Venice’s Last Laugh

Venice, as I may have mentioned, expects you to take it’s paths and bridges and meandering waterways in stride, hauling luggage over every uneven inch. When it was time to go the airport however, we were picked up directly in front of our hotel by water taxi. From there, it was an easy twenty minute race to the airport, each boat attempting to outrun the other, our captain taking the wakes in a rhythmic bump, bump, slam pattern.

I imagine a taxi ride in Rome would have felt the same.

Finally at the quiet dock, we stepped onto moving sidewalks that ushered us gently into the Venice airport. We waited at our gate, relaxing in the morning sunshine and sorry to see Italy go.

Of course, the minute boarding was called, everyone immediately stood up and crushed forward at the cattle chute. We were so Italian by this point.

The airline slowly and clearly called out each boarding zone and the restless passengers reluctantly took their turns moving through, flashing their tickets and dragging their carry-ons. Hubby inched one deliberate inch forward at a time, keeping an eye on a little old lady to his left and a businessman on his right, both of whom were preparing to jump the queue if he wasn’t diligent. I drafted behind him, playing word games on my phone, confident in his ability to blaze a path through the chaos.

We finally scanned our tickets through and headed briskly down the ramp, jostling our carry-ons and bags and the fluffy neck pillow that Hubbs so faithfully dragged all over Italy, knowing full well he was never going to use it. But it was from Costco. For all I know, he will attempt to return it.

What seat number was I again?

At the end of the ramp, it took a turn and instead of an airplane door, we were faced with a flight of stairs. Super confused but laughing, because this behavior is always what we will remember about Italy, we hauled our luggage down another, and another, until we were exiting the airport onto the tarmac.

Were we walking home?

There was a bus. Full of passengers, standing like cattle, holding onto handles from the ceiling. We squeezed on, trying not to step on the old lady’s foot. She looked ready to kick.

Everyone was shifting restlessly, eye-rolling, wondering which way they were going to stampede next, and preparing for all possibilities. Hubby flared his nostrils. Challenge accepted. “The first shall be last,” I whispered. But I knew better. This man had already extrapolated all pathways and exits. He was ready for the next Italian chess move.

The bus rumbled across the Venetian tarmac and vomited its passengers out in front of an airplane that had open doors at both ends, accessed by another set of stairs. I could see everyone mentally freaking out with the option.

The rush, I was told, is so that you have room in the overhead for your stuff. Worst case scenario? The nice stewardess takes your bag up front and hands it back to you as you casually exit at your destination. No overhead hoisting required. Less time sitting in a stifling plane, and a free valet. I’m sick of lugging luggage.

But honey, did I hustle with it.

I put some serious mileage on those poor little swivel wheels; cobbles, stairs, pavers, grills, bridges, escalators, curbs, moving sidewalks, ramps, rain, even an exploding water bottle. And it was always packed first and politely waiting for Hubby’s dastardly duo at the hotel door.

We finally sat in the plane, luggage at peace overhead. Hubby was in his seat, fluffing his shirt from his exertions and wrapped it up with his signature sigh. All was right in the world.

Goodby for now, Italy. Thanks for the memories!

We flew over the crispy alps of Austria, the farmland of Germany and the tidy dikes of Holland. Scotland, Greenland and the Hudson Bay brought us slowly back into America and home. So many more places to visit.

The world is bigger and smaller and more beautiful than you will ever discover in this lifetime.

But you should try.

Caio, bella Italia.

Packing for Italy and the Inevitable

On a recent weekend trip to Las Vegas, I was talked into taking a cheap flight instead of road-tripping it by a girlfriend whose status is now in question. I was assured that the price of the ticket more than compensated for gas, traffic, parking hassles, and speeding tickets. That a leisurely stroll through the airport sipping Starbucks was a better use of our time.

After clicking the “Purchase” button, my e-receipt popped up and with it came the fine print….for another three pages. Turns out, this airline is cheap for a reason and deviating from their rules comes with penalties. You may only bring onboard a single personal bag that fits inside exact measurements below your seat. A carry-on option can be purchased for an additional fee of $30. One-way.

“Oh, we’re just going for the weekend!” said my girlfriend, “How much do we need? I just take my little backpack.”

She showed up with her backpack and her purse. I raised an eyebrow. I had taken no chances and fit everything into a single tote, using magical Sherpa powers. Let’s just say that for all I was going to Vegas, I am not a gambler.

Six tops in a gallon ziplock, capris, shorts, two dresses…and I still didn’t wear half of it.

She went up to the gate-keeper just before we boarded and asked about her “two” bags. The man, well trained as a prison guard, attempted to charge her $65. There was an additional fee for waiting till the last minute to break the rules. She came back panicked.

I suggested she put all of her clothing on in layers and wear it onboard.

Instead, she jammed her purse into the top 3” of backpack airspace and called it a single bag.

Mission accomplished. With a little side-eye at the guard as he scanned our tickets.

My point is, that when one travels, one never knows what ludicrous situation will arise in which you wish fervently that you had packed with more efficiency. Our return flight, for example.

We arrived at the departure gate from Las Vegas to San Diego with plenty of time to get our last Starbucks of the weekend and lounge by the windows. We watched planes coming and going and discussed the merits of what age and what color one should get their hair dyed (the minute you start going gray and whatever you do, don’t end up “tweed”) when the loudspeaker announced our flight’s “final departure call”.

In a puff of smoke, my girlfriend disappeared. I stood up, torn by the decision to tidy up our table or take off after her, racing for our gate.

To whoever had to clean up behind us: I’m sorry.

To whoever watched our epic airport dash, flip-flops flapping, bulging bags bouncing, and gray hairs flying: You’re welcome.

Even my little bag felt extra-heavy during that sprint and I’m sitting here pondering a trip to Italy for September and asking myself, “Self, exactly how much baggage do you want to lug with you on planes, trains, and gondolas? Can you justify bringing a flatiron across the planet? Can you trudge along the cobblestones in flat, sensible shoes while the native beauties sashay by in stilettos?”

This is where my Self reminds me that probably they won’t. Probably stilettos get caught in the cobblestones, and I feel slightly better.

Probably….

I took exactly one pair of sandals to Vegas. They went with everything and we walked for miles without a blister. But Italy is Olympic-size traveling.  I’m gonna need a bigger shoe. And a sparkly shoe.  And a high-heel shoe. And a sprinting shoe.

And a smaller bag.

Which Self will win? The Sensible Sherpa or the “Roman Holiday” Romantic?

I’ve been perusing travel websites, searching for a way to have my cannoli and eat it too, but I’d love to hear some advice in the Comment box!

Grazie!

Flying the Friendly Skies

I’m finally at my airport gate.

After a week of road trips and visiting kinfolk, I am wearily, thankfully ready to go home.

My favorite word.

“Home”.

Airplanes trump cars any day for getting from point A to point B. Someone else drives doing a million miles per hour, nice people bring you drinks with little cocktail napkins, and the view can be pretty inspiring.

If you’re a planner (ahem), you’ve checked in 24 hours ago and have priority seating. This gives you a chance to cram your carry-on bag into the overhead before everyone else and choose a seat.

As usual, I grab a window seat as I am easily entertained by cloud formations.

I like to guess which tiny city we’re flying over by day or watch them twinkle at night.

But first I get to watch the airport personnel loading the luggage below us.

Wheeee….

They are tossing suitcases – the ones you just worked so hard to pack and keep under the weight limit – like slabs of beef at a Mongolian buffet onto the conveyor belt.

Heave! Thunk! And the long slow roll into the bowels of El Diablo.

We are feeding the belly of the beast that will fly us over land and sea to retch our luggage up again onto some distant shore.

If we’re lucky, it will be the same distant shore we ourselves land on.

I set my large purse under the seat in front of me and watch everyone else board.

Here comes a mom with a toddler. Everyone is giving her wary looks and cringing as she passes; thankful she’s not next to them. I feel so sympathetic for her. She needs to get somewhere with this kid as fast as possible, hence a plane.

Little kid plus limited movement equals grumpy kid. I hope she packed some emergency travel toys.

And some tranquilizers.

Not for the kid.

For the nearby passengers who will give her dirty looks no matter what she does.

She can sit by me.

Here comes a woman with…two kids and a….dog? She has a small dog in a wheeled mesh enclosure just barely larger than said dog and is wheeling it down the aisle. Really? I know it’s not going into the overhead. Will the dog be put at her feet? Can it breathe in that contraption? What if it barks?  What if it gets airsick? What if someone accidentally kicks it? What if passengers are allergic?

Maybe there are hair filtration masks next to the barf bags in the seat pockets.

Will the stewardess now hand out little drinks, snacks, and doggy biscuits?

And will we be able to tell the difference?

This really does seem unfair and dangerous to the pup. But what do I know.

Guess I’ll be glad it’s not a snake.

It’s starting to feel like the bus in here.

Certainly we are packed in like sardines and the air now smells strongly of the kid next to me’s Doritos.

Like a bus, you never want to attempt to find the tiny bathroom. Your seatmates are in no mood to struggle in and out of the aisle for you. Even if it’s unoccupied, you will be sorry you stepped inside. Certainly you won’t be able to turn around or sit.

Better just hold back on those drinks I was thinking about.

Whoa, mister. You just reclined your seat the allotted 2 inches into my lap. Your weave is up close and personal.  I just might accidentally get Doritos crumbs into it.

We have window seats! Lean sideways!

Our flight is a whole hour long.

Already I’m clicking my heels like Dorothy, chanting, “There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home.”

The pup in the back is whimpering.

I’m whimpering.

And then the plane lurches slowly away from the airport.

Act 2 is about to begin…