Posted by: jeanne | March 11, 2017

blastoff

so we got up at 3am. actually, i got up at 11:30 and 1:30 to check on the process of my backups. i had backed everything up on the hard drive, but wanted double security, so i used all my memory sticks to make a second copy. this meant putting one folder on one, another two on a second, etc. and by 4am i still had about a week of carnival photos that I hadn’t finished copying. oh well.

we sat in bed with coffee left over from yesterday morning, using up as much of the rest of our cream and milk as we could. i set an alarm for 3:40, then we got up and dressed, and i closed the shutters in our room – our last view of the palazzi across the canal, and jim got connor up and dressed and fed while i stripped the beds and finished loading the backpacks – our regular shoes, our vests. my backpack and the new bag proved impossible to close (cheap bag, beware of zipper and seams), so i pulled a grocery bag out of the bag of bags, and put one of jim’s shoes (the other went into connor’s backpack), one of our vests, and jim’s masks into it, and declared another personal item.

we were ten minutes late getting out of the house. we dragged the garbage out and hung it on a nail in the sotoportego, and left the rest of the trash on the landing. we left the keys on the table beside the door.

there was nobody out at first. just us clomping thru the streets in our boots with overly heavy packs on our backs. i had both the personal items, as well as a final piece of toast. jim lagged behind somewhat more than usual, or perhaps i was outpacing him. because i’d timed the walk, and knew when the bus was supposed to arrive, and knew if we lagged, we’d miss it, and then we’d be late checking in, etc etc.

behind the frari we passed our first people, a guy and a girl; looked like they’d been up all night and were arguing about something. after we passed, they got louder and louder, so i turned aroudnd and told them to hush up – piano, i said. and of course they didn’t listen to me, but then i was in master sargeant mode and quite ready to tell the world what to do.

i got slower and slower as we got closer to piazzale roma. not on purpose, but because i was wearing out fast. in boots and carrying two bags, i was running out of breath. poor jim had to keep going, even when i got a chance to catch my breath on top of a bridge. connor ran between us both, bravely soldiering on with his backpack, not complaining at all.

as i came over the final bridge, the number 5 bus pulled in to piazzale roma, and by the time i got to the bus, the passengers had gotten off and the people bound for the airport (or getting off after their night shifts) were getting on board. jim and connor were a ways behind, but they got on in plenty of time, and we found facing seats together in the back, our bags piled in the space between us. i ate my toast. connor moved the coats away from the window seat and scooted over. jim was stoic. and three minutes later, the bus pulled out.

it was still pitch dark outside. we could see a bunch of stars, and the full moon was beginning to set. jim bemoaned how the mountains weren’t visible, which was his little joke. the trip took the usual 20 minutes, but i couldn’t have cared less. we arrived at the airport 3 minutes before the left luggage office opened, and the man inside, tho we were standing at the window, didn’t notice us until exactly 5am. it cost us 12 euro, and was it ever worth it. otherwise, we would have had to take a vaporetto with the bags, and had to leave half an hour earlier to account for the slow progress up the canal. like going the long way around a horseshoe instead of straight across from end to end (jim’s analogy).

when we got off the bus, a bus inspector stopped us; she recognized us from when we first came to venice. she was one of the group of inspectors who helped us get tickets, and talked to us all the way to enice; including the girl who recommended we go to chioggia. we were hoping to run into them again, and i hoped she would tell the rest of them she saw us. wonder how she recognized us, with connor and jim so distinctive.

i left the boys standing outside the line for check in while i got boarding passes and luggage tags from a machine. there was a moment of fluster as the machine asked for my ticket reference number, which i had to fish out. at this point the nice lady from the airlines came over and helped me, because i was starting to stress out. connor came over, and i thrust the passports into his hand while i searched for the reference number in my backpack. i asked him to hold the passports and not fiddle, but of course he decided to look at the photos, so i snatched them back, which produced a gasp from the nice lady. i felt bad. i turn into kali at times like this.

once the passes were printed, and the lady found out that we had requested a wheelchair for jim, everything went more smoothly. we were escorted to the priority area and past the conga line, where we noticed a family with five kids and two cats in front of us. military, they were being reassigned back in the states, and so the whole crew was leaving on a jet plane. one of them was a boy about connor’s age, and you can guess what happened next. first he noticed the cats, but since they were in travel bags, there wasn’t much he could do to pet them. then he noticed the kid, and they were instant friends from then on.

we got checked in (they always want to see my custody papers to make sure connor is allowed to travel with me, since we’re working with three different last names). the big bag was 2 kilos overweight, but the nice check in lady asked for the second bag to go on the scales with it, and it was 6 kilos under, so we averaged 20 kilos – yay. they never looked at our carryons.

and then we sat in flip down seats until the wheelchair guy came. that is, grandpa sat. connor flipped the seat up and down, and i stood around fussing the documents and things back into the packs. no matter how often i fly, and how well i organize the documents, i always end up fumbling with the passports and the papers. connor was complaining that we couldn’t stay with the family. he looked like one of them, and i was reminded of how we travelled as kids, when mom (saint that she is) worked us all thru check in (there was no security back then), shepherded us thru waiting areas and then let us run wild on the plane (there was no keep seated with your belts on rule back then). i think i fumble with passports and documents – i remember when we were on our way to europe, the six kids, mom and dad, and she lost track of the immunization records (we had to have health documents back then) and wasn’t sure if she had packed them in the luggage or put them in her bottomless handbag. (i need to call her when i get a chance and get all teary about the memories, and grateful for what she put up with and how much she handled with six wild indians.)

after only a couple of minutes, a nice young man came up with a wheelchair. we loaded grandpa into the wheelchair, piled most of the backpacks on top of him, and i carried the rest as we made our way to security. he said he was born and raised in venice, but that he now lived in mestre. i commiserated because nobody who i grew up with could afford to live in the town where we grew up, but he said it wasn’t that so much as it was the sheer number of tourists that make the place unlivable.

then we were at security. i got to shepherd connor while jim went to a different section. he didn’t have to take his boots off, but he got felt up, i mean patted down separately, while connor and i had to take everything off and go thru the metal detectors. there was a tiny bit of confusion as i had to take this laptop and connor’s kindle out of their bags, and then put everything back in again. connor got to watch the tv that shows the inside of everybody’s bags while i stuffed everything back in to ours. and then grandpa was thru, and we loaded him up again, and went to the gate.

again it was only ten minutes that we got to sit around. connor found the family and played with the boy, and they got predictably rowdy, but there wasn’t time to get too loud before we were off to the ramp, and then on board and to our seats, first ones on the empty plane. and the family ended up right behind us. i noticed that we were directly over the wing, and wondered how that could happen, because i selected the seats (i think), and i would never put us over the wing, because how in the world are you going to see the ground if you’re on a wing? but the plane, while full in the back, was mainly empty forward, so i asked the nice purser if i could move up once the doors closed, and he said yes. i got my bag and my boots and moved just forward of the engine, leaving an empty seat in our row, which the boy eagerly moved into as soon as the fasten seat belt light was off.

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my seat is right behind first class, but there doesn’t seem to be much difference in the seats, except the level of service. maybe there’s a little more legroom. (they got cutlery and an actual breakfast, while we got a chocolate croissant, but who can complain about that? especially for the difference in price. i’m never that hungry on a plane anyway…)

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we took off as it broke sunrise, 6:30, and flew over the alps as the sun was just kissing the peaks of the mountains. (we’re passing a windfarm in the plains of france at the moment, how odd to see them turning gently in the middle of fields freshly plowed. actually, they’re all over the place, one to a field. perhaps they’re being used by the farmers?) i got a few photos of the alps; i love to see the bones of the earth amid the snow. it’s so far into spring that there isn’t any snow in the valleys, only on the top bits of mountain.

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we’re descending into paris now. i’ll be shutting down and repacking the laptop soon. we’re going to wait to be the last ones off the plane, and then we’ll take a wheelchair to our next gate for our next leg, to reykjavik. i’m not sure if we go thru passport control; we didn’t when we came thru cdg airiport on the way to venice. we might just go thru the gate and not get that stamp in our passports. i can forego that if necesssary.

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the boys are playing games several rows behind me, but i can hear the sound effects from the games as well as the commentary by the boys. connor has the boy’s mom’s phone with games on it, and the boy has connor’s kindle with minecraft on it. they’re as happy as clams. but i can hear them from here, so i keep running back there to tell them to be quiet. it works for about three minutes. jim snoozes thru it all.

is that the seine i’m seeing in the distance? the nice steward just came to tell me that we will be the last ones off the airplane, and that we don’t need to know where we’re going, they’ll just take us there. apparently there’s passport control, but again we get to skip the line. if everyone did it, he says, there’d be trouble. but once you’re past 60 or 70 it becomes necessary, because airports are so big. we talked about our moms, who are both 83, and he said that even tho his mom goes to spain for the winter every year, every year it gets a little more intimidating and daunting, so we’re all grateful for wheelchair services.

oh how nice, whatever river it is has mist rising from it as the sun comes up, delimiting the curves and windings of the water. and there goes connor and his friend in the back again, shouting at each other over the noise of the engine. the hell with it; i’m going to look out the window as we get closer to the ground. i always try to get a window seat…

(we’re back in the air now, flying to iceland. it’s close to noon.)

it was a bit of an ordeal being in the paris airport. we were the last ones off the plane, as usual, and got to talk to the nice purser again. atlanta is one of his favorite cities. the wheelchair guy met us right away, a nice little guy who has a 5 year old son at home. he let connor steer the chair. we had to get our luggage from baggage claim, but there was no passport control. there used to be, and perhaps we’ll have a visa system soon. once we had our luggage, with connor throwing fits every few minutes, we went to arrange for a shuttle to terminal 1 from terminal 2. this took some time, but it was enough time for connor and i to find a bathroom. he squealed and cried when he got wet washing his hands, for which he blamed me. we bought water then, because we couldn’t find a water fountain. grandpa waved it away, irritated, but i pointed out that one of the signs of dehydration is crankiness, and he drank some. the wheelchair guy let connor have his phone so he could play games on it.

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when our shuttle came, we loaded grandpa and the bags and the driver took us to the next terminal, where we had to wait about half an hour for a wheelchair guy to take us thru security and to our gate. connor and i took the time to go to a concession stand and buy croissants and coffee. french croissants, so flaky, so buttery, such wonderful bread. not too expensive; it cost 10 euro for three pastries and two caffe lattes. and we struck up a conversation with another person waiting for a wheelchair, named rachel. she lives in new york. we spoke of many things; politics, french food, those little raspberry hard candies, venice, livable cities. as our wheelchair came, we traded email addresses so i can send her the details of the place where we stayed in venice.

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this wheelchair guy wasn’t so nice, and rammed jim into a barrier when he first had us. bluff and insensitive, or maybe just distracted. but he warmed up to connor, and by the time he left us he was giving connor high fives. they have moving sidewalks in the paris airport; they go up hill and down. connor decided he had to be in front, but the guy wasn’t having it, and once the sidewalk went downhill, he took the brake off and ran with grandpa down to the bottom of the hill. connor, who had been bitching about something just prior, whooped and followed, and from then on they played together.

going thru security was a bit of a nightmare. everyone was rushing to get thru, for one thing. they took grandpa to a different section, and made him take off his belt, and his boots, then ran him thru a screen numerous times until they figured out he was carrying his glasses in his pocket. meanwhile our stuff was piling up in front of the line, and more stuff was coming in behind us. i had to pull out my computer as well as connor’s kindle, and my phone, and my boots, the wheelchair guy had to scan our boarding passes, people kept getting backed up out of the metal detector becausee they set something off, connor tried to go thru beffore they were ready and they had to stop him, and he didn’t understand their french (or anybody’s), and was stroppy and baulky. then i had to get everything back in the bags and get my boots on while people were trying to step around us and the wheelchair guy was ready to go so he started off while i was still barefoot.

but we did get thru all that, and proceeded to the gate, about an hour before boarding. it was very crowded, and there was nowhere to sit. the wheelchair guy unloaded us in a corner and fled, connor begging him to share his cellphone and let him play games on it. but then he pulled his kindle out of his pack and sat happily on the floor, while i sent grandpa off to find a seat. there were several emtpy seats along a row of women, but he passed them by, and i spotted him off by the window. he shrugged and said the empty seats were all being saved. one of the women looked up and offered the seat next to her for poor old grandpa, but one of the other women immediately said, no that’s christies. they were americans. and they were rude, and uncaring of grandpa’s age and fragility. frankly, it was the first actual rudeness we’d encountered in our two months out of the country, and they were yanks. grandpa shrugged and walked past. the lady who had looked up was aware of the rudeness of the other woman, and offered her seat, but the other women protested at this, and they all kept their seats. i thanked the one woman sincerely, and tried to ignore the others, who sat there complaining about things with empty seats around them.

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bitch

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grandpa set up near the window and i sat with the luggage in the corner, and connor lay on the floor resting on the luggage. it got more crowded. but finally the ladies all got up and left. i aske someone where they were going, and heard that they were starting to queue at the gate. we’d thought we were at the gate, but it was in teh next gallery over, so i went to investigate, and the gate crew assured me we were ok for priority boarding, so after a few more minutes we moved grandpa and connor and all the luggage to the roped off area in front of the gate. the ladies were far behind, so i don’t know if they glared at us.

another twenty minutes passed; passengers disembarked from the plane, the crew cleaned up, and eventually they announced that they would soon start boarding. it got more crowded. connor was thankfully quiet. when we got thru the gate first, grandpa tried to carry the lighter bags, but i could see them cutting off the circulation in his hands, so i grabbed them all and struggled along behind them. getting into the plane was easy, because we were first in line, but getting down the aisle was another matter, because i had two heavy backpacks, connor’s backpack, the new bag, and the plastic bag. it was a bit excessive. one of the stewards insisted on helping, and took one of the heavy bags off my, which actually made things easier for the last dozen rows.

we settled in, with the great mass of people behind us, throwing bags into the overhead and getting into our row. connor wanted the window seat, but as he had his kindle in his hand, and can’t see out without standing on the seat, i said no, and he threw a fit. but then he went back to his game. we ate a bunch of cookies, and watched as the plane filled completely up, all the overheads bursting full. those nasty rude ladies filled in the seats around us, and i got to listen to them complain about a bunch of things, ranging from the weather report back home to the price of tickets to the presence of foreigners all around them, some of them from gasp the middle east. what jerks.

eventually they made announcements in icelandic, which suddenly reminded me of connor’s gibberish foreign language skills – fakka lakka takka gliska. it doesn’t sound the least bit like italian, but it certainly sounded a lot like icelandic. wonder if he decided on the syntax the last time we were in iceland, back in late may.

connor was still throwing fits about all and sundry as we took off, choosing that time to insist that he was hungry and thirsty. of course there was nothing i could do, so we had more cookies. grandpa promptly fell asleep.

i sat and wrote this part of the blog post while he ran the battery right out on his kindle, then insisted on crayons and a coloring book, only to get pissy about not wanting it, and insisting on his magnetic beard-drawing picture board instead. he then complained that he was hot, and he must have been, because his cheeks were red. so he took off his sweater, and complained some more, then took off his shoes, and his socks. he would have removed his shirt and pants if i’d let him. the stewards came by with the food and drink trolly, but all i have is euros and they don’t take that, for some reason, and all the cards are stowed away in the overhead, and i’m not going thru that ordeal, so i had to say no. it’s our fault for not getting something to eat in the airport. and i couldn’t figure out where i’d put the banana we’d brought. so he had another fit. the stewards got on the com to tell us they were coming around with duty free, and pointed out one of their number with truly outrageous hair, telling us to look at his glowing skin, and if we wanted we could buy some of his skin lotion, or barage him with questions about his hair. and then she giggled and signed off. only on wow airlines, where they have a sense of humor despite the crowds and the extreme budget conditions.

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scotland?

at this point i got tired. there was cloud cover, thin but persistent, as we crossed into the channel from france, and again as we crossed out of the channel into england, and i put the computer down and took a short nap while he continued to fuss and fidget. when i came back out of it, he was trying to rest his head against the arm rest and was complaining about that, so i put his feet on my legs and got him to curl up in his seat, where he promptly went to sleep. the clouds were partial below us, and i could see snow on the hills – the scottish highlands? the land went on and on between the clouds, surrounded by sea on various sides, or maybe lochs, but continuing to be a mix of water and brown land, with snow here and there. finally the land edge was definitely against the ocean, because i could see breakers and bluffs, and the end of the land disappearing behind us. the sea had bits of ice floating in it, and still does. the clouds are far off now, and the clock reads 7:30 est, or 1:30 italy time. we’ve been up for 10.5 hours, and no wonder connor got all difficult. the purser came by with a blanket for him, and i put my sweater under his head, and now both boys are sleeping peacefully. thank god.

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my ears have started popping.. i’ve played all the games on my computer. i’m hungry. the boys sleep on. my eyes feel red and swollen. siggi and runa are picking us up at the airport. too bad the blue lagoon costs $50 a person (regular pools cost $2.50). with partly clouy skies, there’s a chance we’ll see northern lights tonight; the forecast for the rest of our time here is for rain and/or snow, depending on the temperature. i’m now excited to be going to iceland and have abandoned whatever vestigial mourning i feel for italy.

on the other hand, maybe my popping ears are only wishful thinking, and we’ll be in a crowded, cramped airplane without food or drink forever, our hell for daring to go off out of the country instead of doing what we should be doing. wait, i thought the unfortunate housesitter was our punishment for that. surely the icelandic fairies are more welcoming than that.

on the other hand, the captain is muttering something, and i’m hearing 25 minutes. temperature 5 degrees celsius with showers in the vicinity of the airport. hope you enjoyed your flight, good bye.

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so. more later. it’s time to stow everything i can without waking connor up. he’s slumped against my left elbow, half under the blanket, his little toes sticking out and wiggling evvery now and then. ah, he’s stirring while the cabin crew announce that we’re landing soon. he’s shifted to jim’s right elbow and gone straight back to sleep. jim’s over there thinking something amusing, smiling and blinking, and closing his eyes again. diska sliska hakka bakka flakka. enough now, i’m turning the computer off. more later.

okay, it’s sunset in iceland, which lasts forever, seemingly no matter what time of year. we landed, again didn’t go thru passport control (we don’t have any stamps other than our flying into iceland in january), sailed thru customs (maybe it was lunch time), and then sat in the arrivals hall until siggi and runa got there. connor figured out how to work a wheelchair, and was happy as a clam after his nap. i went and got some sandwiches and we sat and ate them and before you know it they were there.

so we drove thru hapnafjordur and around the outside of reykjaik, both of them pointing out scenes of crowded houses that when they were kids were nothing but fields. siggi kept pointing out olcanoes and telling us they were ready to blow any time now. evidently the ground is always shaking around somewhere nearbyin that part of reykjaness, and the government is thinking of moving everybody into reykjavik becausee with a strong enough earthquake, the ground will liquify, because it’s only floating on underground rivers that connect one side of the sea around the peninsula with the other side of the sea.

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connor wanted to see snow. there was not much left of their record february snowfall, but once we got up to the north of reykjavik there was snow everywhere from a storm last week. then we took the back way into mossfelsbaer, past a mountain, down to a lake that the army guys sank a bunch of army trucks and tanks in the middle of this very deep lake – a lake that is host to a famous half man, half horse of legend. we stopped and got out, and connor got to play in the snow, while i looked at a large boulder that is melting the ice around it, and gawped at the distant mountain asja that dominates reykjavik.

and then we proceeded to the grocery store to stock up for tonight. i’m thinking of trying to bring some icelandic lamb back when we return to the states. i’d go into what we bought, but i’m severely jet lagged. unfortunately, i can’t go to sleep. we’re having lamb for dinner; i can smell it in the oven now.

connor came back to siggi and runa’s house and immediately both fell in love with and was exasperated by, all the birds they raise in the house. and as soon as i found his snow pants and dug out his water boots, he went into the back yard and played in the snow until he got really cold and had to pee.

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so we’re about to get dinner now. and then there might be northern lights. so i’m not going to be getting much sleep any time soon.

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ps, please excuse the typos.  i couldn’t care less right now…

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