Saturday, March 24, 2012

Trip Planning

It begins! The delayed trip that we almost took back in 2009, is finally coming to reality. In celebration of my 50th Birthday (and Arne's), and our 29th anniversary, it seems good timing.Actually, there never seems to be a good time to do a trip like this does there? After putting it off and putting off...we just decided it's time to do this thing! The destination: Rome, Italy and the hilltowns of Tuscany,while staying at a family run agriturismo. After one week at the farm stay doing day trips to hilltowns and participating in the farm activities, we will take the trip up to the walled city of Lucca, where Arne hopes to get in a guided Ducati ride. Next stop, a visit to the seaside towns of the Cinque Terre (most recently recovering from mudslides), and then on to Florence to hopefully get in some culture and museums. Then returning back to Rome for the grand finale! Or we may fly into Rome and out of Florence. Yet to be decided... Can we do this in two weeks? Stay tuned!
Our first assignment is getting our agriturismo farm stay booked at the Cretaiole Farmhouse near Pienza. (pictured above in my sister's album) Check! We have successfully done so! My sister and her husband stayed here last fall and it also gets rave reviews from the Rick Steves book.  This will be the first week of the trip and it is a popular destination place.
When you are trip planning, you need lots of books. Books from the library, DVDs from the library, books from your sister, books from Julie from Knit Group, and books from your Mom. You need to borrow your sister's cool maps too. Because your sister went to Italy last year with her husband and she is "Tour Guide Barbie". You ask everyone tons of questions and they give you all of their trip tips, which is very helpful. Jot them down, take notes and put them into a word document if you can.

 You also have to look at alot of purses and try them out and talk about the pros and cons of each style. One to go over your suitcase as a carry on, and one to carry that is smaller once you get there.The lady at the traveler store says to carry them next to your body with the zippers facing you at all times. This is of course to avoid being pick pocketed. You think to yourself, "I will check Ebay for some better prices than these..."

 You watch for great walking sandals like these Taos ones, recommended by Tour Guide Barbie, and then you snag some with a gift card to Amazon after doing so much walking that your insurance company rewards you with one. You snag another pair of Aravons worth $125 at the thrift store for only $4.99 and you say, "Hooray for me! I am the thrift store Queen!"
 Your daughter finds you a great Royal Robbins travel skirt at Goodwill. You continue with the thrift store "bug" and find yourself some originally expensive tanks for around $6.99 that are made of a nice blend that will wash and dry quickly.
Another pair of great walking shoes that were recommended by Tour Guide Barbie (TGB), on sale on Ebay, and free shipping. Score! You now have the exact same shoes as your sister! Isn't that cute?
 And here's a lovely shot from her album of a place we hope to go during our trip. Nice shot, eh? She used the Rick Steves book to tell her where to take the shot.
Now all this planning can get quite stressful, so you have to take time out and have fun with things. So, I'm reading this book, a true story of a woman and her husband, who renovated an old house in Cortona. Beautiful story to get me in the mood to visit this place!
I also rented the movie of same name, and let me tell you, I wasn't expecting to have a rush of emotions when I saw Cortona, but I was bawling like a baby, it was so beautiful!
What's next on the agenda? Booking the very expensive flights in and out of Rome! They are running sky high right now and of course, they all have at least one stop involved. It will take a good day to get over there and then we will lose a day in the process.Then we will proceed to book the hotels and nail our itinerary down even further. Then it will seem more "real" that we are actually going. And we can read up on our books. My chiropractor lived in Milan for 6 years and greets me on my visits with a cheery, "Bon Giorgno!"  "Say it with a hard "G", not a soft "J" sound". It's not French! He seems to feel I have plenty of time to learn some of the language. I have a few language phrase books and audio tapes.  We chat "Italy" all through  my adjustments. Apparently you do not say "Ciao!" casually to just anyone, or someone you don't know well.
I have gotten permission to be gone from work, and secured my subs for my absence. Things are rolling along!
March 31-Edited to add: We just booked our flights today! Mama Mia! Talk about sticker shock. I sure hope the trip reviews are correct and Lufthansa turns out to be the "Nordstrom" of all airlines, because for that price we should be really riding in style you would think! I mean seriously, we should be served on golden platters or something. Booking the flights seal the deal. It's really happening now. We'll start out in Rome, then go to the agriturismo for a week, then Lucca and Cinque Terre and then on to Florence and fly home out of Florence. One stop on the way over in Germany, and two stops on the way home;Germany and Vancouver, BC. But let's not think of all that now. That will only make us cranky!
Next assignment: Booking our hotels.I have some good advice on that from Tour Guide Barbie and Rick Steves so we will check out a few of those first.  After that, will work on securing the needed museum tickets in advance for the most popular museums in Rome and in Florence.
And to educate myself, I looked up the pronunciation of Lucca: (Luke-kah). Not (Loo-cha).
April 22-Edited to add: We have booked our hotel in Rome, our farm stay, our hotel in Lucca, our hotel in Florence. Last assignment, to book our stay in Cinque Terre. It is proving a bit interesting as they had the catastrophe last fall and had to rebuild alot of the trails and businesses back up again.
This is the suitcase that I got upon recommendation from Steve and Erin. Half off! Score! It's a "widebody" regulation size with cool inline skate wheels. Widebody means I can hold more stuff! 

A hysterical shirt I saw at a thrift store and thought about getting it as a joke, but it was just way too ugly. See, it is showing Firenze (Florence) and the Duomo and the David? Ghastly!

After all the hotels are booked, then we book the rental car and get the tickets ordered for the museums. I am now the proud owner of an international drivers license, which I hope never to have to use and that my husband does the driving over there. At least I have one in case. After the hotels are all booked I will be very relieved. It has taken many hours on the computer and TripAdvisor. Tour Guide Barbie, I could never be "you"...:)

Edited to add, April 28...Ahh...relieved. Hotels are all booked now in Rome, Lucca, Florence and Cinque Terre. We are excited to have secured some great hotels after so much time spent on the computer. It was amusing at times with the language and communication. One of the hotels replied with, "Sorry for the question, but WHO is Rick Steves?" in response to my asking for the Rick Steves discount. When I explained he was champion of travel and campaigning for the cause of rebuilding their cities after the recent landslides, they said, "I must go find his book very soon!"
Now on to the car rental and the museum pass inquiries...Making great progress aren't we?

Italian word for the day: n. zanzara,  "mosquito". A new kind of mosquito is spreading in Italy, according to Trip Advisor. The tiger mosquito. So we hope that all our hotels have windows with screens or air conditioning so we don't let those buggers in. Never thought of needing insect repellant on the packing list.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, pretty cool blog Jeannine! You will have internet at Cretaiole but the coverage was spotty. The covered sun room probably was the best area for internet.