09-24-2018 Leaving the United States and 09-25-2018 Day 1

As you may have noticed, comments don’t seem to be working properly.  I can’t comment and no one else seems to be able to comment either.  No clue what is going on, but if you saw the post and liked it, you could put your comment on facebook.  Sigh.

Deanna and I have planned this trip for almost 2 years now.  I was only able to buy the tickets a year ago, and then at Christmas we had a kerfuffle with the tickets being changed and rerouted.  Originally we had planned to fly through Vancouver BC on Air Canada, but that route was cancelled and we were moved to Lufthansa out of Seattle.  This was a major problem because we both had flights to Vancouver BC on Alaska Airlines.  Lucky for us, even with non refundable tickets, Alaska Air changed our flights to go only to Seattle instead of to Seattle and then on to Vancouver.  This mix-up and the resulting frantic phone calls with airline representatives did provide some moments of stress for us last winter.

At Christmas, I flew to Deanna’s home in Lincoln in Northern Washington and spent some quality time at her dining table, with a view of the snow, reviewing Air B-n-B locations on the Amalfi Coast and in Florence.  Reservations were made easily, contacts made with the respective owners, and arrangements made for our host in Positano to pick us up at the Naples Airport.

That being said, it was still a bit disconcerting on my Monday morning day of departure to get some google notifications for all the cancelled air reservations, both from Air Canada and Alaska Airlines AFTER I had checked in 24 hours prior to our actual flights.  I simply deleted those emails.  I had paper boarding passes in my hand, and trusted that all would be well.  Or almost trusted at least.  Ha. 

I had Mo take me to the airport 2 hours early.  A bit much for the nearly empty airport, but since my plans for  only taking a carry-on had failed due to being 2 pounds over the 18 kilo weight required for Lufthansa carry-on bags, I needed time to check my one bag.  There wasn’t a soul in line, and a very helpful attendant helped me set up checking my bag all the way through to Naples, thanks to an agreement between Lufthansa and Alaska Air.  I quickly called Deanna and she did the same for her flight on Alaska from Spokane, with both of us arriving in Seattle around 11.  It was great that we could do this because the Seattle airport is  usually all backed up in the security area.  This way we didn’t have to go out, get our bags, and get rescreened again.  As we both arrived and met on the concourse, we were very happy about this choice and opportunity since the lines were all backed up and crazy as expected.  Of course, this added a bit of background noise for me worrying if our luggage would actually make it from two different planes onto the right plane to Frankfurt and then on to Naples.  I had spent a few days with all those little bothersome but trivial worries in the back of my mind so this was just another one.

We barely had time for a bowl of Japanese noodles in the Seattle airport and it wasn’t  a particularly good choice.  However,we had no clue what we would be available besides our own snacks for the ten hour flight to Frankfurt, a quick layover and another 2 hours to Naples. We decided that we should eat what we could find and purchase quickly enough to still get on the plane.  Crazy stuff.

It is a mother daughter trip, but Deanna is a grandmother, so it feels very much like a couple of good friends taking care of each other as the needs arise.  Feels wonderful to me to actually be on this trip that I have thought about for at least 10 years since I started planning retirement and thinking about taking each kid on an individual mom trip.  Of course, I have been dreaming of visiting Florence since I was 14, and dreaming about the Amalfi Coast ever since Pinterest started putting up those crazy colorful photos.  It was a place I wanted to see for a long time.

Our Lufthansa flight wasn’t bad at all.  We were in economy, but it wasn’t horribly crowded, and we were served dinner with a drink, and breakfast before landing in Frankfurt.  The plane was a newer 747 and had in-flight entertainment on seat back monitors, but the best part of the entertainment was the top quality GIS rendering of our flight position.  None of those little dots going over grainy maps.  We had an animated plane traveling over top quality imagery that looked better than the view out the window.  I was thrilled being the old map maker that I am.  GIS is a wonder of our lives now, one of the things I appreciate most about technology.

Landing in Frankfurt was easy enough until we discovered that not only did we have to go through Passport checks, we also had to go through two more security check points.  My status was TSA  precheck in Medford  but not so lucky here, so out came the laptop and liquids, but I didn’t have to take off my shoes.  Deanna had an RFID wallet attached to her bra in a way that it couldn’t be removed without removing her bra.  That flagged her in both airports, and she was required to do the private screening so that they could check out her travel wallet.  Lucky for me, my waist money belt could be removed and put with my personal items in the bins.  Just a heads up, those RFID money carriers are great but TSA doesn’t like them.  They even went through all Deanna’s money.

The layover in Frankfurt was short and our plane was late. We were doubly stressed with all the extra security stuff but lucky for us  our plane to Naples late enough to make the transfer easier than we expected.  Arriving in Naples had just one more little bit of stress associated with it…would Enzo be there?  Would our ride be waiting for us?  Would we be able to find him?  Would our bags arrive as well?  Silly how I worry about all this little stuff when not a bit of the worry was warranted.  Both bags arrived when we did. Baggage pickup was slick and easy.  Walking out the gate was a piece of cake and Enzo was there just like all the other drivers with his sign with Deanna’s name on it.

In no time we were cozied up in his nice little BMW, (me in the front seat to avoid car sickness) and on our way from Naples, driving the freeway beside Mt Vesuvius, through the 3 five year old tunnels that cross from the Sorrento side of the mountains to the Amalfi Coast side, cutting off more than 90 minutes of travel time between destinations.

First view of the small city of Sorrento near Naples

The road is tight and narrow and we were grateful that Enzo could drive while he talked because he talked a lot!  He filled us with information about Naples, Vesuvius, the tunnels, Pompeii, the wineries, the mozzarella farms, the olive groves and lemon trees protected by chestnut sticks and draped against the sun and wind.  He talked so much that our brains were worn out.  Of course we were worn out anyway from more than 24 hours of traveling and neither of us were able to sleep on the plane in spite of ear plugs, eye masks, travel blankies, and neck pillows. All the comforts and not a speck of sleep.  Ha!

The drive to Positano for the first time was breathtaking. The sea and the mountains, and the narrow road took our breath away. I have driven and ridden Highway 1 on the California coast in our motorhome, but this highway has that one beat for sheer thrills. 

That little narrow ribbon you see along the cliff is our road from Sorrento to Positano, the city in this photo

By the time we arrived in the tiny village of Montepertusso, high about the town of Positano, we were definitely crazy tired and a lot overloaded.  Enzo suggested some restaurants but we told him we were just too tired to go anywhere and would eat what snacks we had left over from the flight.  His wife Sara is the one responsible for the yummy breakfasts here.  However on that first day they both said, “No No.  Let us bring you a bit to eat.”  Within minutes, Sara arrived with a beautiful spread of gnocchi with home made marinara from their garden tomatoes, tomato slices in their own olive oil, mozzarella and prosciutto slices, bread, olives, and sun dried tomatoes, with fresh oranges on the table from the garden as well.  And yes, a bottle of delicious red wine  “Lison Pramaggiore from Santa Margherita” cabernet.  Deanna was thrilled with this one because sometimes red wines can give her a headache, and this one didn’t.

We ate on the lovely terrace in a strong breeze which later turned into a strong wind. After dinner we walked back to the village to check out the view of the sea and look down on the town of Positano as it began to light up for the evening.  We found our entrance to the famous stairs to the town. (More about THAT tomorrow).

So many people are so friendly, and especially so when I make an attempt to speak in some version of Italian. My Italian  is so bad that it elicits laughs like this one from Concertina. She is about 5 feet tall, lives in Montepertusso, and has Quattro Grande sons. She told me in Italian that one of her sons has a restaurant in Apopka, Florida.

It was a lovely introduction to our time in Montepertusso.

A link to the rest of the photos for this post is here

10-28-2018 How Will I Write About Italy?

Current Location: Sunset House in Grants Pass Oregon Cloudy and rainy and 63 F

Our guests have departed. There is nowhere I have to be for at least another week.  Crashed on the loveseat on a only slightly drippy Sunday afternoon, I lifted my body from what daughter Melody calls “Landscape Mode”, and said to Mo, “It’s time to try to write the blog about my trip to Italy”.  She said, “How do you plan to do that? How many posts?  Where will you start?”  I said, “No clue, I won’t know till I get started”.

When I got home a week and a half ago, I was all ready to go.  Photos processed and uploaded while still in Italy, no less, notes kept on the calendar and even a few draft blog post days ready to be filled in and fleshed out.  But then, just a few hours after Mo picked me up from the airport, Mo’s sister-in-law Nancy came to visit for a few days.  It is fun having Nancy around, and we took things fairly easy while she was here.  In fact, I don’t remember much about her visit except that it was pleasant and we took her to Schmidt Vineyards for a glass of wine and wood fired pizza on the lovely grounds.  I guess I don’t remember because I was still caught up in a bit of jet lag, or maybe not even jet lag, but trip lag. 

Nancy left on Friday and on Saturday Mo and I packed up the car and the dog to go over the pass to Klamath Falls for a few days.  Not sure if my Italy suitcase was fully unpacked when I loaded it up again for the short trip.  I was looking forward to a day at Rocky Point at the annual Chili Feed where I had volunteered to be a cashier to help support the fire department. Long day, but still fun to see all the old Rocky Point friends and participate.  Instead of coming back to Grants Pass, we went home to the apartments to spend a few days doing maintenance things, Mo did outdoor stuff and I painted one of the bedrooms in the one apartment that we keep available for ourselves when we need it. 

We stayed only long enough for the EPA meeting to celebrate the final season of the cleanup of the Northridge Estates Area.  (You can check out the info here if you are interested, or don’t remember how this affected us).  Making a beeline back to Grants Pass, I knew that the next day it would be time to clean the house and rake some leaves, and sure enough we got a phone call from Nickie and Jimmy saying they would be heading our way the next day, and was that OK.  Of course that was OK, but I did have to rush a bit to get the rest of my stuff out of the Italy suitcase and the apartment suitcase and make sure the house looked spiffy again.  They haven’t visited since we finished building and moved in.

We had a great visit with them as well, 3 days and 2 nights of fun times, including a hike up into Cathedral Hills on what was supposed to be a rainy day and instead was quite nice.  Cool and a bit drippy, but pleasant.  Mattie was thrilled to have them here, she so loves company and of course more people around usually means a few more treats.  I told Nickie I couldn’t cook, and instead we went out to dinner at our new favorite little bistro, the Bohemian, in downtown Grants Pass, in the historic area.  Fabulous dinner!  The next evening we went to a crazy thing listed in the entertainment section of the paper, The Popovich Comedy Pet Theater, which is basically indescribable, but very funny, and a lot of fun, with a full house of kids young and old laughing a LOT.

We had simple tacos last night, watched the Streisand version of “A Star is Born”, and decided that the new Lady Gaga version was more well written and actually much better.  Never in a million years would have thought that this old diehard Streisand fan would say that.

I am here at long last, at the computer, with most everything caught up, and ready to start writing about my fabulous, incredible, magnificent, wonderful, amazing trip to Italy, with my fabulous, incredible, magnificent, wonderful, amazing daughter Deanna.  Three weeks of travel on our own without a glitch.  Well, I guess that is giving the story away, but tune in and the next few posts will tell the tale.  (I actually have no idea how many posts it will take, I will figure it out as I go).  Thank goodness I kept good notes during the trip, so some of the finer details and fun stuff won’t be lost. 

Next Post:  Italy