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The Long Journey Home

3 Oct

Baxter and Lulu at Ben Gurion Airport

The driver arrived promptly at 2 a.m. We loaded all our bags and kitties in their carriers into the van and made our way to Ben Gurion Airport. Lulu cried nearly the entire way. And Baxter puked on his towel just minutes before arriving at the terminal. All standard and expected behavior for those two. Check-in at the airport was smooth and speedy. I was a bit miffed, though, that no one even asked to see the paperwork for the kitties that I’d spent so much time and money preparing before our departure. After we checked into the flight and paid for the kitties (they were flying as “excess baggage” at $200 per cat) we wheeled Baxter and Lulu in their carriers to an elevator where a Lufthansa employee took over and whisked our kitties away. It broke my heart to part with them and I prayed we’d soon be reunited safely in the U.S.

A four-hour layover in Frankfurt was mitigated by being able to hang out in the Lufthansa Senator Lounge, thanks to the subscription frequent flyer Brad had invested in. In the lounge we had comfy chairs, free wifi and free food at our disposal. And a Lufthansa rep checked on the kitties for us and verified that they had safely arrived and were resting in the “pet lounge.”

On the shuttle from the airport to the rental car facility

We arrived at Dulles Airport around 3:30 p.m., about a half-hour early only to find ourselves waiting in an hour-long queue to go through passport control. Ugh! While we were shuffling through the line, I spied Baxter’s and Lulu’s carriers way against the wall on the far side of the baggage carousels. As soon as we got through passport control I made a bee line for the kitties while Brad collected our luggage. Both Baxter and Lulu were alert and appeared healthy and there were no messes in their carriers. Baxter was hunkered down in the far corner of the carrier while Lulu cried and paced back and forth in her carrier. She calmed down as we began wheeling them out of the baggage area. We breezed through customs. Again, no one asked for nor looked at any paperwork relating to the cats. We loaded our bags and the kitties onto the shuttle to the rental car facility where we picked up our rental van.

At the rental car facility

By the time we hit the DC Beltway it was 6 p.m. We heard scarcely a peep out of Lulu and Baxter on the drive home. We figured by now they’d resigned themselves to their fate. We drove first to our house where we dropped the kitties off for the night. We opened the carrier doors and they both burst out into our empty house, and began exploring every inch of the house — jumping on top of counters and cabinets, nosing into closets, running up and down the stairs. I wondered again if they recognized  the place.

We’d arranged to have kitty litter waiting for us there and had brought cat food with us, so they were set for the night. By then we were famished and decided to stop off for a bite to eat before checking into the hotel. Luckily, one of our fave Thai restaurants is located just around the corner from the hotel. It was 9 p.m. by the time we checked in. We’d been on the road more than 24 hours. I slept like a log.

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Calm Before The Storm?

21 Sep

This is how I found Baxter and Lulu this afternoon. They’ve recovered quite well from being shut up for a day in the bathroom while the movers traipsed through the house packing up all our belongings. During clean-up after the move, I found several cat toys behind one couch. The kids are ignoring them for now. Baxter’s hot spot seems to be healing quite well.

The two of them haven’t a clue what lies in their future: another vet visit for a health certificate. Then a few days later we will leave with them in the wee hours of the morning for a ride to the airport. After the long flight home, and a long drive home from Dulles Airport during DC rush hour traffic we will drop them off at our home in Linthicum.

I wonder if they will recognize their old stomping grounds? I also wonder if they will miss this house in Israel with its tall windows looking out onto an exotic landscape, its various nooks and corners for running and chasing each other around and one very nifty kitty hiding place?

On The Road Again

18 May

Me and Morgan

My two-week sojourn in the States comes to an end this afternoon. The time has flown by quickly since my arrival on May 5. Brad was already here when I arrived, having left five days earlier for some business meetings.

I should have been making daily blog posts since my arrival but I didn’t (though I did manage to post a few pics on facebook). I filled my days with visits with family and friends, usually over lunch or dinner or drinks. Got my fill of some of my favorite foods (i.e. Maryland crab cakes, mexican food, thai food, chinese food, indian food). Visited with Brad’s family in Ohio where we played many a game of Shanghai Rummy and a few rounds of Scrabble. Attended Worthington’s first farmer’s market of the season and walked amongst the butterflies at Franklin Park Conservatory. Had a great impromptu lunch with one sister and a lovely day of shopping at Annapolis Towne Centre with the other. Got to meet JoAnn’s new kitty Desmond. Watched the extended season premiere of Mad Men and absolutely loved it. I simply cannot get the tune Zou Bisou Bisou out of my head…and I don’t care, because I love the song! Went to see Dark Shadows. I am a huge Johnny Depp/Tim Burton fan so it was difficult not to disappoint with that outing. And, best of all, though I hate picking favorites, I got to meet my grand niece Morgan.

Suffering a bit from travel jitters this morning — surprisingly, as I am a seasoned traveller. But I’m finding travel to be more of a slog than ever these days. The journey sucks, but being there is usually well worth the effort.

I dropped my rental car off a bit before noon today. The plan was for JoAnn to pick me up at the rental car facility so we could go out for lunch and then she could drop me off at the hotel where I would meet Brad after he returned from his morning conference. After dropping the car off, I spent about five minutes searching for my sunglasses, during which time I noticed my credit card holder was missing from its usual place in my purse.

In a panic, I ran back to the rental car drop off point to see if I could retrieve my credit cards. Turns out I’d left my sweater in the car but no one had seen my credit card holder. The car had already been driven off by an employee to an upper level where the cars are washed before being rented out again. They sent an employee up to check for my credit card holder. He returned without it. My panic level rose a few notches. I distinctly remembered my purse falling over onto the passenger side floor and I was convinced the black leather card holder was there, camouflaged by the black flooring of the car.

The nice rental car man drove me up to the upper level so I could check the car myself. Turns out he checked inside the wrong car. He was looking in the black Ford Focus but I had driven the black Ford Fiesta. Ahh, I was sure I would recover my credit card holder. But no! It was not there on the floor of the car. I was stumped. I knew no one could have had a chance to get in the car and take it. And that’s when it dawned on me. I had put the credit card holder in my back pocket when I filled the car up at the gas station. Sheepishly I admitted my mistake. The rental car guy was very nice about it all, as was JoAnn, who was waiting for me patiently in the parking lot.

Geez. I can really do without these last-minute panic attacks! So, I’m back in the hotel room now. Brad has returned from his conference and is packing up the last of his items. I’ll have to sign off momentarily and we will be off again. Maybe the journey won’t be so bad this time. I’ve got a great book to read (The Devil in the White City) and hubby will be by my side. Tel Aviv, here we come!

Rome to Tel Aviv

18 Nov

Naples and Mt. Vesuvius from above

Vesuvio from above

Staying at a B&B in Ostia had two great advantages: proximity to Ostia Antica and proximity to Rome’s Fiumicino airport. It took less than a half hour to get to the airport from the B&B. Vince was headed to San Francisco via Paris, Domenica was traveling to Baltimore via Atlanta and I was flying direct to Tel Aviv. Our different destinations meant we each departed from a different terminal. We said our goodbyes to each other after we’d barely entered the airport.

The best part of my flight home was that I got a fantastic view of Naples and Mt. Vesuvius from above. I was disappointed that we didn’t fly over Sicily; by the time we had gotten that far south the pilot had already begun to turn the plane east toward Israel. Other good things about my flight home: there was no one in the seat next to me, I arrived on time, I breezed through passport control and customs, Eli the taxi driver was ready and waiting for me in the arrivals hall. The drive home in Tel Aviv rush hour traffic, unfortunately, seemed to take as long as the flight from Rome to Tel Aviv.

Italy or Bust

9 Nov

Postcard from Sicily

A postcard I purchased during my last visit to Sicily

The night before B. and I left for a weekend visit to Rosh Pina our washing machine went on the fritz. Luckily, I had already finished washing clothes. It was while I was washing a load of towels that the machine went berserk, constantly blowing the circuit breaker. We got it fixed upon our return and it’s been going along swimmingly since then.

Until tonight. The night before I depart for Italy. Again, I’d already washed the clothes and I decided to throw in a load of towels. This time the spin cycle wouldn’t work. The towels were sopping wet after running them through an extra spin cycle. Grrrr. Not fun having to wring out all those towels by hand before throwing them into the dryer. And even so, it took about three hours to get them dry!

And this, the night after my kitchen sink decided to spew water from below rather than from the faucet. That was fixed this morning.

Is this a case of home appliance sabotage? Some sort of nefarious plot to keep me housebound? Or just a set of really annoying coincidences?

Well, nothing will keep me from going to Italy tomorrow. Even the general strike that threatened to close down Ben Gurion airport this week only lasted for four hours on Monday.

I’m all packed now and ready to go. I just got word that the internet is down at the B&B in Sicily where I’ll be staying. It may be awhile before I check in again.

Sicilia, Vengo Subito!

8 Nov

Stuff for Sicily

Or in other words…Sicily, here I come! By now, my brother and sister, who arrived in Rome a week ago last Sunday and have been making their way by car to Sicily, should have checked into the little B&B Don Gaspano that I booked last August. I’m scheduled to depart on a 5:30 a.m. Alitalia flight Thursday morning. The taxi driver will be picking me up at 2:30 a.m. (ugh!) for transfer to Ben Gurion airport. I’m thinking maybe I shall sleep in extra late tomorrow morning and just stay up until 2:30 a.m.

My sibs and I will spend four days in Sicily visiting with our relatives, another day in Calabria visiting another relative, and then we will be back on the road heading north to Rome, with a two-day stop in Alberobello along the way.

Though I travel frequently, for some reason, I feel antsy about this journey and have gone obsessive-compulsive about my preparations.

A week ago I began piling items I want to remember to bring with me on a table in my office, namely, gifts for my relatives in Sicily and all the cables and adapters I will need for the electronic equipment I’ll be taking with me.

I’m looking at all that stuff now and hoping I’ll be able to find room in my one carry-on that I’m bringing with me. Last time I flew to Sicily on Alitalia they managed to lose my luggage and it took three days for them to get it to me. The only way to make sure that doesn’t happen again is for me to schlep all my stuff with me.

I’ve made calls to Orange Big Talk to ensure I’ll have cell phone access in Italy. What if I’m delayed transferring out of Rome to Catania where my sibs will be picking me up??

I’ve been mentally packing my suitcase all week. Tomorrow morning I’ll do the packing in earnest.

I dropped the key off to my petsitter, and have made sure there is fresh litter in the boxes and plenty of cat food while I’m away.

To make matters really frustrating, this evening something got knocked loose under the kitchen sink and water began spewing out onto the floor as I was doing the dishes. Arrrgh! I didn’t budget time for this clean-up! I’m hopeless at home repairs, so I’ll need to call maintenance tomorrow morning to come out to fix this.

I really doubt I’ll be successful in my plans to sleep in tomorrow.

A Strange Coincidence Involving An Earthquake and an Unattended Bag

25 Aug

Ben-Gurion Airport Arrivals Hall

Escaped Balloons at Ben-Gurion Airport Arrivals Hall

I travel frequently and usually my journeys are uneventful. Not so, at least for the beginning of my journey back home last Tuesday from my sojourn in the States.

My flight was due to depart BWI airport at 2:36 p.m. I had arrived ridiculously early at the airport so sat down to have a bite to eat at a restaurant near my gate in concourse D. As I was getting ready to pay my bill I overheard someone say there had been a bomb threat. All the merchants in concourse D had been instructed to close shop and our waitresses rushed to get everyone to settle their bill. I expected to hear an announcement regarding the threat. At least an order to evacuate the building. Not a peep from the PA system so I made my way to my gate near the end of concourse D.

There were not many people at my gate and it was business as normal as far as I could tell. The airline employee at the gate gave no indication of any threat or imminent evacuation. I began to think someone had been mistaken about the bomb threat and sat down to read my book.

A little while later I noticed the bank of chairs on which I was sitting began to vibrate. I heard a roaring noise as if a large truck were passing nearby. Then the entire building began to shake violently. The walls were swaying as if they were made of cardboard and would collapse at any minute. The shaking was over in a matter of seconds. But then the bewilderment and began.

People began looking around with quizzical looks and we were asking each other, “What the heck just happened?” One man nearby declared it was an earthquake. I was inclined to agree with him but thoughts of the recent bomb threat were niggling at the back of my mind. Then, a crowd of people began streaming into our end of the concourse. The panic level had definitely risen. One woman declared, “We have to get out of this building. Something just hit the airport. We have to get outside!” Some people began banging at the doors trying to get outside. Meanwhile, ever since the first rumblings, the airline employee was trying to get some sort of report over the phone. No reports were forthcoming but she decided to open the doors anyhow and many people ran outside.

Eventually, there was an announcement over the PA system to evacuate the building. I stepped outside and tried unsuccessfully to reach my sisters on my cell phone. I was near a fellow who was online and delivering reports from his facebook page: “It was an earthquake!” “5.8 quake centered in Virginia” Many people were incredulous of his reports. It seemed they preferred to believe it was a bomb rather than an earthquake. But the facebook reporter persisted. “it was 5. 2…no, 5.9! They felt it in DC!”

About ten minutes later we were allowed to reenter the building and the gate personnel confirmed the earthquake report. It wasn’t until I arrived home that I found out there had indeed been a bomb scare over an unattended bag near the security gate in concourse D. The folks who had come kicking and screaming to our gate had already gone through security and were in an agitated state even before the earthquake struck. Those who hadn’t gone through security had been ordered to evacuate the building while a bomb squad had been sent in to inspect the unattended bag.

All of this only amounted to a half hour delay in my flight departure. The rest of my journey was, well, uneventful. Two more flight changes and nearly 24 hours later I was back in Ben-Gurion airport ready for the ride home with hubby. When I walked in the door I had to laugh when little Lulu’s jelly belly swayed from side to side as she ran to greet me.