We love you Esselunga, but you’re no Wegmans!


In January, Ben and I were in the Esselunga shopping when this poster caught my eye.  Well, it was the listing of Trader Joe’s, Wegmans and Esselunga that caught my eye. 

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It seems that Boston Consulting Group did a survey.  From their website is this summary.


  • BCG surveyed more than 227,000 consumers in Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain, the UK, and the U.S.
  • This article reveals the companies whose customers’ experiences have earned them the strongest word-of-mouth recommendations, selected from seven diverse industries.
  • The results highlight pockets of superb performance across markets.


What Really Shapes the Customer Experience

Word-of-mouth recommendations offer a critical way to measure and improve a company’s performance—and ultimately to boost growth.

BCG’s Brand Advocacy Index (BAI) shines a spotlight on the companies that have achieved the pinnacle of word-of-mouth recommendations: brand advocacy.

To learn about where companies stand, we surveyed more than 227,000 consumers in Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain, the UK, and the U.S. (See the exhibit “Brand Advocacy Index Rankings of Brands, by Country and Industry.”)


However, we have noticed that, in many cases, the biggest or most commonly known brands do not always score the highest in advocacy in a market. Consider retail grocery or retail banking, for instance: the top three most recommended brands include many fairly small, focused players that provide an excellent experience despite their lack of scale. In some cases, they do so by providing relatively good value for money (such as Lidl and Aldi in retail grocery) or strong emotional connections (such as Trader Joe’s and Costco).

Some bigger brands do not show up on our list of most recommended brands for several reasons. BAI measures relative scores among customers and noncustomers, so even with a low BAI, a company might have more advocates in absolute numbers. Small brands also typically create a loyal fan base, often helped by their specific positioning or unexpected excellence compared with large brands. In addition, established large brands sometimes simply have fewer new things to announce, giving people less reason to talk about them.

It is no secret that we love our Esselunga.  And had I been surveyed, my answer would have been different depending on the question.  Favorite grocery in Italy, would have been Esselunga.  Favorite grocery in the world,… well you might remember a few weeks back  when I went off the subject of roasted vegetables and ranked grocery stores.  

(Of all the grocery stores I know, my top three would be Wegmans, Carrefour and Super H. Followed closely by Harris-Teeter (or Harris Tweet as my father used to call them) Tang Freres, Lidl, The Fresh Market, then Giant, Iper-Coop and Whole Foods)

Probably I would have placed Esselunga in front of Giant, Iper-Coop and Whole Foods. 

Anyway, the interesting thing to note about the survey is that Esselunga appeared in this survey and scored well enough to be ranked right up there with Wegmans and Trader Joes;  Carrefour did not.  Esselunga is a home-grown, Italian chain of 151 stores, in only 6 of the 20 regions of Italy, while Carrefour has 530 stores here in Italy alone.  Carrefour which originates in France doesn’t even appear in the results from France. 

What do we love about the Esselunga?   Each week when we go in, we are greeted warmly by almost all the staff.  The same folks who were working there 8 years ago when we started shopping there, are still there.  The store is not a rotating crop of fresh faces.  And these are middle age folks,  not teenagers.  This is a career for them, not ‘just a job’.  I think they are treated with respect and paid a living wage.  The employees are happy, polite and helpful and they take pride in their work. I am sure they are not always perfect like this but through the years, we have learned the time of day to shop.  When we are there the store is not crowded.  I never managed to find a time when Wegmans was not crowded. 

On each trip to Esselunga, Ben and I stop by Bar Atlantic which is part of the Esselunga family.  Sometimes we eat lunch there, sometimes Ben has a coffee while I shop.  If, while I was shopping and something happened to Ben but he could not get me on the phone and was in distress, I feel like one of the bar employees would come into the store and find me.  And mind you, this is a big store, 30 aisles, 20+ checkout lanes.  A big store, no Mom and Pop shop.  It is clean, well maintained and well organized. 

What would make Esselunga into a Wegmans?  More ready to eat foods.  More international offerings.  Some French wine maybe? (rose of course)  But please, don’t lose those wonderful employees. 

Back to discussing grocery stores.  Well, you can imagine my delight,  when shortly after seeing BCG survey I discovered that Super H (also know as H Mart) is expanding into North Carolina.   Right there in Raleigh!!!!

From the Triangle Business Journal

Amanda Hoyle Staff Writer Triangle Business Journal

Real estate sources have confirmed that the New Jersey-based grocery chain H Mart – a grocer that specializes in Korean and other Asian foods – has signed a contract to open its first store in North Carolina at a Cary retail center.

H Mart will be moving into the former Lowes Foods-anchored space at the Cornerstone Village shopping center at 1961 High House Road after signing a lease deal for the entire 45,436-square-foot vacant space.

But I am really over the moon when reading and laughing about all the snow that was hitting Raleigh to see….

From the January 19, 2016 News and Observer




Wegmans Food Markets, an 88-store company that is ranked as one of the top supermarket chains in the country, is looking to open its first North Carolina store in Cary across the street from Cary Towne Center.

The family-owned company, headquartered in Rochester, N.Y., is eying a site on a 90-acre tract north of the mall. The land is owned by Columbia Development Group LLC, a Columbia, S.C.-based shopping center developer.

“We have signed a letter of intent and are working through lease negotiations with Columbia Development Group, with hopes of reaching a final lease agreement sometime during the first quarter of 2016,” Wegmans spokeswoman Jo Natale said Monday in an email.

Columbia Development Group has submitted preliminary plans to the town that include thousands of square feet of retail, restaurant and office space, plus some residential, structured parking and potentially a 130-room hotel. The company has contracted to buy the land from the state for $21.15 million.

Wegmans, with locations in New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland and Massachusetts, boasts a “European open-air market feel” with a pharmacy, ready-made meals, a pizza shop, coffee shop and more. The company plans to open at least 13 more stores in the coming years, according to the Wegmans website.

Representatives of Columbia Development Group discussed its preliminary development sketch plans with Cary staff at a pre-application conference Wednesday, Jan. 13. The plan shows 200,000 to 300,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space; 300,000 to 600,000 square feet of office space; and 300 to 600 apartments.

The Cary Town Council would have to approve rezoning the property before the project could move forward. Columbia Development Group has yet to submit a rezoning application to the town.

The Wegmans announcement, and the ambitious plans for the 90-acre site, come at a time when Cary Towne Center officials are determining the future of the indoor shopping center, which has been losing anchor tenants and smaller retailers. Sears closed in early 2015 and Macy’s announced this month that it would close its store this spring.

Cary Town Council members have said they want to the land off Cary Towne Boulevard, which is part of what they call the “eastern gateway into Cary,” to become a destination.

“This is a gateway into Cary, a gateway off of (interstate) 40,” Councilman Don Frantz said Friday. “It needs to be remarkable. It needs to be something that stands the test of time. It needs to be something that provides a lot of jobs, shopping, retail, restaurants and residential.”

Council member Lori Bush said Friday that she and others envision the 90 acres as “the next North Hills.”

“They’re doing what we had hoped, which is to partner with retail, commercial, office and residential, so that’s a great step forward,” Bush said. “I’m not sure it’s there yet, but they are working hard and continue to keep the lines of communication open.”

The council will discuss its vision for that corridor at a Tuesday, Jan. 26, work session, where members will review a draft plan for the east Cary gateway special planning area. The plan was drafted by Imagine Cary, a group of residents and planners.

Town staff have invited representatives of the Columbia Development Group to attend the meeting. Abbitt Goodwin Jr., a partner at Columbia Development Group’s Raleigh office, said he plans to attend.

If the development is approved, Wegmans would join a crowded field of grocery stores in Cary and western Wake County. Publix opened with fanfare in 2014 in west Cary – shortly after a new Harris Teeter opened on Walnut Street. And Publix plans to open a second Cary store in a former Lowes Foods store on Kildaire Farm Road.

A third Publix is planned at a shopping center at the northwest corner of Carpenter Fire Station and Green Level Church roads. A new Whole Foods is also set to be built on a 58-acre site at the southwest corner of N.C. 55 and N.C. 540, directly north of Panther Creek High School.

Meanwhile, Lowes has bought land in Cary for another store near the intersection of the future Morrisville Parkway extension and Mills Park Drive while it also has renovated existing stores. Lidl, a European competitor of Aldi, also hopes to enter the Cary and Apex markets.

Wegmans was ranked the No. 1 supermarket in the country in 2015 in Consumer Reports’ annual survey of customers. Out of 68 chains, it ranked high in freshness, baked goods and overall shopping experience. It was one of three chains, including The Fresh Market and Whole Foods, that earned high scores for produce

Read more here: http://www.newsobserver.com/news/local/community/cary-news/article55454620.html#storylink=cpy

So not only is Wegmans coming but LIDL too!!!!!!!  Oh, my, Raleigh is becoming big time for sure!  Wegmans, Lidl, Super H, Harris-Teeter, Publix, Whole Foods and Fresh Market.  It will be a grocery store lover’s paradise!

Fall trip, 2015, Sheweee!


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We’re glad that’s over!  (The suitcases gather for one last time)

(And Fall Trip, 2015 posts are done too.  Back to life in Italy)

Fall trip, 2015, So what do expats bring back?


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Food, that we have a hard time getting in rural Tuscany.

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Cookies for the dog and cookies for me


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Kitchen gadgets

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New things to amuse me


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OTC drugs and makeup

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Calendars and dish towels.  When you live abroad you need a US calendar so that you know when the holidays are, just like you need a local calendar to know when the holidays are.  (That’s why there are multiple calendars in my office)  And sometimes you just want to have a funny calendar that reminds you of your other culture.

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Tee shirts, with things on them that make sense.


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And if a stray bottle of wine wanders into a suitcase, who’s gonna kick it out?


Fall Trip, 2015 I have looked for this tree for a long time


It really does exist.

Holland is known for flowers, plants, fresh vegetables.  All of it is beautiful.  I especially wanted to visit the flower market to look for some specialty daffodil bulbs.  And I found those.  (you’ll probably see them this Spring.  Ohhhh, something to look forward to)

I have heard rumors that this tree existed.  Lo and behold there was one in our hotel, the DoubleTree by Hilton.


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Beer does grow on trees!!!!!

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I am sad to report that even though I looked all over I never found seeds for this tree.  What a dream tree….

Fall Trip, 2015 Amsterdam Pictures, Part 2


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Nice house boat with a floating deck


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The little dot in the top half of the vertical glass panel on the right caught my eye.


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What a place to spin a web…..


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Checking out the new arrival on the dock…


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Just the place to have your picture taken.  At night the halo lights up.

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From the top floor of The Doubletree by Hilton in Amsterdam

Fall Trip, 2015 More Amsterdam Pictures, Part 1


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Holiday lights


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I like the ‘atmospheric’ quality of this shot. 


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Same building from a different vantage point on a clearer day.


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The canals had strange things in them

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That the canal boats were passing through

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Turns out that this part of the holiday display of lights on the canals.



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I am still puzzled by this building.  It appears to be new construction topped by old, if that makes sense.

Look for another post with more Amsterdam pictures.


Fall Trip, 2015 Amsterdam


By the time we arrived in Amsterdam we had been traveling for over 4 weeks.  That is 4 weeks of me getting Ben in and out of the car, getting the wheelchair in and out of the car, getting the suitcases in and out of the car, packing the suitcases, unpacking the suitcases, trying to anticipate what we would need at each stop and packing a suitcase just for that stop and failing to think of every little obscure thing that Ben could possibly want and then having to go stand in a dark, cold  parking lot while tossing around suitcases in the back of the car just to find…  I was more than tired of traveling and more than tired of trying to find the cord for this device and that device and plug this in but don’t forget to unplug it and take it with us 10 minutes later.  More than one time Ben had the back pack full of all his devices and cords thrown in his lap with the admonishment, “you figure out how to get it in there!”  So I was happy to get to Amsterdam where we stayed for a week with no car, in a nice warm hotel room with plenty of European plugs.

We booked the Amsterdam part of our stay through Accessible Travel Netherlands.  www.accessibletravelnl.com     I had tried to arrange it all on my own.   Because we wanted to rent a motorized wheel chair for Ben to use, I was having a problem finding accommodations  in the city center which could handle the size of a  wheel chair in the elevator.  I finally gave up and contacted Veroniek  Maat at Accessible Travel.  What a savior! 

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Veroniek met us at the airport, arranged our transport in to town and came along to make sure the motorized wheel chair had been delivered and that our hotel was fine.

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The hotel, The Doubletree by Hilton, City Center, Amsterdam.  Less than 5 minutes  walk from the train station and the center part of town.


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  View from our room on the 10th floor.  The very busy river that reminded me of the harbor in Hong Kong. 

Even though we ended up staying here,  a much more expensive hotel than we normally would stay in, it was so worth it.  It was new!  A large room with lots of electrical plugs.  A bath with a shower and a tub.  (more about this in another post)  The room came with breakfast, Ben’s favorite meal of the day.  Although the motorized chair would fit in the room, the staff suggested storing the motorized chair and using his regular chair inside the hotel.  They would be responsible for charging it .  We would simply show up at the desk with one or the other chairs and make the change and they would handle it all.  It was very nice to have someone taking care of a portion of things for me. 

Amsterdam is a beautiful city.  And admittedly we were not all over the city but what we saw was very clean.  Very well run from a tourist point of view.  I saw very little graffiti.  I saw no beggars/pan handlers/sketchy types that would make me think ‘ohhh, should we be on this street’. 

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One of the two bits of graffiti that I saw.  And really, this is more street art that ‘tagging’ or graffiti. 

The train station was clean.  No one appeared to be living there or using corners of it as a toilet.  It had a nice variety of shops that were not over priced.  (We had dinner from the little grocery as take out in our room for several nights).

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Art work in the train station


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The piano in the train station.  Every time I walked by there was someone playing and a small crowd gathered round.

The motorized wheel chair that we arranged for Ben to use turned out to be a 3 wheel cart, much like the courtesy ones that are available for use in stores in the US.  These carts are fine in a smooth, level, not too crowded environment. We were advised to use the cart on the sidewalk rather than the bike lanes that are all over the city.  The bike lanes are more crowded than the car lanes.  There are a lot of bikes in Amsterdam.

 On our first outing with the cart the streets and sidewalks were crowded with folks.  The sidewalks were uneven, had tables and chairs in them, did not always have curb cuts.  We had been out for maybe 15 minutes, trying to find somewhere for dinner and Ben tried to go up a curb at an angle.  Didn’t work.  Ben, the cart and I were all splayed on the pavement of an intersection.  Fortunately, there were many helping hands, many people speaking English and a policeman offering to call an ambulance if we needed it. 

I had been walking behind Ben and had seen that he would sway from side to side even going over the slightest bump.  So I was not entirely surprised that the spill had happened.  He just doesn’t have a sense of balance and is not able to shift his weight to compensate as he needs to.  Needless to say the tumble put quite a damper on our enthusiasm for getting out and seeing the sites.  The strong winds, rain and cold also did not encourage us either.  And I was just plain tired and jet lagged.  So we did not see as much of Amsterdam as we had hoped.  But what we saw and ate we enjoyed very much.  It is a beautiful city.  And working with Veroniek at Accessible Travel was a good choice. 

More Amsterdam pictures in another post.


Fall Trip, 2015, Random shots from the US


You know how sometimes I just have a picture that is not quite enough for a whole post on its own.  These are those pictures from the US

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Part of the lovely walk-in closet at one of the Air BandB places that we stayed in.  And yes that is about all the clothing that I brought for a 6 week trip.


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We entered one of the Air BandB places that we stayed at through a garage.  As soon as you opened the garage door you were greeted by a sea of rake and yard tool handles.  This is only a small part of them.  It was really a hoot!  I think that the owner of the house rented her garage space or had a relative in the lawn care business????


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These leaves on our car after the rain were just too pretty to ignore.


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A really nice bottle of French rose that I found at the Food Lion in Oxford,NC.  It fills me with hope that good wine is there.  You just have to look.


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Oyster shell recycling


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Look closely, if I put Ben in his wheel chair he can’t escape from having his picture made!


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You see the strangest things in my cousin’s house


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This appears to me, wearing my overalls with a parsnip.  I think my cousin thought this was funny.  There might have been wine involved.


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Turkey frying

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A not very good picture of the fried turkey breast which was very good.  Kudos Pete and Bill.


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Yes, my 102 year old Aunt Mary drying dishes after Thanksgiving.  Just try to stop her….


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The kitchen is blessed and protected by the sea and all who dwell there. 


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Or maybe it’s all those eyes watching you…


Fall Trip, 2015, Showers


When you travel with someone who has mobility problems and balance issues, shower taking can become a real concern.  Even in handicapped accessible hotel rooms, I can still tell ‘this bathroom was designed by someone who has never been in a wheel chair’.  Because of that I still look at  Airbnb  https://www.airbnb.com/  for places to rent that are mostly private homes.  (You may recall Ben’s wonderful birthday week in France was spent at an Airbnb place where the owner’s aunt used a wheel chair.) 

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This was the shower at an Airbnb home that we stayed at in Raleigh.  It was very close to perfect.  We brought a shower chair and the rubbery mat with us.  Attached to the wall is the removable suction safety handle that we also brought.  Because this shower had completely smooth walls that handle sucked right on perfectly.  If the shower had been a detachable hose type of shower then this would have been completely perfect.  There was a shelf to put shampoo and such on.  Not too much of a lip for Ben to step over but enough that I did not have to mop up the whole place afterwards.  Very High Marks!


I neglected to take a picture of the shower in the handicapped accessible hotel room in Virginia Beach.  It is from the ‘less is better’ school of design.  The very large, so-a-wheel-chair-can-get-in-there bathroom has a toilet, sink, roll-in shower with grab bars and 1 (yes, count it, ONE) towel rack.  No where to put anything like shampoo in the shower, or soap or a toothbrush when using the sink.  I flipped over a trash can and plopped  it down in the shower for shampoo and stuff and moved one of the outdoor balcony plastic chairs inside to use as a shelf by the sink.  Now, I’m able to do things like that, but could someone in a wheel chair traveling independently do that?


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This was the shower in our very pricy, new construction hotel room in Amsterdam.  It was nice.  Would have been better if there had a bar above and parallel to the shower seat so that the shower could have been right over the person sitting down.  And if the shower curtain had been weighted or stiffer at the bottom so that soooo much water didn’t come out into the rest of the bathroom. 

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And this was the tub in the same Amsterdam hotel room.  Oh my what a nice tub.  I took a bath every day.  Sometimes two times a day.  It was so nice.  Fortunately I had brought with me a bag of Epsom salts for soaking my travel weary body.  Ohhhh, one of the best things of the trip.  But you see our rubbery mat hanging on the side.  Using that made all the difference in my feeling of security when I was getting in and out of the tub. 

So as my peers and I get older these are things to consider when traveling.  One of the reasons why Ben and I traveled as much as we could when we were younger is that somehow we just knew that the day would come when it would be so much more difficult to travel.  Take some advice, travel now while you are able!

Fall Trip, 2015 Mid-Atlantic bridge, tunnel, ferry…


One of the things that marks you as an old person in the US is if you can remember traveling before a large part of the US was covered by the interstate highway system.  Before I-95 went all the way from Florida to Maine.  And I suppose before the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel and the Cape May-Lewes Ferry started operating.


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Since the last time we were in the area, both landmarks celebrated a 50 year anniversary.  Ben and I really enjoy traveling from Norfolk, VA up to Ocean City, NJ along the eastern shore of Virginia, Maryland and Delaware.  Most of the drive is non-interstate, through farm land, some farms still appear to be family owned and operated.  It is just a pretty ride if you are not in too big of a hurry to get anywhere. 

We started in Norfolk, after a last stop at Bojangles and went across the bay bridge tunnel and then on to Rehoboth Beach for the night.  Next morning it was on to the ferry. 

There were some interesting posters up about the history of the ferry.

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The towns that are connected

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The governing body that had to be created

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The ferries

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What else was going on in the world


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I guess I have been taking this ferry since I was a little girl but I don’t really remember it.  I know that parents enjoyed taking the ferry.  When they retired, after I moved out, my father would proudly announce over the phone when we talked “I’m taking your mother on a cruise!”  “What????”  “We’re going on the Cape May ferry…”  So now his retired daughter and her husband follow the same tradition.

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“Are you ready for your cruise, dear?”



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