Ron and I took a trip to Italy and France a couple of years ago with our dear friends, Tirey, Jim and Kelly. Tirey and Jim's church in Houston, Bering Methodist, has a fabulous choir that occasionally performs in the early summers in various quaint towns in both countries.
There was room for just a few fortunate travelers to accompany them in 2006, so the five of us signed up. It was an amazing trip that was meticulously planned. The choir was awesome and they were a blast to travel with. Things went at a leisurely pace if you wanted them to, or there were scheduled guided tours of all the key attractions.
We toured castles, churches and museums. We shopped. I shopped. We were invited to meals hosted by reciprocating choir groups. I shopped. One afternoon, after a picnic, shopping, and tour of a Mid Evil castle in Rivaralo, their choir surprised us by singing The Star Spang Laid Banner. That's right ... SPANG LAID ... just like I spelled it. It was priceless. They wanted to honor us, The United States of America. You see ... we saved their butts in World War II. But not until we invaded, I shopped, and we bombed up the place to get at the Germans. Whoops ... you're not mad, are you ? Did I tell you that I shopped ?
On one leg of our journey we descended upon The Italian Riviera and The Cinque Terre. I shopped. You can travel around and between the five unique, self contained fishing villages by train, by boat or on foot. If my memory serves me correctly, I shopped. Then we took the train, only once, from Monterosso, very early one morning so I could shop. And that was to the farthest village, Riomaggiore, where I shopped, so we could "stroll" back, through the other three villages, Monarola, Corniglia, and Vernazza, after a bit of shopping and a leisurely lunch.
That "stroll" turned out to be the most physically challenging aerobic activity any of us had ever signed up for, with Kelly and Tirey, Zero Body Fat Butt Holes, in the lead. But we did it ... all five of us ... ten miles of blood, sweat, tears and shopping, through the olives, grapes, and flowers ... with a reward for every gasp of breath. Each of the cliffs we clung to and/or dangled from, extended way out into the Mediterranean, and sometimes, the only thing between us and the Sea, was a Bouganvilla, a Geranium, and my shopping bags.
Tirey and I were in a full press photographic competition for the 2007 Bering Calendar. I got January but he got June and July. Ron and Kelly were both in Atrial Fibrulation, her not knowing it. Jim and I were the sweatiest ... at one point, right before we found the coldest, best Coca Cola we've all ever had in our lives, our conversation went something like this:
Jim: Based on the map description, this is more difficult than I thought.
Laurie: We can bomb your country but we can't hike your Fucking State Park.
Then we crawled, literally and vertically on all fours, to get to Corniglia. So I could shop. But, I digress ...
The photo posted has to be enlarged to understand it. For Christmas, Tirey picked three of his photographs from our trip, manipulated them into what looks like Van Gogh painted them, and had them printed on 18 x 24 canvases. I have the perfect huge wall for them. They are all stunning. And one of them is of Ron and I on our 26th French Anniversary. Awww ...
But this is Vernazza ... Tirey's Impressionistic Style. And this is what I call a Christmas gift.
In Arles they are very proud of the fact that Vincent was depressed and cut his ear off there. And they don't shave under their arms. I shopped there too. I bet Lynette remembers.