Sunday, March 31, 2013

"Corporal Le Beau is Giving Us an Exhibition"**

                                 Andre, aka LeBeau

My garden is my most beautiful masterpiece”
― Claude Monet

Northern France has apparently forgotten that spring started a few weeks ago. While the temperatures in Paris were in the low 50s when we arrived last week, the highs in Vernon and Rouen have been low 40s. Those 10-12 degrees make a huge difference especially when one's blood is pretty thin after living in the desert for years.

It was rather cloudy yesterday as we headed toward Vernon, a town north of Paris.  The ship cruised into port a little early, and we were able to go into town for a bit before our scheduled excursion to Giverny, home to Claude Monet's home and gardens.  Five minutes after we left the ship, I knew I wasn't going to last very long.

"Holy crap!" I said to Mike. "Who turned off the heat?"  (Side note:  Said in jest, my innocent question would later prove to be prophetic.)  Luckily, we had both brought hats with us, but unluckily, we had not put them on before we left the ship. Within 10 minutes, we were frozen solid.

"I'm not going to last if the weather continues like this," I added.  "Going through Giverny will be murder."  We happened to notice a market in the main square in Vernon, and headed that way to look for gloves.  We each bought a pair and headed back to the ship less than an hour after leaving it.

We went to Giverny — hats, gloves, scarves, and three layers of clothes under our jackets — a little after 1:00.  The weather was still way too cold, but over 100 passengers and guides headed to Giverny to pay troop through Monet's property. Our guide was Andre (above) whom Mike immediately christened "LeBeau" after the French corporal character on "Hogan's Heroes."

 Creek through the Japanese Garden

"LeBeau! Let's go!" called my dear spouse in a French accent.  "It's cold. We must move fast."  LeBeau either ignored Mike or had no idea Mike was talking to him, but he took his time getting the 18 of our group together and moving us across to the Monet property.

"We wheel entaire de garden first," said LeBeau. "I geev you zee teek-et to get een, an' you vill need to keep eet to get een zee houz."

"I vill take zee teek-et fare my wifes, too," exclaimed my suddenly French husband.  A confused LeBeau looked at Mike and handed him the tickets.  "Zank you, LeBeau."  I was, at this point, laughing so hard I could barely aim the camera at what was Monet's supposed garden.  (Below)

"What's wrong with Chris?" our new Australian friend, Steve, asked his wife when he saw me doubled over.

"She can't look at LeBeau without laughing," said Carol, his wife.

   The Main Garden with Monet's House in the background

LeBeau guided us through the Japanese garden and the main garden before taking us to the house.

While I was excited to have the opportunity to go to Giverny, I was bit disappointed that we didn't get to see many flowers.  There were few lily pads on the pond, and a few daffodils ("zhon-queels," according to LeBeau) and forget-me-nots in the garden (above).  Other than that, there was little color around.

"Ve are un-looky because eet eez code an' cloody today," said LeBeau, "an' ve dough'n see zee flow=airs.  But eet eez goot to keep zee toe-reests avay. I pro-meez zat zee zun vill come out."

"Ven, LeBeau? Ven?" Guess who asked that.

"Shree-foorty-fives. Ve meet zen to go to zee moo-zeem," answered LeBeau thinking that Mike was asking when we'd meet as a group after exploring the house and tiny town.  Sigh.

                              Monet's Grave

Grateful to have a few minutes to get out of the cold, we walked through Monet's large house.  Interestingly, the house is quite wide, but it is only one room deep.  Monet's former studio is now a gift shop filled with over-priced items (How does a 320 euro scarf sound?) and held little interest for us, so we walked outside.  Low and behold, the sun came out (It was still too cold, though.).

Giverny is one street (Rue Claude Monet) long (maybe 1/2 mile or less), and a few tiny roads branch off from it. About 200 people live there, and most make their living either as artists, B&B owners, gallery/shop owners or staff at the Monet house. It's a charming village filled with stone houses, friendly people and dogs (Surprised that I noticed that?).

I was glad that we had the opportunity to go, but I questioned whether the flowers were actually blooming given the cold weather France has had this winter (According to Euronews, this is the coldest winter since 1939.).  I had the distinct feeling that the house gardeners planted some of the flowers just so tourists brave enough to tour the place this early would see some of the beauty that inspired Monet. Who knows? 

At any rate, by the time we got back to the ship around 6:00 pm, we were all quite cold (Frozen is probably an understatement.).  Even though we had on layers, Mike and I put even more clothing on when we got back to our room. I was considering taking a hot shower when our cruise director took to the airwaves.

"Ladies and gentlemen, I'm sorry to tell you that we have no hot water and no heat right now," said John Riley less than 24 hours after he made fun of Carnival Cruise Lines for having problems on several of their ships. "The captain and chief engineer are working very hard to remedy the problem and hope to have everything fixed by the time we are in Rouen tonight."

The heat came on several hours later, and when we arrived in Rouen around 10, engineers from the city came on board to help figure out what was going on. Thankfully, we had hot water when we woke up this morning.  

Karma is such a b!+(#.

Tomorrow: We make macarons on Easter Sunday.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Wasting Time...

Being soaked alone is cold. 
Being soaked with your best friend is an adventure.” 
Emily Wing Smith

I meant to get this post out yesterday, but we spent a good part of it wasting time while we waited to get on our ship... boat...floating hotel....whatever you want to call it.  At any rate, once we got on the boat, we spent the afternoon exploring it, meeting people, and going to the mandatory safety meeting.

Surprisingly, about 85% of the people on the boat are American or Canadian. The rest are Aussies or Brits.  I don't think anyone from any other country raised a hand when our guest services host, John Riley (How appropriate is *his* name?), asked.  The crew all had a great time making fun of the Italian captain who was in charge of the Concordia, and John assured us that our captain was French and would not hit a reef or the like.  Of course, the captain spoke to us and gave the emergency instructions while a few of the waiters demonstrated with the life jackets.

"Put the life jacket through your head," Captain Frenchman said, "like these show."

"I don't know if my head's big enough to do that," a certain husband quipped back.  

"My English, she is not so good,"  le Captain continued, "but you get."  I was laughing a little too hard at my husband to completely hear everything, but you get the drift.

Going back to the morning, though. . . . After we checked out of our hotel, we had about six hours to kill before we could embark, and we decided to just walk around the Montparnasse area.  We first had to find a bank or ATM since we didn't want to repeat the krona fiasco of the night before.  Business accomplished, we walked.  [It's quite amazing to me that I love to walk so much when we are in certain places while I don't particularly like walking at home.  (Yes. Yes. I'm lazy.)]

We headed through the Mantparnasse Cemetery (The photo above is of it from our hotel window.) and were amazed, as usual, by the very ornate monuments.  The monuments are quite long, large and close to one another.  Some had their own little gardens, a small section carved in the granite where families plant annuals to honor their loved ones.  I'm not a big fan of cemeteries, as some of you know, but the foreign ones are a little different. Basically, we wasted time, although we feel that observing life in another city is not really time wasted. 

When we finally headed to the river, our cab driver was not sure where to go.

"What is the address?" he asked us.

"Quai Andre Citron," I said, and Mike showed him the ticket with that printed on it.

"Yes, but what street address?  What number?" he repeated.

"We have no street number.  Just this paper," I said.

"Well, we will try," he assured us, and drove toward the river.  Slowly, we cruised the banks looking for our boat.  "Do you see it?"

"No," Mike said.  "Chris, do you?"

"I wasn't looking," I replied. "I'm on the wrong side."

"If I had the number, it would be easier," said Mssr. Taxi Man. I wanted to slap him in the head.

"We don't have a number."  I was getting pretty irritated.  He finally drove down port side and continued through an industrial area.  Finally, we cleared that and saw a local ferry.

"Maybe this way right," he said.  "We try a little longer."

To make a long story short, we finally found the boat. . . the ship. . . and there was no number on the slip. 

Mike paid the man, in euro, and gave him a pretty good tip to make up for our faux pas the night before.

Fast forward to today . . . We're on our way to Giverny this morning. It's pretty cloudy, although we're hoping the sun will peak out a little when we get to Monet's house.

I'll let you know later today.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Why You No Pay Me?

In Paris, they simply stared when I spoke to them 
in French. I never did succeed in getting those idiots 
to understand their own language.
~ Mark Twain

We are finally in Paris.  In truth, our flight from Las Vegas to Heathrow left less than 20 hours ago. Still, I feel like we've been traveling forever.  I could tell you about the uneventful flight on the Honking HUGE British Airways plane and our layover at Heathrow, but that pales compared to what happened once we arrived Orly. Yes, friends, the adventure started  as soon as our feet touched French soil.

"You need taxi?" a guy asked us as we walked towards the transportation doors shortly after we disembarked at Orly International Airport.

"Yes. Yes" I was happy to find a taxi driver without having to look forever.  He motioned us to follow him, and we took off down the concourse, walking in the direction opposite to the way the "Taxis" arrow sign pointed. We walked outside, and he turned to us.

"We must walk another two minutes.  My car parked two minutes," he said.

"Wait a minute," I said, turning to Mike.  "I think he's trying to scam us."  I faced the "taxi" driver and asked how much to take us to our hotel.

"Fifty euro," he replied.  Two of you and four bags."

"No. No. No. There are carry-ons.  The cost should be only 30 euro at most."  I glared at him, and he shrugged his shoulders.

"He thought he'd get tired tourists and scam them," Mike said as we walked back toward the taxi door.  "I had a funny feeling when we started walking outdoors and didn't see taxis."

We got back to the main area and found a taxi.  The lady taxi driver was very nice, and told us she had been to America.

"I came two weeks," she laughed.  "I stay two month. San Francisco I like.  New York.  Some place Pennsylvania.  Nice."

"Did you get to Las Vegas?" we asked.

"No time," she replied, and. while dodging Parisian traffic, she proceeded to tell us about her visits to about 10 cities in the States. She also was kind enough to tell us to avoid taking the yellow buses because the red buses were geared toward tourists. "You see what you like. Go back later."

In 15 minutes or so, we arrived at our hotel, and she clicked the meter. We owed her 25 euro. Mike handed her a 100 bill. She shoved it back.

"No! No!" she exclaimed.

"You no have change?" Mike asked.

"25 euro," she repeated.

"No change?" Mike asked again. "I only have a 20 and a 100." He showed her the 100 bill again.

"No Deutsch," she said. "Euro." She disgustedly threw the 100 bill back at me. I looked at it. Mike had told me we had 500 euro left over from our last trip, which surprised me since I thought we hadn't brought any back. We hadn't.

"This is a Czech Krona," I said to Mike. "She needs euros." We looked at each other.

"Why you no pay me?" the taxi driver asked. "Why you do this?" I was terrified she'd call the police. Mike handed her the 20 which, thankfully, was euros.

"What about the coins?" I asked him. Luckily, he had about 6 more euro in coins. He handed them to her. She huffed out of the taxi and slammed our suitcases on the pavement.

"Merci. Sorry. Merci," I mumbled at her. She ignored me.

"Sorry. Merci," my dear husband said.

Luckily, as we were spending the longest 120 seconds of our lives looking for euro, passengers walked up, and she got another fare.

"That's what I get for not paying more attention," Mike said as we walked into the hotel.

Tell me about it.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

P-Minus One Day . . . . .

            Riley helps me pack my beret.

"I'm very strict with my packing and 
have everything in its right place."
~ Charlie Watts

"Have you packed yet?" my friend Rona asked me Saturday evening. 

"Rona, please," I replied.  "It's not Wednesday afternoon yet." 

She looked at me in disbelief.  "But you leave Wednesday night." 

"Exactly," I said back to her. "I'll start putting things together Wednesday morning."

I've only known Rona for about three years, so she doesn't quite know that I am a chronic procrastinator when it comes to packing.  I've had the opportunity to travel for business and pleasure often over the years, and I feel I have the whole packing-thing down pat and see no need to tie myself up for a week trying to figure out what I'm taking and where it's going to go. 

That said, I need to "'fess up."  I actually started "practice packing a few weeks ago to see how much I could get into my suitcase, and last evening — a full TWO DAYS prior to our first flight — I actually packed almost everything.

Before you think I'm getting soft, let me explain. I'm not sure if I mentioned this before or not, but we are taking only one carry-on and one personal item each.  Yes, you read that correctly. We're taking only carry-ons.  Trying to figure out what to take so that we have appropriate clothing to bridge two seasons was not easy, so I started early.   I may edit out more clothing before tomorrow, but whatever I do, I'll make sure everything is in its right place.  (Yes. Yes. Miss Chaos does actually adhere to the Charlie Watts theory of packing [See above quote.])

"What are you doing?" I asked Mike as I started to write this blog entry 30 minutes ago.

"Downloading podcasts to my iPod," he replied. "And charging my Kindle."

"Oh, crap!" I sighed in return. "I need to download new music to mine, too."

"Put it on your 'to do' list now," he said, turning to look at me as I rolled my eyes. He continued, "You don't have a 'to-do' list, do you?"

Please.  I haven't become *that* organized.  ;-)

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

You're Flying Smart

                               Flying Over the Alps, 2010

"Now You're Flying Smart."
~ Northwest Airline Slogan

When we left off the other day, you may recall, the Northwest plane I was on was suntanning on the McCarran tarmac while the pilots tried for two hours to close some valve by pushing on the gas pedal while the hot, humid air in the cabin steam-cooked us passengers.  A flight attendant had again apologized for the "inconvenience"the delay caused, and a frustrated (and hot) passenger had loudly insisted on being allowed to get off of the plane when the plane shuddered as a result of a huge bang.

"Ladies and gentlemen," the pilot broke the silence," Uh, don't let that scare you. The air in the brakes built up, and that tiny bang that you heard was the brake relieving itself."

"If that was the (Insert four-letter word of your choice here.) brake," I think it was the same man who had just been yelling, "WHY THE (Insert another four-letter word of your choice here.) DID FLAMES SHOOT OUT OF THE (Insert another, well, you get the drift.) RIGHT ENGINE???"

The pilot obviously couldn't hear the question and continued, "We'll be going back to the gate to get that valve looked at. We'll let you off so you can relax for a bit before we leave later this afternoon."

"It's about time," the lady next to me said.  "You think they could have figured that out 90 minutes ago."   She turned and looked at my pale, hyperventilating body.  "Are you okay?" 

"No."  I could barely hear myself above the drubbing of my heart.  I grabbed my purse from the floor and clutched it to my chest in an attempt to stop shaking. “No. I won’t be okay until I’m off of this thing.”

What happened next is the stuff of which stories are made . . . I think. Maybe. Well, probably not.  Except for me.  I tell the story all the time.  But I digress. . . . . 

Remember that I was sitting in the window seat of the third row in coach. Before the plane could come to a full stop, I was up and over the woman next me.  By the time the flight attendants got the front door open, I was third in line to get out of that metal tube of horror. And, once that door opened, I mowed over the two men in front of me.

To make this long story shorter, let me tell you that when I stumbled into the gate area, I saw Michael. Having seen the plane pull over, he stayed and watched the entire time.  He went over to the gate agents and advised them, “You’ll never get her on another plane today.  You might as well just re-book her for tomorrow.”  They did, and I trembled through the rest of that Sunday . . . and the two flights the next day. . . . and . . . Well, you get the picture.

Seriously, though, I'm a lot better now. . .Well, maybe I'm a little better now.

At least I don't cry anymore.  ;-)

By the way, next week at this time, we'll be on our way.  

Next post:  Quit Worrying!!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Up, Up and Away — Part I

Some people just know how to fly.
~ Northwest Airlines Slogan

More than a few friends have mentioned their fear of flying to me recently.  They believe, mistakenly, that because I fly a lot, I must love it.  Whoa, Nelly! While I don't hate it, I'm not a particularly comfortable airline passenger. Eyes closed and fingernails clawed into the armrest (or my husband's palm if he's unlucky enough to be on a flight with me), I try to breathe normally and ignore any change in noise or vibration (More on that later.)

It wasn't always like that, though. The first time I flew, I was a recent high school graduate, and our Spanish teacher was taking us on a seven-day trip to Mexico. While I remember almost nothing of the flights we took, I do remember praying that I would not have to use the little bag in the seat-back pocket in front of me.  There's no better way to scatter friends than by losing one's lunch on them.

My discomfort with flying started when I was about 30.  We were moving from Columbus, Ohio, to Las Vegas, and Mike and I had come out together the day before he started work.  He spent the week settling in to his new job, and I traipsed from house-to-house in search of one we might buy. The following week, I went back to Columbus alone to pack up the house and get Jason and the dog ready for our cross-country drive to Nevada.

My 11:00 am Northwest flight was packed.  I had window seat in the third row of the economy cabin, and there was an older woman seated next to me. We were chatting as the pilot started down. . . . the. . . . .run. . . . way.  The. . . . plane. . . .jerked. . . .down. . . the. . . run. . .way. . . . and. . . . never. . . .picked. . . . up. . . . much. . . . speed.  (If you've ever had the alternator on your car go out, you know the feeling.)  Suddenly, we stopped in the middle of the runway.

"Ladies and gentlemen," our pilot said, "we have a valve that won't close, so we're gonna pull off to the side and try to get it to close."  No one, at that point, seemed to be too concerned, so we all continued chatting or reading or trying to sleep. Every so often, we'd hear the pilot rev the engines, but we never moved from the side of the tarmac where he had parked.  (At this point, I guess I should mention that this was July 12, and the temperatures in the desert were above 105 degrees.)   

"Ladies and gentlemen," one flight attendant announced after about 30 minutes, "we know it's uncomfortable, but we are unable to turn on the air while the pilots try to get the valve to close."  

People were starting to grumble at this point, and call buttons went off all over the plane.  "Ladies and gentlemen," the same flight attendant announced probably an hour later, "we know you're hot and uncomfortable. However, FAA regulations prohibit us from providing drinks to you while we're on the tarmac.  We apologize for any inconvenience."

Inconvenience?  Sitting in a hot, stuffy, crowded plane did more than inconvenience us. 

"For God's sake," a man somewhere behind me yelled. "it's been TWO  HOURS. IF THE VALVE HASN'T CLOSED BY NOW, IT'S NOT GOING TO CLOSE. LET US OFF OF THIS PLANE!!"

He was barely finished with his rant when the engines whirred again.  KAAAAABOOOM!! BANG! BANG! BANG! The plane jumped and shuddered.  The cabin was eerily silent.

Tomorrow:  Up, Up and Away, Part II 

Friday, March 15, 2013

Be On Time

"When we go to the airport,  if they're
not closing the door behind my sweaty,
hyperventilating body,  I feel I've
been there too long."
~Greg Kinnear

"What time," Mike asked me while we were driving somewhere yesterday, "do we have to be at the airport on the 27th?"  I rolled my eyes because he knew the answer, and if he didn't, he sure as heck should have.

"The flight leaves at 9:40, so between 6:30 and 7:00," I replied. "And, preferably closer to 6:30."

I won't bore you with the rest of the conversation, but suffice to say that we will be at the airport by 6:45 PM on the 27th.  International flights require a little more check-in time, and I don't like chancing anything.  In addition, I don't want to stress like I did when we flew to Italy in 2010 (You knew there was a story there, didn't you?).

September, 2010

We decided to fly to Italy from Miami, combining a trip to see Jason with the European portion. The cost of flying out of Miami was also quite a bit less expensive, and we were able to leave the dogs with Jason and Bean while we were gone.  Decision made, we trekked east to Florida.

On the day of our flight, I urged Mike to leave around noon or a little after.  Mike, who had driven this route only one other time (and that was from Jason's apartment in southeast Ft. Myers), miscalculated the 170-mile distance from Jason’s house in Cape Coral to Miami and decided that leaving around 2:15 was fine.  It took almost 45 minutes just to get to I-75, so I started to stress.

We were speeding . . . flying . . . racing along Alligator Alley.  There was no way we were going to  arrive three hours in advance of our 6:20 flight as Alitalia requests.  #3%%!  We’d would have been lucky to arrive one hour in advance.

“We’ll get there for the flight,” my confident husband informed me.  “But, if we miss it, we can always leave tomorrow.” I said nothing.   Except for two frantic calls to Alitalia to explain where we were and that we were going to be a little late checking in, I stayed quiet for most of the trip and alternated silent prayers and curses as we zoomed by the marshes, canals and wildlife.

If you've ever had the misfortune of flying to Miami, you probably know that the airport is in a weird location in the middle of freeways, heavily traveled city streets, and canals. Getting to it is not easy, and finding a gas station anywhere hear the rental car agencies is next-to-impossible.  So, as we streaked down the freeway exit and wove through lanes of traffic, we made the decision to forget about a fill-up.

A little after 5 pm, we screeched into the rental car lot, threw the keys to the rental agent and advised him to “Bill us!” We bolted for the shuttle bus, heaved our suitcases and selves aboard it just before the driver closed the doors, and begged her to hurry.

"What airline and time y'all leavin'?" she asked bemusedly.

"Alitalia at 6:20," I think I puffed in reply.

"Woo-ee! Y'all are late late late!"  Had I not been so out of breath and worried that a confrontation would have delayed us further, I would have strangled her.  Instead, I remained silent.

After a brief check-in with a an impatient ticket agent, we rushed through a mercifully short security line. Navigating around passengers who decided it was time for leisurely strolls down the concourse, we sprinted to our gate which was, of course, the gate furthest from security.  The gate agents began loading almost immediately after we arrived. We were in the first boarding group, but other passengers, afraid that the plane would take off before they could get on, steamrolled over us. They pushed ahead, blocking the plane’s aisles with their carry-ons, various possessions and chatting selves.  

"Can you carry on your conversation without blocking the aisle?" I sneered at an old dude who was leaning on a seat midway up the aisle. I don't think he understood what I said to him as he was speaking in another language, but I'm sure he knew by my tone of voice to get out of my way. Of course, he could also have been a bit scared by the glazed look in my eyes and the way my hair was standing on end. Whatever it was, though, he moved out of the aisle and plopped into his seat rather quickly.

When we eventually arrived at our row, I realized that those were not the seats I'd chosen two months before.  Our tardiness caused us to lose our pre-chosen seats to someone (the talker, I believe) who checked in on time.  We were stuck in the ghetto of the plane — the last row —in seats that occupied that noisy niche in front of the rest rooms and plane galley and, worse, that didn't recline.  

“I told you we’d make it,” Mike said as I fell into my seat.  Jittery, disoriented, hyperventilating and not happy about spending the next eleven hours in a straight-jacket seat stuffed in the back of a metal tube hurtling through the skies, I said nothing.

And *that* was when Mike asked a flight attendant to snap the photo at the top of this post.

Of course, the photo I shot the next morning is even scarier.  Come to think of it, I better delete it before it terrorizes some poor child.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Stuck in Scandinavia

"Typical Scandinavian design is elegant,
sophisticated, simple and long lasting."
~ From

If you've ever flown to Europe (or another continent, for that matter), you know that the flights last eight hours or more.  That wouldn't be so bad if the airlines didn't try to cram 500 people into baby seats jammed into metal cylinders designed to hold half of that amount comfortably.  Add in screaming kids, hacking adults, droning engines and reclining seats in your lap, and, well, you get my drift.

Overseas flights usually leave in the evening — 6:00 to 9:00 PM on average — so by the time the flight attendants finish serving dinner, it's bedtime. I don't sleep well on planes.  Sleeping pills which normally knock me out in five minutes at home have no effect on me when we fly, so I spend the better portion of our flights listening to Mike's snoring compete with the plane engines.  By the time we land, I'm exhausted, cranky and looking forward to falling into our hotel bed for a power nap.

Of course, that isn't always possible. There aren't too many direct flights to mainland Europe from Las Vegas these days, so layovers are the rule rather than the exception.  Unfortunately, layovers seem to be longer rather than shorter these days, too. I mentioned the other day that we had a layover in Helsinki's Vantaa Airport the last time we flew to Europe.  It lasted more than eight hours. The memories make my back hurt.

The experience wasn't horrible, but it certainly wasn't fun.  Vantaa is a bright, spacious airport, and all of the public areas in the terminal are sparsely decorated and filled with plain and simple furniture. The terminal in which we were stuck has a few stores, a few restaurants and a few seating areas.  It's beautiful, functional, and extremely uncomfortable if you have to stay there more than 15 minutes.

We spent most of our time in the restaurant where I took the photo at the top of this post and from where I took the photo of the terminal (left).  We had a small lunch there, although I can't recall what it was (other than over-priced). Mike tried to snooze a little, and I just tried to stay comfortable while my iPod charged wirelessly.  (See the photo below.  All I had to do is plug the donut-thingy into the iPod and throw it on the bar.)  A few hours before our flight to Italy, we left the restaurant, walked up-and-down the terminal, had more coffee, and tried to find a seat near the gate from which our flight was leaving.  By the time we got to Italy, we'd been up over 25 hours, and we were both cranky.

Our stopover this year is at London Heathrow.  While it's not as long as the Vantaa stop, it's still quite long at five hours. Hoping that Heathrow would have more than Vantaa, I checked out what we can expect for our British hiatus.  The five terminals offer a variety of different amenities that include spas, shops, galleries, lounges, and restaurants.  In addition, there are a few places that offer free hand massages, mini-facials, and more.  Interestingly, Heathrow also offers different types of rooms where one can sleep for a couple of hours before moving on.

This layover may not be so bad after all.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Le Big Adventure

                                                                                         Bugnara @ Twilight

"Let us step into the night
and pursue that flighty temptress,
~JK Rowling

"I can't believe you're taking a two-month vacation," more than one of my friends has said to me recently.

"It's not a vacation," I usually respond, although I've given up trying to explain that for me, this is not a vacation. I plan to be working, writing, learning, researching.  I guess that some people think that international travel, unless one does so for a particular company or business, is automatically a vacation.

Mike and I have discussed this and are trying to come up with a different term to describe our trip.  So many thoughts and images are continually running through my mind these days.  I imagine sitting in at the window of our Paris flat, gazing at the rooftops, and writing every morning before we hoof it down seven fights of stairs to explore the city.  I see us sitting at Cafe Annunziata in Sulmona, Mike working on his laptop and me on my iPad. I can feel the Pettorano sun on my face as I write in the piazza overlooking Valle Santa Margherita. I even feel the dread of stepping on the plane in Bologna as we leave for home.

At any rate, we've talked about what we should call this trip.  Sojourn? A little too tame, I think. Holiday?  It still leaves out the working part. Respite? That makes it sound like we recuperating from something.  Dream? Well..... While I've dreamed of doing this, calling the trip a "dream" is a little too cheesy or sappy for me.  Adventure?  A HA!!

That works (except for the hazardous action, of course), so I've been calling it Le Big Adventure. Of course, I look at so many things (LIFE!)  as an adventure, so calling the trip that really makes sense, no?

At any rate, le adventure is less than three weeks away now, although as I type this, I realize that three weeks from right this minute,  we'll be sitting in Heathrow Airport waiting to board a flight for Paris.  We have a layover of roughly five hours there, and while I'm not too wild about that, at least it isn't as long as the almost-nine hours we spent in Helsinki's Vantuu Airport two years ago.  Talk about adventure.

More on Vantuu next time . . . .

PS  The photo above is of the Abruzzi village of Bugnara, another hilltown about 10 minutes from my grandparents' village.