Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Suzi & Glenn’s Excellent Adventure

Dear Followers, Family, Friends:
As you'll see when you read, scan, glance at this three-month epic, it's been a hectic few months.  Hence the long lag in posting. My apologies to those of you waiting with bated breath for updates.  I'll try to be more prompt but make no promises.  My hectic life has become ever more so having added Glenn and his family.  But it's definitely more interesting and fun.  So hang in there!
Big hugs all 'round,

May 23, 2017, Amsterdam, Holland
Our adventure began with Glenn’s arrival from Pittsburgh on Sunday.  Despite a late night babysitting with his younger granddaughter, he was up early to get to his car to long-term parking and himself to Delta Airlines.  Dinner at Erté in Northeast Minneapolis set the tone for the trip — good food and wine, comfortable setting, friendly service.  

Wonderful Janet picked us up yesterday for the overnight flight to Amsterdam.  Easy flight once KLM reinstated the “comfort” seats that we paid for and that had disappeared from our confirmation. 

Bless my friend Ana who arose early to meet our 6 am arrival.  Ana and I worked together in Macedonia and have kept in touch as we each moved around in the world.  

Glenn at the Van Gogh in AMS
Glenn and I napped for a while at Ana and Art’s flat while they went to work.  Then we walked over to the museum district.  We decided on visiting the Van Gogh, which I think has been expanded since my last visit in 1995.  After dinner with Ana and Art, they will take us back to Schiphol Airport for our 8 pm flight to Warsaw. 

Later, Warsaw Poland
At last, to bed.  I booked us at the MDM on Plac Konstitucji for three nights of friend-seeing and sightseeing, then we’ll drive to Sandomierz.  Glenn was introduced to a Polish (Eastern European?) bed anomaly — our double bed had separate duvets for each occupant.

May 24
After introducing Glenn to a typical Polish hotel breakfast buffet (everything from cold cuts and fresh veggies to eggs and desserts), we walked to IKO, the Polish language school owned by my friends who were my first Polish teachers, Dorota and Małgosia.  Meeting the friends has begun!  

Małgosia told us about a new City of Warsaw Museum.  It’s in the Old Town near a spot where you can look across the Wisła River and see where the Russians sat and watched the Nazis destroy 85 percent of the city. Excellent 20 minute documentary on the destruction as well as exhibits, photos and memorabilia.  

We found a place for lunch on Stary Rynek (Old Market Square), then took a tram back to the hotel.  I debated on a turn and we went the long way to the tram.  Got in lots of steps!  Dinner tonight was with Hala’s daughter Marta and her family, significant other Łukaś and one-year-old Tosia.  Tosia saw a kindred spirit in Glenn, grandfather of two pre-school-aged girls, and they bonded.  
Glenn & Tosia

May 25
We decided to skip the breakfast buffet and found a spot for something lighter.  Then off to Złoty Terasy shopping center so I could buy a new phone.  My vintage Nokia smartphone is becoming more unreliable, and the two cheapos I tried to replace it with had horrible audio quality.  So now I am the owner of a Huawei (Android system) — argh!  a new electronic thing to master.

Quick “hello” with friend Gina before she dashed to a business reception.  We met her at a lovely new wine bar, restaurant and wine store in lower Mokotów, not an easy place to find, plus it was a much longer walk than indicated on MapQuest.  Afterwards we had dinner with Dorora, Jacek and Franek at our favorite Mediterranean restaurant near their flat.

May 26
Piotr the driver picked us up on time and off we went to Piaseczno, the standard intermediate stop en route to Sandomierz.  That’s where we buy Bolesławiec pottery at a fraction of the US price even though prices have increased here.  Despite my caution about carrying so much all over Italy, Glenn bought a large round baking dish and four mugs.  Zobaczymy (we shall see).

Things were very somber at the Center.  Marek’s funeral was today; he died suddenly and unexpectedly.  He was the Center’s IT person and an Apple fan. This has been another period of bad news.  Dorota’s father died several weeks ago of the cancer he’d been battling for several years.  Steve won’t be at the board meeting because his sister died in the UK of her cancer.  And I just saw on Facebook that while my friend Oren was traveling overseas on business, her husband also died suddenly and unexpectedly.  I need to at least get an electronic note off to her and ensure Steve and others who know Oren get the horrible news.

Glenn and I drove to the farm with Hala, who had greeted him warmly.  Michał seems to be holding judgement.  Ah, men! We’re staying in the new B&B house.  Hope I can still smell my morning coffee wake-up call.

Oh, Hala finally renovated her kitchen, and it is gorgeous.  Much more functional and up to date.  At the builder’s suggestion, she left the old steel sink; he said she’d never get the same quality in a new one.

May 27, Hala and Michał’s farm in Czermin
This morning Glenn was introduced to Michał’s unique breakfast:  a very large green salad full of fresh veggies from the garden and a lot of garlic, plus assorted cold cuts and bread, and coffee. Salad wasn’t Glenn’s favorite way to start the day, but he was a good guest and cleaned his plate.

Hala suggested a visit to my favorite castle in Poland, Krzyżtopór in Ujazd. This was one of the castles in Michener’s Poland , and I visited for the first time shortly after arriving in Sandomierz in 1994.  The Center staff, none of whom had ever been there, were boggled by my fascination with this castle ruins.   Built by the local magnate for his bride who came from the area where I’d been a Peace Corps volunteer, the castle was occupied for less than 100 years because the “Swedish hordes” partially destroyed it in 1655 and the Russians finished the job in 1770.  The construction is unique — four towers for the four seasons, 12 long halls for the months, 365 windows (plus one covered) for the days, and 52 rooms including an octagonal dining room with an aquarium in the ceiling and dumbwaiters for bringing up food.  It had a heating and ventilation system unique in the 17th Century as was the system that provided fresh water to all the rooms.  Eventually I took Hala and most of the original Center staff to “my” castle, and now I got to introduce Glenn to it.  And he loved it.

Tonight we visited Hala’s neighbor Dorota who grows vegetables commercially.  She and Hala help each other in their gardens.  Glenn took lots of pix of Dorota’s greenhouses full of tomato plants.  He wants to share the pix with his uncle Victor, a smaller scale tomato grower.

I enjoyed some gazebo time as well as getting some laundry done.  Ah, it’s so nice to be able to hang clothes outdoors on a clothesline.

May 28
Today we took Glenn to see the area’s most beautiful castle, one that has been pretty well maintained throughout the years, Baranów Sandomierski.  We did a short, formal tour with Hala translating for us, then wandered the grounds and had coffee before returning to the farm.  This castle is in some ways a preview of coming attractions.  It’s described in Wikipedia as a “Mannerist” castle, designed by a famous Italian architect and reacting to and reflecting the “harmonious ideals” of da Vinci, Raphael and other artists of the high Italian Renaissance.  Lots more of that to come when we get to Italy!

Inner courtyard at
Baranów Sandomierzki

Back home, Hala made duck for obiad, then afterwards, Glenn and Hala went to Dorota’s to take more photos, Dorota joined us to play boules (bocce) in the court Michał had built.  And of course we finished with an ognisko, cooking the sausage-we-didn’t-need-to-be-eating-but-did-anyway over a fire in Michał’s new fire pit.  Another lovely evening at the farm.

May 29, Kraków 
Another new experience for Glenn — riding a Polish mini bus.  It was full to capacity, and we were lucky to snare two seats, albeit in the back row.  While Glenn had lots of leg room with the aisle in front of him, he risked flying from his seat every time the driver hit the breaks, which was too often.  The man sitting next to him was so close Glenn couldn’t get the seat belt attached.  Hope we can get better seats on the return trip.  At least it was a new mini-bus with reasonably comfortable seats.

We took a cab to the Airbnb that I’d rented in the Kazimierz district.  First experience with Airbnb for both of us, and if this is what their flats are like, I’m glad we’re using them in Italy too. Almost brand new, modern, one bedroom, immaculate, well appointed, stocked with clean towels, shampoos and such, and enough dishes and cookware if we choose to cook.  

We walked around Kazimierz, the former Jewish quarter, and then over to the Old Town, and I showed Glenn Inga’s flat across from Wawel Castle.  And en route to the Głowny Rynek (main square), we passed a McDonald’s that’s where my favorite gyros place used to be.  I forgot it was field trip season; everywhere was overrun with groups of wandering school kids.

May 30   
Too late to get tickets for either of the museums I had hoped we could visit, the one under the Rynek or the Schindler Factory Museum.  So, more walking around and an hour-long river taxi ride on the Wisła to cool off.  It’s got to be 90+F today. 

Rain storm, so dinner was wine, bread & cheese in the flat.  Then relaxing with reruns of “Soap” on Glenn’s laptop.  Glenn has a sore throat, so good to stay out of the rain and veg tonight.

May 31, Hala and Michał’s farm in Czermin
Back to Sandomierz on the mini-bus.  Bit of nervousness at the bus station as our bus wasn’t listed where the driver told me.  Finally found what I thought was the right spot (it was, phew!).  We were among the first to board and got seats in the front row, legroom and seat belts!  

Glenn’s sore throat is getting worse, and he had a temp and severe chills tonight.  Tomorrow we’ll got to Hala’s local doctor; he may have strep.  

June 2, Sandomierz
Yesterday early we saw the village doc who said it looked like strep throat.  She gave Glenn a prescription for antibiotics because we’re traveling so soon.  Also some tablets to help his stomach bear with the antibiotics and lozenges to soothe his throat as needed.  The whole thing came to PLN 63 (about $15).  No charge for the doctor.  Oh, and she pronounced Glenn’s heart, lungs, blood pressure as those of an 18 year old!. He was smiling a lot as we drove into town with Hala. We moved to Hotel Basztowy for the board meeting and related events.

While I went to my semi-annual Sandomierz mani-pedi yesterday, Halinka from the Center wore herself and Glenn out with a local tour.  They climbed Brama Opatowska (a tower of the former walled city), saw the town square, Cathedral, the castle, St. James Church, one of the oldest in Europe.  Both came back sweating.  This morning Glenn checked his Fitbit.  He’d missed his steps goal but did 31 flights of stairs during yesterday.  Not bad.

Today nothing scheduled until the 25th anniversary event starts at 1 pm.  We’re having a slow morning of checking emails, news etc. and soon off to breakfast.

What a spectacular event on a beautiful day in the riverside park.  So many mayors and others offering thanks and praise to the Center for its work and Hala for her leadership.  Clients set up booths to display, discuss and sell their products and services.  Wonderful music. Big white tent with typically generous buffet of Polish specialties like pierogi.  Lots and lots of people enjoying themselves.  Perfect way to mark 25 years of hard work that’s paying off.
The kitchen incubator's traveling trailer

In the evening, a dinner for the board, staff and a few guests like former board members who returned to help celebrate.  I forewarned Glenn that supper would arrive shortly after dinner ended, and it did.  He could not believe all the food.  

June 3, Warsaw
Halinka and Hala enjoy their retirement gifts
from the board.

Argh.  I cannot get us checked in on line with Alitalia.  Poor Glenn. i am a crazy lady trying to figure out what to do.  Plus I’d love to check our bags in Warsaw through to Rome.  Probably not possible as we have separate tickets for the WAW-AMS and AMS-FCO flights.  I hope 2 1/2 hours in AMS are enough to retrieve and re-check our bags.  At least we’re at the Marriott Courtyard tonight, literally a stone’s throw from Chopin Airport, making it easier to be on time for our 6 am flight.

June 4, Firenze, Italia (Florence, Italy)
We made the transfer in AMS without a hitch and with much time to spare.  Good flight on Alitalia to Rome, and we found a train that went directly from the Rome airport to Florence.  It was a long schlepp with minimal signage and our limited understanding of where we’d been directed to go; a kind airport staffer told us about the train leaving in 30 minutes. Off we flew.

In Firenze, we taxi’d to our Airbnb flat where we were met by Andrea, a lovely young man who showed us his flat, then left.  We unpacked, then decided to look for food … Sunday in Italy in a residential neighborhood — guess how much luck we had finding food.  Not.  My map function led us down a weird route, so we returned and used a laptop.  My hungry, tired sweetie was not at his happiest.  After another short walk, we caught a taxi into the train station and found a nice place that had coconut gelato too.  To minimize my ice cream/gelato consumption, a few years ago I limited myself to coconut only, a “rule” that I rarely break.  Tonight I didn’t have gelato since I’d had pasta with pesto for dinner, another of my favorites, but I made note of the coconut gelato for future.

June 5 
Uffizi on a Monday
Walked to the Cure area and caught a taxi right where last night’s drivers said we would.  But, we were 26 hours early for our entrance to the Uffizi gallery.  Oh, well.  We had breakfast at an outdoor cafe, then wandered around … walked across Ponte Vecchio and along the other side of the Arno and then back to the Duomo.  We weren’t able to get tickets beforehand online … and I’m glad we weren’t standing in the two-block-long line.  We went through the Museo di Duomo instead, very interesting.  Then to we stopped at Hard Rock Cafe for shopping.

View of Duomo's dome from Museo

Wouldn't fit entire Duomo into one photo!

Electric cars recharging in Florence

Back to flat on the bus!  One leaves from the train station area fairly often and has a stop about two blocks from where we’re staying.  Easy, cheap transport.

We found the Osteria that our host Andrea had recommended.  It didn’t open until 7:30, so we walked around the neighborhood to kill time.  Lovely dinner with a charming server.  Between her minimal English and my even more minimal Italian, we got our meals.

Glenn got eaten alive by mosquitos last night, it’s worst I’ve ever seen; his right arm is a mess.  No more open windows at night.  Curiously I got none.

6 June, D-Day anniversary
We took a bus to the train station for free this morning.  The driver had no tickets and thankfully we didn’t get controlled.  Then we walked to the Uffizi (again) and exchanged our vouchers for tickets for 10 am entrance.  Time for cappuccino and a morning sandwich.  

We spent three hours in the Uffizi, visiting each floor, the cafe for coffee and finally the da Vinci exhibit.
Botticelli's Venus Rising from the Sea at the Uffizi

Because rain was forecast and it was getting chilly, we opted for a Hop on/Hop off tour for the afternoon.  I love these tours because they give a great overview of a new city, a chance to see a lot and choose what to spend time at.  We only hopped off a couple of times, mostly to transfer to between routes.  We wanted to see Fiesole, a small, ancient town on the hillside outside Firenze.  Glenn got out to take a few pix, but  I stayed put; it was cold and windy. 

The weather had improved a lot in the last hour of our tour, and we walked to the Mercado Centrale area for dinner.  Lots of places to eat and one we would’ve enjoyed if a waiter hadn’t been so intent on “selling” it to us.  We had a nice meal elsewhere, then home to prepare for tomorrow — Accademia and the David, then baggage and train station.  Leaving for Emilia Romana in the afternoon.

Florence from across the Arno

7 June, En route to Reggio Emilia
This morning we went to see the David by Michelangelo at the Accademia. 

No need to caption
Since that’s basically what I wanted to see there, we scheduled the visit for our partial day.  Like everywhere, it was crowded but we could still get some good photos.  We got in an hour early which gave us time to lunch at Mercado Centrale.   So much food, so little time.  Afterwards, taxi to flat, load up and close up,  on to train station.  Our train was more than 90 minutes late leaving, but we were lucky.  Some trains were four and more hours delayed.  I sat onthe  “table” at the end of a seating section, then finally cadged a real seat for Glenn.  We took turns walking around, getting something to drink, using bathroom etc.  And we discovered that I hadn’t grabbed Glenn’s camera from the cab seat when we got to the station. I called taxi company;  while the dispatcher was nice and took info, it’s not likely to get it back.  It was an old one that Glenn hadn’t used since bringing his mother to Italy several years ago; he wasn’t the least bit upset, but I was and am.

Track postings for arriving trains occurs 20 minutes before departure time.  Not a lot for us novices.  When our train’s arrival was announced, we did a fast run to board … thank God someone was sitting in “my” seat; he looked at ticket and said I was on wrong train.  Ours was across the platform.  We got off and onto the right train.  Phew!

Much later, Reggio Emilia, Italy
Wow!  What a work of modern art the new train station is.  It services the high speed trains, which we’ve come to love, as well as locals.  Italians are noted for their superior design and this station is an excellent example of that.

I’d had been in touch with our hostess about our train delay, and her assistant met us at flat, showed us how things worked; gave us keys. She’s an American who’s been living/working here for several years.  This is area from which Glenn’s four grandparents emigrated.  

Unlike in Florence, here we’re staying in the center of town.  Since it’s a small place, we thought that would be easier.  We walked around a bit, then grabbed a quick bite to eat at a small take-out cafe around corner.  We ate outdoors next to four locals playing cards.

The flat is very nice with an extra bedroom that has become our closet.  Great wi-fi and a washing machine so I’ll do laundry tomorrow.

8 June
Glenn called Olga, the widow of Adolfo, a relative on his father’s side; they had met on his last trip with his mom and daughters.  We will meet her shortly.

We ended up spending a delightful day with Olga and her friends.  Luciano, age 75, picked us up and drove us to see his motorcycles.  He’s a friend of Olga’s and a moto-racer with scores of trophies and at least half a dozen Ducatis.  Then we went to Olga’s for lunch.  Later Clara and Annibale came over, and we visited in English for some time.  Annibale picked a newish restaurant, and we took eveyone to dinner.  Now we’re home after an exhausting but fun day.
Luciano & one of his Ducatis

9 June
The day of not finding post office.  I followed the directions from my GPS but couldn’t find a street, tried an alternative and after 20 minutes of wandering Glenn had had enough.  We returned to the flat.  I did laundry as planned; he played on his laptop.  Olga picked us up for dinner at Clara and Annibale’s house.  This is the best part of traveling — spending time with real people living real lives.

Outdoor market in Reggio
10 June, Venezia, Italia (Venice, Italy)
We spent the morning walking around the city, having coffee and visiting an outdoor market.  Then took a taxi to the train.  I figured out how to find where to stand to board our car on the train to Bologna.  We boarded last and stood with all our bags in the space between cars for the 30 minute trip.  Then we made a mad dash through Bologna station, up escalator, down hallways, up elevator and out to the platform.  

The train to Venezia was on time — hurray! — and we can relax for an hour in our air conditioned car.  In Venezia, Glenn negotiated with a porter who wheeled our bags from the station to our Airbnb flat.  Our hostess’ husband met us and oriented us.

Canal side dinner
Dinner in a canal-side cafe near flat: me, fried calamari, way too much food but delicious.  Glenn’s pasta also.  We walked back to the train station to check on Rome trains.  We haven’t bought those tickets yet.

Since Firenze, Glenn has acquired more and more “mosquito bites.”  They don’t really look like mosquito bites.  We Googled and cannot identify what they are.  These hot, hot days mean lots of sweat and that make the bites itch fiercely.  Nothing seems to help.

11 June
Awoke to church bells.  We joked about not being able to attend since neither of us is Catholic and definitely wouldn’t find a Methodist or Presbyterian church here.  But in our travels over to the Piazza del San Marco, we passed a Lutheran Church!  Very crowded on the piazza so didn’t stay as long as we might’ve liked.

St. Mark's in Venice
We returned to the train station to buy our tickets to Rome, a longer trip so we upgraded a little.

We had dinner at another restaurant near the flat, excellent food again.  We have not had a bad meal yet, and great house wines.

Today walked more than 7 miles … and that’s close to our average most days on this trip.  We’re also eating only two meals most days, so maybe I won’t have added 10 pounds despite all the gelato and pasta!

12 June
The Penguins won Stanley Cup again.  Hurray.  We’ve been following their progress despite the time zone differences.  Oh, and per Glenn’s cousin Donald’s request and gift of a “Steelers Country” banner, we have been taking pix in each location with the banner and one or both of us.  We Pittsburghers support our teams!

Venice is Steelers' Country!

After a leisurely breakfast, we caught a water taxi to Murano Island.  We walked around the town, then stopped to watch a glass blower in his studio.  More walking, then shopping in the famous Murano glass factory. Many gifts were purchased but all are small and easily carried. 

Back on the main island, it was time for a gondola ride. I was reticent because of the outrageous price (80 euro for half an hour), but Glenn said we couldn’t leave Venice without this … and of course, he was right.  Our gondolier took us off the beaten path into small side canals that were so quiet you’d not know you were in Venice, and cool after all the heat and humidity earlier.  Glenn posted our photo on Facebook.

Gondola rides may be obligatory
& expensive, but they are also
fun & romantic!
Before we went back to the flat, Glenn found a porter to come to flat in morning and schlepp our suitcases to train station.

An evening of relaxation — another marvelous dinner, then a bit of wandering to find my BAH colleague Remer’s favorite place, Cafe Remer.  No luck.

Our Venetian porter
13 June, Roma, Italia (Rome)
Suzi, you aren’t in Venezia any more.  The Airbnb we rented is even lovelier than the last one, but the outside world … let’s just say trash is not picked up every day in Rome as it is in Venice.  In fact, the dumpsters on our street are overflowing onto the street and sidewalk.  But we have air conditioning!  What a treat after being in the sweltering heat and humidity of Rome today.

We found a restaurant for dinner in the neighborhood but arrived too early; it didn’t open until 7:30 pm.  Very common here for eateries to close at 3 or 3:30 and re-open later.  So we walked around a bit, then returned to excellent food and great cheap house wine.

14 June
I’m totally exhausted and somewhat “art-ed out” for today. The “skip the line” tour of the Vatican Museums that we booked was fantastic.  Our guide was a great story teller, excellent cat herder, and very knowledgeable with a bit of humor tossed in.  Much as I dislike organized tours, this was well worth enduring the temps and crowds to see the Rafaels, Michelangelos et al.  Our guide showed us where the painters had added themselves, competitors or enemies into their works.  A tidbit I was not aware of.  The Pope had finished his Wednesday audience in St. Peter’s so we were able to go inside before departing.  In St. Peter’s Square I spotted a post office trailer — and finally got stamps to mail cards to my kids’ list.

Painting of Jan III Sobieski, Polish
king who defended Vienna from
the Moors
Our excellent Vatican tour guide

Inside St. Peter's
Afterwards, we took the Metro and went to locate Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps.  Yes, I made a wish and threw some coins in the fountain.  And we found the Spanish Steps, where we meet our walking tour in the morning.  Before Metro’ing back to the flat, we had our daily afternoon gelato.  Dinner at another restaurant near the flat, more great food and house wine.

15 June
Up and out for a 7 am walking tour.  Given how hot it’s been, I’m so glad it was early morning.  Two plus hours with another excellent guide.  Afterwards, we had coffee and something to eat, then went to see the Coliseum.  Long lines and no escaping the heat even with a ‘skip the line’ ticket, so we decided to stick to the outside.  We walked around the area and took pix, then back to our air conditioned flat before returning to our first restaurant for dinner.  I wanted to have the stone-grilled chicken that Glenn had the first time. And it was as delicious as he had described.

View from atop Spanish Steps at 7 am
Trevi Fountain, and yes, I threw
in a coin & made a wish

Graffiti in Rome
Looking at St. Peter's

Too hot to tour the Coliseum -- no a/c! 
Sneaked a pic of the Coliseum
centurions who ham it up &
 charge for photos
Just got a text from our host.  He cannot reserve a taxi for us to get to the airport.  A public transportation strike has been called for 8:30 tomorrow morning.  He said to call in the morning, an hour before we want the cab to arrive.  He sent along the phone number and how to order the taxi in Italian.  Oh, joy, oh rapture, a new challenge.

16 June
I woke up at 4 am and Glenn was already dressed.  Like me, he doesn’t sleep well before a flight … and we’re both nervous about getting to the airport.  At 6:05 I steeled myself, practiced my Italian taxi-ordering script and called.  After listening to a recorded message several times (I understood about five words), a woman finally came on with, Buon Giorno.”  I said my piece and her rapid response made no sense, then she was gone and no music. Had she hung up?  A moment of panic before another, male,  said, “Buon Giorno.”  I replied in English that I’d ordered a taxi.  He said, “Yes, it will be there in three minutes.”  I shouted to Glenn to get out there now.  Thankfully we were on the ground floor and near the entrance.  The taxi was at the curb when Glenn got there.  By 7 am we were at Fiumicino Airport for our 2:30 pm flight.

Since I hadn’t heard from my friend Ana, I booked a hotel near the Amsterdam airport for tonight.  I figured something had come up and she’d forgotten about our return visit.  And since I always have trouble with airport Internet, I wanted to do everything that needed doing on line before we left the flat.

Later, Amsterdam, Holland
Long day but ended very nicely, but I’m in the dog house.  Ana and Art were planning on hosting us at their apartment.  Ana has a new phone and thought she’d replied to my message but it hadn’t sent.  Ah, well.  We had a relaxing dinner with them at a Dutch restaurant they like.  Now to bed.  Tomorrow we return home. 

Canal side dinner with Ana & Art in AMS
17 June
Glenn is really great at airport sitting.  Hurray.  Like me, he hates being late and rushing.  So, we took the 10:30 van back to Schiphol for our 3:15 flight homeward.  

We are boggled by how KLM, Alitalia and Delta handle baggage.  Makes no sense when they decide to charge us and when not.  For example, in AMS, Alitalia didn’t charge us for our checked bags; in Rome they did … and Glenn had to repack his carry on.  Even with all that pottery from Poland in a backpack he bought in Florence, his carryon was too heavy.  I guess if we could figure out airlines we’d have a whole new consulting career ahead of us.

Later, Minneapolis MN USA
Uneventful flight with “comfort” seats offering decent legroom.  Back at my place, we reorganized Glenn’s suitcases and sorted gifts, then dined at Nicollet Cafe on the burgers and fries we were both craving.

18 June
We drove out to 24-hour Perkins for breakfast before heading to the airport.  Yes, we were early.  It’s going to seem so strange and lonely without my sweetie around every day.  

In the afternoon I went to the season finale Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus concert with friend Jan.  And tonight I talked to Glenn — as soon as his flight landed in Pittsburgh, a thunder-and-lightning storm started, delaying baggage removal for 90 minutes.  He was still driving home when I called him.  Now I’m crashing — walking with Linda at 6:30 tomorrow.

22 June
Just got a FaceTime call from Alijah, my nephew Craig’s four year old. No Craig in sight, and I asked where he was.  Alijah said he couldn’t find his dad.  I was sure Craig was around and suggested perhaps he’d gone into the bathroom.   Alijah walked around until he found Craig — in the bathroom — and proceeded to show him sitting on the toilet.  With admonitions from both Craig and me, Alijah finally closed the door, and we talked a while more before he disconnected.  

Alijah & I at breakfast.
27 June
Back to my “bad” habit of eating out, but it’s such a wonderful way to stay connected with friends.  On Thursday, Jan and I learned about the possibility of Sue buying a winter place in Peoria, AZ. Friday Maryanne and I finally managed to catch up over lunch, and she lives across the hall!  Saturday brunch with my niece Tomery got me a bit more background on her sweeties Clint; aunts can ask leading questions! Later I had dinner with my sister Barbara. And today Craig, April and the boys came into “the city to see Aunt Suzi,” per Alijah.  We went to the Pride Parade for a while, leaving quite early as it was stalled due to picketers who objected to parade organizers allowing the police to take part.  Afterwards, we drove over to Uptown for the Food Truck Festival, and April, Jaiden and I pigged out while Craig stayed with Alijah who was too tired to handle the overcrowded streets.  Sunday was my last Book Club meeting.  I’ll miss this lively, opinionated group that Pam introduced me to.  Tuesday lunch with Marilyn, who’s off on the Baltic Sea cruise in a few days, and coffee with Mary who still works part time at an ad agency.  

Oh, last Friday, Glenn installed Skype on his uncle and aunt’s laptop, as we prearranged.  Then, he, Victor and Louise called me so Louise could open her earring gifts from our trip with me present.  She liked all three pairs.

25 June
Saying "good bye" to my book club.  I've had spotty attendance at best, but they have been fun and supportive and a wonderful group to get to know.  I hope I can find something similar in PA.

Book Club at Nan's
29 June
What a wild couple of days!  Yesterday I picked up my college roommate Marilyn and her significant other Norman at the airport, showed them a bit of the city, spent some time relaxing and chatting here and at dinner in my favorite Greek restaurant, then deposited them at the train depot in St. Paul.  They were en route to their place in Montana.  Always fun to see them, and I promised to bring Glenn to the Eastern Shore to visit them.

Today it was lunch with Marilou at my favorite Perkins, then off to Temple Israel with Judy to hear Thomas Friedman, the New York Times columnist who’s from and stays connected with St. Louis Park.   

30 June, “Career Day”
Today was the fourth annual Suzi-and-Maryanne-Clean-Their-Storage-Closets event and like several in the past, it was hot.  Maryanne and I motivate and help each other to keep our garage storage spaces in decent shape. once a year  This year, as part of my major sorting and tossing, I threw away my career.  Yes, you read that correctly.  I threw out boxes of samples of annual reports, articles, speeches, brochures, minutes from Center Board meetings, diaries and calendars and notebooks.  Lots of old photos went too.  All into the dumpster, save a few samples and photos for my “funeral box,” should my survivors choose to use them.  No more job hunting: I am officially fully retired.  Scary on one level, but freeing on another.  All set for the next stage of my life.  Look out, Glenn!

In keeping with the "clean up" theme, a couple of photos from the trip.  My European friends think Americans are obsessed with bathrooms.  We insist they be clean and operational and that the TP doesn't cause bleeding.  While traveling, Glenn and I became fascinated with how garbage was handled -- stored underground in Amsterdam, collected daily in Venice, unmentionably badly in Rome.

Garbage barge collecting and stashing garbage
canal side in Venice, a daily occurrence

Trash is collected below street level in Amsterdam,
then a crane lifts the container into a truck.

1-16 July 2017, Minneapolis MN USA
Sort, toss, pack, repeat ad naus.  That’s July so far and into the foreseeable future.  Moving is not fun!  Talked to many movers from near and far.  Not sure if some of the Chicago ones were legit although they were friendly and helpful.  One local mover suggested that I get a U-Haul Pod, something totally unfamiliar to me, or that I could get everything into the smallest U-Haul truck.  If I went either of those routes, he offered to pack and load the pod/truck for me.  My new landlord identified someone to unload in Pittsburgh.

After many calls and much thought, i decided there was no way to leave a pod on my street in the highest car-theft neighborhood in the city … and where my niece’s car was broken into several times when she lived here.  I was skeptical about getting everything into the truck despite reassurances from Glenn, U-Haul and the mover.  For my peace of mind and ease of move, I decided to bite the bullet and hire the helpful local mover.  I knew he was on vacation much of June (we’d talked in May), so I didn’t email him until July 1.  He replied that he’d call “tomorrow,” Sunday, so I replied, recommending afternoon or evening as the best times.  And that was the last I heard from him.  I emailed. Nothing.  Left voice mails. Nothing.  In the meantime I went to U-Haul and scheduled a truck, talked to the guy in Pittsburgh and started sorting, tossing, packing myself.  Alexandra, the manager, her colleague Tommy and their crew at U-Haul were fantastic as I ventured in with questions, purchased boxes, tape and such.  Tommy recommended a local firm to load the truck for me, Alexandra gave me an extra day so I can pick up the truck on Saturday night, 29 July because the loaders are coming between 7 and 9 am on 30 July.

16 July
Glenn arrived today.  Hurray!  I am calmer already.  We had a couple of hours before we needed to drive to Northfield for dinner with my friend Lois.  We started talking about ancestry hunting, and I mentioned my interest in my paternal grandparents’ immigration.  Glenn’s as on good computer keyboard at the ancestry site and Liberace was on the piano keyboard in Vegas.  One thing led to another and we found my dad’s name in the McKeesport High School yearbook — 1933, his sophomore year and last in school.  Glenn wondered if any of his relatives were at MHS that year … and we found his dad on the same page as mine.  His dad also left school after that year.  

Tomorrow we walk Lake Harriet with Linda and have breakfast at the bandstand.  I’m going to miss those walks.  Maybe I can find someone to walk in Frick Park with.

18 July, Jean’s cabin near Side Lake MN
Another traveling adventure.  County Road 5 was closed, the signage was bad and I didn’t understand Jean’s minimalist directions for a detour.  So we ended up touring the Superior National Forest, complete with a very long dirt road, and coming toward our final road to Jean’s from another direction.  But we made it!

While Glenn tended the charcoal, Jean told me it seemed like he’d been part of the family forever.

25 July, Minneapolis MN
A week has passed.  Glenn and I had a relaxing time with Jean and Lisa.  Played tourist and took him to the “world’s largest open pit iron mine,” soon to get larger.  Three years of prep work before the visitor’s center area becomes part of the mine operation in 2018.  Of course, we took him to Hibbing for walleye at Grandma’s in the Park (best we’ve had, Jean declared and I agreed).

Much walking and sighting of deer.  Jean and Glenn saw seven on an evening walk after we arrived.

Overnight in Grand Rapids, a place I’ve only driven through.  Visited the Judy Garland’s childhood home and Wizard of Oz Museum.  Had dinner outdoors at the Pickled Loon Saloon beside a waterway into Pokegama Lake.  Breakfast with Anne, from my TSPC days, and her husband Peter; they are moving to Minneapolis shortly.

Friday was meeting the Brainerd Hagens — David, Heidi and kids and John, Heather and girls joined us at Steve and Elyse’s for dinner.  Both Sam and Johnny are on Little League teams that are playing in national tournaments shortly, and of course in different states with overlapping time frames.  Evie is still playing basketball.  I hadn’t seen Hazel yet and she’s almost 1; Ruby’s had her second birthday.  All in all, great fun to see everyone.  I’ll miss them.

Weekend — had lunch with my sister at a new small cafe, Byte.  Different stuff and very good.  I had a taco salad with chicken mole.  Glenn and I walked there and back, about five miles round trip!  More packing, taking to charities etc.

Sunday evening I made separate daily lists of “must do’s” and taped them to the front door.  We have our marching orders as we slide toward moving day, next Sunday.

Monday was breakfast at Curran’s with Randy of the Brunch Bunch.  Lots of catching up on his Rick Steves’ trip to Europe and our trip to Poland and Italy.  BB has had so many deaths that it stopped functioning a while back.  But I will always have fond memories of that supportive, fun cadre of folks who joined and left as their lives changed, as mine did.  Sundays are the hardest days for singles, and worse in foreign territory.  So I started brunch groups when I was in the Balkans.  Perhaps I’ll do the same in Pittsburgh …

Incredible sweet potato enchiladas made by Jan were Monday dinner, along with strawberry shortcake and good conversation.  Glenn requested and received the recipe.  And we tore up the Monday list by completing all errands and tasks.  Yes!  

26 July
Glenn asked if I could envision everything fitting in the little U-Haul now that several large things have been removed and others shifted to the edges.  Maybe.  My friend Barb took two three-shelf cubes, the IKEA rocking chair and auto drip coffee pot for Bridging, Tomery enlisted two of her trainers to take Mom’s cedar chest to her condo, I took several bags to Salvation Army, and Glenn moved furniture around.  

Two “minor” mishaps.  The dryer vent pipe (from dryer to outside vent) has been falling off almost every time I use the dryer this week.  Javier, our building handyman, fixed that (he’d spackled and painted several rooms while I was gone).  And yesterday before going to Jan’s for dinner I broke a tooth.  Nothing major but I made an unplanned trek to the dentist’s office this afternoon.

29 July
Tomorrow’s the big day — at last.  Not sure I can take any more sorting and tossing and packing, even with the good help I’ve gotten.  But things are aligning — returned from dropping a few things at Janet & Ed’s and there it was, three empty parking spots in a row right in front of my building.  My little Focus is now taking up 1.5 of those, so the U-Haul will have a convenient place to park while it’s packed.  I am still nervous about everything fitting, but I trust Glenn and he says it will.  So …

30 July, Portage IN
O, me of little faith.  Windell and Floyd got everything in the truck in record time.  They arrived a few minutes early; I was at the Boiler Room getting coffee for the arriving helpers.  Glenn and my neighbor Ryan had already started carrying boxes down.  By the time Christopher, Barbara, and Janet & Ed’s son Thom arrived, they were nearly done.  I’m kinda glad nephew John didn’t make the trip from Brainerd though sorry for the reason. En route, his truck acted up and required a tow truck homeward.   Meanwhile in Minneapolis, we were packed and paid by 9:30.  Since my sister couldn’t deliver Stu, her cat, to daughter Tomery until after 10, she, Christopher, Thom, Glenn and I went to Nicollet Cafe for breakfast.  Barbara, Glenn and I were on the road by 12:30-ish with Barbara taking first shift on the truck and me driving my car with Glenn.

It was a long tedious day of driving, stopping for gas, bathrooms, water and good, but we made it past Chicago by bedtime, as planned.  Went for some food and got separated in the dark, so Barbara and I ended up in one diner and Glenn in another.  We rallied at a Quality Inn and soon to sleep.

31 July, Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh PA
Okay, we’re really at Glenn’s house in Mount Pleasant because I cannot get the keys for the flat until tomorrow and cannot move in until Tuesday when another moving team will schlepp my furniture and boxes up to the third floor, no elevator.  But we’re here.  We made it!

My new home:

6350 Forward Avenue
Apt. 28
Pittsburgh PA 15217

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