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Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Taglavore’s Travel Tales

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Despite a few bumps, overseas trip was fun

I couldn’t do it.

A few weeks ago, I told you about my goal to pack a carry-on – and only a carry-on – for a 15-day trip to Italy and Greece. It was the first time either myself or Nancy – who began the journey as my significant other – had been overseas.

We didn’t want the hassle of lugging several suitcases through airports, loading and unloading them onto multiple trains, and in and out of taxi trunks.

I tried. I really did try. But it soon became evident my desire to feel clean and fresh – by wearing clean and fresh clothes each day – was bigger than my carry-on.

So, at (close to) the last minute, I called an audible.

We pulled, carried and rolled four suitcases – along with an over-the-shoulder CPAP case (Nancy would want me to point out the CPAP is for me, not her) – a computer case and a “catch all” bag.

It didn’t take long to realize this was not our best decision.

First stop: Venice. The water taxi driver didn’t get the memo that he was supposed to take us from the airport directly to our hotel, which has a boat dock. That would have been so easy. Instead, he dropped us off in what looked like the middle of town, with tourists crowding narrow walkways and alleys.

It looked like a scene from a bad vacation movie – Nancy and I navigating steps, turns and poor directions, all the while looking like representatives for a Samsonite trunk show.

And did you know it gets hot in Italy? We know.

And it gets even hotter when you’re like pack mules huffing and puffing up and down inclines.

Thankfully, and surprisingly, that was our only transportation issue. Six flights. Five hotels. Two train rides. No lost luggage. A travel miracle.

Speaking of flights, Nancy and I were offered the opportunity to upgrade our seats on the nine-plus-hour return trip from London to Dallas. We splurged and coughed up the $700 (Nancy) and 50,000 (me) frequent flyer miles. The lie-flat seats? Pretty cool. The meals you would expect to eat in a fancy restaurant? Nice. Would we do it again? Maybe. Couldn’t I have watched the movies “Moneyball” and “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” from our original Premium Class seats and saved the money and miles?

While this was intended to be a vacation – a once-in-a-lifetime trip that Nancy had always wanted to take – it also became an educational trip. Here are a few things learned while traveling Europe, none of which have to do with the Acropolis (which we visited, not knowing what we were looking at), the Colosseum or the Vatican:

• Don’t leave your hotel room without at least one euro (the value of which is a little less than a dollar). That’s how much it costs to use a public restroom – or as they are called in Europe – water closets. You don’t pay, you don’t go. I am a 57-year-old male. I carried a lot of euros.

• Folks over there aren’t big on air conditioning. Despite the temperature being in the 80s and 90s outside, it was also in the 80s and 90s inside most buildings. I’m guessing their utility bill isn’t very high.

• A cover charge to eat? Yes. Many restaurants charge you for the privilege of eating at their fine (fine or not, they still charge) establishment. It’s called a “Coperto.” The charge is listed as a separate item on your bill at some eateries. At others, it’s figured into the price of your meal. Regardless, you pay it.

• You know how when you go to certain restaurants here, the server automatically brings you a basket of bread? Not there. If you want bread, you must ask for it. And you must pay for it. No freebies. And don’t expect butter with your bread. Marmalade, maybe, but no butter.

• No free water, either. You pay to quench your thirst, anywhere from $3 to $5, for a large bottle.

• Even overseas, folks love the Tigers. I wore two LSU shirts. Each time, I got a “Geaux Tigers!”

• Santorini is a nice place to get engaged. I have the pictures to prove it.

And about that food … Italy is, as you would expect, a pizza- and pastalover’s paradise.

Greece is heaven for salad lovers like me. So, it’s no surprise I gained five pounds. From now on, it will be tough to order a pizza from the Hut or from a guy named “Johnny.” And the next time I see a Mediterranean salad on a local restaurant’s menu? I will probably order it, but my expectations will be tempered.

Yes, we learned many things visiting Venice, Florence and Santorini. Above all, I learned how ignorant I had been.

Before we left the comfort zone of the United States, I half-joked about my fear of being kidnapped and showing up on your television in one of those hostage videos. I was concerned we might be arrested just because we were Americans. When driving our rental car, I feared we would be pulled over for going one mile over the speed limit and sent to a jail cell more secure than the one Andy and Barney watched over in Mayberry.

Boy, was I wrong. Boy, do I feel dumb. Virtually everyone we encountered – many who didn’t speak English (or very good English) – could not have been nicer. Sure, it may have had to do with the fact we were spending money as tourists. But if the rudest person in 15 days is a lady at the Rome airport’s information desk who got mad because I asked her – twice – which counter we needed to go to check in for a flight, that’s a win.

The most important thing I learned? We are all different, yet we are all the same.

Our accents may be different (Nancy couldn’t say more than three words before being asked, “Are you from the South?”), but our wishes are not. We all want someone to take our picture. We all want a good meal. We all want help putting heavy suitcases on top of a train luggage rack.

We all want peace. And a larger carry-on. If you have specific questions about Tony and Nancy’s trip – such as where they stayed, what they did, and the travel agent they used – you may email: tonyt11563@yahoo.com.

ON STANDS NOW!

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