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Posts Tagged ‘Venice’

I love airplanes and airports. I mean, I really, really, love them. My head spins around like Linda Blair’s when we pass Detroit Metro. We live under a flight path and when planes fly over our house, I wonder where they’re coming from. Who is on them? What are their stories? Are they on holiday? Business? Have they just been, or are they going, to somewhere they’ve always wanted to go? The possibilities are endless.

It’s no secret that I love to travel, and I think that’s a big part of my crush. Airports are exciting places! There’s so much to look at, so much to see. Overpriced restaurants, designer shops, tacky souvenirs, and cool fountains abound. The first time I saw a Burberry store or a Jimmy Choo shop was in an airport. Of course, I could never in a million years afford to buy anything, but it was fun to pretend that I could.

The thing is, if you’re in the airport far enough to see all of these wonders, YOU’RE ACTUALLY GOING SOMEWHERE. ON AN AIRPLANE. That’s so cool. I always want to ask everyone where they’re going, since everyone past security is a passenger. It used to not be that way. On my trip to Ireland back in 2001, Mr. Marty Man, Oldest Child, and Middle Child walked me to the gate. We all simply walked through the metal detector and went, no questions asked. A few short months later, our world was turned upside down with 9/11 and, well, now my brother gets pulled out for the “special screening” machine and we have to take off our shoes. I don’t mind, though. There are bad guys out there and safe is good.

I love the airplanes, themselves, too. Not in a mechanic sense, but airplanes get you places fast, unlike cars. Now, there are some good things to be said about road trips, especially if they’re with the right people, but I am not one of those who enjoys the journey. Mechanical problems that can strand you, other stupid drivers, stopping for gas, stinky feet, staying in crappy hotels on the way, no, thank you. I want to get to where I’m going, as quickly as possible and an airplane is the quickest means to an end. I know, they’re no picnic to ride on for long flights. They’re cramped (it’s a dream of mine to get bumped up to first class with leg room) and crowded, and the bathrooms leave much to be desired, but I can make it across the Atlantic Ocean to my favorite place in the world (that would be London, in case you’re wondering) in less than seven hours. If I were to get in a car and drive for seven hours, I can end up in some nice places, like Springfield, Illinois, but if I really wanted to get to Springfield quickly, an airplane would get me there in about an hour and a half. Convenience.

After I went to Australia many years ago, I thought I had my fill of airports. Trying to sleep on the floor of the Auckland, New Zealand airport for seven hours waiting for our flight to Sydney was almost unbearable due to the fact that we had been traveling for almost twenty-four hours and it was the middle of the night in the airport, so nothing was open. Those were some looooong flights and layovers, for sure. When we got back, I thought I would be happy if I never saw an airport again, but it was only a couple of weeks before I felt the yen to travel again. I wouldn’t get on a plane again until my honeymoon, five and a half years later, but I felt that itch every time I passed the airport. Just for reference, Detroit Metro is visible from the freeway, I94, that I travel on a lot.

When Mr. Marty Man and I flew to Miami on that honeymoon, the magic happened all over again. Somewhere in those years, I decided that travel was going to be a crucial part of my life and, luckily, it has been. I’ve been fortunate to be able to travel to many places in my life and I would love to make it more. When a plane flies over, I feel that pull, that tug to wherever that plane is heading, off on another adventure. It’s led me to Florida a few times, Australia/Hawaii, Iowa, Illinois, Ireland, the UK, and Italy. I also have a stamp in my passport for Amsterdam, although I was only in the airport for a layover, but it look cool.

My primary target is Europe. Marty Man would like to see more of the US, where we live, and that would be okay, but I absolutely adore Europe. The history alone is enough to make me cry, and it has. It humbles me to say that I stood in the Sistine Chapel, a masterpiece of art, with tears pouring down my cheeks (which, incidentally, does not help with the humidity issue) at the sheer beauty of the place. I have been floored at the majesty of Westminster Abbey. I know there are people who are similarly affected by spots in the U.S. or Asia, or lots of other places but for me, Europe was always the place I dreamed about since I was a little girl. It has not yet disappointed. (Well, maybe the toilets in Rome. They were pretty gross.) There’s something about walking down a street that has been a street for over 2,000 years that does something to me. There’s something about being in the exact place that my ancestors came from that connects me on a spiritual level. There’s something eye-opening about having the realization hit you that there are other perspectives in this world besides the one from your own country and wondering how that fits into the international dance of give and take. Travel is education.

Why am I postulating on this? Oldest Child is in the UK right now for a study-abroad session through his college. As I write this, though, he’s actually in very good hands with my friend Sabrina, close to Venice, for  his off weekend. He is learning things there, gaining experience that he could not get at home and for that I am grateful. And just a teeny bit jealous. Well, maybe more than a teeny bit, but I’ll get over it. Anyway, his being there is why I’m thinking about this right now and I’m so happy that one of my kids has caught the travel bug like his mama.

I’m always looking for my next chance to fly. If you ever get the chance, take it. Don’t be scared off by the unknown or different, for things that may or may not ever happen to you. Take the chance, take the risk because chances are it will be just fine and you’ll learn something new while having a blast. In the meantime, I’m going to continue gazing at the sky and dreaming of my next adventure.

A presto.

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I’ve been on a bit of a holiday from things: work, home, and, yes, writing. (Actually, I have a summer job, but that’s my fun one and I don’t really consider it work. I enjoy it too much!) I did actually plan to try and write a bit when I was in Italy, but there was just no time, so now I’m jumping back in. I do want to try and finish the novel that I’m working on, at least the unrevised bit of it, this summer, if possible, but first, a blog post. I won’t bore you with all of the details of my trip, but just a few highlights.

I was in bella Italia, beautiful Italy. The flight was long, cramped, and boring, so I’ll spare you the details. We were fortunate enough to immediately get our tour group’s bus from the airport to our hotel in Rome, driven by the talented Carlo, our driver for the week. An Italian motorway gave way to increasingly smaller city streets, passing through buildings covered in graffiti. I thought the graffiti would go away once we got into Rome proper, but that was not so. In fact, it seems the only way to not have graffiti on your building in Rome is to build a locked gate around it, but then the gate will have graffiti. I found it extremely surprising that a city with a heavy tourist population would have so much vandalism. A lot of it is political, but still, graffiti is ugly no matter where you go.

If you don’t look at the graffiti, Rome is beautiful, in a chaotic way. There are no traffic rules. Absolutely none. Seriously, if there are rules, no one is following them. I don’t even know why there are lines on the road. Tiny cars veer in and out from between large trucks and busses while scooters rule any in-between spaces and even sidewalks. Crossing the street almost gave my mother heart attacks, but we followed the advice of our local guide, Elena: “Shoulders back, chest out, don’t look at the drivers, close your eyes, and GO!” She was right. Roman drivers can sense even a small inkling of hesitation and will keep going if you pause before crossing. It’s kind of like being a teacher. Still, everyone seems to take it in stride; it’s the way things are done. And in the midst of all of this chaos, beautiful ruins, thousands of years old, are scattered through the entire city. Public water fountains flow with water from the ancient aqueducts and the Coliseum seems impassive to the tourist busses that rumble by.

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View of Rome

Rome is extremely walkable, as were all of the cities, if one holds their purse close, closed, and zipped. Gypsies, or Romani, are everywhere, selling cheap crap or trying to scam naïve tourists into taking pictures for 5 euro or taking a rose, after which they get very close to you and say, “Give me money.” If one avoids the heavy tourist areas, or just flat out ignores them, it’s not a problem, just annoying. In the areas by our hotels, we walked around quite comfortably and safely, even at night.

Vatican City was amazing. Although Oldest Child had immediately given me his copy of The DaVinci Code as soon as I decided to go to Italy (as an inspiration to sneak into the private collections), the amount of historical treasures that were actually on display was dumbfounding. Paintings, sculptures, tapestries, and priceless works of art are all on display, no need to go hunting behind the scenes. The Sistine Chapel was overwhelming and brought me to tears with the sheer passion of the work painted not only on the ceiling, but the walls. Silence is enforced there and prayers are said. Michelangelo’s most famous Pieta (he carved several) is on display in St. Peter’s Basillica, more beautiful than I had ever dreamed. I got to be inside of St. Peter’s Square, a place that we watch on Christmas Eve and Easter every year, jammed to the gills with people. It was nowhere near as full as it is for those holidays, but it is an immense area. I’m not Catholic, but I could have spent days in the Vatican.

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St. Peter’s Square, Vatican City

We took a day trip from Rome to Pompeii, the town that was buried by ash when Mt. Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD. The amount of work that has been done and how much of the original town has been uncovered is astounding. Private homes, shops, wells, and, yes, brothels, are all still there, some looking as if their owners could come back at any moment. Our guide, Enrico, took us everywhere that he could, throwing in as much humorous information as possible and making sure our group saw all of the important things. There is actually a lot more of Pompeii that remains buried, but Enrico seemed confident that it would stay covered. The expense would be just too great and the important buildings had already been excavated. Still, walking the same streets that were once a real place, not a tourist attraction, was humbling and eerie. There were three casts of victims on display: a baby, a man and a dog. Even though they were only the molds of those unfortunates, the bodies have long since decayed, it was emotional to see the horrified expressions still evident after all this time. If I had to choose one word to describe Pompeii, it would be “haunting”.

After three days, we bid a fond “arrivederci” to Rome and moved on to Florence for a change of pace, but once we got there, our pathway to the leather factory we were to tour was blocked by a medieval football game. Apparently, it’s a really big deal there and gets quite rough. One of the most famous squares, or piazzi, was completely blocked off and there was a huge police presence, which our tour director sweet-talked us through. To make a long story short, we did get past the (fun) craziness and got to our wine-tasting, pizza dinner and leather tour on time.

We had a lot of free time to explore in Florence but also got to take a day trip to see the towns of San Gimignano and Siena, both nestled high in the beautiful hills of Tuscany. Both have kept most of their medieval buildings and are, rightfully, very proud of them. We quite happily wound our way through the ancient streets, admiring both buildings and landscapes alike. Both of those towns are places where I would gladly go back and spend a lot more time exploring more of what they have to offer.

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City wall of San Gimignano

Venice was next, after a quick stop in Verona to see “Juliet’s balcony”. (FYI, Juliet was a fictional character. The play, by William Shakespeare, was based on warring political families in Verona at the time, but it remains a work of fiction.) Venice was stunning at first glance and remained so throughout the time we spent there. During the daytime hours, there were throngs of tourists to elbow through, and some particularly despicable Gypsies, but there were no scooters threatening to kill us, no busses to dodge, just water taxis and gondolas gliding up and down the narrow canals between homes and churches. In the evening, after the day-trippers leave, Venice is peaceful and breathtaking. Our hotel was across a large canal from Piazza San Marco, so we had to take a water taxi back and forth, an experience in itself. When it came time to go to the airport, we went by water taxi. It was fabulous!.

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Venice

The best part of Venice, however, was that I got to meet my friend, Sabrina, for the first time. We had started communicating almost a year ago online and she was able to meet my mom and me there. We had a wonderful afternoon, just walking around, talking, and getting to know each other. Hopefully, we’ll get to meet up again in a couple of years, perhaps in London. The sooner, the better!

I was given a great gift in this trip, and I have my mother to thank for that. My world was expanded, my appreciation and respect for another culture increased, and I found that while I’m not even close to being fluent in speaking Italian, I am a fairly functional tourist. My next trip isn’t quite in the works yet, we are sending Oldest Child to college next month, after all, but I’m looking forward to what ever adventure comes my way

Ciao!

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