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When Texas heat indexes hit 107, even the most ardent Lone Star State patriots dream of escaping to mountains or lakes.
And that’s what 31 UT alumni and friends, plus two of us hostesses, did last week as we luxuriated in some of the most spectacular peaks and waterways on Earth: the Swiss Alps and Italian Lakes.
The food was all we could hope for. We dined first in mountain-ringed St. Moritz, a billionaires’ playground in ski season. There a Coke cost the equivalent of $18 and a caviar-embellished club sandwich, $55, at a five-star hotel.
But thankfully for us, most all of our meals were included—our daily breakfast buffet included smoked salmon and trout and seven kinds of homemade jam. And we nearly cleared the town out of extra-creamy Swiss chocolate.
After a few days in Switzerland, the indulgence of choice became gelato as we crossed into Italy. First stop: lunch in Bellagio, which turned out to be not the over-the-top casino we know in the U.S., but instead a gemlike village along Lake Como. Later we cruised by George Clooney’s villa, speedboat docked outside.
Two men, Tom Robinson and David Ryder, were amazed to be traveling together. They’d been best friends during high school in Bellaire. Tom had stood up as groomsman in David’s wedding. Then they lost touch for 30 years.
By a crazy stroke of luck, both men and their wives signed up for this particular trip. It was the Ryders’ first Flying Longhorns jaunt, to celebrate their 40th anniversary. Tom brought along the flask he’d been given as a groomsman’s gift for their wedding.
Funniest moment: a misunderstanding over women and technology. “We’ve had some interest in exchanging emails,” tour director Cecelia Berry told the group one day on the bus. “Now, we cannot do this for you for privacy reasons, but if you would like to sign this paper, we will make copies and share them to facilitate your exchanging of emails.”
Soon after, one gentleman approached her on the bus, startled. It seemed he’d been dozing and a bit hard of hearing to boot. “Did I hear you right?” he asked incredulously.
“What?” Cecelia asked.
“Did you just ask if we were interested in exchanging females?”
We gave the Europeans a few surprises, too. (Although we avoided the Hook ‘em hand sign, which translates roughly to “Your wife has been unfaithful” in Italy.)
In the music hall of the Palazzo Borromeo, a palace on Lake Maggiore’s private island of Isola Bella, the ceilings were 75 feet high and the acoustics outstanding. We couldn’t resist—we sang one of the most resonant renditions of “The Eyes of Texas” ever heard.
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Jodell J. Smith: