by Maria Ruiz
Maria often shares stories with us about Santa Barbara history, her travel all over the world, her dogs, and life.
My husband and I were visiting Venice, Italy with our little dog, Sherman, and a friend from the USA, Joyce. Hunger drove us to explore some side streets in search of a light lunch which wouldn’t require a bank loan to pay.
A few days earlier we had eaten a piece of cake with a cup of coffee in front of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. It was a cold and foggy day, and we sat at a table outside the restaurant, feeling quite the tourists. We asked for the bill and when it came, it was for Fifty-Two Dollars. FOR TWO COFFEES AND TWO PIECES OF CAKE!
Not believing that could be correct, we asked to see the menu, which we should have checked before we sat down. Sure enough, coffees were $20.00 each and small slices of cake were $6.00 each. We swore to never eat in front of any tourist attraction again.
On this day, we were in Venice, sightseeing and enjoying. It was lunch time and we looked for a restaurant off the tourist trail. We already knew that finding a small lunch was impossible. All through Europe, lunches come on a 12-inch plate, piled high with a heavy dinner, and cost as much as I spend on a week’s worth of food.
Usually we looked for a MacDonald’s where we could get two hamburgers with a soda for less than ten U.S. dollars. But in honor of our friend, we decided to find an Italian place. We found a likely restaurant and took a table with Sherman settling down beneath our feet. A party of Americans came in, sat down across from us, noticed Sherman, and began a friendly conversation. They asked “Do you travel with your dog?” We answered “Yes.” Them my husband asked
“Where are you from?”
One man answered “Wisconsin.”
One of the women had been staring hard at him. Suddenly she said “Ted! Are you Ted?”
Startled and a bit unsure, he replied, “Yes I am.” The woman laughed and said “I’m your cousin Wendy. We haven’t seen each other in 50 years but you look just like your father.”
The rest of our lunch was filled with conversation about the family and turned into an enjoyable day spent thousands of miles away from home in that small world that felt like an episode in the Twilight Zone.