Rome, Italy, 9/27. At 5:30 we boarded our flight to Rome, and settled in for the long ride. After about an hour, Sara had to use the onboard necessary facility. She had a little trouble with the folding door. The strategically placed sign that said “PUSH” was placed exactly five feet high, exactly two inches above her sight line. So, instead of pushing on the right side of the door, she was pulling on the left side. When she ripped the door handle off, she realized that there may be another way to get into the lav.
We arrived in Rome on time, and on time to join 50,000 other visitors trying to get through passport security. It was like Black Friday at Walmarts. From there we headed to the carousel to pick up our luggage, hooking up with the other couples on our adventure, who flew in from Washington and Tucson. As we’re waiting for the bags to come around, a woman standing next to Tom was pulling her 200 lb. suitcase off the carousel. She easily weighed double that, and the horrific odor coming from her ample body caused Tom to have an allergy attack. I didn’t realize that he was allergic to camel sweat.
We then walked halfway to the Vatican getting to the rental office to pick up the two vans. They were actually more like two mini-buses and handled about the same. Mine had such a large turning radius, that driving down the exit ramps of the five-story parking garage required a three-point turn at every floor.
After loading the people and luggage, we were on the road. The Autostrada between Rome and Naples runs through a lush valley that separates two magnificent mountain ranges. The mountaintops, hidden by high clouds, made them seem even higher. The six-lane road took us through Naples, which bore an amazing similarity to Newark. On the other side of Naples, we came to the Mediterranean Sea, which was just magnificent.
Leaving the highway, we then drove the local roads across the peninsula and into Sorrento. Like many cities in Europe, this one had entered the contest to see how many buildings it could fit in the least amount of space, with no regard for transportation. We figured that the building codes have a setback ordinance of 9” and people encroached on that. The streets, designed for men sitting on their asses are so narrow that two full size pickup trucks could not fit side by side on the widest street in Sorrento.
Our hotel was a former palace, built in 600. It was on a street (which we had a difficult time finding) that was so narrow, Tom could reach out and come within one foot of touching the walls on both sides.
And speaking of Tom, it was his birthday, as was Bill’s a few days earlier, so Chris arranged a lavish meal at a local restaurant, including the most wonderful triple chocolate rum cake anyone ever had. Even though we spent an insane amount of money, it was an extraordinary dining experience.
Saturday, 9/25, Tampa, FL. We haven’t left the state yet, but the fun has already begun. Being the savvy travelers that we are, and having taken Peter Schatz’s advice, we checked into the Hyatt Place in Tampa. Our flight is tomorrow at 7:30 AM, and here we’re only five minutes from the airport. And we can park free while we’re in Europe.
We’re traveling with Chris & Bob Stout, and they have never been to the International Mall, so we decided to go there for dinner. Since we’re heading for Italy, I’m looking for a restaurant with “Trattoria” in the name, but the girls settle for The Blue Martini. They claim it’s because everything is half price until 8 PM. And everything was, including the food!
We walked into a pitch-black sports bar with football games on every TV and college-age kids screaming at the sets. There wasn’t one patron that was within 45 years of my age. (Now this is dinner atmosphere.) Looking for someone to seat us, Sara walks up to a very large (football player-size) African American who is dressed like an adult. She taps him on the kneecap and asks if he works at the restaurant. He says, “Actually, I’m with the band.” So I respond, “That’s great! Sara wants to audition.” I’m really thinking, with all this noise, how are we going to deal with band music too?
So we find a hightop in the quietest corner of the place, and a perky waitress come over to take our drink order. All the wait staff were wearing these camisole tops with push-up bras underneath. It was like Hooter’s in underwear. Every time one walked by I remembered the section we parked in (42D).
Everyone orders martinis, except me (I’m driving), and I order a glass of cabernet. “Honeycups” brings the martinis, which include a shaker of the overflow, plus my wine. We then order our entrees and start drinking the beverages. Expecting the martinis to be the usual watered down version, the three of them chug their drinks, while I savor my vintage (screw-cap) wine. You don’t expect gourmet food in an environment like this, but when it comes out, the presentation is a surprise, and each dish is outstanding! We quaff it down, just as the band starts playing. Since the half price deal ends in five minutes, we order another round, or was it two?
Halfway through the second round (I’m counting six full glasses of wine on the table, plus some martinis) Sara leans over and says “Let’s dansh.” The music is really good, so we join the kids on the floor and start to boogie. Sara realizes that she has already had tee many martoonis, and starts to flounder. She’s desperately hanging on my arm as I call over the manager and ask him if he has a pole she can hold onto. Well, you can picture the rest.
I did manage to get her back to the table, where she started a conversation with the couple at the next hightop, telling them that we are going on vacation, and she had a little too mush to drink. I apologized to them for my “daughter” interrupting their date. We paid the check and got the hell out of there, laughing all the way back to the car. Chris comment that Sara is like a cartoon character.