Travel Abroad(s)

spanish-steps-rome.jpgThe commercial kept calling out to us. A catchy tune and the promise of a round trip ticket to anywhere in Europe for under $500. None of us could resist and the plan was in motion. Andrea and I would fly from L.A. and land in New York for a layover where we’d meet Stacey at JFK. Actually, it might be tricky since my two friends hadn’t even met yet.

It was the dead of winter. Stacey called to let me know about this great coat she bought. She couldn’t wait for me to see it because she just knew I was gonna love it. Andrea did some research and picked out a boutique hotel, within walking distance of the Spanish steps.

Speaking of walking, those two girls were planning on walking the whole city every day. They are both hardcore exercisers and felt that would be the best way to really see Rome. I tire easily, so that was so not going to be me. But, I would happily arrange to find some great restaurants. We all know what we’re good at. That’s my specialty.

When Andrea and I got off the plane to greet Stacey in the airport, she was hard to miss. Her big, poofy, fuzzy, brown coat made her look like a bear, albeit a bear the color of cat barf and with an extra small head. Yes, I was off to Rome with Fozzie Bear. I couldn’t help myself and burst out laughing the moment I saw her. All that build-up for well … it was indescribable.

trevi-fountain-stacey-andrea-me.jpgThe pensione turned out great. Stacey and I shared a room and Andrea had one to herself. The hotel staff was friendly and accommodating and each morning as we left to enjoy all the sites, the clerk at the desk would offer us candy from a bowl. It was always a phenomenal way to start the day. The candy was a chocolate, not dark, not milk, but a medium chocolate with chopped hazelnuts throughout.

I knew I couldn’t keep up with Andrea and Stacey pounding the pavement, so I would often start later and meet up with them at a museum. Or, I might just blow off the museum altogether and meet them for lunch. Let’s face it I was there to eat. As I left the hotel each day, I would sneak a handful of those chocolates and began to get quite a collection going. At this point, I was taking the sweets both coming and going. I kept my hoarding a secret; at the end of each day I’d remove the contraband from my coat pocket and toss it into my luggage.

stacey-in-bear-suit.jpgNavigating our way around the Roman ruins, it became clear that Stacey and Andrea’s marriages were also … in ruins. There was a lot of talk about men and failed marriages.

We were three pretty women traveling in Italy. And one of the great perks about Italy is how the men fall at your feet. They follow you around. They whistle, hoot, and make obscene gestures. Or so I’d heard. In our case, not one Italian man even looked our way. I’m not exaggerating — not one. Trust me, I’ve walked plenty of streets in both Los Angeles and New York with Stacey and men literally turn around and start following her because of her beauty. Same with Andrea, tall, beautiful and blonde. Maybe it was me?

It didn’t take a detective to figure out what the problem was … it was Stacey’s hideous bear-suit coat. It was like the bad feng shui of coats; instead of attracting men, it repelled them. We needed to get rid of it. Each day, I suggested new great places to leave it behind. A trash bin inside a cathedral perhaps. The Coliseum — that way all the stray cats there could curl up with it. I was really pushing it.

chocolatesuitcase-300x174.jpgWe all laughed, thinking it was becoming a hilarious bit that this coat was not only limiting our ability to get looks from men but killing it for us. Speaking of killing, there was a good chance that if a hunter saw her in the repulsive bear suit, Stacey might be accidentally shot. If we dropped it in the Trevi fountain, people might think it was a dead animal. Now, I was pleading with her to lose it. We continued our magical newly-divorced-girls bonding trip without one whistle or cat call.

When the day came that we were packing to leave I decided to reveal my stockpile of hoarded chocolates. I showed my girlfriends my stash. Then they in turn revealed the same dirty secret. Each had concealed her own enormous collection of candy, having kept it secret from the others. We laughed until tears rolled down our pretty (but not to Italian men) faces.


Fredrica Duke shares how she discovered her love of food while growing up in Los Angeles on her blog Channeling the Food Critic in Me.