Mom’s Tour de France 17 (FGK 108)

I remember as a teenager finding an old sweater of my dad’s sitting on a shelf. I’d never seen him wear it, I thought it looked kind of cool, so I stole it. Turns out it was a sweater he’d bought at a market in Rome while they were there on their honeymoon. I loved that sweater, and once I wore it completely out it became my barn/riding sweater. One time I was at a horse show and there was another girl there wearing the exact same sweater. Dad had to go over and talk to her dad to see where she’d found it and apparently that girls parents also had honeymooned in Rome around the same time, and the dad had also bought the sweater at a market. That girl also had found the sweater while snooping and had made it her own. So, all of mom’s coins in Trevi Fountain were worth it – she went back to Italy several more times.

Part two of mom’s letter

During our tour the day before we had a world famous ice cream parlour pointed out to us. It is a place frequented by all the movie stars as well as those of us of more humble status. After dinner a large group of us, including Prof. Knolls and his wife who are as full of mischief as any of the students, took off through the little back streets for the goodies. The store is in the square of the fountains of the Four Rivers. These are lit up at night, making them even more beautiful than in the daytime. I think the poor people in the shop were a little overwhelmed by having a group of 20 singing Americans descend en masse, demanding the specialite de maison, but they are probably quite used to it because we all were served within a few minutes. Some of the kids had birthdays so we sang to them – with all the Italians joining in. I had so much to eat I could barely waddle home.

Thursday was a free day with no tours. Pat, Carol, Susie and I spent the morning finding the Yugoslavian embassy to get our visas. When we finally got these we almost drove the little man mad because he only spoke Italian and Yugoslavian. There happened to be a lady standing by who spoke French so she translated for us but I have never seen anyone so relieved as he was when we finally left. Pat and I stopped at the Fountain of Trevi on the way home and i threw in my three coins just in case I couldn’t make it back the next day. We also had a water fight there – much to the consternation of the policeman on the corner.

I spent the afternoon window shopping – I wish you could see the beautiful things they have in Italy. It just killed me not to buy anything. Fabulous sweaters only cost about $10.00 and the purses, gloves and shoes – oo la la!

While I was wandering around I came upon a splendid fountain in front of the terminal. It really was a fountain to end all fountains. I spent about 15 minutes watching the sun on the water. That is the fun of Rome. You never know when you are going to stumble on a magnificent fountain. I also explored St. John the Lateran. The church were all the funerals for the Popes are held and where they used to live. From hereI walked down to the colosseum where I hoped to catch a bus home. Italy is the only country where I would have enough nerve to ride a bus alone. The people are so warm and friendly I always have more than enough help getting on and off – when I get home remind me to tell you about some of my experiences on buses, I’ve gone some dillys. I asked the conductor if the is was the bus for Ponte Sisto? He said “si” but made all sorts of gestures which I couldn’t understand. Since the bus definitely went to my stop I decided to get on anyway. An hour later I discovered what the gestures meant. Before ending up at Ponte Sisto the bus makes a route all over the city! Well that’s one way to see Rome.

Friday morning we left bright and early for Tivoli. First we visited Hadrian’s villa. This is the size of a small city and it is just incredible to see the luxury which existed at this time. By this time we were experts at climbing over ruins. Two of the boys disappeared underground in the sewer system only to pop up in front of us while we were studying the mosaics in the sun room. The guide was a little perturbed but the boys had a wonderful time. This trip also gave us an opportunity to see some Italian countryside. As our buses climbed up the mountain to the fountains of Tivoli we had vistas which stretched out as far as Rome. The fountains themselves were glorious. There is an enormous garden which is full of every type of flower imaginable. In places there are long walks stretching out lined with fountains on either side of them with one enormous one at the end. You have probably read about the organ fountain which is also there.

Our bus took us a little farther along the road to a viewpoint where we could see two enormous waterfalls tumbling down the mountain side into a valley with vineyards on the hills and pastures in the bottom. There was a tiny little church perched on the top of the hill with a narrow little path leading up to it. We ate our lunch while perched on the wall overlooking all this. The tour continued in the afternoon to some more ancient temples and villas but I returned on an early bus with some others who were feeling the effects of the Roman hikes, to have a two hour sleep. I woke up just in time to dash out with Gail and Pat to throw another coin in the fountain and eat a doughnut in front of it before dinner. We were planning a birthday party for one of the boys so had to get back early. That was my 4th coin in the fountain – for an extra strong wish to return to Rome again. After dinner we just had time to pack and take a bus to the station. You never saw a tireder more loaded down group in your life. No one wanted to come back to Tours. Most of us spent the two nights and a day on the train trying to recuperate – without much success. Some of the kids had their guitars along so there was more singing than sleeping.

We reached Tours at 2:30am this morning (Sunday). We didn’t get to bed until 4:30 though. I was really glad to see it!! Suzanne invited Gail and I to her place for lunch. It was just wonderful. We are starting to feel that we can be at home in her home. In France, this is really something. As usual they sent us away from their place just loaded down with food. She is just a darling girl.

All my Xmas cards will be late because I ordered some and they still haven’t arrived. This really makes me sad. Please tell everyone to hold on, they’ll come one of these days. Don’t expect to hear too much from me between now and the 15th as we are having our exams. I really don’t know how I”m going to do – they could be bad news. But I think the education I’ve received outside of the classroom will make up for some bad grades (I hope). The competition here is rough as most of the kids are outstanding Stanford students. The more I talk about it the more scared I get. Guess I’d better get to work.

Wish me luck with my finals. I need it!!




Mom’s Tour de France 16 (FGK 107)

I have to say, after my years spent in the South I finally understand how useful the phrase “y’all” is (as well as the plural versions including both y’all and all y’all). I never got it before, but y’all is at least as handy a phrase as our Canadian “eh”, maybe even more so.

These letters really impress me – people are so kind. There are so many random strangers who just appear and make mom’s trip more enjoyable. Not just how they help her physically get around, but how they invite her (and her friends) places and try to ensure they have the best possible opportunities to see all the sights and take in the essence of Rome.

Part one of this letter:

December 5th, 1960

Hello Y’all (Mustn’t forget my stay in the South)

I returned this morning at 3am to find a nice little pile of letters waiting for me in my box.

Rome is past- and it all seems like it was a dream which was too good to be true. We have ours this and next week <I assume exams??> so everyone in the group has a pressed and worried feeling. I can’t remember when I last wrote you from Rome so I may miss a few experiences in my letters – but that will give me more to tell you when I get home.

We were taken on our most fascinating tour Wednesday morning when we were taken through the Roman forum by a man from the American Academy who is writing a book on the subject. He had the gift of making the past come alive for us as we walked among the ruins, ancient temples, and palaces. It was a bright summy day and all the Marble columns stood out against the deep green grass – a day which makes me decide I should have learned Italian instead of French! He told us the history of the spot -factual and traditional, and how it evolved from a swamp separating the tribes to a meeting place to arrange peace. They are still discovering new facts about it. Johnny, Russ, Robby, and Larry all made sure I got to the very heights of the Palatine hill. I’ve told them if they ever come to Canada I’ll have them out for a big steak. They really got me into some of the most impossible places during our stay there. I snapped all sorts of slides there so you will have an opportunity to see some of the things we saw there. I am going to send them home to be developed as I’ve been told they make a better job of the colour processing in America. I’ll give you the number of my film so you can send me a bunch which will be paid for the processing in advance – then I can send them directly to the company.

By the time we had spent four hours climbing all over the forum, we were starving so we sought out a bus to take us home as quickly as possible. We had barely gotten on it when the conductor started making all sorts of gestures while explaining something in great length in Italian. He spoke neither French or English so we were at a loss. Finally another man got on the bus who spoke French and translated for us. The conductor wanted to know if he could take us on a tour of Rome in his car in the afternoon. We were overwhelmed because we had never even seen the man before but also sensed that he really wanted to do this very much so we said this would please us. That afternoon he called around a the villa in his little car and jammed Pat, Russ, Gail and I in it. None of us spoke Italian but Russ had a phrase book with which we tried to make some sense. He took us to see one of the more famous churches – there we met a couple who spoke French so we were able to communicate somewhat with our friend. From there we went to one of the hills where we could see the entire city with the mountains in the background. As it was at sunset, the whole scene had a rosy tinge which reflected off the sky and mountains. He took us to St. Peter’s which Russ had never seen (the rest of couldn’t explain that we’d already been there – besides there is always something new to see.) By this time it was getting dark so we went back to the villa. Russ tried to buy him a drink to express our thanks, but while he willingly accepted the vermouth, he wouldn’t let us pay for it. He wanted to take us out again the next day also, but since this was already planned we regretfully declined. He just wanted to do something kind and help us as much as he could.


Mom’s Tour de France 15 (FGK 106)

I am constantly amazed by mom’s strength. Not just the emotional strength that it took her to move on from the trauma of polio and the years in the hospital, but her physical strength. Even though I remember as a kid mom walking everywhere – through the mall, the grocery store, and anywhere else she needed to go – it still blows my mind that mom did most of this trip on her crutches.

Margi’s second letter from Rome part 2

After leaving the shop we went up past the Fountain of Trevi again to see the camera shop where I had left my first film to be developed, 35 of the pictures turned out – I’m going to send you some of the most interesting ones. I just love the camera, you have no idea how dark it was when I took some of these pictures and yet they all turned out!!

We each bought one of the great big doughnuts they sell here and sat down by the fountain to look at the pictures. Trevi is use splendid at night too, because it is all lit up. From here we wandered up some little side streets to look t the many and varied little shops and outdoor stands. They have everything from freshly killed wild boars to every type of spaghetti imaginable. We really confused one little man because we anted to get some Italian wine bottles as souvenirs but he just couldn’t comprehend that we wanted them empty!! Finally by all sorts of gestures, we got our ideas across, leaving the poor man convinced that we were completely crazy.

We later found ourselves in the more expensive part of town where we had all sorts of fun window shopping. We went into a textile store with the firm intention of just looking and ended up being unable to resist the wonderful bargain. They were just closing, but they kept the store open for us and we had all the clerks climbing around the shelves for us. We really were made to feel important. They spoke to us in a weird mixture of English, French, and Italian, just to add to the confusion.

By this time it was 8:30 and we were hungry. We found a restaurant that looked excellent and was recommended in our guidebook. Since we were all broke, we decided to keep everything below 1000 lire (about $1.50) only to get inside and discover this wasn’t the type of restaurant where this could be done. We told the head waiter our problem but he assured us he would do his part to get us some of their good dishes for this price. We ordered one serving of ravioli and told him we would spit that up among the three of us. This was wheeled over to us on a little table. The Maître d’ and 2 waiters bustled around serving us each a great big plate of it, I’m sure it was more than one serving. There we sat in our skirts and sweaters with our two courses surrounded by grand dames in their minks and disdainful stares. The waiters loved us, however, and we got twice as much service as anyone else in the place. When we walked out they were all lined up to say goodnight.

We got lost coming home and at one point ended up at the Parthenon. This is rather spooky at night but I could pretend I was an ancient Roman.

Sunday morning we roamed around our district and went to mass in a little tiny church squeezed in between the buildings. The French Embassy took us on a tour of some of the buildings around their place. A group of us decided to visit the Catacombs in the afternoon. We hopped a bus out of the colosseum where we stopped for a while to watch them making a movie. It was about 19th century so the costumes were very colourful.

From here we bounced along the Appian Way to the catacombs of St. Sebastian. Dr. Knolls was with us and happened to be going to to see the Moses by Michel Angelo so Pat, Gail, and I went with him. This is in the church that has the chains which bound St. Peter. There are 50 million steps leading up to it but the statue was well worth it. On the way back we passed the colosseum and forum all lit up. They are even more beautiful at night. This morning we were taken on a tour of the Vatican museum. The buildings would take years to go through, I’m sure. We saw everything from Ancient Greek works to Renaissance and Baroque.

I had no idea it was so large. Fortunately we had the wheelchair along and I was given many a hair raising ride down the corridors of the Vatican by the boys in our group. My neck is still a little stiff from the Sistine Chapel. I don’t know how Michel Angelo ever did it.

I’ve spent most of the afternoon writing this letter and I’m getting writers cramp. You’ll have to wait until I get home for me to tell the rest of my adventures.

Hope I have some mail when we get back, none for two weeks now

Love to all,



Mom’s Tour de France 14 (FGK 105)

Margi’s Second Letter from Rome (part one)

Hello Everyone:

There is so much in Rome – I don’t know where to begin! We went to bed early Friday night to get a good start on Saturday. The director, M Beaucoussin, is such a dear thoughtful man. He rented a wheelchair in Tours, brought it all the way here and wheeled me down to the Vatican in it – because the only way to see Rome is on foot. It was another bright beautiful day and our route took us right along the Tiber. We crossed St. Peter’s square and entered one of the other buildings where the Pope was holding his audience. The doors are all guarded by the Swiss Guards and other ones in what seem to be medieval costumes. The inside is extremely ornate and rich. The room where he had his audience looked just like what you would expect one of the kings courts would look like with all the rich marbles, tapestries, and paintings and brilliant colour of the cardinals, bishops, guards, etc. We stood where we could see all the people entering into the room. With every important person the Swiss Guards snapped to attention and looked very smart. Between times they seemed very relaxed and I saw one got the giggles. The pope came last, surrounded by all sorts of attendants and in robes that just sparkled in the light. It really was an impressive sight but for me it was overshadowed by the magnificence and splendour of St. Peter’s which we entered afterwards. I really can’t describe it. I hope you can get a book and read up on it. We spent almost three hours there and there is just tons we haven’t seen yet. They have works of Michael Angelo and several other important artists. Each has contributed a masterpiece which, when they are all combined, just overwhelm one. Dr. Knolls, our history professor who is just like a father to the whole group, filled us in about much of the church’s past, making it even more interesting. We took an elevator up to the top where we got a wonderful view of St. Peter’s square. Ray and Gail went right up to the top of the dome while I wandered around the roof. We also visited the treasure. This is just a fantastic collection of all the gifts and offerings which have been made to the Church by various countries and monarchs etc. It was difficult to believe that there could be such enormous emeralds, amethysts, diamonds, all together in one place. It was a scene straight out of Arabian Knights. We spent so long at St. Peter’s we barely had time to rush back to one of the enormous Italian lunches they serve us here. I have never had so much pizza, spaghetti, ravioli, etc. It all tastes twice as good too – probably because we are eating it in Rome. All the Italians have a siesta in the afternoon and the town starts to come alive again between four and five. This is a delightful custom we have picked up too, so that’s how we spent Saturday afternoon until four. Gail, Pat, and I decided it was time we did some Christmas shopping so we wandered forth into the streets again. Shopping is a real art here because in Italy any tourist is fair game and each shop has a different price. In many places only by bargaining furiously with the shopkeeper one can get even a reasonable price. Pat was looking for some silk so we bartered in various textile shops along the way. It was nearing the hour with all Italians come out to walk or go home from work and the streets were thronged with all sorts of fascinating people. Rome, like Paris, is an international city and all types of people are found there. We spent about one hour in one little store where I spent $20.00 getting gifts – needless to say I walked out feeling rather ill. If anyone has some special thing they want me to get while I’m in Europe, I’ll be glad to so so if they’ll send me the money. They’ll me what they want, otherwise this souvenir buying can really rack up, especially when we have living expenses too.