Category Archives: TravelSmart

39 Days

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It’s been a long journey. I’m having difficulty remembering that five weeks ago I was a student at BABILONIA in Taormina, Sicily. I’ve traveled, made new friends, seen new places, revisited and glorified in the treasures of Tuscany, delighted in the company of Telma, reveled in the remembrances with Sally and Johanna. It’s been a long and wondrous journey.

As I sit in the Doubletree near Heathrow, I’m reflecting on these past weeks with gratitude, anticipation, and wonder. I’ll share some secrets.
. . .I was brought to tears walking down a small vicolo, alleyway, in Modica, after acknowledging to myself that I can do something I’d never imagined possible. . .speak, and almost, sometimes, understand Italian.
. . .I adore Italy and all things italian. . .even half-italian, like Don.
. . . I believe this will be my final 39 day trip for a long time, for a variety of circumstances.
. . .i can travel through 3 climates with a carry-on bag that’s been crushed and filled with things I never intended to buy.
. . . We shared this trip with Nana Weinberger. Her ashes lie under a lemon tree in Sicily, in the Ionian Sea, in the Alacantara Gorge, in the garden of Bristol Cathedral, and on a beach in Sicily. She was a traveller and we intend to keep her traveling!
. . .I missed my mother on her birthday, November 8.
. . .I worry about my family when I’m away.
. . .Im extraordinarily grateful for opportunities. It’s really about seeing the possibilities and having the courage or stupidity to follow through.

A few outtakes of photos. . .

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Con Te parterĂ². . . Time to say goodbye. Wheresweinberger closes today, until the next adventure. Where?? When?? Chissa!. . .Who knows?!

50/50

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One of us is going home and one of us is staying in Italy. I think you know which is which!!

We decided to spend our final night in Rome at the Golden Tulip, about10 minutes from the airport. We’ve stayed here many times before and have watched it evolve from Hotel Club Isola Sacra with a dinky lobby to an upscale, chic Italian hotel. I personally was pleased the last two times we were there to be “in their system,” and this time even recognized by our waiter, Luigi.

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Artwork adorns the walls and pedestaled sculptures add a distinctive Italian flair to the lobbies.

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The restaurant is outstanding and the breakfast sumptuous.

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Hey, they’re not paying me to write this, but for those of you who always ask where we stay, this is it!! Golden Tulip Fiumicino

I suggest you book the superior room. You won’t be disappointed. Here’s my view from our balcony:

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Don left on the 9 am shuttle. I stayed until check -out time at 12 and took a special shuttle.

And then it was time to wait, and wait. I knitted, I cleaned out my inbox, I cleaned out photos, I paced the arrivals terminal. I was waiting for. . .

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Ode to Sophia

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We take a girlfriend with us on every trip. In Italy, it’s Sophia. We’ve known her for about 6-7 years. She has the attributes of a good friend. . . There when you need her, gently makes suggestions, becomes insistent when she knows you’re off course, and can be quiet for long stretches of time.

She knows everything but never boasts. She’s been everywhere. . . Even in tiny alleyways, up farm lanes, and down long driveways.

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Only occasionally does she become confused, which might look like this. . .

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Or this. . .

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But mostly she has been everywhere we want to go, even before we’ve been there!

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Please meet our best friend and trusted traveling companion, Sophia!!!

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A New Use for Old Undies

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I’ve arrived! My flight from PHL-FCO was seamless, and my two melatonin made me sufficiently drowsy to fall asleep a few times. The flight seemed short. My suitcase was among the first on the carousel, lessening my concern about meeting my shuttle on time. Non c’e’ problema!

But my trusty case arrived hurt. A smashed corner.

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Hmmm. . .what to do. We have five more weeks of traveling ahead of us. The crack was clear through to the underbelly of the lining. I thought it best to pad the hole. What should I use? Ah. . . My old, discardable undies.

I chose the oldest and blackest and stuffed it in the hole.

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And I covered it with my duck tape, a trusty travel companion.

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I’ll report in on how we fare over the next five weeks!!

So after a luscious nap, a walk, and a visit to a small market, I enjoyed La Prima Cena ( as opposed to L’ultima Cena!), listening to Italian TV.

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Sure, it’s wine from a box, but it’s Italian wine, prosciutto, cheese, and bread.

I’ve arrived!

Not So Frequent. . .

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I don’t fly very often. So yesterday when I sat in the chair of “il mio parrucchiero” (hair dresser), our conversation drifted to frequent flyer miles. Despite not flying often, both Don’s and my flights for our upcoming trips cost a fraction of the listed fare. I’m a dreamer and a schemer, and proud of it!!

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Here’s what works for me, and it’s a two-pronged approach.

1. We charge everything on a MasterCard which has no annual fee and we pay the card in full every month. This card also offers a portal through which I make online purchases for more than the $1/mile. Miles can be used on any airline and if you don’t have enough miles you can supplement with. . .of all things. . .cash! So, for Don’s non-stop round trip PHL-FCO we used miles plus $433. Published fare is about $1100.

2. We finally bought into the US Airways credit card because we know that we will use USAir for trips to Italy and Europe. $89/year, and that includes a few perks. One of the juiciest perks for a first-time holder is the 15,000 mile bonus offered for putting $750/ month on your card for 3 months. Add that to the 30,000 miles you receive after making your first purchase, and I knew I was on my way to saving up miles for this trip. We decided that Don should also get the card. I discovered that I could transfer his miles to me and double them. I now had enough miles for a round trip from PHL -Rome and London, Heathrow to Philadelphia AND I still have over 40,000 miles which is good for TWO domestic round trips. I figure this cost me about $680.

I’m stickin’ my thumbs under my armpits and puffin’ out my chest!

One Bag

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How do you pack for five weeks of travel, from the beaches of Sicily to the rain of England? And how do you keep your promise to yourself to travel light, in one bag, that you can handle yourself? Hmmm.

Here’s what I wrote on May 22, 2012:
7. Most important learning, which I actually knew before I left, but now I REALLY know. I will wear one pair of pants and take one skirt. Period. One pair of earrings, one bracelet. Period. A few tops, a sweater, leggings, two pairs of shoes. Period. Remind me of all of this next time. Period.

OK. So I have a sleeveless dress which will double as a skirt when I put a top over it AND I have another skirt. I packed sandals in addition to a second pair of shoes. I have three pairs of earrings. It’s just a little cheat.

But I kept it to one bag which I can lift myself. I’ll take one final look before I zip it up tomorrow and decide if those extra earrings or sandals or skirt is a breach of commitment.

Probably not.