13 July 1991
Dear Mom & Dad,
I hope you are both doing fine. We had a very enjoyable trip to Italy. Writing a letter will allow me to share with you some of our experiences as well as permit me to keep a record of our trip.
Shelly Trotter took us to the airport on Tuesday, 2 July. The plane leaving Fort Smith was a couple hours late due to bad weather in St. Louis. We did not expect to arrive in St. Louis in time to catch the proper connection, so arrangements had been made for a different flight that would take us through Paris and arrive 3 hours later in Rome. However, the plane was also late leaving St. Louis, so we flew on the originally scheduled flights.
We were able to sleep a little on the plane to Rome, so we did not really have much trouble with jet lag. We arrived on Wednesday at Rome about an hour late. Then it took nearly another hour to get our luggage and get through customs. We were quite surprised NOT to find John Sigle there to pick us up.
We tried calling the Sigles but no one was home. After an hour of looking about the airport we decided to sit down and just wait where we thought he could eventually find us. We probably would have waited about 2 more hours before taking the train to Naples. Just as we started to sit down we saw John. He had had car trouble about 1/3 the way to Rome, had to return to Naples where he borrowed his neighbor's car, and then finally got to the airport in Rome.
Because John was so late and not in his own car, we were not able to see any sights in Rome. The traffic getting out of Rome was terrible. We were starving by the time we got to John's house.
Wednesday night we went to church at one of the member's houses. It was quite difficult to stay awake.
Thursday, the 4th of July, we took the train to Sorrento with several other members of the church. There were about 20 of us. Angelique quickly became friends with 3 other girls about her age with us. We found our salesman/friend [Michele] at the inlaid wood factory. He remembered us very well. Jeannie and I spent lots of money in Sorrento and hoped that we wouldn't find so much to buy each day the rest of the trip. We got to eat our first Italian meal in Sorrento. It was very exciting. While we were afraid the kids would not find the pizza as good as they remembered, they both loved it still.
We met up with everyone in the group at the train station in Sorrento to return to Naples. Actually, a few of the people were late, but fortunately the train left late.
Friday, John drove us to Pompeii, then to Mt. Vesuvius. We did not spend much time in Pompeii, but the kids enjoyed it more than I expected. The meal we bought outside Pompeii was outrageously expensive. (I was not really too surprised.) We walked to the top of Vesuvius, since Steven had not been up there before. No one but Steven enjoyed the hike.
Saturday we went to the NATO base where we shopped at Building "L." We also got Steven a haircut there. We then went to the Navy base and shopped at the Exchange. We spent a reasonable amount. Then we went back to the Sigle's for lunch. Then John, the kids, and I went to Carney Park and swam for an hour. Then we went to Festa Americana. The kids rode lots of carnival rides. Jeannie and I sampled lots of foods from the various international booths.
Sunday morning I preached for about 10 minutes during a joint Italian-American service. I had prepared a longer sermon which John called and told me 2 days before we left that I would have to change.
We ate lunch Sunday at Bagnoli Joe's with several other members of the church. The pizzas were great.
Then John took us to Solfatara, the active "mud" volcano, but the water level was too low to see anything but steam. We drove by Cuma.
We stopped to show the kids the villa where we used to live.
Sunday night the church got together at the Sigles for a singing.
Monday we took the ferry to Capri. The Sigles did not go with us since they had just been a month earlier. We did not find much that we thought was worth the money on Capri. Lunch was incredibly expensive though we got off the beaten path to find a restaurant.
Monday night Angelique went to spend the night with 2 girls from the church. We were very pleased with how quickly and easily Angelique fit in. Also, she was not shy about buying things in Italian. On the ferry back from Capri, she and an Italian girl "talked" quite a bit. Neither understood anything the other said, I don't think.
Tuesday, Faye, Jeannie, Steven, and I went to the market at Fuorigrotta. We found lace curtains there. We bought 11.7 meters at 30,000 lire a meter. (He came down to 25,000 lire a meter.) We paid £290,000 (about $210). This we hand carried back on the airplane.
We ate lunch at Wendy's on the base Tuesday. (McDonald's is no longer on the base.) Faye lost her ID card. Then we went to Carney Park to pick up Angelique at the pool.
Tuesday afternoon we packed our luggage. Everything fit so that we didn't have to mail anything back.
Wednesday morning we got up at 5 AM. John drove us to Rome. We went through Cisterna (Fort Smith's sister city) where we took a couple of pictures, including a plaque with "Fort Smith" on it.
When we got to Rome we drove by the Colosseum on our way to our hotel to unload the car. We were not particularly pleased with the hotel, but it would have been impossible to find another one. Faye helped us get the reservation on the base in Naples. Jeannie would probably have gotten a better room if she had gone along. Steven had to sleep on the floor.
After getting all our belongings into the hotel, John drove us to the Vatican where we went to the Sistine Chapel. After lunch we went to St. Peter's Basilica. Then John drove us to the Spanish steps. There is a McDonald's near there that we got a snack at. After that John returned to Naples.
We walked to the Fountain of Trevi. It is still being cleaned, so there was no water there. We walked to the train station where we ate supper at McDonald's. Our hotel was supposed to be close to the train station, but it was really about 10 blocks away. It was very hot in the hotel.
We took a taxi to the airport Thursday morning, since it was so far to the train station.
The security at the Rome airport was incredible. They took 2 toy guns that Steven had bought and placed them in a separate box. Even TWA's security was time-consuming.
The plane was a little late leaving St. Louis back to Fort Smith, but otherwise the day went like expected. They fed us more returning from Rome than they did going to Rome. That didn't make sense. The planes that fly between Fort Smith and St. Louis don't have stewardesses or bathrooms.
Shelly picked us up at the airport in Fort Smith. It was nice to come back home and sleep in our own beds. We seem to be having more jet lag now than when we were in Italy.
The exchange rate varied between 1356 and 1320 lire per dollar while we were in Italy. Some things were more expensive than we expected.
There were really few changes that we noticed. Squeeze Alley coming out of the Navy base was widened. There is now a water park near where John and Faye lived before. The auditorium at church is bigger. The driving was the same.
Steven never acted out of place. He thinks Italy should be his home. He had lots of fun, though there were no kids his age at church. The Sigle boys were rarely at home during the day. Jeremy has a summer job working at Capo, the Navy airbase.
The most interesting thing about the trip was our returning to learn that a week's worth of our mail was accidently thrown away. There is no way to determine what all was lost. I suppose bills will be reissued. Hopefully, the genealogy material I usually receive will be determined over the next several months. We do know that a collectors' plate was discarded as well as dividend checks from Wal-Mart.
There are surely several other things I could tell about but I hope to get this in the mailbox before the mailman arrives. Besides I will probably talk to you on the phone before you get this, anyway.
We did get you something in Sorrento. I suppose we will get it to you the next time we see you, unless you want us to mail it.
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