Carol & John Llewellyn
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Italy 2004
Tales of Near Misses

Travel isn't getting any easier.

First Challenge

Trying to get the Canadian and the American to the same place at the same time was the first challenge. I'll ignore all of the ticketing issues with United Airlines other than to say, no wonder they ended up in bankruptcy.

Our plan was simple. Carol would fly from Toronto to Washington/Dulles and I would fly from Los Angeles to Washington/Dulles. We'd arrive several hours before talking off for Europe, so there wouldn't be any problem. United wasn't aware of our plans, so they kept delaying Carol's flights. By the time she arrived at Dulles (after shamelessly working the United pilots who wanted to go home), the Frankfurt flight was already boarding. Of course her Toronto flight arrived at the other end of the terminal, luckily she's a good airport sprinter (to the dismay of little old ladies). We'd been issued boarding passes already, but United didn't have a way to let Lufthansa know that they'd already checked our passports—which they had to do before giving us boarding passes for an international flight—so we were surprised to be diverted at the gate to the check in counter to show passports! On board the plan, we found they'd reassigned our pre-assigned seats so we were no longer sitting together. With that corrected, we took off and had glass of champagne to celebrate.

The Frankfurt airport is a zoo and may make the California legislature look civilized. So, a dash to the Milan flight. Guess what? Carol's one checked bag didn't make it. It did arrive at the Hotel Spadari in the middle of the night, so all was well. 

The Next Challenge

The advantage of taking an active vacation with B&R or Backroads it that once you join the group, the logistics problems are theirs. So no problems with that portion of the trip. Carol had even bought our train tickets to Venice—board at Reggio Nell 'Emilio, transfer in Bologna, and Venice. Cool. We're so good that we got on the right train and got off in the right station in Bologna with time to spare. Our train to Venice showed as being on time, but without a track number. It got closer and closer to departure time. Still no track number, but still on time. The departure time came and went—the board still showed it as on time but still no track number. Eyes glued to the monitor, a track number appeared, but, of course, not close to where we were. A dash down stairs with luggage, through the tunnel, and then up to the right track and we were off to Venice.

The Final Challenges

One of the unusual features of the Venice airport is that you can go there by boat, which we did. They've built a new terminal, so you must now be bussed to the terminal rather than just walking in from the water taxi. The flight took off as planned, but as we approached Frankfurt, the pilot began to circle. With just over an hour between scheduled landing and our flight back to Dulles, our anxiety over the delay grew (but I kept telling Carol we could just fly back to Venice for a month). We landed. Late. Because we were flying out of the EU, we had to go through passport control. That not only got us out of the EU, it also gets passengers with connecting flights into what is considered, I guess, unsecured territory. So, by this time flight time is close, perhaps ten minutes, and there is an unruly crowd of people trying to get through security for many Lufthansa flights. Somehow, we managed to dodge through the mob to get to security. Then a sprint to the gate which, of course, was some distance away. But, we made it. Only to arrive in Dulles to go through immigration and customs in a facility that didn't really have the capacity to handle as many flights as were arriving. With another set of tight connections, it was once again tight. But, we made it through officialdom and Carol arrived at her boarding gate just as the flight was being called. We parted. Sad to part, but realizing that this might just be the start of the best thing that ever happened to either of us.

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