I had packed far too much luggage and had neglected to bring a warm coat. For some reason I thought Italy would be warmer than it actually was. In transit in Paris I met a fraternity brother and we would travel the rest of the way to Florence together.
A number of the students in the program settled together in a pension overlooking the Arno just down the street from the University of Grenoble extension where we would be attending classes. Classes were held only the first three days of the week, and for the rest of the week we were encouraged to wander around looking at the many art treasures of the city and surrounding area. I pursued these activities for about a month spending many late evenings walking around looking at the architectural beauty of Florence. Florence was the first city that I had ever lived in, and I was not quite prepared for the hectic pace of urban life.
I received a letter from an old friend from Greenwich asking to come up and wait in Grenoble, so I obtained a U-rail pass and decided to take off traveling to see more of Europe. When I arrived in Grenoble it was dreary and cold, but I had a great deal of fun with my friends meeting many exchange students who were studying in the city. My friend and his friends had rented a cottage behind a villa outside of town that had a discotheque in the old barn adjacent to it.
Every evening at midnight the discotheque would fill up with many young people from surrounding areas and a great amount of entertainment was had by all. The discotheque was filled with exotic birds, and all of the patrons came from all over Europe with a great many of them from Scandinavia.
However, I missed the warmer weather that I had expected to find in Europe, so I traveled down to the south of Spain on the train with a brief stop in Barcelona. Once in Malaga, I found it too urban, so I decided to travel further south. When I had been in the Florence flee market, I had run into two Norwegians that had told me I should visit an island called Lanzerote.
From Malaga I took a plane to Lanzerote to find it much warmer than the continent. The only problem was there were few people who spoke English, but accomadations were inexpensive, so I decided to settle in and explore the island. The island was all volcanic with no natural water. There were mostly scandinavian tourists who lived in small stone cottages in the surrounding countryside. The first night they had a festival of several thousand fishermen dressed in drag, all of which was very amusing. I use to spend my days cruising the island on motor bike and going to tavernas at night for dinner and beer. I found a great spot on the far western end of the island to watch sunset with a number of young Danish tourists. We would sit watching the sun go down over Santa Cruz enjoying the native beer.
I had taken to frequenting the airport twice a day to watch the two daily flights in from the mainland to see who was arriving and leaving the island. On one of the forays I met a Norwegian boy who invited me to stay at his house. He spoke excellent English and explained that his father was a pilot for S.A.S. and he lived during the winter with his mother on Lanzerote. We would spend much time exploring the island together and going to native nightclubs in the evening. He introduced me to a colony of Swedes, and we use to all enjoy talking about our world wide travel experiences. I would become particularly infatuated by the stamina of the Flamenco dancers at the night clubs. Since all water had to be imported it was just as cheap to drink bottled beer or wine, so we were always slightly intoxicated.
After about a month on Lanzerote I decided I better get back to Florence for my mid term examination. I had been studying my books regularly and was not particularly concerned with any difficulty passing the examination. I took my first fresh water bath since arriving on the island and went out to the airport to say good bye to my Norwegian friend. He did not recognize me all cleaned up, but we had a heart felt farewell and I was on the plane to Seville. From Seville I took a crowded train to Madrid and changed trains to Barcelona without leaving the train station in Madrid much to my regret. From Barcelona I caught the night train back to Florence, just in time for my exam. I had a great deal of fun telling my classmates about my adventures, and would spend some time exploring around Florence, though the weather was still rather cold.
The food and wine of Florence were excellent, and we enjoyed many night spots through out the old city. We took to going to a very colorful bar adjacent to our pensione which did not open until late in the evening. Most of the patrons looked like they were out of a Frederico Fellini movie with long flowing curly hair in the Louis fourteenth style. Almost all of them were men since Italian women usually did not go out with their husbands to bars. Many of them had dyed french poodles and we could never understand a word that any of them were saying, and I'm sure they were equally amused by us brash American students. The bar was a long series of grottoes and extremely intriguing compared to most of the surrounding tourist bars. There were a great many artists and artisans who patronized the establishment and we were totally bemused by the good times had by all. Most of my fellow students fit in somewhat because we all had long hair too, which was the style amongst many students at the time.
However, I would get the travel urge again and I would return to Barcelona for a week to enjoy wandering through the old quarters of the city and would finally return to Grenoble for a two week party at the cottage adjacent to the discotheque. I would meet hundreds of young students, and we would all promise to visit each other at our respective countries. Still I could not completely forget my studies in Florence, so I would return to complete them and enjoy some weeks of spring weather around the various plazas of the city. We would explore the gardens behind the Pitti Palace on occasional evenings, and I enjoyed walking endlessly around the city. We use to join up with other Americans at one american bar and would exchange stories of our travels.