arrival

Beautiful Beginning

OK, so Jess was going to write about this, but I’ve beaten her to it. She’s in the shower, washing off the stink that is a day of travelling.

The day started off well enough. We both went to work, our bags were packed, and we were going to leave from the office. Fine.

Except that in my rush to leave the office, I happened to forget the laptop. Didn’t find out I left it until a coworker called me as we were pulling into the airport. We thought about turning around, but then decided just to leave it. It ended up that another coworker that lives near the airport (which is about 40 minutes away from the office), was willing to come and drop it off. Excellent. We didn’t even have to wait that long. By the time we checked our bags and walked to find a snack, she was there.

Awesome. Our trip just had its snag, and it was over before the trip even began.

But that was just the beginning.

The flight was fine. We even got in 30 minutes early. Except that we had to wait another 20 or so for our luggage to come on the belt.

So as we’re waiting, we think we see one of our bags coming. Until some old guy, who is completely disheveled, decides that it’s his bag. He grabs it, checks the ticket, says, “Yup,” and proceeds to high-tail it out of the airport. I think, “Well, he checked the ticket, said, ‘Yup,’ and walked out, so it must not have been our bag.” Jess was insisting that the guy stole our bag. I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt.

But it was our bag.

We get our other bag and are waiting and waiting for the big one to come off. No dice. So we finally give up and head into the baggage office. As we’re in there waiting in line, I turn around and see the guy. He’s now carting another bag, A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT COLORED BAG, out, and there’s ours sitting by the baggage belt.

Nice.

But we’re still ahead of schedule, so I’m happy.

We have no problems getting the rental car, and head for the hotel. Then the ray of sunshine:

THERE’S A SONIC PRACTICALLY IN THE HOTEL PARKING LOT!!!!

Now, Jess and I LOVE Sonic. More than words can express at this particular moment. I can’t tell you what I would do at any given time for a cherry limeade. Perfect.

So we check in. No problems. Literally drop our stuff off in the room and head for the Sonic.

More issues.

All we want is a little snack and some cherry limeades. Shouldn’t be a big deal, right? Just a small popcorn chicken and some cheese fries. Evidently this was a big deal for them. It took 15 minutes or so to get our order. Was the order ok? No. We got Cokes instead of cherry limeades, my cheese fries must have been out for an hour before they brought them to us, and they completely left out the dipping sauce for the chicken.

So after we finally got the limeades, we headed back to the room. It’s now 2:30 in the morning to us (11:30 out here), and we’re completely exhausted from the day. Hopefully we got all the snags in one day. Updates to come if we didn’t.

UPDATE: We were awoken at 3:00 AM by what had to be either a prostitute or an actress, because the woman in the room next to us should win an academy award. I’ve never heard anyone moan and scream like that. We had to turn the TV on to drown it out.

Then the alarm went off at 3:30.

London: room and packing in sights

The room is reminescent of our first night in Zurich. The suitcase needs to be standing up if we’re both going to be walking and/or moving about. The heat in here is cranking, too. We’ve got no control — it’s either on or off. They’ve been sending someone to turn it off for 10 minutes now. That’s service. It’s a bed, a toilet, a shower and a roof. It’s all we need. What do you expect for $70 a night. We packed in a whole lot of stuff today. The plan* was a little disrupted when we got in at about 7 and we couldn’t get into the room. There was a place for us to store our bags and have a quick change. Then we were off.

DSCF0013
Took the tube all over. First to Westminster Abbey where we beat the majority of the crowds — there was just a small line, er, queue… No photos allowed inside, though.

DSCF0009We took some around Parliament and Big Ben

DSCF0020and then we walked across the Thames to the Eye.
DSCF0026We were way early for our noon reservation, so we grabbed some food and got our tickets printed… and got in line early. No big deal. Don’t imagine it would be unless there were lots of crowds.


So we went around in little pods — they don’t stop them unless there is someone with a wheelchair or something — so you board and disembark while they are very slowly moving. It takes half an hour to go all the way around. After that it was off to lunch.

DSCF0089I didn’t have us “slotted”* to start through the Tower of London until 2:00 — so we had plenty of time to have a good lunch, wait in a slow line for tickets and walk and walk and walk. We saw the jewels, and the White Tower. Good stuff.

Then, since we had loads of time, we took the Tube to Knightsbridge, headed into Zara (odd that I’ve been to the store in Montreal and London, but not in Georgetown) and got a cute dark emerald/hunter knit turtleneck.

DSCF0092And then it was across the street to Harrod’s. What a zoo. It was completely insane. couldn’t stay in there for terribly long. And now, we’re in the room until about seven when we’re going to dinner. Going to try and stay up until nine or so. I got a few hours of sleep on the plane. Bren didn’t get any… Tomorrow’s plan is for St. Paul’s, Buckingham Palace, Covent Garden and Trafalgar Square.

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*We don’t normally plan much of our trips. We just go with the flow and do what we feel like, when we feel like it, and take it pretty easy. But since this time we had a little time and so much we wanted to do, plus it was a holiday weekend; I had to make sure we knew what was open when, so that we could see everything.

Montreal: Arrival

[NOTE: written by hand and transcibed later, after we got home.]

Sitting, waiting for the plane to arrive is never very exciting. I’ve already made my way through 402 pages of a magazine & we still have just over an hour until the plane should get here. It’s going to be a tiny little plane, to; there are only 50 seats. We’re in row 5… I was just re-reading about our flight on the 8-seater in Ireland. I’m not too nervous, I’m just worried about feeling nauseated from the air pressure.

Things at the airport are considerably easier than I expected. It’s not too crowded — although it is a Thursday — and the line at security wasn’t terrible, either. The TSA agents were extra-interested in the batteries for the camcorder. What is it with DHS & video cameras?

I am so ready to get out of town. Work has been getting me down lately. I thought the humidity would be worse here this summer. We picked Montreal in September not only because it’s our anniversary the 8th and my birthday a week ago, but also because we figured that we’d be sick of the sticky weather. Maybe we’ll at least miss any hurrican Frances remnants that come this way.

This plane is so tiny. Walking on the tarmac is always good. We got to see our bag get loaded and everything. It’s quite comforting to know that well have clean clothes for the weekend. Of course, we’ll have to get off the runway first!

In the air now. Not high enough for my head to be terribly hapy. Ears are going nuts, too. I’m sure Bren’s are worse, though.

I’m not a big fan of not knowing exactly where we are. I love the gadgets on the big new planes that show a map & the plane movement. If I had to guess it’d be PA or NY.

Holy moly. The line at customs was two hours long. It was crazy. We landed at about seven, seven thirty, but didn’t get out until almost 9:20! A line is a line, thought. There isn’t much that can be done.

Italy, June 2003, Day 1 (ish)

Last year at this time we were driving to our apartment/villa in Praiano.

It seems so long ago — of course, I’m not the one who got married. I’m sure Vince and Kate feel like it was just yesterday and so long ago all at the same time.

I’m just trying to recall day one…

We spent a lot of time in the airport waiting to get our car. We didn’t spend nearly as much time as Vince and Kate and their families, though. Things started off planned and then as the week went on, those plans just slipped apart. We were smart and got ourselves two European cell phones so that we could be in touch. When Bren and I were getting off the plane we had a message from Keith that Kate’s dad’s luggage was misplaced and they were trying to find it so they were still in the airport. Now, Bren and I were a good three hours behind them, but you guessed it, everyone was still in the airport. This was actually good news for us. Originally Bren and I were going to go pick up Keith and his mother Gail at Kate and Vince and Kate’s family’s hotel in Rome. What we didn’t know is that it was in a historic district so we wouldn’t have been able to drive in anyway.

As fate would have it, they were at a luggage belt just a few down from us so we met up with Keith and Gail and went to get the car. But before we got there, while we were on the phone with Keith, Vince and Kate left and Vince apparently said (this is a fact of great dispute to this day) “See you in Pompeii at the train station.” (Part two of our Grand Master Plan was to meet Vince in Pompeii on the two days before his wedding so that he could hang out with us his last nights as a bachelor. Didn’t exactly happen that way.)

Also, even though it was insanely hot, there wasn’t any air conditioning in the airport.

There were going to be six of us on a few days and five on most so we took a chance and reserved a midsize hatchback. They didn’t have any left so they gave us a Passat wagon. Nice, right? So we go from the rental car counter to the parking garage to get the keys and the car. Except that they gave the Passat to the woman in front of us. Both reservations happened at nearly identical times or something. So, we sent Brendan back to the counter. Meanwhile, there’s another couple, not American, maybe German, in the garage waiting for a car. They throw a huge fit and so the guy says to them well, you can have this tiny little Peugeot hatchback right now. They take it and drive off in a huff. Then, Brendan comes back with this huge grin on his face and walks us right to a navy blue BMW 5 series with tan leather interior. That’s what happens when you are nice, kids, you get to drive this:

on some of Europe’s most scenic roads.

Finally finding the guy, Pepino, who was to give us the keys and take us to the apartment was also a small adventure. He didn’t speak much English and kept hanging up on me when I’d call him. “I’m at the Del Sol” is what he actually said, but it sounded much more mangled. Then he’d say “You understand?” and I’d say no and he’d hang up! Fortunately town was very small.

He unloaded our car on the side of the road and then showed Bren where to park. They came down the massive hill on his scooter and Brendan was clinging on for dear life! Then we took off down the ramp past a restaurant and then to a square where there was a church.

And then back around the side (past the obligatory statue of Padre Pio) down at least 90 more stairs until we finally reached our apartment.

The walk was well worth it. This was our view:

I don’t think I could ever get tired of that view. Ever.

We had just enough time to run to the market before it closed and buy some bread, pasta, sauce and water. We were fortunate to be in the store at the same time as an American family who seemed to live there. Bren and Keith were busy talking with the parents trying to figure out what we should get. I wasted no time and asked their 10 year old son what he liked to eat — Barilla pasta! So we had a meal that we could have made at home.

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all the photos are in the gallery.

Switzerland, Zurich Day 1

We booked the trip through go-today.com. It was all inclusive: round-trip airfare, car rental and Minotel hotel vouchers. We’d set up our trip ahead of time to be a little loop in the eastern portion of the country: Zurich -> Lucerne -> Basel -> Amden -> Pontressina -> Zurich

This is our honeymoon. We wanted to go someplace where neither of us had been. Not such a difficult task, really. I can count the states that I have been to on one hand and Bren has only been to Canada and Ireland. Deciding on a place proved to be a little more difficult. We knew we wanted Europe, but not sure how adventurous we wanted to be in terms of language. We knew we wanted fairly comfortable and somewhat affordable. This was before the dollar weakened mind you…

September 10, 2001

Our first night was to be at the Atlantis in Zurich. It took us ages to find. Being fresh off the plane, faced with signs in German and with different symbols than we’re used to was a bit of a shock. We didn’t even come prepared with a map, just mapquest map and directions from place to place. Fortunately, the girl at the rental car counter spoke English and we got ourselves a nice map of the country.

Our directions told us to take the highway out of the airport. Unfortunately for us, all the highways in Switzerland end once they hit a major city and then once you navigate the city center you can pick it back up again. Being a rather large and major city, Zurich had several highways to choose from.

We didn’t take the right one.

Somehow though, we managed to just drive around for ages and happen upon the road that we needed to be on. We picked this particular place for our first night because it was a guest house of a four star hotel, and consequently the most expensive (voucher + local adjustment) of the entire trip.

Checking in, we were excited, the hotel lobby was nice. Then we had to walk up a hill and to another building that was not so nice to our room. It was the smallest room I’ve ever been in. The bed took up most of the space, and if one of us wasn’t sitting on it, there was no place for the other to go except maybe the bathroom. A disappointment to say the least.

For dinner we wandered down the hill into the edge of the city and found a nice-looking Italian restaurant. We had a German/Italian/French phrase book, but neither of us were quite ready, or awake enough really, to speak much in German. We picked Italian because we figured we couldn’t go too wrong. The waitress spoke no English, but the chef did a little. We pointed to things that looked vaguely familiar on the menu and ordered a bottle of red wine. The best and cheapest wine I’ve ever had. The waitress tried to help us with our German. And dinner was really good.

Disclaimer.

Brendan joined the party on January 2, 2004. He's cool now.

Jessica has never been cool. She is OK with that.

And just so everyone is clear, what we say here is not endorsed by either of our employers.