Travel is not boring

Dear friends and family,

We are kicking ourselves that we did not see Enrique Chagoya's etchings at the Met, displayed alongside Goya etchings. A little intimidating, he says. I guess, but still quite an honor. Those of you in NY may still have a chance.

Frankfurt must have been a good 20, 25 degrees cooler than NY. We landed in mist and then light drizzle. At first it felt wonderful, but after a couple hours out walking we started to get cold. What soft, fickle creatures we are. Stayed in a wonderful boutique hotel, Villa Oriental. All done in a Moroccan style with beautiful craftsmanship throughout. A Persian restaurant next door with great food. And what I was probably most excited about, I got to remove the 2 "A Child's Vi[r]gil" by Norbert Prangenberg and John Yau from my luggage and we actually mailed them at a Frankfurt post office to Norbert's agent. It was so easy! Let's hope they get there, but somehow the young efficient postman at the Frankfurt Hautbahnhof (main train station) inspired great confidence. German efficiency. The package took up at least half of my suitcase, so the relief is immense.

Travel is not boring, especially when you take Ryanair. The Frankfurt-Hahn airport is about an hour and 45 minutes from Frankfurt. It is an old military airbase which is now used for mainly budget airlines (Still has a Circa 1960 building/control tower with giant words "Flight Operations"). To get out there, one must drive, or the easiest way is to take one of the airline shuttles. These leave every hour from close to the Hautbahnhof. Ryanair is inexpensive and very reliable, but fraught with all sorts of strict pitfalls and a policy of zero tolerance. (Quite a difference from Singapore Air on our flight over, where you feel that you can do no wrong. At Ryanair you almost feel that everything you do is wrong.) You break the rules, you pay ze money, or maybe you don't even get on the plane. They close their flight desks I believe 30 minutes before the flight, so if you haven't checked in and dropped your luggage, you are out of luck. If you haven't declared your luggage and paid for it beforehand, it will cost you. And if you haven't printed out your boarding passes, within a window which closes 4 hours before your flight, it will really cost you. We forgot to print ours out and it cost us about 100 bucks.

We took a walk along the River Main (pronounced "Mine", sort of).

We got off the bus and straggled into the airport. Some of our fellow travelers were greeted with a notice that their flight had been cancelled. Was this some new Ryanair thing? No, it turned out all flights into anywhere in Spain and Belgium were cancelled on all airlines, because of a big strike in those countries. We spoke to 3 young Germans, who had been on their way to Valencia, now waiting in line to get their refund, and hoping to get tickets to Portugal. Travel is not boring, they said. We later saw them, all smiles. They had managed to group together with 2 other formerly stranded travelers, one of whom had rented a car, and they were all going to drive to Spain.

While standing in line in the waiting room, we couldn't help but notice a disturbance. A  couple had gotten into a screaming match with one of the Ryanair hostesses. The man, who was trying to get some long rolls of something onto the plane (eegads, he was probably an artist), completely lost it and started to make threatening gestures directed towards the hostess. She shouted "That's it! He's staying here. He's not getting on the plane." The female side of the couple started a screaming and shouting episode, which lasted a good 20 minutes. It was impressive. The man planted himself in the passage, doing his best to block the entry of those of us who were allowed to board the plane. I don't think they ever made it onto the plane. I was relieved to discover that they did not appear to be Americans. At least one can take pleasure in the fact that this couple managed to find each other; clearly meant to be together.

An hour and a half later, and we landed in a different world, a world of perfect weather, for one thing. Actually landed in Bologna, made our way to Florence, and to the most fabulous spacious, luxurious apartment, around the corner from the Duomo. Went to a neighborhood restaurant with a proprietor who broke into song on a regular basis, mostly opera arias. Shades of Lady and the Tramp and their spaghetti dinner, if you can remember that far back. The food was delicious. Wonderful pasta, good wine, fresh veggies. Don had a grappa to fight off a cold that was coming on. The only thing not great was the limoncello, but that was on the house.

Maintenance never ends on these older structures. (Auto Pano - 8 photos stitched together with Era editing - orig = 200MB. Don catching up on his sleep and attempting to shake the cold.)

The astounding Florentine Duomo, the result of many competitions over the centuries, with entries from some very big names in art. Michelangelo was one of the losers. The maestro commented that the winning design for the top dome and facade looked like a cricket cage. One can imagine the Maestro making this comment somewhat bitterly, after some good, or bad, Italian wine. Sour grapes. We don't agree, and the newly cleaned and replaced white arches at the top look fabulous.

We will soon venture out to discover the best cappucino/internet cafe in Florence.

And we must apologize if we are not answering your emails quickly or at all. Our apartment is an elegantly restored medieval building with very high ceilings, new kitchen and bathroom, spacious, all of that, but no internet. So we would have to be extremely efficient to answer everything at an internet cafe, and it just isn't going to happen. So if it's important, and we haven't answered in a few days, please re-send. We do love getting your responses, but we may not have the requisite time to respond back, at least not right away.

Love, Ciao,

Era and Aldo (Don)