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:

VIE-FRA-CLT-CHS

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

chs-clt-fco-vie-fra-clt-chs

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:


Comments

Going Home after an Amazing Trip — Rome Trip Day 21 — 3 Comments

  1. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading the posts about your trip to Rome. I’m not religious at all so certain things went right over my head but it’s been interesting reading about all the things you saw and did. I’ve always been happy to see each instalment appear in my inbox.

    A quick question regarding the last entry.

    You say that you ate in Chile’s again but the service was poor. So poor in fact that you got tired of waiting, you had a box to take the rest of your food away and left. But you still tipped. I appreciate that tipping is expected in the USA but surely if the service is that poor then a tip shouldn’t be forthcoming? A tip should be a reflection on the service provided and if that service is that poor then why tip? By withholding a tip, you’re effectively telling the waiting staff that they didn’t do a good job.

    Your expenditure of $350 for 22 days of food was really good, that’s just over $15/day!

    Thanks for sharing all this Connie. I’d just like to repeat that it’s been a thoroughly enjoyable read.

    73 Keith.

    • Keith,

      Thank you so much for your kind words. This means a lot to me.

      As for the tip, I didn’t leave much, but I didn’t want to leave nothing. Here, servers are paid next to nothing as an hourly wage and depend on their tips. It’s a messed up system, but it doesn’t get better by not tipping.

      I was thrilled with the total food cost for the trip. I tried to do everything inexpensively since I was gone for so long, and I’m really pleased with the outcome. Shopping at grocery stores and avoiding full service restaurants (except in Charlotte, Vienna, and Charlotte) actually made it pretty easy. When I eventually take Eugene on his first trip to Europe, we’ll go more of a foodie route, but we’ll still buy some meals from street vendors and at grocery stores.

      Thank you again for taking the time to read the blog and to comment on it. I really appreciate it.

      ~Connie

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