Letters from Victoria: Traveling Companions

Letters from Victoria: Traveling Companions

In the pages of our latest Victoria Classics Book Club selection, The Enchanted April, four strangers with common interests retreat to a small castle on the Italian shores of the Mediterranean. Whether accompanied by newcomers, family members, or old friends, our readers share their own special trips taken with other females. These unforgettable sojourns brought about adventures that will always be remembered.


In July of 1966, my sister, Felia, and I, along with our friends Elaine and Millie, anticipated an amazing five-week tour of Greece and Italy—the homelands of our grandparents. We had carefully planned every moment, but after flying from Boston to New York, we were informed that the airway was not allowing chartered flights from the U.S. to land in Athens. Instead, we were flown to Belgrade, Yugoslavia, where we boarded a harrowing and quite crowded forty-hour train ride to Athens—a troublesome start to our journey.
            After arriving a day late in Athens, we were fortunate that our hotel kept our reservations. The unexpected delays became a distant memory when we pulled back the hotel drapes the next morning and saw the Parthenon stretched out on the distant Acropolis. Now the thrilling part of our journey was to begin.
            We were able to meet some wonderful people during our travels, including our relatives. At one point, my sister and I separated from our friends, took a bus partway up a mountain, and, finally, rode on donkeys to reach our grandparents’ village of Pouri. The scenery was spectacular, with the Aegean Sea spread out in front of us. When we arrived at our great-aunt’s house, which had no electricity or indoor plumbing, we were given a bedroom above the stables. In the outhouse, privacy was provided by a curtain, which we recognized as the same material that once draped around our kitchen sink in Massachusetts—it helped us feel at home.
            When we again met up with Elaine and Millie, we went sight-seeing, spent afternoons at beautiful beaches, ate great food, and danced to Greek music.
            After a few weeks, we sailed from the island of Corfu to Brindisi, Italy. From there, a train took us to Rome, where we spent several days taking in the Coliseum, Spanish Steps, Fountain of Trevi, Tivoli Gardens, and even Vatican City, where we saw St. Peter’s Cathedral and Michelangelo’s Pieta.
            Even after spending five weeks together in some trying situations, the four of us got along splendidly and are still maintaining our friendships more than 55 years later. Today, even though we have all traveled to Greece many times since, we always reminisce about that amazing trip in the summer of 1966.
CHRISTINE THEMELES
Tewksbury, Massachusetts

 

After graduating from college and moving across the state for my first teaching job, I was fortunate to make a new friend. Cherel and I hit it off right away. We shared many interests, spent lots of time together, and became very close.
            Eventually, I moved back home, but we stayed in touch. Our families and careers kept us far apart, but our hearts remained close and we talked often.
            I missed her dearly, so I decided to reach out to her husband to arrange a surprise get-together. We planned and schemed for weeks, sworn to secrecy, and got it all arranged: Supposedly, my husband and I were traveling to Arkansas, but really to Tulsa, where we were to meet. Her husband cooked up a reason to bring her there as well.
            We were waiting in a restaurant at the back table when we saw them arrive. I watched Cherel’s face as the hostess walked them past empty tables on the way back and could tell she was perplexed. When we lowered the menus from in front of our faces, we both just stood there and cried. She was totally surprised!
            Reunited, we spent the weekend shopping at flea markets and antiques stores, and catching up over meals at new restaurants. It was all so much fun, and the fact that her husband and I had schemed and twisted the truth so much to make it happen was just hilarious; we laugh about it so much to this day.
HAROLYNN WOFFORD
Hugo, Oklahoma

 

Every September, three lifelong friends and I escape to a cottage on Lake Michigan for an idyllic girls’ trip that removes us from the cares and troubles of the real world. The long drive up from Missouri is full of catching up, laughter, and reminiscing about our school days.
            Our days are leisurely, spent antiquing and shopping the stores we love. We return to them year after year, adding to our collections and finding new surprises. Some of our favorite shop owners remember us from prior visits. One lovely proprietor even has cookies waiting for us. She knows what we collect and asks about our lives over the past year. We also discover new shops and towns each trip, attending estate sales and farmers markets in the area. The unexpected discoveries are fun. Each year, the back of the van becomes overloaded with our treasures.
            We love to eat in local restaurants, especially the ones with stunning views of the lake, which always plays a special role in our trip. There are crisp, cool mornings perfect for walking and being near the water. We have sunset picnics on the shore. The sunsets are breathtaking, and each evening the colors are a little different. We watch as the sun sinks below the horizon, going out like a match. The glow still lingers in the sky at dusk, making it alive with color.
            I am blessed to be able to spend time here with these dear companions. The trip indeed causes our cares to be temporarily forgotten, and when we are going through stressful times, we say to each other, “We need Michigan.”
CYNTHIA LAYTON
Cape Girardeau, Missouri

 

The idea of traveling to the south of France with my daughters occurred to me while driving to Maine in a slushy, late-winter snow storm. Seasoned travelers all, and being adventurous by nature, they responded to my idea with enthusiasm. With job constraints to consider, it took a year to organize, but we were in no rush. Besides, it would be a great way to celebrate my 85th birthday.
            On April 17, 2018, with the itinerary finalized, airline points cashed in, and a spacious stone house awaiting our arrival, we flew to Paris and drove on to Provence. Under azure skies, we strolled the hilltop villages of the Luberon, sipped wine in limestone caves, shopped antique markets, sampled classic French cuisine, viewed an ancient Roman amphitheater, and the two most brave of us rode white Camargue ponies on a Mediterranean beach. Since Paris is always a good idea, we saved it for last.
            No matter what the future brings, I will always remember the time we spent together, the laughter, and the beauty of France.
JEAN M. ANDREWS
Lynnfield, Massachusetts

 

Several years ago, my mother-in-law was invited to attend an autumn wedding in England. I was fortunate to be able to travel with her, helping to navigate airports and train stations in that unfamiliar territory. 
            We settled into a beautiful bed-and-breakfast near Taunton that featured friendly Dandie Diamont Terriers and lovely gardens. The wedding was held in an ancient church, and the reception was outdoors at the bride’s home—a building more than two centuries old with a magnificent fireplace in the dining room.
            On the trip home, we spent time in London with my mother-in-law’s friends, who showed us around the city. We shopped for tea at Harrods and had dinner at an Italian restaurant. The trip is a treasured memory that brought my mother-in-law and me closer together.
VANESSA FERRELL
Brooksville, Kentucky

 

Discover the heartwarming adventure found in our latest Victoria Classics Book Club selection, The Enchanted April, by joining our discussion at victoriamag.com, and collect your copy of the book in our online shop.

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