Several months ago I shared my dear friend, Barbara Varro’s Celebrity Interviews. She has been kind and sent me her travel stories…I have saved them, for whatever reason, and thought at this point in time we needed a breath of fresh air and some thoughts on where we can go when our confinement is over…..enjoy!!!!
Barbara Varro’s Travels…
Travel has been one of the great joys of my life: the adventures, the thrills, the discoveries, the amusements and amazements. All of these I have experienced though the years all over the world, and written about them in travel articles for the Chicago Sun-Times and the Chicago Tribune. Among the highlights…
Seeing elephants in their natural habitats, families of them with their young, in Kenya and Tanzania was thrilling. Like a zoo, oh no. It is different. Sitting on a veranda of a lodge in the bush, sipping a gin and tonic at sunset, watching hundreds of wildebeests and zebra rushing by is like being in paradise. At various times we saw giraffes, leopards, hippos and rhinos.
Once our Land Rover stopped within several feet from a pride of lions. They just yawned at us. Another time we followed three cheetahs on a hunt for a gazelle. They caught it—ugh!
At one dinner I ate zebra pot roast—not bad . At one point I met a bush pilot named John, and at dinner at the famous Stanley Hotel in Nairobi he regaled me with tales about flying over the Serengeti plains. He was no Robert Redford, but it made me feel a bit like someone in Isak Dinesen’s “Out of Africa.”
Talk about amazing. Seeing the pyramids and sphinx in Giza were awe inspiring. Crawling up a rickety ladder to see a small upper room with an empty tomb was more scary than stunning. I was amazed to find that the three great pyramids are so close to the bustling city of Cairo. But the sphinx and pyramids are even more spectacular during a light show in the evening with a narrator reciting the history of these ancient monuments.
Sailing on the placid Nile to Luxor to view the magnificent temples, and then to the Valley of the Kings to see King Tut’s tomb was a thrill of a lifetime. It is nice to see Egyptian artifacts in a museum, but seeing them in person is special.
I had always wanted to go to Russia because I am enamored of Russian literature. Tolstoy’s description of St. Petersburg came alive when I visited. The beauty of the baroque pastel homes along the Neva River were remarkable. The city was known as Leningrad when I was there and I stayed in the Leningrad Hotel, that played host to Elizabeth Taylor for a movie she was in that year. The art collection at the Hermitage is vast and gorgeous, especially the malachite room.
Moscow was an amazing sight with the colorful domes of St. Basil’s Cathedral and the imposing Kremlin. At the time, every day we saw hundreds of Muscovites lining up to view Lenin’s tomb in Red Square. One of our discoveries was the splendor of the elaborate marble walled subway stations, some with sparkling chandeliers. We found the people to be friendly and helpful as we tried to read the names of the stations in the Cyrillic alphabet.
I have gone to Poland several times because I have relatives there who live in a rural area south of Krakow. The first time I was there in 1972, they were living in old wooden homes without running water. I heard stories from older relatives about how oppressed they had been during the Nazi and Russian occupations. The next time I visited they had indoor plumbing. And when I visited in 1993, they had new brick homes with two bathrooms. They are much better off since the fall of communism.
One year was memorable because I was the maid of honor at a cousin’s wedding. Our entourage rode to the wedding reception in a horse-drawn cart while we were serenaded by a band. During my last visit in 2015, there were major changes in Krakow and Warsaw, with new buildings and businesses flourishing in the booming economy. One memory: walking down the main street to Old Town, you can rest on benches with a button to press to hear glorious piano music by Chopin.
I came here as fashion editor accompanied by a photographer and two models wearing Israeli styles that were from Carson Pirie Scott in Chicago. A highlight of the trip was staying in the town of Sodom (of Biblical Sodom and Gomorrah) overnight, then waking at dawn to have the models photographed at the salt-encrusted beach riming the Dead Sea. Later they posed below Masada, the place where Jewish zealots committed suicide rather than surrender to the Romans.
Then they were photographed at a Bedouin encampment, and various locales around the old city of Jerusalem. Once we stopped for lunch of fresh fish at a cafe on the Sea of Galilee. A few of us had fun riding a smelly camel. I had our driver make a side trip to Bethlehem so I could see the Church of the Nativity, and I bought a carved olive wood creche from a peddler outside.
I have returned to this sceptered isle many times. I sometimes stay with friends who live in Islington. I enjoy the teas at Harrods and the Savoy. I love the Victoria and Albert and the British Museum and the National Portrait Gallery, where a friend often lectures. I also love taking the boat up the Thames to Kew Gardens. One pleasant discovery was seeing the huge “Saying Goodbye” bronze statue in the renovated St. Pancreas train station. The chunnel train to Paris leaves from this station.
On one trip to England I visited a friend in Wales who has an old stone home in the shadow of the Snowdon Mountains. It was awesome.
Another time I spent time in the South West in Lyme Regis, and I took side trips to Bath and Penzance. I was impressed by Mount St. Michael, where the walkway gets inundated at high tide. I almost did not make it back across in time to catch my bus.
Florence is my favorite city in Italy because of its breathtaking multicolored marble churches and spectacular art, especially Michelangelo’s David. And watching fashion shows in the Pitti Palace was a special treat.
Rome’s fountains and squares are exceptional, as is the pasta. I have thrown many coins in the Trevi Fountain, which has brought me back to this golden city often. I think of it whenever I see the opera, “Tosca,” and see Castle Sant Angelo on the Tiber River. It is always a thrill to see Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel in the Vatican. I am in awe of the canals and St. Mark’s Square in Venice. But I was gobsmacked in Pompeii with is people frozen in place when Vesuvius erupted eons ago. And Milan has two marvels: Leonardo DaVinci’s Last Supper and La Scala Opera House.
Paris is a dream with its distinctive architecture, and at the Louvre I was awed by the Winged Victory at the top of the steps, more visually exciting than the Mona Lisa. I saw a lot of the city when covering fashion shows, flitting to the salons of Dior, Givenchy, Balmain, Chanel, etc. on the Right Bank. But I love the Left Bank in St. Michel and Saint German with its cafes such as the Deux Magots.
One of my favorite places in France is Villefranche sur Mer, on the Riviera near Nice, where I spent a month learning French at the Institut de Francais. I had a view of the gorgeous bay from my studio terrace. I would have learned more if I had studied more.
But I was distracted by the food and wine, ooh la la! One must is going to see Monet’s beauteous gardens at Giverny, it is a worthwhile trip just as is viewing the opulence at Versailles.
Unexpected things sometimes happen when traveling. For instance, once I, along with my mother and aunt, were thrown off a train from Poland to Hungary. We had been told that we only needed a visa to Hungary and not to Czechoslovakia, which we were only passing through. But at the border of Czechoslovakia an official boarded and reprimanded us for not having a visa. He made us disembark
So there we were in the middle of the night, three women on a dark, deserted platform. We waited for more than an hour for a train back to Poland.
An amusing thing happened on a tour in Morocco. While some of us were touring the souk (marketplace), a Moroccan man approached a woman and her well-endowed daughter, and he asked if she would like to trade her well-endowed daughter for his dozen camels.
She indignantly said, “NO WAY!”
In Moscow I was approached by two young girls who wanted to buy the blue jean skirt I was wearing. I declined their offer but they followed me to my hotel. So I told them to wait outside while I went to my room to change. I returned with the skirt and told them they could have it for the equivalent of $5 in rubles. They agreed and went on their way with my skirt. At that time in the 1970s young Russians were gaga over American jeans, which were scarce in their basic stores.
1970‘S Russian youth in blue jeans.
A million thanks Barbara, I know my readers have throughly enjoyed joining you in your travel adventures….I wonder what reflections you will share with us next (soon I hope!)….I can only imagine!!!!!
Barbara’s own photos and newspaper clippings are supplemented by photos found on Pinterest phot credits unknown.