Monday, May 30, 2016

Day 25: Modena to Amsterdam to E-ville, and Observations

Day 25:  Modena to Bologna to Amsterdam to E-ville

POTD:    Yes: Sim

Weather:  Very dark when we leave Opera02, and still warm. Pleasant in the Bay Area

Our ride to the airport is on time for a 3am pick-up at Opera02; we’re first in line to check-in at KLM and easily awaiting the opening of the business class lounge at 5am. We never get to the lounge: the pile-up at security is so extensive we go through as soon as we realize how many people are on early flights (security is pretty given how many people are being processed).

Free wifi, so THB is following game six of the W’s vs OKC. W’s down by 7, then by 3, then by 4…and finally…finally…the game is tied with under 3 minutes to go; DAMN! THB loses connectivity as they use buses to get you to your plane in Bologna.

Several hours later, 700 miles away, in an Amsterdam biz lounge, the W’s have won! THB will be home to see game 7….if he can stay awake!
Not bad!
The flight to SFO is delayed by customs taking over the plane for a thorough search and setting back the cleaning of the plane. Somehow, and this has happened before in Santiago, they call for business class boarding and then left us standing in line for well over 10 minutes. Strange way to treat their top customers.

When we arrive, we find that without a kitchen, missing one of the two bathroom sinks and both bathroom mirrors, and everything covered with dust or plastic, we’ll be migrating quickly to the beach.

DB's bike is on the right, unstolen

And, while we were gone pretty much all the bikes (maybe 30?) in the common area in the garage were stolen:  one of the four bikes left is ours. That’s sort of semi-karma, since THB’s 40 years old 10 speed with saddle bags is now roaming the streets with someone else in the saddle. 

Book Review #5: Dictator, Robert Harris (novel, third in a trilogy): In Harris’ own words, this is the story of the final fifteen years (THB: seems like it covers 30 so much goes on) in the life of the Roman statesman Cicero, imagined in the form of a biography written by his secretary, Tiro.  Tiro, a slave made a free man by Cicero, did exist and did write such a book. THB: The book covers the rise of Caesar, his death, and the immediate years afterward. Published in 2015, THB feels like he read this book before…déjà vu? Another book just like this one read years earlier? Also consider Fatherland, by Harris: it is a terrific book (THB did read that one years ago, not imagined he read it). Both these books resonate with the idea that you need a strong man to run your country (#donaldcouldbepresident)

THB was not making many notes along the way (actually, THB pretty much never makes notes anymore, it’s 100% winging it on travelsofthb).

1.   Stating the obvious: SA and DA were wonderful travel companions, as were the YTs in Milan. THB is pretty sure they are thinking the competition wasn’t too steep after reading about the Houstonians and Canadians. The moral of the story: you can pick your friends, you can’t always pick your tour mates.

2.     The Houstonians and Canadians sure made for some juicy stories in the blog. Most of the time they were just fine as tour mates. And yet, their sense of entitlement, crassness and the lack of forcefulness by the co-leaders got to be a regular sub-text of each day. One co-leader was too gracious and was taken advantage of, the other basically did squat and also took advantage of the other co-leader.  Not debilitating, just worth noting.

3.    Overall our hotels were good to terrific. In the week-long stay at Opera02 it felt good to not have to pack and unpack every few days. We did stay in some over-the-top terrific spots.

4.   The rain during the first half of the trip turned out to be a small impediment to enjoying the sights; the heat the last few days was more debilitating, especially since we were eating big meals, including lunches, with a lot of alcohol available.

5.     Italy is an easy winner in the food stakes, and THB and DB had some terrific meals in Spain and Portugal. Many of the meals included dishes we had not had before, adding to the enjoyment. We didn’t have that many noteworthy wines and the beer was pretty non-descript. In general, the prices for meal were a bit below to well below what we'd pay in the US for a comparable meal.

6.   THB could’ve used more time in the big cities. For sure in Lisboa, which was jumping; in Madrid THB is not so sure, we weren’t there long enough to get a good vibe on what else was out there that we didn’t get to; maybe in Porto, where the city life seemed centered within a short distance of our hotels. Milan was terrific, probably could have managed several more days. Bilbao didn’t have all that much to offer other than the world's greatest museum, and the day with Gabriela in San Sebastian was just terrific.

7.    In all five big cities we stayed in or near a lively part of town. That was fine in Madrid, Milan and Porto where the hotels were very nice. In Lisboa and Bilbao, the rooms were very small. Both of those hotels at least had excellent views from their terraces.

8.     We used a lot of private guides during the first two weeks, and the tour arranged for a lot of guided events the last week. Overall, that’s a pretty nice way to travel. It’s costly, and worth it when you get to something that you couldn’t do on your own, need a translator, or want to maximize your time because you not in an area very long.  In many cases on this trip, we hit the trifecta!


  1. Thanks for sharing a terrific trip.

  2. We really enjoyed the sights,following you through the towns and museums, private tours and all the food photo's. The introduction to the Canadians and the issues with their not being on time was frustrating for us all! Welcome home to fresh breezes,cool weather and the chance to sleep in your own bed. We love the blog and will follow you anywhere.
    Davida and Michael