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Planning the Trip to Italy and Spain
by Don and Peg Doman
Our trip to Italy and Spain began with a trip to Portland. A small group of mostly Rotarians and spouses from Tacoma traveled to Portland for two night. Early Friday afternoon we took Amtrak south, stayed at the Fifth Avenue Suites, and watched live entertainment (improvisation and legitimate theatre. By Sunday we were checked out of the hotel and waiting for the return train at Powell’s Book Store.
As we sat in the coffee shop at Powell’s we talked about vacations and where we would love to visit. Tuscany was everyone’s favorite choice. Someone mentioned they had heard that if you rented a villa, it wasn’t very expensive. I return home and searched the internet. It was true. Many of the villas I found, when divided by several couples the prices became relatively inexpensive. One of the figures that I came up with showed that if I had paid for three nights at the hotel in Portland, it would have cost me more than my share of a villa for a week. I shared the information. In those terms, we got serious. We knew that a vacation to Tuscany was possible.
Our initial group was six couples. Four couples involved Rotary. One were neighbors of a Rotarian couple, and the other were friends with a Rotary couple.
Our planning lasted a year and a half. We lost one couple, who are eager to join us the next time we travel . . . and we will. One of our great joys of the vacation to Italy and Spain was the friendship. For nearly eighteen months we all gathered information, bought and barrowed books on Italy and Spain, poured over internet print-outs of villas and hotels, made assignments, booked reservations, and ate Italian food together about every two months. One couple would host the get-together and we would make decisions over laughter, wine and dinner. Then a month or so later, another couple would host a dinner.
By involving everyone in the planning and decision making, everyone was an active participant in the adventure. We enjoyed ourselves for a year and a half before the trip even began, for five couples it lasted another two and a half weeks in Italy and for three of the couples it lasted an additional week and a half in Spain. What’s even better is that we have memories, experiences and friendships that will last a lifetime.
There were a few strange things that happened in Spain. For some reason I stopped drinking wine and switched to beer. It wasn't until I arrived back in the states that I realized I never drank one glass of Sangria. None of us did. That's outrageous. Also, while I prefered the Italian food over the Spanish tapas fare, two of my favorite three dishes were found in Spain. At a restaurant on the main Ramblas I had a mellon gazpacho with sauteed scallops that was absolutely wonderful. My other favorite Spanish dish was a smoked salmon salad in Barcelona that I could eat everyday. The strangest food I had in Spain were froed sardines. They might not really have been sardines, but they were thin and about as long as my little finger. They were cooked whole and that's how you ate them. With a little lemon juice they were quite tasty. My favorite Italian dish was the zuppa of fresh tomatoes and bread crumbs. Of course my list goes on and on of Italian dishes that I loved.
Everyone's favorite place (outside of our villa) was Venice. Eveyone had their individual favorite places, but as soon as someone mentioned Venice everyone shook their head affirmatively. Our worst time in Italy and Spain was rental car problems. My favorite place in Spain was Sagunto. Almost everyone agrees with that, although Barcelona was probably everyone's favorite as a place to live in Spain.
The one original couple who didn't make the trip were invited to the settlement party, where we all presented our bills and paid each other off. It was still a party, however. There were BBW steaks and beer and wine and the unveiling of Rob's Folly, as he calls the piece of glass art he bought in Murano to celebrate his and Vickie's 30th Anniversary.
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