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Monday, July 19, 2010

End of Italy time, and return home

On Wednesday night a big group of people had dinner at Il Pomarancio, a new place just across the Tiber from the historic center of Umbertide. It goes along with a nice park, having outdoor tables, where we ate. We understood it to be mainly a pizzeria, and they do have a full selection of pizzas, and I had one, but they also have ambitious dishes. Peeking into the inside part of the restaurant, it looked posh.

We had tentatively planned to take the 6 a.m. SULGA bus from Umbertide to Rome airport, but my parents said they were ready to have a taxi do the trip; it was fine for this to happen, given their age and the weight of their luggage. On Thursday morning, we had the ride for €250. That went well, taking us to the airport Hilton, where I had a stay on points.

On my previous stay there, I had asked to be assured that we could get a room that could accommodate three adults, since the Web site information was ambiguous, and was assured this could be done. I checked in and was told to call if the third bed wasn't there. We went to the room, with twin beds, and didn't find any hidden third bed, so we called, and eventually housekeeping set up the third bed.

There we were in comfort and with the benefit of air conditioning, and with the hotel's free bus service to Rome. My mother preferred to sleep through the day; my father and I decided to get lunch at the Ciao cafeteria in Terminal 3 (I had gnocchi al pesto) and take the hotel shuttle, leaving on even-numbered hours, into Rome at 2 p.m. There was a full-sized bus with just a few people going in at that hour. With the lighter siesta-hour traffic, it still took about 45 minutes to get to the bus's destination on via del Teatro Marcello, near the Campidoglio.

When I looked up shows in Rome, my father showed an interest in a show of followers of Caravaggio, at Palazzo Ruspoli. I described the distance from our stop as over a kilometer, although you don't really notice it in those terms when you walk in a city. We thought we would take a city bus, which generally requires buying tickets first; one would think ticket-buying places would be easy to spot right in the center of Rome, but there were no staffed spots at the big end-of-line area by Piazza Venezia, and a newsstand didn't sell them. We started up via del Corso, past one bus stop, before we found a tabaccaio that sold tickets. I said that by this point we would only be riding the bus for one stop, so we'd just buy tickets for the return trip, and walk on to the show, which we did on this very hot day, and I don't know how much of an exertion it was for my father.

We got to the show, which was a disappointment, showing how the followers of Caravaggio didn't live up to the master. For something else to see in the area, I suggested the Ara Pacis Augustae, the ancient altar in Richard Meier's controversial new building. It was interesting to see. We were hardly Slow Traveling; we aimed then to get back to catch the 5 p.m. bus to the hotel. There was a wait for the right bus; we finally got bus 81, the validating machine in front wasn't working, and a lady directed us to a machine in back. That bus also had a ticket selling machine, but I'm not sure if it's known which buses have that.

My father was interested in stopping at a bar if possible; there was a bar across from the bus stop to the Hilton; when we sat outside, each glass of (mediocre) wine cost €7. When the bus turned up, there was the danger of crossing the street in that area, but we made it. In the ride back, I looked with pleasure at the many aspects of Rome on the route, from historic to peripheral, trying to take in the essence of Rome.

When we got back, I explored the airport complex some more, seeing what there was to add to my Web page on it, and we decided to order dinner from room service. I had an ordinary pasta dish, but overall we were satisfied. I went to the hotel bar, and thinking of Shannon's suggestion I had a kir royal, and saw a singer although she was on break for most of the time I was there.

Back to the family hotel room: not sharing a room often, I got a reasonable amount of sleep. with some interruptions. We got up before 6, and were checked out a little later. From reading of others' experience, I knew that we should approach the bell staff, not the check-out staff, about getting a ride to Terminal 5. After a few minutes wait, a van got us to that terminal before 7.

My parents and I were all on Delta flights, but mine was an hour later than theirs. From what I'd found out about the check-in system there, I was expecting the check-in counters to be flight-specific, and they might just open three hours before departure. We were at that mark for my parents' flight, and I was looking at a scenario of trying to get a break to check in with my parents, or having to wait an hour. We entered the terminal as about the first passengers there; at the first checkpoint, where they ask if you packed your own bags, there was a staffed checkpoint designated for my flight four hours ahead. We went by the rules through that and the check-in counter. At my counter there was a delay printing the boarding passes, I think due to a problem with the printer and card stock. We stopped for breakfast at the bar near check-in. Then, still with very few passengers having appeared, it was quick through a pretty normal security check, and exit passport control. Then we boarded the bus across the tarmac to the G satellite, and up the escalators to the gate level.

We followed the arrows to go clockwise around that satellite, although with their gate being 11 when there are 14, it was also possible to turn right and take the shorter route. It was well before 8 a.m. when we got there; some of the shops in the area just opened at 8. With my past memory of 2.5 hours not being early enough, I wanted to check in three hours early; with it being such an early hour we were earlier than we needed to be, but it was nice to go through things with no crowds at all. We could individually stop at shops while the others waited at the gate until my parents' flight to JFK boarded around 9, and I saw them off.

I went to the gate for my flight to Detroit. I lent my pen (actually one that I'd taken from the Hilton) to a passenger, who turned out to be taking a later flight, to fill out his U.S. customs declaration, which is usually filled out in flight. He was slowly filling it out as my flight was boarding; I started to get tense about whether I should say I need to board and take the pen, or just leave it to him. Anyway, he was done just in time for me join the last of those who were boarding when called. I had my assigned seat, and overhead space to put my bulky laptop/shoulder bag. They announced that, by air traffic control request, our 10.55 departure would be delayed past 11.30, and I was just as glad that I didn't board earlier.

The flight itself can be covered briefly: an A330 with seatback screens, for the meal I took tortelloni, my third hot meal in a row that was all pasta, aside from some wilted salad here. At midflight they (some flight attendants in bright red dresses, new to me) came by with snacks for sale, and they didn't offer that or drinks at my row; did that take the place of the late-flight snack? No, it was given: a small pizza snack and ice cream. Even with the late departure, arrival at Detroit was on time, at 3.25.

I had a separate bag for things I wanted to use in flight that I tried to stuff into my laptop bag as I stood in an empty row and let people off the plane ahead of me; it was a struggle, putting me farther back than I needed to be in the passport control line, which moved slowly. I got through without trouble and my bag was on the belt, and I was waved through customs. I was directed to one lane for the through baggage check; there was a spot where I thought I could just put the bag on a belt, but it was unattended, so in doubt I waited at a counter. At the counter they said no, leave it at the belt, which was now attended. Then I was quickly ready for the security check. I thought I was doing my routine of putting anything that might beep the machine into the bag, but in my state after the long flight I forgot the iPod on my waistband. I was sent back to remove that, and beeped the metal detector again.

Here I was sent to the enclosed "penalty box" until someone could deal with me. They took me out and I saw that they were taking me to a Whole Body Imager. I declined to go through that, meaning that I needed to get a heavy-duty patdown, emptying my pockets. They reminded me that it included my shirt pocket; in my state I'd forgotten about it and that it included a small tin of Altoids that I'd gotten in my recent first-class trip on United, and that may have been what set off the alarm. The TSA aims to make the patdown so unpleasant that people will prefer to have the machine view them under their clothes; I'm opting out of the viewing out of principle rather than particularly about my own privacy, but for myself I also don't like having my pockets empty and the contents out of sight. They also made me put up with that and put the tub with my several wallets through the x-ray. I should have insisted on counting all the money and cards in the wallets before they did the check, but it looks like I got everything back.

I had a 4.5-hour layover, meaning I didn't need to add any worries about making the connection. I had a pass to the SkyClub, and took advantage of it to have a few libations after these experiences. My connecting flight was showing a delay, and I called the young man who was caring for my cat and meeting me to update the situation. The connecting flight's gate was at the low-numbered end of the concourse, and the tram from the middle by the club was out of service, so I took the walk with moving sidewalks through the overall nice McNamara terminal at Detroit airport. Both in the terminal and on the plane, people started announcements with "Northwest" and corrected it to "Delta." My flight was delayed from 7.55 to 8.45, with the arrival similarly delayed although it made up some time.

The trip came to an end; I've reported on things without much reflection. It's difficult to come to conclusions now. It was overall a great trip, although I'd have preferred slightly lower temperatures. With the family, there were many bittersweet thoughts and difficult decisions to face in the future.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like a long trip getting home, but glad to hear that you and your parents didn't have to rush and scramble at Rome's airport (I agree -- anything under 3 hours just doesn't seem to be enough time!)

    I'm sure this was a bittersweet trip for you in many ways, good luck with the decisions that lie ahead.