The Duomo at night
Three generations of ladies (matriarch Sally, daughter Samantha, granddaughters Eleanor and Olivia) were looking forward with great anticipation to our girls’ trip to Italy. Just getting the documents required for the trip had been challenging; passport, proof of Covid immunization, proof of negative Covid test resulted within 48 or 72 hours of time of arrival in Italy. What a series of confusions. Some sources said Covid testing must have been done 48 hours prior to arrival, others said 72. If 48 hours is two days, 72 must be three. Monday and Tuesday sound like two days, but to get from Monday to Tuesday takes 24 hours, Monday to Tuesday to Wednesday takes 48 hours. I’ve obviously been overthinking this.
As if obtaining travel documents was not stressful enough…the day before our departure, Ida hit the Northeast coastal states (I was in Brooklyn). The rains were torrential, and news coverage was frightening. Streets had turned quickly into rivers and moved cars into places their owners hadn’t anticipated. Subways were flooded, service cancelled. I was on the sixth floor of my hotel, so I felt safe enough, but my iPhone shrieked out storm and flood warnings at two-hour intervals. Our flight was to take off at 6:45pm the next day. Would it be delayed? Even worse, cancelled?
Flight schedules at JFK were restored the day after the storm by what must have been superhuman efforts by airport staff. We all boarded the plane and settled in for our overnight flight to Milan. I tend not to sleep on planes, as the pilot might have need of my advice on one problem or another. I had heard on a news program, days earlier, that no alcohol would be served on American Airlines flights. Many stories of obstreperous passengers causing flight disruptions came to mind. I could offer my services for negotiating mid-flight alcohol-related temper tantrums, arm rest battles, seat reclining knee-cap smashing problems. I don’t do well with screaming babies whose ears are hurting. Been there, done that.
The flight ended with a smooth landing, my assistance had not been needed. Our energy levels at deplaning were directly related to age. We made it to our hotel without incident, and, in my dazed and groggy state, I could not remember how that was accomplished. I’m assuming a taxi was involved. The granddaughters turned many male heads as they (the girls, not the males) hustled along in their extremely tiny denim shorts (larger tops, praise God). Samantha provided guidance through Google maps, I brought up the rear.
Our hotel was marvelous. Since we had planned a trip in 2020 that didn’t work out, we decided to splurge a bit on this adventure. Samantha is a superb trip planner and organizer. She searches her favorite travel blogs relentlessly, studies train schedules, reviews restaurant recommendations. My only contribution was evaluating guided tours and booking them. The first one I booked was a walking tour of Milan. It was a huge success. Our guide was delightful, led by a tiny Italian lady; but I think compared to us, most people seem small. We toured the Duomo. We circled the Sforza Castle. In actuality the castle looked like more like a fort to me, and the Duomo more like a castle. We admired the exterior of the La Scala Teatro but could not go in. A fabulous dinner at 10 Corso Como rounded off the evening.
The next day we took a train to Venice. The ride was through pleasant countryside, very soothing. There was no food service on the train, an overwhelming disappointment for me. I was starving. Samantha and the girls had sense enough to purchase sandwiches and sodas at the train station prior to our departure, but as I was assigned to another car I wasn’t aware of their treachery. Hmpf. We got off the train at its last stop, Venice something. Next came a cab ride to the dock, where one caught a water taxi to Venice. Something was lost in translation with the “porter”, whose only job was to put our baggage into a wheelbarrow and push it about 50 feet at an outrageous cost that did not include the price of the taxi.
We were then summarily dumped in front of a water taxi powered by the world’s most surly young man. His good looks in no way made up for his attitude, but I still demanded his less than gracious assistance getting me from dock to boat, then that in reverse once we got to our hotel. At least he didn’t push me into the canal. It was only a few feet to the entrance of our hotel, the luxurious Hotel Bauer. I needed dry-cleaning done, and it would have been cheaper to buy new clothes than have it done in the hotel. But I digress. Venice is one of the most gorgeous places I have ever seen. I took tens of pictures; some of buildings that I had no idea what they were but liked their colors, some of gilded gondolas bearing passengers I did not know; but it’s not every day I get to see gondolas.
Stay tuned, we are not even halfway through the trip. BTW, after we had been back to the USA for a few days, we learned that the EU had taken the United States off their “safe countries to visit” list. Yikes. I guess we just made it under the wire.
Now for my usual closing. As far as prayers go, I’ve been offering thanks for the opportunity to have taken this beautiful trip with my girls. I continue to pray for the health of my friends and family. And for the safety of all Americans, and friends of Americans not yet able to leave Afghanistan. How can this have happened? Heartbreaking.