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Saturday, May 21, 2016

And the return: Arrivederci

I'm running into trouble adding text after the pictures in the last post, so I'll start a new one here.  The day continued casually around our old neighborhood, with Margaret buying shoes, and finally eating casually standing up at a neighborhood bar, and it went on to night at the nice hotel room.

We were up around 6 in the hope of getting a cappuccino, but the bars weren't open yet.  At 7, in the hotel lobby they were pushing the expensive breakfast, and we just wanted cappuccini sitting down.  We were afraid of a high price for those, but they were comped, and we were certainly pleased with our free night at the Indigo.  Margaret looked at her email and found notice that our flight to Chicago, scheduled for departure at 11.20, was delayed until 13.45.  Although we'd have liked to stay in central Rome a little longer, we had a car reserved with a driver there.

I'd reserved a car  through the Rome Shuttle Limousine service, and a minivan was there for us in advance of our booked 7.30 time.  As much as possible through the sometimes terrifying traffic, it was a nice ride to the airport, Terminal 5 for American Airlines.

We got to the counter before there were too many passengers (and we'd printed our boarding passes at the hotel, space in name problem resolved), but had to wait because of an apparent system problem printing our luggage tags.  The agent added a note that we could get a free snack such as a sandwich at the Ciao bar in the gate area, because of the flight delay.  Margaret asked for a wheelchair; from past experience we figured we could have breakfast at the less crowded T5 snack bar while waiting for the chair.

In fact it seems a chair turned up quickly when we weren't looking.  We waited and were told a chair was coming until people decided that we'd missed one.  I could also observe that the check-in counter had a considerably longer line at 9 than when were there shortly after 8.  Contrary to the previous time, after clearing exit controls and security I could be on the same bus as Margaret to the gate satellite.

We got to the gate with lots of time to see go by; we did some of our separate runs while saving a seat for each other and seeing the previous scheduled flight for that gate board.  We each got our own panino from the Ciao bar, when we saw a different flight show at our gate, and we heard an announcement that our gate had changed.

We went to that gate, and eventually it was time to board.  They paged Margaret as one of a group getting wheelchair assistance, and there was a group of friendly attendants.  We boarded, and were told that some of the delay would be made up.

We took off, and after Margaret first got up she noticed her seat cushion was wet.  The best conclusion we could reach is that, in the quick turnaround of the flight, delayed because of being late coming over from Chicago, they didn't have a chance to do a very thorough cleaning.  There were several empty seats--perhaps people were booked on other transatlantic flights because they were going to miss their connection on this one?--and we could move forward a row.  It appears that this meant we were in a Main Cabin Extra row, with a few inches more legroom, so this was nice enough.  We had our special meal, I ordered a cognac, and they waived the charge, the flight attendant not knowing the charge since hard drinks are ordered so rarely in the main cabin with wine and beer being free.  Then there was ice cream mid-flight, and a warm snack, as the hours moved on.

Our revised arrival time was showing as 4.15, after the scheduled 3.05 and first-announced with the delay 5.30.  There were clouds in the area and we needed to fly over and approach O'Hare from the west instead of the usual east.  Our arrival was around 4.30, and we docked in a slightly closer-in than usual gate at the international arrivals terminal.

We had a wheelchair attendant there.  He took us to the customs area.  I pointed out that we had used the Mobile Passport app and had completed our information there.  He said to hold onto that, but he took us to the regular clearance area, where we took our pictures at kiosks.  We were in the regular line, and it appeared that it spent long periods at a standstill, with the agents at the booth not doing anything.  Our best conclusion was that their computers were having problems, and I don't know if going through the Mobile App lanes would have been faster.  The delivery to baggage claim had been completed, and our bags were in a handful taken off the belt still to claim.

We were clear, and at around 5.30 were delivered to the area represented as where we would wait for the shuttle to the Embassy Suites, although we would need to call because it didn't regularly go the international terminal.  With our calls, there was confusion about going through the phone menu correctly.  We got someone who promised a prompt shuttle.  We waited long enough with nothing showing; I called again and was told to go up to the departures level because of construction (there but not causing major problems then) at arrivals.  We went up, with Margaret feeling a major burden, and the bus showed up.

The bus, also stopping at other hotels, got us to the Embassy Suites.  It was nice to have this night on points rather than a tight flight connection that we would have missed, or extend the day much longer with another flight.  The hotel was a little worn but it was nice to have a suite, with Margaret ready to go right to sleep.  There was a "manager's reception" with a drink for a nightcap, not much to eat but we weren't much in need.

We had plenty of sleep and were up early for the hotel's full breakfast.  With a noon flight, we went ahead and took the shuttle at 9.20.  We checked bags and had wheelchair assistance and Pre-Check to clear security promptly; I didn't notice long regular lines.  Since we didn't have the lounge access that I'd hoped before the start of the trip, we had ourselves taken to our gate in concourse L.  I had in mind that I'd like to try one of the best-rated airport concessions, Tortas Frontera, in concourse K.  Margaret agreed to go, putting up with the vastness of the walks at O'Hare.  Although it was crowded and confusing, we got counter space and had nice breakfast sandwiches.

Our flight to Kansas City had a long standby and they were looking for bump volunteers; we weren't ready for that.  Many passengers on the flight had just connected from India.  Then that flight and the trip were concluded.

So, what to say in conclusion?  It was great to go to these places that are part of us, and see great people.  I can think of how well my mother is part of these places, and how well she is remembered.  I hope that, with Margaret, we can keep seeing the part of us that is in Italy and Europe.

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