On June 5, 2024

International travel lessons amidst progress on the home front

By Marguerite Jill Dye - Mt Med Mon Monaco, The View from the Prince’s Garden,” plein air ink and watercolor.

Building our Killington Dream Lodge: Part 16

The second floor framing on our Killington Ski Lodge was growing a little week by week. One of the slowdowns was only two beams could be transported at the time atop our station wagon each week (to avoid caving in the roof). As Dad progressed, I stayed in Montclair to work a few weeks at The Montclair Times as a Girl Friday and the roving reporter. I interviewed people on the street about the moon landing and sundry other subjects. Buzz Aldrin (from Montclair) said, “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

When the time came to leave for school, friends and family saw me off on board the New Amsterdam passenger ship. I had entered the Arlene Francis Scholarship Contest for The American College of Monaco, and won with my essay on theatre as social criticism. So, I sailed for Le Havre, France then took the train to Paris and south for my next life adventure, lugging skis, two suitcases, trunk, typewriter, and carrying Vermont in my heart.

I felt like royalty on the glitzy Riviera, living in a Monte Carlo fairytale. Prince Rainier was our college president, and Jacques Cousteau our chancellor. Prince Rainier and Princess Grace invited us to their palace for an elegant reception, and to a picnic barbecue in the tropical palace garden.

They both had a great sense of humor. Princess Grace asked me, “Which airline did you arrive on?”

“Icelandic,” I answered.

“Oh, yes,” she said with twinkling blue eyes. “We call it Hashish Air.”

In the spring, Prince Rainier led us down a garden path. A voice in the palm trees clearly called out, “Bonjour. Ça va bien.” I burst into laughter when I spotted the Royal miynah bird.

Then Princess Grace suggested I go swimming.

“I didn’t bring a bathing suit.”“Help yourself to one of mine in the bathhouse.”

I chose an orange number (out of 300) then swam and played in the water with their children and white French Poodle.

I discovered Vermont and Monaco have something big in common—steep mountains. Our college was in the Hotel Splendid, hundreds of steps straight uphill on outdoor Monegasque staircases.

With 25 students, eight professors, and run by Grace Kelly’s brother in Philadelphia, The American College of Monaco went bankrupt but kind-hearted Prince Rainier kept it open through May so we’d receive our college credits. It was time to decide where to transfer. I applied to the University of New Hampshire and Schiller College, Paris Campus. My major was French. Which one do you think I chose?

That summer Gigi (a fellow student) and I had an extraordinary traveling adventure in Italy, Greece, and Turkey to historic sites, deserted beaches, and boat rides on the Aegean Sea and Bosporus Strait. I had food poisoning from a floating food vendor in Istanbul and was sick for days on trains en route to Monaco to pick up our stuff and to Paris to drop it off. We picked up our mail at American Express where Dad’s sad letter about Star’s demise left me sobbing on the sidewalk. Concerned Parisians stopped to help.

I arrived in Graz, Austria (Montclair’s sister city) after 24 hours on the Orient Express to attend the University of Graz for a summer studies program. I felt at home in Austria. Its terrain and folk culture reminded me of Vermont. Hiking verdant mountains and pine forests to wildflower meadows and dancing streams and swimming in crystal clear lakes stirred my soul like Vermont does. New friends from Graz, Christine and Herbert, and Hans, a German medical student, became my close friends like a sister and brothers.

My major revelation on a Prague study tour was when I asked my Czechoslovakian professor if he believed in God. His literature class was deeply spiritual but I assumed he was communist, teaching in a university behind the Iron Curtain. He stretched out his powerful arms and looked up towards Heaven then quietly responded, “Who can prevent me from looking at the sky?”

Like a lightening bolt, I clearly saw a pathway towards world peace could be built—through people to people friendships, mutual respect, and understanding. Political division of peoples and nations could be overcome regardless of borders, beliefs, and perspectives. My passion for cross-cultural communications was born and became a guiding light from then on.

My Austrian friend Christine stayed with my parents in Vermont and attended the Montreal Olympics with Dad. She left just before I returned home but sent her soccer star friend to help Dad finish the roof before I arrived. They nailed a small pine tree to the corner of the roof to announce its completion to the world. We celebrated the end of an era in our lives, but it was bittersweet since Star was gone.

The Austrian soccer player and I installed dry wall. But most of the walls, ceiling, and floor were covered with beautiful Oregon wood, which my brother Billie had arranged. Huge Pella picture windows were installed for Pico and Killington views. At last, the second floor of our Killington Lodge was taking shape and becoming reality.

Marguerite Jill Dye is an artist and writer who divides her time between Killington and Florida. 

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