Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Bye, Bye Italy

We are back home, but not without drama, of course.

First, here are a few pictures of our hotel and the airport in Rome.
This is the fountain in front of the Hilton. It was just a short 10 minute walk to our terminal from here:

This is a statue in front of the airport. I think it might be Leonardo DiVinci, but as usual, I am not sure :)

They were in the process of putting up Christmas decorations and I particularly liked this one:

So, back to the trip details. The flight from Rome to Paris was delayed, which caused a bit of stress thinking about the short amount of time we had between flights. I met a really nice woman on the plane who was also going to Austin. She and her husband were in Italy for only 7 days but toured Rome and gave me some info I didn't know about various sites there.

When we got to Paris, I told the woman and her husband that I would see them at the gate and went outside to give Seymour a minute to go to the bathroom. He wasted that minute by sniffing and not going - but I don't think he had to - then.

I thought getting to the gate would be easy, since we had about 45 minutes - wrong. You had to go through security twice and also go through customs. There were long lines and I was almost in tears trying to get to the plane on time. We were down to 10 minutes when I was in the last security line and some people let me go in front of them. I unfortunately had to give up my filtered water bottle I had been using all through Italy because I didn't realize I had to go through security again in Paris and had filled the bottle. There was so place to empty it, and time was running out, so I had to leave it. I hope to find another bottle because it was really useful.

I ran to the gate and got on the plane just a few minutes before it was scheduled to leave - and then we sat in the plane for an hour - another delay! We finally took off and again I was worried about the time I had between flights in Atlanta because I knew we had to get our checked in luggage and go through security and customs - again. The flight was 9 1/2 LONG hours. Mr. Seymour was stuck in his crate, but was quiet and good. I actually checked him a few times to be sure he was still breathing! Again I met some interesting women during the flight who had been to Italy for 13 days as a 40th birthday celebration for one of them.

When we got to Atlanta, we had just a little over an hour to get to the next flight. I didn't have time to take Seymour out of his crate, unfortunately. I headed through customs and then to get my luggage - and it didn't come! I have to say, I was expecting that to happen. That is why I hate to check my bags. The people told me to just get to my next flight - and again I am glad I had so much walking experience in Italy so my stamina helped get me through the airport. We got to the plane 5 minutes before it was to take off.

This flight was about 2 1/2 hours and this time Seymour was pressing his head against the top of the crate looking at me - in a pleading manner. I tried to calm him down and he did go back to sleep for an hour or so. He then found a way to unzip the top of his crate and climbed out. I finally let him sit on my lap and covered him with his sling so only the people in my row saw him. It is not allowed to let the animal out of the carrier. I let him stay out of his crate (remembering it is better to beg forgiveness than as permission) and he was happy just to lay in my lap.

We arrived in Austin and I immediately headed to the doggie area for Seymour to finally get his relief. He never had an accident in his crate, even though he was in it for about 17 hours!

I checked the luggage coming from Atlanta to just see if mine was there - it wasn't. So, I reported it to Delta. They found my luggage in Atlanta but it had come out on the number 10 carousel instead of numbers 3 and 4 that it was supposed to be on - and everyone else's was on! I was just happy they found it and they are supposed to be delivering it this morning. Hmmm, it is now noon and it's not here.

Back to last night. I went outside and didn't see my daughter, who was picking me up. I did see the first couple I met on the plane and borrowed their phone to call. My daughter had thought I was coming in the next night so she wasn't there! OK, I am glad I learned some patience in Italy, so I went back inside, got a salad to take home, gave Seymour more time in the doggie area, and waited.

She did come and had to wake up her baby to get there, but at least I got to see both boys and the ride home was great. We were happy to finally get home and I am still recuperating from the trip and the time change.

I do hope to go back to Italy in a year or two. And maybe my luggage will show up by then. I already miss a lot of things about Italy. For example, I made coffee in 2 different coffee pots this morning and neither lived up to the coffee I had in Italy. I am going to need to experiment. Seymour acted like a puppy, running around here. He was definitely happy to be home.

But, what a wonderful experience we had!!

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Monday, November 28, 2011

On our Way Home from Italy

This is just a quick update. We are sitting at the Rome airport waiting for the flight to Paris. Traveling to and from a place is never fun. We got to the Hilton yesterday and I found that we could walk easily to the T-1 Terminal where I needed to get my boarding pass. I got in line - long wait - and found that I could pay for Seymour - 200 euro, not $200 like it cost coming - but I couldn't get my boarding pass until the next day. I could get it online if I didn't have a dog, but even though they saw Seymour when I paid, that didn't count.

They told me to be at the airport by 4:30 am for the 7:20 am flight so I got there at 4:15 am. We waited in line - we were first - and when they opened, I found out that I was in the wrong line! I went to the other line, which was now very long and waited again. They told me I had to get my boarding pass and then get in line to check my one bag. Unfortunately, I couldn't get my boarding pass because there was no record in the system that I had paid for Seymour, even though I had the receipt they have me yesterday.

So, back in line and when I got 1/2 way through the line, they sent me to another line, which was luckily shorter. Now I have my boarding passes all the way home. My sister told me about the Seat Plus option they sell and I tried to check on it - but they said I could only do it online (can't do anything online with a dog) or wait until I get to Paris to see if they have any seats left. So far, no one has asked to look at any of Seymour's health records.

When I was waiting in line to check in at the Hilton I heard this conversation beside me. I actually tried to help, but it didn't work. This is how the conversation went:

American: What is 1 euro worth?
Counter lady: About 1 dollar and 40 cents
American: So 1 euro equals 1 dollar
Counter lady: No 1 euro equals 1 dollar and 40 cents
American: What is 1 dollar worth?
Counter lady: 70 cents
American: So it's like 1 euro to 1 dollar
Me: No, you will get about 70 cents in euro for your dollar
American: What is cents?
Me: They use cents like we use it.
American: Why do they have to use cents. We use cents.
Me: Fade out of the picture and leave it to the counter lady. It went on for a while longer.

It was never resolved and the American left in frustration. She was a kook and you would have thought she would have at least a minor understanding of the euro and dollar.

I will write one more blog from home - when I get there - which I really hope is this evening. I am a bit worried about Seymour because the flight home is longer that the flight here, so he will be in his crate for over 16 hours. I hope to have time to run him to the restroom somewhere, maybe in Atlanta but it is impossible to take him outside since we have little time between flights.

I can't believe that we will be sleeping in my bed tonight - if all goes well!

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Sunday, November 27, 2011

What I've Learned About Traveling to Italy with a Dog

A Baker's Dozen of Thoughts and Lessons:

1. Overall, northern Italy is more pet-friendly than southern Italy.

2. Rome is the least pet-friendly city I have visited in Italy, although it is still better than anywhere in the USA.

3. I could not have traveled without Seymour's sling. We used it everyday and it became Seymour's "safe" place when he got overwhelmed. He would just bury himself down in it for awhile

4. When it comes to taking a dog somewhere, it is better to ask forgiveness than ask permission. Often people didn't even notice Seymour when we were walking around or on public transportation. If they did notice and stopped us, it was often after I had seen a little of what I wanted to see.

5. When looking for a place to stay, if they state "no pets", ask anyway. All but 2 changed their mind and let us stay. It helps if they can see a picture of the pet and how small it is.

6. Even though NO ONE here cleans up after their dog (it is disgusting), I still cleaned up every time. I was glad when someone saw me because maybe it would give them a hint. I don't know what has happened to Seymour here but he goes "number 2" at least three times a day! Luckily grocery stores usually sell the poop bags. BTW, the websites I searched said that they all do clean up after their pets here. I don't know where they got that information.

7. It is very frustrating to me when places have those "no dog" signs up showing walking dogs and don't differentiate between dogs that are carried or in slings and those that are walking. I think they should allow well behaved dogs that are in carrying bags into those places. I wrote one email to Arezzo tourist folks and will write another to the Italy Tourism Director when I get home to give my thoughts. It never hurts to speak up.

8. Next trip, I will bring more of Seymour's chicken tender treats. They don't sell them here and I wasted a lot of money trying other treats that he won't eat. In fact, they have very limited dog food and treats. They actually have more choices for cats. There are lots of stray cats but they all look like they are being fed.

9. I brought the muzzle they said I needed and not one person asked me to show it to them. I would still bring it next time, but wouldn't get so stressed about it. I think it is more for dogs who act like they could be biters.

10. I used Seymour's folding water bowl all of the time
- until I lost it. I did bring a bigger folding bowl that I use for his water in the places we stay.

11. I mostly bought his dog food in the single serving size. It cost a little more but I didn't have to worry about trying to carry a partial can of dog food with me when we moved to our next location - or have to throw it out.

12. With all of the Pros and Cons of bringing a dog to Italy, the Pros won out. I loved seeing people - especially children - notice Seymour in his sling and start to smile and coo. I think he made many people's days better just by letting them pet him and talk to him. I know that more people started conversations with him than with me.

13. I would definitely bring him again.

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Around Rome

Instead of going back to the Coliseum area (I would probably make anyone who tried to travel with me crazy), I decided to check out the areas near our apartment. I took the tram a few stops one way and then a few stops the other direction to areas that looked like there were interesting things happening.

I have passed this area every time I take the tram to Termini but finally decided to stop today. I wish I knew something about it. I saw a sign on part of this wall that looked like part of it was a memorial. It looks like an old wall to the city or part of an old building:

This is the tram I've been taking every day to go to Termini, which is the main train station. It's usually two or three cars long.

Then I got back on the tram and went past our regular stop a few more stops. This area was another small neighborhood that was bustling with people and shops. I noticed that Saturday is cleaning day and you see people with their clothes hanging outside. They probably do their washing on Saturday because it takes a good two days for it to dry. Sunday is the day everyone seems to walk around, shop and visit. I went into a few shops and found a couple little things I needed, like a lint remover that I use to get dog hair off of things - including him. He ran right over when he saw it. I have a strange dog :)

Anyway, I saw this monument while I was walking around and it looks like it might be related to the war. Again, I wish I could read Italian - there a gun barrel or canon or something sticking out of one side.

I went to the local bar and got a couple of pastries - very yummy and only 1 euro each. Then we went back to the apartment and I have started slowly going through my stuff seeing what I need to pack and what I can get rid of. Tomorrow morning we head to the Hilton at the airport for our last night in Italy. I am already having a bit of separation anxiety :( but it will be nice to see friends and family.

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Saturday, November 26, 2011

Rome - Trastevere Quarter

Today we ventured to the Trastevere Quarter or also called the "left bank" where the locals hang out. Of course, the tourists have also found it. It is a quaint area of Rome with small streets filled with bars and shops. This is my kind of place. It's like a small town within Rome.

Here are a couple of the streets with shops:

The statues:

I liked these Christmas decorations:

A few of the buildings and churches:

This is just one wall of a church I went it - another beautifully decorated interior

It looked like there was a car rally - I can't remember what these cars are called but they are cute. I saw one that had a bumper sticker that said "my other transportation is a back pack"

The main square:

Cool door knockers:

This is the first place in Italy where I have seen a "no dog" sign at the post office. I will be summarizing my "dog travels" in a separate blog but for sure Rome is the least dog-friendly place I have been. Besides not getting on the tour bus or in the local grocery store, I have gone in a few places with Seymour and although no one has said anything, I see "the look". Often they are too polite to say anything.

After roaming around this area for a few hours, we headed back to the apartment to make a late lunch and relax. Tomorrow I may get back to the Colosseum area. Since I went to St Peter's Square and toured the Vatican last time, I will probably skip it this trip.

Last night, as I was coughing in bed, I heard someone in the next apartment doing the same thing. The walls are thin here - and it seems that I am not the only one with "the crud" in Rome :)

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Friday, November 25, 2011

Odds and Ends from Rome

Today I plan to just hang out in the apartment except for walking Seymour. I found out that the washer is not also a dryer. I found this out by pressing a different button - and having the clothes go through another wash cycle, and then going on line to look for the owners manual. The manual says it is just a washer! So, now I have clothes hanging around the house. I did find a short clothes line outside of the kitchen window with room for about 3 items on it. So much for my excitement about a dryer!!

Today, I thought I'd just cover some basics about what I've seen and learned in Italy.

1. It is strange seeing police and bus drivers smoking on the job, but it is very common.

2. I mentioned the receipt issue here; both in northern and southern Italy they just about chase you out the door if you don't take your receipt. There must be a big fine if you are caught not counting all of your sales.

3. In northern Italy, in each place I stayed, I had to give all of my personal info to fill out a form that they said they had to have in case an inspector comes. In southern Italy, I have not be asked to do that at all. I just walk in the door, get my keys and I'm good to go.

4. Everywhere - public and private - bathrooms have toilet bowl brushes for you to clean up your "mess" yourself. The bowls are always clean.

5. Purple or plum is the color of Napoli - and maybe more of south Italy. You see lots of people wearing it. Now it makes sense that when I said I liked the color purple in my language class in Montepulciano, the instructor said that you will never see anyone in purple there. So, there is a big rivalry between northern and southern Italy that I don't fully understand yet.

6. I still don't understand why there are fruit trees and olive trees filled with fruit and no one seems to be taking it. Is there that much excess here?

7. I never found out why people in northern Italy put those full water bottles in front of their houses. I don't see that in southern Italy.

8. Lots of lottery stuff here and many bars have 2 to 4 slot machines. We all want to win money! I haven't purchased a lottery ticket yet, but I might before I leave. I'll have to figure out how to say it!

9. I think this also happens in the big cities in the USA, but you often see people getting on the trams playing music or just begging for money. I guess they get on for free because it wouldn't be worth it to have to purchase a ticket since they don't seem to collect much - if any -money.

10. Fashion is big here. Boots are really popular with women right now - mostly calf or knee high black ones. I do love the look of men with their scarves - pretty sexy. The men also use man purses that work well with the scarves! Scarves are big with women, also. The other big trend with women is wearing those skin tight jeans or tights with tops. There definitely is a sexy look to the clothes here. If i were a lot younger and thinner, I will certainly be wearing their styles.

11. Speaking of "sexy", I couldn't sleep last night and turned on the TV and there is a LOT of sex stuff on at night. Some stations have the full frontal views and some soft porn. Hey, I was just doing my research here since my cold medicine wasn't working!

12. There is a Model channel here and they show fashion shows from
Fashion Week, which was held last week. It is interesting to see the various designers lines. Some are very flowy and ruffled this year. None have clothes much above the knee. Dresses and skirts are "in" and pants, although still around, are not shown in the fashion lines as much. See how much I am learning from Italian TV?

13. With all of the TV stations here, and some shows in English (no particular English stations), there is not one news show in English. In northern Italy, I did not see all of the American sitcoms that I see here; and the only English shows they had were news.

14. I keep forgetting that you have to go to the desk and pay for your coffee and croissant BEFORE you go to the counter. Sometimes they indulge me and let order my stuff and then send me to pay for it.

15. There are LOTS of police out here, sometimes standing around in groups of 5 or 6. I'm not sure if that is always true and I'm not sure what they are doing.

16. I was asked about the beds here; most of them are firm and pretty comfortable. As I said before, it's the pillows that I can't sleep with. Italians must have different heads and necks than I have. I do not know how they sleep on those things!

17. I really like that most cities have the large trash containers labeled for paper, plastic, food/compost, and then the non-recyclables. When they do have trash pick up, people put out the various SMALL bags on different days. So, maybe Monday and Wednesday they pick up paper and plastic and Tuesday and Thursday, they pick up the non-recyclables. I almost always divide up my trash and take it to those large bins on the street. Easy!

Hopefully tomorrow I will be out and about again with more pictures to share.

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Thursday, November 24, 2011

A Great Thanksgiving in Rome - Sick and All

The "natural" medicine I got from the pharmacist hasn't helped at all. I had one more allergy pill left and finally took it at about 3 am so I could breath and therefore, sleep. I still got up at about 7:30, walked Seymour and watched a little TV. They have two House Hunters-type shows here, one is in Italian and one is British; so I watched those this morning. Then at about 10:30 we headed into Rome center, by tram and then subway. Armed with my map, I found Trevi Fountain (I've been spelling it wrong) and although I look horrible and feel bad, I had someone take a picture of me throwing a coin into the fountain:

Here are some other pictures of my favorite fountain:

We then walked over to the Pantheon. It is amazing to see these things in the center of a bustling city:

I decided to have my big meal at a restaurant in front of here. I didn't splurge too much. I had the special which included bruschetta which had fresh tomatoes and basil on garlic bread, spaghetti and a glass of wine for only 10 euro. They also charge a table fee of 2 euro and even though you don't have to tip here, I added an extra euro (big spender) so my whole meal was only 13 euro. We sat outside and I started talking to the people at the next table. They were from Florida and their daughter has been living in Germany for the past 2 years but her husband's job is ending so they are heading back to the USA in a month. It was almost like we had a Thanksgiving dinner together. It was so much fun and they were great people. That was a bonus to my day.

Then we headed to the Piazza Navona. They call it the city's most iconic square. It was built on the ruins of an arena from 86 AD and was paved over in the 15th century.

There are street performers everywhere but I particularly liked this one:

A few more pics:

They have a bike borrowing program, where if you buy a Roma card, you are also entitled to borrow a bike from one location and leave it in another. this location doesn't have any bikes left but gives you an idea of how it it set up. Pretty cool.

I was getting tired so decided to take the bus back to the Termini - but again got on the wrong bus and ended up at the Colosseum and Roman Forum area. While on the bus I saw one of the guys dressed in Roman clothes. This was a big day for entertainment. He turned around before I could get a good picture:

When we got of the bus, we walked around and I only had a chance to take one picture before the battery on my camera died. Here's my picture:

I know my way around the Colosseum and found the subway stop to take us back to Termini and then on to the tram to get home. Oh, and once we got to Termini I stopped in the supermarket to get some snacks and then on to the Farmacia AGAIN to get more medicine. This time I told them I had allergies because the worst part is the constantly running nose and not being able to breath and therefore not being able to sleep. So, they gave me something new and said I can't have alcohol with it. No Limoncello tonight!

I currently have a load of clothes in the washer. I just pressed a bunch of buttons and the washer started. I hope that will also start the dryer. I am so looking forward to having clothes dried in a dryer after 3 months of being here. If I accidentally put the water on hot again, the rest of my clothes will all be grey. Oh well, I can survive for a few more days with dingy looking clothes.

All in all, it has been a different, but wonderful Thanksgiving.

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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Touring Rome

Despite my dang cold, I decided to go into Rome to do the bus tour. I have that discount card from doing the tour in Napoli. When I got to the ticket office, they said that THAT particular bus tour was having problems so they sold me a ticket for a different bus that was the same price - 18 euro for 48 hours. OK, it sounded fine. So, I went to get on the bus and the driver said that Seymour needed a ticket! Not again! I tried to tell him that the ticket people didn't think he needed a ticket, but no luck. So, I got off the bus and a guy who works for the tour bus company said, "wait for the next bus". So, I waiting and when I went to get on, they told me the headsets weren't working. Hmmm, they let everyone else on the bus with the "headsets not working". I was a bit frustrated and went and got my money back. I checked on the original tour bus and found that they were having problems and even though they sold 48 hour tickets, the bus was only going to run today and not tomorrow.

After a few deep breaths and bad words, I decided to skip the tour buses and just go on the subway to the various sites. I went to the Spanish Steps, the capital square and a number of other places. I found that I liked this better since I could go down the side streets, check out shops and see things that weren't on the tour. Here are some pics:

First this is a church right next to the Termini train station:

Here is a tree in the train station:

Here are the Spanish Steps. They are usually packed with people.

I really liked that it wasn't real crowded and that I got to see Christmas decorations along the way. This is the capital square (or something like that)

There was a small band set up here playing old American classics - that Seymour hated, as usual! I had to grab him to keep him from climbing out of his sling. It would be interesting to see where he would go if he did leave. His sense of direction has gotten worse these last few weeks - and that problem started BEFORE he fell out of his sling.

We walked down a street with all famous designer shops. Here are a couple:

This is more excavation they are doing:

Some other buildings that are probably famous, and some side streets:

Oops, back to the square:

I have too many pictures to post, but you get the idea. Tomorrow or Friday I plan to go to the Trivi Fountain, my favorite place in Rome, and a few other places. I'm actually glad that the tour bus didn't work out. I got exercise, saw things I wouldn't have seen otherwise, and saved some money! That is what I have learned from this trip. Things don't always go the way you plan - and I wasn't a big planner anyway - so don't get upset (for too long) and enjoy the surprise alternatives.

One last picture that made me laugh. To set it up. people have ingenious ways of trying to get money from you here, not unlike the USA. This was one way to possibly get money delivered to you without leaving your house! I saw this just a few doors down from where I'm staying. It was an old metal door with a slot cut in and the word "posta" written above it. Anyone who thinks this is a place to mail letters probably deserves to lose them.

Wishing you all a wonderful Thanksgiving tomorrow!

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