Thursday, December 18, 2008

Meandering Journeys

Rome, Italy

Marsala, Sicily

Barcelona, Spain

Tarragona, Spain

Madrid, Spain

Dublin, Ireland

Munich, Germany

Budapest, Hungary

Warsaw, Poland

Berlin, Germany

Prague, Czech Republic

Belgrade, Serbia

Sofia, Bulgaria

Bucharest, Romania

Zagreb, Croatia

Adriatic Sea

Athens, Greece

Patras, Greece

Ancona, Italy

Stockholm, Sweden

Vienna, Austria

Maribor, Slovenia

Brussels, Belgium

Venezia, Italy

Graz, Austria

Cologne, Germany

Bonn, Germany

Paris, France

As I got off that beautiful 777, I wanted to take a picture of the airplane from the tarmac after coming down the stairs of the aircraft. But I was quickly stopped by security explaining to me that I was not allowed to take pictures of the aircraft. So I respected their wishes...until I got inside the terminal and took a picture from the window.

My first order of business was to find a mass. I have a tremendous devotion of going to mass every day, and I did not want this day to be the first time I missed mass. So off I went in search of Notre Dame. It was a short metro ride from the airport to the Saint Michel stop where Notre Dame is located. At this point, I was elated that I only had one bag with wheels.

After emerging from the metro station, the first sight that I had was of the River Seine. What a beautiful sight! I looked up and there in the not-too-far distance was the plaza of Notre Dame. As I crossed the bridge over the River Seine, I noticed something so very interesting...a glass boat with people having lunch inside...a floating restaurant! I quickly took out my camera and took as many pictures of it as I could, since it was going to quickly disappear below me and the bridge that I was standing on.

Journey Through Meandering Paths

This is a journal of my meandering journeys, trying to capture and share with you the intriguing cultures and landscapes of different lands and peoples


Monday, December 15, 2008

Que Viva la Virgen de Guadalupe

Off to Rome - So I Thought!

So, I did not sleep on Sunday night. I had not even packed, not to mention that I had not even washed my clothes yet. I did not even start to wash until about 04:00. I decided to only take my computer bag that had wheels on it. Yes, that's it, for a trip of six weeks, I did not want to be carrying heavy bags around. So I just took three changes of clothes and a couple of sweaters. I will later regret this when I get to Sweden. But I really wanted to travel light.

I went to mass in the morning at 6:30 and then went to the airport in Los Angeles. I had no bags to check since I only had one carry-on. And I already had my seats and border pass from the internet. Delta Airlines would be my ride from Los Angeles to New York, then from New York to Rome. Even though I like to fly, I thought about the 19 or so hour flight from Los Angeles. Would I be able to sit still that long? Would I want to say, hey, can I get off now?

Well, I got to New York, with a three hour lay-over to wait for my flight to Rome. I thought to myself, I have time to roam around the airport awhile before I have to check-in for my next flight. But something told me to just get it over with. To my surprise, Delta Airlines told me that my flight had been canceled to Rome. I purposely left Los Angeles a few days ahead of time so that I could visit Francesco and Pamela in Sicily before I had to go to Graz, Austria. Now what? Delta Airlines was not helping any. They told me to go to Gate 13. At Gate 13, the agents told me that Delta was not operating the flight from New York to Rome, rather it was Alitalia, which is a partner of Delta and was code sharing. Delta told me that they could not help me. I complained and said that my ticket says Delta on it. But they really did not care. So, I went to another counter that Delta operated, but this time I decided to put on my biggest disgruntled customer face that I could. It was sort of fun, knowing that I was not really angry. I was worried, but not angry. But, still, it is sad that I had to do that to get some attention and help from Delta. They still did not help me.

I was very disappointed that Delta did nor provide me with better customer service. So I went to Alitalia to see what they would tell me. Alitalia was on strike. Someone told me that they are always going on strike. But to my surprise, they provided me with better customer service that I had ever received from any American-based airline. They quickly put me on a flight from New York to Rome with a connection in Paris on Air France. I thought to myself, ok, this is good. I had wanted to go to Paris first anyway, but the ticket was about $3,400.00, and my ticket to Rome was only $815.00. So it was off to Paris for me! And I had no more intentions of getting on the connecting flight to Rome. I decided that I could visit Eduard and Gladys in Paris instead.

As I was waiting for my boarding pass on Air France, there was a student waiting also. His name was James. He is an American-born, French speaking student, who attends an American high school in Niece. I decided to quiz him on how the French regard Americans in their country. His response was that it is cool to pretend that one does not like American culture, but deep down, everyone loves American clothes, movies, music and the like.

I was hoping that the aircraft on Air France was going to be a 747 because, I have never flown on a 747. I almost did once on a United flight from Denver, but that is a different story for another time. The aircraft was actually a 777. I was a little worried that in many of the wide-body aircraft, the individual seats did not have air nozzles above them. I always need to feel the air on my face so that I do not feel claustrophobic. But my seat was in the middle section of the aircraft of rows that were 7 seats across, two seats on the left side of the plane, three in the middle section, and two on the right side of the plane. And even though my seat did not have a air nozzle, the airflow from the vents above each aisle were all pointed towards the middle section, so I felt fine.

Being on Air France was like being on a cruise ship with a gourmet French restaurant aboard. I had never experienced the quality of customer service before on any other airline as I did on Air France. The crew treated all of us as clients and with the utmost respect and courtesy. I was really impressed. After the gourmet meal and a movie, I fell asleep and was wide awake for breakfast the next morning (yes, we were still flying).

When we landed in Paris, after getting off the aircraft, I kissed the ground. I was so excited to be in Europe. If the pope could kiss the ground of the countries he visited, so could I.

Sunday, December 14, 2008