Village Italy Tour

Day 0 Friday May 13, 2005
Home - Rome

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I was within a few seconds of arrival in the land of Nod on Thursday evening when Sue came to the door and asked me if I were asleep. She then informed me that she had found a recently deceased male cardinal (a bird, not a prelate) at the foot of the basement stairs. She told me that “one of the cats” must have left him there. Since Woodrow's birding days had been over for a few years, I was pretty sure that this must have been a going away present from Giacomo, who was about a year old and had been reveling in the warmer weather and the return of his winged buddies. Sue's discovery troubled me enough to keep me awake for perhaps 30 seconds.

I woke up a little before 5 and listened to all-night talk radio for a few minutes. No new interesting conspiracies were brought to light in that time. I then got up, took a shower, and repacked my suitcase. I had plenty of room, too much in fact. I ended up having to tote part of Sue's stuff, too.

This year my plan was to make better use of my computer. Well, actually any use would be an improvement. The laptop I brought on our last trip to Italy in 2003 could not run without electricity. When I failed to get the AC connection to function, I was forced to lug the worthless thing around with me for four weeks. The battery this time registered four and a half hours of life. That should be plenty. The first stage of the journey was on Amtrak, and all the seats should have access to electricity. I had purchased a device from Radio Shack to convert the current used in Europe to American voltage. The salesman had insisted that it would suffice for recharging the battery of a laptop or camera.

As was her custom before big trips, Sue had stayed up all night. She had spent much of the week trying to find the money belt that she took to Sicily earlier in 2005. It had some euros in it and some travelers' checks. She spent many hours looking for it, but she never was able to locate it. We will have to survive on cash, ATM cards for two different accounts, and credit cards.

For once we were ready to leave on time. We decided to take Chick Comparetto out for breakfast at Bickford's as payment in advance for cat-sitting. Our last American breakfast was a good send-off. Ellie, Chick's favorite waitress, gave him a hug when he came in. She then insisted that we all have the special. It was a good choice - eggs, sausage, toast, and coffees (none for me) for less than $3. I foolishly neglected to take any photos even though the camera was in my pocket.

We were finished with breakfast by 9 a.m. Since we had nothing better to do, we headed out to the Corcorans even though I had told them that we would be there at 10, and the drive was no more than 40 minutes. Sue's original plan called for me to drop her off at the train station on the way. However this would leave her at the Hartford train station, which is not exactly renowned as a pleasant place, for at least two hours. So we changed back to the original plan and proceeded straight to Wethersfield together.

Sue drags her gear out of the Saturn.

An old man unloads Mike's computer backpack from the Saturn.

This is really all that we brought.

From left: Tom Corcoran, Sue, Patti Corcoran, Fred Lewonczyk.

Needless to say, Tom and Patti were not expecting us to show up 30 minutes early. In fact, if we had been only 30 minutes late, they probably would have considered us early. I parked my Saturn in their driveway behind Brian's vehicle, which had been covered by a tarp while Brian has been off in Ireland pretending to be a student. We took some photos of ourselves dragging our luggage out of the car, and then we let ourselves in to the Corcoran's house. Tom was getting ready to take a shower. Patti had a towel around her head. Sue got herself a cup of coffee, and I took advantage of the extra time to start this journal. I formatted all of the files and wrote a couple of paragraphs.

Unloading in front of the Hartford train station.

Patti's brother Fred showed up right on time to take us to the train station. We all piled in to Patti's Rav4. It was a little tight with all of the luggage, but we all managed to squeeze in. At the station we all took turns snapping pictures of one another.

Sue, Tom, and Patti on the platform.

The train was right on time, too. The ride to New Haven was pleasant enough. Sue and I sat together, and Tom and Patti were pretty much right across the aisle. However, we had to change trains in New Haven. All this required was walking across the platform. However, the new train was coming down from Boston, and it was already pretty full. This might have been due to the widely-reported deactivation of the Acela trains due to cracks found in the brakes. At any rate I had to sit in a car behind the one in which Patti, Tom, and Sue sat. I planned to join them when the train reached New York.

I took the time to do a little research in order to ascertain how best to get from the Marco Polo airport in Venice to the Hotel Herion, which was supposed to be just beyond the Santa Lucia train station. Rick Steves's guide to Venice said that the local bus goes from the airport to train station. The other bus and all cabs go to the Piazzale Roma, which is on the wrong side of the grand canal and is considerably farther from the hotel. Fodor's guide, on the other hand, said that the local bus also goes to Piazzale Roma. Whom to trust?

Patti and Tom getting ready to get off the train at the Newark airport.

I also played a little Bridge Baron on my laptop until I could no longer keep my eyes open.

The young couple seated in front of me was playing a DVD on a small player without earphones. The language in the movies was extremely offensive, and I am not exactly a prude.

When we got to Penn Station in New York City, I moved up and sat with Sue. Tom, who had been standing for the entire trip from New Haven to New York, sat with Patti for the last two stops. The conductor announced that the train was completely sold out. If I had not bought the tickets well in advance, we might have been facing a sticky wicket on the very first leg of our journey.

Oh, yeah. We are going to ROME.

We made it to the train station at the Newark airport with plenty of time to spare. The shuttle train took us to terminal C, where we found the Alitalia counter. The line for Rome was pretty long, and it got somewhat mixed up with a line for some airline called USA3000, which flew to Ft. Meyers. It was a nice feeling to be envied by the people going to Florida.

A lady named Rosalba Ciccarelli checked us in. The only reason that I noticed her nametag was that Rosalba was also the name of the lady in an Italian movie that Sue had rented a couple of months earlier. Rosalba abandoned her family temporarily to work in a flower shop in Venice. I recollected that two years ago the Alitalia clerk was Puerto Rican. I thought about trying my Italian out on Rosalba, but I decided against it.

The seat assignments on our reservation for the overnight flight to Rome were abysmal. All four of us were assigned middle seats. The situation improved somewhat when we checked in. Sue and Patti got aisle seats. Tom was next to Patti. I had to sit on the opposite side of the plane from everyone else, and I was still in the middle.

Yum. Airport food.

We all ate a late lunch in the food court. I got a cheesesteak sub at the Steak Escape, precisely the same meal that I had eaten before our trip to Italy in 2003. Tom had some Chinese dish that he said that he always ordered. I did not note what the ladies ate. As we ate I asked for input concerning the bus/cab decision in Venice. Tom voted for the cab, and everyone else abstained.

Tom spent most of the remaining time in the airport talking to someone in his office on a pay phone near the gate. Evidently a client had changed the play at the line of scrimmage just as Tom was about to leave the country. I am not sure exactly what was involved, but I was certainly thankful that I was not in his New Balances.

Sue bought an inflatable pillow at the newsstand near the gate. Just before they called my row number for boarding I decided to buy one for myself as well.

I found my seat. I was pleased to discover that my seat was located between those of a small man and a very small woman. Eight hours between a professional wrestler and someone with a seatbelt extender would have been gruesome. From my seat I could barely see the other three members of our party. Never mind. I was bound to see enough of them in the next two weeks. Because of the way that the space below the seat was arranged, there was barely enough space for my backpack. There was no leg room at all.

We pulled back from the gate right on time. Then we stopped on the tarmac for quite a few minutes. I was relieved when we finally joined the line and then lifted off. We had a rather tight connection to make in Rome.

They served both dinner and breakfast on the plane. The choices were fish and beef. I went with the fish and, of course, the wine. My strategy in meal selection on airplanes is to pick the one that sounds the least appetizing. It worked; the dinner was pretty good.

I watched a movie on the screen built into the seat in front of me. I did not catch the name of the film. It was an Italian chick flick about an aspiring actress and the show business people she had affairs with. I didn't enjoy it much, but at least I got a little more practice listening to Italians speaking Italian.

I was proud of myself for figuring out how to operate the hand-held device that controlled the showing of the movie. It was embedded in the armrest. I figured it out long before the lady next to me, although she seemed to enjoy whatever she was watching a lot more than I did. I don't think that the guy ever did figure it out.

I have one major gripe about this way of showing a movie. It doesn't work for tall people. The screen is in the back of the headrest, and when the person in front of me tilted the seat back, I was totally unable to see the screen no matter how I tilted it. I had to take off my glasses and scrunch down like a second grade student trying to avoid being called upon in class.

I was surprised by the course of our flight. According to the map they projected we flew a little south, and then due east. I thought that we would follow the arc, which would take us on a more northerly route. Perhaps they knew something about the prevailing winds to which I was not privy.

Personal goals: I set the following goals for this trip:

  1. Try not to run out of combs and pens. Two years ago I lost three combs and at least half a dozen pens. My plan for comb preservation was simple - keep it in my money belt. I brought two spares, which I put into a zipped compartment of my suitcase, just in case. One was the brown comb that I bought for 1€ in Sorrento. After conducting a thorough analysis of how I could have lost so many pens last time, I ended up blaming my nylon running pants. I think that the pens just slid out of the slippery pockets when I sat down or got up. This time I concocted the brilliant plan of keeping one pen in the spiral part of my spiral notebook. I only wish that I had been blessed with such an inspirational idea two years ago. With age comes wisdom.

  2. Engage someone in Italian in a conversation of more than two sentences. Actually what I really wanted to do was quiz someone about the Italian political system, which has been extremely difficult to figure out.

  3. Buy a CD of Roberto Murolo songs.

  4. Buy an Italian book on the papacy or some similar topic.