Our Ups and Downs

With so many screw ups on this trip, it is my duty to self report and let the chips fall where they may.  

A Window of Florence

Florence is amazing.  Streets are used for walking.  Cars are an annoyance as streets are narrow.

and comprised of cobblestone.   So unlike anything in America. Statues here would not be allowed in Arroyo Grande reflecting back on the brouhaha the sculpture of the woman post breast surgery caused.  The statue was too too and it was relocated to the more enlightened town of San Luis Obispo where it resides today.  The church is everywhere, of course.  Museos are abundant. The Arno River runs through it.  And the window displays are at once beguiling and hilarious.

Here are some examples of what we saw to illustrate my points.  

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This is all in an effort to stall my coming confessions of travel mistakes, I suppose.  

It starts with the fact that I managed before leaving home to book and pay for two tours within a half hour of each other on the same day.  Talent knows no bounds.  So we will miss David on this leg of the trip and may miss it again when we return to Florence to return the car.  Most tours are sold out.  What a ditz.  

Over dinner last night I almost broke into tears over an even larger mess of my making.  Let me begin by saying that AirBnB has always worked before.  As the website will attest, we have enjoyed several accommodations with generous reviews for the owners. And we received positive reviews as well.   That winning streak has been broken here in Florence.  

What thoughts come to mind when the ad says there are steep stairs?  The ad mentioned that.  What the ad didn’t mention was the fact that were 48 of them.  They snaked all over the building.  It was bad enough that neither of us could drag our 28 pound suitcases up.  The clean up lady, who was younger by at least a generation plus, had to do the deed.  And upon ascent to the apartment which sat atop the building, we found a space that left everything to be desired. Mold in the shower , such as it was.  This pearl of a place had a sloping ceiling in the bath that prevented Rayman from standing up straight to address the loo.  I had to be careful not to knock myself silly when dethroning.  “What were you thinking?, cried the Rayman as he gulped for air upon our Mt Everest-like ascent.  The rest of that conversation was quite animated and this resulted in a search for another place to stay. 

 

Going up.

Going up.

 

Going down.

 

In the meantime, we roamed the city and witnessed lines so long they curled around buildings forming the longest conga lines in history sans the dancing.  No one was dancing.  It was more like a collective shuffling of feet.  A flamingo experience, as people shifted their weight from left foot to right and back again to stave off sleeping appendages as they patiently awaited their time.  Well, I had not booked advance tickets for the Duomo cathedral /basilica.  Another mistake.  Another lost opportunity.   

So we did what anyone might do.  We searched for a place to enjoy our fav new drink, the spritz.  And people watch. Walking in circles ensued.  Once we agreed on a place, we decided to cancel our Rumplestilskin tower room for more conducive quarters and appeal to the owner for a credit ( fat chance).  In that order. 

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That spritz helped and when our gumption had returned, we trudged back to the room from hell.  Time was then spent rummaging around the internets attempting to find a new room.  We had taken great pains to book a car away from the airport so we thought we might stay near the Hertz office.  Turns out Hertz is not at the airport but it is in the vicinity.  More poor planning.  All the hotels ( at this point AirBnB was like a rose…too many thorns and Rayman insisted we book a hotel) near the airport were booked.  Plan B was then explored.  We would stay in town and take public transportation on Saturday to pick up our car. Okay then…we did just that.

By the time all this was executed, we were famished.  Rayman worked at finding a place to eat since a concierge was not available.   And off we went.  

Our eating experience at the ristorante he selected was without parallel.  Here are the pictures.  The service was the best.  The atmospherics beautiful.  We were in a ristorante above our pay grade while dressed in blue jeans and essentially golf shirts.  What was he thinking?  When I posed this question, he said something that went into one ear and out the other.  After dinner I confessed that I felt like a country bumpkin.  Everyone in our area of the ristorante was dressed to the nines.  

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But I digress.

We then opened up the menu.  Purée of rooster comb?  The waiter ensured us that it was delicious.   A prix fixe dinner was $150 euros.  Each.  There was no house wine but the waiter involved the sommelier who brought bottles for us to sample.  Asking how much seemed entirely out of the question but we figured it was plenty because bottles started at 40 euro and accelerated from there.  Rather than close the menu and walk out, we decided to go with the flow.  Rayman ordered sublime pork dish that was the best pork either of had ever had. I selected the white fish with artichoke and other stuff (a cooks technical term).

He won the ordering contest but just by a hair.  Letting price get the better of us, we just ordered the main dish passing on all the sides. That proved to be a wise decision because the kept bringing tidbits to our table. A small aperitif.  Breadsticks with a small dipping delight.  A plate with pea purée forming the base upon which an array of tiny bites of carrot and onion were displayed.  Fried cheese.  After the main course the waiter regaled us with a tiny cosmo(about three sips).

Did we want any dessert or coffee?  No, grazie.  While waiting to see the damage of our bill, out from the kitchen came the most inventive presentation of tiny dessert bites ever experienced.   The pictures tell the story. They came out in a cloche.   You, dear reader, would agree. No?  Then another tiny drink arrived.  Then the bill.   We managed to leave the ristorante about 150 euro lighter.  It was worth every euro…really the evening was priceless.  We were only charged for two secondi dishes and two glasses of wine.  All the other items were built in, included.   And no tip either.  Tips are included.  

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So the miserable room was offset by the luxurious dinner that included some of the best food on the planet.  

Parte Deux

Climbing back up those stairs at 10:30 was at once terrifying and difficult but like Sir Edmond Hillary, we prevailed against long odds and without additional help of oxygen.   Bed was immediate. But I could not fall asleep.  No fire extinguisher.  No smoke alarm.  No way out except by window or stairs.  The bed was lumpy.  WHAT THE *&@#.  At 1:15 a.m. the room went dark. I turned off the light.  It was a hard day’s night.  

This morning I emailed my dear friend, Barrie, a Airbnb owner for her advice on how I might try to get some money back.  Donning our clothes, we left to visit the Uffizi Museo under our umbrella.  Our tickets were early and we slipped right in without any problem. Rembrandt was there.  De Vinci was there.  There were paintings, sculptures, sarcophagi,  busts.  Almost all of the sculptures were nude men without circumcision or fig leafs and they had spectacular bodies and were based on Greek mythology.   The women were few and far between as were the women artists of the time.  There was one room dedicated to one woman artist that I have never heard of until today.  And the art in the Museo featured work from before Christ to about the 18th century.  The Medici family owned or commissioned most of it.   It was as overwhelming as it was beautiful.  

But such a good time can’t last all day.  Retrieval of suitcases was next on our agenda and we dreaded it like one dreads the dental appointment to save the tooth.  We devised a way of lowering the suitcases using the straps we brought to tie around our ubiquitous black bags for ease of identification.  Rayman went down backward to guide the bags from falling while I held the straps from above thereby relieving him of some of the weight.  It took us 15 minutes to make it to the bottom.  And when we shut the door behind us, relief washed orr us like a supplication ((branching out here to use a religious metaphor)…unsure if the sentence makes sense.  

Dodging potholes, cars, trucks, scooters, segways, bicycles, dogs, and people on foot, we made it to Hotel Pierre and it felt like heaven.  

So now I bid the reader a fond adieu so that I can double check the Milan Airbnb for stairs.  Just sayin.  

Put on Your Serious Hat

We are speeding toward Florence this a.m.  Before leaving our wonderful apartment in the residential section of Venezia, I checked my emails and to my shock and dismay, I saw the headline about Eric Schneiderman blast onto my screen.  Four women..a powerful man who is currently suing Harvey Weinstein are making headlines.  WHAT?   How can this be?  I find myself dumbstruck by the news.  Then I see Jane Mayer of The New Yorker magazine (which I subscribe to) has broken this devastating story.  Turning, averting ones eyes is impossible because she is such a brilliant journalist with a staggering amount of investigative reporting in her body of work.  co-authoring was Ronan Farrow, the up-and-coming journalist.

So I settle in the red chair in the apartment to read her reporting.  Now, on the train which glides across the Italian countryside carrying us to Florence (Firenze), I find myself utterly sad because of this article by Ms. Mayer and Mr. Farrow.

Four ( at least) described to the author their darkest secrets regarding their association with this man that I had held in high esteem.  What courage they had lacked when brutalized by this apparent serial abuser over months and sometimes years, is now on full display.  Where they were weak, they are now strong.  Their courage has triumphed over their fear for the benefit of all women as they hope by coming forward, others might avoid this man into the future.  The larger benefit of their shocking revelations is that all women in related ( read abusive) situations with their partners might find the courage to speak out.

Beautiful and successful women endured this abuse. It boggles the mind that this was so.  That the most powerful legal man in the state of New York could use intimidation and threats to lord power over each of his victims makes me want to understand the sexual politics of the situation.  

This #MeToo movement is so very important as illustrated by this story.  Women are so disadvantaged as a group of beings.  My life story as a grown woman is far removed from this type of experience and yet I think I can relate.  I had one relationship with a man who was emotionally abusive and it was terrible yet I tried to make it work with all manners of denial and Pollyanna-ish rationalizations.  Not only am I remorseful of this past experience, I feel a certain amount of shame and a tremendous amount of regret of time lost.  The courage now on display by these women on the pages of a magazine that is available for the whole world to read  cannot and, indeed, should not be trivialized or diminished.

And I reflect on all those tapestries hanging in the museo Vatican depicting men with daggers killing babies and wonder how it is that we are in the 21st century and brutalizing women (one way or another) is still a thing.    It’s not  only that women are raped and beaten but they are also murdered by guns in domestic violence situations daily.  

Oh, how I wish women would unite to demand equal treatment, demand legislation to regulate guns, demand reasonably priced health care, demand the right to control their own bodies.  We have the power if we would use it.  It is important that a baby of a sitting woman Senator was allowed Into the Chamber this year, 2018.  It is telling that no father ever thought of doing that.   Yet, here we are.  

And finally, Mr. Schneiderman did the right thing and immediately resigned.  But two things jump out at me.  Why does the daughter of a preacher man still stand at the podium of the President and lie for him?  She should be ashamed.  If she had an ounce of courage these women had in the The New Yorker piece, she would resign and expose the President for the liar he is.  And how is it that Kelly Ann Conway can send out a tweet saying”gotcha”, to the perpetrator of these crimes against these women?  Is she not a woman herself?  Is she so unfeeling that she is not moved by the accounts of these women?  She comes off as cruel and heartless… a political hack that does not even understand that while she tweets this vile sentiment, she is working for and enabling a morally corrupt man who lies every times he speaks.  

Where is our humanity?  Where is our empathy?  Where is our moral compass in our government today?   It boggles my mind and I write of it now to try to make sense of all this, now and then. Here and now.  

Tunnel Vision and Other Insights

I’m distressed.  My gizmo for my iPad doesn’t work.  AT&T just notified me I have exceeded my minutes and  I messed up our arrival time into Venice.  It is raining.

All this to say, I probably need to throw in the towel on this “go on your own” travel.  It seems to be getting harder and harder.  My mea culpa, perhaps.  

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Some random thoughts as we whisk thru the countywide speeding at 200 mph on the train.  When we left Rome, we were traveling forward.  Leaving Florence, we are riding backward.  And we are on the same train.  Italy has left us in the dust in the train department.  While Ca just became the 5th largest economy in the world, we are fighting the concept of high speed rail. Let me just point out how easy it is.  No TSA.  Loads of legroom.  You can watch the scenery fly by.  No seatbelts.  Great terminals.  You can set your watch by their schedule because they are on time so waiting on the tarmac is not a thing.  No turbulence!

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But I digress.  

We are thinking river cruises.  Easier.  Just sayin.

Yesterday was our last day in Roma.  We we’re out of gas.  Went to the coliseum without tickets, regarded the llnes and pooh poohed the idea.  Took the bus tour of the city, went back to our room and napped.  This is May.   I would hate to see it during the summer when school is out.  That said your best bet would be to show up early with prepaid tickets. Or take a tour.  

So impressed was I, I decided to take a video and as I was doing this, we entered a tunnel.  This was amazing because the tunnel just went on and on and on.  The more amazing thing was that there were about 20 tunnels on the trip between Rome and Venice.  Which makes it all the more incredulous that we aren’t clamoring for high speed rail.   And of course there is The Great Wall of China.  

Changing the subject is now is necessary, as I do not want to get too far afield.  

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Arriving in Venezia was impressive. Water World.  Having now been here for 24 hours I would like to share Rayman’s impression of the place.  I inquired of him what he thought of it while we  sipped on spritz drinks (we were told that was the only drink you could get here that was served with ice) and we needed a cold one—thank you bicycle friends).  His reply was that it reminded him of Disneyland…a million people packed into narrow streets and lots of selling of trinkets and food.   Gondolas standing in for rides.   Blasphemous, perhaps but not inaccurate.  This impression was tempered by our events of the last 24 hours which I will attempt to capture with humor.

Yesterday when we arrived, we were told by the AirBnb host to text our arrival to his daughter who would meet us at the water taxi and take us to the apartment.  We did.  She texted us and told us to board the water taxi 4.2 but she did not tell us where to get off(read disembark).  I texted her but got no reply. She did mention that she was a tall blonde and was wearing blue and white striped pants.  Rayman perked up.   But he was anxious about not knowing where to get off.  His temperature rose.  We kept looking for the tall blonde at each stop.   Then our phone rang and Sara told Rayman the name of the stop just as we were docking at the stop.   Close call.   We jumped ship.   Where was she?  We looked and looked.  Finally she showed up with an apology, led us to the apartment and off she went after handing  us the keys to the second door place.  There were three keys.  

Our apartment was quite, roomy, and met our expectations.   After settling in we went out exploring which meant we battled the crowds.  Narrow passageways and too many folks.  EBDFD4EF-7871-4ABD-B0E2-6515CD5A8F5B
Still though it was unique and I managed to get some nice pics.   After a bit we picked a restaurant near our place.  Rayman left me on a park bench and made a detour to a grocery store to buy water and bananas for this morning.  There I sat people watching when a incoming soccer ball hit my arm.  Kids were playing (everything is cement and hard surfaces so the children must play in the plazas) kicking the ball which would bounce and boomerang off the cobblestone surfaces or the walls of the buildings that helped form the piazza.   What a surprise but not shocking when you consider.  Another ball came at me and I managed to return it with a kick even though I was sitting.  Think that surprised not only the kids… but me too!

Rayman returned with a bag of groceries and we walked to the restaurant.  It was 6:45.  They did not open until 7:15.  So we planted ourselves on chairs outside but we were asked to moved because they wanted to set up the tables.  So we walked a bit and when we returned all the tables outside were filled but one and it was just 7. 

The ristorante art, kitch, and the Rayman

The ristorante art, kitchen pand the Rayman

We requested indoor seating since it was cool and found ourself alone in a back room as they had taken out all tables to the patio but one for a big party   Well, ok.   Things were ordered by me in my fledging Italian.  Pasta carbonara for me.  Pesto pasta for Rayman followed by insalada mista and 1/2 liter of vino Rosso.   Mine was rich and I asked for a container to take it away.   That’s when English was required because our water said our fish was coming.   OUR FISH, we exclaimed in unison as I recall.   “We didn’t order fish.”.  The waiter ran from our private room to presumably to cancel the fish.  We don’t know know what happened. Saved by the doggie bag, I would say.   

While eating our gelato dessert excitement erupted.  Our room opened into another room where a young French family was dining.  All of a sudden their daughter, about age 10, disappeared.   The young son sat in a face plant with his phone while the parents frantically searched the restaurant before going outside to continue the search. It seemed like forever and then through the door came the girl.   Her brother told her she was in big trouble and she left the restaurant again before Rayman ran out to tell her to stay.  About that time the parents re-emerged.  The father was madder than a wet hen, the mother relieved and the brother was face planted in his device.    The chewing out was in French so we didn’t understand much of it.  The body language was unmistakable.  We were extremely happy all ended well.

Then we waited and waited for the bill.   We had a hard time getting seated and we had a hard time retreating.  Manana isn’t only in Mexico.  Once the bill was settled, we lumbered back to our apartment, put the groceries away and then I realized I did not have my purse.  With all that excitement, I forgot it.  Rayman raced back to the ristorante and called me to report that it was exactly where I had left it.  A few minutes later, he called back to report that he could not find our apartment. Well, what to do?  I opened up the window and shouted his name.  He could hear me but couldn’t find me.  So I kept shouting out “RAY” ( many times) and then started flailing my arms while leaning out the window.  He kept asking me to yell again. I did. Pretty soon, a woman across the way stuck her head out of her window and I am pretty she told me to keep quiet in Italian. Just about that time the Rayman found our street (think alley) and we were reunited.   Just as an aside, there are no porch lights, everything is made of stone and the streets are very narrow  so voices are like soccer balls..they boomerang making it  hard to pinpoint.  That’s our story and we are sticking to it.

Typical residential neighborhood.

Typical residential neighborhood.

Fast forward to this a.m. I awoke to an email inquiring about our whereabouts from a hotel in Venice that I don’t remember, that didn’t sound familiar.  Why hadn’t we shown up last night?   OMG. What had I done?   Short answer is …I don’t know.  The place doesn’t ring any bells so I emailed them back explaining that I do not remember such a reservation.  I search all my old emails. Nothing.  Rayman called and a conversation ensued which resulted in them informing us that we we no shows and would be charged.   For one night.  Now, I debated if I should disclose this to my readers because it surely evidence that 1.  I must be missing a step these days. 2.  I was hacked. 3.  My organizing and planning skills have been a mirage and it is just catching up with me, finally. 4.  All of the above.  Pick one.  Bottom line, we were out one nights charge for the room and glad it wasn’t more.   And we decided not to let it ruin our time.

After much walking, gawking, photographing, and getting lost on foot…we stopped for that previously mentioned spritz and did some reflection which included the following:  1.  We are human.  Humans make mistakes.  We are not unique.  There.  2.  Traveling like this may not happen again because it is getting harder, not easier.   3.  Venice reminds Rayman of Disneyland.  4.  I don’t entirely disagree. 5.  There are too many people creating scrums worldwide.  6.  Far from the maddening crowds is a book title that we relate to now and we are looking forward to the countryside.  7.  Seeing things ( buildings come to mind) from the outside are often times more interesting than from the inside. 8.  There are too many churches.  9.  Jet lag hurts.  We are just getting back to normal.  

God this is frightening.  I sound a lot like my Uncle Ralph.  He came back from his trip to China and mused that there were too many Chinese.  He traveled all over the world and holed up reading his books ( I’m blogging).   Having visited Paris a half dozen times, he told me he had not visited Napoleon’s tomb.  

Just sayin.

We ate leftover dinner and lunch tonight.  Rayman bought a bottle of vino rosso and it was bubbly.  After dinner we went out again to see Venice after dark. 

You have to hand it to the window designers.

You have to hand it to the window designers.

It was great except we got lost and it took us 40 minutes to walk To St. Mark square.  On the walk which was starting to feel like a march, we stopped for gelato.  I ordered fig and walnut and it was outrageously good.  Rayman did chocolate.  We were so tired by the time we reached our destination, we searched around for a water taxi. 

Basilica from the water taxi.

Basilica from the water taxi.

For 7euros a head, the boat dropped us off a few hundred feet from our joint.   We managed to find the place, unlock 3 different doors with 3 separate keys and gain access.  It was 11:00…and that was our adventure.  

Lord only knows what will happen tomorrow.

Friends, Romans, countrymen,…Lend Me Your Ears



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What a day in Roma.   Quite sure we took 30,000 steps and 10,000 of them were retraces, doublebacks and around in circles.   We are tired and our feet are sore.  It was raining too.

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We started off looking for the Pantheon.   With maps apps, a paper map and no idea where we were, we crisscrossed our own route so many times that it was deja vous all over again.  And in the rain.  With umbrellas over head.  At one point we were so desperate, we asked a female soldier carrying an uzi for directions.  Oh, what a day.  

By accident we found ourselves at waters edge at the Trivola fountain.  Just stumbled upon it.  Turning a 12 minute walk into an hour takes some special sort of genius.  When we return, perhaps we will apply for a Menza membership.   9A032BC9-3196-4C67-BF05-56B09F88C4E7

I personally asked about a hundred people for directions because things are not marked very well.  And because sometimes we could not understand the directions.  And because people assumed we knew things we didn’t.   A confluence of confusion.  

We finally found the Pantheon. An enormous example of architecture built way back when. How did they do it?  If it were explained to us, we would as confused as we were with directions.  Just sayin.

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After we viewed the Pantheon, we headed to the Vatican because we had prepaid tickets for tour and an audio tour.  We bought a 3 day pass for public transport and off we went on the bus and then the metro.  Emerging from the abyss of the very efficient Metro, we ambled toward the Vatican Museo.  The entirety of Roman visitors were there.  Massive lines.  People working there were very helpful and thru ignorance on our part coupled with our aged looks, we were able to advance our cause of visitation.  

5C968196-867F-43FF-B04C-B5F1F36FB386The Vatican was too much. A museum on steroids.  It reminded me of a rugby match with us advancing from scrum to scrum.  Really people, there are too many statues of dead people.  And the tapestries would put any video game or teenage boy movie to shame.  Daggers and blood.  Men, men, men everywhere except for an occasional Virgin Mary ( which I regard as a myth).  

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If a fire should break out, we all would have been trampled to death.  Safety was not a concern except for the strict rule of no videos or pictures in the Sistine chapel lest the flashes destroy the ceiling art. They treated that safely, I suppose it could be said.  

God, we were glad when it was over and we were grateful that the day was cool with rain because it was very hot in some places.  A man at dinner tonight (from Holland) said that if a person stopped to listen  to the tape at every designated place, it would take 21/2 years to complete the tour.  It was by all accounts overwhelming.  

After we escaped the place, we just wanted to get back to our hotel and that was not to be.  We went back down to the Metro  but unbeknownst to us, we went the wrong direction.  The end of the line for the wrong direction shared the same name as our station so that when we emerged, nothing looked remotely familiar.   Rayman could hardly walk.  He barely slept on our flight over and he wasn’t at the top of his game.  Really, I was the navigator all day.  So we decided to get some espresso and ducked into a joint to refresh and regroup.   We asked the woman barista where we were in relation to where we wanted to be.   She had no idea even though we had a map.  Finally Rayman overheard a woman speaking English so he rushed her before she could escape. We were so far afield that our map didn’t include our present location.  She set us straight and by the time we left the shop, we were laughing and Rayman even hugged the barista…he was so excited.  We then walked back to the Metro we had left and rode back to our station and found our hotel.

We cleaned up and went to dinner and had a great meal, met and visited with a family from Holland, and walked back to our hotel and here I am blogging. 

Quite an adventure for our first full day in Rome.  

Good Grief

Woke from my air nap to have a sore everything.   Our premium business class seats did not recline. And that is all I will report.  We were glad to arrive without major incident.  Only to be greeted by an hour and a half queue at Customs.  And I was in an ambien walking dead mode which didn’t help our plight.   I highly suspect that our agent was watching looney toons on his iPhone because he was 1.  Slow. 2.  He never made eye contact.  I could have been twerking and he wouldn’t have known.

After escaping the queue, we went in search of the termini.  That is Italian for train terminal which we found and boarded. Squished and standing, we rode non stop into Rome.   That is when we got dazed and confused trying to figure out their metro.  Two wonderful Italian women took us under their bosoms and helped us unload some euros to buy our tickets in la machina.  Too bad they did t hold our hands and lead us to the appropriate train. We managed to get on the B train instead of the A train.  We had a 50-50 chance. Mid route as Rayman was being bugged by a potential pickpocket, we discovered our error and scrambled off. At this point Rayman put his foot down and insisted we take a taxi.  Who was I to argue?  

I was still sleep walking.  

The cabbie didn’t speak English so the ride was done in silence.  I did not say the address right so I showed it to him in writing and we arrived after an extra twirl or two around city blocks choked with people.  Arrival to our hotel commenced, we checked in and I fell upon the bed and fell asleep.  Immediately.  I have no idea what Rayman did.  He couldn’t sleep on the plane so now he lays next to me at 5:00 a.m. snoring.  

We dined at the joint next to our hotel, waited forever to get the check.  So long that our waiter gave us a discount without us even grumbling.  When in Rome…

Back to our room and to bed.  

Today we do the coliseum and Vatican and gelato not necessarily in that order.   Without suitcases the ride on the metro should be fine.  We do plan to get to the Vatican early just in case since we bought tickets.  Don’t want to keep the Pope waiting.  

Observations.  What the hell?  Traveling didn’t seem so hard in earlier adventures.  We are not as nimble.  We hold onto bannisters for dear life.  We forget things…In search for lost chords.  It a bit disconcerting.  On the other hand, it is exciting and challenging and it catapults us out of our comfort zone.   

Will check in later, post gelato.  

Yippee.  just got my itty bitty keyboard to work.  Up until now i had been using the keyboard on my iPad.  Much easier now.  And faster.  

I think that an ex-NBA star works here in the maintenance department.  The TV is up by the ceiling which is about 20 feet tall.  The snack refrigerator is tippy toe high.  It’s a hoot. 

One other observation.  The throne is on high.  About 7 steps so we have ample opportunity to fall, stub, and kill ourselves going to the loo.  Once you get up to it, the bath is fab.  A bidet too.  And all marble and granite.  Lovely…

And did I mention that our tour of the Pope Palace is at 1500 or 3 p.m. today and that heavy rains are expected?  Lordy, is all I can say about that!

Later.  

Roman The Globe

Yesterday we drove south to Buellton to spend the night with our friends at Flying Flags RV park.  What a splendid time we had Coverting with our friends, the animal bicyclists we know and whom I have spoken of in past blogs.  A fine group that thinks nothing of riding 41 miles one day, followed by 35 miles the next while pedaling up mountains, descending into valleys, and back up the mountains, stopping for refreshments, turning around and riding back, then fixing food for a potluck barbecue and cranking open copious amounts of wine bottles to wash down all the delicious food.

To put things into prospective, I would have retreated to my room for a long nap if I had done what they did.  Then would probably not wake up until the next morning.   Just sayin.

Most of this group is retired.  Ron and Elizabeth from Ashland, OR were there.  They have biked across America.   He wrote a book about their trip.  Across and Down by Ronald Zell.  It’s on Amazon.  They also rode from the Canadian border to Mexico. OMG.  Super hero’s to me.   

 

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Ron, Elizabeth in the center. Old friend, Charlie on the left. Our RV hostess, K.C.

But I digress.

We had a blast and we spent the night in the Covert’s RV.   They are our RV muses and they hail from Sacramento.  They excel at entertaining.  And that included cooking us breakfast this morn. Before we took off for our trip to Italy.  

Let me speed ahead and replay our trip to LAX.  We left about 8:45 a.m., turned left and headed to the freeway on ramp. It was closed.  So, we turned around in a state of panic ( traveled less than a mile and this?).  We went north on the freeway and ran into a backup.  We sped pass the off ramp becuz it was backed up and drove to the next off ramp.  Got off only to discover that the southbound entrance was also closed.  What the f&$k?  As the minutes ticked by, our panic increased.  It wasn’t pretty.  So we made a decision to go north to highway 154 and go the back way.   We still have no idea what the problem was but we couldn’t risk sitting in traffic. 

It worked.  We went up over the hill and dropped down to Santa Barbara to merge onto 101.  And to keep ourselves “under control”, we listened to a Pod Save America podcast.  That helped immensely and we arrived at the Van  Nuys Flyaway garage where we parked our car in covered parking for $4.00 a day, bought two round trip tickets to LAX for 19.50 each.  The day was cloudy and very cold.  We nearly froze to death wbile we stood outside checking our bags.  Ice. That’s  what my hands felt like when they finally let us board.  And did I mention it was drizzling?  Yes it was.  We had to laugh. How many ovies have you seen that were shot on L.A. where it was raining?  It hardly ever rains there and yet Hollywood embellishes with the rain.  L.A. Confidential comes to mind.  

 If I digress

Rayman with women.

Rayman with women.

We arrived at the airport, checked in, and headed to our gate. It was a very long walk that took us to gate 142.  We didn’t know there were that many gates.  And get this. When we finally were called for boarding, they put us on a bus.  Yes.  A bus.  And they drove us to the further point west where our plane was located. All by itself like a lonely stepsister apart from all the major happenings of all the terminals.  Why?  We do not know.  

So here we are, well fed, two glasses of wine consumed flying high just north of Columbus, Ohio.   The sun is waning and so am I.  Rayman plans a movie.  I plan an ambien for sleep a bye time.  We are on  777 in row 14 which affords us a view of the clouds blanketing the nation and the left engine of the aircraft.  We have a bulkhead Seat which features a tv screen mounted on the wall.  It reports that we are traveling 640mph, 35,000 feet and it’s 62 below outside.  Amazing stuff, this air travel.   

So, travel tidbits.  1.  Our Chase Sapphire Reserve issued us a priority pass that got us into an airport lounge where free food and drink were available.  We called Chase a couple of weeks ago and they sent us a card to flash.  2.  Just because you have TSA preapproval does not mean you get it every time.  It randomly selects people.  We were not selected so we had the distinct honor of paddling around without shoes (barefoot in my case) thru security.  Grumble, grumble.  And age was not a disqualifier.  3.  If you have euro coins, no one will convert them to paper money.  So Rayman has 40eros of heavy coins in his carry on.  4. Not all planes have wi-fi on board.   5.  Alitalia served us Mac and cheese with a chocolate mousse and raspberry coulis and they have loads of foreign movies as well as U.S. movies.

 

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