The Golden Age of Travel

The 80s was the heyday of tourism, perks galore, discounted travel abounded. We were travel agents in those days, long before changes in the industry renamed us consultants. AmEx teased us with an incentive program called “Pacesetter” and earning it would those agents who sold enough to be in the top ten percent. My goal was to become a Pacesetter and partake on a trip I had dreamed of for many years. Who could resist? Not me!

I began my quest with dedication and soon knew that I was going to make my sales quota more than I needed. Selling travel to the public was not difficult, wanderlust began from my very first trip to Europe as a young teen and it was easy to share the wonder and excitement of exploring something new and old at the same time. Did I make my goal and become a Pacesetter? What do you think? Not only did I make the top ten percent, I was in the top one percent…well beyond my goal!

This program was offered to all American Express agents across the entire United States and we ended up with a magnificent awards gala for the two hundred Pacesetters being acknowledged for one of the highest grossing years for he company. The anticipation of traveling once again to Europe was magical. It also was time to hit Saks and pick out the perfect clothing, lots of film and of course losing those extra ten pounds.

Pan-Am-747-over-San-Francisco (2)

Pan Am departing San Francisco

My personal dream adventure began with Pan Am airlines to Venice. I had the magic business credit card from AmEx and was upgraded to first class. Pan Am was then considered our American home carrier offering unsurpassed comfortable leather seats, meals served with china, complimentary drinks and wine and charming flight attendants. All of which we enjoyed by being considerate passengers. Those were the days when travel was a pleasurable experience and I am so lucky to have those grand memories.

Pan Am First class cabin

Pam Am first class cabin

The trip itinerary included three nights in Venice at a luxury hotel, transfers, sightseeing guided by a local Venetian. This was merely a small aperitif; the main course was the Orient Express across northern Italy into France and ending with three nights in Paris in yet another luxury hotel. I had dreamed about this magnificent train since reading Agatha Christie, Murder on the Orient Express.

OE traveling (2)

Orient Express Train

It was a free afternoon when a small group of us decided that we wanted to have lunch at the finest restaurants in Venice. We choose “Harry’s Bar” knowing they had an extraordinary menu, and it was that fateful day I tasted my first Bellini cocktail; the first was complimentary from our waiter. We proceeded to order more, devour with gusto a meal which cannot be adequately described. It was with our espresso our charming waiter present us with the total bill. Much to our astonishment, we calculated the lira exchange to dollars and began to pool our money, realizing we did not have enough cash to cover our tab. It was more magic that one of our San Francisco bigwigs arrived and came over to greet us. He then picked up the bill and waved us off to enjoy Venice. Our hero had rescued us from a lifetime of washing dishes in Venice at the famous Harry’s Bar. And it was my introduction to my all-time favorite, the Cipriani Bellini cocktail.

Harry's entrance

Harry’s Bar, Venice

Come join me here in Cavtat, sipping a Bellini and watching the sun set over Mrkan Island and help me celebrate my continuing love affair with my Croatia while imbibing in my favorite cocktail.


Bellini cocktail

Peach Bellini Cocktail

2 ripe peaches, pealed, halved and stone removed.
Chilled champagne

Place peaches in a small blender and puree until totally smooth. This can be done well in advance and kept in the fridge. Spoon half in to chilled champagne glasses and slowly top up with champagne, stirring as you pour. You should ideally have one third peach puree to two thirds of champagne. I also enjoy a tiny splash of Prosecco to top my Bellini.

8 thoughts on “The Golden Age of Travel

  1. Always enjoy vicarious travel with you and your exploits. Being fiesty has served you well. Keep it up

    • A great discovery on a fun trip. We have been getting a few peaches here, but they are not local, so I will wait. Soon going to be able to enjoy my favorite, the Cipriani Bellini again.

  2. You are so right … the good old days of travel … I remember you talking about your trip on that magical train … next time I’m at TJ’ S I’ll pick up their BEllini mix and mix one up … I love Proseco to bad it’s so expensi e

    • You can always find one of the smaller bottles, do not need more than a couple of drops. We were so fortunate to have been around when travel was really fun!

  3. Salve Carol, I always enjoy reading your columns and this one in particular reminiscing about travel in by gone days. I will never forget my first trip to Italia and how helpful you were in arranging airfare and hotels for someone like me who had no European travel experience. Since that first trip in 1994 I have been to Europe 20 times and last summer was able to live like a local in Roma for over 3 months, best experience ever ! Grazie mille Carol

    • Every now and then I need to take a trip down memory lane. Still waiting for you to take the hop over the Adriatic from Rome to Dubrovnik.

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