If not now, when?

One American woman. Twenty acres and a 1650 farmhouse in Tuscany. Random introspection and hilarity, depending on the day.

08 July 2005

Planes, Trains & Automobiles: the normal saga of 'from here to there'

This was my first time trying the public transport route from home to the states. It’s amazing how I used to whine when I had to get out to the airport at Dulles from my apartment downtown; I didn’t know how good I had it!

For illustration and your enjoyment of how remote I really am … here’s the route:

6:07 am, leave house. Fly like a madwoman in my car down the hill, trying not to kill anyone along the way.

6:20 am: arrive at tiny train station in my town. Leave car in the lot and pray noone bothers it.

6:24 am: catch train to ‘big town’ – Arezzo. Smile sweetly and ‘mille grazie’ profusely at the guy who helps schlep Magdalena (my giant suitcase) onto the train with me.

6:49 am: train arrives in Arezzo. Figure out which platform I need to be on. Magdalena and I elevator down from the arrival platform (the term 'elevator' is a bit generous here – it’s like a glass box on an electric pulley system, you have to continue to hold the button down to make it move). Ride the electric box back up to the next platform.

Make friends with the Americans from Phoenix who are standing there waiting for the train. Easy to spot, we Americans. I give them the skinny about how to find the rental car place at the Rome airport, the guy getting on the train is nervous about finding the connector train once we get to Rome.

7:14 am: Phoenix Guy and I get on the highspeed Eurostar train to Rome. We’re not in the same car. I tell him I’ll keep my eyes open for him when we arrive.

8:59 am: We are delayed nearly 30 minutes for unexplained reasons, then arrive in Rome, Termini station. This is the mother of all train stations -- 29 platforms, gargantuan. We arrive at platform 1, of course Magdalena and I have to walk to platform 29 to catch the Leonardo Express airport train. There’s no way to make it there by the 9:07 departure time, so I won’t give myself the cardiac workout trying to run for it through the sea of Friday morning people at the station. Stop, buy a biglietto (ticket) at the Tabacchi … and have a coffee while waiting.

9:30 am: we gather on the platform for the 9:37 departure of the Leonardo express train. I see Phoenix Guy standing there, we exchange pleasantries (amazing how fast you can build friendships when traveling!), we get on the train together (he helps me with Magdalena and we collectively jockey for good luggage positioning.)

10:05 am: Leonardo Express arrives at Fiumicino Airport (which is in the town called Fiumicino, but is really the Leonardo DaVinci airport, hence the name of the train). Phoenix Guy and I are both on Delta, so we hike together the long route from the train station to the terminal. He’s relieved to be navigating with someone who knows what she’s doing; I’m happy for the company. Turns out he’s a math teacher and high school basketball coach; I tell him about Pi Guy! We joke there must be something genetic about math skills and coaching skills going together … he says 14 out of 15 teachers in the math department at his HS are coaches, and I seem to recall my high school was much the same!

10:40 am: breeze through check in lines, thanks to newly acquired Gold Medallion status. No upgrade, tho (haven’t quite figured out how that all works on the new airline yet …), but I do have a window seat, which is a relief. Send Magdalena off with the nice airline man, and go to get yet another coffee before the flight. The guy at the shop jokes with me - here's how it goes:
I order: Vorrei un caffe e anche un Capri (name of sandwich), per favore.

He says: "Subito. E la Capri -- con mare o sensa mare?"

(I am confused, pausing ... searching the file folders in my mind... I thought "mare" meant ocean, is it also a sandwich condiment? slang for Mayonnaise? What??? ... I finally give up, line behind me, and respond: Con mare. )

He giggles and says ... "Certo! Non e possibile ha Capri sensa mare!" (Of course you can't have the Island of Capri without the ocean.) ... GROAN!!! ... doesn't he know it's not nice to tease the language learners?!?!

Once I get the joke, I laugh with him, learning to trust my instincts a bit more on the words, take my sandwich and go.

11:30 am: am briefly but violently annoyed by the group of high school kids milling around the bookstore at the airport, one of which who says loudly to another, ‘like, ohmigod, they don’t even have magazines in ENGLISH here!!!’ (Hello? You’re in Italy.) Deep breaths.

11:50 am: we board a bit late for our 12:10 departure

12:30 pm: we finally depart.

For those of you who are counting, that’s about 6 ½ hours from departure from house to airplane departure. PLUS, 9 hours enroute to NY/Kennedy, 1 ½ hours layover, and another 1 ½ hours from JFK to Reagan…. Plus 30 minutes waiting for luggage, 15 minutes to get rental car, and an hour out to Waterford and the White Robe Club... just as the sun is setting. That’s just over 20 hours door to door! (Yes, I’m having a be-careful-what-you-wish-for moment.) Thankfully, I won’t be doing this that often.


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