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Traveling with teenagers in Italy, France

I’ve been clearing out old files, all to reduce clutter and, no doubt, to make room for more of the same.

Rifling through old papers has jogged many a memory, recalling long-ago trips to destinations no longer safe to visit and, in particular, the trips I hosted to Europe for my nephews, two untraveled teens from Iowa.

I took the older, Scott, in 1984 on a three-week itinerary driven by his one-line wish list, “I want to see the Colosseum and the Eiffel Tower.”

His younger brother, Marty, wanted the same trip, and we took that one in 1986, with variations, including a few days at the end in Brussels.

I remember odd details of each journey and, certainly, the differences in the kids’ reactions along the way.

But, I had not remembered the prices. Today, they look amazing, and I am sharing some examples, with selections based on receipts that are still readable:

1984: At the Jolly Hotel in Florence, Italy, one day’s lunches for two cost $8.28. Dinners at the same eatery were $35.58, including $2.76 for my wine but $4.60 for Scott’s three Cokes, and the next evening, $29.45 including five soft drinks that cost $7.36.

In France, Scott had an all-you-can-eat buffet breakfast at Le Meridien Hotel in Nice for $9, and our hotel room at Nice’s St. Gothard that night cost only $23.41.

A room at the Hotel d’Angleterre in Avignon cost $22.21, including tax and two breakfasts, while the Hotel Saint-Jacques in Blois (in the Loire Valley) was $19.33, also including our breakfasts.

1986: Lunch for three (including a friend) at Al Mangia in Siena, Italy, cost $34.46, including $6.46 for a bottle of wine.

Other dinners included Ottorino in Florence at $41.53, including $7.16 for my wine; Aurora in Rome, $30.24, and the St. Moritz eatery in Nice, $52.27. There may have been wine in the latter two, but I cannot tell.

As for other aspects of these trips, my memories are aided by diaries written while traveling. Keeping trip diaries is a habit formed in childhood, and I credit my mother.

So, about the kids: Scott and I arrived in Nice late the night of Aug. 4 and were unable to find a hotel. We — like dozens of other travelers — spent the night sleeping on the sidewalk outside the train station. Despite many years of winging it in Europe, this was a first for me, and I was concerned about Scott’s reaction until he said this was “neat” and something he always thought he would like to do!

The Nice railroad station and the awning that was our shelter when my nephews and I overnighted outside the facility. We got rooms the next morning.

The Nice railroad station and the awning that was our shelter when my nephews and I overnighted outside the facility. We got rooms the next morning.

Understandably an exhausted traveler after a night camping out in front of a train station, Scott catches a short nap on a park bench in Nice.

Understandably an exhausted traveler after a night camping out in front of a train station, Scott catches a short nap on a park bench in Nice.

The following morning — Aug. 5, his 18th birthday and my birthday, too! — we breakfasted at Le Meridien and headed to Cannes so Scott could do something else he always thought he would like to do: sit on a beach in the South of France and spot topless or nude bathing. He succeeded.

I am not a beach-goer so took a ferry to Ste. Marguerite Island, site of the Fort Royal, which housed a prisoner known as the “man in the iron mask,” fictionalized by Alexandre Dumas in his “The Man in the Iron Mask.”

Inside the Fort Royal, the Museum of the Sea, once a prison that held, among others, the famed “man in the iron mask,” on Ste. Marguerite Island.

Inside the Fort Royal, the Museum of the Sea, once a prison that held, among others, the famed “man in the iron mask,” on Ste. Marguerite Island.

A tower that is part of the Fort Royal on France’s Ste. Marguerite Island in the Mediterranean.

A tower that is part of the Fort Royal on France’s Ste. Marguerite Island in the Mediterranean.

I returned to find a sunburned Scott right where I had left him. The normally quiet Scott was positively chatty at dinner, rehashing his day and saying he loved resorts best.

We returned to the hotel, which had posted this sign in rooms, “Clothes found hung in the room to dry will be thrown out into the street.” I took my laundry with me the next day.

Scott’s younger brother, 16 in 1986, was more talkative and even disputatious. He also reacted differently when, once again, I led a nephew into Nice too late on an August evening to get a hotel.

There were so many unhoused visitors that night that some slept on Nice’s rocky beach. Marty and I spent our night outside the train station (better than sleeping on rocks) but he was uneasy.

The beach in Nice, where my younger nephew and I chose not to camp one night in August 1986.

The beach in Nice, where my younger nephew and I chose not to camp one night in August 1986.

Marty on the French Riviera.

Marty on the French Riviera.

I also took Marty to Cannes the next day. Because of a fluke encounter with other Americans, he had a pass to a private beach with the use of towels, chaises and a parasol.

After my second visit to Ste. Marguerite Island, I found Marty with a topless French girl about his age. She was at the beach with her parents.

The teenagers had not been able to talk to one another, but they had been swimming together and certainly seemed to be having a lot of fun.

Scott, in front of Trevi Fountain in Rome.

Scott in front of Trevi Fountain in Rome.

Scott, much entertained by pigeons in the middle of Florence.

Scott, much entertained by pigeons in the middle of Florence.

Marty and me, with the bronze fountain of a wild boar that gives this outdoor Florentine market its name, Porcellino. Photo by Edward Pyle.

Marty and me, with the bronze fountain of a wild boar that gives this outdoor Florentine market its name, Porcellino. Photo by Edward Pyle.

Marty in Brussels, Belgium, at the end of his three-week trip to Europe.

Marty in Brussels, Belgium, at the end of his three-week trip to Europe.

A small harbor at Nice, which has nothing to do with the memories here but it’s pretty.

A small harbor at Nice, which has nothing to do with the memories here except my nephews were there and it’s pretty.

This blog and all but one photo are by Nadine Godwin, BestTripChoices.com editorial director and contributor to the trade newspaper, Travel Weekly. She also is the author of “Travia: The Ultimate Book of Travel Trivia,” which was published by The Intrepid Traveler; it can be purchased at http://intrepidtraveler.com/travia-release/