Travel slowly, staying in vacation rentals (villas, farms, cottages, apartments)
Report 126: Mommy's Week Out
By Kim (Moderator) from New Jersey, Fall 2001
Trip Description: Kim and her girlfriend leave their families behind and take a seven day trip to Italy, November 7 - 13. They stay in Florence and do some day trips from there.
Destinations: Countries - Italy; Regions/Cities - Florence, Tuscany
Categories: Hotels/B&Bs; Art Trip; Day Tours; Foodie Trip; Shopping; Sightseeing; Wine Trip; Independent Travel; 2 People
Page 1 of 7: Giorno Uno - We depart and other nonsense
It's Sunday evening, three more days until Turkey day and I am no where near ready. I should have baked my carrot muffins by now. The first turkey, which I'll marinate in an Orange Bourbon sauce, should be defrosting in my refrigerator. But noooo…. I'm here instead. Oh did I mention, I have to put together a thirty two-page newsletter by Tuesday too and I have a make-up quiz in my Italian class?
Nevertheless, if I've learned anything, it's when the urge to write hits you, go with it. So, here I sit as I wait for my friend, Stephanie, to pick me up for our book club, about to begin my trip report.
A catchy title - that's what I need to start. Perhaps, Two Wild and Crazy Girls in Florence? Nah. I could call it Sneezy and Limpy Do Italy (you'll understand why in a minute). But I won't. I think I'll just start, title or no.
First, the characters - well you know me, Kim. My partner in crime for this sojourn was my friend L or Rain, as I prefer to call her. Actually, now that I think about it, her nickname seemed somewhat appropriate for our trip. Anyway, Rain and I have been friends for about seventeen years. I've known her for eighteen, but I didn't like her that first year ;).
We met in college. We had the same major (Comp Sci) and ended up spending a bunch of time together in college and since. We've traveled to San Francisco together, Cancun and the Bahamas but this was our first time to Europe together. Actually, it was Rain's first trip to Europe at all.
We started to talk about this trip last summer. Originally, our friend "A" wanted to join us. She partook in the Cancun and Bahamas trip and was game for another. So over the summer, I made reservations for a triple at the Hotel Liana (thanks livinwell for the recommendation). I believe the rate they quoted us was 300,000 Lira a night.
Unfortunately, sometime around Labor Day Weekend, "A" realized that she wouldn't be able to pawn her kids off on anyone (only kidding) and would have to stay home. I contacted the Liana and changed our reservation to a double at a rate of 230,000 Lira a night. Strange, now that I look back to the confirmation of our change request. I received it on September 11.
Which reminds me, that morning (9/11/01), I was about to book our airfare on Alitalia on-line from Newark to Florence for $442 inclusive, when my telephone rang. You all know what happened next. I never made those reservations.
A week went by and much to the dismay of "A" and Rain's parents, who tried to convince us not to go, we made our reservations for the above price.
After that, I counted down to that fateful day. Of course, two hitches occurred along the way. The Sunday before our scheduled Wednesday departure, Rain sprained her ankle hiking.
What was that girl thinking, risking life and limb four days before my long awaited return to Italy? After some convincing, she agreed to follow the doctor's advice and stayed off her feet for forty-eight hours, which helped. She also contacted Alitalia and requested a wheelchair in the airport. I got a hoot out of that and wanted to take a picture of her in it but she wouldn't let me.
The morning of our departure, I awoke with a nasty cold and sinus infection. Yeah, I get to get on a plane in ten hours - that should be interesting. After much scrambling, I obtained enough drugs to hold me over for our trip.
Dad was scheduled to pick me up for the airport at 1:15 PM. Yes, that's me at 1:05 PM as I scrambled to take down all of our Halloween decorations. Some how I didn't think our neighbors would appreciate the hanging ghosts and skeletons until the middle of November.
Off to the airport. We hit no traffic and Terminal B was empty. I went inside and looked for Rain. After all, she had our tickets. Big mistake on my part - I know because I'm always waiting for her. It doesn't matter where or when. On our way to a Yankee Game, I could plan to get to her house 15 minutes later than scheduled, and I'd still have to wait for her.
The line for check-in at Alitalia was about 10-12 people deep. I got on line and hoped she'd show before I had to let people in front of me. When I was down to two other women, traveling together before me, I saw her step out from a black car and wait at the curb. She scanned up and down the sidewalk looking for me. "Hey! I'm in here, in line!" I was about to ask that nice security man to bang on the window to get her attention when she glanced inside and saw me waving my arms. We took down the rope, and she hobbled next to me and we're set.
It took about 10 - 15 minutes in line for Alitalia - pretty quick. A plus for them.
Alitalia accommodated Rain and her "special need" nicely. They couldn't give us a bulkhead because they save those for children. Well, they would have let her sit there but not me. They can't give her an emergency exit because you need to be fully functional to sit there - makes sense. So I suggested perhaps the middle three seats, give us the aisles and try not to put anyone between us so Rain could elevate her foot. The agent agreed and put a "block" on the middle seat. Whatever she did worked. Rain stretched out for the entire flight.
The wheelchair met us at the ticket counter and took her to security as I followed, smirking. No line existed at security in this wing of Terminal B. In fact, it seemed as if ours was the only flight leaving that entire wing that afternoon. Rain walked through the metal detector and they decided to wand her. Apparently, they're "wanding" random people.
Here's another aside about Rain. About seven years ago, she broke her elbow in a couple of places, rollerblading. She has some screws holding it together now. Guess what? Yep, you got it. The wand freaked all over her arm. She had to roll up her sleeve to show the security people her scars. More smirks from me. I always teased her that one day she'd set off the metal detectors at the airport. I'm glad I was there to see it.
Another aside, did you know they have old fashioned rocking chairs in the middle of the terminal, in which you can sit and wait? How strange? Anyway, no one was around and there's one bar on that side of security, so you know where we sat. We struck up a brief conversation with a couple sitting behind us in the bar and killed the time until we boarded - a whopping 2 hours later.
Boarding - uneventful accept for the man that needed a shower who sat behind us. Luckily, his unusual aroma didn't waft our way once he sat down and sat still.
The flight - uneventful. The food on our trip out - well let's say, "Welcome to Italy" it wasn't. The free wine was nice though. Our first movie was American Sweethearts (don't waste your time). I dozed during the second movie - it was in Italian and I missed the name and the beginning. It had something to do with a piano player on a cruise boat. I did sit up and take notice though when the boat exploded at the end. Yikes, not what I wanted to see when I was flying.
Back to sleep - probably got about 3 1/2 hours total on that flight. So much for my plan of sleeping the entire way to Italy. We arrived at Rome airport around 7:00 AM - right on time. However, I'll continue that part of the trip under day 2.
Here are some random observations on Alitalia in comparison to our previous trip on Continental:
* On Continental, all the announcements were in English first then Italian. On Alitalia, it was reversed. * There seemed to be many more Italians on this flight. Continental was mostly Americans.
That's it - on to day two.
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