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Friday, October 1, 2010

WENT TO SLEEP IN NAPLES AND WOKE UP IN PHILADELPHIA?


Ah, travel...you either love it or hate it and sometimes, you get both emotions all on the same trip or even the same day. Matthew and I left Naples with plenty of time to get to the airport and start the long journey home. I checked around and saw no young kids, so I was pretty happy. It's a long flight—9 hours, and we had decided that on this trip, we'd both try sitting in aisle seats so we could get in and out easily. I often get stuck in the middle if there are 3 seats together, and I don't like that seat.
So we get on and we have 2 seats in the aisle, sort of across from each other, and I have only one other seat next to me at the window A man about our age sits at that seat and Matthew makes some comment to him about sitting next to me, so he gets the idea that we're friendly, I guess. Before we're anywhere near taking off, he starts telling me he was on a five-day cruise in Croatia, is from Rancho Cordova, so his flying directly to Sacramento from Phily, has to go back to work on Monday, his cousin is from Switzerland and called him to say he wanted to cruise Croatia with his wife and his cousin, so would pay for the whole trip if he'd take time off work. All this before we taxied....
He had stowed his large backpack under the seat and I said there was room overhead, but he said he doesn't let it out of his sight and proceeded to haul out a huge laptop...and tell me that after we're in the air, he'd pull it back out and show me his pictures of the cruise. Oh boy. I had mentioned early on about how I had this 2 year old cry for 6 hours on the flight coming over, and he promised not to cry—but he didn't promise not to talk my ear off. I turned around to look at Matthew, who was sitting next to an older QUIET Spanish couple, and he just rolled his eyes upward.
I never got the guy's name, but I know he's a truck driver in Stockton, driving long hauls ruined his marriage, so he's divorced, has a girlfriend who has a 13 year old, is very into model trains and volunteers in Old Sac at the train museum, and need I say more? Even when I tried to read, he talked to me. I had a few moments of quiet when he fell asleep or the few times I dozed off briefly....
Now you're probably thinking this is the hate part of travel...no, it gets better. Or worse, as the case may be.
We get in to Philadelphia and have to go through customs, immigration, etc. The best was a woman from US Air waiting for our group as we deplaned asking if we were going to SFO...we followed her and she brought us to everywhere we needed to go to get to customs, etc and then we were off to our gate, noting on the way our flight was delayed by 1.5 hours. We sat where we could watch the rain pouring down wondering where oh where our plane was. It finally arrived—a full flight ready to board now 2 hours late for takeoff. They got us all on board, and I finally fell asleep before we taxied. That is, IF we had taxied. About 15 min of sitting on the ground waiting at the gate, and it was announced that the flight had been canceled because the crew was over the time limit for working and if they'd been able to get us going, we would have been okay...
Well, all of us were told to deplane, then get in line at customer service for re-booking tomorrow. The line was huge by the time we got off the plane and moving at a snail's pace. They had 5 people trying to find flights for all of us, and as it turns out, for many other people from flights that missed connections or were canceled. We heard there was another area for customer service at gate B, so Matthew took off to see what was up there, leaving me in line with my carry-on and his backpack. I had a lovely conversation with a woman who was also in line while her husband tried a different line at one of the few open gates nearby. They're from Marin and turned out we were on the same flight from Venice (first, Naples to Venice for us that morning). She was surprised we'd flown in from Italy also and asked why I looked “so good” for having flown all day. I told her, “I don't look good at all. I usually look much better than this!”
When Matthew didn't come back for a long time, I grabbed all our stuff and told her I might be back, but had to find him to see if he was having any success at the other gate. I ran into him returning and he said he'd been paged—Mr. Clark to gate 30, which is where we'd been originally. I didn't hear any page, and when we got there, no one was there. We were about to return to line when I saw the woman from Marin with her husband at the gate getting boarding passes, so we checked with them, and they were getting out Friday at 3 pm.
By the time we got up to the front of that line, the only option was waiting for the 6 pm flight to SFO-- we tried for Oakland and San Jose, but nothing else worked. Everything was full since they'd had to rebook everyone. But when she started to book us and put our names into the computer, we'd magically been booked for a 7:30 am flight to LAX and then on to SFO and home at 1:30! We have no idea how that happened and could have saved lots of stress and time if we'd known. We got vouchers for the Sheraton 4-Points Hotel and a whole $20 for food—dinner and breakfast, but at least we had a place to sleep and a free shuttle to get us there.
Our luggage was unable to join us, so we got toothbrushes and paste at the hotel, which was a pretty nice place. We had to laugh—okay, we weren't really laughing at this point—but we were given the last room available, which was handicapped and had a shower just like what we'd left in Italy with the hand-held shower and a curtain that didn't keep the water from flooding the bathroom. We decided to go next door to their sister site for a drink and a nosh...but when we got there, I was overtaken with exhaustion, so only had water and shared a trio of sliders with Matthew. He had no such problem with drinking and ordered a Manhattan (that was weird with fruit in it) and a large beer.
I washed and blew-dry my undies so I could stand myself in the morning, and we went to bed at midnight Phily time. I loved the bed—oh, we each had our own—because it had a wonderful comforter on it to snuggle under. I slept a full 4 hours, then waited for the wake-up call at 5:15 am...they suggested being there early in case the line for security was long.
As we boarded our flight, we noticed the family with the 4 young kids, and they ended up sitting right across from us. I went to the flight attendant, told him I'd taught for 35 years, so don't hate kids, but I'd sat next to a screaming 2 year old on the way over, our flight had been canceled yesterday and we only had a few hours sleep, and I needed not to be near the kids on this flight, so could he possibly see if there's any available seats up front? Fortunately, the flight wasn't full, so he found us the first row behind first class! Unfortunately, I was sitting across the aisle from another 2 year old! Love/hate....
Another whiny little girl with parents who traded off dealing with her. Mom did a pretty good job at first of keeping her relatively quiet, but when the dad took over, forget it. She was loud, then so was he, then she never stopped till we started to descend. Ugh. Once again, I never got any sleep.
We had to transfer in LA to United, which meant getting down to ground transportation, finding the A bus, then getting to terminal 7 for the flight leaving in about 45 min. We had to go through security again and more lines. We met a young couple from Madrid who heard me asking how to get to United for th SFO flight, which they were also on. They'd been in the same boat with us in Phily, so we all joined together. Then when we got to SFO, the 4 of us, plus another man who also came from Phily went in search of our luggage. I started by going to customer service on an employee's recommendation, stood in line for about 15-20 min only to find out she had no information on luggage and we had to get to baggage. The United baggage people told us their computer showed our luggage wasn't handled by them and then couldn't find it anywhere on the world system. The 5 of us then high-tailed it to terminal 3 via the airtrain and found our luggage. The young couple—Marta and Carlos—were so cute. They were here a year ago and loved the area, so saved money all year so they could return for 3 months. I gave Marta my card and told her to call if they needed anything or wanted to see the coast while Matthew was getting Carlos' email address in case he knew of a place for them to stay while they're here.
We're so glad to finally be home! We made it after two long days and our cats have been chatting with us ever since. And now I've become a blog addict, so might continue this....

These are double mozzerella pizza from Rustica Pizza Da Michele which has been there since 1848---and also where Julia Roberts ate her pizza in Eat Pray Love.  And didn't I say my blog would show more of Italy than that movie?  Well?

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