Friday, July 31, 2009

First Time in Venice? Me too.

I'm back from my 10 day, 3 country trip following Phil around as he worked at different offices around Europe. My thoughts on his schedule? Couldn't do it for too long. Ever had this fuzzy feeling as you're walking around somewhere asking yourself, "What day is it? Where am I again? What time is it?" Seriously in a fog some times, but thoroughly enjoyed the trip...until Paris but that will be blogged about soon.
My first stop was from Philly to Milan. Yes, I know the title says Venice, but I flew into Milan, met Phil at the airport (after a rather unsettlingly 20 minutes wondering where he was and realizing that my U.S. cell does not work overseas), and then we hopped on the train for a 2 and a half hour ride to Venice.
But we were on the way, I got my first glimpse of the Swiss Alps. Beautiful. And the strains of "Climb Every Mountain" from The Sound of Music was swirling through my head. Corny, yes, but true. impressions of Venice, Italy. Along with some pictures.

1. Okay...I knew there were canals in Venice, but I really had no idea that the entire city is actually an island off of the coast of Italy and the entire city is canals. Truly. No either walk or take a water taxi. And yes, the stone bridges that span these canals are glorious (until you have to heft your suitcase over each blessed step.)

2. I can honestly say I've now slept in a hotel room with fabric walls, a chandelier hanging down, and one of the lowest beds I've ever been on. Yes, that cutout in the wall leads to the bathroom. The hotel was a 16th century palazzo (according to the brochure in the lobby.)

3. Pizza and spaghetti are good in Italy. As well as lemon granita (sort of like a slushy).

4. When you take a tour of a Murano glass factory (of which Italy is known for, apparently) it doesn't matter how many times you tell your guide that you are not interested in purchasing a $20,000 statue, gaudy chandelier, or stemware set, they will still try to convince you that you cannot go on in life without one. Or two. (By the way, this guy was incredible at making blown glass.)
5. Venice can put on some good fireworks. We happened to be there for "Festa Del Redentore". The Festival of the Redeemer. It dates back to 1577 and it celebrates the city's deliverance from a terrible plague and the construction of Palladio's "Redentore" Church. Only complaint? The fireworks don't start until 11:30 pm. Fine unless you've just recently flown over and are still trying to get used to the time difference.

6. The tiny alleyway streets of Venice can be very confusing. Even more confusing at 1:30 am while trying to find your way back to your hotel after a firework show and all the stores are closed and just look like big metal garage doors. Lost in Venice? Not as romantic as it might sound.

7. Lung cancer has to be the number one killer in Italy as everyone smokes and doesn't mind blowing their smoke in your face.

8. Between speedos, capri pants, red/yellow/pink pants, and bright green/purple/silver shoes...the men of Italy do not dress like any American men that I know.

9. A gondola ride would be cool if one wanted to fork over 100 euros for a 4o minute ride. Still pretty to watch, though.

10. Public toilets are called WC (for water closet). At the airport you have to pay one euro to use them. In Venice up to 1.50 euros. And there only open from 7:00 am until 7:00 pm, so if you have to go after that,'re on your own.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

In Case of My Demise?!

The traveling has begun. begins tomorrow. The tickets are bought and my bags are packed. Well...that's not true. It's only 8:14 pm the night before I leave so, of course, my bags aren't packed yet. I always wait till the last minute to pack. Don't know why except that I always do that. Call it one of my quirks.

The fridge is cleaned out, the garbage is bagged and ready to go out, the ipod is at this very moment being charged, and the selection of books to read on the plane are laid out. Yes, books with an (s) at the end. I'm a fast reader and the thought that I might go through a book or two and still have flying time left (after all, there's the flight out and the flight back) does something to me. Sort of like an anxious panic. The thought of nothing to do but stare at the back of the seat in front of me for hours on end because I've read everything I've brought with me (as well as every magazine in the seat pocket in front of me. including the duty free one.) makes my breathing increase and my hands get a bit shaky. Again, call it one of my quirks.

Speaking of my trip...did I tell you about my conversation over the phone with the USAir dividend miles agent when booking the trip? She asked for a contact number to enter into the system. Not thinking quite clearly, I gave her our home number. She replied (and these are her exact words), " We already have that number in our system. We need an emergency number to contact in case of your demise during the trip."

Seriously??! My demise? If I'm getting into a plane, especially when flying over an ocean, I don't want to think about my demise. I don't want anyone talking about my demise. Sheesh. I promptly felt it was my duty to tell the agent that perhaps they should come up with another word than demise when talking about emergency numbers for their customers. She stopped, thought for a second, and totally agreed that it should be changed in the manual. Great. But honestly...should there ever really have been any question about that?

So from here, I fly to Milan, meet Phil (whoo hoo), hop on the train to Venice, spend the weekend there, take the train back to Milan, spend a couple of days there, fly from Milan to London, spend a couple of days there, take a train to Paris, spend a couple of days there, and then fly back home. All in 10 days. Not sure how much access I'll have to the internet, but if I can, I'll blog about the trip en route. If not, I'll catch you up when I get back. With hopefully, lots of pictures. revoir for now. (I don't know any Italian and besides bonjour, that's about the extent of my French.) (Why yes, I did have Mr. Farrell for French in high school.) Yep...should be an interesting trip.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

In Case You Were Wondering

For the record...Sandra-4, Bats-0. I've (and when I say I, it goes without saying that it means Gregg got rid of the first two, I threw out the third one, and Rob & Jared tossed the latest one out of the house...I must give credit where credit is due. And here's where I comment that a true friend will get a bat out of your house for you. They don't make Hallmark cards for the occasion, but they are still true friends.) not seen any bats for awhile now. Of course the living room is still closed off with towels shoved at the bottom of the French doors. However, we had a guy come out yesterday morning to begin the process of becoming bat-free.

Nope...we still can't get them out till the end of July but they can at least go around the rooftop of the house and seal any cracks between the stone and trim that are more than a 1/2 inch. (Did you know that's all it takes for a bat to squeeze himself into your living space? I now know more about bats than I ever cared to. Need some info on what guanine is? Give me a call.) They'll come back in a few weeks to install a kind of one-way door thingy (official bat lingo) where we think they're getting in, wait a week for all of them to leave, and then seal that entry-way off, and then hopefully all the drama will be done. Oh...and guanine is bat poo if you were wondering.

Bats notwithstanding, it's been busy here. Along with Phil coming home for the weekend of June 20th, we had old friends from college come up from DC as well. Lots of fun with the Bolha's as we explored historic Philadelphia. Phil flew back to London for a bit and then flew back home this past 4th of July weekend where we had some other old friends from college, the Mazelin's, visit as well. Another fun weekend in Philly! My parents are coming out as well this week, so the fun continues.

Sox is wild with excitement. Actually (and those of you who know him well would be perplexed at that last statement) he's just laying on the floor right now catching his early afternoon nap, which followed his late morning nap, and will soon segway into his late afternoon nap.

I, on the other hand, am armed with a handful of travel books from the library to begin the meticulous planning of my trip to Europe a week from Friday. My traveling has begun. I fly out from Philly to meet Phil in Milan, Italy for a long weekend. We then fly to London for several days and then take the train through the Chunnel (such a funny word) to Paris for another long weekend. 10 days in all. We'll explore on the weekends but Phil has to work at the company's various offices in each city on the weekdays. Am I a bit nervous about touring on my own while Phil's working? Hmm...a bit, but I figure if I can live through the fish spa incident in Singapore then I should be fine for just about anything.

What to see, what to see. Especially in Milan. Don't know a thing that's there. Good lasagna, perhaps? A friend from church began to gush once they heard where I was headed. "Think of all that high fashion?!" Uh...a good sale at Ann Taylor Loft is about as "high fashion" as I get. But fear not, blogging friends, you will certainly get a front row seat to any and all adventures while roaming around.