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When I started my retirement travels - the first of which was my solo overseas trip to Italy in 2009 - I wanted a way to share it with family and friends as it happened. Hence, "My Travel Journal". However I realized I wouldn't always be on a trip and wondered what to do with the blog in between times. My daughter pointed out, wisely, that travels can also include trips to the kitchen to try a new recipe, trips to visit family, trips to my neighborhood Starbucks, or a fun day trip with a friend. You're welcome to join me on any of these journeys!

P.S. I've set up separate pages for each of my major trips (see tabs above).

I recently added an "Italian Word a Day" thingie which shows up at the bottom of every page. You see the word and can click to hear it pronounced. I've been enjoying it and I think my accent is improving as time goes by.

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September 23, 2010

Oh, Please!!! Beam Me Up, Scotty!!!

Okay, I'm here now (in Florence), but getting here was not an easy task.  I started the following post while I was waiting for my first plane (the one to Madrid) to leave and then added to it periodically.  Pretty boring really and only a couple of pictures - I mean, I was in airports! - but it will get me past the getting here phase and hopefully tomorrow will begin the "wonder that is Italy".  Here we go:

Well, I'm sitting here at Dulles - it's 8:00 p.m. and boarding for my flight will start at 8:30.  It's been a much more pleasant experience than last year.  The airport is not empty but really not very busy and the security people seemed friendlier - maybe cause they didn't have hundreds of people waiting to go through.  Friendly or not, however, I lost my tube of toothpaste.  I had thought I was so smart - packed all my bottles and anything metal in my checked luggage and never thought of toothpaste as a security risk.  I put it in my carry-on cause I thought it would be nice to brush my teeth in the morning (or tonight!).  But it got confiscated. :(

I arrived in Virginia Monday without mishap - no accidents or anything.  Had a nice day visiting with January and then yesterday evening she, Chris and I went to a really neat place called "Cheesetique".  It used to be just a cheese shop (I say "just" - what I mean is it only sold cheese and some crackers and jams and such) and it was an incredible cheese shop.  But now they've added a wine bar and very small eating area in the back and we had our dinner there.  Shared a bottle of wine and had a couple of different cheeses with small accompaniments and then ordered an entree type thing also.  My choice was brie and glazed figs baked on thin slices of yummy bread.  It was pretty wonderful!  We all enjoyed our choices.

Today, I futzed around doing some final little paperwork type chores, making a few phone calls, etc. Talked with Heather and will visit with her and my grandkiddies when I get back here.  And had a nice chat with my sister.  Then walked up to a strip mall place that has a Home Goods, a World Bazaar, T.J. Maxx and Burlington Coat Factory.  Found what I hope will be a good travel purse at TJ's, had lunch at Subway, and walked back home.  Futzed around some more and finally it was time to get cleaned up, Chris came home and off we went to the airport.  Had a nice meal here - I seem to be on a brie kick - I had a roasted vegetable and baked brie sandwich with a fresh fruit salad which, again, was pretty yummy.  We ate because my ticket information indicated we would only get breakfast, but come to find out, we will apparently get dinner too!  Which I think will mean a free glass of wine... :)

I have to send a thank you to my various friends who decided to see to it I was kept fairly busy and entertained this last week.  It's difficult when you've done everything you can think of to get ready, can't start packing until a day or so before and there you sit.  But I tell you, I ended up having all sorts of get togethers - Jamie, Peggy and Brenda - my lunch buddy regulars, my neighbor Pamela for a little wine and nibbles one evening, another neighbor, Sandy, for wine and nibbles the Sunday afternoon before I left, Joanne - yet another neighbor, who had been scheduled for surgery, it was cancelled, and so I had a little visit with her too.  And, I even got invited to go listen to some Jimmy Buffet music at the riverside Schooner's Grill which was really a fun evening, all of which made the time go by faster and very pleasantly. 

Now it's Thursday afternoon (Madrid and Florence time) and I'm sitting in the Madrid airport with no idea when my plane will be leaving.  It was scheduled to leave at 1:40 p.m.  There's a plane at our supposed gate going to Dublin that was supposed to leave a long time ago - they were having the last boarding call when I arrived probably at least an hour ago, and they're still sitting out there.  I think maybe someone superglued the wheels to the tarmac!  I had been hoping for a better airport experience than I had in Paris and I will say it certainly isn't as busy and I know it can't be as big but at this point I feel like I've walked 100 miles!  The signage is awful.  I love my trips when I get to where I'm going, but so far, I sure don't enjoy the getting there.  The stewardesses on the flight from Dulles were really dour - sort of like they worked at making sure they didn't smile.  And we left Dulles late too - almost 10:00 p.m. instead of 9:00 and we were in the air for quite a while and then here they came with dinner.  I know it had to be at least 11:00 by then.  And the huge, enormous man in the seat next to mine - and actually a little bit in mine too - started eating a foot-long quite pungent sub as soon as he sat down - was pretty much finished with it by the time we took off and then wolfed down the dinner like a starving man.

And now it's 3:55 and we've been told we'll be leaving at 5:00.  Turns out this is all being blamed on aFrench air controllers' strike.  We have to fly over France and apparently had to wait to get authorization to do that.  I'm a little bummed cause I wanted to post this from the airport and can't get on line and I'm real bummed that I've been sitting here most of the day.  But I just went and bought a double chocolate ice cream bar and gosh, it was good.  And I refuse to feel guilty about it.  I was trying to not eat so I could have a nice little dinner in Florence, but who knows when I'll get there and I was getting hungry.

And now it's 10:55 p.m. in Florence.  Our plane finally left Madrid around 6:30 I think it was - shoot who knows?  That flight was real pleasant once it finally happened so at least there was that.  And it was funny - I was one of the first ones on the plane and everyone that came by me I recognized from all of us hanging out at the airport for so long.  So we got to Florence I guess maybe around 8:00 and then I just had to run into a couple more problems.  First, I was so thrilled to be done I guess that I marched right out of the passenger arrival section without claiming my luggage.  Part of the reason for that is that Florence's airport is SO small - you just walk in a door from your bus that brought you to the terminal, there are signs for exiting and out you go to the street basically.  Anyway, I got my luggage with no problem and decided that since I was SO late, I should call my hotel and say "okay, I'm going to be there shortly".  I got the blasted phone I'm stuck with for this trip out of my checked bag and found that I have no idea, apparently about how to dial calls in Italy.  I ended up (not knowing I was going to) with a United Kingdom SIM card for the phone I had in Italy last year (which I loved) and that means any time I call a number in Italy it is long distance from the UK.  And the instructions are that you dial a "+", then the international code, then the number.  Well, there's a "+" symbol on the keys of the phone, but it's on the "0" key and so when I hit it, strangely enough I get a "0" instead of a plus.  So I couldn't call my hotel!  So I gave up on that and figured I'd get a taxi and get myself to the hotel and just hope for the best.  But on the way to the taxi stand, I passed some sort of little outside office with a girl sitting in it and so I stopped and asked if she was the Tourist Information Office.  She wasn't but what she was was an angel.  With a fair amount of effort, she finally managed to get an answer at my hotel, told them I was on my way, and discovered that the address I had told her (so she could search on the Internet) was incorrect!!!  I would have given the taxi driver a wrong address.  OMG!!!  Does this ever end?  Not quite yet.  So I get in the taxi and have an absolutely hair-raising but kind of fun ride to the hotel.  He had to be going at least 50 mph down the tiny, twisty, narrow Florentine streets - passing cyclists, squeezing around buses and just having a gay time.  We got to the hotel, he got my suitcases out of the car and left and I went to see if I could find whoever was supposed to help me get them lugged upstairs.  A girl was coming in just then and we thought we understood each other so she said she would help me take my luggage up to my hotel which was where she was going.  I bravely said I'd take the big one.  On the second flight of stairs, I finally slipped and fell ... but I didn't hurt anything!  We got to the hotel (second floor) and turns out we hadn't understood each other and it was the wrong one.  Mine was on the third floor.  So went up there, got the man, he went down and carried the luggage the rest of the way up and I think that's about it - here I am, amazingly enough.

Now let me see if I can muster up a few pictures.  The first one I took was of the giant orange sunball outside the windows of Dulles airport, but it was totally invisible in the pictures (as Chris said it would be) so that one is out.

These are just two pictures I took of the clouds over Spain (having no other photos of Spain so far).  And when we got past the clouds and could see the ground, I was kind of stunned at how different it was and wished I hadn't already packed my camera away.  It was almost totally shades of brown - light to dark - in various patterns as the field sizes and shapes changed.  It was kind of attractive it its way but made you think you were looking at a desert land or something.

And this next one is of Isaiah a sweet and very good little 14 month old who traveled all the way from Dulles to Florence with all the trauma that entailed and I heard about two peeps out of him the whole time and that was after we had boarded the Florence flight and then got told we had to sit there for half an hour and then again when we were landing in Florence and his ears were bothering him.  He was a real cutie and his parents were so good with him.

A long day for all of them, right?  They were my seat mates on the flight to Florence...

And with that, I'm just going to very quickly sign off.  I am about ready to pass out and want to be ready to go see my Duomo tomorrow. :)

Buono notte!


Christopher said...

Ah, travel! You just never know what you'll get when you head to the airport... SO glad you made it safe and sound, and on the same day as you were scheduled to arrive, at least---far better than having to camp out in the airport. (Though I wonder if your travel insurance would cover a hotel in Madrid, had it been a full-day delay?) Anyway... be careful on the stairs and curbs, and I look forward to lots of great blog posts...
(PS---no picture of Isaiah; just the two shots out the plane's window.)

January said...

Oh.My.GOSH! You're a trooper, Mama! I'm glad you made it safely, finally. If I'm not the first commenter, I guess you'll know that we can't see sweet little Isaiah, but I'm glad he wasn't a squally baby.
Have FUN, eat well, share it all with us!

rosanna said...

Benvenuta in Italia!!!! welcome to Italy !!
If you need a + you have to press firmly on the 0 till it appears, or you can dial 00.
Florence is beautiful and this season is one of the best to visi it. Have fun, drink a lot and eat more . Rosanna

Hi! said...

Ciao Rosanna and bless you! I had tried that holding down last night but I guess it wasn't hard enough - I just getting more zeroes! But I tried just now, used the tip of my finger only, pressing hard, and there came the "+". That gives me a much more secure feeling, knowing I can make calls when I need to.

And, that's a good wonder, Chris. If it ever happens to me, I'll have to count on you reminding me to try it cause I would never even have thought of it yesterday!

I slept til 10:30 FLO time this morning so my morning is pretty much done but I didn't expect to accomplish too much in Florence today - will see the Duomo and then figure out probably one other thing to do.

Love to you and January (and Heather when she reads this) and again, many thanks, Rosanna!

Mary Lynne

vrmichie said...

I got the Isaiah pic but perhaps because of signing on later than the others you'd already fixed it (I didn't get a notice that you'd posted but this is the earliest I would have been on the computer anyway)and what a lucky ducky you are to have Rosanna to know about the +. Brave ducky too. I am in awe of your adventures and your perseverance in your mis-adventures. Hope the Duomo is welcoming. xoxo

jfalls said...

OK - I guess I read the posts out of order! Missed this one about the actual trip over. I am so proud of you. It sounds like you are definitely a seasoned traveler. The phone situation would have probably put me over the edge - you showed "mad" coping skills! Have fun and be careful!

Love ya,

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