Tuesday, December 16, 2003


Our return to the states went pretty smoothly. On Friday, we had finally gotten the TV that we wanted. It had been on sale for two weeks, but had not yet arrived at the store. Getting it in the house and up the stairs was another matter. The salesman had helped Art put it in the car, but once we got home, we were on our own. Our front door is a little strange…the front wall has a slight angle to it, and the door can’t open all the way to the wall, partly because of the wall, and partly because of the automatic door closer that’s attached to the top of the door. Then there’s the narrow side panel which can be opened to give you more width, but still not a lot…with the door only opening about 85% of the way, and the giant knob that is placed in the middle of the door, it’s just not an easy area to get in and out of with large objects. We hope to replace the door in the spring, but I’m not sure that this situation will improve.

ANYWAY… I was absolutely certain that the box would not fit through the door. Even if it did, it was entirely too big for me to handle…my arms are just too short, and this thing was heavy. Art measured the box and determined that it WOULD fit, but we had to turn it sideways. So, we gently turned the box on its side and pushed it towards the door and up the two steps outside. That’s when it got interesting. Now Art had to do most of the work himself. Of course, he got it through the door…just like he said he would. Now all we had to do was get it up the stairs! By putting our shoulders to the box, we slowly pushed the box up, step by step. Because Art was able to push harder than I, my side kept running into the wall, and we would have to stop and straighten the box. Once we got it to the top of the stairs, we decided to leave it in the hall, since Mauro will be removing the old kitchen while we are gone.

Mauro had stopped by earlier in the evening to bring the door for the bathroom downstairs. That will be installed while we are in the states, as will the new iron railing for the stairs, the back steps, and the new garage door. The garage door was a last minute addition. We discovered that our car will fit in the garage in theory, but not in practice. There are two reasons for this: number one, the frame for the aluminum doors that were added inside the garage, I guess to give more light while working in there, stick out just enough to cause problems. Reason number two is that because our street slopes downhill, the door on the left cannot be opened with the door flush against the house. This causes the inner edge of the door to stick out just enough to scrape the car. So, Art asked Mauro if a new door could be installed, hoping that it could be done before we left, but there just wasn’t enough time. We had planned to put the car in the garage and have Wendy take us to the train station. Mauro had told us that he would send some men to the house on Friday to take off the garage doors so that we could get the car in. We decided at the last minute that our luggage wouldn’t fit in her car, so that plan was scrapped.

We did get the house cleaned…again. I know there will more dust waiting for me when I get home, since the bathroom door and stair railing are bound to require drilling. One thing we don’t like about our workmen, especially the electricians, is the way the just drop the garbage on the floor and leave it there. Now I’m not expecting them to leave the area spotless, but every extra piece of wire, every scrap, every box, whatever, is simply left on the floor. I guess Gioberto and Adolfo had us spoiled because they were so good about cleaning up after themselves. At first I thought it was just the two boys who were leaving this mess, but then I realized that Elvio works this way too. I don’t know if this is “typically” Italian or not. Maybe the men just consider cleaning up woman’s work.

Anyway, I swept, vacuumed, then mopped the entire house. I vacuumed the carpets as best I could…one of the first things on my list when I get home is to buy a vacuum cleaner with a beater bar brush. So far, the only one I have seen is an upright Hoover for 249 euro, but that’s just the way it has to be. I HATE the small canister vacuum that we have now, and will leave it downstairs. For upstairs, where most of the good carpets are, I really want a good vacuum. This one also has the floor attachments, so at least I won’t have to carry it up and down the stairs. I closed all the shutters, and took down the curtains that still need to be hemmed. I will take them to the states with me to be hemmed. I never did get to borrow the sewing machine from my friend it Italy.
Since the curtains are already marked and pinned, all it will take is a few quick runs through the machine.

On Saturday morning, we were able to take our time. I cleaned out the refrigerator, emptied the garbage and recycling, and tried to remember what I was forgetting to pack. Going to the states for a visit is completely different that going to Italy for a visit. For one thing, we left many of our winter clothes in Louisville, so we don’t have to take many clothes. I did pack a few lighter things for our trip to Florida with our grandson…let’s hope there isn’t a cold snap! Another reason that packing is so different is because we will be staying with our family and there will be a Kroger/Target/Kmart around every corner. I almost forgot to take contact solution for our stay at the Hilton. I had a big bottle packed in the checked bag, but that wouldn’t have done me much good that night!

Wendy was due to arrive about noon. Our neighbor, Armando, wanted to talk to her about some property he wanted to sell. Art had already loaded the luggage into our car, and when Wendy arrived, he offered to help her load the old stove into her car. We are giving her our old kitchen because she knows someone who wants it. The deal is, we give it to her, but she is supposed to get some money from her friend for it. Anyway, since we found out with the table, her car has lots of room, just not quite enough room for our luggage. As Art and Wendy begin to carry the stove down the stairs, Art had a hard time, because he was at the back, and had to bend waaaaay over to hold the bottom while going down the stairs. At one point he stopped and re-grouped, and thought about taking the top off the stove. With the very next step, we all knew that’s what we should have done. I don’t think any of us knows exactly what happened, or how, but Art stumbled, and the hinged glass top that covers the cook top fell off, falling over the side of the stairs. All any of us could do was watch. Wendy later said that she was worried about it hitting our new floor lamp. But I didn’t even have a chance to think about that; I was too busy grabbing Art around the waist to make sure he didn’t fall too. Wendy had visions of falling backwards down the stairs and having the stove AND Art landing on top of her. As the cooktop crashed to the floor, it shattered into a million pieces. Several bad words were uttered, mostly by me, and mostly beginning with “f”.

Once we regained our composure and accessed the situation, Wendy left to meet with Armando about his property. Art and I had plenty of work to do. Wendy had put a grease mark on the wall as she reached to brace herself, so I scrubbed that with some soap while Art when to the garage to get the outdoor broom which I thought might be better for sweeping the glass off the carpet. We both swept and swept and swept. Just when we thought we had all the glass, we would see more. We saw glass in places that we never would have suspected. At least now the kitchen floor was really clean. And I’m sure we’ll still find pieces of glass once we return home.

Once Wendy returned from viewing the property in question, she and Art loaded the stove into her car. She told us that we had met the people who owned the property; they are related to the man around the corner, the one in the blue house who had the dog that barked all night long on the night of our car wreck. The one I woke up at two a.m. to ask him to take the dog inside. Wendy said they would like to get together with us when we got back, for dinner, and ultimately, for some reciprocal language lessons. That might be a good thing. After that, we left for the train station in Orte, after a brief stop at Ternana’s for lunch. I think Wendy might finally understand why we like Ternana’s so much. We were greeted by everyone when we walked in, and the camaraderie and friendliness was so obvious. Wendy had met Marco the night of our accident, and today we were able to introduce her to Rita too.

When we reached Orte, we were all fairly certain that the train station would be in Orte scalo, not in the upper city, but it wasn’t until we were within 500m of the station that we saw a sign. Most cities have the train stations well signed, and if we had been unfamiliar with the norm, or in a big hurry, we would have been out of luck.

The next train to Rome left at fourteen after the hour, so we had a good thirty minutes to wait. Since our train wasn’t yet up on the monitor, I check the printed schedule, and it listed the regular track as track five. Once this was confirmed on the monitor, we started the slow and very difficult task of getting our three LARGE suitcases down the stairs and back up again. Luckily for us, a young man helped us with the last two bags. And then, ten minutes before the train was due, a change was announced! The train to FCO would now depart from track one…the track where we were before the steps! Now we had to drag all the luggage back down and then back up…and of course, not only did we have those three very large bags, we also had three carryon bags and a six bottle container of wine! Once again, strangers came to our rescue, helping us with those last few, most difficult steps. Not a moment too soon…the train to FCO was there! Luckily for us, and for anyone who might have been behind us, the train was empty and the last car was close by. We heaved our luggage on board and placed it in the last seat. Within five minutes we were moving.

After stopping at EVERY town between Orte and Rome, we finally arrived at FCO, two hours later. We weren’t sure exactly how to get to the Hilton, but figured it couldn’t be too difficult, since it’s there, at the airport. Once we found the first sign, which wasn’t easy, we were okay. The walk wasn’t exactly a short one, especially with all our luggage, but we made it. Check-in was smooth and fast. We were shown to our room, relaxed for a minute, then left to see exactly what we were getting for 210 euro a night.
I had brought workout clothes in the hopes of (finally!) getting some exercise. Although the fitness room was nothing extraordinary, it was nice. There was a pool too, and a sauna. Art thought the sauna might be nice, until he saw that it cost eleven euro for thirty minutes!!! We were both surprised and disappointed about this. I can certainly understand paying extra for a massage, but just to sit in the sauna?! Come on!

We looked at the restaurants, and decided to splurge on the buffet. At thirty seven euro I wasn’t sure I could get my money’s worth, but since a hamburger cost sixteen euro, at least this way I would get plenty of variety. The buffet was definitely well done. The selection was outstanding, and everything was labeled in English and Italian, so there was no guessing. We sampled about half the items on the buffet, and everything was delicious. The desserts were the best, and after being so good for so long, I was a glutton. The panna cottta with chocolate syrup was a nice change. But, in the end, did I think it was worth it…no. I don’t mind paying $40+ for a meal, but I want to be waited on for that price, not have to schlep to the buffet and serve myself. But, we did it, we enjoyed it, and now we never have to do it again. That’s not to say I wouldn’t stay at the Hilton again if I had an early morning flight. Our flight was scheduled to depart at 6:40 am, and we could have stayed at a less expensive hotel, but I would never be sure if a cab was available at 5 am. I liked the convenience and security of knowing that I was there, at the airport, and all we had to do was walk to the terminal.

When we did go to the terminal on Sunday morning at 5 am, I was surprised to see how many ticket counters were open. Previously, the ticket agents hadn’t even shown up until 6 am! Check-in was quick, and security went smoothly, although I was surprised to see a sign that said computers could go through the X-ray machine. We would later see the same notice in Amsterdam, and were assured that in Europe, this was not a problem. Since I’m writing this on the plane, I guess they were right!

As mentioned earlier, we were scheduled to depart at 6:40. We saw the crew arrive, and a while later, the gate agents. But then the monitor changed, and the announcement was made that due to high winds in Amsterdam, our flight would be delayed. Schipol airport was only able to use one runway for both takeoffs and landings. We hoped this meant that our connecting flight would be waiting for us.

We finally departed about 7:45, as had been announced. Since it was a KLM flight, it was very nice…the food good and the attendants friendly and efficient. The flight takes 2 ½ hours, and about halfway through the flight, it was announced that any connecting flights leaving before 10:50 am would not wait for us. This meant that we would miss our 10:45 connection to Minneapolis. The flight to Detroit was also affected, so we had no idea what our alternatives were. We decided that since there would probably be a long wait at the transfer desk to be re-ticketed, we would just head for the gate as fast as we could and hope that the plane was still there. A quick check of the monitor told us that the flight was now boarding. Thanks goodness the moving sidewalks were actually moving, because when we got to the gate, there were still gate agents there, but not a passenger in sight. We were asked a few security questions, told that our luggage would not make it, but that it would be sent to our final destination and delivered to us. No problem.

Once we boarded, we saw that the plane was not full, which meant there was an empty seat between us and the two girls in our row. As we struck up a conversation, we discovered that one of the girls, Oanna, was Romanian, and was bound for Las Vegas, where she would join her Romanian boyfriend, who was now a U.S. citizen and working in a casino. The other girl, Heather, was an American, who was living in Romania and teaching American children. And, she was from Louisville! Valley Station to be exact! What a small world we live in! We are constantly amazed at how many people we meet who are from Louisville.

The best thing about this flight, other than the fact that we were ON it, was that the flight crew was very friendly and nice. The last several times we have flown NWA, the attendants have been so mean, so surly, so inattentive and disinterested, that we have come to dread flying on NWA. We always look forward to the KLM leg, because they are always so nice, but on NWA, there are some VERY unhappy employees.

Since we didn’t move from the gate for at least twenty minutes after we boarded, we asked one of the flight attendants if there was a chance our luggage got loaded. She felt certain that it had, and told us to be sure and check in Minneapolis. Of course, it wasn’t there. And there were quite a few people besides us who were missing luggage…Heather for one, who had arrived in Amsterdam long before we did, and long before our plane departed. I guess all the confusion with the delayed flights was the cause. We were told to file a claim in Louisville, and told that it would be delivered to our home.

The flight to Louisville was uneventful, and while I was walking to the NWA office to make a claim, who should I see running towards me but Nicholas, our grandson! What a great welcome home that was! The girl at the NWA desk told us that our luggage was still in Amsterdam, and that it should be in Louisville the next night.

We went to Angela’s house, and Duffy had fixed us a light supper, which was perfect. We unwound and went to bed around nine. Art was up early the next morning, but I slept in until seven. I was up in time to tell Nicholas goodbye when he left for school, and then Art and I started off for the day. We were going to meet my sister at her house to get her other car. This way, Art and I would have our own cars, and Art wouldn’t have to suffer through any more shopping. Unfortunately, until we got the car, we still had to stay together, so Art had to endure an hour at Target before getting his own car!

For me, driving again was great, as I knew it would be. The freedom and independence just can’t be described. After we parted ways, I went to WalMart, made a few more stops and got home around four. Art was waiting for me, reading the paper, and wishing he had gotten instructions on how to operate the television/satellite so he could catch up on CNN. He had gone to the Post Office to have lunch with his former colleagues and catch up on all the news.

I dreamt of our house in Italy that night, and it was strange to wake up and realize we weren’t there. I am enjoying seeing familiar sites, familiar faces, and familiar things in familiar stores. Today I printed out the remodeling pictures, so now I have hard copies of the process. I am enjoying buying things for the house, and will be glad to get home and put everything in its place. For now though, we are visiting with family and friends; enjoying being “on vacation” in the states!


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