Northern Italy and the French Riviera Summer Vacation

Published: June 26th 2011
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Summer Vacation to Northern Italy and Southern France in 1979

In July 1979 Uncle Wayne and Aunt Minnie came to visit us. Uncle Wayne’s sister Neva was with them. We picked them up at Frankfurt. Unfortunately, the airline had lost Uncle Wayne’s luggage so we stopped at the PX at Rhein Main Air Base to pick up a few items of clothing. During their stay with us we visited Triffels Castle where Richard the Lion Hearted was held for ransom on his way back from the Crusades. Then they joined us for the first part of our summer vacation.

21 July 1979 Saturday. We drove from Glan Munchweiler to Ulm where we climbed the steeple to get a magnificent view of the town and surrounding countryside. From there we continued south to Neuschwanstein Castle for the castle tour. We finished the day at Garmisch where we stayed at another Armed Forces Recreation Center hotel that was confiscated from the Nazis at the end of WWII.

22 July 1979 Sunday. We took the cable car to the top of the Zugspitze, the highest mountain in Germany, the peak of which is also shared by Austria. We walked around Garmisch, a quaint alpine town that hosted the Olympics.

23 July 1979 Monday. We parted ways in Innsbruck, with Linda and Bob continuing over the Brenner Pass to Lake Garda, driving along the lake from Riva to Sirmione. I think Sirmione is my favorite town in Europe. It is located on a peninsula that juts north from the southern side of Lake Garda. The Scagliari family built a castle with a moat that cuts across the middle of the peninsula. Behind the castle walls is a small village with cobblestone streets and many shops and hotels. Further north you emerge from the village into orchards and at the tip of the peninsula, looking north across the lake to the Alps, sits the ruins of a Roman palace built by the poet Catullus. We stayed at a hotel on the lake for two nights, and walked all over town and to the palace. Linda was inspired by the combination of colors in an old Roman mosaic to crochet an afghan with those colors.

24 July 1979 Tuesday. We drove to Venice and parked at the lot at the end of the causeway. We caught the vaparetto to St Marks Square, and visited the Cathedral and Doge’s Palace, before wandering the narrow lanes to the Rialto Bridge. We took a gondola ride past Marco Polo’s house and ended with a ride under the Bridge of Sighs at sunset, recreating the scene from the movie “A Little Romance” with Laurence Olivier and Diane Lane when she was only about 14 years old. We returned to Sirmione for the night.

25 July 1979 Wednesday. We drove the autoroute across northern Italy and along the French Riviera to Antibes, which is a strong competitor to Sirmione for my favorite town in Europe, certainly my favorite town in France. Antibes is old with its own castle that Picasso used after WWII, and currently houses his museum. The town streets are mostly narrow cobblestones with balconies flowing with flowers. The beach is white sand as compared to rocks at Nice. There are plenty of restaurants, all good. After walking around town we drove out the Cap D’Antibes to the Miramar Hotel, which is 30 meters from the Plage Garoupe arriving in time for dinner.

26 July 1979 Thursday. We spend the morning on the Garoupe beach, and then drove around Cap D’Antibes to Juan les Pins and on to Cannes to get an idea of what the opportunities were for the next days. We continued on to the Fragonard perfume factory at Grasse. We had dinner in Juan les Pins and the way back to the hotel.

27 July 1979 Friday. We spent the morning on the Antibes beach, and then drove to Monaco to visit the casino and aquarium. We returned to Antibes for dinner.

28 July 1979 Saturday. We drove to Cannes, but rather than sunning on their beach which was mostly off limits to those who were not staying at one of the grand hotels, we took a ferry out to the Ile Sainte Marguerite, one of the Iles de Lerins, which has the fortress where the Man in the Iron Mask was said to be held captive. We walked to the far side of the island and found a rock on the water to sunbathe and dive into the water. An Israeli girl who had just gotten out of their army joined us for most of the day, even when we returned to Cannes for dinner.

29 July 1979 Sunday. We drove home.

We would return to Italy and the French Riviera many times.

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