ITALY AND SPAIN 2010

 

NOTE:  When Sharon adds comments, they will be in {curly brackets}.  Comments added AFTER real time are in [square brackets].

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Trip Log 19.  Day 19. Rome to Ramon

Sunday October 31, 2010. From Italy to Spain

 

It's 6:30 am and raining.


(L and R) The view from our bedroom, if we open the windows and shutters, looking down to the courtyard or piazza, very popular in the evenings. {The sister who initially checked us in offered us the choice of rooms overlooking the Piazza or over an inner courtyard. She said"It gets noisy at night with people eating dinner and visiting in the piazza". We look at the rooms and the inner ones are not close to each other. The ones overlooking the piazza are right next to each other which is more convenirnt for the two couples. So we tell her we'll take those Then she says about 3 times "no changes, it will be noisy. You can't change rooms after you move in. It may be really noisy". Gee, do you think she's tryng to tell us something? Actually, we can hear the crowd noise, many young people come to two restaurants here and some eat outside and visit by the fountain. But I never found the noise upsetting and it certainly never kept me from faling asleep after I got warm "We haven't turned on the heat yet". Jerry said it was like hearing a flock of geese, a background noise but not bad. But I'm guessing from her repeated warning, she had had unpleasant expriences with people who were not so deaf}

Taxi driver Gianni came and picked up Shirley and Jerry earlier this morning.

We get up, and finish packing to the 95% level. We tried the gelato place about 11:30 and they weren't open, so either a) they aren't open on Sundays, or b) they open later, likely at noon. We aim to find out.

Taking my laptop in case the internet point is open (I have a report ready to send), we have lunch in a pizza/sandwich shop nearby.


(L) Last meal in Rome. (R) Last look up our street, to the Colosseum.

As I am leaving, I hear a "Mees-tair, Mees-tair!" I turn, and our waitress is bringing me my laptop, in its carrying case, which I had hung over the back of my chair. Why, thanks. You saved my wife from listening to an inordinate amount of grief.

We stop in at the gelato shop, and guess what, they opened at noon.

Then it's back to the room, for final packing. I checked out earlier, paying our bill with cash (only, here), which I got together by asking Jerry to get 250 euros last evening. Which I now owe him. [More on this later, as mentioned before by Sharon].

I bring down all our luggage, except a couple of pieces, including the new one, which Sharon brought {OMG, will Sharon ever stop buying things?}. Then, right on time, Gianni comes and loads us up. We have a pleasant drive to the airport, chatting about his son, his son's recent wedding, his son's recent trip to America and Rome. Gianni's a great guy.

He delivers us to the airport, and fastening two groups of two pieces of luggage together, I can roll all four of those pieces, and carry my laptop over my shoulder by the strap. Sharon has one carryon and her extra piece, so we have everything and into the terminal we go.

It's to the front desk in a medium-length line. The check-in lady says that we can only check one piece each for free, the extra one will cost 55 euros, or about $80. Wait. What? But she says the flight's not full, and she'll give us an extra carryon for no charge. Good ol' Alitalia, the pope's airline.

We carry all our gear down to security and wrestle it through there, getting lot of contemptuous looks from people behind me as I unload all my stuff onto the rollers and belt, ahead of the xray machine. But I get it all in, it clears just fine and I put it all back together. Then we make our way to our gate.

I can see a WiFi signal, but when I try to use it, my browser says a WHOLE BUNCHA STUFFA, in Italian, and won't let me on. I take it to the Swatch store, and two girls look at my display, and one says, "I know but there EESN'T." And that's all I can get out of her, so I give up. Something you have to sign up for and start a monthly payment schedule, I'm guessing.

So I get some water, and come back to where Sharon's watching all our stuff. It's about an hour till boarding time now.

We're sitting side by side, and I'm trying to work on a report, but I fall asleep and have a little nap, wake up, store my computer in its carrying case, and go back into a serious nap.

After a bit I wake up sitting in a chair, with my head hanging forward, at what I estimate to be a straight-out 90 degrees. Have you ever awoken to that? I'm so proud.

Sharon comes rushing back saying, "They changed gates and nobody told us. They're loading." So we hustle up all our stuff, and go get in line, because although the line's long, they have not actually started boarding yet. Sharon counts all our stuff, and says, "One piece of luggage is missing." I count and agree, so I rush back to where we were sitting, and there is our extra carryon, waiting to be singled out later for explosion, because nobody knows who it belongs to. But it belongs to me, so I take it and hurry back into line.

They immediately open for boarding, and on we go, with the other handicaps, wheel chairs and first class passengers. Only "boarding" in this case means go to a bus, wait for it to fill, and go to the plane, way out on the tarmac. So when we get there, everybody unloads, and we're ok, except we have this one extra piece of luggage, which Sharon has to haul up these steep stairs, because I'm already full up in both hands. She has a lot of trouble lifting it up each step, and I'm sticking one toe under it, from right behind her, and lifting or "toeing" for all I'm worth, for every one of the six thousand stairs (I estimate roughly) from the ground to the airplane door.

About three steps from the end, a friendly fellow sees our problem, grabs the extra bag and takes it up for us. So we make it, and in we go, taking our place on a normal day, for a normal flight, with the usual set of normal hurdles to jump over. As somebody said to me recently, just like any flight.

Alitalia is like Southwest Airlines - no first class or business class. Just one big tube with seats.

We take off and in a couple of hours, we're on the ground at what we learn is a brand new airport for Barcelona. We disembark (no stairs. Woohoo), and up the ramp to the main terminal we go. The floor is a spectacularly high-shined black marble or marble-like surface, and the terminal is gorgeous.

I am surprised to learn that Barcelona is in the same time zone as Italy, so we don't have to change any clocks. As we walk along, I mentioned the dazzling floors, and Sharon says that Eby (our friend and neighbor, from Barcelona, married to Enric, mother of Ona and an architect) was really surprised that every new house in America didn't have Terrazzo floors. So they put one in.

Anyway, we make our way to baggage claim, go through passport control, and out of the controlled area into the public area. I recognize Ramon immediately, then notice that he is waving a big Missouri Tiger pennant, just in case I had any doubts.

TIME OUT FOR RAMON

I met Ramon as a college senior. He was an accounting student from Lima, Peru. I wrote a story about him in my "You've Done It Again Robin" book, which goes something like this: "Ramon has 21 brothers and sisters, and he's about 2/3rds of the way down in age. Many of his siblings he's never seen before, and they are scattered all around the globe."

Ramon loves life and lives it fully. He was president of the students' International Club, and they would get together on Friday nights. Now Ramon loved American girls, and many would come on Friday night, to welcome international students. And I'd venture to say that almost all those girls knew Ramon, one way or another.

One Friday night, I was studying (really?) and Ramon said goodbye as he went off to the IC. But an hour later he was back. "You're back early," I said to him. To which he said, "There was nobody there except a buncha dam' foreigners."

We bumped into each other once at the bow of a Staten Island Ferry in New York at a time when he thought I was in California, and I thought he was in Peru. I was helping to start up a nuclear power plant in New Jersey and he was on his way to Spain for an interview. Going a long way to proving the old adage that there are really only 1200 people in the world, and we just move around a lot.

He also came to visit me in Palo Alto shortly after I graduated from Stanford. Actually this visit was before the Staten Island Ferry incident.

"Let's go to Las Vegas," he said. I had almost no money and said, "How about Lake Tahoe? Or Reno? They're a lot closer". He said, "Nobody I know has ever heard of those places. It has to be Las Vegas." And indeed it did.

So, as happens in life, we separated and when the internet came along, I tried several times to locate him without success. Then Facebook came along, and my daughters convinced me, without trying, to join. The first thing I did was to search for Ramon. There were four hits with the name Ramon Laos, and one was in Spain. Could this be the same one who went there for an interview 40+ years ago?

I sent him a message, asking if he ever knew anyone named Pogo at Missouri University in the mid-sixties. And you know? It was. We invited each other to come visit our respective homes, but nothing concrete was planned. Then events finally got in line for Sharon, and my sister and brother-in-law to go to Italy. We've been trying for several years, but something always happened or events were unfavorable till the fall of 2010. Then I thought, Hey, we could stop in at Barcelona where he lives with his wife, and visit him on the way home from Italy.

He nicknamed me Pogo because I was a huge fan of the newspaper Pogo comic strip. And periodically Walt Kelly would collect the last year or so's worth of comics and put out a book. I had about 12 or 13 books. I was a fan.

So anyway, that's how this all happened.

AND NOW, BACK TO THE STORY

We make our way down the "receiving line" to the end and trade hugs all around, me introducing Ramon and Sharon to each other.

We have a cart, and Ramon leads us to his covered parking space, loads up all our gear, and drives us to his home. There we meet his lovely wife Emma, and although he tries to keep it a surprise, we notice a big sign he has created for us. Sharon has some gifts for Emma, and I have some for Ramon.


(L) Ramon has made this sign, each letter being made up of pieces of photographs or magazine pages. (R) Emma with a scarf that Sharon made for her and a tiny box to put diamonds or gold or pixie dust in. I don't know.

We also meet their son Marc, who lives on the ground floor of this three level apartment home. Ramon and Emma live on the first floor European = second floor American, and the top floor, which opens to the rooftop garden and patio is a huge bedroom and bath. We get that. Marc carried our big bags from the ground floor to our top floor bedroom. Yea, Marc. He's a dentist here in Barcelona, and rides a Harley to work. Nice.

Now I assume we'll have a quiet evening of rest, recovery and getting to know each other. Little do I know, they have a little party planned, and two other couples come to greet us also.

Emma has prepared a spectacularly varied and delicious array of food.


My lifetime habit has been to avoid new foods, and that's my first instinct here, but I fight it, and guess what, everything here is absolutely tasty. Dang. I thought this would be easy. Meats and cheeses and egg dishes and vegetables, tomato on toast. Go on with your bad self, Emma.

We learn that there are six or seven girls, or ladies if you will, who have known each other continuously, since they were 17, so they have spent a lifetime of growing up together, sharing families, houses, vacations, parties and it's hard to imagine. Anyway, the women from the two additional couples are in that group.

Actually, now that Sharon has read this, we think there are two groups of women, perhaps some overlapping. One group is women who met as young mothers, and the other is women she has known since high school. Anyway, somewhere in there is close to the truth.

We have lots of fun teasing each other about being French, American, Spanish, Peruvian, and I can tell these are wonderful friends to have - very comfortable.

But soon (midnight, one AM, who's counting?) the visitors leave, and we're left to our wonderful bedroom. I can promise you pictures in the next few days or this wonderful apartment home.

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