Sunday, September 7, 2014

No more Airports, Train Stations, or Bus Stops!

We are on a train from Milan to Florence, traveling through the countryside of old farms and abandoned  buildings mixed with modern buildings and super highways. The red tile roofs and cypress trees distinguish it from Loudoun County or the East Coast. It was very flat but now there are low hills to the west. We are coming to the Bologna Station where we would be getting on had we chosen to spend an extra night in Istanbul and fly to Bologna today (instead of Venice, due to Airport Worker strike in Venice).


Now we are in the hills and going through tunnels. And I can feel a fever blister beginning on my lower lip, the way my body manifests  stress.

Yesterday's Glitch gave me a taste of independent travel. Charles says "Next time get a travel agent and fly Business Class." I now see the value of traveling with a tour, especially the first or second time you travel to a place that speaks a language other than English. On a tour we might still experience the Venice airport strike but, as Carol says, it would be their problem to come up with Plan B. Our days seem to be consumed with LOGISTICS.


Plan B involved a day in a very hot crowded Istanbul airport, a 3 hour flight to Milan, making a hotel reservation in Milan, fIguring out how to get the bus from the Milan airport to the hotel, figuring out how to get from Milano Centrale  (bus and train station) to hotel and back for trip to Florence, figuring out where and how to buy train tickets. All this with no street signs (let alone street signs in English or any kind of sign in English) and few people speaking English in a way that either of us can comprehend.  I think we walked in circles pulling our heavy bags for an hour at the Milan airport trying to find the right public bus. We had to find Floor O. And then our escalator went from Floor -1 to Floor 1 as we passed Floor 0 but could not get there. We eventually get on the bus for a long ride into the city. During the ride I email Charles to phone the Venice hotel and say we are not coming. I go to and book a new hotel in our price range. We have no phones. 

We arrive at a huge train station, like Grand Central in NYC, after 6pm. Carol wants to buy train tickets for our morning trip to Florence. I sit with the luggage inside one of the huge doors while she searches for a ticket office, and hopes it is open.

She walks forever and waits in a long line, but returns with train tickets to Florence.

The next task is to find a bus to our hotel. Thanks to Google Maps and 3G we can see where we are and where the hotel is on my iPad screen. Carol has paper maps of everything on our itinerary, but remember that Milan is Plan B. It is dark. There are a million buses, and a million people. Do we need tickets? Which bus?

Google Maps says it is 1.9 km to Hotel Aspromonte. I forget what makes us give up on a bus but we decide to drag our luggage a litte over a mile with the iPad showing us the way. But wait! The iPad only has a 5% charge left!

We memorize the street names on the map so we know where to go when the iPad dies. A few times we head down a street from a traffic circle and the arrow on the map moves off the route line. So we try another street. No, still off the route line. Finally our steps are in sync with arrow on the screen as we roll the wheels over the cobblestone and past sidewalk caf√©s or inebriates. We see no street names anywhere! The iPad dies. Carol remembers it is just beyond a park.

Finally, we arrive and a gentleman asks for our passports, explains breakfast, and says he will carry the bags up 3 flights. I ask if there is air conditioning. It is above 80 degrees with 75% humidity. Yes, there can be air conditioning if we request it. He gets the AC remote.

Carol eventually gets the AC on. We crash.

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