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Gail and Trudy's Excellent Italian Spring Vacation

"The road less traveled is sometimes less traveled for a reason"-
Jerry Seinfeld

Gail Means is TE's Public Relations manager. We'd give her a city column if she'd let us call it Mean's Streets. Most people are too busy to do this or that, let alone have time to enjoy life, but Gail, although busier than any three people we know, has found out how to enjoy even the things most of us find dull and mundane. And that's just on her way to work. Her travels have taken her from Morocco to Mexico to Memphis and Mamou (but only Memphis, Tennessee, not Memphis, Texas). Even our own globetrotting Geography Editor, Tim Buktu has been overheard saying: "Gee, she travels a lot."

Since Gail is too busy enjoying life to write about it, the following account of her and Trudy's vacation is left to the editor who has wrung what follows from her spaghetti-sauce stained postcards.

Editor's remarks are appropriately italicized.

Her first day was spent in Milan where she and Trudy went to the Duomo (not the minor Duomo, but the Major Duomo) and saw 4,500 statues. We happen to know this old trick. There are, really about six statues and they are moved around quickly ahead of the tourists. They then had their first cappucini (an Italian actress from the 60s) and were off to Lake Como (I think there should be a question mark after Como like there is in Spanish).

They were told that Switzerland was just a short walk from the hotel. Night was falling, but they looked across the lake and thought they could see a few Switzers in the mist. Who can forget Sigourney Weaver's performance in that memorable film? The 30 minute walk the next morning turned out to be only slightly less strenuous than Hannibal's stroll, but that was only because they had no elephants. The Alps were played by themselves.

After demanding to have their passports stamped, thereby stirring up the customs guards who really didn't want to be bothered, they returned by bus to Como? and rented a car for the short 40km (2 US miles) drive to Bellagio.

This interesting town takes its name from two Italian words. Bella, meaning "beautiful" and gio, meaning a magazine with a yellow border that contains lavish photographs.

Gail had been told by an Austin friend that this route was similar to Austin's 2222. It turned out that the only resemblance was the color of the road. Gail said that the road was "skinny", but although I wasn't there, I'd say it was narrow. It would be nerve-wracking if it had been a single lane one-way road, but it was a two-way street and to prove to the world that they have a sense of humor, the Italians omitted striping. Gail says her fingerprints are still visible in the steering wheel and her knuckles are just now regaining a little color. She said the trip could also be made by boat, which is, no doubt, the way Jerry Seinfeld would go. Gail's observation that the cars had a lot of chrome on the sides was partially true. After repeated encounters of the closest kind, the sides of the cars do in fact, shine like chrome.

After witnessing "the most beautiful mountain/lake combination of my life" (also known as Lake Combo), Gail, along with Trudy (who we aren't sure shares Gail's assessment) got back into the car and easily slid into the whitewater river of chocolate and caffeine driven drivers to continue on to Venice. Gail answered one of the questions we've always been afraid to ask, namely, where does one park one's car in Venice? It turns out that one parks one's car and then one takes a ferry.

On the upper balcony of the ferry they saw a Venetian who wore a regal looking cape and looked like the fourth tenor. Gail said, "He was either in an opera company, or in the Mafia." Why not both? He may have been paid by the chamber of commerce to come out on rainy nights to provide color, but if he was, it was all for naught, since they failed to get his photo.

After debarking, they found their hotel and went to bed knowing that tomorrow they would see St. Mark's Cathedral and the pigeons that looked just like the ones back at Barton Springs in Austin. This wouldn't seem like anything to get excited about for you or me, but both Gail and Trudy speak pidgin Italian.

After St. Marks and Venice, they went to Florence where they met Gail's English friend, Robin. Maybe I misread and the friend was Florence. Anyway she, (Robin or Florence) had just returned from the police station since she had just been robbed after paying her cab fare. Is that anyway to treat a visitor?

That night, Gail said, they had "one of those family dinners in a trattoria that you hear about." Well, I don't know about you, but I haven't a clue what a trattoria is. It sounds like a restraining device. At first I thought it was a highchair, but that's a brattoria.

The next day they went to the Uffize Gallery and from what I could make out, they witnessed the birth of Venus. I guess the delivery went well because she mentioned the Medici family, which any idiot knows means "plural doctors."

Gail says there was a woman sitting there who looked like she had been cut from one of the paintings. They might make fun of Amon Carter and his Remingtons, but at least they don't allow that sort of foolishness in Fort Worth. Gail's description described wide, crazy eyes, a high forehead and skinny eyebrows. I would have said, "narrow". They then went to see someone named David who doesn't sound at all Italian to me. Gail was impressed and said that Mike Angelo must've loved men (Duh!).

It started raining and they had a "gelatto on the move" which I assume was some sort of live seafood. Gail picked up a cobblestone from a road undergoing repairs. She has all the indicators of becoming a champion brick collector. (See Brick Collecting : Are You at Risk?)

Between Venice and Florence, when they were still driving, they didn't have time to see Juliet's balcony, but they sure as hell found time to stop at a Verona truckstop. I didn't want to be the one to tell Gail that Juliet was a fictitious character. Romeo too. Now an Italian truckstop intrigues us. It would have to be a lot like a west Texas truckstop, except with more pasta dishes and fewer guns. Bigger wallets too, for all that Lira. (One dollar = 23 trillion Lira) I wonder if there's a grant available somewhere for a comparison?

Gail says the truckstop china there had a beautiful line drawing of Verona on it and they asked if it was for sale. Sadly, no, it couldn't be sold, said the waitress. As they were about to leave, the waitress gave them two chipped plates that she had rounded up in the kitchen. It made their day and it made our day hearing about it.

Gail celebrated her birthday the next day and found dormouse and cockles on the menu of a restaurant. "What the heck", said Gail, "you only live once." She then ordered fish. Hey, we know what fish tastes like! What a rip-off! The dormouse in Alice in Wonderland sure looked edible. Now we'll never know.

Gail's last view of Italy, as her big silver bird soared its way homeward, was the rental car parking lot at the airport; the one with all the freshly dented cars with the chrome stripes.

May 28, 2000

Reader's Comments

Wednesday, May 31, 2000
Subject : Did the men really pinch?
There are a lot of tour groups here that have fun local celebs "host" a tour to highly cultural exotic locales like Branson, Mo. I think you guys could book an entire jumbo jet offering a special, "Let's Do Italy, Y'all" tours with Gail as the guide. - Sandi

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