A DREAM COME TRUE by Neyda Bettencourt
My daughter wanted me to go to France with her and I said I would if she would go to Italy with me, so we set off for three weeks of which only dreams are made of.
I had read about the new Channel Tunnel train that had just been newly built connecting England and France so my husband suggested we fly to England and take the train over to France. I don’t know what I expected but we got on the train, it turned dark outside and that was it. I suppose I thought we could see the water world of the sea out of our train windows. How naive can you get?
We took a short tour in England and it was so hot that it nearly put us to sleep on the top of the tour bus. Where was all of the cool, damp days that England is known for?
We had a friend who met us in France when we got off of the train and we never would have made our daily expectations without her. She would give us our directions each morning before she left for her classes, which subway stations to go to and where they went. She went with us in the evenings and we spent about 8 to 10 hours a day each seeing Paris…The Louvre, The Eiffel Tower (both day and night), The Musee d’Orsay, the Opera House, Montmartre, and a side trip to Palace of Versailles where King XVI lived, catching Fontainebleau on our way south.
We stayed with our friends who lived north of Paris, for two days, then rented a car to travel to the south of France. We had friends near Aix en Provence so that was our aim. Oh my, the beautiful scenery, medieval castles, wine in little out of the way villages and one experience that we just as soon forget. Incidentally, wine was cheaper than water.
Our friends took us over to meet other friends in Aix en Provence who had agreed to our spending the night and they would take us to meet the train in the morning to go to Rome. We had never met them and yet they treated us like old friends, fixing a wonderful lunch of Scampi eaten out by the pool with different wines for each course. Bernadette could speak English and though her husband could not, we conversed all afternoon as he helped prepare dinner. We ate a dinner I will never forget, also with different wines for each course. Bernadette took us up to the famous mountain that Paul Cezainne loved and painted. They insisted we sleep in their bed and woke us up at 3:00 AM to be able to catch the train in Aix. The whole family piled into the car off we went nearly missing the train as we were late arriving due to the fact that it was middle of the night and foreign territory. Arriving late had us trying to find the railroad car that we were supposed to be on, waking people up and stumbling over sleeping forms, but we finally got on the right car. What an experience!
The train took us to Rome going by way of Nice and we watched the sun rise over the Mediterranean Sea. What a thrill. We spent a whole day touring Rome, seeing the Coliseum, the famous fountains and the Spanish Steps. Of course, we went window shopping too, making a few purchases.
We took a tour from there to Florence, Sienna, Venice (my life’s dream) and to Padua. Our week in Italy was priceless. Sitting in the back seat of a taxi in Rome and hanging on for dear life as we watched 6 lanes of traffic, all in a hurry to go somewhere and I am sure they were all late. None of the lanes were in straight lines, they just drove haphazardly and hoped everyone would stay out of their way. On to Florence and Ponte Vecchio, The Pitti Palace and Michelangelo’s David and the Bridge of Sighs. Our stay in Venice was the highlight of our trip and I had to shed a few tears as we took the water ferry into Venice. I never would have imagined (in a million years) that I would actually be able to see Venice, though it was very high on my bucket list. We nearly had a heart attack as we watched our luggage tipping to and fro as it was being loaded onto a raft of some kind. We were sure everything was going into the canal. Our water taxi took us to our hotel which was right on the water. It was late in the year so we were pleased to discover there wasn’t any smell from the canal. We walked miles over lots of little bridges and had coffee in San Marco Square where all of the little pigeons “poop”. We road in a gondola on the canal and when our gondolier sang to us we all joined in. We met some great people on that tour who we have stayed friends with for over twenty years. The one big surprise when our tour was over was that we were in Padua and our plane was leaving from Rome to home the next day. Whoops, how did we not see this? Again we were frantic but our tour manager had a friend who was a pilot of a small airlines and obtained us tickets to fly to Rome. Saved!
My daughter wrote about our travel in a memoir “A Roundabout Passage to Venice” using my notes and her memories.