Thursday, September 30, 2010

Out in the West Texas Town of El Paso

While I was relegated to an armoire my owner and her husband were off to go exploring. The first order of business was food. They ran across a very good  little place called El Pisto nothing fancy (the best kind).


Within a few blocks of the border they walked and shopped heading in the direction of Mexico. Mr. Owner was quite amused at some of the displays on the street.  They were a bit surprised that everything was in Spanish though interestingly enough the owners of most of the stores they ventured into seemed to be Asian. They began to feel very out of place, foreign even, an unusual feeling in one's own country.  They walked until they came to the border crossing. Traffic was backed up coming into the country only. No one was going into Mexico. Sadly, many of the residents they met  told of growing up casually going back and forth but the situation had become completely unsafe, thus a traditional part of life for El Paso residents has changed.


More walking then back to the hotel for a quick change and another great meal at a fabulous restaurant called Cafe' Central which was lovely (though pricey) and I can't imagine why my silly owner didn't get a picture. Honestly she could give me more to work with here.

The highlight of the Camino Real Hotel is the Dome Bar with its original Tiffany glass dome over the round bar original to the hotel built in 1912. I overheard my owner reading all the brochures aloud to Mr. Owner. A suitcase can learn a lot that way.






Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Getting There is Half the Fun

We interrupt this tour of Italy to recount my owner's (and Mr. Owner's) weekend jaunt to El Paso, TX.


Oh, the indignity. My owner crammed me under the seat where I could spy under the next row a little bag from which emitted a wretched smell. I was forced to endure the first leg of our trip with a dog. A DOG! Are there no standards?  My owner, however was less concerned about that little monster than the one howling in his mother's lap and kicking the back of her seat. Has no one thought how nice travel would be if children and pets had special cells...er, areas, but me? I also think someone should advocate better storage conditions for exceptional pieces of luggage. I am not necessarily speaking only of myself, of course. Although let's be honest, how many suitcases do you know who have a blog?

The next flight began with everyone jostling for luggage positions and a young woman carelessly stuck her carry on in the over head; it didn't easily fit. She said, "F&*#% it, let them do it."  Mr. Owner came back from the bathroom and was asked by my owner if he couldn't help that young lady with her bag since she was "being so sweet about it." The passengers nearby smiled snarkily. He tried but also announced it wouldn't fit. My owner rolled her eyes. Next a flight attendant came by asked whose bag it was and when the girl sheepishly raised her hand the FA clapped her hands and said "Hup to!  You're moving it! Put it in sideways it'll fit." When the girl had done this she said, "Good job, let's give her a hand, everybody!" Everyone clapped. My owner smiled.

After a bit of trouble being picked up by the hotel shuttle I was placed in the back of the van with several Vera Bradley bags that smelled of guava, honeysuckle, and lemon grass. Their owners were in town for a wedding.  From the highway on the way to the hotel we could see the border and the city of Juarez. Border patrol vans passed us, and I began to notice that all the billboards and signs were in Spanish. Our driver informed us that while Juarez had had 2,200 murders so far this year that El Paso was the third safest city in America. Finally we were deposited at the hotel, a lovely historic building with a bar
famous for its Tiffany glass dome, after a quick peek we were off to our room to readjust and my owner was anxious to get out and explore El Paso.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Venetian Blind


They'd survived and made it to Venice although they had missed the first day...Verona. It is a little known fact that Juliette's suitcase (she was actually an old bag) wrote a fascinating memoir. It was kind of brief.  They arrived and were busy getting situated and being looked over by the other members of the tour group who had already spent a day together. They went off in search of their rooms via the smallest elevator you can imagine. More laughing, my word these people laugh a lot. I was beginning to think there was something wrong with them.

It was a bit hard to get one's bearings in a strange place after dark. The room was small and had that uncomfortable musty smell. There was a refrigerator that they couldn't get open. Next they tried to use the phone but when the friend picked it up there was no cord! Showers next. That resulted in water all over the floor and complaints about no water pressure, the hairdryer looked a little dicey.
Italian Hairdryer

My owner (who can be annoyingly optimistic) kept saying "This is fine, really. This is just like the hotels you see in old movies about traveling in Italy, it's just what I expected." 

They now, for the first time began to wonder about their decision to spend so much money on this trip. Her friend said, "We could have stayed home in our comfortable beds and bought  beautiful travel books on Italy!  We could have rented a hotel room at home and gone to an Italian restaurant and drank and laughed." They were exhausted not having been asleep in over a day, so this idea made them laugh. (I know, you are starting to feel sorry for me aren't you?) They couldn't breathe, one of them snorted. More hysterics ensued. Everything that had gone wrong was reviewed and the cumulative disasters were the source of no end of amusement. Finally the friend said, "Hey, I wonder if those drapes open." My owner opened the drapes and there was a sliding glass door that opened onto a balcony! A view! They stepped out into the cold night air. Magically in that one moment everything about the trip changed. They stood there and breathed in the salty Adriatic air. Suddenly it was all perfection; far from home, stars, so much to look forward to.  They were hardly able to fall asleep. Middle aged women, giddy with happiness, are generally quite entertaining.

Sunrise over the Adriatic Sea. 
Eventually they did fall asleep, though they hated to, talking and giggling every so often. The next day, Venice...

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Letters

"I love you, but I'm not coming home," written on Italian stationary while both of them laughed so hard tears ran down their cheeks and they collapsed onto the tile floor.  I should explain that Italy is intoxicating.  My owner and her friend had been guzzling it for days (along with a good deal of wine) and had just about decided that they could find jobs picking lemons or olives or something and just not go home. They thought this was very original, however I can tell you that (from what all the other suitcases in the cargo hold tell me), this is a common fantasy.

They took turns taking pictures of each other pretending to write these letters and laughed some more. The next morning on the bus they shared with their fellow tourists how they had spent their evening.

It wasn't nearly as amusing to anyone else, I'm sure. Although someone did suggest that "I love you, but I'm not coming home" sounded like a good opening line to a novel. (Oh no. Why would anyone encourage them?)

Saturday, September 11, 2010

White Knuckles from Milan to Venice

Having flown over the Alps from Paris to Milan we landed in beautiful Italy to lost luggage for some of our travel party (someday I shall write an expose' on just what goes on once we leave the watchful eyes of our owners) and a driver who first took us to the wrong van for the drive to Venice. The travel snafus they'd all been coping with by drinking and laughing had, sadly, caused them to miss the entire first day of their trip which meant Verona. Trying to comfort herself with a French stamp in her passport was the best my owner could do.

Our very loud and expressive driver tossed me in the back with (most) all of the other luggage. I was quite concerned about my friends although The Brute arrived on time, completely empty (a sad bit if irony for my owner's friends who needed the items in their luggage). Things momentarily settled down, a sigh of relief for finally having arrived in their destination country was given and then- THE HIGHWAY!!! All us poor suitcases were thrown out of our original positions and frankly, I think I was molested by Samsonite's handle.  There was screaming and gasping which I'm kind of used to but I'm generally hearing it from a hotel closet. Another sharp turn and I was shuffled into a position to see what the problem was. We were traveling down an Italian highway at about 90 mph (not sure about the metric conversion), weaving in and out of traffic, missing huge trucks by inches while our driver yelled in Italian and waved his arms. Most unnerving.

My owner and her friend repeatedly gave each other little looks that I think meant "If we don't survive, I'm still glad I came." There was a good deal of hand holding going on when my owner thought of the headline (as she often does in such situations).  5 American travelers killed in high speed accident on the A4 while en route to Venice.  Unfortunately she said this out loud and was then encouraged by her companions to perhaps try out her Italian instead.

 "Come si dice in italiano del tunnel?" (How do you say "tunnel" in Italian?) Now the driver just looked all confused and spoke quickly, which meant she couldn't understand him until he said "tunnel" Lovely. My genius owner had asked how to translate a word that is the same in both languages.  I was wondering if she'd wasted all those hours of practice.

Eventually they became accustomed to the ranting of the driver, he had a lot to say about the "Japanese stupido" and warned them repeatedly about pickpockets. They eventually settled into watching the Italian countryside whiz by and dozing off and on. Just as the sun had set they arrived at the hotel in Venice to meet up with the other
members of the group.  The only two words they wanted to hear...food and wine.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Canceled, Delayed, Rerouted

Months of waiting and excitement came to a head that Sunday morning as she arrived at the airport to meet her friends and travel companions.  She had me, neatly packed and ready to go and she brought The Brute, empty. He was getting checked as a receptacle for getting dirty clothes home so she could carry new purchases on board in yours truly. Soon everyone arrived and headed to the ticket counter where her lively little group was informed that their flight had been canceled and they would be leaving a couple of hours later for Paris and then on to Milan. Paris! Well, she and her friend hadn't been there so...it sounded exciting. Sitting around the airport for a while was made a little more tolerable by some eating, drinking, and lots of laughing. After lunch while walking back to the gate her friend ran into a young man she knew and hadn't seen in a long time, he innocently inquired as to how she was..."Great! I just had "sex on the beach!" This had been, of course the name of the drink she'd just finished. Poor man. A look of shock flitted across his face and she and her friends laughed until they cried.  Alcohol, middle aged female travelers, and a great love of fun always make an interesting combination.

It was a good thing they were all in congenial moods, (which seemed even better after those drinks). because much later in the afternoon after another cancellation (I think, after a while I got kind of confused) and a delay they flew to Atlanta arriving with scant time to make their connection. Where was I on that flight? I had been taken away from my owner and stored below. That horrid pink tag meant that even though I am the perfect size for a carry on the woman at the gate whisked me away and handed me off to some man who loaded me with some other bags my size.

Atlanta- grabbed frantically, wheels spinning, she was running (she's pretty fast; she ran out of her shoes twice), I was nearly injured when I got caught in the door of the train, more running...finally, our gate with 2 minutes to spare! Early? Since when do flights leave early? Those French! The next flight didn't leave for another two and a half hours. Fortunately I made the flight with her this time and I do have to give those Air France folks credit, champagne can ease a world of frayed nerves. Ah, those French.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Surprised By Venus

I have cleverly stolen this piece from my owner's blog...this made her very happy indeed. (Um...the painting not my stealing.)

I turned around and there she was. I was in The Uffizi in Florence carelessly gazing at some lovely painting when I heard someone talking over my shoulder and looked to see if they were speaking to me. I was anxious to use my limited Italian. That's when I saw her, Venus, stepping lightly out of a seashell in all her glory. Few things in life have ever been such a lovely surprise to me as that moment. I wasn't expecting it. I had gone to Italy with a dear friend, an open mind and no agenda.  I didn't want a long list of things that would prove disappointments if I missed them.   When our group leader said we were going to The Uffizi I really had no idea what to expect.  It is one of those places, however if you know what is there and then you miss it, you are going to be nothing short of devastated.  It houses some of the most beautiful art in all the world. It contains so much in fact, that after several hours you get used to it and the most shocking thoughts cross your mind, evil things like, " Oh, another Caravaggio".  


It's not every day you get to be surprised by nearly bumping into a goddess. It was a good thing that there were benches in that gallery because I had to sit down. She is breathtaking; golden tresses, porcelain skin, grace personified.  Honestly, I could have sat there all day save the fact that I had a date with Michelangelo's David later at L'Accademia. Okay, I'll admit I had to sit down there, too.  There were several other notable works in that room, how unfair to them. She steals the show, just what you'd expect from the goddess of love and beauty. Demanding rapt admiration seems her right and onlookers gladly obey.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

She Came Down to My Level

I have a lot to say about a trip she took me on last year, but I'll start at the end, sort of. She ended up on the floor of an Italian villa overlooking Rome. She wasn't sick or even drunk but she was laughing so hard that once she got down there she couldn't get up. I've never seen anyone laugh so hard. I've never seen her so happy, and I've seen her pretty happy. Have you heard people say that they were "rolling on the floor laughing"? Well people really do it! Who knew? She and her friend describe this trip as "life changing". I don't really know why they say that except that maybe it had something to do with the floor that night.

 It had been a lovely week already and things got better and better as the week went on. By the time they got to the final leg of the trip and found their room, they had already been discussing (somewhat jokingly) that they just weren't going home. It would take Italian Immigration forever to find them and from some of what they'd seen they doubted they'd be immediately deported. So when they opened the door to their accommodations they literally jumped up and down and I was momentarily forgotten outside. Finally I was
brought in and saw the source of the excitement. It was beautiful. Gorgeous furniture, a real wood burning fireplace flat screen TV and massive bathroom. She had seen everything she had gone there to see; the canals of Venice, beautiful Tuscany, The Colloseum. There had also been more than a few surprises...
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