the good, the bad, & the ugly
Departed Honolulu- Thursday evening, June 7th
Arrived Milan - Saturday morning, June 9th
Another wonderful check in experience at the Honolulu Airport. No line for the agriculture inspection. A long line for Northwest, BUT no line for Continental!! Because I already printed out my boarding pass, all I had to do was check my bag. There was an open kiosk available when I arrived. I quickly checked my bag (32 pounds) and went to the screening area. The aloha spirit is alive and well at the Honolulu Airport!
The line was not very long and so I was not very concerned about the wait, but a very kind man suggested that anyone leaving from gate 27 go to the next screening area because there was a shorter line there. He was correct. It took a total of 5 minutes to breeze through. This was the first time I flew since the new liquid rules. The person in front of me was a flight attendant and so I just followed her. It was sort of like an assembly line. Off go the shoes, everything goes in little bins, and one by one, we walk through the metal detector. The baggage screeners were very cheerful as I passed through.
After gathering all my belongings, I tried to figure out where my gate was located. My glasses were in a bag so I had to squint to read the signs. I saw a couple of ladies sitting on carts and went to ask one where gate 27 was. She said to hop in and she would give me a ride! WOW, that was probably the highlight of my flight. And it gets even better. Along the way, I asked her where I could buy some water. She said that the stores by my gate were already closed but she would pull over to one of the stores along the way and wait for me while I purchased my water. We picked up an older man along the way and quickly arrived at my gate. Simply amazing!
My flight took off on time and was as pleasant as a flight could be in coach. I ate some dried cherries (a tip I read that helps with jet lag) and slept much of the flight.
Once in Newark, I had about 5 hours to kill. It took 2 hours before my gate was announced so I basically wandered and stopped to watch the latest with Paris going back to jail on CNN. I also searched for the mailbox I had seen in the past to mail some cards that I should have mailed before I left and found out that there no longer are any mailboxes or mail slots inside the airport. The only way I could mail my cards was to go outside and then go through the security line again. Needless to say, the cards are now in Venice with me.
I had a grilled pepper and cheese sub, YUM!! and then headed over to my gate about an hour before it was scheduled to take off. A large group of people all flying together were sitting near me. We chatted a little and then slowly learned that our flight was not taking off on time. First we got the "Ladies and Gentlemen, we will be shortly delayed as we need to clean the plane" and then once we all boarded were told that we were out of order for the runway and it would only be a 15 minute delay. I'm sure you all know how that goes. Well, I really really had to pee by the time we finally took off. I leaped out of my seat as soon as we seemed to be leveling off and bolted for the restroom. Two of the flight attendants started to stop me but I pleaded that I had a medical condition and it was an emergency. They both were extremely kind, and one of them, a very cute flight attendant who was assigned to our section, was very kind to me the entire flight.
I sat next to an interesting guy that works for Diesel and lives in Switzerland. We chatted for a while until we were served dinner and then it was movie time. I forgot to have more cherries, but fell asleep anyways pretty quickly and slept much of the flight.
We arrived about 90 minutes later than scheduled and zoomed through the passport control area.
The luggage guys seemed to be taking a break. Nothing moved for over 30 minutes. I chatted with a couple that did not have a very good travel agent as they were booked at the airport hotel for 2 nights! I didn't have the heart to tell them that staying at the airport area was probably the worst choice they could have made. They wanted to go to Venice one day and Lake Como the next. They probably should have stayed at Lake Como for the 2 nights instead.
Finally the bags started to come out. I grabbed my bag and realized (THE BAD) that my handle was broken!! It would not budge. While I lent my phone to the wife of the couple to call the hotel for a shuttle (and sadly she was told to take a taxi), the husband tried to help me pull up the handle. He was able to pull it up about 4 inches and that was as far as it would go. So much for the new tote bag I bought specifically to slip over the handle.
I easily found the bus to the train station outside of the airport and handed my luggage to the driver to put underneath and grabbed a seat. The bus ride was as pleasant as a bus ride into the city could be. I bought my ticket and 30 minutes later I was on the train to Venice. We took off about 5 minutes later than scheduled. I was on a Eurostar train and so it was a very pleasant 3 hour train ride. Once we arrived in Mestre, we were told that there would be a slight delay. Outside, you could see tons of people waiting for trains. Later I found out there was some sort of strike taking place. We ended up being 30 minutes delayed by the time we arrived at the Santa Lucia train station.
I met Ketty, the woman who was to take me to my apartment at the train station. We sent a few SMS' (text messages) back an forth since my arrival at the airport in Milan. I needed to buy my Venice Blu Card ticket, which I reserved ahead of time and gives me 7 days of access on all vaporetti. There was a HUGE line and she did not want to wait. She said it was just a short walk to the apartment and that the maid was waiting there with the key and needed to leave. I knew the route that we were about to take and this was NOT part of my plan.
There were lots of people along the way and Ketty walked at a brisk pace weaving in and out of the crowd. I tried my best to keep up while pulling my suitcase with the broken handle which was not easy to do. We had to cross 5 bridges. Now 5 may not seem a lot to you, but by the 5th bridge, my arms were shaking and I could hardly lift my bag.
We arrived at the door of my apartment and Ketty buzzed the maid. The apartment is on the 3rd floor (2nd floor for Italian lingo). I tried to lift my bag but my arms were not budging. Ketty helped me by grabbing one end and finally just carried it on her own. I was pleasantly surprised by a very nice apartment and after Ketty quickly announced the name of each room, she said goodbye and started to leave. I asked her to wait until I was sure about using each key and then said goodbye.
By this time, 30 hours after taking off from Honolulu, I was completely exhausted. I unpacked my things, stopped at an ATM, went to the grocery store (Billa), and bought a few things for dinner as well as some toilet paper. There was not even a square left for me so that was a priority!
Then, I went over the to Rialto Bridge vaporetto stop and bought my Venice Blu card. At first, the woman was going to make me go back to the train station but after I explained how long I had been traveling and asked her nicely if I could buy the ticket there, she agreed.
I made myself a caprese salad for dinner and went to bed. I woke up at 1 am and was not able to get back to sleep. I finally got up around 5:30. I watched some TV, had some yogurt and cereal for breakfast and then headed out to explore Venice.
Sunday, June 10th
Sunday morning in Venice at 6:30 am is pretty quiet. The street cleaners (men with brooms, not machines) were hard at work. I was amazed at all of the trash. I have to say though that there are not many wastebaskets around, not that I am making an excuse for littering.
OK, are you ready for the ugly?? After wandering my neighborhood for a while, I decided to head towards Piazza di San Marco. Thank goodness I looked down as at one point I just missed stepping on a dead rat!! Yes, you are reading this correctly, a big fat rat. I assume he or she was dead but perhaps it was just asleep. I guess the street cleaners did not get to that street yet.
This is my 4th trip to Venice and in her defense, this is only the first rat I have seen. That's the ugly!