The only aspect of traveling to Europe that I dislike is the actual traveling part. Once in Europe it's great, but getting here is a pain. It's bad enough taking a flight that is supposed to be “overnight” when it feels like staying up into the wee hours of the morning and then, viola!, you find yourself in a foreign country and it is early morning when it feels like bed time. Add on all the travel to and from the airports and it has become a 24 hour trip, most of which has been spent awake without proper meals or showers. Sounds fun, doesn't it?
My trip began in my hometown boarding a bus to Manhattan at 12:30pm. I disembarked from the bus at 2:30pm then took the subway to Penn Station where I proceeded to walk in circles until I found the New Jersey Transit and bought a ticket. The train was conveneiently waiting for me and left soon after I boarded. I rode the train to the Newark International Airport stop where I was able to catch the Air Tran which took me right to my terminal. Because I'd been so lucky with catching trains one after the other, I arrived at Newark a good two and a half hours before my flight departed. After checking in at the TAP desk and securing a window seat (score!) I headed through security with no problems at all with my expertly packed one quart clear plastic bags with 3oz or less bottles of liquid inside.
I was one of the only passengers to wait patiently at the gate for my row number to be called. Most people crowded around the boarding area thinking “I'm going to be the first person on the plane!!!”. This makes no sense to me since boarding is by row and all the seats are assigned and there is no need to rush into the plane to get a good seat. But, what do I know?
My plan was to get comfortable in my seat, wait until we took off to take a sleep aid pill, and pass out for the next seven hours until arriving in Lisbon. Of course, my plan didn't go as... planned. I did manage to get as cozy and comfortable as you can get in an airplane seat and then took a sleeping pill right after take off when I could recline my seat. But, I was so rudely awakened by a steward pushing the button to un-recline my seat when the meal was served. He explained to me that everyone was eating so I had to put my chair up. Did it look like I cared? No. I did not want to eat. I wanted to recline and pretend that I was sleeping through the night so that when I arrived in Portugal and later Rome, it would feel like I had slept all night and woken up in the morning. But as I said, my plan did not work, all because this Portuguese airline required that I had my seat in it's “upright and locked position” while everyone around me ate their food (which smelled surprisingly seasoned for airplane food) despite the fact that I preferred to sleep.
We landed in Portugal when it was still dark outside so I didn't get to see any of it from my window seat, but I did manage to see the lit up arch of a McDonalds as we approached the runway. Once in Portugal, I got my passport stamped (woo!!!) and then headed to my next flight, where I had to go through security again, which irritated me. The line was short and I thought it would be no problem. The security officer wouldn't let me take my huge bottle of water through so I stood there and started drinking it before I went through the security check point. She decided that while I was standing there anyway it would be a good time to get out my little bags of liquids and check to make sure they passed security tests. I graciously offered both my baggies to her for inspection. Well, apparently I and Newark security officials had failed to see that my very favorite Boscia face wash was actually 5oz instead of the required 3oz or fewer. This is expensive face wash, and I love it, I cannot live without it. The security officer told me I had three choices. One, throw it away (never!!!). Two, mail it to myself (this would have worked perfectly expect to do so I needed Euros and I was without any), Three, go through customs, go to the airline counter and check my bag with the liquid inside of it (this is what I wanted to do but then they told me if I did this that I would likely miss my flight). So, none of these options were working for me. I had to get clever and creative. I had packed a 3oz bottle of shampoo which I decided wasn't as important (or expensive) as my face wash, so I emptied it out in the garbage, washed it with the remainder of what was left in my water bottle, and filled it with my beloved face wash, most of which made it into the 3oz container. When I washed my face this morning it smelled a bit like the shampoo but didn't have any of the pink color so I think I did a good enough job.
I made it to the gate for my flight from Lisbon to Rome in plenty of time, and then the plane ended up being delayed because people's luggage was not on the plane yet (probably people who had the same problem as I did and decided to go back and check their bags). I should have gone with that option... Oh well. I slept again on that flight (three hours) though the person behind me decided that he wanted to kick and shove my chair frequently enough so that I would understand he was not happy about my reclining my seat. People (especially tall men) need to understand that seats on airplanes recline, and anyone is allowed to recline them! If anyone has problems with people reclining chairs in front of him, he should buy the seat in front of him. Harumph.
When I arrived in Rome, I didn't get a passport stamp (sad face). I didn't have any checked baggage so I was able to get out of the airport easily and find my dad and his friends. We got in their rented car and started driving to Tuscany where they are renting an apartment and I am staying, by way of a coastal highway with great views of the Mediterranean sea. After having lunch in a small town called Santa Marinelli (I have to check the name on the map later) I promptly fell asleep in the back seat of the rented Fiat and missed pretty much all of the scenic drive. Oops?
We arrived in he medieval city of Barberino around sunset. I was much too tired to do any exploring or even notice that I was in an over 1,200 year old city. But I'm sure I will have time to adequately explore the area tomorrow.