Sunday, June 9, 2019

A Trip to Italy (and maybe some runs) Part 2

Thursday June 6, 2019

New York skyline from JFK
Up and at ‘em bright and early. The morning prep went without incident and we were bright eyed and in the lobby for our shuttle to the airport. Upon arriving, the baggage check line was LONG! Halfway through it, a nice lady checked our tickets and advised that we re-check in as we needed to have our passport “documented.” I suppose these are the little things we don’t know about until we know about them. The rest of the pre-security line stuff would have been easy except that Joey (Rachel’s finance – Rachel is Linda’s niece), was never able to get his tickets re-issued, and THAT was a problem. Nonetheless, after an hour of work (added to 8 on the phone yesterday and even more the day before), all was accomplished.

We zipped through security (TSA Pre!), and met up with John (Linda’s Brother) and his wife Patty, Kyle (John’s son) and his fiancĂ© Kaci. So eight of the twelve villa residents were ready to go. Already in Italy was Blane (Linda’s other brother) and his wife Leslie, Kevin, (Blane’s son) and his wife Alex.

Boarding, always a tedious process, was complete and we took seats 37A & B. Absolute torture. Due to the previous ticket re-issuing fiasco, we were unable to try for better seats. SO, stuck n the back with little room for my crabby knee, hip, butt and back (sounds terrible, right?).

Once airborne, I decided on a free movie, and chose Free Solo, the story of Alex Honnold’s quest to become the first solo free climber to ascend the face of El Capitan in Yosemite. That solo, free: meaning without any aid attached to his body or the rock. Holy Cow! The movie is very well done and Alex, OMG Alex is a monster. One mistake and down he would go to a certain death but his focus on this incredible passion allows the viewer the opportunity to see an awesome place where danger meets obsession, meets self-disciple.  One impressive dude. In fact, I almost cried when he made it to the top, I was so bought-in.

The funniest part of the movie is this woman interviewing Alex and she asks, "I want to be sure I understand this, you make the slightest, tiniest move or mistake and you fall to your death." Alex says, "Yeah, it sounds like you understand."

We landed at JFK and had to make our way to the international terminal. Unlike most airports, at JFK you have to go “out” of the airport to go from terminal 4 to 1. Fortunately, the security lines weren’t long or slow and it seemed to be a breeze. Then, it’s the usual hurry up and wait deal. We grabbed some decent pizza, filled our water bottles and hung out with John and Patty. Before long it was time to get in line. Not sure what the deal is with these flights but for both the SFO to JFK and this one, our printed boarding passes weren’t good enough and we had to re-show our passports to be legal.

On the plane, our seats were pretty cool. An exit row with just the two of us and these nifty portable, pull out TVs with movies, television, games etc…. Amazingly, on AlItalia, instructions are first given in Italian and it seems to go much longer than the English version. Maybe they’re not telling us everything. The part of the plane part that sucked the most was in the beginning taxi-ing and waiting in line for 35 minutes to actually take off. Thought we’d never get up there.
BUT, we are and life is good at 40,000 feet.  

But of course, we made it in to Rome. That’s when the day got interesting. First and foremost, Kyle and Kaci’s luggage was nowhere to be found. Then, the shuttle driver tried to tell us the reservation was for four. No, it plainly says 8. It’s amazing how the language barrier makes it so they can always blame us. Home court advantage?

Eventually we’re off. Eight of on our way to Rome via one crazy shuttle driver. Driving is bad enough in the states. Here, it’s a lesson in either full-on offense, or calculated defense. I will later choose the latter.

We arrive around noon, two hours too soon to be able to check in, SO time to kill. A walk to check out some shops followed by a little lunch/snack at a Ristorante next door.  Check-in, once allowed was pretty simple. Our room at Hotel la Feniche, well, let’s call it quaint. As advertised, it was small, and had old world charm. Let me define old world charm: it means that Rome has been around so long that any room, fixture, ceiling etc… can be left as is forever.

Next it was time for some Roman sightseeing. I confess, I have no idea what anything we saw was actually named. So, instead it was fountain one, church two, and so on…  All kidding aside, some gorgeous stuff that goes WAY back. It’s so impressive that Rome has gone to such great efforts to preserve the architectural part of their heritage.

It is during sightseeing that the greatest challenge of the family trip (ALL family trips) unfolds: walking around in a group of eight and attempting to achieve the impossible – everyone staying together, at least moderately together.

A Trip to Italy (and maybe some runs) Part 1

Wednesday June 5.
Ready to go?
Finally, all the details have been completed. Finally, the last trip to WalMart, Marshalls, anywhere.  Really, other than the messy detail surrounding the reissuing of tickets, most of the process has been pretty smooth. I was lucky enough to sneak in a run before leaving, so that was a binus.

We took an Uber to the airport. Our driver was a fantastic guy named James (we called him Dr. James as he is six months from getting his Doctorate in education (always something I wish I had done – I’m Masters +30). The ride was mostly due to the iffy weather we’ve had. The afternoon storms and hail the last week have made the prospect of having a car sitting out in the open for two weeks seem stupid.

Flights were easy once boarded. A few issues LIKE, if I did this again, I wouldn’t do the leg to San Francisco to meet up with everyone. Would have saved massive time and money by going straight to New York and then to Rome. But, live and learn. Flying Southwest is usually pretty easy and today was no exception. We had a stop in Phoenix and worried a bit about luggage transfer but somehow the process works more than it doesn’t. Stretch seats on both legs of the journey were a BONUS.

Of course, then comes my pet peeve about the airline industry. Our flight is delayed (okay, it happens). They change the so-called departure time to reflect the delay. Finally our
plane lands. Everyone gets off and we stand for what seemed like just a little bit short of forever. Now, I get all of this: stuff happens. The peeve revolves around the airlines never seeming to be able to communicate what is happening. If someone just jumped on the horn and kept people informed, they (and I) would be SO much happier.

Once in to San Fran, we took a hotel shuttle to the Hotel Aura, just a few miles from the airport (and cheaper than the $350 a night places nearby. After throwing our stuff into Room 303, we crossed the street to a “Chinese Bar BQ” place that was closing at 11 pm (it was 10:20). OMG, it was great. Our waitress, I think, was hoping for an easy close to her evening and then, BOOM, in strolls a party of 18. She handled it pretty well though (and hopefully was well tipped).

Into bed by 11:10 pm with a wake up alarm set for 3:05 am. Yikes, long day.