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Each time I leave the house for a sojourn to a foreign land, I question my motivation and desire. Why am I leaving? What am I looking for? Why do I make the effort? I love my home. I love my family and friends.

Chipper and ready at PDX at 5:00 a.m.

Chipper and ready at PDX at 5:00 a.m.

Still, this is the trip of a lifetime. Flying with my two remaining sisters and meeting a cherished travel buddy and her friend should create a recipe for a priceless experience.

The drawback is the arduous travel from the west coast of the U.S. to Southern Italy. There is no easy way. Thirty-one hours from door to door is grueling enough without heavy suitcases and scant sleep. And we packed (supposedly) light. I have been remiss in my photo-taking and can’t document the number of bags that we had, but a quick count brings it to 19 bags (including purses) for 5 women. Hmmm….I think some of us in the sisterhood were a bit over the airline rules.

IMG_3304From the first leg of travel it was obvious that Sharon, Carlieta and I come from the same pod: totally plugged-in food geeks, we passed our smoked oysters, baked yams and parsley back and forth to each other, ignoring the breakfast offered in first class.

Last minute texting and googling.

Last minute texting and googling.

When we were downgraded to economy class for the long flight, we continued to supplement the airline food with our copious stacks of supplies. (Our bags got lighter if we didn’t:) We each regretfully turned our phone data off for the month and settled in for the long haul. There were some bumps along the way. In the air approach to Rome we rocked and rolled and dropped through the air enough to elicit somewhat-muffled screams from seasoned and neophyte travelers. I think the pilots were busy keeping us in the air. The only official announcements were passionate: “Stay in your seat!”

A few of our many heavy bags.

A few of our many heavy bags.

At the Rome airport, after a long wait for our friends, Nancy M. and Nancy F.,  who were on a different flight, we jumped on the shuttle and made a quick run to the next train. We were duly chastised by Italian travelers for having ceded to the demands for an exhorbitant tip from the young man who loaded into the overhead racks. (I don’t regret one Euro of it!)

The 5 hours on the train seemed forever and a trice.

The two Nancys after they woke from their naps.

The two Nancys after they woke from their naps.

We slept, we laughed, and we listened to the conversations around us, adjusting to the cadence of the language.

Laughing is better than dissolving in tears.

Laughing is better than dissolving in tears.

I am the tour guide since I have travelled this way before, so I spent some time trying to contact the owner of our apartment, dropping a hint that we might need a ride from the station. I knew that we would never fit into one taxi and that I was the only one who knew where we were going. My tired mind spun in circles over solutions rather than grabbing the fact that I need only give the address to a driver.

The sweetest sound ever heard was the landlady, Gina, calling my name as I stepped off the train. She, her husband, and another friend greeted us warmly and took the largest of our bags. Sweet!

Three of us walked with Gina to the house, stopping along the way for some milk, cheese, olives and melanzane for the bare refrigerator. (I had packed coffee for the first day and a bakery is close to where we live.) We who walked missed seeing the men struggling up our three flights of stairs with all of those bags.

And we made it! We staggered down the street for an evening meal of Italian Pizza and mussels, and then tucked in for a refreshing night of sleep.

I am no longer questioning my motives. This is, indeed, the trip of a lifetime.

TRAVEL NOTE: If you are travelling by train from the Rome Termini, you can buy your ticket at same kiosk as the shuttle…saving valuable time.