Welcome to my travel log! The picture you see of me is at a costume party called the Miners and Trappers Ball. I was Fiona from the cartoon Shrek. I felt this was a great picture of me just enjoying life so I threw it in. Happy Travels!
Feb 20, 2004 11:00 PM section one the begining
Tomorrow my boss (Karen) is taking the accounting department out to lunch and this is a copy of the email invite. She is a pretty cool lady!
: Lets do Lunch - at Simon & Seaforts....
: Because we have had a pretty great year....
: Because we have to face auditors in a few days....
: Because we have weathered a lot of changes with our Mas90 Eagle Abra and we are still a good team....
: Because we will all be together for this one day....
: Because one of us is leaving for a world adventure....
: Because one of our own is back for a local adventure....
: Because we can....
: Well Gang,
: The lunch at Simon and Seaforts was very nice and relaxing. It was a good choice, with good company, and good food. Life is good!
: I leave in a few hours. All the things are done on the check list. There is nothing left to do, but board the plane. Even labels are printed up for my postcards. I have a slight fear that in Europe I will trip and fall on my poor, injured arm. Hopefully not! Wish me luck.
: More to come in a couple of days or so. See ya, Darlitia
: Well Gang,
: I made it to Seattle! It is a beautiful, sunny day. Not a cloud in the sky. I got to the airport 2.5 hours early, and read a book for a very long time. For those of you who are interested, my arm did not set off the alarms. I never even had to pull my medical card out. However, I was pulled aside because of my backpack. They asked me if I had a roll of quarters in my pack, of course I said no. Why ever would I have packed that? Come to find out, in a little used pocket there was a roll of quarters. I haven't accessed that pocket in two years. It must have been there for bus money in case I ever got stranded when I was biking. Periodically, I will find little pockets of dollars in various places on my bike, but I had completely forgotten about this one. The flight itself was excellent and half empty, which means I stretched out across three seats and dozed as well as I could. It is hard for me to sleep in my own bed because of my dental pain, so sleeping anywhere else, without the comforts of home, is very difficult. This is something that will affect me for years to come and I will just have to accept and tolerate it. By the way, Alaska Airlines no longer offers the beverage cart. A stewardess came by with a hand tray, your choice of orange juice or nothing. Take it or leave it. I was very glad I brought my own water bottle with me.
: I will spend, on the average, 6 hours on various busses today. Those quarters are coming in pretty handy! I know I could have taken a cab to the fair, but that would eliminate the enjoyment I receive from deciphering my own way through town. I do enjoy being the "Little Miss Independent Traveler". By the way, if ever anyone needs and Internet Cafe, the one I am at is right across from the Seattle Museum and it is called Ancient Grounds. Quiet lovely. I had breakfast at the Athenian, very nice as usual. I was sitting there eating breakfast happy, calm, and relaxed. Peaceful even. MMMMM.... an auspicious beginning to the first day of my vacation. Let it continue.
: **PART 2**
: Seattle part 2- I went to the state fair and wasn't that impressed with it. Personally, I think our (Alaska State - Palmer) fair has tons more charm. Now, If I had kids and liked looking at a lot of cows, maybe my opinion might change. I had dinner at my favorite restaurant called Il Fornaio, and then retired to my hotel where I took a late night swim under the half moon and stars.
: **Orlando - PART 1**
: First off, let me rant. The food servers in Florida get paid $2.00 an hour. I thought minimum wage was to prevent stuff like that, especially in the 'Most popular destination in the western world', seems like that out of all places they would be able to afford their servers more pay. On the average, dinner prices are the same as Anchorage or more. Someone got greedy. OK, rant done.
: **Orlando - part 2**
: Orlando was great, I stayed at a nice hotel with an outdoor swimming pool, which I availed myself of immediately! On the way to the pool I saw 3 cute little geckos. The next morning I was off to Chicago to transfer to Amsterdam. Let me say here, I am very happy to have only two carry on bags as my flight in Chicago landed and I had 5 minutes to get to the next flight. No way, could they have transfered my luggage over. All was well, though!! All flights were easy with no problems, security was very easy with no problems. My average check in time was 15 minutes for everything, so they have become a lot more organized.
Feb 20, 2004 11:00 PM section two
: Beware Hotel Joops in Haarlem! Today is the first day of my Best of Europe Tour and I almost suffered a servere head injury due to Hotel Joops poor management. I was taking a shower in the bathroom and the floor is like an iceskating rink. It is one of those showers where the whole bathroom is a shower. My head came less than inches away from the ceramic wash sink. I fell twice, the second time I hit the toilet. This is very dangerous and I have let the hotel staff know. The way the bathroom/shower is set up, this can not be the first incident or the first they have heard of this problem! There will be more accidents, to be sure. I have suggested that they put down some type of shower mat or something to give a person some kind, any kind of traction. I came so close to hitting my head my legs were shaking. How ironic that that would be on the first day of my vacation. I will know tomorrow if my back is injured, as it is to soon to tell.
: **9/9/2003 Haarlem, Holland** Part 2
: Let me start by saying that, since most people have last seen me I have gotten roughly about two nights good sleep and lots of dozing here and there. So when I reached Haarlem I was tired, cranky, and stressed, in addition, to the very treacherous shower I had. So yesterday eveing I went back to the bathroom to see if there was anything I could have done better. In short, that bathroom floor sucks. I looked over everything, and the way it is set up it is conducive to helping a person become injured. This is bad! It is only by Good Grace and good fortune that I fell in the very narrow direction that I did. Out of the whole room, it was the only safe position and direction to fall in. It is now the morning after and I have a sore neck and tension headache. If this is all I get, I am somehow extremely blessed beyond measure. I fell so hard I could feel my spine vibrate in my body. Crazy, crazy! I can only hope that nothing else shows up from this fall. It was nasty, but I seem to be OK, so far.
: Haarlem is a mixture of beauty and graffiti. All bicycles have the right of way over pedestrians and cars. On yeah!! A cyclist dream come true!! Even heavily pregnant women hop on their bikes and take off! Everyone is blonde, blue eyed and needless to say skinny. I met all the tour members last night for the first time and they seem to be a totally cool bunch. My roomate Mary is easygoing and friendly. We all went to dinner together, and I had a huge t-bone steak, while most had the mussels. A huge pot full! Jeff, you would have loved it! I still haven't slept, must be jet lag. I woke up at 2am this morning and have been awake ever since. Today the group heads into Amsterdam for the very first time.
: Good luck, good fortune, and good health to all,
: There is no possible way for me to tell you everything we did today. I can say it was 14 LONG hours of non-stop touring! I was exhausted before today even started, and I had an espresso just to get thru dinner without my face falling into my food! I know, caffeine, but at least it wasn't soda. We had definitely gotten our money's worth out of this tour on just today alone. Todd would love this, fully organized with no time to spare! That means no shopping. I spent a whopping total of $1.50 today on postcards. The tour provided everthing else, as usual, including all tips for everything.
: Order of events:
: 7:15 breakfast in Haarlem; 8:00 transportation to Amsterdam by train; 9:00 Anne Frank House in Amsterdam; then several museums in Amsterdam; then a canal cruise where I couldn't keep my eyes hardly open, even though it was quite lovely; then a wonderful lunch of stuff like mushroom soup; Then the Amsterdam red light district, which I must say, is highly over-rated and a bunch of hyped up talk. There was nothing more shocking than a bunch of girls in bathing suits and Victoria's Secret. Beautiful girls, of course. There is a market for every product. Then back to Haarlem for an Indonesian dinner of mystery items that were delicious. There was more, but I will spare you the details by summing it up: It was a Fabulous day and Rick Steves tours rock the house!! Tomorrow Germany!
: P.S. Highlight of the day:
: I am going to be on Dutch television. They were filming a documentary where we were at and needed some xtras. The show will air in Dutch television on Thursday at 11pm. Well, there you have it, my 15 seconds of fame is over.
**09/10/03 A hard day's night**
: Last night I was bone, weary tired and went to bed as soon as I got a chance. I was asleep for two good hours when my roommate comes barging in being very noisy, turning lights on, laughing, and slamming doors. She woke me up so bad that I couldn't go to sleep for another 4 hours. Just as I was drifting off she screams out very loudly "Christ Almighty"! I jump out of bed yelling what is it? Come to find out she is a VERY vocal and active sleeper. Sound familiar Jeff? Payback is hell. This happened once more, including some other quirky things. Come morning she remembers nothing, not even our conversations. She does remember that I told her I was going to switch roommates. I refilled her in on why, but she apologized twice. So, maybe,I won't. Yesterday's weather was absoulutely perfect. Not too cold, not too hot. Sidenote to Francie: I must have walked 15 miles yesterday, if not more. I am not sore at all today. :)
: Once I can get over this jet lag, my enjoyment of this trip will double, because we are having a fabulous time during the day and the weather is great. Wish me luck.
**09/11/03 Beautiful Germany**
: (First let me apologize for any misspellings as this is a German keyboard.) This is GREAT! I am having the time of my life! We came into Germany yesterday and we have the most beautiful and charming hotel! So old world! The showers are safe and modern, the bed and homemade pillows were even more comfy and cozy than my own home. Needless to say, I slept beautifully! -Like a rock! This hotel is located right accross the street from the Rhine river and reeks old world charm! This is definitely a Rick Steves type of hotel. Narrow stairways, stone walls, a view of the castle right outside my window! This is great! Today we take a cruise on the Rhine, a walking tour of this charming, small city, and a picnic next to the river. -Jeff, we have to come here ourselves, it is so romantic.
: Yesterday it rained all day which was good because 6 hours of the day were on a bus driving to Germany. We ended yesterday with a lovely pork roast dinner. There is no starving on a Rick Steves tour! Although, they say most people still lose about 5 pounds due to the energetic activity level of the tour. Then we went to a different restauraunt for a wine tasting, which lasted 'till 11pm. Good food, good wine, good company! -No wonder we slept so well! By the way, we were automatically given different roommates, apparently it is a rotating type of thing. It certainly worked well for me. I am off to a hot breakfast! See ya, Darlitia
: (Jeff, sorry no caps and the Y key is in a reallz wierd place on the kezboard.) :)
Feb 20, 2004 11:00 PM section three
**09/13/03** Oh my God! I just spent an hour updating everything and responding and it all got lost! Darlitia
: Let's try again: K & M; Thanks for the chat messages! Jeff: Thanks for all the work you have done on this page! It is looking really awesome. Frankly, I am to damn tired to retype 30 minutes worth again. It is 5 am in the morning. Rothenburg is absolutly beautiful. Never give Rothenburg a miss. Life is crazy fast and fun. Austria is next. Darlitia (s)
: P.S. I typed a whole page not just a paragraph, but, damn, it is gone now. //(Oops. dunno Dar, - in our logs it looks like your first connection was lost for a second or two, no first page ever got here. Doh! Damn technology! -Jn-)//
**09/18/03 Hello All**
: I am currently in **Florence, Italy,** but first let me catch you up since my last aborted entry. A very little bit of it will be a repeat as I am not sure what got deleted and what didn't.
: **Day 1 - Haarlem, Holland**
: Summary- A mixture of Beauty and Graffiti. Bicycles everywhere, they have the right of way in any traffic situation. A definite must see.
: **Day 2 - Around Amsterdam**
: Saw Anne Franks house, had a wonderful canal ride, total jetlag! Never even darkened the doorstep of a coffee house as our tour was go, go, go, do, do, do! Crazy fast. This is also where I was in the documentary for the Beginhofs. Beginhofs are widows or women that have given up men. They were doing a documentary on them and need xtras. We were touring their neigborhood because our tour guide wanted to show the history of the place and also to show that they had an inner courtyard with trees and grass. Basically, in a city where that doesn't exist, they were living in high style for free. A very peaceful courtyard oasis in a noisy, fast paced city.
: **Day 3 - Arnhem, Netherlands**
: If you ever get a chance to go to the Arnhem Open Air Musem, please do. It is a must see. That morning our tour guide gently chastised us for being 1 minute late for the bus, he reminded us that he will leave anyone behind if they are not on time. If you count all the minutes up together, we have already lost over an hour of touring time and he went on to say that this has to stop. I, personally think, that getting 28 people to the lobby with their luggage ready by 8:02am is quite an accomplishment. However, Ferdi thinks differently.
: So, we drove to the Open Air Museum and it was great. I would love to come back here with my bicycle and just tour this whole thing. It is quite large, covering several acres. We had free time to explore on our own, so I took off down this trail in the woods. The woods seemed so ancient and silent. This is my most favorite moment of the tour so far. They have a village there that they recreated to show how people use to live hundreds of years ago. I got so caught up in it that I lost track of time. I figured I should get on the museum tram and take it back to the front gate as it was much, much to far to walk now. Fortunately, one came along about five minutes later. I hopped on, got back to the gate, realizing that it was five minutes after our scheduled departure. Boy, was my heart in my stomach! What a sinking feeling. I was racing for the parking lot. 5 whole minutes is a lot after what he said this morning. Fortunately, they were still there. That, so far, has been the one and only time I was ever late for this whole trip. The Open Air Museum was so lovely, though. Now we drive to the city Bacharach along the Rhine River and stay there two nights.
: **Day 3 part 2 - The Rhine**
: The city of Bacharach, Germany, was awesome and charming. Some local guides we use are just boring and informative, but this one was charismatic, charming, and humorous. His name is Herr Jung. He personally lived through the war when the Nazis invaded Bacharach, and he told us many a story. He made it quite real and vivid for us. Some of the women in the tour were even crying. I was quite choked up myself. One story was about his brother, who had been missing in the war for 10 years and finally they released the POWs and he was not one of them. So, now they know he was dead, but they don't know how, where, or why. I believe he was drafted against his will by the Nazis. There were many more stories, but he impressed upon me the joy he radiates of just being alive. He is 76 years old and can beat anyone in the tour up the mountain. His joy and ethusiasm for life just shines through. This man can find greatness in any work he does, and that is the most impressive thing of all. It must be seen in person to be understood, especially the depth. Words just can not replace the experience. Herr Jung is the ultimate optomistic. At any rate, he gave us a wonderful, very informative, walking tour of Bacharach. Our rooms were in part of the wall that used to surround Bacharach. They were old world charming. I have a view of a castle right outside my window. The rooms were so great that everyone on the tour went from room to room just to see what they all looked like. I have the most cozy room of all. Jeff, it reminds me of your old apartment.
: **Day 4 - The Rhine**
: The next day everyone hiked up the 17 percent grade to a local Rheinfels castle. I skipped that part as I needed time away from the 28 people that I had been with for the last week. I spent the time on my own, eating, relaxing, and shopping. In general I had a great time. Then we took a river cruise down the Rhine river back to our hotel. It was raining alot and very misty. That night we went to the Tacky Tiki Bar in the basement of our hotel. What FUN!! Everyone was dancing to disco and other various music, drinking, socializing, and in general having a darn good time. I even danced myself a couple of times. Let me tell you, straight and true, that the wine and beer flow quite freely on a Rick Steves Tour, at most times of the day and night. Everyone seemed to have a blast.
Feb 20, 2004 11:00 PM section four
: **Day 5 - Rothenburg**
: Rothenburg is definitely a tourist town and they want your money. Aside from that, it is very medieval and quite charming. I spent the day shopping, eating, and walking the parapets of the castle walls. I would someday like to come back here, as there are quaint bike trails through rolling scenic valleys. Another definite must see. Our hotel was so cute and charming. If I come back I want to stay in the same one. By the way, in this city I discovered my new favorite drink - hot chocolate with Amaretto! MMMM, delish!
: By the way, I had an overlong bathtub in my bathroom, so I treated myself to a luxurous bubble bath. The bathtub was so long that I couldnt even brace myself, and it had a sloping edge so nothing was crunching me in the neck.
: The next day we drove by bus to the concentration camp of Dachau. Very troubling. How could any sentient species torture another human being like that. Obviously, not all humans are sentient. I cried. Tomorrow Austria.
: **Day 6 - Austria**
: On our way to Austria, we ate dinner in Munich. It was pouring down rain and I played the crazy American by walking in it as it was a REAL downpour with lightning and thunder! Hey, I had an umbrella! Nevertheless, my shoes were soaked through and my pants were wet to the knees. I love a good downpour! What fun for me! The we drove to the foothills of the Alps. Bavaria!!
: **Day 7 - Bavaria**
: I love Bavaria! I saw herds of deer and fawns, and cows, of course. At this lovely hotel we were served a gorgeous breakfast, lovely dinners, and to die for desearts! Man, vacations can be wonderful! I hope to someday stay at this hotel again. The group, excluding me, hiked an hour and a half up to the Ludwig castle, you know, the one Walt Disney modeled his castle after. It is actually called Neuschwanstein Castle. I did not go as I needed a rest day. I slept in, did laundry, drank wine, went for a walk, and in general relaxed for the morning. Bavaria looks a lot like Palmer, lots of farms, pastures, and mountains, minus the castles and charming German houses. That took care of the morning.
: Now for the afternoon, we barreled down the Luge. What Fun! Ferdi, the tour leader, apologized to me because he said he thought I would be a slow one. Boy, did he ever have me pegged wrong! I went down three times. It takes alot of body english, whch just has to be learned through experience. The third time, all the guys went again and only me and one other girl. The guys asked to go in front of me, cause they thought I would be slow. Huh! Well as it actually turned out I was riding their ass all the way down cause an old woman was holding them up. Just goes to show! They also have paragliding here, but alas, there was no time.
: P.S. Just imagine 28 people doing their laundy in 4 washers with only one dryer! Oy!
: **Day 8 - Venice**
: We spent the day on the bus driving to Venice. The approach to Venice is quite ugly. Venice is surounded by water, which in turn is surrounded by industrial/chemical plants which dump their shit into the lagoon, it in turn eats the 30 million logs/trees of Venice's foundation, which produces sinking. Word is, they have figured that out now and are currently putting a stop to the chemical dumping surrounding Venice. When entering the city of Venice it is a very beautiful slum. Make no mistake this city is dying and only living off the artificial respirator of tourism. But what a beautiful glorious slum. My roommate and I had the best view out of our room. We could see the rooftops of Venice with a Piazza, or square right below us. Our first night there were even fireworks out the window. We had a wonderful dinner of spaghetti, and then in the dark went to Saint Marks Square and opened a bottle of champagne, celebrating the fact that we were in the most romantic square of Europe, that we hadn't killed each other yet, and that we have the most wonderful tour guides!! After that we all took a gondola ride through the night waters of Venice with singing muscians. All the ladies had roses. At one point we rafted up the five gondolas on the main canal and just listened to the wonderful singer. How unique is that! What a wonderful closesure to a long and tiring day.
: **Day 9 - Venice Day two**
: We had the day to ourselves. I spent the morning with two friends Pam and Judy. They were alot of fun to explore Venice with and I walked with them till about noon. I walked from 9 am to 10 pm that day with food breaks. I have 2 inches of blisters on my body from all the walking. The gondola ride the night before was totally awesome and worth the outrageous prices they charge. I walked all day in the heat of Venice, shopping. Venice is definitely one gigantic shopping mall! Shops, shops, shops! Come here if you're rich! I did buy a wonderful Halloween costume and mask with feathers for around a hundred and ten Euros. I hope I can wear it to work come Halloween. I basically bummed around Venice on the vaporetti (boat/bus) when my feet couldn't take it anymore. I, apparently, am living off of spaghetti because that is what I had for lunch, too. I got well off the beaten track and had lunch where only the locals were. There were no tourists there except for me, I felt a little uncomfortable about that, but all was well. It was a quiet, leafy, green oasis in a place that crawls with so many tourists it's like ants. Jeff I miss your cooking, though, and I miss protein. That night we attended a concerto in an old building off of St. Marks square. Vivaldi music! Some of my favorite. It truly was a lovely concert and a great ending to a very full and long day. Next Florence.
Feb 20, 2004 11:00 PM section five
: **Day 10, 11 - Florence 09/18 & 19/03**
: On the very long bus ride to Florence I filled out postcards and listened to a CD the driver put on. It was a recording of all the sounds of Venice. Very nice, but mostly I was kinda miserable due to the fact that I am tired of long boring bus rides. At any rate, we arrived at Florence, the home of the Renaissance and the birthplace of the modern world. First let me tell you about the Duomo! It is by far the most beautiful and impressive building I have seen in Europe, and that is saying quite alot! We saw it on our walking tour of Florence, where we got orientated as to where we were in regards to our hotel. Florence is one of my favorite cities for walking to at night. I feel totally safe, even safer than Paris. We did the standard museum thing where I was bored out of my mind, but the thing most impressive for me was just walking around Florence over the Ponte Vecchio Bridge that crosses the Arno River. Feeling the cooling breeze after a very hot day in Italy, and of course we can't forget the Gelato! Mmmmm! I may not gain any weight on this vacation because of all the walking we are doing, but I sure am not going to loose any, either. Did I mention the wonderful gelato stand two feet from my hotel? The next day we had free time and I basically looked for clothes that would fit a woman my size. Did I mention that every European woman I have seen so far is thin? One store on my Europe trip has catered to people my size. ONLY one store. As much walking as we are doing I regret my weight with every step I take. Now where is that Gelato shop hiding? :) We also went to the leather market, which virtually stretches for miles. I bought some of Jeff's birthday presents here. Pizza's here are not nearly as good as in America! Now on to Rome!
: **Day 12, 13 - Rome, 09/20 & 21/03**
: I am getting a little fuzzy on the dates. I hope I have them right. We are moving so fast I don't even know what day of the week it is. We had a wonderful local tour guide who took us on a historic walk of Rome. She was an outgoing, perky blonde woman that really gave a great presentation. You can tell when someone enjoys their work! Talk about history! We started at the Pantheon. What a site this must have been in its prime time. Don't miss Rome. It is worth going just for the history, alone. The other thing that stands out is the Trevi fountain. Lovely to look at, but I had hawkers in my face the whole time, buy this or that. That part wasn't so nice but the rest was. The next day we went to the Vatican. That place is so huge it is monumental. We looked at the museum part, the Sistine chapel part and the Vatican part. I can see why the Catholic Church was corrupt in their day. My god the place is a palace! Next Cinque Terre!
: **Day 14, 15 - Cinque Terre (Chink wa taira)**
: This is our vacation away from our vacation, and boy do we need a rest break. We get a day and a half, here. Vernazza is also our last stop in Italy, thank god, no more tempting gelato! :) Let me start by saying that I want to come here and spend two weeks not just a day and a half! This place is worth so much more than just a day and a half. The beautiful Italian Riviera! We spent our time relaxing in the sun and listening to the surf! What a sunny blue day it was. I wasted 3 hours by waiting for a non-existent boat/bus. Apparently they close for two hours for lunch, and this being Italy they decided to skip the 2:25 pm pick up, so I got on the bus at 3pm. I had taken the boat (bus) to the little city of Riomaggiore, where I promptly got stuck for three hours. Not to worry I went swimming there (too rocky) and shopping, and of course had a gelato from the ever present gelato stands. I wanted to hike all five towns but, alas, my blisted feet were not up to the task. Thus a wait for the boat. I went back to Vernazza, finally ate food, and then went for a swim in the ocean. This will be one of my favorite memories. Swimming in the open ocean, with a salt content so high I barely had to tread water. It felt so safe. There was no surf to deal with, as from Vernazza there is deep-water access for swimming in the Ocean. Needles to say I have sunburn. Happily earned! I spent almost two hours in the ocean and then went back to the hotel to shower for our group dinner. The sarong I bought today turned out to be a good investment as it came in handy as a beach towel, cover-up, beach blanket, shawl (that night for diner), and a sun blocker. This day was so relaxing, minus the annoying three hours. I want to come back here with Jeff some day. There are over a hundred steps to our hotel. Oh my poor feet! I am thinking of splitting off from the tour and staying longer in the Cincque Terre. I could skip Switzerland and meet up with them in France by way of the night train. It would be so nice to stay here longer, but can I handle going from here, by train, to France not knowing either language and be sure to find the tour again in Beaune France? There would be at least 3 train changeovers and I would have to go back through Florence. It would cost a couple of hundred for the train and another couple for rooms here at the hotel. I am truly tempted, despite all the obstacles; it is so beautiful here. We ended the night with our tour leaders buying the group a gelato. Hey, what a way to go!
Feb 20, 2004 11:00 PM section six
: **Day 16/17 - Switzerland**
: I chickened out and let me tell you I miss the Cinque Terre. I am having withdrawals. From the beautiful sunny riviera to the cold ass Alps. Shit. It started with the fact it would be cost prohibitive to stay longer in Cinque Terre and with the plain fact I got cold feet. Maybe if I hadn't been alone? Who knows how it would have gone? At any rate Switzerland is cold and expensive and I am in a lousy mood due to the long ass bus ride. Those that know me well know that I can not abide enforced inactivity! 12 hours of riding. 12 hours! My frustration was mounting by the moment. I became extremely introverted so no one else would have to hear about it, which in turn mounts it higher. When we stopped for a bus break in Interlaken I had only one thing in mind and that was to get drunk quick. Alas, the opportunity did not present itself as this was a 20-minute stop and we had to go to the ATM to get Swiss franks. Since, it was windy, rainy, and cold I indulged in a walk by the river until all my senses felt, if not alive, then at least in exisistence again. I am sure people were wondering why I would choose to go for a stroll in that type of weather conditions, but it seemed to help me mentally cope with the shit. I mailed off a package to Anchorage of all the stuff I bought so far. It cost 77 Swiss Franks. Jeeze, can it get anymore expensive? I did have some good memories of Switzerland, the hamburger meal I cooked myself in the restauraunt, the other travelers I met from England and Pakistan singing a John Denver song, the hot tub, but really, I just don't like Switzerland that much, to me.
: The only other thing I want to say about Switzerland is the unisex bathrooms. What a freaky mind trip that was, jeez couldn't someone have warned me. On to France! :)
: **Day 18, 19 - Beaune, France**
: Our hotel is right across the street from the train station! That means I could have stayed in the Cinque Terre longer and then met up with the tour group in France very easily. We are sleeping right across the street from the train station, the things I wish I knew IN ADVANCE. Ah well, that still would have left many other obstacles to overcome, the least of which was price. However, I can not stand any more bus rides. We are promised a four-hour bus ride into Paris tomorrow. I am definitely skipping it. The train ride is two hours long and only has one transfer to make. It is forty dollars and seems very doable to me. It is a high speed TGV train that goes 200 miles per hour. I already told my tour guide I would see them at the hotel in Paris. He seemed a little put out by it, but I am not going to explain to him my hang-ups about long periods of enforced inactivity! The rest of the tour group thinks I am so adventurous! Little do they know what is really fueling my decision. I haven't much to say about Beaune except that we had our first French meal here and it was Magnifique!! Jeff you would have loved it. The tour leaves at 9am and I leave at 9:19 am. Wish me luck.
: **Day 20, 21 - Paris**
: Altogether it took me 3 hours from the door of my hotel in Beaune to the door of my hotel in Paris. The train ride was so smooth. It hardly felt like we were moving 200 miles an hour. The time went very fast due to the three transfers I had. One to Paris and two in the city of Paris on the metro. I learned quite a bit about the European train system that’s for sure. I had such a feeling of validation coming into Paris on my own! I ended up getting here almost 2 hours in advance of the tour group as they stopped for a picnic lunch at a rest stop on the side of the road. I went to a bistro here and ordered rump steak, which Jeff would have just loved, as it was rare. Then I got on the Internet for awhile. After that, I just took a long walk around Paris with this happy little grin on my face. They call this type of walk the "Pinch me I am in Paris walk".
: It really is so marvelous to be back here. The first time, after 10 years of waiting I completed my dream to come to Paris. Now, this second time, it is so hard to believe and unexpected that I get to do it twice! I get this feeling of "Yes, wow, I made my dream come true, twice". How many people experience that very often? I had that same feeling in Venice and the Italian Riviera, just not as strong as it is for me here in Paris. Now if I can make my dream come true of being thin... Hey, the world's my oyster!
: On the second day in Paris, we went to the Louvre, which I skipped out early on as I am just not into museum stuff, except for the Rodin Museum and the Clunny Museum which are always a must see. Then we went to the Notre Dame and the Saint Chapelle, always great to look at that. That night Judy and I went to see the Eiffel tower, as she hasn't seen it in the dark yet. This was also the first time I had come in the summer, ever. We were both pleasantly surprised! The Eiffel tower was lit up so lovely and there were people everywhere on the grass drinking, socializing, chatting, just having fun! It was like an outdoor summer picnic, except at night. This will be one of my top three favorite memories! Just sitting on the grass listening to the bongo drum players a few yards over and watching the flame throwers practice their craft, with the Eiffel tower lit in the background. Pretty amazing. As we were relaxing on the grass the Eiffel tower started to sparkle with hundreds of light going off all over it. A new lighting system they installed that I wasn't expecting to see, but it looked so wonderful!
: Tomorrow is our free day in Paris. I shall amuse myself with aimless walking, soaking up the ambience, and mucho eating! By the way, my one extra night that I am staying in Paris will be at the Hotel Tulip. If you remember, I think I must have showed everyone that web site I was so excited about it. It is a beautiful hotel with a leafy green courtyard I have to walk through to get to my quite charming hotel room. I will be quite busy for the next couple of days so the next entry will be from America, Florida to be exact, if all goes well!
: See ya all soon!
: Love, Darlitia
: P.S. - Yes I got over the cold and yes my teeth still hurt. **9/28/2003**
Feb 20, 2004 11:00 PM section seven
: **09/30/03 Paris**
: My hotel room in Paris was all charm and not one bit cozy. The very old windows wouldn't latch all the way closed and I was cold, cold, and cold all night long. Perhaps there was a technique that I wasn't aware for latching the windows. At any rate, I got up at 7 am, good thing I set my alarm clock as the hotel forgot to give me a wake up call. From 7 am on it was go, go, go. 18 hours later I arrived in Orlando, about 3 am Parisian time.
: //P.S. I now can say in 4 different languages "How much?" What a hoot!//
: **10/01-02/03 Orlando, Florida**
: From there on it was a very, very rough transition!
: It all started with me choosing the wrong Holiday Inn. The one I choose was by the Florida Mall. The one I wanted was across the street from Universal Studios Theme Park. Since I was there I just paid for that one night and let it pass. The front desk girl was super nice and gave me a larger, supposedly nicer room, for the same price. So, I go to the room and the first thing I did was wrinkle my nose at the deeply permeating smell of mold. The second thing I did was marvel at the largeness of the room. My god, in Europe this would house and entire family, in America it is a standard hotel room with a King sized bed and couch. A little culture shock there, heh? This hotel room was almost the size of my first apartment I ever shared with Jeff, minus the kitchen and living room, of course. The shower sucked, but I made do. I am learning how to do a lot of that. Since it was 3-am Parisian time I hit the sack.
: The next morning I am still so wore out that I unfortunately (without thinking it all the way through) paid for two more nights. I later regretted that decision as I came to notice the smell of the mold spores which permeated the entire, I mean, entire hotel. The humidity and the carpet must spawn it. It was so bad that it was like sleeping in a bathroom with the shower running. It was actually less humid outside the hotel than inside the hotel. I tried to stay away as much as possible during the day.
: Never make on the spot decisions when exhausted. Apparently, when exhausted, I take what is convenient without thinking it through all the way.
: Just like the rental car. On the hotel phone it said to push zero for car rental. So, I did thinking that it would put me through to Hertz or something like that. Well, I got this little one-person operation, which gave me a totally awesome rate for a great car. The owner, a woman, struck me as someone I should not trust and I should stay far away from. I should have followed my instincts, which I ignored in the favor of convenience and price. I paid for a week in advance by credit card. Over the following days, I was just so uncomfortable in dealing with that company that I turned the car in after only two days. In no way whatsoever would she work with me for a refund of any kind. She is after all a predator, a woman, but still a predator. The kind of person that is out for all the money she can get her greedy little hands on. I was not a customer to her, but only a source of income for her to exploit. Since her office was in the lobby of the Holiday inn I filled out a complaint form. The manager of the hotel said that she would give me the daily rate instead of the weekly rate, which coincidentally was the same exact amount that I had paid. So, for two days I paid $159.00. I had rented the car for a week and paid the same amount. How convenient for her, heh? No refund of any kind. I feel very uncomfortable with her having my credit card and will cancel it as soon as I get to Anchorage. She breeds that type of distrust. That is why I turned the car in early and was quit of this so-called company.
: The day before all that, I went to Universal Studios Islands of Adventure and there were so few people there that I went through the whole park in less than three hours. The last time I was here was with Jeff and my family. I must say, it was quite lonely. No mom, no Jeff, nobody but me. On some of the rides I was the sole occupant. There were no lines at all. It was the first time I have felt loneliness on this trip. I can only figure it is because of the following,
: 1) The complete isolation that a hotel room offers. If I were in a Hostel I could make friends and we would be off sightseeing.
: 2) No mom, no bosom family, no Jeff.
: 3) And finally for 3 weeks I have been interacting with 26 people 24/7 and all of the sudden boom, bang, nothing, no one, but me. People withdrawal. Who knew?
: Needless to say I was quite distraught for some time. I called my sister and told her how I felt and the first thing she said was "Are you on your period?" to which I responded "Yes, actually, I am". It doesn’t change the feeling of loneliness though, after all, every time I have ever been to Florida it as always been with my family, and mom is gone. I miss her. Loneliness can suck. I had best hightail to Bowling Green where my mother's side of the family is, and then perhaps I can connect with other people and get my equilibrium back.
: I also took in a movie called "Under The Tuscan Sun" which corresponds so little to the book that it is like a different story altogether, but still a good movie to see. I also went on a major shopping spree at the Florida mall. Lane Bryant will be my undoing. That necessitated in me having to buy a very large suitcase, as my two daypacks were already full. $300 dollars later I have some very nice office attire.
: So on my final morning in that mold-infested hotel, I had to not only deal with all that car rental stuff and the isolation, but I woke up and my back was out. Perhaps the rides I rode at the park yesterday were the cause, or the 18 hour flight, or the humidity, or I slept on it wrong, or all of the above combined together, and I had three, three! cold sores on my mouth. All right, it is time to restart this vacation. Back to the airport I went! I re-rented a car from Dollar rent a car, a Dodge Intrepid, very nice! I love it! For two weeks it is about four hundred dollars. Oh well, I will definitely be working a second job when I come back. I then took off for Bowling Green and my Aunt Patricia's house.
Feb 20, 2004 11:00 PM section eight
: **10/03/03 Bowling Green, Florida**
: However, the loneliness was not to dissipate right away, as when I entered my aunt’s house I immediately felt dislocated. Always before my mom was there at the kitchen table with my aunt. I have always seen this house only in tow with mom. There was no mom, no Jeff, no sisters or brothers here. Just me. Christ! I miss my mom. I want to come home. I want to change my tickets. This isn't how I pictured Florida. I can't even hang glide. Every step I take hurts because of my back. I am tired now and in pain. I want to come home.
: Needless to say I have spent the last day or so unwinding, convalescing on the couch and in general just taking it easy. This is very hard for me to do. 3 weeks of go, go, crazy, fast, and then boom! I have to switch speeds to zero in no transition time at all. If I want my back to heal, I have got to rest, but I don't like this speed, it is to slow. However much I don't like it I have to admit it has its good side. I spent today reading in the sun, on the screened in porch, eating chocolate chip cookies. That was my dinner. Yum.
: One thing for sure, my cousin Carol has made me feel really comfortable here. She always talks to me and is very pleasant company. I don't say much back because of my back pain, but it sure has helped me transition. My other cousin Karla invited me to the beach tomorrow. Just what I think I need! After all I can convalesce on the sand as well as I can convalesce on a couch. Things are finally starting to look up. Until next time, Ciao. **10/3/2003**
: Hi All,
: Since my last entry things have completely turned around. Talk about night and day.
: My cousin Karla never made it to the beach, but I did. As a matter of fact, I have explored Florida from one end to the other. I have put just under 2000 miles on my rent a car so far. Yesterday I was on a beautiful island off the coast, in the Gulf of Mexico. I went sailing for an hour, then they dropped us off on a deserted island to go seashell hunting and/or swimming, then they took us sailing for another hour, and then back to the dock. My hotel was a very quiet, small place right beside a lake. So very lovely! My hotel room, this is so cool, was only 10 feet away from the pool. So, I have the pool on one side of me and the lake on the other. I spent part of a day just relaxing and reading in the sun, poolside/lakeside. No swimming in the lake though, we have to be careful; cause there is an alligator in the lake. I met some guy, there, from Switzerland and we talked a lot about Europe. He said I am a free soul. Shh, hush, I try to hide that, that's a well kept secret, you know. LOL! Yes, this vacation is turning out to be very relaxing for me. My back is healing and my teeth still suck. By the way, my thousand dollar mouth insert cracked and broke. So much for that fancy specialist! Looks like I will be going to the local dentist on Monday or so, no choice now. I have come to find out that driving and rocking out to music is a balm to my soul. That is how I have come to explore the whole coast of the Gulf of Mexico. I remembered a saying that really helped me transition: Attitude, the difference between ordeal and adventure. I'm off and running. See ya soon!
I never made it to the dentis, which was ok. After some killer headaches, my mouth adjusted. At any rate, the next few days were spent windersurfing and enjoying all the wonderfull things Florida has to offer. My windsurfer teacher was awesome! I have pictures and his biz card I will scan in and input here. His name was Jorge and he was extremely patient with me, which is always a good sign of a teacher. Windsurf teach is a labor of love for him. After Florida I flew to Phoenix to visit my wonderful sister Lavada. I only spent a day and a half there as I had to be to work by Monday. Next time I will make sure to allot much more time. We had a highly jam packed time. In that short time I bought a whole new wardrope, got my hair done, my nails done, and a pedicure. WOW!! What a time! Lavada is the perfect hostess, with awesome taste! I had a fabulous time! We also went the the state fair and spent loads of money! It was great spending time and seeing the kids, Ethan, Ashley, and Brandon again! They are always a blaste to be around.
I flew back into Anchorage, and met my boyfriend, who missed me immensly, judging by his actions. When I got to work, my boss was quiting and a payroll clerk had quit also. I got promoted to payroll and am now learning and adjusting to a new position. I love my new office, it is much more cozier than my last one. Well, at least I am not comming back to the same old boring job/routine. Talke about changes! We will all miss my boss Karen very much as she was a gem to work with.
Well, the vacation as been over for a month now. My back is still sore and hurting from that roller coaster ride at Universal. It has been crazy busy since I have been back.
They say that people travel for a reason, more than what they just let onto. Well, I guess then my reasons were to come back refreshed and renewed after these last couple of trying years. And boy did it work! I got what I wanted out of my vacation and am much happier for it. Did I know that that was what I wanted going into it? Not consciously. Did I realize it when I came back? Hell, yes! Go figure.
More to come....