Traveling Around the World with
Mike and Barbara Bivona - Part One
by Mike Bivona iUniverse

"Looking down at Naples through the plane's window, I couldn't help but reflect that my mother's parents came from this city at the end of the 19th century. How times have changed."

Mike Bivona and his wife Barbara are able to travel as they please and have fulfilled the aspirations of their ancestors, as many Americans have, by returning to forgotten homelands as tourists. In the case of the Bivonas, their travel includes their great passion for dancing, and especially, the tango.

The book begins with an account of Mike's youth in Brooklyn, when he worked in Coney Island, which in those days was a wild, exciting place, with bizarre entertainments such as The Human Pool Table—"a large flat surface made up of 24 rotating discs that revolved in opposite directions challenging players to move from one surface to another without falling and becoming entangled with each other." From there, at age 18, Mike joined the US Air Force to serve, possibly, in the Korean conflict, though most of his time overseas was spent in Japan. He believes these early exotic experiences got him "hooked on traveling."

The next portion of the story, and the majority of the book, comprises Mike and Barbara's enchantment with the tango and the many directions in which it has led them. A retired accountant who has written other books including Retired? What's Next?, Mike has set about to answer his own question in great detail in Traveling, as well as in an earlier book called Dancing Around the World. In this episode, "Part One" of their travel journals, the Bivonas have been to Buenos Aires, where they learned the tango, "the dance of love" that is always performed in formal costume with a great deal of significant eye contact and drama between the partners; Paris, both to watch (at the Moulin Rouge and elsewhere) and to participate in dance, and to roam the streets looking for famously fabulous foods; and Italy, tasting fresh pizza and exploring noted sights of the Eternal City. They've toured America, too: honeymooned at Niagara Falls, gone toboggan riding in the Catskills, and as a climax to a riverboat cruise down the Mississippi, they did Mardi Gras, complete with the crowds, spectacle, and rich Louisiana coffee. They live in Florida part of the year and describe in detail a visit to Sarasota and the remarkable Ringling mansion/museum. The book wraps up with their experiences in Hawaii, where the beauty of the beaches was a sedative for the author after a frustrating set of mishaps during the arriving flight. Everywhere they have been in recent years, the Bivonas have sought and found lovely music and engaging dance, which they appreciate as watchers, learners, and participants.

This book would serve as an excellent up-close-and-personal guide for anyone traveling to, or considering, the destinations described. It gives an accurate picture of river boat travel (the "homey feeling" and southern fried chicken smells) and what it's like to rove European cities on foot, seeking out charming haunts and authentic cuisine. Barbara Bivona has written a few articles included in the book, adding an extra dimension to Mike's travelogues; both are articulate observers who skillfully create a realistic sense of the ambience of places they've visited. It's fair to mention that Mike was born in 1934, so much of his travel has happened post-retirement, an encouragement to other seniors to get out there and get moving! This book will leave you anticipating "Part Two" of the Bivona's adventures and wishing them many more happy years dancing to new destinations.

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