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Mother’s Day is the perfect occasion to launch my blog, ‘Anne’s World of Wonder’, an exploration and exposition on the many things I love. Travel takes up the lion’s share of the picture, of course, but there’s also food, art, fashion, photography, reading, gardening, laughter and life itself.

In coming up with the name for my custom tour company in 1992, I wanted something descriptive, memorable and humorous.  Suddenly a play on Henny Youngman’s famous trope popped into my head and made me laugh out loud: Take My Mother … Please!  Although I didn’t realize it at the time, it’s only fitting that the word ‘mother’ is part of the name, given that I was blessed with the most wonderful mother of my own, the incomparable Joanna B. Block. And this is why, in fact, I dedicate this blog to her memory (she died July 8, 2014) and will be quoting some of her more pithy sayings whenever I can in future postings.

My amazing folks

I grew up in Wynne, Arkansas, a small farming community (population, 5000) in the Mississippi River Delta, where crops of cotton, rice and soybeans supported our family. My town was small, but my parents’ outlook was big.  They were avid travelers, lovers of music and art; all interests they passed on to my brother, sister, and me. My father collected jazz records and rare books, and my mother’s innovative cooking of international cuisines opened the world to me. Our family vacations mainly consisted of visiting art museums and eating wonderful food.

New worlds

By the time my father died in 1993, I was a seasoned traveler, myself, and had started my business.  Right around Mother’s Day in 1995, I accompanied Mom on a group tour to Italy sponsored by the University of Arkansas, our alma mater.  She and Daddy had always wanted to go to Venice but never made it there.
This two-week excursion represented a number of firsts for me.  It was the first time I had ever been on a trip alone with Mom, just the two of us. I loved it. We both discovered some extraordinary qualities in each other, too, based on living out of suitcases and getting to know ourselves together as both loving mother and daughter, and as adults.

Mom and me in Florence.

Mom and me in Florence in 1995 on that fateful trip to Italy

The other first was my first time on a group tour (with 25 other people). As much fun as it was, I missed spending more quality time in the places we visited and being closer to the local people we encountered. I realized that I wanted to lead a group of travelers on my own. Because of logistics, most tours keep their clients separated from the real, not always neat and tidy, native culture. I craved (and still do) sensation, sights, sounds, tastes and realities that aren’t my own and knew that others would too. And so it happened.


Mom and me at the Santa Monica Pier