An Unexpected Trip:
At the end of March, 2011, I found that in the very near future, one of my bucket list items would soon become a reality. Two years ago during my annual "girlfriends only" sojourn to Cape May, New Jersey, we all thoughtfully developed our bucket lists--things we would love to do before we depart from this earth. The great thing about a bucket list is that it can be filled with dreams, realistic desires, and even goals that may seem impractical or unreachable, but they are uniquely yours. Several of the Cape May Girls had indicated a trip to Italy as a worthy entry on their bucket lists as we carefully annotated our choices.
By a strange twist of circumstances, here I was in April, 2011 suddenly planning a trip to Italy that would begin on May 16, 2011. It seemed more like a dream than something actually in the works, and there was some important preparation in order. Marianne, Liz, Sharon and Laura had spent several months and countless computer hours researching and plotting the details of this excursion. Now Liz was faced with a medical issue which required immediate attention and treatment, and it was necessary for her to cancel. I am the substitute for Liz as the fourth person on this journey, and so this Italian series on my new travel blog is dedicated to our dear friend, Liz, along with many prayers and much love! When I told Liz that I would be her replacement for the trip, I promised to document our entire experience so she would feel as though she was right there with us. The other girls were extremely helpful to me in recalling the highlights of each day, and I would journal about the details each night.
Liz, this is for you. And very special thanks to my husband, Fred, who wanted this trip to be one of the best events of my life.
May 15, 2011:
I must be crazy. I signed up my husband and me for a couples member guest golf tournament the day before my flight leaves for Rome. Our guests, Mike and Kathy, will have to forgive me if I have no level of concentration for my golf game today. My mind keeps wandering. Have I forgotten anything of great importance for European travel?
1-Valid passport-Check. Valid is a key consideration here. The passport can't have expired or be expiring during the trip. This sounds obvious, but you'd be surprised what some folks forget to review.
2-Cell phone-Check. I had paid a visit to my carrier, who was of no assistance whatsoever in my quest to be sure I would have coverage in Italy. After much Internet research, I resolved the issue by locating www.mobal.com. For a very modest price, they sent me a phone, battery, SIM card, charger, and a supply of converters to use in virtually any country. The phone is mine forever, and there is no rental or per day fee. The only charges will be for minutes used, and if one doesn't plan on lengthy, numerous calls, it is a great way to go.
Laura, Sharon & Marianne are flying to Rome from Newark, NJ because they live in upstate New York, and I am taking a short flight from Myrtle Beach, SC to Charlotte, NC to fly directly to Rome. Our flights are a couple of hours apart in arrival time, so we need to be able to connect. I have studied all of the directions on the use of this new phone and am ready. I want to be able to occasionally touch base with my mom and my husband, Fred, just to reassure them that we are fine. We have heard numerous accounts of gypsies and pick pockets in Italy, so I will want to be able to put their minds at ease. We will have email access, so I will be able to keep in touch regarding important business matters and also with my relatives.
3-Cash-Check. While we are accustomed to using our credit card to multiply points from which we have enjoyed some great vacations, I know that there will be situations where cash is easier for managing cabs, splitting the cost of meals, etc. so we are bringing some cash for that purpose. My bank recommended requesting Euros four to five days in advance, but the package of cash arrived much faster than that. The conversion rate stinks, however.
4-I-pod-Check. Charged and filled with my favorite music.
5-Nook-Check. Charged and stocked with several books I have yet to begin reading.
6-Camera-Check. Charged and all photos saved to CD. Memory stick is cleared.
7-I-pod-Ditto on the photos.
8-Packing-Oh, dear. This is really a problem. Marianne has advised us to pack lightly. We must be able to easily maneuver everything in our possession, as we will be taking trains from destination to destination throughout Italy. I've tried very hard to comply, but what if it rains? What if a cold front comes through? It's mid-May--anything can happen, and I am the queen of advance preparation. Also, I'm not very good at re-wearing any clothing without laundering.
My favorite suitcase, which you push rather than pull, wouldn't hold even half of the items I have placed on a guest room bed for packing purposes. I must re-group and bring a larger suitcase. Shoes are in issue, but I believe I have conquered the difficult decision making process by limiting my colors to black and brown. Sounds simple, yet I will need two pairs of sneakers (1 black, 1 brown), two pairs of casual shoes (same), 1 pair of cutesy flats (1 black, and I'll look for a brown pair in Italy), one pair of brown sandals and 1 pair of black Fit Flops, which are sparkly so they can be dressed up or down. Imagine if I hadn't limited my pants, capris, shorts, leggings and dress to black and brown? Yipes!
9-Notification-Check. I have notified family and friends of my itinerary and have given everyone Fred's cell number so he can be reached in case of emergency. I also notified my credit card company of the dates I would be in Italy so they will not think the charges on my account are suspicious.
10-Bills-Check. All bills that could possibly be due during my absence have been accounted for and are paid for the month.
11-Meds-Check. All vitamins, supplements, blood pressure medication, and requisite baby aspirin have been carefully counted and placed in my Monday through Sunday container, with the following week's supply in a Ziploc bag, enhanced by a few extras in case there is some bizarre delay. As mentioned above--queen of advance preparation.
12-Document storage-Check. I bought a small soft pouch from Totes that hangs around the neck and is easily tucked under the clothing. This is where I have placed my passport, credit card, driver's license and cash. The pick pockets will have to do battle with me for my shirt if they want to access my important valuables.
13-Jewelry-Check. I am leaving my good jewelry at home. No sense in tempting the gypsies!
I think I am ready to go!!!!!!
A new day in the journal, along with photos, will be posted each Monday beginning June 13, 2011. Be sure to follow so you won't miss anything exciting. There is much to tell!