November 23, 2017

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Tuesday, July 07, 2009
7.04:

This morning I had a meeting with a professor at the Polytechnic University in Milan. That meeting went great, although I had some pretty interesting adventures with the train rides into the appropriate area of Milan. But, in the end, I made it, had a great conversation, and headed back to Como.

When I got back to the hotel, I met up with Christian and heard about her trip out on the lake and her visit to Villa Carlotta. She said it was gorgeous. I'm looking forward to seeing (and sharing) those pictures.

We headed out into town to look for some lunch, and eventually came across a supermarket. We thought it might be good to buy a few things and bring them back to the hotel. We got some sandwiches, some fruit, potato chips, and some Bellini (a fruity, carbonated wine with peaches added). It made for a pretty neat lunch.

After lunch, we had a great nap in the hotel room, and then headed out later to walk around and find some dinner. Turns out, one of the stages for public music (like we listened to last night) is set up in the Piazza right next to our hotel, so we went and got some pizza to bring back to the hotel. The balcony of our room looks into the square so we could eat there and watch the band perform. Unfortunately, they got delayed due to a storm that moved in over the mountains, but as I am writing this, they have cranked back up and are jamming out in the square.

I really miss my kids. Christian showed me some pictures of them on her phone, and I wish I could be with them now. Just a couple more days.


7.05:

Had breakfast and got a transfer over to the Milan airport. Everything went pretty smooth flying into Munich, except we hit some bad weather and got waived off of a landing due to winds (first time that has happened to me... wheels down, almost on the runway, then throttle up and pull away... kind of scary until you hear from the pilot what is going on).

In Munich, called the hotel and got a transfer to the Best Western. The hotel is in a more residential area, but it was nice. Very clean. Very sharp looking. Free internet!!! Finally!!! But, no A/C (thank goodness we could open the window and let the cool air in). Thanks to the free internet, if there would have been A/C here, this may have been my favorite hotel (and it was only a temporary stay before catching our flight to Atlanta).

At night, decided to go walk to one of the only hotels in the area since the prices in the hotel restaurant seemed steep and didn't have anything we really wanted. It was a nice Italian restaurant, and we had great service and some amazing food. Also, we had a summer beer here that is half beer and half lemonade (It was great!!! Thanks to Mike for this suggestion.).

So, as hard as it is to write this... I think the best Italian food we had... was in Germany. I know, that sounds bad. But, I'm being honest. It really was great. And the German beer with it made for an interesting combination.

Walked back to the hotel and prepared to head home tomorrow.


7.06:

Checked out of the hotel, only to find out that the airport transfer service was not free!! We had to shell out quite a bit of money for the transfers to and from the airport. Oh well. I want to get home!

Got to the airport and had to check our bags in. All of the European airlines have had automated stations for checking bags, printing boarding passes, etc. Now we are back to Delta. I wish I had taken a picture of the insanely long line. And we checked in online!! When we got up to check our bags, one was 4kg too heavy. They threatened to charge us $150 if we didn't lighten it, so we opened up all our bags and started shuffling. After 2 or 3 tries, we got it under weight, but ultimately, the same amount of weight is going on the plane, so I don't exactly understand. Why don't they require that the average weight of your bags be below a certain amount?

Got through security, although one of the police stared at my passport for a while and asked why Christian's passport had a stamp from France, but mine didn't.

"Didn't you say you too have traveled together the entire time?"

"Yes"

"Then why don't you have a stamp?"

"I don't know... I guess we went in different lines."

I really didn't know. But, I think he was suspicious that we were lying. Ultimately, he decided to let us through. We got through security, waited for a while, and got on the plane.

The flight into Atlanta was fairly uneventful. The 767 had individual screens for each passenger so you could pick, watch, and pause your own movie, tv show, or music. Also, you could play games against other passengers, like poker, chess and trivia. Pretty cool.

Made it into Atlanta and went through some pretty intense security and customs controls. While we were waiting for our luggage to come out (you have to recheck luggage here even if you are getting a connecting flight), a homeland security officer was going around with a beagle and sniffing people's bags and carry-ons. It was amazing to see him work. He sniffed the bag of an older lady a few feet from us and he immediately, made a motion and sat down by the bag and stared at his handler. The handler looked at the lady and said, "You have fruit in there?"

Her face dropped. She must have remembered something that she forgot about in her bag. The officer looked in her bag and found an apple.

She mentioned that she had forgotten to claim it on the customs form (there is a section for food, fruit, and vegetables) and that she would go throw it away. "Wait he said. He needs to touch it." With that, he took the apple and let the beagle smell it and touch it with his nose. The handler then gave him a treat and started working him again. Really amazing to see what dogs are capable of. We saw quite a few seeing eye dogs during out travels as well. It is amazing how well composed they are in airports and subway trains.

In Atlanta, through security, rechecked luggage, found our gate, sat down, and saw the sign flip showing a 2 hour delay. Oh man. We waited for hours in the aorport (we were there early and already had some time to wait nominally). Then, it clicked again. Now it was delayed about 2.5 hours.

Delta. Friggin Delta. I can't think of one aspect of being an airline that they did not screw up. They had delays. They had maintenance problems with the planes. They had paperwork problems with the planes. They had poor service at the counter. They lost our luggage. They even destroyed one of our bags. Short of crashing, they did everything they could do to screw up being an airline.

When we finally made it into Lafayette, I was so tired I could barely see. We started walking, following a line of people. I was barely conscious. I would occasionally look up to make sure I was still following Christian and the line of people. I was a zombie. And then I heard it.

"Mommy! Daddy!".

Neo's voice rang out.

"Dad-eee!!! Dad-eeeeeeeee!" I heard Charlie say. Once his feet hit the ground, he ran to me as fast as he could. Oh man. What a feeling. I went and saw some of the oldest and most beautiful art and buildings in the world. But yet, in the end, it was my wife and my kids that I discovered. I see them and love them in an even stronger way. It was a trip of a lifetime. It is so good to be home.

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