Wednesday, December 21, 2016

TRAVELERS: Croatia/Slovenia Travelogue (Part 4 – Departure)

November 29, 2016 (Tuesday)

The coldest morning yet (-1 degrees Celsius or 28 degrees Fahrenheit).  Neither Doug nor Kay felt well – I guess a cold was traveling around the group (lucky me!) -- so they skipped the city tour that day.  The rest of us bussed to Ljubliana and met Jasmine, our local guide.  She was perky and informative.  However, much of the tour was a cold walk through Old Town with few pockets of sun (the streets were narrow).  By about 30 minutes into the 90 minute walk, I was freezing.  I brought a warm coat, hat and scarf, but forgot gloves.  Big mistake.  I was impressed that Jasmine could remember her spiel (and in a foreign-to-her language).  I was so cold I could barely remember how to speak let alone form coherent sentences.  Ljubliana is a beautiful city, and I would love to have spent more time here.  But about 20 degrees (Fahrenheit) warmer would be nice.

I took shelter from the cold in a nearby coffee shop.  I ordered hot coffee and a pastry Jasmine recommended called gibanica, layered with poppy seeds, walnuts, apples and cheese.  It gave kremsnita a run for its money.

Once I could feel my fingers and toes again I sought out Ljubliana’s 12-story skyscraper to get an aerial view of the city.  (I didn’t take many pictures on the walking tour because my fingers were blocks of ice.)  After that jaunt I had about 30 minutes before rendezvousing with the bus, so I headed to a pizza place recommended by Rick Steves.  Unfortunately they didn’t have pizza “to go,” and I did not have time for a sit down meal.  Instead I found a corner grocery that sold pizza slices.  Problem solved.

Back to Lake Bled for a brief tour of Castle Bled.  I was keen to walk around the lake, so I took the pictures I wanted from the castle and made a quick circuit of the castle’s museum before heading down the hill to the 3.5 mile trail that circled the lake.  The total circumference takes about 90 minutes to walk, so I needed to get going before the sun went down.  It was worth it.  The walk kept me warm, though the shady stretches were challenging temperature-wise.  I got plenty of pictures before the cold forced me to walk with more purpose.  I ran into Kay and Doug heading in the opposite direction around the lake.  Kay insisted that I stop on my way to the hotel and get my picture drawn by a fellow named Bobby.  She showed me the picture he had drawn of her, and the drawing would indeed make a nice souvenir.  However, when I finally reached Bobby further along the trail he had three people waiting to have their picture drawn.  I was getting cold and needed to keep moving.

Tomorrow I leave the hotel for Venice airport at 4:00.  I set a wake-up call for 3:00, though I will probably set my alarm 15 minutes before that for safety.  I have been waking up between 2:00 and 3:00 the whole trip, so I’m hoping the early hour won’t be too traumatizing.

Tonight is the farewell dinner and, I suspect, an early night for most.  One couple leaves for the airport at 2:00.  Ugh!

The farewell dinner was very nice.  At first I was seated at a table with Suzanne and others, but Kay dragged me over to a different table with her, Doug, Sharon and her husband, Phil and his wife, and Sabrina and Ryan (aka “the kids,” an adorable pair of 30-year-olds who were the youngest members of the tour).  I went around the room taking pictures of my travel companions.  I was so distracted by the process I told the waitress I had ordered the vegetarian entrée (I’d ordered the fish).  I didn’t realize my mistake until I had already eaten the first course.  I tried to explain to the waitress, but she gave me the look of death.  Fortunately, Elvis stopped by and was able to explain more clearly on my behalf what had happened.

Elvis gave a sweet speech, then Phil gave a funny speech, and Doug, to everyone’s surprise, gave a touching speech praising Elvis and Mario (our driver), all our tour guides in the various cities, and everyone in the tour group.  To which Elvis profoundly observed that we are not tourists but travelers.  Travelers indeed, seeking understanding of those who are otherwise mostly strangers.

Because of the Lufthansa pilot strike many folks had to change flights.  Thanks to this Kay would no longer be leaving at 2:00 but at 4:00 (the same time as me).  As the dinner ended, emails were exchanged, and Kay invited Doug and me back to her place for a little wine while she packed.  Doug and I left after a drink, as we had to be up in around three hours.

November 30, 2016 (Wednesday)

The nine departing travelers gathered at 4:00.  To my disappointment we were taking two shuttles, and Kay was going with the kids in the second shuttle.  I was stuck with irritating Agnes, the mundane sisters, and a mother/daughter pair.  However, as luck would have it, the drivers were okay with one person from our van traveling in the second van.  I volunteered like a shot.

So, Kay, the kids and I drove with Rudi.  The kids slept most of the way.  Kay and I both tried to sleep without much success.  At the airport Kay and I hung out until our respective flights departed – she on Lufthansa, me on Air France.  Happily there was a very helpful Italian employee that guided us to where we need to be.

Our parting was brief.  We had exchanged information.  Little did I know at that moment that I had lost the small piece of paper with her email and phone and full name.  I meant to send her an email or text to make sure all her rescheduled flights worked out, but that will have to wait until I track down her information.  I did retain Suzanne’s email, so I wrote her on the chance she may have Kay’s information.  She did not, but Doug did.  She and Doug and six others had stayed on in Venice for a couple of days.  Suzanne said that Doug would send me Kay’s information when he could.  I hope so.  Kay and I actually live close enough where we could visit each other on occasion.

The flight home was uneventful, except for nearly missing my connecting flight in Paris and not getting headphones for the long flight back.  I slept most of the way.  And, when I didn't, it was video Solitaire or Who Wants To Be A Millionaire (I was one question away from retiring, alas!) or reading until I fell back asleep.  It was a great trip all told.

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