05.04.2011 by Andrea
This trip was off the radar. I was merely seeking a way to get home from my aforementioned cruise with friends. I just needed a one way ticket and the carrier I was looking at was offering it for $110 dollars on a regional commuter jet or 35,000 miles home. I almost had a heart attack. I’m a single income household so 35,000 miles when I only had to head due north felt like extortion. I glanced at the award travel link and imagined maybe going somewhere warm or exotic. And then reality hit, I looked at my balance of miles [forty two grand and some odd change], saw again the glaring amount it would take me to travel from LA to Seattle and almost lost hope. Who was I kidding? If I could barely get up the West Coast how was I going anywhere else? Thank heavens I rolled the dice and clicked on the link because I came up a winner. 40,000 miles to Europe or Costa Rica between November 16 to May 16. Yahtzee! Knowing I was going to have completed a cruise one month prior I poured over my calendar to see if this was even feasible. Yup, someplace between May 1-16 I could squeeze in a trip. Then came the click and hold game. Where would these miles really carry me? Some destinations demanded 65,000. Rome? No. Barcelona? No. Venice? No. London? No. Paris? Yes. Happy Chrismukkah to me. I schemed, stretched, and traded vacation days so fast it made my head spin and then I clicked, Book Now. Telling my family and friends would come next. Where I wanted to go … I had 5 months to plan. Checking an item off the bucket list: “hopping the pond solo” was going to commence in t-minus 129 days.
The holidays came and went, I focused my attention on the cruise. Set sail, got home, and promptly contracted the first virus where I was actually limited to staying in bed pondering whether or not I could make it down and back up three flights of stairs before passing out if I ordered groceries online. Thank goodness for a fabulous roommate and her bedside delivery service. Then the next thing I knew I had a week to go and I hadn’t figured out where I was going. I abhor looking touristy. I say this as I sit across from my new North Face backpack and a set of earphones stuck in my ears as I gear up for a hike. I don’t want to be too planned out and organized and love to travel organically. Don’t get it twisted – this is not some contrived trip where I pitch an idea to a publisher and travel around trying to find my inner self. Just inquire amongst my friends I like to take the backseat in the travel planning department because I don’t want to have to navigate the map or decide where I’m headed. Blend in with the locals at cafe with a tea and a book? Done and done. I am beginning to examine the benefits of acquiescing and doing some things that I deem “touristy.” It’s probably an inner battle I will always fight. Rick Steves’ and his friendly travel store won this match as I trudged up to his store twice to photocopy, ponder, and muse on how to maximize my time abroad. My friend E, who plays American football in Bologna and I had discussed a meetup. Turns out that his team had a bye the weekend I was planning on bringing my best professional spectator and cheerleading spirit to the Warriors. No worries, we decided to join forces in Barcelona and then hit Madrid. This left me with days on both sides of my trip since I had gotten 10 days off. I looked and realized days 1 and essentially 2 were basically eaten up by travel. My next decision was to either stay in the City of Lights or bounce straight to Italy. And if Italy, where? It came down to practicality and I booked an inexpensive flight to Milan. From there it was either going to be Lake Como or Cinque Terre. CT won out, and I decided to skip the entire Milan experience this time around and launch myself towards the Mediterranean. I would take a bus, and then a train. Spend a day hiking after two days of planes, trains, and automobiles and then shuttle down to Rome. Spend a bit of time there, hop on a flight to Spain frolic about Barcelona and Madrid then jet to Paris to conclude my trip. Nothing was booked other than that. Since I embraced the power of saying “yes” this year this also includes my diet for the next 8 days and the past two. I indulged in Garrett’s delicious Chi-town mix of popcorn at O’Hare [additional post to come later]. Toasted my trip by eating one more commercialized Italian supper before I had the chance to sample the real meal deal.
The eating has commenced. I’ve snacked on true Italian pizza at Milan Centrale last night and now have had my first cappuccino. I’m THE girl who doesn’t drink coffee but after reading both Playing for Pizza and Under the Tuscan Sun in the past day I realized I have to go big because I’m not going home with any eating regrets. It was bitter and I tried to drink it quickly but I’m hoping it will shake off the 9 hour time difference my body is fighting. I sat in a lemon grove last night reading and feeling as if I’ve been transponded onto a Disney movie set. The lyrical sound of foreign language surrounded me and it was warm out. An occasional hum of an automobile or scooter but not the symphony of city sounds I’m so accustomed to. Not quite sure what else this trip holds for me but hopefully these crazy caffeine induced heart palpitations will slow down so I can slog through the Cinque Terre [5 villages] hike. Wouldn’t ya know I opted out of a rain slicker and it rained this morning. It’s going to be muddy folks, I’m just hoping this drizzle ceases. Join me on this eating journey and upon my return stateside I promise to recount my other major “bites” I’ve been mentioning for a month now.
sent from my iPhone.