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Travel Logs June 2017

Sophia and Me

By Geno Lawrenzi, Jr.

As I neared the beach, I saw a woman sitting beneath a tree. She wore glasses and the bottom half of a bikini and was reading a book. Lying on a blanket next to her was a man with his face covered by a newspaper.

She was Sophia Loren.

In my 60s and still feeling the pain from my recent divorce – I had been married 19 years – I decided to try to put my failed marriage behind me.

I signed up for a Windjammer Barefoot Cruise to the Caribbean.

Why not? My divorce set me free to do what I wanted to do, and the freedom to travel was one of those pleasures. I had met Capt. Mike Burke, founder of Windjammer, some months earlier at his office in Miami Beach. He and I became friends and he made me an offer I could not refuse.

I arrived at the pier around 6 p.m. for the 7 o'clock sailing. A stowaway party was already in full swing, with a steel band belting out reggae tunes and an attractive waitress serving rum punch drinks.

As I sipped my cocktail, I admired the lights of the ships at sea and the splendor of the Miami shoreline. Captain Dave, commander of the sleek three-masted Yankee Clipper, introduced himself with a firm handshake. He was in his 30s, wore dark glasses, a Windjammer tee shirt, and shorts.

“I'm your captain for the voyage,” he said with a grin. “Welcome aboard. Is this your first windjammer?” I admitted it was.

“You'll love it,” he said. “Over the next seven days we're going to visit four islands, Antigua, Dominica, Grand Cayman, and Isle de Saints. You're going to discover what a tropical paradise is all about.”

Being a journalist and freelance writer, it took me two days to relax. I spent the first night in my snug cabin. It had a shower, bunk bed, and porthole through which I could view the starry night.

The second evening, I went on deck and climbed into a sleeping bag. Reggae music played over the loudspeaker and the gentle swaying of the vessel on the sea lulled me into an unforgettable comfort. Flying fish sailed through the ocean foam and on a couple of occasions I saw dolphins keeping up with our windjammer.

Antigua, a British-owned island, was relaxing and beautiful. Robin Leach, former host of the television series, “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous,” had a home on the island.

Dominica, nicknamed “Little Tahiti,” was a land of a thousand rivers. That was what the travel brochure said and I have no reason to doubt it. The island had waterfalls, lagoons, rainbows and friendly native children who followed me and my new shipboard friends through the jungle and rainforest.

Grand Cayman was romantic and had a restaurant, La Petite Café, where the owner served me fresh fish that had been grilled on a hot rock. The process captured the juices and made it an unforgettable dining experience.

But my real adventure occurred on Isle de Saints, a French-owned island that was our final stopping point before heading back to Miami. Captain Dave told the passengers the island had two beaches, an American and a French beach. He said if we were offended by semi-nudity to avoid the French beach and asked if there were any questions.

I said, “How do I get to the French beach?”

Picking out a favorite book and wearing shades and swimming trunks, I walked through the coconut palm trees. A delightful sea breeze made them dance as green monkeys played in the fronds.

As I neared the French beach, I saw a woman sitting beneath a tree. She wore glasses and the bottom half of a bikini and was reading a book. Lying on a blanket next to her was a man with his face covered by a newspaper.

She was Sophia Loren.

I pretended to read my book, but I could not take my eyes off her. Finally I put my book down and said, “Excuse me, but you are Sophia Loren, aren't you?"

She lowered her book and shook her head. “I am afraid I am not. I am just a poor school teacher from Rome.”

I smirked. “Sure you are, Miss Loren. And the man sleeping next to you – he is the principal, right?”

She squealed with laughter. “How did you know?”

When she was through laughing, she asked me my name. I told her.

“Geno, you are correct. I am Sophia. But please don't tell anyone we are here. Carlo and I so rarely get some privacy and this is such a beautiful island it would spoil it for both of us.”

I just smiled. “Miss Loren, if you think I would share this moment with anyone else, you are sadly mistaken.”

After I returned to the ship, I said nothing about my encounter with Sophia and Carlo Ponti until the Yankee Clipper was at sea. Then I casually walked up to the captain and told him what had happened.

Captain Dave pretended to be livid with rage.

“That, Sir, is a walk the plank offense,” he said. Then he winked. “Let me buy you a drink.”

 

Geno Lawrenzi, Jr. is an international journalist, magazine author, ghostwriter and poker player who lives in Phoenix, Arizona. His email address for your comments and story ideas is This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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