Saturday, May 30, 2015


Back L-R: Lili, Cesar, Steve, Doreen, Deb; Middle: Leslie; Front: Charlene & Moi

 “I have found out that there ain't no surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them.”    ~Mark Twain

 I should have introduced you to the cast of characters that were my first guinea pigs on the Bella Italia journeys right at the beginning.  Somehow, the thought escaped me until this morning. They were fun, funny, exuberant, willing to adjust, easy, and an all-around great group of people.  You might be surprised to know that of the five who came with me, I knew only one in advance (although I had met one other briefly).

Without further ado, let me introduce them.

Charlene Herst
I've known Charlene for more than 25 years. She worked with Mike at KVBC in Las Vegas, and her daughter, Hayley, worked the assignment desk for Mike in those days. In addition, Charlene is on the editorial board of BLVDS Magazine, and we just have always gotten along.

I took the above photo of Charlene the day after she arrived in Rome. She hadn't had coffee of any kind in years, and she decided to try a cappuccino because one drinks cappuccino in Italy. She agreed with me that they are not like the cappuccinos in America, and that was not the last one she had. :-)

Doreen Heimbach (L) & Deborah McBride (R)
I met Doreen about a year ago when she was in Las Vegas to attend a function there. She grew up with Charlene, and they are like sisters.  As a matter of fact, Doreen and Charlene are sisters-in-law as Charlene's husband, Jack, was Doreen's brother.  If you name a Broadway show tune, chances are Doreen can sing it for you.  She's the one who let me try her MBTs earlier this week, and for that I am grateful.  We laughed because she, Charlene, and I are like sisters from different mothers.

Deb worked with Charlene in Reno for years before she retired about two years ago.  While she was the quietest of the group, she was willing to try anything and ate some foods I wouldn't try. (I tell you, I'm a picky eater.)  Deb found out about my peanut butter obsession and brought me a jar of Skippy as a gift, God bless her.  Like me, she's an animal lover, and she has two cats at home.

Doreen and Deb were the only two who were brave enough to go into St. Peter's with me.

 Steve Heimbach
 Steve and Doreen are married and live in Evergreen, Colorado, and Doreen surprised Steve with this trip for his 70th birthday in May. A fisherman who tries to fish daily when home, Steve enjoyed the variety of fish offered in restaurants in Italy.  I think he ate more fish than any of us (especially me since there isn't a piece of fish that will touch my lips).  Steve is not really carrying a floral man-purse in the photo above. Charlene's purse was so heavy that she had him carry it for her at times.

"He's secure in his manhood," Doreen told me.  :-)

Leslie Downs
Leslie, Doreen, and Charlene all graduated from Las Vegas High School in 1964.   Leslie has lived in California for years, and she raises and sells succulents.  The shortest of all of us, she moves quickly.  I forget exactly what we were talking about yesterday, but she said, "He was constantly moving."  I had barely thought, "Look who's talking," when she finished by saying, "Of course, I'm one to talk. I can't sit still."

By the way, Doreen had a Fitbit, and I had my Misfit, and we were counting steps like crazy. I think our record was almost 24,000 steps one day in Rome.

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