Saturday, March 31, 2007 was I?

Oh yes...the 2004 trip planning.

We were hoping to travel to Rome and back and spend about three weeks in Italy for $5,000. We decided to use air miles to get to the east coast from Seattle and reserved two round trip tickets from Seattle to New York on American Airlines. Cost us only 40,000 miles because we made these reservations very early...April or May...for an October trip. Coordinating a flight from NYC was pretty easy. We had decided to visit my wife's relatives in Baltimore for a few days on the way. With that challenge out of the way we booked on Iberia for the sum of $1,146 round trip, the two of us! We would arrive in NYC on Thursday, September 30th, spend Friday in the city, take the train mid afternoon, Friday, to Baltimore and spend Friday, Saturday and Sunday night in Towsen, MD.

We would finally leave for Rome Monday evening and arrive early Tuesday after a plane change in Madrid. (My wife's birthday was the day we arrived in Rome, October 5th). I will write about Towsen another day because the visit was certainly a big part of this first trip to Italy in 20 years. Sort of a warm up with my wife's Italian American family, Romans, all.

We arrived back in Manhattan by train late Monday afternoon, transferred to JFK and checked in for our 9:50 PM flight that was to arrive in Madrid about 6 in the morning, as I recall.

Jeannie was not a good flight passenger and had carefully planned that she would enjoy "assisted sleep" the entire Trans-Atlantic flight. In Madrid the next morning we passed through EU immigration and customs and took the merry bus ride around the Madrid airport to our flight bound for "Roma". Oh, I forgot to mention, on the Trans-Atlantic flight, I watched a movie...not being a regular world traveler I watched the entire movie in Spanish not knowing that by simply changing the channel I could have watched it in English...oh well...lesson learned...

We had planned one night in Rome and then a train ride to Venice. The train tickets were booked in advance (both the Amtrak to and from Baltimore and the TrenItalia from Rome to Venice)an easy, no sweat online transaction. In fact, both now issue e-tickets much like the airlines, with a confirmation number that one can print out at the moment of purchase.

Upon arrival in Rome we were a bit challenged by the train ticket kiosks so I think that we were able to buy our transfer (by train) from the Fiumicino Airport to Roma Termini (the main train station in Rome) at a tobacco stand in the airline terminal. I note that last year (2006) the yellow ticket kiosks seemed much more user friendly with many languages available to explain the ticket purchase. Maybe they were like that in 2004 but I simply do not recall.

The hotel we had booked for that first (Tuesday) night in Rome was a mere 300 meters from the train station so upon arrival at Termini we set out on foot and negotiated the three blocks without incident (in fact, our entire trip was without negative incident, much thanks to Rick Steves guide books, DVDs and advice). Our hotel was the Dolimiti, again, booked in advance, online through the web site. I have read numerous reviews of hotels online and the Venere sites reviews by persons who have stayed in the hotels listed, seem accurate at least as to the hotels we have booked from that site. I highly reccommend this web site as a supplement to any respected guide book and perhaps the prices might even be better than the guide books promise?

After check-in we asked the hotel to send us to a local neighborhood restaurant and were delighted by the experience. I only wish I could remember the name of the place but I can tell you that it was located on the south side of Via S.Martino della Battaglia about 100 meters east of the Dolomiti, upstairs just a few steps to the main dining room. The place is run by brothers and the clientele is definitely local!

After sa fine dinner we enjoyed the evening strolling around Rome, to Trevi Fouintain, and along the Via del Corso to the Piazza Republica and back to our hotel by midnight. Oh! Did I mention...dinner in Rome is easily taken after nine PM and the city does not seem to quiet down until well after midnight. We have found Rome to be a safe environment in all of the areas we have wandered inside the old city walls. We are by no means Rome experts but I believe that if one stays on the main streets, is alert to what is going on around them and is diligent about not over imbibing in drink, no harm will befall them.

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