Der Amerikanische Urlauber

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Un momento...

We had time in the town of Vernazza to stop at an internet café, so I figured it would be nice to write up something, since typing into a cell phone is tedious!

Today was our last day in the Cinque Terre, and we got to start it off hiking... and I and several others nearly plummeted off several times. Twice for me. The ledges were weak and gave way; nothing more than scrapes, thankfully. What an experience!

Tomorrow we leave and go to Tuscania... the way this trip has been going, it has been a surprise a minute, so who knows what we are going to do there. It has really been fun, with some craziness that I will definitely elaborate on when I get home and am not spending 15 cents a minute in an Internet café! It is so interesting to use this Euro spec keyboard, by the way!

Oh and to everyone, about the bed, I will say this much: yep, I am certainly sleeping on that thing; and the floor is not something I would want to sleep on. I definitely would take the chairs! Auntie is so right, the story I have to tell is interesting indeed... more to come when I get back!

I am so glad you all have been checking in, I have really been loving posting to it and am so glad I have my cell phone! I really loved Cinque Terre but I can't wait to get back to Rome! After sleeping on a chair for five nights, I think my sense of comfort has been skewed! A hotel is going to be amazing... Oh, and if you could only see the huge trek we have to the Sancturary every single time we have to leave and come back; it's about a 3/4 mile journey allll the way up!

OK, I'm going to get going for now, keep checking in because I am definitely going to keep posting!

Ciao a tutti!




Sunday, May 29, 2005

Mon lit au Cinque Terre.,

Some have been curious to see my unusual sleeping arrangements here at the Sanctuary in Cinque Terre. I'm more than happy to oblige! (Yes, I am quite the innovator, if I do say so myself...) It's only a bit more comfortable than it looks!

Ciao da Riomaggiore!

Bell'acqua!

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Castello di Sarzana

La spiaggia di Carrara

We're spending the afternoon here in Carrara in Tuscany- unfortunately we forgot our bathing suits!

Lucca e Pisa

A recap of yesterday- we went to both Lucca and Pisa, leaving at 8 and returning at 8. Both were incredible; Lucca was a fantastic and beautiful surprise. I took tons of pictures! Not so incredible are our Cinque Terre lodgings, but they WILL provide for plenty of um... interesting tales later!

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Viaggio a Cinque Terre

Right now we're in a traffic jam right outside Rome. Which reminds me, nothing quite compares with Roman traffic. I quickly learned how to cross a Roman street- quickly and with authority. I'm really looking forward to being back next Wednesday- at a gorgeous hotel no less!

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Il Colosseo

On a tour around Rome...

Just to show I'm here!

More later!

Monday, May 23, 2005

For you, Marcel!

30 mins to takeoff!

Halfway There...

A picture of my flight from Tampa, at the gate in beautiful Newark, NJ....

Arrivederci!


Ciao Italia! Posted by Hello

Well, the day is finally here... I can't believe it. I thought that the above picture was just perfect for the occasion, don't you? It even features Provincia Liguria!

So in less than 12 hours I'm going to be at Tampa International Airport. My first flight leaves at 3:15; my flight from Newark to Rome leaves at 10:10 PM; so all told, by the time we get out of Fiumicino tomorrow, I'll have been in transit for nearly an entire day.

I have a lot of thoughts running through my head right now. My problem is I think too much; I'm worried about losing my luggage, how the other people going will be, what I'm going to do while there; I need to just really sit back and enjoy the experience. I'm as prepared as I can get!

Speaking of which... after finally getting through the adventure of packing this evening (which Marcel can attest to) I really would love to know how this chaperone of mine can claim to travel for ten days with just a carry on and her purse. I don't know what she's brining, but I brought all the necessities, nothing frivolous whatsoever, and my 26" suitcase and my carry on are both packed to capacity. (I would have brought my 30" but they restricted it to 29" for the buses/trains/whatever the heck we're taking) She must be bringing like a couple of things and plans to wash them out in the sink... That's all nice and everything, but I don't know who you're impressing saying you just take a carry on for a trip that lasts a week and a half.

I'm so excited to utilize my Italian; I'm absolutely amazed at the amount of progress I made in the language in the two months since I took it up in mid-March. I was able to have an entire conversation completely in Italian online today that lasted well over an hour. Speaking is totally different of course, but then I don't plan on having hour long conversations in Italian after only studying it two months!

I'm really crossing my fingers and hoping all goes well with my cell phone blogging. I called and got a one-month international roaming package for $5.99 from Cingular today, so instead of me being charged $2 a minute to roam in Europe, it's only going to be $0.39. Which is good to know, because sometimes tracking a pay phone is very inconvienent. So hopefully I get a signal and can get this up from wherever I happen to be! Well, you'll all see tomorrow when I try from Rome!

Thanks so much to everyone that has given me such great advice about this trip. I greatly appreciate it.

So for now, ciao a tutti, ed a presto!

Ha, how about that, now I finally am ein amerikanische Urlauber!


Friday, May 20, 2005

Parto fra tre giorni...


La piccola spiaggia di Vernazza Posted by Hello

I had a really busy day today; I've been wanting to write this now for three weeks. I finally can. I got my itinerary today...

Of course, in the end it leaves as much a mystery as it reveals, but all the important questions are answered. Anyway, it reads as follows:

Monday, May 23
Depart from Newark to Rome; in flight

Tuesday, May 24
Arrival at Fiumicino; afternoon free

Wednesday, May 25
All day tour of Rome, including a tour of the pagan culture of Ancient Rome, visiting several ancient sites among them the Pantheon. Some place I probably never would have known to visit myself i the Mitre di San Clemente, which is located beneath the Basilica di San Clemente, and is an ancient temple devoted to the ancient god Mithras (predating the ancient Romans)

Thursday, May 26
Depart Rome and head north to La Spezia

Friday, May 27
Riomaggiore

Saturday, May 28
Excursion around Cinque Terre

Sunday, May 29
Pisa, Carrara, and Lucca

Monday, May 30
Maranola and Monterosso

Tuesday, May 31
Corniglia and Vernazza (that really pretty place pictured above)

Wednesday, June 01
Head back to Rome, stopping in Tarquinia, where among other things we're visiting an Etruscan burial ground built within an antique cave

Thursday, June 02

Everyone that isn't extending the trip heads back June 02. But I'm staying on until June 05 back in Rome.

Anyway, that's the itinerary in a really brief nutshell. That's all I know as well. I personally think the woman didn't feel like writing the whole thing out for us so she just gave us a brief rundown, because we're already told we're being kept plenty busy doing stuff each day. It's nice, I think, to be able to experience Rome with everyone so when I'm by myself I'll already be a little acquainted with la città eterna.

I was surprised that Florence is no longer on the itinerary. Instead, we got extra time in Rome. Not a bad tradeoff; I was extremely looking forward to Florence, but I'll get there someday soon, I think. Florence has too much to try and just see in one day anyway.

As for lodging; when I looked and I saw as the first place we're staying in Rome "hostel" I immediately was like "oh God no" and thoughts of huge rooms crowded with beds and loud people running around in their underwear and filthy communal baths flooded my mind (I've heard stories!) But then I looked it up online; we're staying the first two nights in Rome at the Youth Station Hostel, which is in the northeast of the city near Stazione Termini. I was pleasantly surprised to see that it's more like a small hotel; just very basic. It has private baths, which alleviated that concern, and so I'm none too worried at all. Let's just hope I have a pleasant enough experience to write of.

When we spend the bulk of our time in Cinque Terre, which, by the way you can read all about here, we're going to be staying at il Santuario di Montenero, which I'm gathering is a bed and breakfast.
It seems very quaint.

The night on the way back to Rome they have it down as we're staying at the Holiday House San Francesco di Tuscania. Which incidentally doesn't seem to have a website, so it's going to be surprises all around.

But what's good travel without surprise?

I really am excited at the variety of experiences I'll be having on this trip. The theme apparently assigned to this trip is Italy's National Parks and Treasured Towns. Which seems very appropriate. Cinque Terre is in itself a massive national park and is on the UNESCO World Heritage list. I wish I had a more detailed itinerary so I could give you a clearer rundown of what I'll be doing; but hey, this way you have something to look forward to on my updates...

Everyone I know that has been to Cinque Terre has loved it. So that's an extremely good sign. This is all in the Riviera, which is incredible in itself.

I'm really running the full spectrum of lodging experiences on this trip as well; I'm staying in a hostel, a bed and breakfast, and then in a luxury hotel in Rome. I'm staying at the Hotel dei Borgognoni, which gets it's name from the Via Borgognoni. I got an incredible deal off Expedia. Which remind me, I need to call and check tomorrow just to confirm they have me down in their system. Because my worst fear would be getting there and having them not have me in the system. But at least Expedia in this case would be responsible.

So I'm really, really excited.

In other news, today I got the Euro I ordered through Bank of America. I ordered €175 online, so I could have a good amount, but not a ton, on me when I get there. The exchange rate right now is particularly brutal; it's $1.32 to €1. So it cost like $232. It could be worse, I could be going to Britain...

This is my first encounter with the Euro. I've seen pictures online, and I have a €1 coin (de España) but that's it. So I was surprised to see that the size varies depending on the value of the bill. A €5 note is the smallest, and each note, €10, 20, 50, etc. continues to increase in size. And it has a little silver anti-countefeit band running down the side, and is all colorful. It honestly at first felt like Monopoly money to me! I kind of miss the old currencies only because it was so fun to collect the various ones, and each one had a bit of national flavor. The Euro makes things easier, but I do miss the Lira, with its outrageously devaluation so they placed values of 50 lire on coins..one of which I happen to have, from 1977.

So anyway, yeah that was exciting. I wonder how ready I will be to depart with my colorful Euros...

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Let's Get Organized...


Wish mine looked like this... Posted by Hello

Did you ever have a bright idea to get to work on something right away, not quite realizing the scale of the task at hand... until several hours later you realize you're only halfway done?

I consider myself a really organized person and a neat freak. But I also seem to develop some form of nostalgia for any piece of junk that I hold onto for too long, and I tend to keep it. So I hate clutter, yet at the same time I collect too much crap. So this equals nicely organized garbage, basically.

I wound up having to go on a fairly sized shopping spree for this trip to Italy. I realized, out of my entire closet, I had four t-shirts, two collared shirts, and a pair of khaki shorts. All my other good clothes are for winter. So this meant big shopping time. But then I had to make room for this stuff in advance.

I can't believe I felt sentimental toward an ugly and dusty shirt that sat in the abyss of the farthest corner of my closet for five years now. So I figured the quicker I put it in the bag the better. So now that I get all that stuff taken care of... my closet is incredibly empty.

I'm getting really impatient about this trip itinerary thing. I've never seen before a person say it'll be out by the end of the first week of the month, and now, 5 days from departure, we still don't have it. I don't like to complain, because I'm pretty much going to Italy gratis, but I don't like not knowing where I'm even going to be sleeping 5 days before I get there, and how we're getting there. And I feel like such a nag having had to email her finally this past Sunday evening asking the woman in charge where it is. But it just seems kind of unorganized to me. This woman is going to love me... she's our group's chaperone and she must be thrilled at the prospect of Mr. Details here being around for ten straight days... But it's her fault, don't guarantee something and then not bother to even update everyone.

Aside from that, I'm quite excited!

Back to tackling the closet...

Friday, May 13, 2005

Ricevo i miei biglietti...


No middle seat for me! Posted by Hello

Well, I'm still waiting on the itinerary, but I did get one nice surprise today: my plane tickets came in the mail (well, it's an e-ticket so I just got a receipt that looks like a ticket, and an itinerary). I've been waiting for this so I could finally see where I was sitting on my four flights. My biggest fear was being stuck in the dreaded middle seat.

The middle seat's not too bad if you know the other two people on either side of you, but when you don't, you really don't want it.

Fortunately, I got excellent seating. Three of the four legs I sit on the aisle. Newark to Rome I have a window seat, so I get to take pictures out the plane window as we pass over Europe... That was really the only leg of the trip I even wanted a window seat on, since I think sometimes having the aisle is more accomodating anyway.

So that's one big concern down... now I'm just eagerly awaiting the trip itinerary itself.

Well actually, another concern of mine is being stuck behind someone who decides to go to sleep the minute we board and having their seat on my lap for 9 hours... How do you watch the movies when that happens anyway? Nowadays all the airlines have seatback TVs. I guess the answer is... you don't, or you watch the one next to you. That probably won't happen, but I've heard things...

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Parles-tu Français?


La Vieille Bourse, Lille, France Posted by Hello

I had my first real, meaningful conversation in French today. And by meaningful I mean talking about real stuff, not made up textbook conversation. I was amazingly able to get a microphone connection to work properly over MSN Messenger, so for about an hour I talked with my friend Syl interchangably between French and English. Mostly more in English, since he's pretty near fluent, while I'm beginning French.

Syl is from Lille, a city in the north of France, close to the Belgian border. Hence the above photo, of La Vieille Bourse, at one time a site of bustling commerce. Paris can't get all the credit now, can it?

One thing that's readily clear is, it takes a lot more to speak the language than just knowing vocabulary. You have to be on your feet and be able to pretty much subconscioulsy summon what you're looking to say. It's not like writing, where you can look up a word you don't know, or reading, where you can understand in context. You have to have material mastered before you can speak it.

Another hurdle I actually shouldn't have but I do, is getting over the nervousness of making mistakes while talking. The only way I'm ever going to speak properly is to just start talking and make those mistakes. If my immigrant ancestors could come to this country and eventually get from speaking broken English to speaking it fluently with no fancy education, then I can put this stuff behind me.

French is interesting, because unless you know what a word sounds like beforehand, you're going to have one heck of a time understanding someone. It's not like German or Italian, for example, which are very clearly pronounced. I can see how many words in English pose a problem also for people learning it. But, see, at least I don't have to worry about learning English!

Anyway, I was really excited, because despite the pausing I had to make to find words and mistakes I may have made, I said more in French today than I actually have in the entire 15 weeks I spent in French I. Yay for independent achievement.

And this helps me in Italian as well (though I've been learning most Italian through actually speaking in the first place) because it helps break down the intimidation factor.

One thing that strikes me as funny is, even though I know better, because I've never left the Anglophone world (which is quite large so it's not hard to do) it's so easy to believe that everyone in the world speaks English. You just get that impression. And not just dribs and drabs, but know it fluently. That's just not the case. But it's easy, when you never experience otherwise, to feel that way, even when you know it's to the contrary. So it's going to be cool to try and employ the Italian I know. I'm glad, even though Italy has a multilingual tourist industry that does know English (which is good because while I'm getting good in Italian... I don't think I could solve a billing dispute in it quite yet, though I know enough Italian hand language I think I could get my displeasure across!) it's not like the Netherlands, where 90% know it, and they get so impatient with you if you try speaking Dutch and mess up that they immediately switch into your language!

Anyway, you also can probably tell that yet another day went by and I didn't get my itinerary yet... I personally am beginning to think they plan on placing us in a barn, and they aren't telling us the intinerary yet so none of us can say anything! I'm getting visions of this I Love Lucy episode where they wind up staying at an Italian farmer's barn, and Lucy has to milk the cow. (Not the grape stomping one, that one was the episode before)

Come si dice « impatient » in italiano?

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Che penso...


Campobasso, la città della mia famiglia italiana Posted by Hello

I thought today it would be nice to post up a picture not of a famous Italian landmark, but rather of one of my ancestral hometowns. This picture is of Campobasso, which is located in central Italy. In fact, of all my ancestral hometowns, this is pretty much the farthest north it gets in Italy. About 3/4 of my ancestors of my paternal grandmother's side came from this one town.

This is in fact where many of my cousins, on my Gennarelli side, happen to live. This one particular branch emigrated not only to the US but also to Canada and Argentina.

Anyway, it's really a great desire of mine to one day be able to visit all the places my ancestors came from. I won't have time on this trip, unfortunately. It's about a three hour train ride from Rome to Campobasso, and I only have three days. But I'll get there eventually, along with Naples, Calabria, and Sicily.

Today I received my Lonely Planet Rome guidebook in the mail, three days earlier than expected. I love Amazon.com.

I'm still awaiting the receipt of my final itinerary from the NIAF. We were supposed to have it on May 1. The it was supposed to be here no later than the middle of last week. Believe me, the irony of an Italian-American organiaztion being disorganized and behind schedule is not lost on me... Now, if it was the National Swiss-American Founation, I'm sure it would have been here by now!

I've been having so much fun reading Sweety's blog She's in Rome at this very moment and has been updating her blog from there. It's so exciting to think I'm going to be in that same spot myself in less than a month. Incidentally, she's staying in the same area as I'm staying, near the Piazza di Spagna.

On another note, to expand upon Italian fashion... how can Italians afford some of this stuff? Sure, I go looking out of curiousity on Dolce and Gabbana yesterday, and I found this really nice Italia shirt. Of course, they don't exactly give prices on there (it's one of those "if you have to ask, you can't afford it" things) So I used my friend Froogle just to get an idea... OK, if a pair of underwear is going for $70, I don't think I want to know what the shirt costs!

I think I can see now how 67% of Italian men stay at home with their parents until around the age of 34... that's how they afford it!

In other news, I signed up at the local Gold's Gym today now that I'm off from school. I had a week off primarily because last Tuesday, right before I finished working out, I was putting a 100 lb plate (that's 45.5 kg for my metric friends) on a dip belt, and right before I got it on the thing wobbled over and right onto my left big toe. So I was in quite a lot of agony last week. I miss one week and I feel like I've been lacking something in my day. So I'm quite excited about getting back in tomorrow.

When I get my itinerary, I'll post it up so you can all see the fun places I'll be seeing and the interesting things I'll be doing... I bet you can't wait!





Sunday, May 08, 2005

Ho fatto la mia prenotazione!


La Piazza di Spagna Posted by Hello

I'm starting to get really excited. I finally booked my hotel accomodations for Rome today, and I wound up getting a beautiful hotel a few hundred meters away from la Piazza di Spagna and the Trevi Fountain. Location is important to me, and so this is really absolutely fantastic.

As a matter of fact, yesterday on TCM they had La Dolce Vita, which I recorded on my wonderful Philips DVD Recorder (I don't think I could ever go back to recording on a VCR) So now I don't have to rush to buy the DVD off Amazon. I probably will anyway, since it's a special edition, but someday. No rush now. Anyway, there's a scene in the movie when Anita Eckberg goes tromping through the Trevi Fountain with Marcello Mastroianni. It really struck me to think that I'm going to be there myself in less than a month's time. Though I don't think I'm going to be able to actually go swim in it...

So yeah, that's a really cool thought.

Additionally, last night I stumbled upon a Blogger "how-to" article on my sign in page about posting pictures to your blog from your cell phone. This is in addition to posting text.

So I got myself all set up and have the addresses in my cell phone. This is fantastic. Now I can go around snapping a picture or two each day of my trip and send it to this blog and post some commentary or whatever. I'm going to turn this thing into a little travel journal. Follow Joe's travels through Italy... Oh man that's really cool! Yay for modern technology!

Now I'm also trying to figure out what I'm going to wear. We've already been advised to wear shorts as little as possible. Italians don't like shorts. That just figures, I'm going at one of the warmest times of the year, and shorts are a fashion-no in Italy. It's pretty much forbidden to enter churches there with uncovered shoulders and knees (this is something they really don't observe much of in the US) It's like law at St. Peter's Basilica, I read today they have like a guard outside the place that prevents you from entering wearing shorts.

I actually don't even have that many pants in my wardrobe. I love my khaki shorts. And jeans are way too heavy to wear, so I guess I'll have to pick up some khakis and other lighter pants before I go.

Tell me, is this how fashion goes in the rest of Europe as well? Because you might as well tell me now so I can get a whole European clothing line up ready.

See, I care about that kind of stuff. I mean I know I'm uno straniero (a foreigner) but I don't want to stand out like a sore thumb. So it always surprises me when I hear stories of families who go to these countries and wear bright Hawaiian shirts and have the camera around their necks and the flip flops and all that. Nothing quite says "Please pick my pocket" like the obnoxious American tourist look, does it?

Hmm, though if I go decked out in this stuff from Dolce and Gabbana, something tells me I won't exactly blend in any easier... Unless Italian guys really do dress like this, in which case, God Bless America...

Friday, May 06, 2005

Power Struggle


Myth No. 2: American appliances don't work in Europe... Posted by Hello

This commercial always comes to mind whenever I think of using American appliances in Europe. It makes me chuckle...

I wasn't quite sure about how to go about it, since I obviously need to bring my cell phone and charger, and I also really wanted to bring my iPod. Yesterday, though, after first saying make sure you bring a charger, the woman from the NIAF writes back that her supervisor said not to bring any appliances whatsoever, even with a charger, since they would blow out.

Yeah, well you can see how much I listen to authority when I know otherwise... I decided to do research, since I know a lot of people travel extensively and somehow get their laptops and iPods and cell phones powered up globally. Well it turns out most new appliances have a range of 100V-240V. In the US we have outlets that give out 120V, in Europe it's 240V. So unless your appliance is newer and specifically has in writing somewhere that it can handle this range, the scene when you plug it into the wall in Europe probably looks a bit like the Roaming Gnome's experience above. Which makes me laugh just thinking about it (I don't know why I find it so funny)

I personally think they don't want to be held liable should we lose any of our valuable electronics, or better yet, if they're stolen. I still have no clue where we'll be staying. They said we'd have the itinerary by the end of the week... as well as our e-Tickets. This, by the way, is the first time I will be using an e-Ticket instead of an actual ticket to present at the check-in counter. Last time I flew though was in 1996, before anyone really even had the internet. Progress marches on...

I'm more than a little interested in where we're staying, only to end everyone's incessant questioning of me "does it have a communal bath?" All I know is the recent email said to bring flip flops for the shower, which means one of two things: a) it's a communal bath, or b) since we're sharing the room with three other people, the private bath becomes a de facto communal bath. I'm more inclined to believe it's the latter. We're staying at economy, but then, economy means lots of things. As long as it's clean, I don't plan on spending a lot of time sitting in a room there anyway, especially when it's with three other people not related to me (it's bad enough when it's my brother and sister)

They say to get some money changed over into Euro here before we leave. Well, if I go to my Bank of America branch... we live in a suburb of Tampa... they don't have a ready reserve of Euros in supply, so it would probably take a day or two, so I should probably do that next week. Then again, they just may have a lot of Euros, who knows.

My mom remembers right around when the Lire was getting replaced by the Euro, an old Italian couple came into the bank, when she was working for Bank of America as a manager and regional vice president, and wanted to change it into dollars. They had about 5 million lire... It took quite a while to count and convert it all, but when they did it came out to a lot less than 5,000,000...

I ordered a guidebook today off Amazon... Lonely Planet: Rome. Usually the Lonely Planet guides tend to be good, so I went with that; my cousin had recommended a really good one, but I didn't feel like paying $35 for a guidebook with all the expenses I have. This was only $12. So considering they're a good source and it was $12 ($16 with shipping... I didn't qualify for free Super Saver!) I'm happy.

Sweety is actually going to Rome before me... this Monday in fact. (Have a great time Sweety!) So I'm really looking forward to hearing about her trip before I leave myself. (And you better not forget my postcard either!)

I'm off to study some Italian, so arrivederci ed a presto!

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

New Luggage and Airline Food


The Beloved TSA Posted by Hello

Yeah, I know... only I would get excited about buying new luggage. But it's still so exciting. I never before had my own set of luggage.

Saturday my mother and sister came across a bunch of Samsonite luggage at over half price at Ross, a department store here where you wind up getting these huge discounts all on name brand stuff. I mean I guess it's a season old, but whoop-dee-do, right? Oh my suitcase is last season's!

Anyway, I wound up getting a 30" and a matching carry on, plus a leather Samsonite messenger tote for $250 total. The price of this season's version of the model of my luggage I just bought (which looks exactly identical) is $320. So I'm traveling in style... and I got a deal! Shopping is always made better when you get a huge deal.

But there's something I've noticed about women, at least every woman I happen to know, and that is they'll buy something that's on sale just for the sake that it's on sale. Never mind that you don't really need it. It's on sale! This alone could explain the success behind Wal-Mart...

Anyway, a thought passed into my mind today when I was thinking of securing my luggage: I remembered that since September 11, it's much more common for the TSA (The Transportation Safety Administration) to go rummaging through your luggage. And of course, you need to lock your luggage. So if my luggage happened to be pulled, what would happen?

Well, I guess I'm not the only one who asks this question, because on their website , along with advice on "what shoes to wear" is a FAQ page which mentions that you should buy one of two approved varieties of locks... Locks that they can easily open without bringing out the jaws of life and ruining your lock and suitcase in the process.

It still bothers me though to think that without my knowledge I could have people rummaging through my stuff. And even worse are the stories I've heard of some shady TSA agents (they don't particularly make a fortune doing what they're doing after all) stealing stuff from people's luggage. Nothing more reassuring than knowing someone's going through your underwear, right? I guess that's a concession we all made in the name of safety. It makes more sense than the old question they used to ask: "Did you pack your own bags?" Well, I'm sure any terrorist who intended to blow up a plane with a bomb in a suitcase certainly would have... That was pretty much the only frontier that used to have to be crossed for checked luggage.

I love some of the stuff they feel they have to mention on their "Permitted and Forbidden Items" list. So I guess that clears up the question of me bringing my favorite ice pick, throwing stars, and meat cleaver aboard the plane with me to Rome...

I stumbled on this site several months ago when randomly browsing the internet... it's called Airline Meals.net, a site devoted to publishing travelers' personal photos of the food they serve aboard each airline. It's amazing to note the difference in service among the classes: the bourgeoisie up in First and Business class get five course meals... the proletariat in coach gets a box meal... if you're lucky! When I'm the person sitting in Business Class someday I won't be complaining.

Anyway, I'll leave you today with my favorite selection, this culinary masterpiece from Air Botswana... mmm... radioactive Kool-Aid!

Bon appétit!