A Trip To Remember – Part 8 of 8

This is the last in my series of posts from my family’s trip to Italy with the St. Mary’s of the Lake Choir from Skaneateles, NY. If you’d like to check out the earlier posts, you can find them by clicking these links – PART1PART2PART3PART4PART5PART6, PART7

This last post reflects on the last day of the trip, but also on the trip overall. It was such a wonderful experience and something that my family will never forget.

This post covers our last full day in Italy as well as the trip home on July 4th.

Father Bob’s word of the day, appropriate for Venice as a city of canals, was anchor. He said that Christ should be an anchor in our lives.

We started the day in Venice with a trip to the Murano Glass Factory. There we were privileged to watch one of the glass blowing artists create amazing pieces including a replica of the famous Ferrari horse emblem.


We then toured the shopping area and learned more about the glass pieces that were quite beautiful and quite expensive. Knowing my family’s propensity for clumsiness, I was content to find a quiet corner to sit in as I feared that walking around too much might result in unfortunate, and expensive, accidents.

We weren’t allowed to take pictures of video of the original glass work.

We then returned to the boat and left the island of Murano and boarded our boat bound for main island of Venice. We disembarked and began a walking tour of the city with a local guide.

The many sites of the city were quite breathtaking.

The Bridge of Sighs:

One of the highlights of the tour was seeing The Bridge of Sighs.  The enclosed bridge is made of white limestone, has windows with stone bars, passes over the Rio di Palazzo, and connects the New Prison to the interrogation rooms in the Doge’s Palace. It was  built in 1600.

The view from the Bridge of Sighs was the last view of Venice that convicts saw before their imprisonment. The bridge was named given by Lord Byron as a translation from the Italian “Ponte dei sospiri” in the 19th century. the name comes from the suggestion that prisoners would sigh at their final view of beautiful Venice through the window before being taken down to their cells.

Bridge of SighsBridge of Sighs

St. Mark’s Square:

The tour culminated in St. Mark’s square with a tour of the church that we would later sing at a mass at the church, but had the opportunity to tour it first.

The first St. Mark’s was a building next to the Doge’s Palace in 828, when Venetian merchants stole the relics of Mark the Evangelist from Alexandria, and completed by 832. The church was burned in a rebellion in 976 and restored or rebuilt in 978.  In 1063 the present basilica was constructed.

St. Marks

IMG_4663After touring the baslica, we had time for shopping and eating lunch. we were privileged to have Father Bob join us. This was when we realized what a long and busy trip. It definitely affected Lillie who took an opportunity to nap after lunch.


Gondola Ride:

Just before it was time to meet for mass, our guide, Rita, scheduled several groups of six to take a gondola ride. This was a bucket item list for many of us and we were happy to check it off the list. For those of you thinking that it will be a romantic experience, you have to temper your expectations.

The first thing that struck me was the odor coming from the water. It’s not pleasant. The second thing was, even though Venice has many beautiful sites, some of the minor canals pass buildings that are run down and in need of repair. Overall, however, it was fun to do this as a family group.

Mass at St. Mark’s Basilica:

While we were preparing for the mass at St. Marks, it was a bit of a strange scenario. Mass was scheduled for 7PM and, in the square, sound checks for an upcoming concert by the Italian artist, Zuchero, were taking place. This consisted of loud instrumental and vocal music that echoed through the church.

The choir sat in the grotto beneath the main altar where St. Mark is entombed to reflect before the mass with the sound of drums pounding in the background. Amazingly, the sound check stopped just before 7PM and we enjoyed singing at our last mass of the trip.

After the mass, we enjoyed dinner at yet another great restaurant. Our guide mentioned that Venice is known for Risotto. I tried it and was not disappointed. It was the perfect last dinner for a perfect trip. We were fortunate to dine with a large group and the fellowship was enjoyable.

The Journey Home:

The next morning was a hectic mixture of checking out, heading to the airport, going through customs and boarding the plane for home. This group that we had traveled with for the past week was headed home. The flight back to New York’s JFK airport was well ahead of schedule and we were able to return to Jacksonville on the evening of July 4th instead of staying overnight and returning on the 5th as planned.

It was great to get home, but we will always remember this trip.

Thank Yous:

I am going to attempt to call out some people that made this trip extra special for my family and I. I hope I don’t miss anyone, but if I do, please know that the group collectively made this trip very enjoyable.

Lynda and John Parsons:

italyI have known my wife’s sister, Lynda for about 34 years and her husband, John for over 30 years. They are truly family and we have shared many memories with them. It was just over a year ago that Lynda told us about this trip and we immediately wished that we could share the experience. Well, she made it happen and my wife, Caryn, my daughter, Lillie, and my father-in-law, Mike Shurr were able to share in this pilgrimage and build lasting memories.

During the trip, we hung out with Lynda and John quite a bit and enjoyed many laughs, some tears of joy and even a lesson on crossing ourselves from Lynda.

We love you guys and thank you, once again, for including us.

Mickey and Janet Kringer:


During various trips to Skaneateles to visit John and Lynda Parsons, we had the privilege of hearing the choir at St. Mary’s of the Lake. The effort and the expertise that goes into a top notch community/parish choir is something I am familiar with as our little band of singers puts together the 5:15 mass at our own church each week.

The St. Mary’s Choir is the ultimate expression of what church music should sound like. As we got to know Mickey and his family, they are one of the most talented groups of people that i have ever encountered. When you couple that with Mickey’s patience and calmness under pressure, it is  winning combination.

I am just a piano player with a lounge lizard voice (if you heard karaoke) and I am truly grateful for Mickey’s willingness to allow us to infiltrate the choir. We did our best to fit in and improved greatly by the end of the trip. I will take some of the things I learned back to my own choir.

Mickey Lord:

mickey lMickey Lord was the organizer, the caretaker and the photographer of this trip. Many of the pictures I used in these posts (due to my lost cell phone on day 3) came from the wonderful slide show that Mickey put together. This trip was her baby and it became a beautiful child for those of us that participated.

Her quick thinking rescued the trip to Rome allowing us to return and tour the unforgettable St. Peter’s Basilica when it seemed we would miss it.

She was always there to make sure the group was all present and in the right lines at the right time. With a group of this size, it was pretty impressive. I’m glad to consider Mickey a new friend.

Daniel Kringer:

danielMr. Energy. Mr. Talent. These are only a couple of terms to describe this young man. Daniel had a large part in preparing the choir for this trip and his love for music that is evident as he conducts and performs with the group are evident. I learned a good amount about singing in a choir from Daniel in a short period of time.

He is a young man with a lot of knowledge and talent and I look forward to seeing what his future holds.

Father Bob Weber:

IMG_4385Each day, we learned more and more from and about Father Bob. I had the opportunity to speak to him one-on-one a few times and it was a true pleasure. Father Bob made the experience of the masses that we celebrated come through. He celebrated or co-celebrated all of them, even allowing my daughter to be an alter server for some. His words of the day were inspiring and grounded. I hope to see more of Father Bob in the future.

Anna Egert:

Anna is a fellow keyboardist so I had a special affinity for her. Her abilities and talent are plentiful which was evident as she was challenged with different varieties of keyboards from the four keyboard pipe organ at St. Peter’s Basilica to the piano in Assisi and finally, the glorified electronic keyboard at St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice.

Her ability to make them all sound wonderful and to give the choir a solid foundation of accompaniment deserve recognition. I have a great deal of admiration for her.


ritaRita was a fountain of energy. She was our tour guide, counselor, advisor, coordinator and head of logistics. Her knowledge and the love of what she does came through every day. She laughed with us (and probably at us) keeping the trip enjoyable. She has a very large job, but kept a positive demeanor throughout. I will miss her saying “allora” at the beginning of each day’s travel.


diegoDiego was more than a bus driver. He was punctual to a fault, he made sure all of our luggage was on board every time we left a location (at the expense of his own luggage which he left in Florence). We really appreciated him on the day he was off and our plans fell behind as his substitute was not as punctual. He also made sure he was waiting for us at the end of each day with the air conditioning running and cold water in his cooler. He is very good at his job, but also a nice person with endless patience.

My Family:


carynCaryn, my wife, is my partner in all things and has been for the past 34 years. She was all in for this trip even when it seemed like it was not a good idea financially.  We had fun and shared memories that add to our rich time together. She is a trooper and endured the heat and a swollen ankle to power through each day of walking on this trip. It was just another adventure for us that we will remember always.

Mike Shurr:

shurrI have known this man for 34 years and he is not only my father-in-law, he is the person I aspire to be if I ever grow up. He turned 81 on the last day of our trip and was the oldest person that was part of the group. You would never know it, however, as his energy and enthusiasm seemed endless. This is no surprise for anyone that knows him as this is how he approaches life. He was the biggest proponent of joining this pilgrimage and I was glad to have him with us.


What can I say about Lillie. She is our travel buddy. In her ten years of life she has traveled all over the U.S. and now to Italy. She was the youngest person on this trip, but her personality and love of life let her fit in with the group. Her first two days were mired in jet lag and an upset stomach so I made a promise to her not to try gelato until she felt better. By day 3, she was back to herself and we made up for lost time having gelato at least once per day (if not more). Lillie met many new friends and had the privilege of acting as an altar server in some of the oldest and most beautiful churches in the world. I hope this was just one of many adventures I will share with this beautiful, smart young lady.

40 thoughts on “A Trip To Remember – Part 8 of 8

      • I can only imagine, Don. I have sung in some of our little old churches…though only when I am alone and no-one is listening, as my voice is of the calibre best kept for personal consumption only 😉 There is something very special in connecting with the very fabric of the building through its acoustics, and to the people who have sung there for a thousand years. I can barely begin to imagine what it must feel like to sing in some of he churches you have filled with music. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • It is beyond description. To know that the saint that the church was named after is beneath your feet and to hear the additional seconds of music when the choir stops singing, it is truly inspiring and amazing that architects and engineers built these structures without advanced math and power tools.


      • A friend of mine, a natural soprano,visited the little cathedral in Wells where there is an octgonal Chapter House. The construction of the building, designed to allow a large gathering to converse without raising their voices, gives perfect amplification and a rich, glorious sound. She simply stood and sang a Scottish folk song… and I listened with tears streaming. They knew how to build,with an instinctive understanding of beauty and function.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Another round of breathtaking photos. But I think my favorite part was your shout outs to all the people involved in the trip and especially the tributes to your family members. (You’ve got a lovely family, by the way.) This was clearly a trip that all involved will never forget. Thank you for sharing even a small part of it with the rest of us.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Delightful photos and memories of a memorable trip. Ah, Venice. It’s been about 15 years since I was there, but you brought it all back. I really like the way you highlighted the special people who made the trip such the delight that it was. NICE.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What a wonderful trip, Don, that will leave you all with precious memories. Having family along makes it even more special. I loved Italy when we went three years ago. There’s so much old world history, fabulous food, and sights to enjoy. Thanks for sharing. 🤗

    Liked by 1 person

  4. What a wonderful experience for you with your family and friends, Don. What a treat for your daughter to be mentioned after the memorable things she saw and participated in. This will be the memory of a lifetime for all of you. Thanks for sharing it. 🙂 — Suzanne

    Liked by 1 person

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