Day 14


Venice, Italy

7:00 am

We are kicked out of our stateroom. Well, not exactly "kicked," more like ushered respectfully. But respectfully or not, we're still ship-borne refugees, and we grab a final breakfast at the shipboard buffet.

There's nothing to do but read and wait for our number to be called. We can't even get a latte, because our cruise cards are deactivated (and lattes cost money).

Our last view from our stateroom

Laura's last shipboard breakfast

We try to contact the Red Cross to see if there are any camps nearby, but it's too early.

It's still a big damn boat

10:33 am

We are now on our last Princess Cruises bus. By the end of the day, we will have traveled by bus (4 times), plane, boat, and foot. Robert wonders if we could find a submarine so we could complete the hat trick.

On board the bus (boat in the background)

The airport in Venice is called "Marco Polo," and Laura gives Robert the look that says "If you plan to run through the airport with your eyes closed hollering 'Marco,' just remember it's a long damn walk to the US."

11:23 am

The Italians have come up with an ingenious scheme to keep people from checking in early: You can't. All the check-in desks are shared, and they don't give you a check-in desk until two hours before your flight is due to leave.

So if you show up three hours early (like we have), you get to camp out in the middle of the airport terminal, waiting for a check-in desk to open up.

12:45 pm

Laura has got the hang of Italy. When they finally assigned our check-in gate, she went to the really short line marked "Business Class" (even though we're not on business and we have no class). "Hey, it's Italy. No one pays any attention to the rules."

Sure enough, the check-in agent didn't say anything, and we got through in about ten minutes. We cheerfully waved to all the rule-following American suckers standing in the huge line as we went to get lunch.

We are now waiting for a bus to take us to our airplane. They park the airplanes out on the field, and so you get on a bus and they drive you out to the airplane and then you walk up the ramp, just like the President does (although we bet he's got better seats than we do).

Of course, the down side to this (and to the clever Italian check-in scheme) is that the plane doesn't get fully loaded until about half an hour after it's supposed to take off.

Hey, this plane was signed by Donut!

3:15 pm

Woohoo! We're at Greenwich Mean Time! We're the King of the Clocks! But the folks around here are so blasé about being at the beginning of time, that they don't much notice it.

We have come into an airport called "Gatwick" which is supposedly "in London." It's about as much in London as SeaTac is in Poulsbo. We are almost exactly smack in the middle of nothing.

In fact, we have to spend 17-½ pounds each to get out of here and down to the Heathrow airport where our hotel (and tomorrow's flight) are. The British have not switched to Euro's, but still use pounds and bobs and quids and tu'pences (Robert calls the one penny coins "wupences" or "wups"). They're talking about doing it real soon now, but the money changers would like it a lot if they took a few more centuries (the money changers skim about 10% off the top every time you change from one currency to another).

This just in!
Several weeks later, England chose not to switch to the Euro (there was an election). So, they're still using pounds instead of metric money.

The drive down is through rolling green countryside that looks a lot like Seattle (except there's more cows and sheep than buildings). To add to the resemblance, it's raining, which is the first rain we've seen in two weeks. We like it.

We notice, though, that the British are so polite that they let the passengers drive their cars. Also, they drive around on the wrong side of the street, but nobody ever yells at them or anything.

5:03 pm

Our 17-½ pound bus (7.9 kg) only takes us to the airport. From here, we have to buy passage (3 pounds each) on a "Hotel Hoppa" that takes us around to all the hotels (including ours).

Well, at least they don't call them "Speed Humps"

The bus also takes us through Heathrow, and we gain a newfound respect for SeaTac. Heathrow is an incredible maze of underground tunnels and winding roads. It takes about 20 minutes for our bus to get from Terminal 1 to Terminal 2. Although we can see the entrance to Terminal 3, we have to go down through a tunnel, around for a bit, take an exit, and then come back in the main entrance to get there.

5:22 pm

We finally arrive at our British hotel. There is, of course, no "lift" (what the British call an Otis), so the bellman has to schlep our five bags (plus two carry-ons) up two flights of stairs.

And, hey! Our cheap motel has a high-speed Internet connection! Woohoo!

Plus, the bathtub comes complete with a family of yellow rubber duckies! Two baby duckies and a mommy duck (or maybe a daddy duck, we're not sure how you sex rubber duckies).

The duck family in our bathtub

6:00 pm

This is Robert's first meal in England, so he decides to get Fish and Chips.

Laura gets a salad and grilled chicken. Since this is England, the salad didn't show up with the meal and she had to ask for it. Then it came with no dressing. When she asked for dressing, she got a pitcher of oil.

Robert: "You've heard of Italian dressing?"

Laura: "Yes"

Robert: "French dressing?"

Laura: "Yes"

Robert: "Have you ever heard of British dressing?"

Laura: "No..."

Robert: "THAT'S BECAUSE THE BRITISH DON'T EAT SALADS!!! That's like going to a hot dog stand and ordering a veggie burger. Of course it's gonna get screwed up. Sheesh!"

And on that cheerful note, we stagger back to our British beds, grateful for the revolution that gave us American cheese and the freedom to get our salads with dressing on them.

From Jolly Old England,
Robert & Laura


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