread.
Today, we got up late and found out we were suppose to be on the tour bus, so we cancelled and will go tomorrow. Then we went to Ursula’s sisters house and got the kids. We all went to the National Gardens which is like Washington Park but bigger and with more flowers. Then we drove out to the beach where they surf. It was windy and the water was too cold for us to get in but there were two guys surfing in wet suits. I met Harry and Vi who are also friends of the family. Harry gave me an Irish Surf Club Patch and invited me to go surfing with them sometime.
7/3/69 Edinburgh Scotland
Today we got up at 7:00 and caught a plane to Edinburgh. There, we got on a tour bus and visited old museums and castles. They were real neat. OK, here is the big scoop. When I got on the bus to go to town, I saw a window and since I was hot, I opened it. It turned out to be the EMERGENCY EXIT. Bells rang and horns honked and I turned white. Auntie Rose and I tried to close it but we couldn’t and so the driver had to go outside the bus and shut it. I was so embarrassed. Then we went to London by jet. We had lunch in a prima classe place.
Happy 4th of July! Today, we walked all over, there was Oxford Street, Saint Charles Street, Game Crossing and many others. Then we took a bus tour all through London. I saw the Big Ben, the changing of the guards and all of that. We also went over the famous London Bridge. We had lunch at a little Italian place called Como’s. I thought it was funny having Italian food in London.
So… we had Spaget, in London, on the 4th of July.
Today we caught a bus and went to Carnaby Street, GROOVY. Then we got on a two-story bus and rod it to the end of the line… on the TOP of the bus. After that we went to a place called the Empire Grill for lunch. I had the worst hamburger of my life. Its worse than school’s. Later after I had a nap we went walking and found the Our Lady of the Rosary Church. They have a little grave yard behind the church and we walked around reading the headstones. I never saw Coma so happy and content. At dinner, Coma had kidney pie.
We got on a plane at 9:00am this morning and went to Paris. It was hard to understand them but we got what we wanted done. Then we left for Lourdes. Coma picked up a South American Latin Lover (type). He’s got blue eyes and is engaged. He’s tall and thin and his name is Paul. I went down into the grotto where Bernadette saw the Virgin Mary. Today is Da’s birthday so I said a special prayer for him. It was real pretty. Auntie Rose likes it so much here we are staying an extra day.
I bought some stuff today, a rosary and a plastic bottle to hold holy water and a black switchblade. The hilt is all curvy and pivots with the blade and the grip is black. When I went down into the Grotto I got to carry a sick baby to the blessing of the sick. There are a billion tiny little stores here with mostly holy stuff like roserys and pictures of saints. You can even buy tiny little pieces of the same cross that Jesus was on but I’m going to wait till we get to Rome for that stuff because I want a big piece. I almost bought a piece of a dead saints finger but it was too expensive. Tonight we went on a procession with candles there were at least 6000 people.
Today we went to both of Bernadette’s houses. They were really poor, one was an abandoned prison and the other was just one room. I got on a old train today and man was it smelly.
Rode all day on the train. Saw a whole lot of pretty scenery. When we got to Genova, Coma could not get a porter to help us off so we had to go to Pisa to get off. When we got to Florence, Mrs Manuelli could not keep us at the pensione so we went to a hotel until there is room for usat the Pensione. Coma is really mad because she had a reservation. I met Clarissa, Mrs Manuelli’s daughter and her husband, Grey. He is from England. She is 9 months PG and 4 months married. She has long blond hair with a black strip on top. Coma said it looks like a skunk is sitting on her head. I think it’s cool.
Got up today , went down to the market bought some stuff for the guys then I took a nap and we went out to dinner.
Today we took a walk down to the Piazzia Segnoria and Coma got her hair fixed. Then we came home and ate. Later we went to the Ponta Vechiccio. There were a million hippies there.
Today when Coma and I were on our way to mass, at the front door, there were a bunch (thousands) of Commies , marching down the street. They were yelling in Italian, “America go home, Down with NATO”. Italy is going communistic. So… Coma and I went back up and had to stay inside all day. So… Clarissa, Grey, Coma and I played Gin Rummey. Coma is pretty good! Mrs Manuelli told us not to go out on the streets because the thugs might steal us away. We have lots of food and wine so even if the commies take over, we will be ok.
Today the big scare is over. Coma went to the American Express and they told her there was nothing to worry about. I’m a little sad because Coma was talking about going back to Ireland and staying with Ursula instead of risking it here. There goes my chance to go surfing. Every thing seems normal so I guess they rounded up the Commies last night. After lunch we went shopping and Coma found the glasses she has been looking for and I bought some sandals and a hat,(the big black one). Then we went to the straw market and looked but didn’t buy stuff.
Today we took a train to Bologna and took a taxi to the Bigi’s. We met the family, then went to see Bigi’s new apartments that are 40 miles away. Bologna is a pretty town, the buildings are a different color than the other towns. Mrs. Bigi made a big family dinner and we talked so long, we were almost late for the train. I was a little homesick for Mom’s cooking after eating with the Bigi family. Mrs. Bigi looks just like I remember her. She reminds me of Non. Romeo was very nice and took me for a real fast drive in his new car. Coma stayed with the Bigis, good thing! Their house is beautiful. Alfa got married and is on her honeymoon. I
Today we rested and shopped. After lunch I watched the Apollo lift off. It’s a real thing here. All the Italians except Clarissa are talking about it. They think it’s neat! Except for Grey who says that America is going to blow up the world. Aunt Rose thinks Grey is a hippie even if he has clean hair.
Today, Coma and I went to Lucca, her Aunts were not there so we took a taxi to find them. When we did they were so happy to see us. They are Puccini’s last family and live at the Villa part of the year. They were fixing it up to move back in. Puccini’s villa was fab! There are 230 acres. It’s a real big house for two old ladies to live in. They want to make it into a museum but I don’t think they will be done before they die.
Today we really went shopping. First we went to mass then we went and bought beautiful leather book marks for gifts and Coma found the place where the Angels that she wanted are. At lunch there was this kid from New York who spent 10 minutes watching how I ate spaghetti before he started eating. First he couldn’t get any on his fork then he got too much. He finally got it. It was funny but I didn’t laugh. We had tea at the Pitti Palace and then we saw Grey off on his trip to England. Clarissa cried all night.
Today we hopped on a train to Pisa and visited Musset. I couldn’t climb the tower because I’m too small to go alone. So, Coma bought me a small leaning tower made out of metal and a bag full of Baci. The best thing was hearing a guy sing old fashioned music in the Baptistry, it sounded like a bunch of guy angels singing and when he stopped the sound didn’t. It was neat.
Today after we got up Coma and I went to mass in il Duomo. I climbed il Duomo to the very top. It had the greatest view of Florence I ever seen. Then we went to Mottas (Motta is a famous Italian chocolatier), and I wrote letters. Later that evening we went with Clarissa and her mother to a place called Fiesole, it is a viewpoint on the top of a mountain. After we had a drink we started to walk down the hill, “just a small way”, to see the city… we thought. First thing you know, we walked 5 miles down hill. Coma’s legs and mine were about to pop. Clarice and Coma were arguing until Coma finally flagged down a car and they gave us a ride back to town. Clarice said she wanted to have her baby faster, that’s why she wanted to walk down the mountain. Coma and Mrs Manuelli are really mad at her. It was pretty though.
I guessed it worked, because today, Clarice is in the hospital having her baby. Segnora was gone all day. We stayed at the house and rested because Coma’s legs hurt really bad from walking downhill so far. Mostly I sat in the kitchen and watched the astronauts walk on the moon. Later, Coma and I went out and found a nice little dinner place that was self service. Tomorrow we are going to Fochette.
We stayed home today because Coma’s legs are still sore from our “little midnight stroll”. I found a neat book at the book stall and Coma doesn’t mind me reading it. Lots of good stuff with devils and big lady angels fighting the devils. It rained all day so I read a lot.
Today, despite Coma’s bad leg we went on the long delayed trip to Fochetti. When we got there, we found Licha. She was so glad to see us. Then she went back to work and we went to the beach. It’s just as beautiful as ever! The old house has been rented and it’s all fixed up. I visited the market where I used to go buy milk for the family when we lived here. I went swimming on our old beach and Coma sat on the beach and read while we waited for Licha to finish work. When I was swimming I saw a wave going away from shore, when it crashed into the other waves, it was really groovy. Licha picked us up at the beach and we went out for tea. We really had ice cream and coffee but Auntie Rose calls it Tea. Then she drove us to the train station. Coma got a beautiful onyx pin.
Today we stayed at home and rested. Mrs Manuelli is staying with Clarissa at the hospital because she is so sick. While she is gone we are taking care of the Americans who just came last night. Coma is really bushed and doesn’t like being a chambermaid.
Today we walked all day. Coma loves the open market and she took me to the Ponte Vecchio to look for a gold ring that I can get engraved like Da’s. We didn’t find one but she bought a pretty silver rose pin.
This was the beginning of a “lost weekend”. Licha and Ro came to Florence and conned us into going to their house, then going with one of her relatives to his house, then to Venice. On the way to Licha’s house, the car kept breaking down. We were on the Autostrada and a truck that works for Fiat came to help but he didn’t fix it either. So, we went to Fochette at 20 miles an hour. When we got there I took a nap and then we went out to dinner with Licha and Ro. Then we went to a bar and Coma had Cafe Coniac and Zambucca with flies and that doesn’t mix well with wine and grappa. Coma said she was stoned.
Today we went to church. Then we met Licha’s family. They have a beautiful house. We met the ballet mistress of La Scalla, she remembers going to Puchinni’s funeral, she is quite a gal! Then we went to the beach and then came home to a wonderful dinner. Then we went back to Licha’s and got our belongings. Licha’s brother in law drove us to his house which is on the way to Venice. His car broke down too! But this time the Fiat truck was able to fix it. We didn’t get there until 2 in the morning. He must be a very rich man because his house is really fab.
Today when Coma and I woke up she felt weird being in a strange house and we beat it out of there as fast as we could. We were all alone. Then we saw Lake Guarda, it must be the biggest in the whole world! Later we took a taxi to the station and bought tickets for Venice. On the train there was this kid and his Papa was hugging him and giving him the soft soap. I don’t know why but something was happening. When we got to Venice we got a room and the rest of the day we spent at San Marco. I remembered the Bronze horses from before but I forgot how big Sam Marco Square is. There were sidewalk cafes as big as a football field. Tonight we were at the Square and watched the rise of the full moon, it was so beautiful I’ll never forget it.
Today we were shopping all over Venice. I bought a gondola and Coma bought stuff for Uncle Fred. Then we did a lot of sight seeing. On the boat to the train station Coma got in a fight with a man who took my seat. She called him an ignorant WOP and all his friends were laughing. Then he got up. The train was miserable hot, when we got home we were sure glad. As I write this Auntie is doing all my washing and chattering like a magpie. The last thing I saw was the full moon coming up over El Duomo.
Today was a day of rest. Coma got her hair done a new way, it’s real nice. I walked around Florence and visited with a nice family from California. They just got here and I told them where the good stuff was. They had a baby and two kids. When Auntie Rose got back she shampooed my hair and we watched a nice big rainstorm. The best thing today was that I got a letter from Da. It made me a little homesick but it also made me feel good.
Today we got up at 7:00 to catch the 8:20 to Roma. We got on 2nd class and it was all women and me. Then we moved to prima class and it was all men and Coma… and she was shook. Our hotel is nice, I like the old fashioned sinks and knobs. There is also a bidet that Coma said was really nice but I think toilet paper is better. Tonight after dinner and a long walk Coma and I went to see the Sound and Light Show at the ruins of old Rome. It was really fab.
Today, Coma and I spent the day at Saint Peter’s Basilica. We saw the 16th Chapel and Moses and the Pieta. There were hundreds of kids here for their first communion. Then we went to the Trevi Fountains. There was a statue there that Coma could not find a picture postcard of, we walked forever but never found the card. I’m bushed.
Today we went to the Spanish Steps and it was so hot that we had to go back to the Hotel. There were a billion hippies there. This hotel was really nice but compared to the pensione it was really old. We went to the piazza Mattei, where our ancestors used to live. Coma paid a photographer take pictures of every nook and cranny. When we got the pictures back at the hotel the bill was $50 and Coma raised cane and got them for $30.
Today we got up early and caught the train back to Florence. It was a real numero uno, prima classe, super duper train. It was pointy at the front and painted a real fast blue. It was air conditioned and we met some real nice people. It went straight to Florence without stopping one and it was the fastest I’ve ever been. When we got to town, we ate, then went to the pensione.
Today Coma went to Lucia, I was supposed to stay home and rest up for the big haul, she said I was really tired, but I wasn’t. So, after she left, I went to the Academia to visit with Michelangelo’s David. I’m going to miss him. Then I went to the river and watched the people. There are more hippies than when we first got here and they are mostly nice people even if they do smell.
Today, Coma and I went out with the suitcase and took it to get fixed. She cashed a check and then we went to the Ponte Vecchio. I looked for a ring. I fell in love with one but when I saw it was 33 semolions, I said “Ciao Bambino”. It turned out to be the very best one we could get so I bought it for $30 and drooled for the rest of the day.
Today I stayed home while Coma went out to get some French money and just by mistake she passed the suitcase place and since it was ready, she lugged it home. The rest of the day we read books and played cards.
Today Coma washed my hair and our clothing. Then we really packed well and got ready to go to Paris. I went for a long walk, fed the pigeons at the Duomo and hung out at the Uffizi. Then I went to the Palazzo Vecchio and climbed to the top. I had just enough to buy a gelato before going back to the pensione.
Auntie Rose went to Valentino’s to get a manicure and her hair fixed. I decided to take a walk so I went down to the station and played pinball. I walked all over and when I thought Coma would be back I went back to el Duomo. I’m looking at it right now out of my window. I got some round (playing) cards, they were a gift from Coma.
Today, Coma went to Valentino’s again but before that we went shopping. I got a wallet for me. Coma got a wallet for Phil and some match holders. (Florence was renowned for its leather goods. Match holders were, beautiful leather cases to hold a match book. There were also cigarette pack holders, toe nail clipper holders and a leather case for just about anything you could think of.). We walked all over. Tonight there was a fiesta down at San Lorenzo’s church. There were native dances and we watched a few. Auntie says, she is groomed to the teeth for Paris, manicured, pedicured, tinted and set. Oo La La. Those are her words not mine. Ice cream at Motta’s … said goodbye to Italy, Paris here we come!
Today, first thing, we went to church. Then we took a walk and had lunch. After lunch we went to say goodbye to David. Then we went back to the Pensione and finished packing. Then we left for the station. The people we met on the train were real nice. They were from Israel. We shared each other’s food and I tried to sleep but it was real cold in the mountains and I couldn’t sleep. The people from Israel got off first thing in the morning.
Today I woke up when some people were trying to get into our compartment. This man came in with some luggage and then his wife and child. He said, “these people give me a pain in the you know what”. He also told his wife, “she is a real wop”. Coma and I did not say a thing. When we did, it was just a word or two in Italian. When the train was almost in Paris, Coma said, “Now honey, for you, a nice big American breakfast”. That lady turned RED and we laughed all morning. We walked down the Champs-Elysees and saw the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe. My favorite was The tomb of Napoleon.
Today we got up early and had breakfast. Then we got on a tour bus and saw Noter Dame, Ark of Triumph, Champs Elyese also the Louve. Then we came home and rested. Tonight we got on a tour bus and saw Paris by night. It was very pretty and on this one street there were lots of theaters with bright signs with naked ladies on them. It must have been ok because the people going in looked normal. This afternoon Coma bought her special dress and some perfume. I got some for the girls. Coma got a letter from Non that said, Spend your money like mad. She spent $130 on the dress!
We went down “pig alley” on the tour. We also went down Montmartre Street. We also saw the sacred heart church. We saw the “old belly” of Paris. All that’s left are the restaurants. Coma finally got her green case, the desk clerk got it for her at Orly. We are now packing for the ship. Paris is treating us magnificent.
Today we finally went to the Eiffel Tower. Coma sat on a bench and said her Rosery while I left her to ride to the top of the tower. There were so many people on the 2nd level it took an hour to get my ticket but I went to the top of the tower! It was really cool! It was the best thing about Paris. Later we went to the Louve. I saw the Mona Lisa and a whole lot of other paintings. Then we got all of our packing done. America here we come!
8/14/69 SS France
I got up early today and we took the Boat Train to Le Harve. Coma met some very nice people on the train and we talked to them the whole ride to the boat. The France is the biggest ocean liner ever built. It is over 1000 feet long! Our cabin on Le France is real nice, it’s on the upper deck. We had a good supper then watched the ship set sail. It’s pouring rain here.
8/15/69 Atlantic Ocean
Below is a video of the SS France “The Last Elegant Ocean Liner”
Today I went down to the junior room. It’s full of pinball machines and a table soccer and a soda fountain and juke box. Coma’s friends had their table changed to ours. After lunch I went to the J.R. And swimming pool. The sea got rough and I got a little sea sick? Coma was all dressed up but she couldn’t eat either.
8/16/69 Atlantic Ocean
Today I got up well, but Coma was sick as a dog. I played pinball and goofed around. In the afternoon they had a real good movie, Alfred the Great. Tonight there was a Gala, so I went with Coma’s friends to dinner. After dinner I went to the J.R. And there were only four of us kids. Most of the grown ups are sick in bed. We ran down the halls bouncing off the walls every time the ship leaned over. We were so hysterical with laughter that we could hardly walk. Coma is in bed sick.
8/17/69 Atlantic Ocean
Today we just goofed off until the Captains Gala. Coma got all dressed up, I did too. We had a ball.
8/18/69 Atlantic Ocean
Today Coma felt better and we packed and I said goodby to all my buddies. Tonight at dinner Coma said we had the best of all the people in the ship at our table. The captain came over and told the ladies they were beautiful.
Today is the last day of my trip. As we left the boat I saw the Leonardo de Vinci dock right next to us. Then we went to Newark and took a jet home.
We met Da at Coma’s