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From Apple Valley to the Panama Canal

January 22, 2013

Local couple takes nine-month journey around world

By Davida Siwisa James
APPLE VALLEY REVIEW

Don and Vicki Allen returned home last month after a tour of more than a dozen countries in 284 days. Having found love again after their casual acquaintance blossomed, they married on Aug. 27, 2011.

“Both of us had lost our spouses and realized life is short,” said Don Allen. “We decided we should travel now while we were healthy and capable.”

Their bucket list included the great opera houses and museums, and visiting memorial cemeteries, many of which commemorated World War I and II veterans.

“I initially thought we were just going to spend three months in Italy,” said Vicki Allen. “But Don had other plans.”

The trip started on March 7, 2012 with 10 days in New York City. They saw “Madame Butterfly” at the Metropolitan Opera, strolled through Central Park and visited the Guggenheim.

From New York, the couple sailed to England on the Cunard’s Queen Victoria.

“On some cruise ships,” Vicki Allen said, “you dress for dinner once or twice during the cruise. But on the Queen Victoria, we dressed every night. It was very elegant.”

After arriving in England, they immediately took a high speed train to France. From their apartment in Paris, they visited the Louvre, Notre Dame and Versailles before going to Italy.

June Kerry, a friend and former Apple Valley resident, rented them her house in Tuscany.

“She not only rented us her home,” said Vicki Allen, “but she went over ahead of time, made sure everything was nice and then stayed a few days to introduce us to her neighbors.” Kerry’s house was in the town of Vitiano, about 10 miles from the setting of the book and movie “Under the Tuscan Sun.”

The house in Tuscany was their base for 83 days, while they toured throughout Italy.

“Our neighbor, Moreno Passalacqua, helped us so many times and included us in some of his family gatherings.”

The Allens collected information through various travel clubs on housing that was a fraction of the price of hotels. They stayed with host families, rented time shares, and condos. The couple also learned early, after one expensive dinner, that they could stock their kitchen for two weeks for the same price.

“So we didn’t eat out much,” said Vicki Allen. “We went out to a nice dinner a few times. But we wanted to see places and do things. When you are gone nine months, you have to budget.”

By June, they were in Israel.

“Israel was very central to our planning,” said Don Allen. “It was part of a Holy Land Tour led by Pastor Mike Clark with the Church of the Valley group.” The names from the Bible came alive as they walked by the Sea of Galilee, Nazareth and the River Jordan.

After Israel, the Allens drove to Monaco and then Switzerland where they visited the League of Nations and the Museum of the Reformation.

The trip evolved as they traveled, bringing them back for a second to some countries. Don Allen emailed updates of their travels to family and friends as they toured, and a website is in the making to provide more details.

There was no Rosetta Stone CD tucked away for quick language instruction.

“We learned that once we knew how to say basic greetings, ‘thank you,’ and ‘please,’ that people forgave us for our lack of fluency,” said Vicki Allen.

Bavarian castles awaited them in Germany in July and August. With 360-degree panoramic views of Austria, Italy, Switzerland and Germany, the Allens rode a cable car 9,718 feet to the top of Zugspitze, the highest point in Germany.

They celebrated their first wedding anniversary in Dresden, Germany. Don continued to indulge his love of music as they listened to the Vienna Mozart Orchestra in Germany.

By November, Apple Valley was back in their sights as the couple took the second of three cruises for 15 days across the Mediterranean to Mallorca, the Grand Canary Islands, Antigua and St. Maarten.

They disembarked in Florida, where they spent 10 days before boarding their final cruise on the Coral Princess. From there, they sailed to Aruba, Cartagena, the Panama Canal and Columbia, visiting the Palace of the Inquisition. Don Allen rounded out the tour by singing in a shipboard choir.

On Dec. 15, the couple arrived in San Pedro. Even after docking, they found time to explore the Point Fermin Lighthouse, a historical landmark built in 1874. After a nine-month dream tour, the Allens were home.

The couple has a simple belief: “Home is where you hang your hat.” They are in the process of planning their next trip. Don and Vicki Allen hope to be on the road by March.