Going Home after an Amazing Trip — Rome Trip Day 21

Link to Day 20

Day 21: Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Not interested in the whole story? Click to go directly to these sections:

  1. Vienna Airport
  2. Flying to Frankfurt
  3. Frankfurt Airport
  4. Flying to Charlotte
  5. Charlotte Airport
  6. Last Leg of the Trip
  7. Music that was popular in Italy in April 2014
  8. 22 blog posts?!?!? tl;dr

Vienna Airport

Here’s today’s route:

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VIE-FRA-CLT-CHS via gcmap.com

I had spent the night in the Vienna airport and managed to get a little bit of sleep, totaling only about 100 minutes. I gave up on sleeping and got up around 3:45am CEST (9:45pm EDT the day before), packed up my stuff, and left the B gates to head to the C gates. The shops were all still closed, and the airport was pretty quiet.

4:40am CEST. I’m guessing one of these two is mine.
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4:58am CEST. Making use of the free wifi at the Vienna airport again.

At 5:30am, a coffee and pastry stand opened. I know airport prices are expensive, but the cost of these drinks surprised me. €3,80 was about $5.20 with the exchange rate on April 30. I bought a hot chocolate and a muffin instead.

The lack of sleep is making it difficult to think straight.

Eventually we boarded the flight to Frankfurt.

Flying to Frankfurt

The flight was delayed because of weather in Frankfurt but not by enough that it mattered for my four-hour connection.

7:53am CEST / 1:53am EDT:
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I thought it was a nice, uneventful flight. The man next to me was quiet the whole time. I looked out the window. The flight was short. Everything was great. When we landed and I picked up the backpack that I’d kept at my feet, it was soaking wet. My 24 fl oz water bottle had come open and emptied itself onto everything I had with me. I’ve never had a problem with these water bottles before, but I remembered moving the backpack further under the seat in front of me at the beginning of the flight. Most likely I kicked it open. Next time, I’ll only use a screw top bottle instead of a flip top.

Frankfurt Airport

8:49am CEST / 2:49am EDT:
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The Frankfurt airport is huge. A lot of the planes parked far from the buildings from where the passengers are bussed in. Rushing to get off the plane first does you no good here; you only leave when the last person is off the plane and on the bus.

Once inside, my first priority was this mess of a backpack I had. I found an empty bench, dumped everything out, and started sorting. None of my electronics was ruined, so that’s good news. All of the rosaries I had with me were sealed up nicely in a zipper top bag, so they were fine. My inflatable pillow and the cheap pillowcase I’d brought were soaked. A small zipper pouch made of cloth that I used for carrying small odds and ends was soaked. I decided to throw out the pillow, pillowcase, and pouch. The smaller backpack that I had empty and flat inside the larger backpack was soaked, and I think it probably helped soak up a lot of the water that would’ve otherwise soaked the outside of the larger backpack. After throwing away a few things and sorting the rest into wet and dry piles, I repacked the dry stuff in the larger backpack and the wet stuff in the small backpack. I asked a shop worker if I could have a plastic bag for the wet stuff, and she happily let me. That helped a lot.

My award ticket let me check a bag plus bring a carryon and a personal item like a purse. The suitcase was checked yesterday in Rome, so that leaves me an allowance of two bags on the plane. I decided to keep the wet and the dry stuff completely separate for the rest of the trip and just deal with the wet stuff after I got home.

Did I mention that Frankfurt airport is huge? It’s huge. Security here is different than what I’m used to, and I like how they have it set up. Instead of having one large security checkpoint to go through before going to any one of hundreds of gates, you can walk through most of the airport at your leisure and then just go through security before a cluster of four or so gates. Most shops, restaurants, and bathrooms are outside of security, but past security where I was going there were additional bathrooms and one shop. I went through early and just waited inside security, because between being exhausted and frustrated with myself, I was just ready to be home.

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The wifi at Frankfurt is free, but it’s so slow that it is worthless.

I bought a small sandwich and a screw top bottle of water at a shop while I waited. A British woman was there trying to spend the last few of her Euros before heading home, and she came up a few cents short, so I gave her some of mine. She seemed very surprised. Do people not do that sort of thing in Britain or on the Continent? It seemed natural to me. I mean it was barely any money at all, maybe €0,20 (not even 30¢).

Seeing her spending her last Euros reminded me that I wanted to do the same thing. I had about €8 left, which I think is great considering I last got cash from the ATM several days ago. I don’t think I could’ve planned it much better if I’d tried. I almost bought some Jagermeister, but the thought of that breaking and spilling all over after I’d just spilled water all over everything made me skip it. In my sleep-deprived state, I bought sausages, not remembering that the only type of meats allowed in the US were tinned meats.

I sat and waited. And waited. And waited. Finally we started boarding. It seemed it was taking longer than it should have, but since we were all getting on the same bus, it was pointless to try to get to the front of the line, so I just waited. When we got on the plane, I took this picture. It was 12:55pm CEST / 6:55am EDT.
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Flying to Charlotte

I was exhausted, and I just wanted to get in the air and try to sleep. Then a young man sat down in the seat next to me, proclaiming before his butt even hit the chair, “Oh, good. I’m glad we’re going to be sitting together. I need somebody to talk to.” Oh good heavens, no. I can’t handle that for the next nine hours. I tried so hard to be friendly.

The flight attendants were handing out customs forms, and Mr. ChattyFace didn’t have a pen, so I let him borrow one of mine. The plane wasn’t full, but it appeared no more people were boarding. I asked, half to my neighbor and half rhetorically, “Is that everybody?” He answered me, “Well, they’ve closed the door, so I’d say so.” Three rows ahead of me were a window and aisle seat pair that were empty. I grabbed my bags from my feet and got to those seats faster than that poor guy even knew what was happening. I didn’t even care that he still had my pen. I was in full introvert mode and needed those seats. The window seat was one of those that didn’t actually have a window, but I didn’t care about that either. Before we took off, he brought my pen back to me, and I thanked him. And I settled in for the most comfortable longhaul flight I’ve had yet.

If I am traveling to a different time zone, I change the time on my phone and my watch when we leave. Based on that, we were served lunch at about 8:15am EDT. I had learned on the flight over that the chicken was the wrong choice, so I chose the pasta.

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In the picture above, you’ll see that my lunch was carbs with a side of carbs, plus a piece of carbs, with some carbs for dessert. Pasta, rice, bread, and a brownie. Thanks, US Air. :-/ It was, at least, better than that fuzzy chicken had been.

The flight was great. The captain asked us to leave the window shades closed for the flight, so it was fairly dark the whole time, which made it easier to catch a few minutes of sleep here and there. I half watched the four-hour long movie Cleopatra and half dozed. I didn’t get a lot of sleep, but I got some, and I needed that. Afterwards I half-watched something else, but I don’t even remember what it was. Mostly I just rested.

Before we were on the ground in Charlotte, I switched out the SIM card from Italy and put back my US SIM card so that I wouldn’t have to fumble with that in the airport. FYI, an SD card case will hold a SIM card and a paperclip easily, and that’s much easier to keep track of over three weeks than a loose SIM card and loose paperclip.

Charlotte Airport

Coming back into the country, I had to claim my suitcase before rechecking it for the final leg of the flight. It felt like it took a long time for the bags to come up on the belt. People with tight connections started to panic. I had a four-hour connection, but even I started to worry about the time. I also didn’t have a lot of faith that my suitcase would be on the belt with the others. I figured it either got lost or that it could be here already waiting in an office because I’d left Rome so long ago.

Going through customs, I declared that I had meat products, so they took me aside to inspect them. Sure enough, they were confiscated. I asked permission to take a picture of them to show my husband what I’d tried to bring him, and the officer said yes, provided that I only take a picture of the sausages and nothing else since this is a secure area and photos are forbidden. Yikes. Glad I asked. After that, I was free to go on. I rechecked my bag and then waited in a VERY long line for security screening.

Many people were panicking that they would miss their flights, and I’m sure many of them did. You can’t get on a 6:00pm flight if at 6:00pm you’re in line. One group of young German adults decided to push their way past hundreds of people in line. I happened to be the one who didn’t let them go any further. They told me that the security guard told them to go through the line. I felt a lot of sympathy for their misunderstanding having just spent three weeks speaking a language I wasn’t fluent in. They had a great grasp of English, but I’m betting the security guard meant they’d have to go through the line like everybody else, not that they were allowed to go through the line without waiting in it. Still, they had to stand behind me the rest of the time. When they called out to the security screeners, they were told to wait in line.

When I got through security, I headed toward my gate, not even stopping to eat.

Just three minutes after I tweeted that the delays weren’t affecting my flight, my flight was delayed.

Then I did go find some food. I ate at Chili’s again, but the service wasn’t nearly as great as it had been on April 9. I got tired of being ignored for refills of my water, so I asked for a box for the rest of my salad and a to-go water, paid and tipped, and left. I finished eating at the gate.

After I’d eaten, I was so tired that I just couldn’t stand it any more. I lay down on the floor in my gate’s area, knowing that even if I fell asleep, I’d hear the commotion of boarding and not miss my flight. I dozed for a few seconds several dozen times. Finally we boarded my last flight.

Last Leg of the Trip

Once I was seated and buckled in, I fell asleep almost immediately. I did that thing where your head falls forward and jerks you awake probably three times before we even took off. I was so exhausted.

Seeing Eugene again was great. I’d missed him so much. I was ready to go home, but I had to wait for the suitcase.

I turned off the phone, Eugene drove us home, and I went straight to bed. What a trip.

The next day I tweeted a few updates that I’ll include here:

Over 22 days, I spent $350 on food, and I lost 4 lbs. Not bad.

Here are all of your rosaries plus my rosaries and prayer cards that Pope Francis blessed:
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This was a once in a lifetime trip. I’m grateful that my husband didn’t mind that I went. I’m happy that I was able to interact with so many of you via Twitter while I was there. And I’m happy to be able to share the details of my trip with you through this series of blog posts. Thanks for travelling with me!

Here are some of the songs that were popular in Italy while I was there. I hadn’t realized that they’d made such an impression on me until I found myself singing “Per Sempre” in my head on the long flight back to Charlotte. This is the soundtrack of a good portion of my trip.

“Happy” by Pharrell Williams from USA in English. Video by 2popesaints.

“Per Sempre” by Ligabue from Italy in Italian

“Hey Brother” by Avicii from Sweden in English

“Rather Be” by Clean Bandit featuring Jess Glynne from England. Language: English

“Tous Les Memes” by Stromae from Belgium in French

“Changes” by Faul & Wad Ad vs. Pnau in English

22 blog posts?!?!? tl;dr

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CHS-CLT-FCO-VIE-FRA-CLT-CHS via gcmap.com

I went to Europe alone for three weeks, spent most of my time in Rome, saw Pope Francis, ate a lot of sandwiches and some gelato, got scammed by Flaminio Camping Village in Rome (do not stay there!), was treated wonderfully by Hotel La Scaletta in Lido di Ostia outside of Rome, went on the necropolis tour of St. Peter’s Basilica and saw the bones of St. Peter, stayed out overnight for and attended the canonization Mass of Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II, got a bonus day in Vienna, purposefully spent the night in an airport, and made it home safely where my adorable husband picked me up at the airport.

Trip Tips from Day 21:

  • Use screw-top water bottles
  • Skip the sausages. Bring home booze for your husband instead.
  • Use an SD card case to hold your SIM card and paperclip
  • Book yourself a longer layover in CLT than is required for a legal connection if you’re coming back to the US

Things I spent money on on Day 21:

  • Vienna airport: muffin and hot chocolate
  • Frankfurt airport: a few Euro cents to a British lady out of Euros
  • Lunch: bottled water, salami sandwich
  • Two packages of German sausage which were confiscated in the US
  • Charlotte airport: dinner at Chili’s
  • Charleston airport: parking while Eugene came in to pick me up

Some notes about tweets:

Bonus Day in Vienna, Austria — Rome Trip Day 20

Link to Day 19

Day 20: Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Not interested in the whole story? Click to go directly to these sections:

  1. Leaving Rome
  2. NIKI Airlines
  3. Arriving in Vienna
  4. Vienna City-Airport Train (CAT), Part I
  5. Stephansdom
  6. Lunch Near Stephansplatz
  7. Vienna Naschmarkt
  8. Wandering around Vienna
  9. Vienna Opera
  10. Sneaking Out Early
  11. Vienna City-Airport Train (CAT), Part II
  12. Sleeping in the Vienna Airport

Leaving Rome

I woke up at 2:30am to the sound of heavy rain and thunder. I decided if it was still raining like that when I left at 5:30am, I’d take a cab instead of walking and taking the bus. Thankfully, I fell back asleep easily, and when the alarm woke me at 4:45am, the rain had stopped.

I managed to get up and going by 5:00am. I left a tip for the housekeeper, packed the last few of my belongings, and headed downstairs by 5:25am. The night clerk offered to make me coffee. They are so kind here at Hotel La Scaletta. I declined his offer and headed out to Lido Centro.

I had with me the last can of Fanta and a half-full carton of orange juice that had been in my fridge. I looked for homeless people as I walked to the bus. I found a man who was awake but appeared to be spending the night on the sidewalk across from the basilica. Buongiorno. Vado a aeroporto. Per tu. He thanked me, and I wished I could say that I was sorry there wasn’t more. I think when Eugene and I go to Europe together some day, I may start buying food to keep in my bag specifically to hand out to people I see living on the streets.

I got to Lido Centro in plenty of time for the 5:55am bus to Fiumicino. When the bus arrived, I boarded and got settled, ie tried to get my suitcase out of the way of the few other passengers. I’m planning on spending the night in Vienna at the airport, but I checked on a reservations website once more for hotel options that looked appealing. The problem is mostly the early flight to Frankfurt tomorrow. There’s nothing near the airport that’s cheap, and I don’t want to pay for a taxi to the airport first thing tomorrow morning. Looks like the airport is still the plan. It’ll be an adventure!

Driving to the airport, I noticed that part of this area feels like Palm Coast, Florida: newer building that all look a particular similar way, perfectly sized and shaped palm trees, and all in all a bit contrived.

Thanks to the quick run to the airport last night, I knew exactly where I was going today. NIKI airlines checked me in quickly and efficiently. I have boarding passes for all of my flights today and tomorrow. I’ve checked my roller carry-on sized bag all the way to Charleston. Good luck, suitcase! The poor suitcase has to go from Rome to Vienna to Frankfurt to Charlotte to Charleston. So do I, for that matter.

The reason the routing is so convoluted is because this is an award ticket from American Airlines. Several years ago I worked as a travel agent for a large company in their call center selling air, car, and hotel. Cathay Pacific has a great promotion where they award airline frequent flyer miles to travel agents for booking their business and first class tickets to Hong Kong. I randomly answered a phone call that was from a client whose daughter was in the Beijing Olympics in equestrian events which were being held in Hong Kong, and I booked several business class tickets to Hong Kong for her family. I’d been sitting on more than 42,000 frequent flyer miles since 2008. Miles expire after 18 months of no activity on the account, so I was sure to earn a few more miles here and there over the past years by taking surveys or buying something through iTunes, because I didn’t want to lose so many free miles. I’m glad to finally be able to use 40,000 of them for this trip.

Luckily for me, the US Airways and American Airlines merger started before this trip, and I was able to use award space on US Airways for part of the trip, which gave me a great CHS-CLT-FCO route for the outbound. Coming home, however, was going to require an overnight somewhere in Europe other than Rome. My choices were Berlin, Dusseldorf, or Vienna. At first I had booked Dusseldorf because I could get at least 4 hours exploring the city before spending the night and leaving at the crack of dawn the next day, but I kept looking at the schedules as availability changed over the months leading up to my trip. Berlin was never a viable option because the flights got in after 10pm and left before 7am, so I wouldn’t have been able to see anything in the city. Eventually I ended up finagling an itinerary that would get me into Vienna around 10:30am on April 29 with an April 30 7:30am-ish departure. Anything under 24 hours is not considered a stopover, which means it doesn’t cost additional frequent flyer miles. I basically gave myself a bonus day in Vienna.

I found this place in the airport and was pretty proud of myself for knowing this word:

I made a mistake in this tweet. I caught it a few minutes later, though.

Fixed it!

I found a cafe and bought a cappuccino and muffin. I paid the woman with exact change, and she just set my money on the counter and didn’t move. I added a few more cents for a tip, and then she started working on my order. This is the first time I’d gotten snotty service from a food place in Rome. Am I supposed to tip first? Maybe. Seems weird, though.

I was looking over my budget for Rome and found this interesting tidbit:

NIKI Airlines

Around 8:20am, I boarded my NIKI flight to Vienna. It was a longer walk than I expected: IMG_0850 IMG_0852 IMG_0853 IMG_0854 IMG_0855

First impression of NIKI airlines? Good. They have a selection of newspapers for us, and their seats are larger and more comfortable than US Airways. IMG_0856 IMG_0859

Had I been on the left side of the plane instead of the right, I think I would’ve been able to see Hotel La Scaletta and that whole oceanfront resort area as we took off over the ocean and then turned left to come back over land. IMG_0867

Considering it was an 8:50am to 10:25am flight, I’m surprised we got food. This was actually pretty good. IMG_0884

Arriving in Vienna

Last night before I went to bed, I made a point of saving the schedule at Stephansdom and a copy of Vienna’s subway map on my phone so that I would have them even without internet access. IMG_0834 IMG_0836

The plane arrived a few minutes early. Everything about NIKI airlines has been great. I’ll gladly fly them again, and I can also recommend them to you.

One of these was my plane: IMG_0894

Vienna airport has free, good wifi, so naturally I tweeted.

Even arriving a couple minutes early, I’m in a hurry. I want try to make it to the noon Mass at Stephansdom, and I’m not sure I can. I need to find my way to the Left Luggage Stand and leave my backpack there, taking with me only a smaller bag into the city for the day. I made it there and dropped off my backpack. I didn’t even need to know any German, as the workers there spoke great English. I’ll pay for my bag when I pick it up before closing time tonight.

Vienna City-Airport Train (CAT), Part I

Then it was a mad dash to get downstairs and find the City-Airport Train (CAT) ticket machines and tracks. The CAT runs at 6 minutes past the hour and half hour, and it’s a short 16 minute trip into the city. There are non-express trains that take a few minutes longer but cost less, but since I’m in a hurry, I’ve decided ahead of time that time is worth money, and I’m taking the CAT. I couldn’t get the machine to take my €50 note, and I didn’t have time to find somebody to ask for help, so I ended up using my credit card. I bought a round trip CAT ticket that included a supplement good for one day’s worth of U-Bahn and S-Bahn rides in Vienna. I got my ticket, ran to the track, and I made it onto the train by 11:04am. We pulled out at precisely 11:06am. Whew. So… I have no pictures of the train, but I’ll take some tonight on the way back, because I shouldn’t be as rushed then.

We’re going from the Vienna airport, which is south of the city, to the Wien Mitte / Landstraße station. The ticket collector came around to each of the few of us on the train to validate our tickets. He noticed that mine includes the U-Bahn and S-Bahn, and he told me how to validate that portion of it the first time I used it. That was quite helpful.

Some pictures from the ride into the city, including some other trains for my train-loving friends:
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I’m still in a hurry, so I didn’t even slow down to take this picture. Even though it’s blurry, you can see that not knowing German is not an issue. I’m heading to the U3 line to go to Stephansplatz.
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This just couldn’t be any easier.

Stephansdom

I knew Stephansdom would be near Stephansplatz, but I didn’t know exactly where. This is the view when you come up from the station on the escalator to street level. Found it!

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I went in and found a seat for Mass, and I even had enough time to get out of rushing around mode and calm myself into a prayerful mode. If I’d missed the 11:06am train, though, I wouldn’t have made it to the noon Mass.

Mass was beautiful. I’ve learned practically no German, so the homily was lost on me, but the hymns were familiar. We received Holy Communion at the rail, which is a first for me.

The organist was wonderful on every song he played, but when he began the last hymn, the organ thundered so loudly that I felt it in my rib cage. Music has always meant a lot to me, but this is the first time music has made me feel the presence of God. I can’t tell you which song it was, because even half an hour later when I thought about jotting down some notes, I had forgotten. It was a song I knew from growing up, though, one of the old standard German hymns. It’s just the way he played it was so … powerful.

It was such a moving experience for me that I waited after Mass for an opportunity to speak to him. I don’t speak German, and he spoke only a bit of English, but I hope I was able to communicate to him my appreciation for his music. He let me take his photograph with the organ he played for this Mass:

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Some pictures of St. Stephen Cathedral (Stephansdom):

Looking toward the altar:
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Still looking forward, a little closer:
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Looking to the back of the church:
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Some side altars and chapels:

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I sat with a local and chatted in English for a few minutes. She was excited to show me their tribute to the new Saint John Paul II. She said they love him very much here in Vienna.
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This cathedral is filled with tourists, many of whom are here because this is where Mozart was married and had two of his children baptized. The gift shop has quite a few Mozart and music items in addition to rosaries and postcards as expected. I think because I got here right before Mass, I missed most of the crowds. The part of the church used for Mass was closed off to the public until a good 15 minutes after Mass ended, which is how I could get pictures without a lot of people in them. Afterwards it filled up pretty quickly. If you’re going here to tour, start with a Mass.

Some detail on the exterior of the cathedral:
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Lunch Near Stephansplatz

Leaving the cathedral, I wandered around the Stephansplatz area. Nearby, I saw the dome of another church:
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To get there, I passed the Plastic Haus:
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And I passed Weinerwald:
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Everything about this area fits what my image of Austria was before I arrived.

The other church was closed, but this artwork on the building is beautiful:
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I was surprised to see horse-drawn carriages. This first picture is in front of the Hotel Wandl.

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I found a restaurant and decided to have my first waiter-served meal of the trip since I was at the Charlotte Airport 20 days ago. Did I find a cute little authentically Austrian place? No. I found Sparky’s.

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Wifi was free. Service was good without being rushed or slow. Okay, maybe it was a tad bit slow, but that’s probably because I’m used to American service. I ordered a something-stuffed sausage of some kind, wrapped in bacon, served with fries and a Fanta. That’s a lot of Fanta. I wasn’t expecting that.
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I took advantage of the free wifi to tweet a few updates:

Then I found this. Nearby me was a place called Chattanooga Cafe and Grill, which I found on FourSquare.

Unfortunately, when I left my restaurant, I completely forgot about this Chattanooga Cafe and Grill place, so I didn’t go looking for it. I did find it later online: Chattanooga Restaurant in Vienna. I am intrigued by this. Does anybody know the story? Why is this named Chattanooga?

It’s only about 2:30pm, and I’ve got several more hours before the opera starts. It’s time to explore some. I head back down to the U-Bahn and get on the U1 line. I’m heading just one stop from Stephansplatz to Karlsplatz. IMG_1040 IMG_1042

At Karlsplatz, I checked the map, not exactly sure where to go next. I’m heading to the Naschmarkt. IMG_1044 IMG_1046

I asked at an information booth about how to get to Naschmarkt, and the man told me I don’t even have to leave the underground area yet. Just follow this long walkway toward Secession, and then when I come up, it’ll be right there. The underground area is very clean with some modern art along the mirrored walls. IMG_1050 IMG_1054

This looooong representation of pi intrigued me so much that I made a video of the whole thing for you. I’ve spliced together two pieces of video (imperfectly, sorry), but this shows the whole thing:

Vienna Naschmarkt

Coming above ground after walking from Karlsplatz toward Secession, the Naschmarkt is just across the intersection from you.
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First I wandered and explored while taking approximately one zillion pictures. Then I made a second trip through, buying a few things. IMG_1083 IMG_1085 IMG_1087
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A group with a guide from Viking River Cruises was here at the same time I was: IMG_1121 IMG_1125 IMG_1127 IMG_1129 IMG_1131 IMG_1133
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More of the little red grape-looking fruits I had seen in Rome’s Campo de’ Fiori were here. At this point I still didn’t know what they were, but I learned from Keith, who commented on my blog post about them in Rome, that they are redcurrants. IMG_1215

Dragon fruit: IMG_1217 IMG_1219 IMG_1221

The which came first case:IMG_1225 IMG_1227 IMG_1231 IMG_1233 IMG_1235 IMG_1237 IMG_1239 IMG_1241 IMG_1242 IMG_1244

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There were even a few Asian stores at near the end: IMG_1259 IMG_1257 IMG_1262 IMG_1264 IMG_1266 IMG_1267 IMG_1270 IMG_1272 IMG_1273 IMG_1276 IMG_1278 IMG_1280 IMG_1281 IMG_1285

I went back and bought some sauerkraut (good, but it’s not really a snack food), some fruit for later, and a piece of the famous Vienna cake: Sacher Torte. IMG_1288 IMG_1292

This cake is highly overrated. It’s dry, it’s barely chocolate, and apricot doesn’t go with chocolate well anyway. I didn’t finish it. I don’t think I’ve ever not finished a piece of chocolate anything. Well, now I have. It just really wasn’t good. What a shame.

Wandering around Vienna

After I was done at the market, I went to the Opera House to get a few pictures of the outside and to figure out where I’d go when it was time for tonight’s performance.

From near the opera house, looking north-northeast, you can see the spires of Stephansdom. IMG_1295

Tonight’s opera is L’Esilsir D’Amore: IMG_1298

To get a picture of the front of the opera house, I had to go across the street since it is so large: IMG_1308

It’s only 4:10pm now, it looks like it’s going to rain, and I have several hours until it’s time to go to the Opera. I took advantage of my public transportation pass, got on the first tram I saw, and just rode for a while, not concerned about which direction I’m headed. IMG_1312

It was a chance to sit and look around at the same time. We went north, and I took pictures along the way. IMG_1320 IMG_1324 IMG_1326 IMG_1338 IMG_1340 IMG_1342

After about 20 minutes, not knowing where we were but not really caring, I exited the tram when I saw we were also near an underground station. If I’m near the metro, I can’t be lost, and I can get pretty much anywhere in the city easily. The rain started almost immediately after I left the tram. I ducked into a shop to get my umbrella out of my backpack, and then headed out to cross the street to get to the underground entrance. The rain had started suddenly, and it was pouring. IMG_1378

I took the U6 line two stops west to Spittelau, where I could change to the U4 line, which would take my directly back to Karlsplatz. Simple. A few pictures from Spittelau: IMG_1390 IMG_1386 IMG_1388 IMG_1394 IMG_1396 IMG_1398 IMG_1402

If you can see past the reflection, this is a room where they monitor the tracks. Even if you can’t see past the reflection, this is still a room where they monitor the tracks, you just can’t see it. ;-) IMG_1404

Time to head back on the U4 line to Karlsplatz. The end of the line in that direction is a name that is familiar to me. Hmmm. Hütteldorf is essentially Huettlville. IMG_1418

Back in Karlsplatz, I wandered around underground and found a little tourist shop. This postcard reminds me of an old episode of The Price Is Right where the contestant had no idea Austria wasn’t Australia. IMG_1426

There are a lot of music-related trinkets here. IMG_1427

Dinner was at a sandwich shop in the station. IMG_1423

Nearby at the opera house, people were queueing for the few cheap standing room tickets. I had secured my cheap seat (the last one available!) before leaving home, specifically so that I didn’t have to bother with an hours-long queue and taking the chance that I wouldn’t get in. IMG_1435

I wandered through the opera gift shop while I waited for the doors to be opened. Nothing really caught my eye, but these two items were at least clever: IMG_1455 IMG_1457

The opera house is close to the Sacher Hotel, the place which concocted that odd chocolate-apricot cake the Sacher Torte. IMG_1459

Vienna Opera

Around 6:30pm, we were allowed into the opera house. There are tours given here during the day because so many people want to see it, but I was going to get to experience an opera here. Well, at least part of one. I’ll need to leave during intermission in order to catch a train back to the airport that can get me there in time to pick up my bag before the Left Luggage Stand closes for the night. IMG_1463 IMG_1467 IMG_1471 IMG_1475 IMG_1485 IMG_1487

Since we had almost an hour before the performance began, I was able to go into a different section to get a quick photograph of the hall. I’ll be sitting in the highest section, second row back, all the way to the right. It’s an obstructed view, which I knew when I booked it. IMG_1493

Yes, the view will definitely be obstructed. Here’s the view from my seat: IMG_1516 IMG_1518 IMG_1520

I’ll be able to see English subtitles at my seat. IMG_1521

The chandelier: IMG_1530

The seats are starting to fill up. IMG_1532

I’ve seen the full range of clothes here, from jeans to tuxes and even one woman wearing leggings and a glittery top. I was in a nice skirt and blouse, but I decided at the last minute to leave my black walking shoes on instead of switching to the sandals I’d been carrying around all day in my bag. It turns out I fit in just fine.

Some members of the orchestra were starting to warm up. IMG_1536

More people are arriving. It’s almost opera time. IMG_1546 IMG_1548

I enjoy a variety of types of music and can appreciate almost all types, even ones that I don’t enjoy as much, but I’ve never been a fan of opera. Still, I didn’t want to miss the chance to see an opera in the Wien Staatsoper while I was here. It was too much of an opportunity to pass it up. The fact that I got the last ticket available online before my trip and for only €11 (about $15) only made it better. I’m very glad I did this.

The obstructed view was about 95% obstructed. I could see the performers if they were close to the audience, but the stage was deep, and I couldn’t see any of their set. They sang well, but it’s not a style I enjoy. The musicians were quite good, and I could’ve listened to them all night if those people hadn’t kept trying to sing over them. ;-) The English subtitles made the story easy to follow, even without being able to see the action. All in all, it was a good experience, and I’d recommend you try it … once.

Sneaking Out Early

According to the schedule, the intermission was supposed to be at 8:30pm, but they were still going at 8:35pm. I quietly got up and slipped out so I could head back to the airport.

Wien Mitte / Landstraße is just two stops from here on U4, heading away from Hütteldorf toward Heiligenstadt. As we were coming into the station, there is an indictator which lights up to tell us on which side of the train the doors will open. A woman near me saw this and stood by the doors indicated, but as we came into the station, the indicator light changed and we went to the other track instead. She shook her head and went to that side. I asked her if she spoke English, and she said she did. I told her the train just trolled us. She laughed and agreed.

Getting off the metro, I noticed what might have caused the train to use the track that it didn’t typically use. Track 1 was closed, and all traffic was using Track 2. They were doing some pretty intense repairs on Track 1. I saw a backhoe-type piece of equipment and lots of sparks flying. IMG_1551 IMG_1554 IMG_1555 IMG_1558

Vienna City-Airport Train (CAT), Part II

I went upstairs and found the entrance to the CAT. Workers there said that lightning had struck both one of their trains and the track a bit earlier, so the train wasn’t running and they were bussing people to the airport. The man started to lead me to the bus, but as we walked out the door, the phone rang, and then the woman called to us and told us to come back. She’d just gotten word that the 9:06pm train would indeed run. I followed the man as he unblocked the barricaded walkway.

Earlier today I was in a hurry and didn’t have time to get pictures of the CAT, but now I had more time.

Waiting here for the City-Airport Train and looking right, I can see the place where I just left the U4 line a few minutes ago: IMG_1560 IMG_1562 IMG_1566

The train is arriving: IMG_1567

In the train, downstairs: IMG_1572

Up a few stairs to go to another car or to the upper level: IMG_1574

Upstairs, where I sat: IMG_1576

We again left precisely on time at 6 minutes past, and we arrived at 9:22pm at the airport. IMG_1577

One more thing about these trains: the doors don’t all open automatically. You do need to press the lit green button to open the doors: IMG_1578

Sleeping in the Vienna Airport

I guess I was overly cautious in leaving the opera when I did. I have more than an hour before the Left Luggage Stand closes at 11:00pm. Still, it’s good to be back and get my bag. It was only €4 for the day — a great bargain. I stopped in a shop and grabbed some milk, and then on the advice of the nice young man at the luggage stand, I went to the B gates to spend the night. I went through security, and they did question if my flight was in the morning. They didn’t seem to mind my spending the night there, but I think they were making sure we were all on the same page. The place was deserted.

There was a remote section of the B gates that was perfect for sleeping uninterrupted, but it was significantly warmer there, to the point of being uncomfortable. I set up camp near B37 where it was slightly less remote but a better temperature. Once I got settled, I got on the free wifi and tweeted for a while. The @AirportSleeper Twitter account and website were quite helpful to me as I was planning my trip, so I was tickled to interact with them while I was lying on the floor of the Vienna airport.

I tweeted several more pictures and updates from my day, and then it was time to try to sleep.

Every few minutes some employees would come through the area near B37 exit to the outside of the airport through an employee door, so I packed up and moved to the back section even though it was hot.

The remote part of the B gates, gates 38 through 42, is in its own room, complete with clean bathrooms and vending machines: IMG_1584 IMG_1587

On the left side is gate B-42: IMG_1600

Opposite there, on the right, is this cozy little room, perfect for sleeping where nobody will bother you all night: IMG_1602 IMG_1603

Yes, those are electrical outlets on the wall, higher up than I would’ve expected them: IMG_1604

I thought about sleeping in one of the black lounge chairs, but I ended up on this row of chairs without arm rests. It was hot, so I didn’t need the sleeping bag as much as I thought I might. IMG_1605

I’m not good at sleeping, and I’m getting worse at it the older I get. My dad has always had trouble sleeping, and I think I’ll probably end up as bad off as he is. Tonight was no exception. I slept for about 20 minutes, and then for about 10 minutes, and then finally for about an hour and 10 minutes. It wasn’t much, but it was better than some of my nights.

Just after 4:00am, I packed up my stuff and headed out of the B gates into the rest of the airport to start the last day of my trip.

I’m glad I came to Vienna, but I’m also glad I was only here for a day. The people here aren’t as friendly as they were in Italy. Maybe that’s because I didn’t speak German, but I think it’s more than that. Even the interactions I saw between other people weren’t as friendly. In Italy, if you accidentally bumped into somebody on the train, a smile and an apology got you an understanding smile. In Vienna, if two people bumped into each other on the train, there was a lot of scowling and huffing and puffing. I’m very happy to have seen (or heard, rather) part of an opera at the Vienna Opera House, but it’s not something I need to come back to do a second time. Unless the airline routing just works out to get me through Vienna again, I don’t think I’ll come back here in the future.

Trip Tips from Day 20:

  • Take advantage of airline routing rules to get a bonus day in another city.
  • The City-Airport Train is overpriced and worth it only if you’re short on time
  • You’ll get along fine in Vienna if you only know English.
  • Skip the Sacher Torte
  • Sleeping in the airport is a viable option. Don’t be scared to try it.

Things I spent money on on Day 20:

  • housekeeping tip
  • Breakfast at FCO airport: chocolate muffin, cappuccino, tip
  • Transportation in Vienna: CAT round trip + day pass for public transportation
  • Offering at Stephansdom (St. Stephen Cathedral)
  • Stephansdom gift shop: postcards, candle
  • Lunch at Sparky’s Restaurant: sausage, fries, Fanta
  • Vienna Naschmarkt: sauerkraut, Sacher Torte, fruit
  • Karlsplatz tourist shop: postcard
  • Dinner at a Karlsplatz cafe: cappuccino & sandwich
  • Paid bathroom access
  • homeless(?) woman in Karlsplatz
  • Left Luggage Stand at Vienna airport
  • Airport shop: milk

Some notes about tweets:

Last Day in Rome before Going to Vienna — Rome Day 19

Link to Day 18

Day 19: Monday, April 28, 2014

Breakfast and a Recap of Saturday night and Sunday’s Canonization Experience

I slept well last night, but when I awoke around 7:30am, I was covered in mosquito bites. Yesterday I had had the balcony door open for a bit, and I guess a mosquito or a few spent the night with me.

I tweeted the first real updates of what it was like camping out overnight and being at the canonization Mass.

Autocorrect got me on this next tweet. I meant to say “in an unnatural position.”

What I realize now is that the preludes started around 9:40am, not the Mass itself. Still, it was really nice that things were going on then, because it essentially ended the waiting and began the celebration.

(There’s no reason for me to include the tweets with the pictures here as they were all included in yesterday’s post: Day 18.)

I love the selection of breakfast at Hotel La Scaletta, but today I just had a typical Italian breakfast: something sweet (pound cake) with Nutella. Plus I had fruit juice and yogurt, and I took two pieces of whole fruit back to my room for later.
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Getting This Day Started

I had been on the fence about whether or not to go into Rome today. The most important thing for today was to rest and to pack for tomorrow’s flight to Vienna. At this point in the morning, I decided that I would stay in Lido di Ostia today. I was still tired from my adventure, and I wanted to rest. I worked on sorting and packing. This evening I want to go back to the public beach access where I went the morning of Day 2, because I have some things to give to Mariano if he’s still there. There’s no reason to take home the clothesline, shampoo, etc, when I can leave them here with a homeless person who could use them.

That had been my favorite skirt, too.

I typically don’t like having housekeeping services every day in hotels, including here at Hotel La Scaletta. I did go hunt down a housekeeper to switch out wet towels for dry, and she was just so sweet about it. First of all, I interrupted her work, which I felt bad about, but she completely stopped what she was doing for me. Not only did she give me a fresh set of towels, she gave me another little bottle of shampoo, a bar of soap, a wrapped plastic cup, and a trash bag. I took them back to the room, got some money, and went back and interrupted her once more to tip her.

One last trip into Rome

Now that I was up and around and working on everything I needed to get done, I decided I may as well run back into Rome one last quick time. I packed up and headed out, speaking to Stefano at the front desk as I left. Later tonight I need to check in to tomorrow’s flight and print my boarding pass, plus I need to print my ticket to tomorrow night’s Vienna opera. I had printed one out and brought it with me from the US, but I can’t find it. I had the .pdf in my email, though, which is turning out to be a good backup plan. Stefano said I can print both of those things on his computer at the front desk. I cannot get over how accommodating this hotel is.

I’m also interested in finding out if getting a SIM card that will work in Vienna tomorrow is a possibility. Stefano gave me directions to go out from the hotel and just one block down in the direction opposite where I go to get to Lido Centro train station. He says that’s a main shopping road and has a couple of mobile phone shops where I can check. Great. That’s where I’ll start.

On the way to this small shopping area, I found a tiny little church, St. Theresa, just steps from the hotel. In Italian, I asked a group of ladies who were outside if there would be Mass tonight. No, they told me, only in the morning, but then they went out of their way to tell me about Basilica Santa Maria Regina Pacis near Lido Centro. Every interaction I’ve had here with locals has been wonderful.

I found two mobile phone stores, and both gave me the same answer: anything they sell me will only work in Italy. I figured as much, but I’m glad that I asked. At this point, I still was under the impression that the SIM card I’d had this whole trip was out of data allowance, and I considered buying another SIM, but I had fewer than 24 hours left here, and I decided against it.

From here, I headed east toward Lido Centro. Though I had a fairly good idea of where I was going, I did stop and ask a local woman which of these two particular roads I should take. She responded to me in English, but I answered in Italian, and the rest of our conversation was in Italian. I’m feeling better about Italian now, even though my vocabulary is still quite limited. I can also only speak in present tense, but so far that hasn’t mattered much for the tourist Italian that I need. I thanked the woman and headed on to Lido Centro.

I had brought with me from home three bandages, knowing that if I hurt myself and needed more than that, that should be enough to get me until whenever I could buy some more. I went to my favorite junk store by Lido Centro and asked in confident but incomplete Italian, Vorrei comprare (I would like to buy), and then I pointed at the bandage on my finger. They’re no longer suspicious of me here like they were the first day I shopped here when they followed me around down every aisle. Today he pointed me to the correct aisle and let me explore on my own. I found them, and they’re cheap, too.
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It’s about 12:30pm as I enter the train station. As I was waiting for the train, my phone got a push notification from Twitter. Maybe I wasn’t out of data allowance after all? I turned off cell data for now and will look at that a little later. I had great timing: the train arrived at 12:36pm, a short wait for these trains that can be 20 minutes apart. I had planned on switching to the Metro B line at EUR Magliana but wasn’t paying enough attention and missed that stop, so I switched at Basilica San Paolo. From there, I went to Termini, where I exited the station and headed towards Basilica Santa Maria Maggiore, because I want to shop at my favorite religious souvenir shop: Casa del Rosario.

Between Termini and St. Mary Major, you cross the road that is part of this tram’s route. I had ridden the trams a couple of days last week elsewhere in the city, but I hadn’t gotten a picture of one yet.
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Not long before I started planning this trip to Rome, my Twitter friend Marie mentioned her friend Allison’s new business: Rosaries by Allison, and I considered designing a custom rosary for her to make to celebrate my marriage to Eugene. I ordered it right after booking my flights to Rome, knowing that I wanted to have it with me to have it blessed by Pope Francis. All together, I had about a half gallon of rosaries with me on this trip (half of a gallon zipper top bag full). They were blessed by Pope Francis at the Wednesday general audience on April 16 and again during the canonization Mass on April 27. If you’re looking for a new rosary for yourself or for a gift, I highly recommend buying one from Allison. She’s not paying me to say that; she’s just awesome. At Casa del Rosario, I picked up some Saint John Paul II rosary center pieces for Allison and looked around one last time for souvenirs for myself.

Next door at St. Mary Major, I stepped in to say some quick prayers, but I stayed even less time than I thought I would. They were setting up for what appeared to be a concert in honor of the new Saint John Paul II.

Around 1:45pm:
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This is my 18th day in Italy, and I haven’t eaten any pasta yet. Will they even let me get on the plane to Vienna tomorrow? ;-) I went hunting for pasta. I didn’t think I could find bad food in Rome, but I did. This just wasn’t good. As it turns out, cafeteria food in Italy is just as bad as cafeteria food in the US. IMG_0777

At this point, I’m just wandering around, soaking up the last few minutes of my time in Rome before heading back to the beach for the night. I got on the metro at Termini intending to switch at Basilica S. Paolo and take the train back to Lido Centro, but instead I exited at Cavour. I just wanted to walk again down Via Cavour to Colosseo, and that’s all I did. I just walked, and looked, and smelled, and listened. I like it here in Rome, and I hope to come back here again someday.

After my walk from Cavour to Colosseo, I did take the metro to Basilica S. Paolo, where again, I decided to stop and take a few minutes to look around again before leaving tomorrow. I went to St. Paul’s Outside the Walls and said some prayers in the adoration chapel. On the way out, I gave some money to a woman who was there begging.

Both on the way into St. Paul’s Outside the Walls and again on the way back from there to the metro, I saw several Polish groups. They were happy and singing, and it just warmed my heart to see so many people from Polska here to celebrate their beloved Jan Paweł. One Polish woman even high-fived me as we passed each other.

Back on the train, I took a few pictures. There’s a train switching yard that I’d seen several times, and though I finally remembered to take some pictures on this last trip, I remembered a bit too late to get a good shot.

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I love these trees:
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Here’s the Roma-Lido line stops, as displayed above the train doors:
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I got back to Lido Centro around 3:45pm. I stopped in Carrefour, where I took these pictures. I couldn’t find an electric kettle anywhere I shopped in Rome, and yet they sell washing machines and refrigerators in their small grocery stores. This tickles me.
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I said goodbye to the cashier Luisa whom I’d seen so many times on this trip. I told her Domani, vado in America. She hugged me and wished me buon viaggio. I picked up some Baci chocolates to bring home. Mysteriously, the chocolates I had bought a few days ago to bring home have been eaten! Gasp! :-)

Still conscious of these last chances to take pictures of things I’ve seen for days now, I took these pictures on the walk home from the market to the hotel. These Enel charging stations are for electric cars: IMG_0803

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Another look at this little gas station where you just pull over and fill up. They do oil changes there, too:
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There’s time for one last gelato stop. I didn’t see any bacio (chocolate and hazelnut) flavor, and when I said to the worker No bacio oggi? she suggested another flavor that was similar and handed me a sample of it. It also was chocolate and nuts, and so I chose that. It’s typical to get three flavors of gelati in one cup, and today I tried that. My other choices were lemon and mint. Each flavor was good, but those bits where they were mixed were a little odd. I think I prefer having one flavor per cup. I sat outside and watched people as I ate.
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Back at Hotel La Scaletta, I paid my bill for the week. They don’t charge or even authorize your credit card until checkout, but I would be leaving so early tomorrow morning that I wanted to handle it tonight. They didn’t charge me for the wifi, and now, four months later, it looks like they don’t charge for wifi at all. Good for them. That will probably get them a little more business. This is a great hotel. I recommend it whether or not they charge for wifi when you visit.

Homeless People at the Beach and a Quick Trip to the Airport and Back

I wasn’t able to navigate well enough on my phone to check in to my flight online, so I enlisted Eugene’s help. He also wasn’t able to check in online. This is an award ticket from American Airlines on US Airways for the long haul flights and on NIKI air by Air Berlin within Europe. In other words, it’s a tad bit complicated. Rather than mess things up, I decided I’d rather be overly cautious and head to the airport tonight to speak with an airline employee and try to check in for my flights there.

Before I did that, though, I needed to pack up the rest of the stuff I was hoping to give to Mariano and take that to him. I showered, packed up the last few things I was giving away, and walked to the public beach access. Not only was Mariano not there, their beds were gone, and the chain link fence was partially ripped down. I wish that I had given him more money when I met him on Day 2. Unfortunately, you don’t have to look far to find a homeless person in Rome, and I found a woman on the beach huddled under a blanket trying to avoid the world. In broken Italian, I told her hello, gave her my name, told her I was from America and I’d be going back to America tomorrow. I offered her the shopping bag of household items I had, and she accepted. There was soap and shampoo, a razor, a couple of washcloths and a small towel (I had brought a small thin towel for my hair since using a huge bath towel is cumbersome and a couple of washcloths since I’d read that these smaller towels weren’t common in Italy), the unused plastic cups from the hotel, the clothesline and clothespins, a plastic food container with lid, a spork, and some food. I also gave her the sleeping bag liner I’d accidentally bought from Amazon.it when I thought I was buying a sleeping bag. The sleeping bag I’d bought at the Lido Centro junk store, though, I’m keeping for myself, because I’ll need that tomorrow night sleeping in the Vienna airport.

Once back at the hotel, Stefano looked up the bus schedule to and from the Fiumicino Airport for tonight. I emailed him the .pdf of my Vienna opera ticket, and he printed that for me. I grabbed my small German phrase book — not so that I could speak to the employees of the German and Austrian airlines, but so that I could hopefully learn a few words of German before being in Vienna tomorrow as I rode the bus tonight.

I left at 6:20pm and walked to Lido Centro. I caught the 6:43pm bus using my monthly ATAC pass which I had learned earlier in the trip is also valid for these busses, which are COTRAL, a different company.

I completely ignored my German phrase book which I should’ve been studying, and I enjoyed the scenery instead:
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There are old ruins along our route. I caught a glimpse of some of them:
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At the airport, the bus stops at arrivals, but departures is just one floor above, and it’s simple to find. The employees of NIKI airlines were proficient in English and helpful. They verified my flights and made sure everything was in order. They said I cannot check in now because it was too early, but I can check in at the airport at least 40 minutes before my flight and no more than 3 hours before my flight. I asked how it would work for the bag I was checking, and they said it would be checked to my final destination. I wasn’t sure if I’d pick it up in Vienna or not, and this will determine how I pack for my overnight in Vienna.

I left and got on the waiting bus, which was completely empty as there was still some time before it would depart. The driver was taking his break. I put my ticket in the machine and it was rejected! What I should’ve done was go inside and buy a single use ticket to Lido di Ostia like I had done on Day 1, but I didn’t. I figured my ticket says it’s good for COTRAL busses, so that’s good enough for me. I just sat there and read my German book. Several minutes and a few passengers later, we departed for Lido.

My SIM data allowance is working just fine now, so I’m able to (ignore my German studies and) follow our route on my phone using its maps and GPS. Lido Centro is past my hotel, so rather than waiting for that stop, I exited the bus earlier. I used the GPS and maps to tell where we were, and when we got as close to the hotel as we would get, I pulled the cord to request a stop, and I exited there.

I’d seen this truck for a few days near my hotel. Tonight I took this picture. I wonder what fiasco means in Italian. IMG_0833

Last evening in Italy

I got back to the hotel at 8:20pm, exactly two hours after I left. I think it was two hours that was very well spent, and I’m glad I went. Stefano was at the front desk when I returned, and I thanked him again for all his help during both of my stays at Hotel La Scaletta.

I was tired when I got back to my room, but I wasn’t done packing. I set my alarm for 9:30pm so that I could rest for a few minutes and then get up to pack. That worked well.

I watched television and worked, and I was done before 11:00pm.

I set my alarm for 4:45am, and I fell asleep easily on my last night in Italy.

Trip Tips from Day 19:

  • Keep your balcony door shut overnight unless you like mosquitoes
  • Have important documents in your email in case you lose your paper copy
  • Bring a couple of bandages and cough drops with you, buying more only if you need them
  • Skip the cafeterias. Upgrade to a real restaurant or just get street food, either of which will be better
  • Plan to give things to the homeless before you return home

Things I spent money on on Day 19:

  • housekeeping tip
  • Junk store: bandages
  • Casa del Rosario: Saint John Paul II rosary centers
  • Dinner: cafeteria baked pasta, salad
  • homeless(?) woman outside St. Paul’s Outside the Walls
  • Carrefour: Baci chocolates to take home
  • Gelato
  • 7 nights at Hotel La Scaletta

Some notes about tweets: