Sunday, December 31, 2017

Up, Up and Away! Soon

Rome Diary IV:
Il Mio Ritorno a Roma!
December 31, 2017
Mostly Cloudy 55°F/13°C in Rome, Italy
Cloudy 39°F/4°C in Cedar Park, Texas
Buona giornata amici miei!
      This is my final blog for 2017. In a few hours, there will be a new year, and new adventures ahead. There will be another birthday, and new musings on how swiftly time flies. First thing on my  New Year’s agenda: Rome!

I live for my travels to the Eternal City. It’s a romance that dates back to Mr. Diamond’s Latin
Michael, Laura, MikeBo in Venice
class at good old Riverhead High School, when I first started learning about the wonders of the ancient world. There must be something in the Botula family gene pool, because my son Michael went to Europe, met his future wife Laura in London and went back to Rome with her and are living their happily ever after in Rome. My first visit came in 2005, and I’ve dutifully returned regularly ever since.

The first several visits were typical vacation trips. My first Roman Holiday, came with an ambitious two-week plan: Rome, Pompeii, Florence and Pisa, and of course, Venice.  In spite of the high hopes, I never left Rome on that trip. Too much to see and do in Rome. Since then, I’ve scaled back on my travel ambitions and lengthened my time in-country. In 2013, I traveled to Rome for what I thought might be a two week sojourn. Instead, I stayed more than two months. After the first few weeks, Michael and Laura found me a studio apartment nearby, left me behind, and went on a ten-day cruise. Since then, we have followed that pattern. On this trip, I am renting the same small apartment I lived in this spring. It’s near Michael and Laura, it’s close to the bancomat and market and it’s located within a short walk to the metro.

Looking back, I can see that I was following a very familiar pattern often taken by first-time overseas travelers – planning too ambitious an itinerary. Too often, the first-time international traveler returns home in a daze. The vacation has unfolded in a blur of activity. Were we in Rome on Tuesday, or was that Berlin? When were we in Paris? I remember the Eiffel Tower, but, what day was it? So, my sage advice to first time travelers is this: Go ahead and book a complete tour with flights, hotels and meals included. Make sure you take local tours so you are sure to see the sights. But, keep in the back of your mind what you’d like to see on your RETURN TRIP. That way you can profit by your lessons learned on your guided tour and apply them to a more leisurely pace on your return trip.

Thanks to globalization and the internet, a Roman Holiday can be yours as easily as a family trip to Disneyland, especially in Europe where the Euro is the currency of choice in 19 countries. (The current rate of exchange is 1 Euro = $1.19 USD). I always order a supply of Euros from my bank before I leave, so that I have some local currency to spend until my first visit to an Italian bancomat, or ATM. Your credit cards will work in the EU as well. Just make sure they are cards with the computer chip. And, it’s always a good idea to let your bank and credit card company know the dates and places you will be traveling.

I always advise my traveling buddies to invest in a good travel book to take along. Having some handy phrases in the local language will go a long way to endearing you to the natives. I carry and array of city street maps as well. Also, in keeping with my current virtual existence, my IPAD and IPhone both carry the Google Translator, so I can augment the Italian I’ve learned in Patrizia Papi’s language classes at Austin Community College.  The GPS features on both handheld devices largely replace maps and guidebooks, but, my Boy Scout training has instilled in me an incentive to have a map and guidebook handy as a back-up.

Michael’s band, No Funny Stuff! is playing in Milan a few days following my  arrival in Rome. So, we will be traveling on the high-speed train from Rome to Northern Italy for a few days on my first adventure out of Rome. Since my birthday and Laura’s birthday fall within a few days of each other, we plan on a joint birthday celebration in Milan. In keeping with my policy of  over-planning my vacations, the trip to Milan is the only event on my itinerary so far. But, I know at the other end of the month, there will be other adventures and other destinations.

My laptop and my IPad are traveling with me, so, I will be writing about my journey along the way.

I’ll keep you posted.

[Mike Botula is the author of LST 920: Charlie Botula’s Long, Slow Target! He is a retired broadcast journalist, government spokesperson and media consultant.   Mike’s book is available from Amazon or Barnes and Noble Books. You can visit Mike Botula at]

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Day of Infamy: An Untold Story for December 7, 2017

Day of Infamy: An Untold Story for December 7, 2017
MikeBo’s Blog!
Partly Cloudy 52°F/11°C Roma, Lazio, Italia
Cloudy 42°F/6°C Cedar Park, Texas
    Today marks the seventy-sixth anniversary of Japan’s attack on the US Naval Base at Pearl Harbor, a date that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt would tell a Joint Session of Congress the following
USS Arizona
day would go down in history as A Day Which Will Live in Infamy. From that moment forward, America would be at war, entwined in the greatest global conflict in the history of the world.

    One of the survivors of the Pearl Harbor  attack was a young Petty Officer named Harry Neil Schultz, a native of Washington. Schultz later went on to command LST 920, an amphibious landing ship that my father, Lieutenant Charles Botula, Jr. served aboard as Executive Officer during 1944 and 1945.
   Schultz’s heroism in the aftermath of a Nazi U-boat attack on my father’s ship off the coast of England in August, 1944 is chronicled in my book, LST 920: Charlie Botula’s Long, Slow Target! While I was researching the book, I talked to several members of Schultz’ family who told me that Harry Schultz had joined the Navy in 1937. He was one of five brothers who served in various branches of the armed forces in WW2. On December 7, 1941, Harry Schultz was aboard his ship, the destroyer USS Jarvis (DD 393) on that fateful Sunday morning at Pearl Harbor. His story is also told in a chapter in my book. This account is from my website.
Harry Schultz: Defiant Hero!

Onward and Upward!
© Mike Botula 2017

[Mike Botula is the author of LST 920: Charlie Botula’s Long, Slow Target! He is a retired broadcast journalist, government spokesperson and media consultant.   Mike’s book is available from Amazon or Barnes and Noble Books. You can read more about Mike Botula at]