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Trip Report The Jersey Girls Take France and a bit of Italy

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Some of you might recall that I was asking earlier in the year for advice about this group trip. You said to give a trip report when we returned. It's a long one, so I hope you meant it :)


We "Jersey Girls" are friends who all graduated from high school together in a small South Jersey town about 40 miles from Atlantic City. For the most part, we've known each other all our lives, in some cases growing up across the street from one another. My friends in Ohio (where I've lived for over 40 years) find it alternately "sweet," "lucky," or "really strange."

Last year five of us “Jersey Girls” jumped from weekends in New York or Maryland to a ten-day trip up the California coast. We rented a car in Los Angeles and slowly moved our way up to Napa. Along the way we visited friends and classmates who now live in that beautiful state, as well as Venice Beach, Hearst Castle, Monterey Aquarium, Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco and Napa wineries. To say we had a blast would be an understatement. The most amazing part? Five women in one hotel room each night and not one incident of bathroom rage. Believe it.

Of course, the next logical step was to take this show global. So over the Christmas holiday a few of us decided that France—with a toe touch into Italy—would be a good start. I mean, a country that has been bouncing back from invasions since 1792 can certainly handle our little group, non?

By mid-January eight of us were on board and deposits had been put down on an apartment in Venice and a villa in St. Jeannett on the Riviera. We added a hotel in Paris for a few days, ordered two cars for the Riviera portion, bought plane tickets and started squealing things like, “really? Are we really doing this?” Which is pretty much what repeated for the past five months.

Let me interject something important (to me) here: This kind of trip is extremely doable on most budgets. Splitting costs eight ways brings things like a villa on the Cote Azure within reality. This is my first tip for your future travels. Thank me later.

So Venice Beach to Venice, Italy. Makes sense to us.

We met up at the airport in Philly mid-afternoon for our early evening direct flight to Venice, Italy. The U.S. Airways flight was smooth, the food was bad and the little old ladies of undetermined origin were out of their seats, visiting each other and blocking the movie screens most of the night. In other words, a typical trans-Atlantic flight.

Quick and easy immigration line and we were ready for the Aliliguna boat to take us into Venice. So we waited on the dock. And we waited. And waited. And sweat. And sweat. And bitched. And moaned. And sweat some more. The boat arrived, we got on with the other 427 damp people and enjoyed our one hour boat ride. At our stop, we were met by the caretaker of the apartment we rented and shown up the four winding floors to our apartment. Then up one more to the main area then up another floor to the loft bedroom and the rooftop terrace. Yeah, lots of stairs. 63, but who's counting. Great apartment, though. We didn't have enough air conditioning units for the entire place so it was really hot most of the time, but what a view of Venice!

We spent the next day and half exploring beautiful Venice. Most of the gang took an evening gondola ride. We were up early the next morning (around six) to walk before the heat and crowds descended. This is something I enjoy doing anywhere I travel. We walked through the narrow, cobblestoned streets and saw the vendors sweeping the area in front of their stands using handmade brooms of thick twigs tied to a broomstick. Much more efficient then straw brooms, I think.

During that sweltering day in Venice, some took in the Doge's Palace and others braved the crowds at San Marco Basilica. One, who shall remain nameless, purchased FIVE leather pocketbooks in various colors and is still searching for the perfect hobo bag in Tiffany Blue. Can you say late-blooming fashionista?

None of the meals were memorable. Usually just pizza and pasta. One evening everyone but me (I was down with bad knees) joined the crowds in Saint Mark’s Square and sipped expensive drinks while watching the masses dance to the dueling orchestras. They loved it.

Saturday morning at 5:00 am we were up and rolling our luggage down to the dock to pick up the Alliliguna that would return us to the airport for our short flight to Nice and the French Riviera.

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