Thursday, August 27th, 2009
As my daughter Katie and I set out on our European adventure, it dawned on me that it had been 30 years since I had been there. After high school my friend Carrie and I worked for 6 months, saved as much money as we could and traveled all over the place for 5 months. We tried to go to a big city and a small town in as many countries as possible – what an experience. At the time, at the ripe old age of seventeen, I thought, “I should do it now before I have a family and career and won’t be able to get away.” Apparently that proved to be true. How could it have been 30 years? I am baffled….
As the days before our departure approached we really started to get excited. We decided to take just carry-on luggage and travel light. This has never been a problem for Katie – to my amazement she has always been the girl who throws a few items in a shoulder bag and goes. We didn’t take blow dryers or anything cumbersome. Mostly summer dresses and sandals, and of course the best traveler…a pashmina. It can be so many things – a wrap, a blanket, a pillow, a scarf, you name it – incredibly handy to have.
Just to start things off, we were late leaving our house and barely made the first flight…Oh boy…it was definitely my fault; I can be a dilly dawdler. To make matters worse, I could not get my printer to work so we were heading out with a few notes scribbled on a piece of paper and no international cell phone…I figured we would find computers and check in on-line. I must say my friend Carolyn, who we would eventually catch up with in Europe, used a travel agent and her every move was beautifully detailed in a typed itinerary (what a novel idea, I know). If anything went wrong or she wanted to change her plans she notified him and he took care of it. As the trip went on I thought more and more about what a luxury that would have been. We took an hour flight to San Francisco and had a small lay -over until our next flight We used miles and flew economy plus on Virgin Atlantic, their version of business class. What a treat now a days to get a footrest and more importantly food. The things we used to take for granted, not to mention complain about.
After endless fee negotiations with our foggy brains (and trying to do the Euro/US $ math) we decided to go back to Heathrow, get our bags and take a bus to Gatwick airport. We arrived there at 3pm and ran into Carolyn right off the escalator. We decided to find a place to sit and relax while we waited for the 6:00 pm check in for the 8:00 pm flight. Oh if we only knew what was to come….
We arrived at London’s Heathrow airport in the morning and our flight to Florence was out of Gatwick airport at 8:00 pm. We decided to store our bags and head out to see what we could. We took a train to Piccadilly Square and hopped in a cab and sort of went on a whirlwind driving tour. Somewhat of a silly approach, but what the heck, I will chalk it up to jet lagged brain. But if we didn’t have a cabbie as our tour guide we may not have seen Madonna and Guy Richie’s pub The Punch Bowl. Who needs Buckingham Palace?