Thursday, November 7, 2013

Italy: Getting there.

The morning I left for Italy, I was super calm, which was exactly the opposite of the way I thought I would be. I had arranged a ride with my sweet mother-in-law, and she was due to come at 5:30 am. I therefore got up at 4:30 and thought to myself as I showered: "My next shower will be in Italy!" Everything went perfect that morning - I kissed my kids and husband good-bye, packed my suitcases down the stairs, grabbed a banana, and headed out. The anxiety I had planned for was nowhere to be found, but the excitement was just under my skin.

It was so unbelievable to drive to the airport, knowing I was going to Italy, not knowing how I was going to meet my family there. Due to my anticipatory nerves, I hadn't talked my mom or sisters about what time I was planning to get there, nor checked when they would be there. I had planned on getting myself through security all alone; the moment I had waited for mentally was the one where I put my shoes back on, grabbed my bags from the plastic bin, and headed to Starbucks for a celebratory hot chocolate. Having never flown to Europe, I didn't know what to expect. But I knew 100% that there was an airport Starbucks and that my trip would start there. It was as much as my brain could handle.

It was with surprise and excitement that I heard Vonnay say as we got to the airport: "Look! There's your mom!" We had somehow arrived at the same place at the same time, all by ourselves. I hugged Vonnay good-bye and headed toward my mom, Amy, and Suzette. It was finally real! We all chatted through the baggage check, worrying if we had over packed and if we would be over the weight allowance (no one was!) and then, right after we got through security, we were riding the people-mover to Starbucks. Our visit on the bench right in front of Terminal 2 security was fun; we all had something warm to eat and drink. Vacation started!

The flight to Philadelphia was unremarkable. We read, we chatted, we slept. In Philly, we ate at a yummy place called Chickie's and Pete's, famous for its Philly cheese steaks (I had the South Philly sandwich with American cheese and onions; I picked the onions off but they made it taste soooo good.) We killed some time after eating by playing on the internet, charging our phones, figuring out how our phones would work in Europe, and buying neck pillows and then, suddenly, we were boarding the plane to Rome.

Yes! It says "Rome" on the screen behind me! Eek!

Now, before August of this year, it had been over 16 years since I had flown. I would hear people talking about flying with a sense of disdain and I would think: "But yeah, you've BEEN somewhere. Oh poor you. First-world problems, friend." But, honestly, spending almost 9 hours in the middle seat of the middle row of a giant airplane was awful. My brain refused to shut off enough to sleep, I couldn't concentrate enough to read, so all I did was eat, drink, and stare at the GPS illustration of where our little airbus was in the world. How I wished for a window seat! I did glimpse one shiny city vista out the window just as our dinner was being served; I wanted to think it was the south tip of New York City, but there was no way for me to determine that for sure (only because I hadn't figured out the GPS app yet!) I visited the airplane bathroom more than I expected (climbing over my sleeping sister to do so; how I envied her snores, because it meant she was sleeping when I wasn't!), wished I could do yoga in the aisles, and fell asleep exactly twice for maybe half an hour at a time. I am a terrible airplane traveler.

Finally, at my body's clock time of 1:00am but Rome's local time of 9:00, we arrived. I caught a glimpse of the grey Mediterranean, and rolling hills and umbrella pines heralded our way in to the airport.  Bleary-eyed, stiff-necked, and tired from traveling for 18 hours straight the real adventure was about to begin!