Throwback Thursday: Summer 1985

All this talk of travel has me remembering my first real solo travel experience. In the summer of 1985, just before I graduated from college, I went on a self-guided tour of Europe.

It may sound extravagant, but when I think back to how scrimped and saved my money and how I traveled sleeping on trains, and in hostels, I know that I would never want to have that experience again. And yet, I would not trade that experience for anything.

I was 22 years old. I was working as a waitress while attending college. My friend, who was studying French,  wanted to go to Europe that summer and speak with the natives. I thought that sounded great!  I was nursing a broken heart and the thought of traipsing through 11 countries in six weeks sounded a lot more appealing than staying in a Southern California and running the risk of bumping into my ex-boyfriend and his new girlfriend.

I read the travel books, planned our itinerary, applied for my passport and hostel card and, in a big splurge, bought a First Class Eurail pass. My friend and I planned to save money on accommodations by staying in hostels, and sleeping on trains. We heard how 2nd class cars were crowded with backpack-toting-college-aged cigarette- smoking students so we figured it was worth the extra expense if we could travel in a train car where we didn’t have to sleep standing up, breathing second-hand smoke.

In this photo, from the looks of the clean, roomy train compartment, I would say it was money well spent.

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Traveling this way was a once in a lifetime experience. We had a planned itinerary, but we remained spontaneous along the way. We decided to take an overnight train from Amsterdam to East Berlin after hearing it was a great destination for the budget traveller. We met people along the way who opened up their homes to us. In Rome we spent the night in a convent after a local priest learned we needed a night’s lodging. As we crossed over the English channel from France to catch our flight home out of Heathrow Airport, we met a friendly Englishman and his family who put us up for a night and then drove us to the airport the next day.

At 22 years old, I was trusting and still naive enough to believe that being in another country meant I was free from harm’s way. Sadly, I don’t know that if I traveled this way again I would have the same rich experience filled with random encounters of both hospitality and adventure.

 

Wordless Wednesday

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Number 22: Travel to Italy (Part 1)

If you have been around my blog before, you know that this has been a pretty eventful year for me. In May, I celebrated a milestone birthday.  In preparation for my half-century anniversary of life, I made a list of 50 Things to Do Before my 50th Birthday.  Number 22 on that list was Travel to Italy.   I didn’t get to finish everything on my list, but in April of this year I managed to complete Number 22.  I tried to keep a record of my trip as I traveled,  but time was short so I never finished writing about my trip,  until now.  Thanks to NaBloPoMo, I have the motivation to get it done. Here’s the first leg of my trip:

LAX to ROME 

We arrived in Rome in spite of ourselves.  After making our travel preparations, which, by the way did not include actually planning our sight-seeing itinerary, we nearly missed our flight.  We arrived at the airport early and found a seat near the gate.  We began to wonder why it was taking so long to board our flight.   I was on the phone with Diego, who had called us for the 5th time since we left home, when all of sudden, just minutes before our flight departed, I heard the announcement, “Last Call for Mejia.” I then realized the airline changed the gate number.  I abruptly ended the phone call and raced to catch our flight!

Whew! We made it to the plane. Barely.

Whew! We made it to the plane. Barely.

Once we boarded the plane, we settled in for the long flight to Toronto and then onto Rome. I managed to sleep a bit while Juan stayed wide awake almost the entire 15 hour flight. When we arrived in Rome we found our rental car and tried to get our bearings.  Juan, my techie husband, did all kinds of research in how to use our smart phones for international travel.  He figured that he would use our unlocked iPhones and buy a SIM card for data usage.  This would allow us to use our phones as GPS devices.  It sounded too techie for me to be concerned about, but had I known how much we would need our smart phones as a GPS from the moment we drove out the airport, I might have given it more thought.

The ride from the airport to our hotel was enough to make me start drinking and made Juan start biting his fingernails again.  We were completely turned around, and had no idea where we were going.  We were tired,  hungry and we had to use the bathroom.  Juan drove and we kept circling the same roundabout looking for our hotel.  We finally gave up and decided we needed to eat lunch.  That was the best move we made.  We found a wonderful trattoria with delicious food, and oddly enough, no women in the restaurant. We ordered wine with our meal and began to relax and get into vacation mode.  Hey, who needed a GPS? We were on an adventure. In Italy!

Our first meal in Italy.

Our first meal in Italy.

By the time we finished our wine and our meal we were so relaxed all we could think of was getting to our hotel so we could nap.  We left the trattoria and got turned around walking to our car.  Without a GPS we were in trouble. Still, we tried to stay positive and paused long enough to take in our first views of Italy.

A vista from somewhere in Italy. If we had a GPS we would have known where we were.

A vista from somewhere in Italy. If we had a GPS we would have known where we were.

Back in the car we tried again to find our hotel.  Another three times around the same roundabout and we wanted to cry, or get a divorce. Juan wanted to stop at a phone store and buy the SIM cards so we could use a GPS, but we could not find a phone store that took credit cards. We drove around looking for an ATM.   At last, we found cash, bought the SIM card and were able to use our phones as a GPS.  Several hours after we landed in Rome, we made it to our hotel.  Our hotel was located about 25 minutes by train outside of Rome,  in Frascati.

Enjoying a rest near our hotel in Frascati

Enjoying a rest near our hotel in Frascati

 

Frascati, Italy

Frascati, Italy

We checked into our hotel,  fell into bed and slept.  We woke up two hours later. By the time we were ready to start exploring it was already 9:30 at night. Even with a GPS, after all we had been through navigating from the airport,  we knew we did not want to drive into Rome at night for a meal. Besides, we were hungry and when I am hungry, I am cranky.  Frascati is a quaint town with many restaurants that close early.  We walked and walked looking for an open restaurant.

Frascati, Italy. Near the main plaza in town.

Frascati, Italy. Near the main plaza in town.

Thankfully,  we found a local pizzeria and enjoyed our first pizza of the trip. I think the pizza was really good, but I was so cranky hungry by that time, I can’t say for sure.  At least the service was wonderful.  Our waiter Alessandro was charming and friendly.  Fed, and nearly rested, we returned to our hotel where I watched The Walking Dead and Juan slept.  The next day Juan and I would start our tour of the Eternal City.

The first of many pizzas on our trip to Italy.

The first of many pizzas on our trip.

 

 

 

Firsts

It’s Monday, the 18th day of NaNloPoMo, and I am feeling a bit uninspired.  I looked at today’s writing prompt to get me going.  The prompt is to blog about a post you didn’t publish. I have a couple of those, but not many. Actually, I have many more unwritten posts that I probably won’t be able to publish, for the same reasons I haven’t written them.  The subject is too raw, and the stories are personal not just to me, but to others in my family.

I looked through my blog posts marked “private” and I found this one. When I wrote it my heart ached for my step-daughter.  I felt so helpless, like most parents feel when they see their child sick or sad. At the time, I wrote the post for myself and yet I knew that I would not be able to hit “publish” because like my other unwritten, unpublished blog posts, the subject matter was still too fresh.

Now, after reading this post, I feel enough time has passed that I can finally hit “publish.”

 

As parents, we’ve experienced many “firsts.” We had a first in our house last night. Our first daughter, with her first love, experienced her first broken heart. As parents, it was one of those times watching your child hurt and realizing you can do little about it, except offer some comforting words and the comforting food of a cheeseburger, fries and chocolate shake.We’ve all been there.  But, somehow seeing your child go through it makes it so much more painful. As we talked about her heartbreak, I found myself amazed at her level of maturity, insight and sensitivity.  The tears rolled down her face and she sobbed, feeling bad for being the one to break the news and knowing that in doing so, she may have broken a heart and ended a friendship.I have been on both ends of the spectrum, and in my opinion it is worse to be the one hearing the message, than the one delivering the message.  Maybe that’s because when I was the messenger I wasn’t as attached to the person, or maybe I just wasn’t as sensitive as our 14 year old daughter. I was also amazed, stunned actually, that we were talking about it. She doesn’t share her feelings easily, so perhaps it’s a testament to the amount of pain she felt that she was able to share it with her dad and I. Or maybe she just has a more open relationship about these things than I ever did with my parents. It could also be when I was a teen, I under-estimated my parents and didn’t think they would understand.

As much as it hurt to see her suffer, I also felt gratitude. I felt grateful that we have such an insightful, loving daughter.  Grateful that I felt close to her in sharing such heartache. Grateful that she confided in me, her mom and her dad. Most of all I felt grateful in knowing that this too shall pass and as beautiful and wonderful as she is, she will experience love again. This is one thing I know to be true. I am grateful to her for reminding me of that too.

 

Doing Laundry with The Walking Dead

My Sunday nights used to be all about folding laundry while watching The Amazing Race. I fantasized about racing around the globe and winning a million dollars, as I paired socks and folded underwear.  I was so caught up in my fantasy that I missed out on a lot of good TV and found myself bingeing on Breaking Bad to stay current and feel a part of things when Juan and I were invited to attend a finale party.  My fantasy racing around the world made me late to the party at Downton Abbey and almost caused me to miss out on another popular TV series, The Walking Dead.

I never thought I would enjoy a show about a zombie apocalypse, and I scoffed at the idea of such lowbrow TV. How could a fan of Downton Abbey find anything remotely interesting about a television series about survivors of a zombie apocalypse? The series is set in the southern USA after a zombie epidemic wipes out most of the population, leaving only the undead and those fit enough to outsmart and outlast the brain eating walkers. Even though The Walking Dead’s premise did not appeal to me initially, I heard so much buzz about the show I decided to give it a try.

Before we left on our trip to Italy Juan loaded up his IPad with movies and the first season of The Walking Dead.  Since I can sleep almost anywhere, I caught up on much needed rest on our flight to Rome. Occasionally I would wake up and glance over at Juan with his eyes wide open, fixated on his iPad.  By the time we landed in Rome I was feeling only a little tired but Juan was both fatigued and pumped up on adrenaline from watching the first few episodes of The Walking Dead.

On our first day in Rome we toured the Eternal City and at night when jet lag kept me awake, I watched The Walking Dead.  Exhausted from the flight, Juan was finally able to sleep while I caught up with him on the AMC series. From then on, we watched episode after episode while we waited for trains, at night in our hotel room and on the long flight home.  When we returned from our trip we were hooked on the series and quickly watched the entire 3 seasons on iTunes or Netflix.  By the time the fourth season premiered last month, Juan and I were among the many fans waiting to see how Rick and his Zombie apocalypse survivors were faring.  We have not been disappointed.

The fourth season has had a lot of plot development.  As is typical for the show, the creators have not been afraid to write off characters who have had major roles throughout the show.  That’s all I’m going to say about that.  I don’t want to be a spoiler for this who haven’t hooked into the show yet.

Juan and I have to careful talking about the show and spoiling it for our 15 year-old son Nico.  Even though Nico has never been a fan of horror or scary films, he was intrigued by the premise of The Walking Dead.  I told him the show was more about survival and the dynamics of a group trying to make it through an apocalypse. A fan of The Hunger Games,  Nico enjoys reading and watching science fiction stories, and playing strategy games. Nico decided to give the series a try and after the first episode was hooked. Now, in addition to his talk about superpowers, he has begun discussing how he would survive a Zombie apocalypse.  This week I was doing some shopping and I found this:

An appropriate Christmas gift for a teenage fan of board games and zombies?

An appropriate Christmas gift for a teenage fan of board games and zombies?

Needless to say, I bought it as a Christmas gift. Am I creating a monster?  I hope not. Once Nico catches up watching previous seasons, maybe he and I will be able to watch the series together.  Right now, for me, watching The Walking Dead on Sunday nights sure makes folding laundry a lot more exciting.

 

Do you watch The Walking Dead?

 

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