Alive! Around the World: South Dakota, France, Greece and Italy


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South Dakota

Retired LA Port Police Sgt. Michael Alva and his wife, Maria, a current City employee of 34 years working at the Harbor Dept, traveled to “a bucket list destination to Rapid City, SD. where we visited the fictitious Fort Hayes and onto an eight-hour guided bus tour from the visitors center.

“During the very well detailed adventure, we visited the Mt. Rushmore and Crazy Horse memorial monuments; the Black Hills; Custer State Park … there are buffalo! — and much more on the tour.

“While in Rapid City, with mus- have rental transportation, we toured the city on our own and enjoyed the peaceful setting of downtown. Last but not least, the City of Deadwood, with its rich history of the Western personalities, was well worth the short drive on a freeway that has no rush hour.”

In Fort Hays they caught the Chuckwagon Supper and show.


France and Greece

Paul Ramey, Retired, LADWP, and his wife, Corine, at the wedding of his brother at Chateau du Pin in the South of France. Paul and Corine visited Greece.




Letter From Italy, Pt. 1

Italy Awaits You

The Leaning tower of Pisa.

History, culture, and romance ooze out of every step taken in the fantastic country of Italy, from Pisa’s Leaning Tower to the seductive shores of Lake Como nestled at the base of the Alps; from small family restaurants in quiet country town plazas to noisy dance clubs and bars in Milan. No matter how often Italy is visited, the magic never seems to wear off; whether it’s a quick day excursion from a cruise ship or brief glimpses on a 10-day European coach trip of operating company David, and the gondoliers, it’s all awesome.

For a first-time visit, an organized bus tour of just Italy’s major tourist sites gives more bang for the buck, as cities like Florence, Rome and Venice can be visited with time to enjoy them. For 18-to-30-year-olds, a Contiki bus tour is recommended, with fewer churches and more youthful activities (not for honeymooners!). Renting a car is fun for the passengers (but not for the driver, who sees only the road ahead), and many hours are spent getting lost and looking for parking; plus, most large cities require a separate vehicle pass to enter their central area, and most hotels and Airbnbs do not provide parking spaces.

Early morning tram in Milan.

Euro train passes are cheap, but using them to sleep on overnight does not always work out, as not every Italian train company accepts them. Also, besides Venice and Pompeii, it’s quite a walk to visit the sites, with or without your luggage, and cobblestones play havoc on suitcase wheels.

It’s hot, humid, and very crowded between July and August as the schools and large industries close for the summer to allow families to vacation together. May-June is fine; late September or early October is less crowded and has much cooler weather.

Saluti il capitano. Travel now before you become just a memory.

My favorite memories of Italy are:

  • Early in the morning as the cities come alive and before the tourists awake;
  • Tearing apart a freshly baked beget while strolling across Rome’s empty St. Peter’s Square at dawn after a night on the town;
  • The sound of Vespa scooters tooting their horns as they zoom through Naples’ empty streets and whisk their drivers to work;
  • Enjoying an espresso at a Milan curbside café as a colorful trolley rumbles by with stylishly clad workers off to start a new day;
  • Smelling Florence’s early morning sweetly scented street sweepers as the Domo bell’s tolls call the faithful to prayer;
  • Strolling through the port of Brindisi as crying seagulls chase departing fishing boats as the night ferry arrives from Greece;
  • Watching a bride take wedding photos in an empty St. Mark’s Square as the sun rises;
  • Sipping Prosecco with friends on a veranda after midnight listening to wild boars root in the Tuscany Olive Wood groves behind us;
  • Smelling the odder of freshly sprayed leather on the belt and handbag stalls as the vendors set up for another surge of tourists;
  • Drinking incredible wines from a 200-year-old historical cellar in Barolo while staying as a guest of the Marchesi di Barolo winery; and
  • Strolling the pink marble streets of Verona, as in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, after attending a performance of Carmen in the Roman Amphitheater.

These are my memories of Italy that will last forever. I trust that yours will be as memorable as mine, no matter how you visit Italy.