Rome in the Rearview 

Reminiscing about our time in Rome and Florence.

imageWe had a wonderful time in Rome. This ancient city makes you take a look at everything around.  The architecture, the windows and even the streets have a story and history to tell.  You realize what a small part you have in the greater universe.  I insisted on visiting The Vatican again with a Skip The Line Pass.  Although this helped avoid the outside lines, the masses of humanity inside was hard to contend with.  People were everywhere, there really was no space  nor time to contemplate  in the Sistine Chapel.  We were basically herded in and eventually moved along like cattle.  Looking up at the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, it is incomprehensible to me that one man could paint that masterpiece in just four years.  I wonder what mark, if any I might leave on this world when I am gone.  Later in the week we met a couple who visited the Vatican the day after we did, to their surprise, the pope said mass in Saint Peter’s Square and they even had video of him in the Pope Mobile.  Timing is everything.

There is no bad food in Rome.   Prices were very reasonable and food quality ranged from very good to spectacular. I really loved the pace of meals in Italy.  There is no rush.  We are typically eating a long, late lunch and then a nap ( a completely underated activity) followed by lots and lots of walking and a late dinner around nine.  Lingering at meals is encouraged.  In the restaurants there are no televisions, often you join a table with others and conversation is the entertainment.  It seems as if there are modest little eateries in every direction.  Italians were friendly and welcoming to Americans.  One of our favorites was a family run restaurant restaurant named Trattoria da Alfredo e Ada.  The menu was recited by the waitress of what was freshly prepared for  that evening.  The food was so fresh and delicious we both were pleasantly surprised when the bill, including drinks and cookies to dunk in red wine came to twenty four euros.

We left Rome for Florence, a smaller city with some of the greatest works of art in the world, great shopping and more wonderful food to try.  At the train station an older gentleman saw we were a bit confused and offered to show us where to meet the train.  He beckoned us to follow him to the numbered platform, although he spoke no English he gestured for us to wait for the train there.  Then he promptly demanded we pay him for the “service”. Greg have him three euros but he wanted more.  I just told firmly told him “no” and he left us alone to search for some more lost travelers he could scam some money from.

The high speed train to Florence was comfortable, quick and a pleasant experience compared to the hassle of getting to Italy from the US. We are now in a larger apartment right in the center of Florence.  It has rained on and off  but has not really stopped us from exploring the city.  I admire the Italians, they love eating out in their sidewalk cafes, and are not dissuaded by weather.  The outdoor cafes are crowed at ten o’clock even in inclement weather.  We were without raincoats and getting drenched in the downpour.  Some guys were selling cheap umbrellas on the street.  Greg told the first guy, we didn’t want any but, as the rain continued and his natural GPS was fading I insisted on buying one from the next street merchant.  Originally the guy wanted ten euros for the umbrella but we bargained him down to four.  We left with a semi functioning umbrella, walking the streets of Florence.

For the past few days we have meandered the crowded streets of Florence exploring the neighborhoods and piazzas. It is International Fashion Week here in Florence.  Everywhere we look. there are beautiful models, wearing high fashion clothing and impossible high heels wandering around everywhere except the restaurants.

We visited The Duomo, The Uffizi, and The Accademia Gallery.  Greg is not really a big museum guy, years ago when he was in Paris for business he visited The Arc d’ Triumph, The Louve and the Eifel Tower in half a day.  I’m pretty sure he was wearing roller blades.  Since he is just the greatest husband ever we did the Grand Tour of Florence. Tomorrow we leave Florence for the coast of Cinque Terre.

 

Flying Freakin’Forever

imageWe have been in airports, airplanes and sandwiched into seats forever.  At the airport I see older couples, going on trips, knowing this may be the last time they will independently travel.  The wheelchair bound travelers, relying  on the muscle and humanity of others. Also, there are children whining, crying and trying to hide their excitement. At different airports you notice different things, in Berlin the characters seem to be the backdrop of a zombie appocolypse movie. In Chicago, I noticed the professional travelers, the ones that look the part,  they roll a tiny suitcase, dress impeccably and wear stilettos like they mean business. They are neither harried nor excited. I belong to the group of pleasure travelers, we travel because we seek excitement, relaxation and especially a change in scenery.

I am sitting in the middle of an exit row. The big guy next to me does not care, he is taking over the armrest and I have no  recourse. I try to get a partial elbow on there, but he bullies his way to complete domination. I am sitting crooked, with my right arm inexplicably twisted behind me.  I intend to win this battle by waiting him out when he uses the restroom. The guy never gets up, he figured he was not going to lose his territory.

It’s interesting to me how intimately the passengers in steerage sit atop one another, but rarely speak. On the flight to Berlin I was pretty sure the lady in front of me was resting IN MY LAP yet we never spoke. Luckily, there was no offensive BO issues on this flight. That can be really tricky. Once, I was alone on a flight with really horrendous turbulence. Drinks went flying and people screamed. I am happy to report that I merely grabbed the hand of the stranger next to me and said “Jesus, Mary and Joseph.”   I figured that I would cover the entire holy family in that one desperate prayer.  I apologized profusely afterwards but never did get her name.

We wait in the Berlin airport. A mere three hour layover in a airport bereft of charm, personality or comfortable seating. When  we arrived at the airport, it was 8am Berlin time. Since it was 11pm Phoenix time it seemed appropriate to have a beer and a soft pretzel for breakfast.

You know that point in a trip when you are ready to come home, to come back to something that is familiar and warm? Well, I reached that point about four hours ago.   We boarded the plane to Rome from Berlin. We were on the runway and getting ready to take off. I was busy reading my book.  But Greg was paying attention. He is one who always pays attention. He told me the brakes were bad on the plane and we would need to get off.  I was sure he was mistaken, but a few minutes later we were all told in German that the brakes were “kaput”.   Next, we were deplaning and getting on a bus for a thirty second trip to the terminal (now I know why they call it terminal).   Once everyone was off the plane, mayhem ensued.  We were told to collect our luggage. Yes, even our carefully packed “American” carry-on luggage miraculously became “too heavy” for the EU and was banished to the belly of the plane. I only hope we do not face the same fate when we return to America. We waited for luggage, complained and then waited in yet another line.  But luckily our named was called, either because we were flying international or because my bubbly personality had charmed the ticket agent.  I’m pretty sure that I explained my last name translated to “horror” in German. Now we were scheduled for another plane to Rome.  We of course ordered anther beer and wine and waited for the next flight.  After two delicious German wines I was less concerned with making it to our destination.  The one thing that became painfully obvious to me was that there were no gate agents and the only moving of passengers we observed was in buses. Where the hell was the plane?

Have I mentioned that I have had a headache since Tuesday and its freaking Wednesday. Greg has gone to investigate.  Hopefully he will rangel up a plane and pilot willing to deliver us to Rone.  I am now praying that we get there today…..

The Power of a Positive Perspective

How a positive perspective can change everything.

I have always looked at the world with rose-colored glasses. I can’t help but see the bright side of everything. I believe in Santa, the Easter Bunny and in the future. I know in my heart tomorrow, it will be better. When I hear bad news I try to reframe it in my mind to better news.   Rain today means the lovely smell of creosote bushes and flowers tomorrow. I consider myself lucky, I have won numerous raffles, and even online contests. The reason I win is because I always buy the ticket! As Steve Forbert said, “You can not win if you do not play.”

When my youngest child was in the hospital, scheduled for open heart surgery I was sure that he was going to be alright. Thirty minutes before the surgery they discovered that he did not have the heart abnormality they had originally diagnosed, he went home that day.  I am grateful. I know I live a wonderful life with a man I love and three healthy, happy adult children. I think a positive outlook  can can alleviate so many worries. The glass is always half full to me.image

In contrast, my parents were children of The Great Depression. They both grew up without their mothers. My dad was definitely a glass half empty kind of guy. He not only believed that the glass was half empty, it was also teetering on the edge of the table ready to shatter in a million pieces and slice open a vein.  My mom had a rosier view of the world.  They loved traveling however, after a couple of plane crashes a friend asked my mom if she was afraid. “Why would I be afraid? If the plane crashed we would both die together, doing something we love.”  When she was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s Disease, after the tears and there were lots of tears she said, “Well, you have to die of something.”

Today the State Department announced an advisory on travel to Europe due to concern  about terrorism.  I am not worried. I will not think twice about our two month long trip to Europe.  This is our dream trip. I look forward to the sights, the people, the food and the adventures we will have. I will not be dissuaded by warnings and fear. We intend to immerse ourselves in the cultures, to learn about our fellow human beings and to make some new friends.

We leave in four days. My thoughts are not of dying, they are of plane connections, new sights, shopping and the anticipation of something new.  Right now all I’m thinking about is comfortable shoes and how many things I can fit into a plastic bag for my allowed liquids. It is amazing the number of things you need to include: toothpaste, sunscreen, moisturizer, eye drops, hair products etc. I really don’t think it will all fit.

Greg has the travel spreadsheet which includes all the necessary information for the accommodations, passports, flights, tours and EVERYTHING we might need for the trip. I no longer need to worry about tickets or anything related to the “travel documents.” That is because about fifteen years ago when we were driving to LA for a  family cruise, I picked up a large manilla envelope labeled “TRAVEL DOCUMENTS” and threw it in the garage. My only thought was that it was on my seat and in the way. Four hours after we left the house Greg asked for the envelope.  I told him I didn’t think it was important so I left it in the garage. At that point, I was pretty sure Greg considered leaving me at the border of Arizona and California. Yes there was screaming. But the point of the story is, it has become a favorite family anecdote and we made the cruise. I do not dwell on the fact that he drove an extra eight hours, because I no longer have the burden of travel documents. My only concerns are about connecting to WIFI , snagging a blanket on the plane and keeping up with the Line Leader.

My biggest worry is whether or not my headphones will keep out the noise of the adorable crying baby that will likely be sitting next to me.