Travel Abroad(s)


The commercial kept calling out to us. A catchy tune and the promise of a round trip ticket to anywhere in Europe for under $500.  None of us could resist and the plan was in motion.  Andrea and I would fly from L.A. and land in New York for a layover where we’d meet Stacey at JFK.  Actually, it might be tricky since my two friends hadn’t even met yet.

It was the dead of winter.  Stacey called to let me know about this great coat she bought.  She couldn’t wait for me to see it because she just knew I was gonna love it.

Andrea did some research and picked out a boutique hotel, within walking distance of the Spanish steps.

Speaking of walking, those two girls were planning on walking the whole city every day.  They are both hardcore exercisers and felt that would be the best way to really see Rome.  I tire easily, so that was so not going to be me.  But, I would happily arrange to find some great restaurants.  We all know what we’re good at.  That’s my specialty.

When Andrea and I got off the plane to greet Stacey in the airport, she was hard to miss.  Her big, poofy, fuzzy, brown coat made her look like a bear, albeit a bear the color of cat barf and with an extra small head.  Yes, I was off to Rome with Fozzie Bear.  I couldn’t help myself and burst out laughing the moment I saw her.  All that build-up for well … it was indescribable.

The pensione turned out great.  Stacey and I shared a room and Andrea had one to herself.  The hotel staff was friendly and accommodating and each morning as we left to enjoy all the sites, the clerk at the desk would offer us candy from a bowl.  It was always a phenomenal way to start the day.  The candy was a chocolate, not dark, not milk, but a medium chocolate with chopped hazelnuts throughout.

I knew I couldn’t keep up with Andrea and Stacey pounding the pavement, so I would often start later and meet up with them at a museum.  Or, I might just blow off the museum altogether and meet them for lunch.  Let’s face it I was there to eat.  As I left the hotel each day, I would sneak a handful of those chocolates and began to get quite a collection going. At this point, I was taking the sweets both coming and going.  I kept my hoarding a secret; at the end of each day I’d remove the contraband from my coat pocket and toss it into my luggage.

Navigating our way around the Roman ruins, it became clear that Stacey and Andrea’s marriages were also … in ruins.  There was a lot of talk about men and failed marriages.

We were three pretty women traveling in Italy.  And one of the great perks about Italy is how the men fall at your feet.  They follow you around.  They whistle, hoot, and make obscene gestures.  Or so I’d heard.  In our case, not one Italian man even looked our way.  I’m not exaggerating — not one. Trust me, I’ve walked plenty of streets in both Los Angeles and New York with Stacey and men literally turn around and start following her because of her beauty. Same with Andrea, tall, beautiful and blonde. Maybe it was me?  It didn’t take a detective to figure out what the problem was … it was Stacey’s hideous bear-suit coat.  It was like the bad feng shui of coats; instead of attracting men, it repelled them.  We needed to get rid of it.  Each day, I suggested new great places to leave it behind.  A trash bin inside a cathedral perhaps.  The Coliseum — that way all the stray cats there could curl up with it.  I was really pushing it.  We all laughed, thinking it was becoming a hilarious bit that this coat was not only limiting our ability to get looks from men but killing it for us.  Speaking of killing, there was a good chance that if a hunter saw her in the repulsive bear suit, Stacey might be accidentally shot. If we dropped it in the Trevi fountain, people might think it was a dead animal.  Now, I was pleading with her to lose it.  We continued our magical newly-divorced-girls bonding trip without one whistle or cat call.

When the day came that we were packing to leave I decided to reveal my stockpile of hoarded chocolates.  I showed my girlfriends my stash.  Then they in turn revealed the same dirty secret.  Each had concealed her own enormous collection of candy, having kept it secret from the others.  We laughed until tears rolled down our pretty (but not to Italian men) faces.


stash of chocolate!!!

As you the reader glance through these pictures, you will think I’m out of my mind about Stacey’s mangy fur coat.  She looks stunning in these photo’s, but trust me, the coat which is quite in style right now was way ahead of it’s time.  I will admit now that the candy I will tell you about is not the exact special one from our trip because I was unable to ever locate it again.  I would have to retrace my steps back to that hotel or to Italy.  But, the one I have found in the States is perfect and worth the trip to the most magical candy store in San Francisco called Miette.  You should make a trip into this candy shop for the colors alone.  There are a few locations, but I love the one in Hayes Valley.  I will be honest that I don’t even know what the candy is actually called so I will read to you from it’s wrapper.  I’m thinking the brand is Caffarel and the name is Gianduia 1865.  You could try Also, I happen to know they sell it at Eataly in New York City which is it’s own wonderful adventure.

Stacey, Andrea, me




Stacey in bear suit

notice, no men looking!!!

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11 Responses to “Travel Abroad(s)”

  1. Andrea H says:

    As I remember the minute Stacey lost the coat, and got a cute little jacket, the men started coming!
    What a wonderful trip and memory to have shared with you.
    Love you.
    Happy Birthday.

  2. Pauli says:

    Hilarious Fredde! Love the coat story – and the chocolate hoarding.
    Truth be told there is nothing I didn’t like about this piece.

  3. Mumy says:

    I feel like I got to share a bit of your birthday with you, after reading this. Sweet. As always, bravo, Ms. Duke!

    But, I don’t believe for a nanosecond that you gals didn’t get hit on!

  4. stacey nelkin says:

    Happy Birthday, from your bear friend!
    Love the story and will always remember our time in Rome and all the good laughs, meals , and chocolate we shared.
    Betsy Johnson, however, will be awfully pissed at you if she ever reads what you said about her coat.
    (I did look a bit like a bear… : )
    The best part was when less than a year later you sent a miniature version of the coat to NYC for my baby shower for Antonia!!
    Love always,

  5. A wonderful memory to honor us with on a day we honor you…Better with each entry and every year…

  6. Eileen Mumy says:

    Lets go on a trip together and create more memories,

  7. cristi ulrich says:

    Happy Birthday Sweet Girl… Another great memory from a mind with so much to share with us. Loving your story and a a chocolate lover – in small bites – I WANT SOME!!! I think the bear Coat is Fab? Wonder if betsy Johnson is reproducing it today.. Thanks Duke for another moment in time and so hapy that 5? some years ago you were born! xxoo

  8. Carol Ward Dudley says:

    My kingdom for a birthday in Rome. What a fun read – love you Fredde. Carol

  9. It looks like I’m a bit late in wishing you a happy birthday, so a belated happy birthday to you. I loved the story and all the little details that made that story come alive. Girlfriends are the best!

  10. Christel Chesney says:

    LMFAO you and your girlfriends rock.

  11. robin says:

    my failing memory is so great!
    i can enjoy and enjoy over and over.
    each time like the first time…

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