By Peter T. Macy

Clare and I had anticipated this, our 15th, had to be a routine family visit. We would catch up with the children, eat some good food and enjoy the sun and seashore. Happily, our expectations were wrong from the beginning.

At Logan Airport, for example, though we booked through Delta Airlines, we were diverted to the international terminal for departure on Air France. There, because they were overbooked, we were offered flights on Lufthansa arriving in Florence at the same time plus a $600 each inducement to accept the change. This was a win-win for us because changing planes in Paris is a nightmare.

After completing the rebooking, we discovered that Legal Seafoods, where we customarily dined, had relocated beyond the security checkpoint in Terminal C. No lobsters for us.

On our first night in Italy, thanks to the bonus from Air France, we dined at a small restaurant, La Sesta di Vielante, and I had a meal for the ages: Salad (en salata) of sliced egg and tomato on a small bed of lettuce with a light vinaigrette; ravioli, six small cakes filled with a chopped leek, spinach, gorgonzola and almonds in a light pumpkin sauce; a fresh strawberry tart with whipped cream and a cappuccino. Delightful, thank you Air France ...

While on this subject (food), we might add, parenthetically, that gelato (Italian ice cream, supposedly made according to a recipe handed down from ancient Mesopotamia) has become an international rage. According to Sylvia Poggoli (NPR, 17 June) a gelato university opened near Bologna and students from all over the world are flocking to learn the trade. And yes, we did see some new gelato stores in our neighborhood in Siena.

Now we were off to the seashore and sun. But there we encountered cold and rain -- a perfect time to reinvent Contract Bridge. It only took us three days and 18 deals to complete one rubber. Later, we went at it again for two days and never completed a contract.

Returning to town, we were introduced to Costume Dining, where a costume motif was ordered for dinner dress. For this, our first occasion, the motif was "paper." Thus, the cast at dinner included: a paper male hula dancer, a cocktail waitress in a tutu, a fashion model in a curly streamer mini-skirt, a Chinese gentleman and a paper-clad nun.

The motif for the second such night was "color": It produced a debutante in formal black, a six-foot-three-inch blue crayon, Darth Vader (black), a tot in a purple adult blouse wraparound, and a lavender lady in waiting. At the insistence of the debutante, we voted and she won the Oscar for "prettiest."

After one of our weekends at the shore, our daughter invited us to join her at her dance lesson. The first half-hour we spent doing the tango (two-step), the second, the merengue. It was fun, but the sequel, after dinner that night, was a riot. The 6-year-old arose, put on a swing skirt and came out doing the cha-cha-cha. She had some really good moves. Naturally we joined in. The place was rockin'. It went well beyond bed time. Meanwhile, I'm remembering this hip chick leading the charge was the same one who two years earlier, as the Prince, refused to dance with Cinderella (me) and killed the show.

At the end of our stay, we had a couture day. We went to a boutique to pick up a summer dress. (In a sneak preview, with an Italian accomplice, we learned that the dress on the mannequin in the window was my wife's size.) So there I was holding the naked half of the heavy mannequin while the sales lady was stripping off her pants. What a scene.

And yes, there was one event that was on our original schedule: a visit to the closing ceremonies of our eldest granddaughter's school. The program's feature was the retirement of a very popular Italian teacher. Some of her students had taken the opportunity to write essays for the occasion and our granddaughter was one. She had written her essay in three languages (German, English and Italian). In her closing address, the teacher joyfully mentioned each of the submissions and her students responded with great cheers.

This trip may not have been what we anticipated, but we can't say we didn't enjoy ourselves. 

(Jeff Pite, at the Groton Public Library, did the reference work.)

The Macys live in Groton.