Monthly Archives: May 2008

Sitting in Aldershot train Station.

It's about an hour before Via rail train 97 is set arrive at Aldershot train Station to take me to New York City. So far the trip has gone off with a hitch. My driver arrive on time, the ride only cost me 70$, as appose to the 80$+ I was quoted. Cannot complain with that. With any luck the rest of the trip will too.

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4 Days before I leave for New York City

Time Square Can’t Shine as bright as you…. Plain White T’s ~ Hey There Delilah.

I am currently staring at my baby blue carry on suitcase with white hibiscus flowers that is almost finished being packed. I am excited to go to New York City. It is defiantly been on my list of places to see for as long as I remembered. I am sure it’ll be similar to Venice. Where sure it looks amazing in pictures and movies, but to do it real justices you have to see it in person.

My luggage I am sure it probably going to be over packed for a short 5 day trip across the boarder by train.

My bag consist of:

3 pairs of jeans (light, dark and black)
1 t-shirts,
2 tank tops,
a belt,
a zipped up hoodie
toiletries kit (travel size shampoo and conditioner, soap, tooth brush, hair brush, minimal make up)
a night gown
Collapsible bag.
5 pairs of underwear,
2 pairs of socks (plan on wearing flip flops/sandals 90% of the time).
3 bras
extra set of Litlium AA batteries by Energiezer (best disposable batteries I’ve used for Digital cameras)
Spare 256 gb memory card

In my day pack slash oversize purse aka messenger bag.

Portable DVD player and accessories for extremely long train ride.
A few DVDs to be decided on at the last minute. Maybe the recent purchases copy of all 3 Indiana Jones movies.
Book – Princess Sultana’s Circle by Jean P. Sasson
2 Guide Books – New York City for Dummies, and Frommer’s New York City Day by Day.
Some snacks and drinks for the train ride.
My camera: Photosmart M437 5.0 Megapixel. and 1 gb memory card

Wearing down:
Capris, a T-shirt and another hoodie.

I have a general idea for what I am doing while there. I have some major things that I wanted to see while in NYC and I figured it out day by day.

Day 1
Ground Zero, Wall street and Raging bull statue.
Staten Island Ferry/Battery Park (may eliminate to allow more time for SOL and
Statue of Liberty/ Ellis Island.
Brooklyn Bridge
China Town/ Little Italy
Macy’s, Saks Fifth Avenue and Tiffany’s (may eliminate due to time constraints)
Dinner at Tom’s Restaurant. I am huge Seinfeld fan.

Day 2:
Empire State building (at opening)
Central Park – Lunch/picnic in the park. Must sees include Alice in Wonderland Statue and Strawberry Field.
Grand Central Terminal
Chrysler Building
Time Square,
Madison Square Gardens (may eliminate as will see when arrive in New York City from Penn Station)
Top of the Rock/ Rockefeller’s Center (haft hour before sun set staying until dark to see best view of Empire state building lit up)
Dinner at Serendipity 3 (official site)

Day 3

Conney Island in the morning maybe.
Really nothing planed. Perhaps see some of the Fleet Week 2008 festivities. Go back and revisit sights I want to see more of or missed.

The 22nd and the 26th I am unable to really do any sightseeing as the train ride from Aldershot is about 10 hours each way. I arrive in NYC after 9pm and then leave NYC at 7 am.

It was an extremely last minute idea to go and probably not very well thought out. I had originally planed on going to NYC to see NKOTB first concert in almost 20 years. However when trying to put my hotel money on my prepaid travel credit card by Master Card I accidentally put it on my cell account which has the same initials as my my card. I did not notice until about 3 days later when I couldn’t figure out why in hell had the money not shown up on my card. I went into my account online and low and behold 300$ made to my cell account. I rush to the bank and explain my circumstance to the women.

The lady explains to me since it been a few days and I did confirm the payment that I would have to wait for my cell company to return my money. However they could not guarantee that I would have back in time. I did not want to risk being short my hotel money at the last minute I change my travel plans to the following week when I get paid again in case I did not get my money back.

Changing my dates proved hard to find a decent, and okay price hotel or even hostels in NYC. Without really researching before I made my decision, I found out that weekend is holiday in the states. Which means the already pricey NYC got even more pricey- and that if you can find a room.

I finally found a hostel in the upper west side off Broadway that charge 85 USD$ a night for a private room, shared bath. At this point at an already last minute trip, beggars can’t be choosers.

I have 3 more shifts at work to get through. If it wasn’t for a boss who lives vicarsly through my travels I probably never got the time off to go.

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Home entries

My journal entries for my March 2008 trip ended with the last one. On the 9th I spent it in and around the Vatican. I arrived early for the Pope’s blessing. I was unable to find out exactly where I was suppose to go to watch it. I wandered around for a while before standing front row center by the baracades staring at Saint Peter’s Basilca thinking that is where it would be as a stage was set up and all the television screens were set up around that area. At noon still standing looking at the Basilica I hear cheers arrupt from behind me. I turn around and seeing everyone facing the building to the right of me. I look up and from a window a flag/banner was rolled out from the window. A few moments later the Pope steps into the window and begins. He says pretty much the same thing every time but in a different language, giving special notice to groups and countries being repersented in the square. I am not particularly religious nor Catholic. I was actually baptised Protasant, raised with Catholic teaching by my Irish protasant mother and Irish Catholic father and given the freedom to discover and enjoy religous teachings that was right for me.

Afterwards I walked down the street to Castle Sant’Angelo and explored it. I have been a fan of Dan Brown especially his book Angels and Demons since The Davinci Code came out. So It was important that I went and see at least some of things he mention in the book. Walking through the Castle I  could not find where this supposed tunnel that links the Vatican and the Castle was. But I suppose that area wouldn’t really be open the the public.

Afterwards I made my way back to the Vatican and explored Saint Peter’s bascilica and the Pope’s catacombs. It amazes me how unsenstive tourist can be. Taking pictures inside the catacombs. Getting in the way of religious pilgrims. I remember seeing one gentleman stand in the way of a nun on her knees praying in front of a tomb so he could take pictures despite just being told by a Swiss guard not to take pictures. People seem to forget that while they are on holidays and visiting places like this that they are in a sacred place first, tourist attraction second. A certin level of respect is required, even if it’s not a religious site for you.

My last day in Rome I went back to Vatican to see the Vatican musume. I inteded to go the day before, but failed to realised that just about everything was closed on Sundays like most things in Italy. I should haved learned that the week before. Once again it was raining. I got in line that even that early in the morning streched all the way to where the Swiss guards were before the entry into Saint Peter’s Square.

On my way to the metro stop that morning I caved in and bought a pink umbrella from the man selling them in the metro station. It cost me 5 euros and only lasted one day (barely). I stood in line for 2 hours to get into the musume. By then I was cold, extremely wet and tired!

The security at the museum is funny. I found it harder to get through then any security check point I’ve ever beenat  in airports and even border crossings. In the book Angles and Demons by Dan Brown the character Robert Langdon made a comment that in the Vatican museum all the statues had there male anatomy snapped off and wonder if there is a box in the basement of the museum full of stone penises. This part of the book always amuse me and stuck with me while I wandered through the museum looking at statues that yes indeed had no penises.

I later followed the crowd to the Sistine Chapel. I may be the only person in the world, but I was seriously disappointed in the Sistine Chapel. I thought it would be bigger, more colorful, more awing and less crowding. I was Shepard into the chapel, shoulder to shoulder, and constantly reminded by a loud speaker system that visitors are to be quite.

After the museum I made my way to the Spanish Step metro stop. I went and bought some gelato and reenacted a scene from another of my favorite movie – Roman Holiday. I sat on the steps watching people go by. I even had a conversation with a gentleman on whether or not in Italy they observe Day Light Savings times as early as we do in North America (they don’t)

By now I had one more thing to see: Piazza of Navona. The night before I plotted my path out and highlighted it on my map. I got as far as the plaza I needed to find before none of the names on the street signs on the building matched the names on my map. I turn around and asked the first person I see. Lucky for me it had stopped raining.

He was a handsome young man, my age. Perhaps a little younger even. He spoke very little English and I spoke even less Italian. After a moment of trying to understand each other he waved me to follow him. I walked a few steps behind him nervously. I recognized none of the street names, nor was I really sure if he meant for me to follow him. He kept looking over his shoulders at me. I stopped walking and looked at my map. He stopped, looked at me confused. “Piazza Novona, si?”, “Si” I replied. “This way” He pointed. We walked a little more and he stopped and held out his hand “Beroni” he said. Hearing something else I looked at him confused. “I’m sorry?” “I Beroni.” He stuck out his hand again. I took his hand and shook it. “I’m Jo.” We walk some more in silence and he turns and smiles and me and makes a grand gesture with his hand. “Piazza Navona” He gave me the thumbs up and I copied his gestured. He walked me the rest of the way into the plaza. He said Ciao, waves and walked back the way we came.

I had just taken out my camera when it started to rain again. I quickly took a picture of the fountians that were boarded up for restoration work. And started to run the way we came desperately trying to remember the way back. The umbrella that I had bought that morning quickly broke underneath the blowing wind and down pouring rain. I hopped on the metro at the Spanish steps and made my way back to Termini Station.

I called my parents from a payphone at the Station. Staying in a hostel with no phone had really became a nuisance. I later grabbed dinner to go from McDonald’s. I know, I know, I know, I came all this way to Italy and I eat McDonald’s? So much for experiencing culture.

I took the metro back to my hotel and settle in. I pack the rest of my luggage getting it down to one checked bag and one carry on bag. I planned on leaving very early.

I wake up the next morning, shower and get ready and I am checked out of my hostel even earlier then I had planed. Which wasn’t bad considering how sick I woke up. I take a cab to  Tremini station to make things easier as it still was dark out. The cab ride over cost just as much as it did when I took a cab from my first Rome hotel to my hostel.

I bought my train ticket for the Leonardo Express train, and sat in a booth. An American couple in about their 50’s joined me in the booth and we chatted all the way. I arrived too early at the airport and was unable to check in for my flight. I went up stairs to the lounge area at FCO airport, called home once again. When the time came I went back down, checked in for my flight. Hearing rumors that the flight was delayed. I waited my turn, stressing in line thinking about the 70 minute connection time I had waiting for me at London Heathrow. The women assured me that flight was not delayed and I would not miss my flight, nor would their be any issues with my luggage.

That satisified me enough. I made it through security and customs and went for my gate. It was boarding time and nothing was happening. The customer service reps did not tell us anything. After awhile we were told the plane was late and we should be able to bored in about 20 minutes. 20 minutes had gone and pass and we had still not bored. About 30 minutes after we were suppose to take off we finally started to bored. However shortly after we are told we missed out take off spot because of the previous delays.

The flight attendant assured me again I would not miss my connecting flight in London. When we got to London, it appeared to be that I would make my flight but it would be close. The pilot announced that we would have to circle the airport a while waiting for atime to land. 40 or so minutes later we land. The pilots made announcement asking passengers to allow those with connecting flights off first. No one listens. I push my way through only to have the pilot again announce that the person who puts the sky walk on is no where to be found and we would have to wait until someone comes.

By the time I finally get off the plane my second plane had just taken off. I am directed to go to the flight connection desk. I get there to be face with a line to rivals the line at the Vatican museum. Finally it is my turn. The gentleman rebook me on an Air Canada flight for 6 o’clock. he gives me a 5 pound food voucher to get dinner. I make my way over to the right terminal, exchange some of my money into pounds.

I had little time before my flight. Once again I was left searching for a working pay phone to call home to have my ground transportation sorted out and so my parents would no worry when I did not show up as plan. I go to use my voucher only the find out that they do not take it. I end up buying my food out of pocket.

Both gate areas at Heathrow I’ve seen were quite run down. I bored my flight and was pleasantly surprised that the flight was practically empty and I had an entire row of seats to stretch out across. The flight home was with out event.

Once we landed I navigated customs and made my way to baggage. To be honest I was haft expecting my bag to not be there but I still hope it would be though. I waited until all the bags were gone, and was right my bags did not make the flight. I walked my way to the air canada desk. Filled out my report and then walked down the arrival desk.

My driver shows up and takes me outside to an unmarked car. Airlink, a local company I’ve always used to take me to airports, usually used giant white vans that had Airlink written on them in blue. “No way” I said. The way my trip has gone so far, this could be some kidnapping situation. At least in my sick and tired mind at after midnight and 14 hours of flying I reason that way. I refused to get into the car that had another man sitting in the back seat. “Show me some Id, Please” He looked at me confused and he laughed open his wallet showed me his drive licenses, pointed to his uniform and made me realise that the clerk at the counter knew him and wouldn’t have let some random stranger take me. Fine, I agreed to get in to the car. I arrived home by 2 am. Tired as can be, I loaded my pictures on to my camera and went to bed.

I arrived home on Tuesday but would not see my luggage again until Thursday night at around 11:30pm.
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Back in Rome 03/08/08

March 8th 2008

I just finish showering, I am now at my new hotel/hostel that I had booked myself called Carlito’s way. I had checked in at their sister Hotel Hotel Des Artiste on Villa Franca. The room itself is actually near the Russian embassy. The walls link each other. The receptionist who walked me to my room insured me because of this the particular area was safe, but out side of this tiny Russian Embassy area it was not fully safe to walk around at night alone.

When I got back after dark that night I turned down the street after walking down another street from the Metro stop, there was an armed police guard. He held more then the ordinary police issued gun.

I do feel safe in the area even if people say the Termini station area is a little dodgy at night. However I am a little nervous and to be honest this will be first time I am total alone for more then one night especially in a non English speaking country.

I finally got my luggage last night. Even though the night before that when I arrived back in Rome to find yet again I had no luggage I called the British airways customer service number tired and aggravated and in tears, and they promise me once again that my luggage will be there by morning as in by 3 am. The morning after when I got up for sightseeing I walked down to the reception area to ask if my luggage was brought in during the night. They were use to me being manic about it by now. Seeing how during the night I woke up at 3am thinking in at it was quarter after 5 am and walked down their in my Pj’s once again asking about. He told me the same thing he told me at 3 am that nothing was brought in.

After the phone call to BA, I went to included dinner on the 4th floor breakfast room. I clearly was up, and Rene asked what was wrong. I had to get up and go back to my room and get myself together. Normally lost luggage is not a big deal, but when it’s pushing five days without it gets to be to much.

When we left Florence we had arrived in Rome we were taken into Rome for a guided walking tour of some of the major tourist sights. Like Venice and most of the trip so far it rained. We did not get to see Piazza Navona like I wanted to, but we did get to see the Spanish steps, Trevi fountain, and the Panthon.

The next morning while waiting to bored the tour bus to center of Rome, Silvia, our tour guide took my luggage information and promise she would help get to the bottom of this.

Today was our free day. It started off as an optional tour of out side the Coliseum, fourms and Victor Emmanuel. I left early to go to the bathrooms and then took the metro to the Vatican. I saw St. Peter’s and the mile long line to get into the Vatican Museum. I looked into some of the shops by St. Peter’s. A thing I notice about clothes in Italian stores were their clothes were all bright neon pink, greens and yellows. From their tops and bottoms to their shoes to their accessories, and most of the stores only carry one size. Afterwards I got back on the Metro and headed for the Del Corso area to buy some more clothes.

I made my way back to the hotel for 3 o’clock. I asked the receptionist about my luggage and she claimed she knew nothing of it. Disappointed I went to my room and found my bag waiting for me there.

I laied around until it was time to go to our optional Dinner at Papa Rex near the Vatican. Out of all the experiences Contiki had offered on this trip, this dinner was far the best. There was a charming Italian opera singing couple. The gentleman got the crowd into it serenading couples and the ladies. He handed out musical instruments for us to play along. The women sung beautifully and played the piano.

The Red and white wine was fantastic. I drank several glasses and I don’t even like wine. I took home an open full bottle with the permission of waitress who probably thought I was nuts. I wanted to hopefully find this wine back in Canada when I returned. Since the bottle was open I went down to the reception and shared it with Rene, Frankie, Nicole and out tour guide Silvia.

I packed the empty bottle in my suitcase along with the bottle of Bellin Il cocktail Di Venezia.

Today we woke up at 8:45 and go ready for breakfast and was out by 10 am. Tammy and I had originally not planned to check out until later but we agreed to go with another tour mate and walk to the metro stop. The small elevator was not big enough for three and our luggage so we had to take turns going down. Once getting to reception area I knew there was no way with my suitcase full of clothes, my collapsible suitcase I brought full with souvenirs, tickets and other things I collected the last 8 days in that bag, and my oversize messenger style day bag, that I would not be able to drag all that along cobble stone streets and uphills to the closes metro stop and decided to park with more money and take a cab.

The receptionist called the cab for me. Cabs in Italy (Rome at least) they start their meters before they pick you up when they receive the call. The cab cost me 15 euros. I was unable to get into my room until 3pm. I left my bags in Des Artise hotel reception’s luggage area and took off sightseeing. I attempted to follow Frommer’s walking tour called Rome of the Ceaser but end up doing it backwards and could not find the resturant it mention but at ate at one up on the hill with a great view of the Colosseum. A can of coke and spaghetti with tomato sauce cost me a fortune at 15 euros! By then it was close to 3pm and I took metro back to the hotel.

The receptionist walked me to my room, I got settle in and made my way back to the Colosseum. I arrived there at 4:15 to find out that it was closed. I had trouble finding a working pay phone to call home but I eventually found one near a restaurant. I walked the length of Via Del Imperial until I found a restaurant. I had spaghetti, salad, 2 cokes and tip that came to 20 euros. My server was very sweet and attentive.

I stayed their till dark then walked back to the see the Colosseum lit up. Beautiful! I didn’t stay long as I was very cold and the big meal I ate was making me sleeping. I took the metro to Castro P. Metro stop. Which was 3 stops away from the Colosseum metro stop. I check my map a few times and made my way back to the hotel.

Staying in a hostel in a private room I stilled shared a bathroom. I walked down the hall and took a shower, later coming back to the room to to write, watching the Italian version of “Who wants to be a Millionaire“. “The Next Pussy Cat Dolls” and “The hills” was dubbed in Italian on MTV.

Tomorrow I plan on attention the papal blessing in the Vatican at noon.

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Florence 03/05/08

March 6 th 2008

Awesome day! We left Venice bright and early and arrived in Florence at 11:45 am. Tammy and I checked into our room at Hotel Firenze on Della Corso in the city center. We did some massive shopping. Mostly souvenirs, post cards, two small prints, a large painting that I probably over paid for at 10 euros even if the guy originally quoted me at 56 euros. I also bough a knock off purse.

We went on a walking tour of Florence. The tour would have been better if we were able to hear the guide. I had found out later during the tour that the other people who had lost their luggage had received it. I on the other hand have not. At the end of the tour I walked back to the hotel (not with out getting lost first) to call the airline.

I finally got a hold of British Airways. I was told that my luggage was at the airport waiting to be delivered to me when I arrived in Rome at the apparent request of my travel agent who I had sent a email to on the first night in Venice. Good news they agree to compensate me for the toiletries and clothes I had to buy. But I would have to wait until I return to Canada to receive my reimbursement.

I hung around the hotel till it was time to go for the Tuscan Dinner. The dinner was great. OK food, fantastic wine. The dinner allowed for great photo taking options. Our table got so rowdy and drunk on wine it lead to us stealing wine from other tables.

Back on the bus we sung at the top of our lungs to American music on the ride to Space electronic a club in town. I had originally not planned on going to the club as I read reviews that it was not that great. What I heard was right. The club was mediocre at best. Italian Karaoke on the main floor, American music dance club on the second floor filled with mostly tourist and teenage locals. I was wearing a hoodie and jeans and got quite hot and had to leave by 11pm. For 12 euros which included a drink and entry it was not that bad.

I manage to walk back to the hotel without getting lost. Which is a feat that I should celebrated, seeing how I can get lost crossing the street I live on. The location of our hotel was great. The room not so much. It smelt like sewage. A problem we solved by keeping the bathroom door shut.

Tomorrow we have a free morning in Florence till 11:45 which we have to be back at the hotel to leave for Rome. At which time we’ll have sightseeing tour — probably by bus.

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Venice Day 2 030508

March 5th 2008 11:51

I have been back from Venice for a little while now. Even when it’s pouring rain, windy, cold, with no sight of my luggage, Venice still manages to capture my heart. I am ready to pack up and spend the rest of my life here. I once said that Venice is my heart and my happy place is Venice. This is still very much true.

I spent the day sightseeing with Robyn. Taking pictures and shopping to replace at least of some of my clothes. Sure I had a change of clothes in my carry on. But at some point on what is suppose to be a leisure holiday, I wasn’t exactly in the mind set of washing my undies with a bar of soap. My poor roommate, thank goodness she was understanding about my undies hanging on the towel racks.

I am really happy with what I bought. Even though trying to buy clothes that after the trip was over with and still buy it on a budget while in Venice is no easy task. For a single pair of regular ol’ cotton binki brief panties I spent 8.50 Euros EACH! In a sense not to bad until you do the currency conversion into Canadian dollars. I did the majority of my souvenir shopping in Venice as well. I bought a book on Venice, 2 miniature Carnival Masks, post cards, a rosary, and a tote bag with image of a gondolier and the Rialto Bridge.

Robyn and I ate lunch in the cafeteria in the Dodges Palace. Amazing and beautiful even if it was under construction. One thing I notice, since traveling in the “off season” a lot of things with under restoration construction. We later toured San Marco’s before it closed. We were suppose to do a gondola ride, but was canceled due to the weather. At the time it was canceled it was lightening.

We ate dinner at this tiny family own restaurant that offer home cooked meals called Trattoria Anima Bella (S. Marco, Venezia: Centro Storico calle dei Armeni No. 956 ). I had convince Robyn to come with me to the train station so I could buy the hoodie I had seen the night before. I’ll admit it, I had no idea how to get there. I knew how to ask directions in Italian. Only problem I had no idea what they were saying when they gave them to me. We wandered the streets that were now pitch black. To me it was amazing, this little adventure. Not knowing where we were going was thrilling. However Robyn saw it a different way and after agreeing that we were probably no where near the station, we traced our footsteps back to the Vapperato station that took us back to the train station. Which evidently I still got my hoodie.

It seemed that everyone had gone to bed right afterwards. After all we do have ab 6:15 wake up call and leave quite early to be in Florence by noon.

Dinner is the optional Tuscan Dinner. A little expensive at 31 euros, but should be worth it.

I should have around 105 euros to spend tomorrow. I had spent more then a days worth. But seeing how the gondola ride was cancelled we should get our money back on the coach by tomorrow.

All and all I had a great day!

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First night in Venice 03/04/08

March 4th 2008 1:10 am

My luggage has not arrived yet. I have not bother to call them yet. It is my logic that I gave them all my information, ever hotel address that I was staying at complete with dates, they promiss me I would have my bags soon. Why waste pressious vacation time playing phone tag with British Airways customers service.

Last night Tammy and I spent some time wandering around the area around Roma Park Hotel. It was a quite area that we felt perfectly safe in.

This morning we drove from Rome to Venice. I slept most of the way. I was able to purchases basic toilletries – shampoo, soap and a pack of razors. It cost me 15.50 Euros.

We arrived at the Hoilday Inn Venice East which was being converted into a Crown plaza. It was such a recent transition that they were chaning the sign as we were pulling in. This was the perfect hotel to stay in while staying in Venice. It was a wonderful kept hotel, with a dinning room and a resturant, and across the street from the train station. The hotel is not on the Venician Islands but about a 20 minute train ride. Tickets costing only 4.50 euros rount trip.

The orginal plan was to take the train into Venice and do some sightseeing and eat dinner. However the group decided we would eat dinner then take the train into Venice. Supper was horrible. The same type of salad from our dinner in Rome was served, with a small piece of lassana then a bowl of unpelled fruit was placed in the center of the table leaving everyone quite disappointed and hungry.

After finally russleing up the group and some much debate of whether or not to go into Venice that night after missing the 8 o’clock train we caught the 9:10 train. I used the justificantion that I spent all this money to see Venice and not sit in my hotel room. In end they saw it my way.

Frankie, Jeremy, Cal, Nicole, her aunt and I walked through the streets of Venice. The last time I went I did not really get to see Venice at night aside from San Marco Square. I’ve been in love with Venice from the moment  it came into sight as our private boat pulled closer the first time I went. My feelings haven’t change. It was like seeing a long lost love again and wondering why you ever broke up in the first place and realising you love them as much now as you did back then.

We walked through the streets and made out way to the Rialto Canal. One word for it AMAZING! We ate a meal at a restruant on the opposite side of the canal. We sat at these tiny cafe seats at the edge of the canal with the bridge behind us. After eating we walked back and had dessert at a tiny ristorante next to the  train station.

I plan on buying a University of Venezia hoodie from the train station gift shop tomorrow when we head back in to Venice.

Although very nice people, the people I went to Venice with dont take I dont take as the party type.

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First night in Rome. 03/02/08

March 1st 2008 9:45pm

I have just gotten back to the my hotel room (302) at Roma Park Hotel after having drinks with some tour mates. At first I did not think I would get along with any of them but after a while they seemed all right.

If anything it would have been the days events that lead to jumping to conclusions.

Both of my flights on British airlines were late leaving and arriving, yet they still manage to not get my bag on the flight. I waited for over an hour bouncing back and forth from the long snaking conniver belt. I wonder through the baggage area getting mixed directions by employees on where to go to file a baggage complaint. Once I got to the right area at the very right of the airport I waited another 30 minutes in line to report my missing bag. 15 minutes later I asked for compensations , I was told to go upstairs to speak to an customer service agent. I find my way upstairs and speak to an agent hover around the British airways check in counter. I explain my situation and after a few moments he told me I was not qualified for compensation as I would receive my bag that night. Not sure what he was trying to accomplish when he told me “Besides it Sunday. Everything is close you wouldn’t be able to buy anything anyways.”

I found out during Contiki pre tour meeting on the 4 th floor of the hotel in the breakfast room that 2 other couples (all Canadian) had there luggage lost. Oddly enough none of us were on the same flight as each other.

After dealing with my baggage issue I search high and low for where I was suppose to go for my transfer. Since I was late there was no one waiting for me when I got through arrivals. I finally found it by chance when I went to a window and ask for help. A gentleman pointed to a small sign with the contiki logo. A women came and arrange for my ride with a man named Alesso. But of course not without him putting up a fuss about it first.

Alesso drove like a mad man, speeding and swerving in and out of lanes. Reminded me of a scene from the moving “Under the Tuscan Sun” when Italian gentleman explains how the Italian few traffic lights “Green means go, go, go, yellow means hurry up.” He says. “And red?” She asks him curiously. “Just a suggestion.”

Once at the hotel I checked in and realised the transfer company had taken the wrong voucher. But thankfully in the end it didn’t matter.

Tammy my roommate from Chicago had already arrived and was settled in for a nap. She was a wonderful person who after hearing my circumstance, she kindly offered me her toiletries so I could shower. THANK GOD she did after almost 24 hours I really stunk!

The receptionist gave me directions to a grocery store but with no assurance it would be open. Italy being a Catholic country, about 99.9% of things are closed on Sundays. I found the grocery store — but like suspected it was closed.

At 6pm we had out meeting to discuss times and documents. At 7:30 we had dinner. We were served delicious anti pasta, Salad with a balsamic vinaigrette type dressing and mystery meat. *Author’s note: We still don’t know what kind of meat it was. Dessert was a chocolate cake with a chocolate sauces.

After dinner Tammy convinced me with little effort to join the rest of the group at a bar, right out the door down the street, around the corner then right up the street. It was an okay bar, with a free buffet. A red bull and Vodka cost 8 euros. I left after one drink. I was tired, bored and really wanted to wait for my luggage to arrive so I can hug it and promise it we would never part.

On to Venice tomorrow.
7:30 Wake up
8:00 Breakfast
8:45 bags on bus.

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25.5 hours to go

Okay, So I have been home for 2 months now and I am just getting to blogging my journal entries. I know! I know! Funny enough I am writing this less then a week away from an unplan trip to New York City. But that is another post in itself.

Febuary 29th/08 7:30PM.

It is exactly 25.5 hours before I leave for Italy. I am far more nervous this time around then I was last time. Even though I have more money to spend daily – about 108$ euros a day. I am also better prepared for solo travel seeing how I’ve done this before in mid 2006. The last few days I have the horrible feeling I am forgetting something. I have repacked my bags 3 times. Checked all my list, went as far as sending my taxes in. I still can’t shake the feeling.

Shorey was suppose to meet me at the airport tomorrow to finally meet after knowing each other since we were 16 and 14 and listening to Serial Joe. She had unfortunately have been having money trouble and was desperately needed a new job. She had an interview at 3 and doubts she make it to the airport on time.

To be honest this is better as I leave Brantford at 5 pm and my flight leaves at 9pm. It would have been a short meeting and would have not been worth the effort.

I’d confirm my Airlink pick up. Paid for it but to my surpize it costed $164 @ $82 each wat instead of the 77$ I thought it was quoted when I booked my ride in January.

Tommorrow I am picking up (hopefully) some euros so I’ll have some money the moment I land. I needed to go to the TD bank in the West Brant as they are the only TD branch in town that has euros in stock. Afterwards dad and I will stop by Wendy’s to get lunch.

Airlink is due to arrive at 5pm and I should get to Toronto Lester B. Pearson Airport by 6:15.

I have briefly talked with two of my tourmates online. Amy from LA who is currently Belgium. She use to work for Universal as develpoment excuitive and Brad from Detorit. He’s 27. They both get into Rome before I do.

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