ITALY — The Logistics

Hubby and I had both been to Europe, but neither of us had been to Italy nor did we speak the language. Therefore, we decided we’d get a little help with our trip planning.

Because this was vacation, we didn’t want to do a tour where we had to adhere to someone else’s schedule. We certainly didn’t want to have to get up early every morning. We found a company called Monograms which strikes a happy medium. Their motto is “Independent travel simplified.”

We made our own plane reservations (more about that in a minute) and they were in charge of transfers, hotels in Rome, Florence, Venice, and Lake Maggiore. Included were three nights in each city, train transfers between the cities, transfers between hotels and train stations, a “host” at each hotel to help set up tours and a ½ day tour in each city to get us acclimated. We tacked three extra days on to the beginning and the end and we had our trip.

As you know, we went in October. The weather was about like it is here — unpredictable. All it all, it was a good time to go–not too hot, not too cold and we only had heavy rain one day. The rest of the time it was mild and sunny. We layered our clothes and wore a light jacket. I learned to take a scarf everywhere (and I still do, even in the summer), to use as a wrap if I got chilly.

Travel tips:

  • Don’t take heels (you’ll break your neck) and take an empty suitcase for all the things you’ll buy.
  • Do take electrical adapters. We took three which was plenty. Seldom did we have more than three vacant plugs in our hotel room to plug in our chargers (cameras, iPad, etc.). I ordered from Amazon.
  • Know your money plan. Banks vary greatly with fees and you can spend a lot of money if you haven’t thought this through. Chances are you’ll need to use a debit card at an ATM (we did–several times). The exchange rate can’t be avoided, but bank fees can. We avoided them by finding out who partnered with our bank in Europe, but sometimes a city only had one or two branches of this bank so we walked for blocks to find it. Some banks or bank cards waive fees. It might be worth opening an account just to have that convenience.
  • Make a copy of your passport and keep it with you. Keep the original in your hotel safe. Keep with it emergency numbers. Better to have them and not need them than need them and not have them.
  • Split your money up — some in hotel safe; the rest divided between travel partners. We felt safe while we were there, but heard tales of thieves who steal backpacks and purses. Therefore I ordered a backpack with RFID technology (so credit cards couldn’t be read) and whose straps were reinforced with wire. We used it everywhere, and it was so well designed, I frequently use it as my purse today.
  • We had a non-stop flight out of Atlanta. We’d saved frequent flyer miles forever and were able to travel first class. It turned out this was one of two brand new planes. The pilot was so proud of it he came out and told us all about it. The seats were like pods and completely self contained. We felt like geeks taking pictures, but once we brought out our camera, pretty much every one in first class lost their cool and did the same thing. The seats reclined all the way flat like a bed. They gave you a full size (nice) pillow and an actual comforter from Westin (I think). But who wants to sleep and miss the first class experience??? Not me. I watched movies and read as we crossed the pond.
  • Check your cell plan. I’d heard horrific stories of people returning with thousands of dollars in cell phone bills so we just turned our phones off. I so wish we had investigated a European plan or at least a texting plan, especially since my dad was sick.
  • What did work for me was Skype. Using the Internet and my iPad, I could talk to my dad while he was in the hospital via my aunt’s iPad. He never quite got the technology. He just knew he could see me and I was in Italy, but it made me feel better to actually see him and hear his voice.

I have pictures — somewhere — but during our stay we used a camera that broke while we were there, an iPad and two iPhones. Somehow the plane images didn’t make it to my cloud. You’ll just have to take my word for it — it was amazing. Ironically, I probably had the best wine of the whole trip during dinner on the plane. Go figure.

We had a little snafu when we landed in Rome. Delta had changed our itinerary and I’d forgotten to tell the travel company. We arrived early in the morning and they were expecting us mid-afternoon. Therefore, no one met us at the airport, but we had no problem getting to our hotel and reached our intended driver to tell him we wouldn’t need him. He was a little peeved, but lost the attitude when we agreed to a private tour the next day. That’ll be the next post.

~ Kay

 

UPDATE 11/3/14

I found some of our photos from the first class flight — pure decadence!

Our seats

Our seats

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Italy — A little late

Last October hubby and I spent three glorious weeks in Italy to celebrate our anniversary. I didn’t take my computer, though I uploaded a few pictures on Facebook using my iPad.

My plan had been to come home, organize my thoughts and photos, and do several posts about our journey. Well, that just didn’t happen.

Two days before we were to return, my dad had surgery, and his cancer had spread. Hospice was called in. I was a basket case. He died about a month later. Obviously, I was in no frame of mind to blog about the wonders of Italy while I was mourning my loss, the last of our four parents to die.

It’s been a year, and my memories of Italy aren’t as fresh as they would have been a year ago, but I have our photos and other keepsakes so I think I can conjure up enough content to hit the highlights and give you a peek at some of our adventures and observations during my next few posts.

~Kay

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Twelve Years

I entered into this, my second marriage, with some fear and trepidation. Oh, I knew the love was solid, but my failed first marriage had gotten into my head. Even with (lots of) therapy and the support of family and friends, somewhere in my heart of hearts I was afraid this relationship was too good to be true.

I won’t lie and say every minute has been easy. It hasn’t. But every minute has been honest. Communication: that’s the key to a healthy relationship. You have to talk not only about what’s going right, but about what’s not working. Every time we have a little bump it’s because the communication has broken down.

Today is our twelfth anniversary, and I think we have as happy and healthy of a marriage as you’ll find. We’ve figured out how to be partners without taking the romance out of the relationship–easier said than done.

So, Happy Anniversary, Hubby. I love and adore you.

 

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~ Kay

 

 

Open House

If you want to accomplish something, set a deadline and tie an event to it that forces you to meet that deadline.

Hubby and I wanted to get our house unpacked, drapes and pictures hung, and make it feel like it was really ours. To this end, we invited our old and new neighbors and a bunch of friends over for soup and chili last Sunday afternoon. Now that was incentive to get the place in order!

We’d moved some of our belongings in June but didn’t complete the move until September when we sold our other house. Therefore, until everything was under one roof, I really didn’t know where I wanted things to go (for sure), and I just felt unsettled. I was storing boxes and boxes of books in what was to be my study because the bookcases were at the other house. Turns out, we got the bookcases here and I didn’t like them in the study, so I moved them to the bonus room and ordered some from IKEA that were much taller, i.e. held many more books. I love them and my cozy study.

Also, we had draperies at the other house that the new owners didn’t want. The dining room ones were a perfect fit in the new dining room. There is a seamstress who lives on our street who remade long drapes from two windows into valances for five windows. I hung the old breakfast room panels in the living room and drapes and a valance from two houses ago in the bonus room. I found scarves at Target to adorn my study. We’d already hung drapes in the bedrooms. ALL of our windows are now dressed! I may have my seamstress neighbor look at some of the ones I hung myself as they are held together with Velcro (a great invention) and safety pins, but, hey, they are up!

Hubby and I spent so much time during the last week going up and down the ladder hanging artwork and drapes that he put hooks inside the pantry door to hang the ladder so it’d be close by. Our ceilings are tall, thus our cabinets are tall, and since I’m a bit vertically challenged, I need the ladder almost daily anyway.

It rained much of last week, but we had one nice day for a yard crew to remove pine straw from the beds throughout our yard and put down mulch. On the last possible day before the open house, my painter of over a decade painted the ugly green shutters a nice chocolate brown and the curb appeal was greatly enhanced. Of course now I’ll have to find a new way of telling people how to locate my house. It’s not on many GPS systems, so in the past I’ve directed visitors to the street and told them to look for the house with the ugly green shutters.

Sunday dawned a beautiful day. I had cooked Brunswick Stew overnight and put on soup and chili first thing to cook until our guests arrived. My friend Jane graciously made cornbread muffins and cookiess. Add a veggie tray and frozen cheesecake squares from Costco, and some appetizers I can whip up in no time and you’ve got a party. While I put the finishing touches on the food and set out plates, bowls, napkins, etc. Hubby did the hard work of vacuuming. He also ran out for ice and built a fire in our outdoor fire pit.

The day remained perfect with afternoon temperatures in the sixties. Guests started to arrive about two and it was a steady flow until five or so with the last ones leaving between six and seven. Close to fifty people came by. Some did self-tours while Hubby or I showed others around. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to visit with each and every guest as much as I would have liked, but no one complained. Most ended up outside on the porch, on the patio or in the gazebo, and they seemed to enjoy each other.

Out of town friends have expressed surprise that I haven’t posted pictures yet, and I’ve told them I would when we got settled. Well, we’re settled, and here are a few pictures I snapped before our guests arrived.

 OUTSIDE PICTURES


ugly green shutters

       ugly green shutters

shutters painted brown

shutters painted brown



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ENTRY AND LIVING ROOM

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MY COZY STUDY

 

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MAIN LIVING AREA — LIVING ROOM, KITCHEN, DINING ROOM (all open)

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MASTER BEDROOM AND BATH

 

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UPSTAIRS — GUEST ROOM AND BONUS ROOM

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Not pictured are two guest bathrooms, the laundry room and mud room. We can only get one car in the garage so it’s certainly not ready to photograph. It’s a work in progress and the next project.

So, that’s it…a successful open house. Good food, good friends, and mission accomplished.

~ Kay

 

Homecoming surprise

IMG953713Weekend before last was homecoming at my alma mater, Huntingdon College.

Huntingdon is a small, liberal arts school in Montgomery, Alabama. When I was there back in the 70’s we had basketball, baseball, tennis, golf and maybe soccer — I’m not sure. Now, they have a football team, complete with band, majorettes, flag corps, the works.

When I started at Huntingdon, there was no Greek system, but my middle year they decided to slowly try implementing one with one sorority and one fraternity. An aside: I busted my butt and graduated in three years–what was I thinking???

Anyway, Alpha Omicron Pi, Chi Omega, Phi Mu and one other (can’t remember who — Delta Zeta, I think) did presentations and the women interested in Greek life ranked the groups. AOII edged out XO and colonized first with the understanding XO would colonize as soon as AOII was installed as a chapter–it took a year.

We knew nothing about Greek systems. Luckily, we had a strong alumnae advisory committee and one of the administrators was an AOII. She later became the Executive Director of the organization. Anyway, if we could do it wrong, we did. But after a lot of attrition and finding members who were better fits we were finally installed in January, 1976. I was the president of the colony when we became a chapter. Then I graduated the following May so, in reality, I had little Greek experience as an initiate.

The college provided for us (and later for XO) a suite of rooms on the top floor of one of the dorms. We had a chapter room, a study room, a Ritual closet, an entry foyer, an office, and a multi-purpose room. We were on one end of the hall and XO was on the other. Later Phi Mu joined the Greek system. I suppose they got the rooms in the middle, but I’m not sure.

All this to say for thirty-five plus years the chapter of about fifty women operated out of this suite on the fourth floor (no elevator) of a dorm. The suite was renovated several times, but it was pretty old and decrepit. Last spring the chapter found out they were getting a house. The other two chapters will get houses eventually but for now a beautiful Tudor style two story home right off campus is being remodeled and each group will have an entire floor. They will have the capacity to sleep some of their members in their new quarters,. The may even have as many square feet as the AOII house. I’m just guessing.

NEW AOII HOUSE

NEW AOII HOUSE

Circling back to homecoming–AOII decided to formally dedicate their house that weekend and invited alumnae to celebrate with them. They registered at Bed Bath and Beyond (brilliant!) so as not to compete with the college in fundraising, and had their new abode in top notch shape by the weekend. I arrived on Friday before the festivities on Saturday. Of course I couldn’t wait to see it so, under the guise of delivering some housewarming gifts, my sorority little sister and I trekked over Friday afternoon for a pre-open-house tour.

The two story house is in a cul-de-sac on a street across from the college. It is a quiet neighborhood, and the neighbors I talked to on Saturday were delighted to have the young women close by. It is a nice shade of yellow and has a full front porch with two entrances. One goes upstairs to four bedrooms, the other to the main floor where there is a living room, dining room, kitchen, den, etc. It has  beautiful paneling and georgious hardwood floors.

There are no Greek letters on the front, which puzzled me, but they said being in a neighborhood they didn’t want to advertise they were different from the other homes. They did put up a banner on Homecoming Day. They park in the back, so we were sure we had the right house because all of the cars had AOII bumper stickers. It is a historical home, so the renovation had to follow strict guidelines. For example, they could replace the back windows and doors, but not the front.

Satisfied with our pre-tour, my “little sister” from the sorority and I went back to the hotel to meet some of the other charter members we were expecting for the festivities.

The next day we went to the football game–well, we stayed under the giant alumni tent behind the guest bleachers. We could see the game and visit with friends at the same time. I saw people I hadn’t seen in close to forty years. Some of “the girls” and I visited the AOII exhibit for photo ops, but mostly we caught up on each other’s lives. My good natured husband had four or five cameras in his possession most of the day.

PLAYING AT THE GAME

PLAYING AT THE GAME

 

 

AT THE ALUMNI TENT -- friends from the 70's

AT THE ALUMNI TENT — friends from the 70’s

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the appropriate time we moseyed down to the new AOII house. I don’t know why, but I was surprised to see a representative from the International Executive Board (from Vermont), the International Properties Board (from Arizona), and the chapter’s Network Director (from Tennessee) join college dignitaries at the event.  Before the ceremony began, the chapter president and chapter adviser recognized these ladies as special guests. They also acknowledged the charter members were in the crowd, including me, the first chapter president. (A surprise, but a nice, touch). Then they did something unexpected–they invited us to join them on the porch for the ceremony and ribbon cutting. And guess what! They asked ME to cut the ribbon! Hubby said he’d had a handful of cameras all day, but this was so unexpected, we all took our cameras with us, so he had to scramble to get some photos with his own iPhone. What an unexpected honor!

"Special guests"

“Special guests”

 

 

 

Crowd looking at the house

 

 

 

 

 

 

Looking out at the crowd

Looking out at the crowd

 

 

 

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I cut the ribbon!!!!

 

 

 

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CUTTING THE RIBBON

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I met several of the chapter members and they were delightful. Two, Anna and Farrah, sought me out and told me when they were freshmen they’d read something I’d written to the chapter as a senior and that it had been meaningful to them. I’d actually met Anna the afternoon before and she’d declared me “cool” which doesn’t happen often these days. They even wanted to have a picture made with me. Regretfully, I don’t have a copy, but I do have a copy of the charter members who stayed for the ceremony.

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After the open house a handful of us went out for a nice dinner.

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We tried to stay up reliving our college days, but we can’t party like we used to. I think we were all in bed by 10 o’clock. Regardless, a  good time was had by all, and we’ve pledged to make it an annual affair. We hope more will join us next year.

I had a great time. Thanks for indulging me with my reminiscing.

~ Kay

 

UPDATE: I got a copy of a photo of Anna and Farrah’s photo with me. They are so cute and precious — great representatives of the women of the chapter.

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K