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June 13, 2007

the good, the bad, & the ugly

Departed Honolulu- Thursday evening, June 7th
Arrived Milan - Saturday morning, June 9th

The good:
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 bad:
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.

The ugly:
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!

jet lag & rain

Sunday, June 10th
Sunday morning was pretty peaceful in Venice. The skies were blue, the sun was out, and the temperature was perfect. Not too hot, but also not too chilly. It was amazing to stand in such an empty Piazza San Marco. There could not have been more than 30 or 40 people in the entire square. Even the pigeons had not arrived. I guess they wait for the vendors with the pigeon food to arrive.

I had a nice chat with the man standing by the Basilica door about how empty it was. I asked him if it was because it was Sunday. He said that every morning at 7 am most of Venice is still asleep. Although this will not convert me to be a morning person, I was glad to be there in the wee hours of the morning to enjoy the piazza without the crowds. After taking a few pictures, I walked down as far as the Arsenale area and then took the vaporetto back to Ca' Doro, stopped for my first italian coffee (heavenly) and then headed back to my apartment.

I was pretty wiped out and took a long nap. I woke up feeling the beginning of a cold coming on. I thought I escaped that nasty bug that many of the teachers at my school caught the last month of work. I took my cold snap, wellness capsules, and drank some airborne. Unfortunately none of that helped.

Later on in the day, I explored some of the Canneregio area where my apartment is located and then stopped at the grocery store again and bought some pesto and pasta for dinner. I was feeling pretty terrible by this point and decided that I would eat at home and get to bed early again. I had some more cherries hoping that would help with my jetlag. Unfortunately I forgot to have some again the night before and so it will be hard to tell if they work or not since I have not been eating them regularly right before dinner.

I fell asleep pretty quickly. I woke up at 2 am and could not go back to sleep! I found a cable plug in the bedroom and moved the tv to the bedroom and tried my best to go back to sleep. The tv usually will put me back to sleep.

Monday, June 11th
I finally got up at around 6 am and saw that the weather was gray and cloudy. The "METEO" (weather report) was not promising. I headed out after having some breakfast. I stopped for my morning coffee and then decided to walk down to the train station in search of an internet site along the way. I remembered seeing one last year but could not find it. I thought perhaps there might be one in the train station. Just as I arrived, the skies opened up and it started to rain. Umbrellas popped up everywhere. I headed over to San Tomà to go to the agency that arranged for my apartment to pay my bill. After paying, I stopped in a paper store and then decided to try Casa Mia for lunch.

Casa Mia is one of the restaurants recommended in the Chow Venice book I bought. A great choice! I had a delicious pepperoni pizza (peppers not the meat). Delicious! After lunch, I was feeling pretty lousy and was not up for walking around in the rain. I had dinner at my apartment again and tried to stay up as late as possible.

Tuesday, June 12th
Tuesday morning, I woke to another cloudy and overcast day. I slept until about 4 which was an improvement. I was feeling horrible but decided to head out anyways. I walked to the Fondamenta Nove area and then took one of the vaporetti around the island. I got off at the Giardini stop and thought about visiting the Biennale but decided against it. The weather looked like it was going to start raining at any moment and I still was not feeling too good. I took the next vaporetto and stopped at the COOP at the Piazzale Roma stop. I bought some food for lunch and dinner and then headed back to the apartment and hung out for most of the afternoon until finally it cleared up and a little bit of blue sky peeked through.

I headed out searching for a recommended gelateria. I found it after a few wrong turns but I was not thrilled with the flavors and really wanted pistachio, which they did not have, so I continued on to search for another gelateria. I stumbled into 2 amazing piazzas, Campo Santa Maria Formosa and Campo Santi Giovanni e Paolo and I found a gelateria with pistachio!

After hanging out for a while, I headed back to my apartment. As I was walking back to my apartment, I saw another recommended restaurant that I wanted to try and made a mental note as to how to get there again for a lunch or dinner later in the week.

I was wiped out and had dinner once again at my apartment and then watched a movie on tv. I can't even remember the name of it at the moment but thankfully that was the last night of my jetlag haze.

July 4, 2007

home again and missing Italy already

Happy 4th of July! I arrived home safely last night. Now to unpack and work on my photos. Hopefully I can get a few ready to post soon. First I need to organize them. Half are burned on CDs and half are still on the memory cards and I am running out of space on my computer.

Monday, July 2nd
My departure from Rome:

Monday morning, I finished packing, making sure my liquids were all in their proper locations. A driver came to pick me up and about 40 minutes later I was at the airport. The Fiumicino (Rome) airport is a little more confusing than the Malpensa (Milan) airport. It is not as well marked with signs. I saw a long line and headed that way to see if that was where I needed to be. It was indeed the first step in order to check in - the first passport check line.

I have flown out of Milan the past few years and so I was used to finding my airline first, standing in that passport check line, and then checking in my bag & getting my boarding pass. Here in Rome, if you are flying one of about 10 airlines, you stand in one long line, which covers all the listed airlines to have your passport checked. It seemed pretty trivial to me as in Milan, at least they check to see if your name is on a specific list (some sort of watch list?), but in Rome there is a woman who looks quickly at your passport and then lets you through. You then have to show your passport again about 3 or 4 more times so I don’t really see the point to this initial line.

The line took about 20 minutes to get through. I arrived at the airport 2 1/2 hours before my flight left. I was not in a rush and so the difficulty for everyone to wait orderly in line, which seems very common in Italy, was not a big deal.

Once I was through that line, there were more long lines ahead. Luckily for me, they were for Delta and Alitalia. When I reached the Continental check in, there were only 4 or 5 people waiting with 2 agents available. Once again, no lines, no wait; one of the things I love about Continental. My bag weighed 16.3 kg, which is about 36 pounds – 3 more pounds than when I left. I was given a “brava” and thumbs up by the ticket agent.

Next stop was passport control. This one was the “official” passport checkpoint where you have to stand behind the official yellow line. I got my stamp and a friendly smile. The security area was pretty routine. Everything in the bins, although shoes did not need to be removed.

They had to put my small carry-on through three times and then had a short conversation about my bag. I finally suggested that they open it so that everyone would not have to wait any longer for my bag to clear. The guy looked in my bag, which was pretty packed. He moved a couple of things around and then said it was fine.

There are quite a few shops in the Rome airport, including a place to grab a bite to eat. I went to the bar inside this place which sold different foods to order my last coffee. I was told that I had to pay first. Since I also planned to grab a quick bite to eat for lunch, I checked out the food before going to pay for my coffee. I saw something called a sfiziaforno filled with spinach and cheese that looked delicious. I was not sure how to pronounce it. The man at the cash register had a good laugh and then helped me pronounce the word.

Having to go to the cashier first to pay for what you want to order is one situation which can be stressful for those that do not speak any Italian as you can’t just point to what you want to order since the cash register is not near all the food items. While I was in line waiting to order, a lady asked me to help her order, which I was happy to do.

My last coffee and meal in Italy. I must say the sfiziaforno was indeed delicious.

The plane ride from Rome to Newark was pretty routine. I sat next to a high school boy who was traveling with his family. I was able to sleep part of the way and watched movies the rest of the time.

When we landed, we went to the passport control area. There we encountered this guy who seemed to think he was “king” of keeping people in orderly lines. He almost started a little revolt. He decided that the line would bunch up too much if we all just stood in one line and so, starting with me, he made us all go through this little rat maze, you know the silly bank zigzag lines which are pointless when there are not enough people to fill up all of the lines. We must have had to go up and down those lines about 12 times and in the end came out in the same place in one big line.

Then we encountered the “queen” of keeping people in orderly lines. There were about 9 passport control agents stamping tickets. We had to wait to be told where to stand. Everyone was very orderly while getting to this point and we could have easily figured out this on our own much more easily and more efficiently than the "queen". When my turn came, I was told to go down to the end, when there was a line right in front of me with only 2 people waiting. Instead, I ended up getting behind this family, which must have had something suspicious with their passports, as it took forever. I ended up being one of the last people out of there.

Next stop, baggage. It was the usual, everyone standing around watching the bags go round and round. I am always so happy to see my bag after previous times when my bag did not show up.

Finally, customs. I was asked if I had any food. Now why do they have us list what we are bringing in if they do not read it? I mentioned that I had sun dried tomatoes. “Dried tomatoes?” Big star on my paper and no passing go. Instead I was diverted to the customs area. There, the custom agent asked again what foods I brought in. I mentioned that it was all listed on the back. I was asked again. I said “sun dried tomatoes”. He realized that they were not a threat but since I was there, I had to have my bags go through the x-ray machine anyways. At least they did not need to search them or confiscate my tomatoes.

What really ticked me off was what the next agent at the other end of the x-ray machine did. He threw my bags down on the floor onto this metal plate. The first bag he threw down was one of my carry-ons. I can’t remember what I said, but I was not happy. He realized that I was not happy and replied that it was a good thing for the bags to go down on the ground (meaning that they did not need to be searched). I did not care if they needed to be searched. I did care that he was throwing may bags down onto a metal plate. Just as I started to ask if I could please pick up the bags off the shelf because I had some things that were fragile inside, down went my second bag. At least that one was my check in bags which was probably already thrown around. He did allow me to pick up my other carry on. I ended up being the last one out of there from my flight.

Next challenge, find my hotel. I was staying at the Mariott Airport Hotel and had no idea how to get there. Again, no signs, but there was a person helping anyone who seemed lost. She told me to go up the escalator and take the air train to P4. That did not make much sense to me, but I followed a few others also needing to find P4. It was pretty easy in the end. When you arrive at P4, there is a board with a phone and a bunch of phone codes to push to reach your hotel. The shuttle came right away and the driver was very nice. The check in procedure was quick and easy.

My treat for Monday night was to meet Kim from Slow Travel. I really enjoyed our time together. We ended up eating at a pizza/sub place after we found out that the restaurant we planned to go to was closed for the holiday. The sub was delicious and the company was wonderful. Thanks again Kim!!

My bed was soooo comfy! I ate some cherries, trying out the jet lag remedy once again.

Tuesday, July 3rd
I felt very refreshed, or so I thought the next morning. I had the buffet breakfast, checked out, and headed to the airport.

No line at the Continental check in. I was curious to see the weight of my bag but it was not even weighed. There were only a few people ahead of me at the security x-ray line. Again, my smaller carry-on had to be screened 3 times. I offered to open it for them but they said it was ok. I still can’t figure out what the big mystery was in my bag.

I then had to pee, story of my life, so first stop was the bathroom. I walked in and couldn’t figure out why one of the male pilots was in the ladies room. Then, I realized that there were 4 or 5 other men standing there washing their hands. I was in the men’s bathroom!! Thank goodness the toilets were not right out in the open!

After using the ladies room, I checked the board and saw that my 1:30 flight said it was taking off at 3pm. Since I had plenty of time, I went into a couple of stores and then found my gate. When I got there, it still said 3pm. I went back into a few more stores and then headed back to my gate. It now said 1:30!

After being in a fog, standing in the men’s bathroom, I was a little concerned that I was losing it! I had to go ask if it really did say 3pm at one time. It did indeed. I asked what time the flight would start boarding and he said probably not till 1:30, which obvious meant it was not really leaving at 1:30.

We ended up boarding from 1:30 to 2pm and then spent the next half hour playing musical chairs to accommodate all of these families who did not have seats together. I was one of the people asked to move. It didn’t really matter much to me as I was sitting near kids either way and the move seemed to be next to a few less kids. Little did I realize there was a girl who threw lots of tantrums sitting right behind the seat that I moved to. I sat next to a 3rd grade teacher and her mother who was an educational assistant in a special ed class. None of us were thrilled with the constant tantrums from either the boy in front of us or the girl behind us. Other than that, and the fact that we left 90 minutes late, my flight was fine. They did not have my special meal listed but instead offered me the Kosher meal. Wow, that was the best airline meal I have ever eaten. From now on, it will be Kosher meals for me!

January 24, 2008

funny video on luggage problems

Something on the lighter side - If you are in need of a good laugh, check out this hilarious video. BGE from Slow Travel posted this (with Kim's help). You may have already seen this, but if not, enjoy!

(warning, turn your volume down a little, this video plays awfully loud)

January 25, 2008

some of my luggage mishaps

The video on luggage problem got me to thinking about some of my own luggage experiences.

My worst experience was the summer I flew home from Rome and never saw one of my suitcases again. Although it was the smaller of my two bags with mostly dirty clothes inside, it did contain a few of my favorite travel clothing items that I have still not been able to replace to this day.

My other missing bag experience happened a few summers ago when departing from Venice. I stood at the baggage carousel watching all the bags spin around until the last one came out an my bag was still missing. Thankfully, my bag was eventually found two weeks later and delivered to my door. A frustrating experience with a happy ending.

This past summer, my wheelie bag came off the carousel with a big dent in the handle. This prevented me from raising the handle more than a couple of inches. Not a fun way to attempt to pull your bag through the streets of Venice. Continental of course was proud to show me their sign that said that they are not responsible for baggage damage. They even gave me a little slip of paper with the same wording highlighted in pink in case I needed a reminder. It ended up costing me about $50.00 in shipping costs to have Eagle Creek repair it for free.

My most memorable experience however was the time I waited for my luggage to come out after flying from Catania to Rome. I have had to wait quite a while for my luggage to come out many times, but this experience was one I will never forget.

After landing in Rome, I walked with my fellow passengers to the baggage area. When we arrived, five bags were going round and round the carousel. We all stood around and watched the five bags as well as one other bag that was stuck, but not really holding up any of the other bags.
At one point, a woman pushed the red button. I assume she pushed it because she thought that none of the other bags would come out if the one bag was stuck. The carousel came to a stop. That was NOT a good idea.

Everyone around her started speaking loudly and rapidly to her in Italian, with hands flying everywhere. Although I could not understand exactly what was being said, it was pretty obvious that this woman should not have pushed that red button.

After a few minutes of the lively red button discussion, someone found a guy to start the carousel again. We then proceeded to wait, and wait, and wait. After about 20 minutes, six or seven more bags came out and then nothing. Two or three people were lucky enough to find their bags and leave. At least this meant that we were at the correct carousel. The rest of us sat around and watched the same three bags go round and round, again, and again, and again.

People were starting to become upset. A man must have sensed the frustration level. He came over and told us that it would only be about five more minutes. Five minutes, ten minutes, fifteen minutes and still no bags!

By this time, a few people were so fed up, they just left. The faces on the rest of the people were priceless. What expressions. If only I was brave enough to take my camera out and capture some of the expressions, but I knew quite well the mood everyone was in and did not dare.

About this time, a new group of people came off their flight. They waited with us for just a few minutes and then bags began to come out of that little hole onto the carousel. All the people from my flight sat. No one moved, as we all knew deep down, those bags would not be our bags. The people from Palermo went over to the carousel. They picked up their bags and left. And then the same three bags continued to move around, and around, and around. Mama mia! You should have seen the expressions!

FINALLY, 56 minutes after we landed, our bags came out...on a different carousel!

May 14, 2008

luggage...what to do, what to do

As I mentioned earlier, my main obsession this year so far has been luggage. I have always tried to pack light but have never succeeded. It sure would make my life a little easier if I could get a little better at packing lighter this year.

First a little history...

During my past couple of trips, I have taken my Expandable 24" Eagle Creek wheeled bag as my check in bag.
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Info on this bag: 8 pounds, 16 X 24 X 9 in, 3500 cu inches, 3800 cu inches when expanded.

The good thing about this bag is that it can hold a lot of stuff. It can get heavy though when fully packed, but I have never gone over the 50 lb. airline limit. The bad thing about this bag is that it is a taller bag and can be thick if expanded, which makes it difficult to sometimes fit on the overhead train racks or between the seats on the Eurostar trains. I usually cannot lift it that high and worry about taking it down on my own (not wanting it to go flying and injuring another passenger). I don't always have offers to help me lift it and at times I have sat with it squished in front of me during the train ride. This bag also can be a challenge when having to carry it up and down the train underpass stairs.


For my main carry on bag, I have taken my Eagle Creek Subcontinental Journey backpack.
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Info on this bag: 3 pounds, 14 X 22 X 9 in, 2400 cu inches.

Continue reading "luggage...what to do, what to do" »

May 15, 2008

update on my luggage dilemma

I ordered the Eagle Creek Tarmac 20 in the palm green color this evening from Zappos. Zappos always sucks me in because if I don't like it, I can return it and it is free shipping both ways. You can't beat that. I also have 365 days to return it, not that I want the box to be sitting in my house for 365 days, but I won't be rushed to return it before my trip in case I change my mind and decide on a different bag or find a better sale. Zappos also had a pretty good price (cheaper than most other sites and the cheapest when you factor in the free shipping).

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My deciding factors were:

1. The detachable piggyback clip which I guess would be what I would use to hook the bag to my other wheeled bag. I have had this clip on other bags and never knew what it was for. I have always used it to attach my fleece jacket or my pillow (I never travel anywhere without my pillow).

There seems to be some sort of disagreement in regards to if the Hovercraft 20 bag has this piggyback clip. I read this comment on ebags regarding the Hovercraft 20:
The bag did not come with the water bottle holder or add-a-bag clip that Eagle Creek advertises. We talked to both Eagle Creek and Ebags about this. Eagle Creek was not responsive. Ebags corrected their description based on reality not Eagle Creek advertising.

2. The cool little built in shoe box and stash cache which I only discovered today when clicking on one of the links on the Eagle Creek site for this bag. I am a sucker for gadgets and little hiding spaces. It could save me from taking a couple of little bags to put stuff in. I'm not sure if I would waste all that space with shoes though since I can cram them in along the sides but I'm sure I could find lots of other stuff to put in the shoe space.

shoebox%20stashcache.png

Although the Hovercraft 20 is still another possibility, I think I will wait until my Tarmac 20 arrives. Ebags seems to also have free shipping to Hawaii and a 60 day return policy. If I decide I still want to check out the Hovercraft and time it just right, I could order the Hovercraft closer to my trip departure date and have both bags to try out when I start packing. I could then make my final decision with time left to return the bag I don't choose when I return from my trip.

I appreciate all the comments and suggestions. I think just writing it all out and organizing my choices helped me visually to see the pros/cons. It is good to hear from other solo travelers on how you handle traveling with luggage. It can never be as bad as my first trip to Italy. Boy did I pack badly on that trip. I learn a little more each time I go and I am looking forward to this year's experience. Especially not having to lug as much on my back and shoulders.

update on the bag I ordered

I ordered the wrong bag!!!

While checking to see if all of my links on my previous post worked, I realized that the bag I ordered had a slightly different name. Eagle Creek ES Tarmac 20 instead of Eagle Creek Tarmac 20. Then, I looked at the photo on Zappos and the photo on Eagle Creek and noticed that the bags were different!! How did I ever miss that one? I ordered the older version of the same model bag. That is probably why it was cheaper. The new bag has two pockets in the front and the older version has only one pocket and a strap across the front.

I noticed that the dimensions were different (22 inches vs 20 inches) when first looking at this bag on the Zappos site over the weekend. That puzzled me, but since the cubic inches were the same, I figured it was a just a mistake. After realizing that I ordered the wrong bag, I started looking closely at both of the descriptions and noticed that the weight was a little different (older version is 3 ounces lighter). I am also pretty doubtful that the cool little built in shoe box and stash cache will be included in the older version that I just ordered. I am guessing the shoe box and stash cache is what makes the newer bag slightly heavier in weight.

I called Zappos to see if they knew anything more about the exact dimensions of this older version bag. When I gave the woman on the phone my shipping address to pull up my order, she told me that she was from Pearl City. SMALL SMALL WORLD!!! I found out that her mom was the secretary at the school I used to work at a few years after I moved to Hawaii! I haven't seen her mom in ages. Her mom was so nice. After leaving that school, I always had fond memories of her kindness towards me and her friendly smile. The woman on the phone also attended the school when I worked there. I was a speech therapist at the time. I vaguely remember her when she was a child. SMALL SMALL WORLD!!!

Back to my bag - she gave me some options and in the end I decided not cancel the order since I can always return it. Zappos is a very easy company to deal with when returning things. If I keep the bag, the only thing I will miss is the cool little built in shoe box and stash cache. If I am lucky, the older version may be just what I am looking for.

After I hung up, I did another search on Eagle Creek ES Tarmac 20. I found out that the bag I ordered is the 2007 version and the length is indeed 20 inches and not 22 inches as stated on Zappos.

I can’t believe I ordered the wrong bag!!

June 15, 2008

it's getting close...

Five more sleeps and I am off!! It just doesn't seem real. I am dreaming of espresso and gelato instead of focusing for more than five minutes on what needs to be done. It just doesn't seem real that I AM actually returning to Italy.

Thank goodness I have lists from past years to look at just in case I never get my act together to make my new lists for this year. This is my first year that I have time to leisurely pack and get ready for my trip... and what am I doing? Procrastinating!!! I shall go and stare at last year's packing list again.

Happy Father's Day to all the Dads out there.

June 16, 2008

the ziploc bag is ready to go

After six hours of packing and organizing, I now have my ziploc quart bag ready to go (you know the one that has the "safe" liquids in it).

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I also have organized and packed most of my vitamins and medicines and made a list of a few of things I need to pick up at the drugstore.

Slow but steady wins the race...

June 19, 2008

it's warming up in Italy

Two more sleeps!! Packing is at a standstill. I did however buy a new yummy jacket yesterday after 8 hours of shopping looking for a top. I never found the top I wanted but could not resist the jacket after trying it on. It is super comfortable and will be perfect on the plane. I bought it at lululemon athletica.

I have been trying to decide "yay" or "nay" on the midweight long underwear bottoms. I always take my lightweight. Below 60 degrees is winter weather to me. Hopefully if the weather forecasts are correct, I won't be needing my new jacket very often and will be fine if the long underwear stay home.

After over a month of rain and cold weather, this is the predicted weather forecast for the day I will arrive in Santa Margherita Ligure. It looks like it will be a perfect day.

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And for all you metric fans out there...
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As for that top, I guess I will just have to do a little shopping while in Italy (and ignore the euro/dollar exachange rate).

June 20, 2008

cherries and jet lag

cherries.pngLast year, I read about how eating tart cherries might help ease jet lag. I packed my cherries, ate them on the plane, but was too jet lagged to remember to eat them the next few nights, which meant that my experiment failed and I never found out if cherries helped jet lag.

According to Russel J. Reiter, PhD, a nutrition researcher at the University of Texas Health and Science Center and one of the world’s leading authorities on melatonin:

When flying, eat some cherries (handful) 30 minutes to an hour before sleeping on the plane. After arrival, eat some cherries one hour before sleeping for at least three more consecutive nights.

I found a few articles suggesting eating cherries for the number of nights per time zones you pass through. That would mean that I would have to eat cherries for 12 nights. The longest I have dealt with jet lag is probably 3 days so I am not sure about the 12 night cherry thing. I am guessing Russel J. Reiter might not have considered time changes such as from Hawaii to Italy when coming up with his formula. Of course you also have to weigh in that this study of cherries easing jet lag comes from a cherry website.

Regardless, I am going to "give it a go" and try the cherry experiment once again this year (can't hurt and even if it doesn't work, cherries are a tasty, healthy snack).

June 24, 2008

planes & trains

Saturday June 21 - Monday June 23

I checked in for my flight from home (with only one quick moment of panic after realizing that I initially typed in the wrong passport number). The only line (just 4 people) I encountered at the airport was the agriculture screening. No line at the kiosk where I checked in my bag and amazingly no line at the screening area. In fact, I was the only one there. At first I thought I must have been at the wrong place because on one else was there and, I guess because I was the only one there, I was the lucky recipient of a full pat down in the special pat down area.

After collecting my bags, putting my shoes back on, and heading towards my gate, I realized that I forgot my pillow in one of the gray tubs at the screening area. I raced back, retrieved my pillow and then headed back to the gate.

My flight from Honolulu to Newark had to be one of the best flights I have taken in a long time (except of course the few times I flew first class). I sat next to a nice couple from Germany. We chatted a little until the food arrived. I decided on Kosher meals for this trip after having one of the best Kosher airline meals on my last trip from Newark to Honolulu. I always order special meals, since they usually seem to be a little fresher and I get my meal first. On my last trip, they messed up on my order, which is how I got the Kosher meal. Well, on this flight, they messed up royally once again. I was given some sort of sandwich with frozen mystery meat inside. I could have sworn it was ham, which puzzled me since I am pretty sure ham is not Kosher. I ate the bread and left the frozen mystery meat on the plate. My meal also came with a chocolate whipped dessert that looked wonderful, but I could not eat (chocolate = migraines for me). After my meal, I watched about 5 minutes of some movie and then fell asleep. I slept for 6 straight hours!

After arriving in Newark, I spent about 5 hours wandering the airport. I love my new rolling bag! It made such a big difference walking around the airport not having to lug a bag on my back. I had a wonderful raspberry and cheese filled pastry at Au Bon Pain and a pretty good espresso at Jakes and later a slice of pizza which was just ok. Once at my gate, I checked in showing my passport to get a special mark on my ticket saying documents were shown and a little security sticker on my passport. I surveyed the area and saw babies and little children! Now I love babies and little children most of the time, just not on planes.

As the boarding process began, I went over to the boarding area to wait since my row was going to be called next. As those in the very back of the plane started to board, it started to hail. Boarding stopped and those on the plane were asked to get off the plane. This was not a good sign. I spoke to this guy sitting nearby and he said that the storm, which caused many flights to be canceled was heading our way. The hail was loud and lasted about 20 minutes. We could see the hail bouncing off of the windows on the ceiling. For some reason, hail is always associated with Italy for me. The only other encounters of hail I have had besides hiking in Colorado many many years ago have been when I have been in Italy. Fortunately the hail at the airport stopped and we were once again allowed to board the plane. As my row was called, a group of Italians started pushing their way through the line. I am always amazed at how waiting orderly in line is something that Italians seem to have missed in school.

On this flight, I sat next to a very nice older Italian man. It looked like it was going to be another peaceful flight...until the two rows of families with their babies sat down. The crying began even before we took off. It continued throughout the flight. The babies took turns so that there would not be more than 15 minutes of silence throughout the flight. I was not able to sleep longer than an hour on this flight. I even tried blasting my iPod to drown out the crying. And to add to the crying, a grown man who sat behind me kicked my seat off and on throughout the flight. The feature movie starring Kate Hudson and Mathew McConaughey was not working. The other choices were pretty bad. I ended up watching a movie called Penelope twice, first in English and then again in Italian. It was a LONG flight.

Although we were delayed for 90 minutes because of the hailstorm we only ended up arriving 30 minutes late. We arrived at 8:30, I retrieved my bag by 9:20 and was on a bus heading to Milan at 9:30. The bus arrived at the train station at 10:30. There was construction blocking the main train station entrance, which meant I had to walk around the building to a entrance on the other side. Again, I was so thankful for my new rolling bag! After waiting in line to purchase my ticket (the automatic ticket machines were either blocked off due to the construction or were in a location that was a mystery to me), I headed up to wait for my 12:10 train. I bought a bland eggplant and cheese sandwich and had my first espresso macchiato.

My train was one of the newer IC plus trains with comfortable first class seats and plenty of room for luggage. I sat across from a very chatty Italian woman. On any other occasion, I would have been thrilled to practice my Italian, but because of my lack of sleep and it being 12:30 - 2:30 in the morning Hawaii time, I could barely keep my eyes open.

Trying to understand Italian requires my full attention, which was quite a challenge and this woman continued to talk to me until she finally departed in Genova. Because my eyelids were heavy and I was nodding off, I got up and stood for the rest of the trip. I chatted with a very kind older Italian couple while waiting at the door for my stop. The man helped me with my second bag as I departed the train.

My hotel was a short walk from the train station, mostly downhill. It was easy to find. When I made my reservation, all of the single rooms were booked for my first night in Santa Margherita Ligure, so I booked a double room for the first night. Because I was going to move into a single room the following day, I only unpacked a few things. The double room was clean and quite large, with a nice bathroom and comfortable bed.

After a wonderful shower, I headed out to explore Santa Margherita Ligure. It was a beautiful day and still quite warm. I walked from one end to the other end of town by the ocean, taking photos along the way. By this time, I was fading fast. I found a bar that served pasta and asked if it was possible to order some dinner early. It was 6:30 and the earliest most restaurants serve dinner is 7:30. The man in the bar told me that the cook would be arriving in 5 minutes if I could wait. I ordered a pesto dish with trofie pasta (a typical Ligurian pasta) which was wonderful!

After dinner, I headed back to my hotel and was asleep by 7:30. I did remember to eat some cherries before falling asleep. I woke up at 3:30 in the morning and was able to go back to sleep about 4:30 or so and then slept until 8am.

I am so happy to be back in Italy once again!!!

July 13, 2008

heading to the airport hotel soon

Sadly, my trip is ending. I am heading to the train station in a little while. Right now I am at Katia's workplace using the internet. I wrote the last four posts about the rest of my time in Bologna on Katia's computer yesterday evening and just posted them on my blog.

When I return home, I will post about my wonderful weekend in Coccaglio and then begin to post some of my photos. I hope everyone is well.

a presto...

Edited to add: I am now at the airport hotel (First Hotel) with 30 minutes of free internet time. Just checking in. I leave in the morning and then spend another night at an airport hotel before arriving home Tuesday evening Hawaii time. Thanks for all of your comments. I am glad to hear that my blogging has been interesting and entertaining. I am never sure just what will be interesting or boring. My trip has been wonderful. There is a big storm outside right now with thunder and lightening which is freaking me out a little bit. Hopefully the weather is wrong and it will not be thundering in the morning when my plane takes off. Ciao!!!

July 20, 2008

one train, one bus, two planes, two airport hotels, and a lost passport

Sunday-Tuesday, July 13th-15th

I sat in the first class train car on the regional train to Milan after sadly waving goodbye to Katia, . The air conditioning did not seem to be working, but the wind provided some relief. First class tickets on regional trains are usually only 3 or 4 euros more and usually worth it as the cars are usually less full which is good when traveling with luggage.

The train guy came through the car checking tickets soon after the train departed from Rovato. When he saw that I had a first class ticket, he told me that I should move to the first class car. I was puzzled by his remark as I thought I was already sitting in a first class car. There was a number 1 on the outside of the train car when I boarded the train. He said that the AC was working in the next car and told me that he would help me move my bags. I was happy where I was, but went along with his suggestion as I was surprised by his offer to help move my bags.

After getting settled into the next car, I saw a white sign saying first class (can't remember the exact Italian wording) on the window of the door that separates the train cars. My guess was because the AC was not working in the other first class car, it was treated as a second class car on this trip.

When arriving in Milan, I knew the drill after being there already a couple of times this trip. As I approached the big stairway (my last set of stairs with luggage on this trip) a shady looking man offered to help me with my bags. I declined and headed down the stairs. At the bottom, I saw two places selling tickets for the airport bus. I went to the newsstand where the line was short. The airport bus costs 7 euros (although there seem to be some buses charging 7.50).

I bought my ticket, headed to the bus, showed my ticket, gave my luggage to the bus guy and watched as he put the luggage in the compartment under the bus, and then boarded the bus. I HATE bus rides, especially when they are packed and there are no seats up at the front. I feel so claustrophobic on a bus. I found a seat midway back and took out my sukoku puzzle. I was feeling a little queasy on the ride and realized once again that my ginger was in my suitcase instead of in my carry on. I tried to ignore the feeling in my stomach. When we arrived at the Malpensa airport, the bus first dropped off those going to Terminal 2. Fortunately when I boarded the bus, the bus driver asked where I was going and told me I needed Terminal 1 for the First Hotel.

When we arrived at Terminal 1, I grabbed my luggage and got out my phone. The hotel told me that the shuttle would be there in 15 or 20 minutes and to go and wait at the number six doorway in the arrival area. The hotel was only 5 minutes away. I wasn't sure why it was going to take 15-20 minutes but went to the number six area and waited. After a few minutes, I noticed two woman waiting on the island in the middle. I walked out there and asked if they were waiting for a hotel shuttle. One of the women told me that they were waiting for the First Hotel shuttle and had been waiting quite a while. They were not too happy to hear that I was told that it would arrive in 15-20 minutes.

Meanwhile the skies were turning pitch black and a few minutes later huge raindrops started falling from the sky. I called the hotel again and told the woman that we were moving under the doorway since it was now raining with huge raindrops. She told us to move to area doorway number seven. We walked down to the next area and saw that the island in the middle was covered by a metal type covering. Great! The thunder and lightening was starting and I was now standing under a metal covering. I let out a few tiny screams with each sound of thunder. The shuttle arrived 25 minutes after my initial call. The two women waited one hour for the shuttle. Needless to say, they were pretty upset. I was just thankful that I no longer had to stand outside in a thunder and lightening storm.

It was about 6:30 when we arrived at the hotel which was very close to the airport. There were two women at the desk. One was very friendly and the other was not. I was given a credit card type key to the room and was told that I would need to let them know in advance what time I wanted the shuttle ride the following morning. While riding in the elevator with the shuttle guy (he was helping me with my bags), I asked him how the food was. He told me that the pasta was the best food.

I ordered trofie with pesto for dinner (13 euros) and water (3 euros). The pesto pasta was pretty good. Although it was more expensive than many restaurants it was not as expensive as some of the other hotel airport restaurants. The First Hotel provided 30 minutes of free internet which I thought was pretty cool. After that, it was a flat rate of 10 euros per day. There was a very friendly cat who lived at the hotel and hung out with me while I used the computer.

My room was a double for single use and was nice and roomy. It was clean and my bed was very comfy. The bathroom was also nice. The breakfast the next morning was only so so, although I have been spoiled with some great breakfasts on this trip. The coffee however was horrible. Luke warm espresso. The shuttle ride to the airport was on time and quick. I would stay there again.

The skies were dark with another storm approaching and the weather was cold the morning of my departure. I was very lucky to have sunny warm weather during my entire stay.

All passengers on the shuttle ride were going to Continental Airlines. I sat next to a nice older couple from San Francisco. They followed me when we got inside the terminal since I have flown out of Malpensa a couple of times before. I usually am NOT the one to follow, but for once I actually knew where I was going. I saw the line for the first passport check at the far end of the lobby and headed that way. Although the guy did not have much faith in me, his wife persuaded him to follow me. He seemed to think that we had to find the Continental counter. I knew we had to go through the passport check first and told him this information. When we arrived at the passport check area, I was very surprised to find only two other people in front of us. The guy checking the passports was very friendly.

Once our passports were checked, we headed to the Continental check in area. There were American, Delta, and Continental check in areas in this area. There were long lines for American and Delta and only 3 or 4 people in line for Continental. When it was my turn, I put my bag on the belt to be weighed and panicked. It weighed 35 kilograms! I knew that meant more than 50 pounds. I then realized that the woman did not clear the weight from the previous passenger's bag. My bag weighed 15 or 16 kilograms (not sure on the exact weight as she left 1 or 2 kilograms on the scale).

The next stop was to get our passports checked (again) and stamped. This was the official passport check area. The couple abandoned me at this point and I was on my own. After getting my passport stamped, I could not seem to find the area for the gates and the security check. I asked a policeman and then another airport person before finally finding the escalator in the middle of the room that went down to the lower level. It was not well marked at all and if you did not know what to look for, you would have probably walked right by it.

I passed through the security area quickly. No taking off shoes necessary. Next stop for me was the bathroom. While in the bathroom stall, the guy cleaning the bathroom came in and opened my door! I couldn't believe it. Luckily I was getting dressed. I let out a little scream, which did not seem to phase him at all. He put a red fabric type barrier across the doorway so that no one could get in. I asked him if he could move it so I could get out. He ignored me. I finally crawled under to get out. Then, I wandered through the duty free shopping area (no choice here as you had to walk through this shop to get to the gates) and bought a few things. I remembered that I wanted to buy some water. I backtracked a little and stopped in this little store thinking they might sell water. No water there, but since I still had a little time to kill, I looked at some little notebooks they were selling and then found a cute Pinocchio magnet to buy for my sister.

While I was in line, I realized that I was holding my ticket but no passport!! I panicked! I had one hour before the plane was taking off and no passport. I realized that I could probably fly out but not get into the US. I could end up like Tom Hanks in the movie, The Terminal! Hey, he was also stuck in Newark if I remember correctly. I traced back my steps in my head. If I lost my passport in the bathroom, I was toast. That guy was not very helpful and probably would have just thrown my passport away. I started to think about all the things I picked up and looked at in the duty free shop. If I lost it there, it would take me a long time to find it. I wondered if someone found it, where would they turn it in, IF they would turn it in.

I tried to stay calm and waited in line to pay for the Pinocchio magnet. Ignoring the problem for the moment seemed to be the best remedy. After making my purchase, I looked in the spot where the little notebooks were located. My passport!! There it was, right under the two notebooks I picked up earlier but decided not to purchase. Oh thank you, thank you!!! I was so relieved. I always use my money belt. I even had it on, but because I am asked to show my passport so often in airports, I usually carry it in my hand during the airport phase of my travel.

I was so thankful that I had my passport back in my hands once again. I clutched it tightly and went to have a decent espresso at the bar. I also bought some water while in the airport bar and then headed to the boarding area. Soon after I arrived, the boarding mayhem began. First the little children, and then a free for all!! No seat numbers called, just mass chaos. I happened to be standing in a good spot before the boarding process began. Boarding took forever since those in the front of the plane were storing their carry on items while those in the back of the plane had to wait to get by.

I had an aisle seat in the middle and sat next to a quiet girl from New Jersey. The plane ride was long but other than that, no problems arose, except that they messed up on my special meal again. Every year, somehow, they never have my special meal when flying back from Italy. Luckily I brought some bread and cheese with me. I watched The Other Boleyn Girl twice since there was nothing else good to watch. I was surprised that on this flight there were no movies dubbed in Italian. I felt bad for all of the Italians flying who did not understand English. I think they had the wrong movies for this flight. At least the announcements were in both English and Italian.

Continue reading "one train, one bus, two planes, two airport hotels, and a lost passport" »

December 1, 2008

five ways to avoid germs while traveling

I found an interesting article while checking out the CNN website this weekend written by Elizabeth Cohen, CNN Medical Correspondent on five ways to avoid germs while traveling. The tips come from Dr. Mark Gendreau, a senior staff physician at the Lahey Clinic in Burlington, Massachusetts, who has been studying germiness while traveling.

1. Sit toward the front of the airplane

According to Dr. Gendreau, there is better airflow from the ventilation system in the front of the aircraft. Of course first class is the best place to sit since there is less of the squish factor and more room there.

Although I no longer have elite status on Continental, which makes sitting closer to the front of the plane difficult at times, I have tried to sit closer to the front whenever possible. I will probably try a little harder in the future.

2. Don't drink coffee or tea on an airplane

The EPA advises anyone with a suppressed immune system or anyone who's "concerned" about bacteria to refrain from drinking coffee or tea on an airplane.

According to this article and the EPA’s Web site: "While boiling water for one minute will remove pathogens from drinking water, the water used to prepare coffee and tea aboard a plane is not generally brought to a sufficiently high temperature to guarantee that pathogens are killed,"

Even more scary, “According to the EPA, out of 7,812 water samples taken from 2,316 aircraft, 2.8 percent were positive for coliform bacteria.”

I was aware about not drinking tap water, and even take bottled water in to the bathroom with me when I brush my teeth, but I was unaware that the boiled water for coffee and tea was not safe.

3. Sanitize your hands after leaving an airplane bathroom

Charles Gerba, an environmental microbiologist at the University of Arizona who's also known as "Dr. Germ” says a toilet on an airplane "is among the germiest that you will encounter almost anywhere."

Dr. Germ goes on to say, "You have 50 people per toilet, unless you are flying a discount airline; then it is 75. We always find E. coli on surfaces in airplane restrooms."

One point for me! I have been well aware that airplane toilets are full of germs. Not only do I wash my hands, but I use my little bottle of hand sanitizer to sanitize my hands as double protection after returning to my seat.

4. Wash or sanitize your hands after getting off an escalator

I never thought about the escalator as a germ breeding area before. Although this article is specifically about traveling, sanitizing your hands after touching all escalator handrails would be a good idea as a way of avoiding germs.

5. Wash or sanitize your hands after using an ATM

I sort of knew this one but have not been good about the hand sanitizer also in this situation. I also recently saw a news clip saying that germs can stay on money for up to 17 days! That sure makes avoiding germs more difficult.

Gendreau sums up how to keep healthy in six words: "hand hygiene, hand hygiene, hand hygiene."

Check out the full article, Five ways to avoid germs while traveling, for more information on the wonderful world of germs.

June 21, 2009

moving like a turtle

I had a fun day on Friday taking Kim and Chris (her husband) on a tour of part of the North Shore. We had lunch at Kua Aina burgers and then hit a few of the beaches. The highlight was our stop at Laniakea Beach ("turtle beach"). We saw a few turtles swimming in the water. As we walked down the beach, we saw two more turtles hanging out on land. While we were there, On our way back to town, we stopped for some shave ice at Aoki's Shave Ice.


Below are a few more photos of the turtles we saw hanging out on the beach:

First turtle we saw...
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Second turtle...
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Third turtle (the one that came out of the water while we were there and moved slowly up onto the beach, same turtle from the video above)...
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As far as packing is going, I am moving as slow as a turtle although I am finally making a good dent in my list. Packing and flying are the two things I dislike about traveling. I don't know why packing is so difficult. It really should be an easy task. I have my list. I take similar things every year. Instead it is usual at least a 3-day event. I equate packing to a turtle moving on land. He moves a bit, rests, moves a bit more, and then rests some more. I get my suitcases out, sit and stare at them, grab my list, sit and stare at my stuff, pack a bit, sit and stare (and get distracted), and then pack a bit more.

Heading over to my dad's in a bit and then back to packing...

Sending a special Happy Father's Day wish to my dad and to my brother as well as to all the other fathers out there :)

June 24, 2009

departure, journey, and arrival (Italy Trip 2009)

Monday, June 22nd/Day of departure:
I was pretty much done with packing and only had a few minor things left to organize. Time flew by as I frantically went over my packing list one more time. I ended up not having enough time to print out all my train schedules. I also encountered some last minute iPod Touch problems due to loading the new OS3 system that just came out. Friday night, I realized that I lost all of my songs and videos. That took a big chunk of my time trying to redo all the playlists I made. YouTube also wasn't working. I figured that one out after about an hour of research.

About an hour before I needed to leave for the airport, I realized that I was not able to connect to air sharing to transfer all of my documents. This freaked me out since I was depending on transferring a bunch of stuff onto my iPod Touch for my trip. I eventually resolved the issue but could not tell you how I did it now.

The one thing I did not have time to do was to print out all of the train schedules. I feel much more secure having all my train schedules in my hand when taking the train. Even though most of the train schedules are on my iPod, my trip will be interesting without having printed out schedules with all of the various options. I don't think I mentioned that there is a scheduled strike on the day I will be traveling from Bologna to Stresa. I have not figured out what I am going to do if the strike does take place.

The other thing I forgot to do was to grab an English/Italian dictionary. I hope my Italian will carry me on this trip, especially if I end up at the train window without a printed out schedule to purchase a ticket. I will soon find out.
I did take a picture of my updated 3-3-1 bag (especially for Chiocciola), but I didn't have time to post it before heading to the airport.

Heading to the airport/departing Honolulu:
I ate my dinner on the way to the airport while my dad drove.  Eating in advance turned out to be a good thing because that meant I didn't have to stay awake to wait for my dinner (or should I say snack) on the plane).

I did the pre-check in online but was not allowed to print my tickets because they had to do a passport check at the airport.  No line at the kiosk.  I breezed right through.  My check in bag weighed 24.5 pounds an my carry on weighed 23.5 pounds.

The line at security was very short.  New rule - shoes no longer go in the bin. One of the TSA guys was barking at everyone like an army sargeant.  Power really goes to some poeple,s heads.  I felt sorry for this older couple who were so confused.

The flight attendant helped me lift my bag up into the overhead bin, but not too enthusiastically.  A cute young guy sat next to me (talking to his fiance on the phone).  Cute guy turned into rude guy.  He ignored the announcement to turn off cell phones and continued talking for another 10 minutes loudly for everyone to hear.

A young woman from japan (who was wearing a Yankees shirt) wagged her finger AT ME about him talking on the phone as if I could do anything. She then got out of her chair, marched down the aisle, and found the flight attendant to tell him to turn the phone off.

After he finally turned the phone off, very rude guy turned to the young girl sitting on his right amd introduced himself to her. He talked nonstop and flirted with her and did not even acknowledge that I existed. I had no desire to join in on the converstation, but a hello or even goodbye when we arrived in Newark the following morning would have been polite.  The flight was pretty quiet (except for the guy gabbing away). I slept most of the flight for the first time in a long time.

Tuesday, June 23rd/Hanging out in Newark:
I spent the first few hours of my six hour layover walking around, checkinhg out some of the stores, and enjoying my favorite raspberry and cream cheese croissont at Au Bon Pain. Because I was dozing off while eating my croissont, I walked around some more and then headed to the gate once it was finally announced.

The flight boarded on time. I was able to find a guy sitting near me to lift my bag up into the overhead compartment. A very polite young guy who said hello and introduced himself right away sat next to me on my second flight.  We chatted briefly.  I waited for dinner, which was suprisingly very good ( chicken & rice & veggies), and then went to sleep. I slept again for most of the flight.

Wednesday, June 24th/Arrival in Roma:
We arrived in Roma on time.  The line was very reasonable at the passport control.  I was worried that I would have a problem with my new passport because I signed it with my middle initial instead of my full middle name.  No problems so far.  I was thrilled to get my first passport stamp.  My bag arrived shortly after I got to the baggage claim area. I was a little confused about the location of the train station since there were signs with train pictures pointing in two different directions.  I stopped and asked someone who worked at the airport. I am getting much better at understanding directions. I understood just what he said and found the train station quite easily. After buying my train tickets to Roma Termini & Firenze, I stopped in a bar and had my first caffé macchiato and crema brioche. Soooooo good!!!

There was a big crowd waiting for the train.  I headed down toward the other end and easily found a seat.  A nice man helped me carry one of my bags on board.  When we arrived in Roma, another nice man again helped me with one of my bags. It took me a few minutes, but I was able to figured out a way to get to the main area of the Termini train station without having to take any stairs.

My 10:30 AV Eurostar train was on time.  These trains are so easy to board now because there are signs pointing to each carrozza or train car location along the way. When getting on the train, a nice woman helped me with one of my bags. I really am amazed with all of the help I have been offered so far.  

I am finishing up this post on my iPod Touch. I have been writing a little bit every now and then using my yahoo account email. Even though I cannot connect to the internet, I can save this as a draft.

I have a nice seat in first class (a little more money but not as crowded and plenty of room for luggage witout having to lift anything overhead). We are traveling through the beautiful Tuscan countryside as I 'peck'. Once I have wireless access, I am able to cut and paste my draft email entry right into a new entry page on my blog right from my iPod Touch.


**I am now in Florence at my wonderful B&B spell checking and editing my post. I am thrilled to be here but also crashing from the jetlag. I quit spell checking about half way down. I apologize for any glaring errors. I have not decided yet if it is easier to write the entry using my iPod Touch or if it is easier to type the entry using the Italian keyboard. I know it will all come back to my eventually, but right now it is pretty much a tie. I will need computer access though and not just wireless using my iPod Touch to write any entry that is longer than a few sentences because I can't seem to scroll up or down in the little box where I paste my entry in the blog template.


**Highlights from Florence so far: My first gelato at GROM and men in tights.

More soon...
Ciao!!!

July 27, 2009

heading back home ~ part 1: Milan to Newark

I thought I would start with the end of my trip since I have not written up much of this part of my trip yet and it will probably be the first part to disappear from my memory.

I took the 16:37 train to Milano Centrale (train station). I would have taken the 15:37 train but somehow thought it left at 15:47 (mixed it up with the Verona train time from the day before). We arrived at the station at 15:36 just as the 15:37 train was about to arrive and for once the train was on time. Not enough time to go down and then up the stairs to get to binario 2. I learned my lesson once already regarding running for a train this summer.

Katia and I hung out at the train station for the next hour waiting for my train to arrive. It was nice having an hour of quiet time chatting before I left. I always hate saying goodbye when I finally get on that train after spending time with Katia and Guido (more on my time in Coccaglio later).

I find that for most trains, first class always pays off. The car was pretty empty. Lots of room for my bags. Peaceful ride. A very nice man offered to help me with my bags when getting off the train. Two more creepy guys attempting the "can I help you with your bags" scam approached me once I was off the train. Although it can be a little tricky maneuvering around with 2 roller bags hooked to each other in Milan due to the crowds and congestion, I was thankful there were no more stairs.

I love the new improvements at the Milano Centrale train station. There are moving walkways that angle downward to go down to the lower levels so you no longer need to go carry bags down the stairs to reach the street level. Because everything is new (or at least new to me since last summer), I was not sure at first where to go. I found a sign at one level for the airport shuttle but not at the next. I can't remember if you have to go down twice or three times but just head towards the metro sign until you are on the ground level and then you will see the airport signs again.

I bought ticket at the tabaccheria shop on the ground floor where there was a big sign saying Malpensa Express €7. There still is a little work going on at this train station so my directions might change, but at least for now, you head on out the door by the tabaccheria shop, walk straight ahead until you reach a main street, and then turn left or just follow everyone with luggage and you will find the Malpensa Express buses.

In my experience, the bus drivers are not always so friendly at the train station. As I approached the first bus, the bus driver in a grouchy voice told me to go to the next bus. At the next bus, the guy standing in front of the door at the bus took my ticket and stamped it. While he was stamping it, I was unable to avoid inhaling a bit of his stinky lit cigarette. He seemed oblivious as I noticed uncomfortable reactions from other bus riders as they either had their tickets stamped or bought tickets from this guy. He also said just one word - "La", which meant there, referring to the fact that you had to go around to the other side to store your bags in the storage compartment under the bus. The guy by the baggage storage area, who turned out to be our bus driver, was friendlier. He asked everyone if you were going to Terminal 1 or 2. Terminal 2 is first. Terminal 1 is the terminal where most people depart.

The bus was pretty full. I was fortunate to find a seat not too far from the front of the bus. I was even more fortunate to be one of the few who ended up with an empty seat next to me for the ride. I took the following photo of three girls trying to figure out directions on a big map while two guys look on in Milan at a red light.

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Because I stayed at the same airport hotel last summer, I knew just where to go once we arrived at Terminal 1. I called the hotel as instructed when I arrived and was told that the shuttle would arrive in 15-20 minutes. I hoped this would not be like last year when I waited 25 minutes in a thunder and lightening storm and two other women waited for one hour. The hotel is only a 5 minutes drive to the airport.

Continue reading "heading back home ~ part 1: Milan to Newark" »

July 31, 2009

heading back home ~ part 2: Newark to Honolulu

My flight to Newark arrived on time. I called Kim to let her know that I arrived and to arrange a meeting place. As I made my way down to the international arrival area, I noticed huge signs informing everyone that no cell phones and photos were allowed.

I found it strange that the US citizens' lines at the passport control were on the left when in the past they were always on the right. The wait was minimal. Next stop, the luggage carousel. As always, it seemed to take forever for the luggage to start coming. While we waited the little beagle dog made the rounds a few times sniffing for food items such that need to be declared. Once the luggage carousel started moving, my bag showed up pretty quickly. I always do that little happy dance in my head when I see my bag after having a bag lost or more accurately stolen after departing Rome one year.

I brought back some canned tuna and anchovies for my dad thinking that these food items would not send me through the agriculture line. Wrong.

Just it was my turn to explain my food items marked on my blue slip, my phone rang. I knew it was Kim but could not answer it. It just kept ringing and ringing as I tried to explain to the guy that all of my food items were either candy or canned tuna and anchovies. He told me that I had to go through the agriculture line anyways. I really dislike going through this line after watching the guy put my bag through the x-ray machine one time and then letting it drop 3 feet onto the ground while I was not allowed near my bag. That year I brought back sundried tomatoes.

This year, they were so busy tearing through two other passengers' bags that they just sent my bags through the x-ray machines. I was able to grab them just as they reached the end. My phone started ringing again. I didn’t dare answer it since I was not officially out of the area yet. I felt bad wondering if Kim was right outside wondering where I was.

After gathering up all of my stuff and hooking it back together, I left the international arrival area and gave Kim a call. I told her where I was and headed outside. Kim called again a few minutes later asking exactly where I was saying that she must have just missed me and would do another loop around. I told her I would wave my arms and jump up and down for her so she could find me. I forgot to ask what color her car was so I stood out in the street waving my arms and jumping up and down as each car approached.

A few minutes later, Kim called again talking about landmarks I was not seeing. I kept telling her that I was by a certain door and she kept talking about signs I was not seeing anywhere. Meanwhile a guy nearby must have overheard me and told me to tell her that I was at Terminal B. Terminal B? All this time Kim thought I was at Terminal C. No wonder why she could not find me. Once this was cleared up, Kim arrived a few minutes later. We laughed about the mix up, but I still felt badly that she wasted all her time driving around. I guess usually Continental planes usually always land at Terminal C and I had no idea that there were even different terminals. That would explain why the US citizens' lines at the passport control were on the left this time.

I was treated like a queen at Kim's house. I took a shower and unpacked just a few things as I settled into my huge bedroom with a very comfortable bed and private bathroom when we arrived. Kim and I went to a little store that sold fresh fruits and vegetables and then later to a big grocery store nearby. I am always amazed when wandering through a grocery store on the mainland. Not only are the prices much lower than they are in Hawaii, but there is so much more of a variety of food to choose from. So many things that I wish were sold here in Hawaii.

Kim promised me a lobster dinner a couple of years ago. The guy fishing out the lobsters did a great job finding four superb lobsters for us.

After reading so much about Becky and Sammi, it was wonderful to finally meet both of them for the first time. We hung outside and munched on some appetizers. Chris joined us when he got home from work. Dinner later that evening was fabulous. I would say that it was probably one of the best meals of my trip! I should have taken a photo of the huge spread, but did take a photo of the lobsters. YUM!!!

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I slept well and awoke to another fabulous spread. Bagels! Oh how I miss good bagels!! Cream cheese with chives, tomato slices, fresh fruit, and pastries. I think I should have booked a week at Kim's spectacular hotel.

Kim checked me in online and printed out a boarding pass for me and then drove me back to the airport. Thank you again Kim for a wonderful time! You are too kind! I am very lucky to have a friend like you.

Continue reading "heading back home ~ part 2: Newark to Honolulu" »

March 15, 2010

where oh where is my car?

It is a good thing I took this blurry photo when I parked my car at the airport last Thursday:
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If not, I may still be at the airport right now looking for my car. Even with the photo on my camera, it took me 20 minutes to find my car!

I am back home again as you can probably guess. It was a long flight home with a delay due to someone getting off of the plane before the plane departed in San Diego (not sure why) and then another long delay waiting for my bags. Just finished a load of laundry. My long underwear (which got plenty of action) is going back up in my winter bag in my closet. I am happily back in shorts, nice and warm again.

Even though it was very cold, I had a fantastic time meeting and spending time with so many Slow Travelers at the GTG. I will write more about my stay in San Diego soon...

The view from my parking space at the airport:
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June 7, 2011

getting to Italy & the Duomo in Milano

I am now in Venice but will begin from the beginning…

Tuesday, May 31st:
A week before my trip, I started gathering all of the things I planned to pack using the same packing list I have used for the past few trips. I knew it was going to be a challenge this year to fit my new camera, lenses, and MacBook Air, as well as everything else into the same bags I took with me on my last trip. I was hoping to not have to take a larger bag. On the day of my flight, everything was going so smoothly until a couple of hours before I planned to leave for the airport when I tried to fit one last thing into my bag. That is when my mini-meltdown occurred. I tried over and over to fit everything inside my bags but nothing worked. It was getting later and later. At one point, I even dragged out my larger bag. I finally ended up unzipping the expander zipper of the original bag I planned to take, something I hate to do until the last leg of my trip, and managed to make everything fit.

I arrived at the airport just in time to check my bag, go through security, and arrive at my gate as the last call was being announced for my flight. Phew! I really cut things close this time! A big thank you to my dear friend who stood calmly by as I had my mini-meltdown and drove me to the airport.

When I reached my seat and began to lift my carry-on roller up into the overhead bin, the man sitting behind me offered to help. I thanked him and told him that I could manage. I have been working very hard the past few months trying to build up my strength in my arms and shoulders. My goal was to be able to lift my bag up into the overhead bin without any problems. My workouts paid off as I easily hoisted it up and even got a bravo from the man who offered to help me. I smiled and told him that my trainers would be proud! As I was settling into my seat, I realized that I had met this man years ago while studying Italian in Hawaii. He is the owner of La Gelateria in Honolulu and was also traveling to Italy. As I introduced myself, he told me that the man sitting behind him was the owner of an Italian restaurant in Honolulu and was also traveling to Italy. Small world!

My two flights were uneventful. I was able to sleep some on both flights. The wait in Newark between flights was long as usual. This whole Continental and United merger thing seemed to be a bit confusing. When I first saw that the name on the plane said United instead of Continental, I was worried that the plane was no longer one of the Continental planes, the ones with the little movie screens in front of every seat. I was happy to find out that the plane was still one of the Continental planes. I guess all the planes now have the name United on them. Everything else seemed to still be Continental although they no longer serve free food on the long 9 hour flight from Honolulu to Newark. At least they still serve food on the shorter flight from Newark to Milan/Malpensa (both dinner and breakfast). I heard a few passengers complain in Newark about the upgrade procedures. I think they were loyal United customers.

Thursday, June 2nd:
When we arrived at Malpensa, one of those stairway things was driven up to the door of the plane. I don’t recall having to walk down stairs when arriving at Malpensa in the past but I am always in a jetlag haze so I may have and just didn’t remember. Shuttle buses zipped us all over to the arrivi door. Passport clearance was quick. My bag also arrived very quickly which was a first.

There was a huge crowd waiting for four small elevators to go down one flight to get to the train station area. I figured it would take at least 30 minutes to get on one of those elevators, so I searched for another way to the train station below. I followed these green arrows and found both an escalator and stairs heading down to the train station. My plane arrived on time, exactly at 8:50. I just missed the 9:33 train. I took the 10:03 train and arrived in Milan 30 minutes later, finding a row of taxis right outside the train station. The train ticket cost 11 euros and the taxi cost 8 something.

My room was not ready when I arrived. I started switching some stuff around in my bags so that I could gather up a few things to take with me while I checked out the area around my hotel. Just when I finished getting out my camera and a few other things, I was told that my room was ready. The bed in my room was very inviting. I was so tempted to take a nap but knew if I did that, I would sleep the rest of the day. Instead, I unpacked my stuff, took a quick shower, and headed out to explore Milan.

It was gray and cloudy and a bit chilly outside. I headed straight for the Duomo. I visited Milan for a few hours with my friend Katia many years ago before the Duomo restoration work was done. I have been looking forward to returning to the Duomo now that it was all nice a clean.
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After taking a few photos, I walked around a bit looking for the Obika mozzarella bar that I had read about. This restaurant is located on the roof of the La Rinascente store. I was seated in the bar area and had a wonderful lunch. After lunch, I spent a few minutes checking out some of the other levels of the store while it was sprinkling outside.

Once the rain stopped, I went inside of the Duomo. The entrance into the Duomo is free. Here are a few photos from inside the Duomo.
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The climb to the roof was the top thing on my to do list in Milan. There are two ways to get to the roof – by foot (5 euros) for by elevator (8 euros). As a fan of climbing towers, I of course went by foot. I followed the signs and went to what I thought was the entrance to climb to the top. I was told that I needed to purchase a ticket at the office located in a building nearby. After purchasing my ticket, I returned. After scanning my ticket, the man told me that I was in the wrong place. That entrance was to take the lift to the top. I walked around the corner to another door. This time when the man saw that my ticket was scanned, he tried to send me back to the lift entrance. I had to explain to him that I bought a ticket to climb to the top! Finally, I was let in. I have been working out regularly and thought I was in good shape, but the climb was pretty tough, tougher than I thought it would be. When you reach the top, you traverse along the roof and then reach a second staircase where you get to the very top.

I took tons of photos. Here are some of my favorites.
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Continue reading "getting to Italy & the Duomo in Milano" »

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