I don’t know why, but lately I’ve spent a good bit of down time remembering the vacations I’ve taken in my life. I have been lucky in this regard. My mother and father believed in travel and vacations, and we went away for a few weeks every Summer when I was a kid. As an adult, I’ve done a good bit of traveling, most of it with Beni and the kids. The memories from these times away make me happy. I want to record just a few of these memories.
In 1963, my mother, brother, Great Aunt Alice, Great Uncle Charlie, and I went to Dallas to visit Aunt Alice’s sister, also my Great Aunt, Sister Saint Anthony. From Dallas, we went to Boulder Colorado, to spend two weeks with mt mother’s sister, my godmother and aunt, Marie, and her husband, John.
The best memory I have of that trip (and it’s filled with many memories of fun and awe) is of the time when we first got to Boulder when Marie and John still had to work and the rest of us stayed at their home during the day. Each day, we would set up the card table on the lawn and play pinochle all day out under the Rockies. The weather was perfect, the company was fun, and all of us laughed and played ruthlessly. Aunt Alice and Uncle Charlie were great pinochle players, and I learned a lot from them during those beautiful Colorado days.
In 1976, I spent the month of August with friends, including Beni, traveling all over California. In Southern California, we stayed with the family of one of our friends. In Northern California, we camped out or stayed with a friend’s brother and his family in Santa Rosa. It was my first visit to California. I remember so many good things from that month. We visited Tijuana and were careful to get our liquids from fresh fruit sold by vendors in the streets. We visited the beautiful mountain town of Solvang, originally a Danish settlement, where we saw fields full of tulips and shared a huge tray of pastries in one of the many pastry shops. We drove and walked through San Francisco, eating a great meal at a small Chinese–frequented restaurant in Chinatown.
We saw Yosemite, and camped out in Tuolumne Meadows, a wonderful beautiful place. The night we spent at Tuolumne Meadows, everyone planned to sleep in the back of our van because it was expected to drop below freezing. Beni wouldn’t hear of it. She talked me in to joining her sleeping under the stars, wrapped up in cotton sheets inside our sleeping bags. I slept like a log, as did Beni. Our other three friends hardly slept a wink in the back of the van. Although they were in sleeping bags, they hadn’t counted on the metal of the van’s frame absorbing and magnifying the cold. While Beni and I went to have a delicious eggs–and–pancake breakfast at the small café that then was at Tuolumne Meadows, the others groused and cursed one another and were miserable together.
I had my first experience of Disneyland on this trip. I had wanted to visit Disneyland since it was built in the mid-1950's, and I had watched its development on TV’s the Wonderful World of Disney. One of the best days of my life was that day at the Magic Kingdom. Beni and I closed the park down, dancing to Cab Calloway and his orchestra who were playing there that night.
In 1992, Beni and I drove with our four daughters across country. We spent some time at a friend’s condo in Vail, Colorado, and then headed up through Yellowstone to a more Northern route into California. We took the kids from the Oregon border down the coast to San Pedro, where we stayed with John and Hilda Resich, godparents to our daughter, Becky.
Most memorable to me on that trip was something I did to try to stop the kids’ bitching about all the driving we had to do. In a used book shop, I came across a copy of Agatha Christie’s mystery, Ten Little Indians, meaning to read it myself. It occurred to me, once we were again on the road and subjected to constant complaints, that the kids might get interested in the book. I read the entire novel aloud to them as we traveled through California. At night, I would especially enjoy reading to them as we drove through the dark. The novel has a ditty that runs through it as a theme and as an outline of the deaths Ms. Christie invents for her characters, The kids quickly memorized the ditty, and whenever it would some up in the novel, they all would recite it together, waiting for the next death to occur. All our kids are great readers, and I flatter myself that this experience contributed to their love of books
In 2004, on a whim, Beni and I flew to Denver and spent a week in a rented car exploring New Mexico, a place Beni had always wanted to see, but which held little interest for me. We spent the week in Taos, Santa Fe, and Albuquerque. I fell in love with the place. In a perfect world, I’d be living there now.
We visited the Pueblo in Taos, and saw a pueblo structure built around 1100 CE. I had no idea there was such a sophisticated society in North America at that time. Our guide, a young Pueblo woman, told us about the history of the Pueblo, including the natives’ version of what my beloved Franciscans had done there in the 1700's. Her lecture changed my understanding of what the friars did in the Southwest. I loved Santa Fe, where Franciscan emblems from my boyhood can be seen everywhere. One night in Santa Fe, starving and knowing nothing of the local restaurants, we happened into a place called the High Noon Saloon, where we had one of the most elegant dinners we have had in our lives. We were there by coincidence when Albuquerque had its annual hot air balloon festival. We were treated to the sight of balloons high above us all over the city. It was breathtaking.
In 2005, having come into some money from a real estate deal, all six of us, plus Annie’s boyfriend, went on a Mediterranean cruise, starting and ending in Barcelona. What a time that was! The kids were out of their teens by this time, and we traveled as adults. The sights of Avignon, Marseilles, Nice, Rome, and Naples were amazing things to share with the kids. We saw the newly–elected Pope Benedict XVI at his out–door Wednesday audience. We saw the ruins of Pompeii and had pizza in Naples. We had a long, leisurely, very French lunch at an outdoor café in Avignon, surrounded by old and new buildings and the charm of Provence. My favorite day on the ship was the last day spent entirely on board ship as we sailed back to Barcelona from Naples. Sarah, Annie, Annie’s boyfriend, and I spent the afternoon playing a cut–throat card game, Spite and Malice, on the balcony of Beni’s and my room. The weather was perfect, the games were hard–fought, and we saw a baby whale and its mother swim right below our balcony in the beautiful Mediterranean water. The best time of all was the first day after our arrival in Barcelona after flying to Spain. We had real sangria on the Ramblas, we had tapas for dinner at a restaurant right on the Mediterranean, and we walked through this city of Gaudi. When Beni and I went to bed at a reasonable hour, the kids went to a club near our hotel about which they have vowed to tell us nothing.
These are some of the best memories I have. I have enjoyed every keystroke spent putting them down here. What times they were!