So here I am in an internet cafe, trying very hard not to waste too much money…actually the internet cafe prices are pretty reasonable, but still I would rather be frugal while I’m only working with a small per diem. So…on with the stories.

My travel to Spoleto took 24 hours. At 9:45 AM, I met up with a couple friends in NJ and the three of us were driven to our meeting point in Center City, Philadelphia, where we were scheduled to take a bus to JFK at 11 AM. Although we were supposed to load the bus at 10:45, the bus didn’t arrive until about 11:15. We all piled on the bus, ready to go, until we realized that we were waiting for 2 people who were stuck in traffic trying to get to us. By the time they arrived, it was 12:30!

(Warning: the next couple of paragraphs are really only understandable if you know your way around New York)

Luckily, our flight from JFK wasn’t scheduled until 5, so we still had plenty of time. But the bus driver clearly didn’t know how to get to JFK from Philadelphia, because instead of taking the Verrazano Bridge from the NJ Turnpike for a pretty much straight shot across Staten Island and the lower part of Brooklyn to JFK, he decided to go through Manhattan. But he didn’t even go through the lower part of Manhattan through the Holland Tunnel; he decided to take the Lincoln Tunnel right through Midtown.

Since it was Sunday, one would think there wouldn’t be TOO much traffic in the city, but it was the day of the Gay Pride Parade, and we had to wait in traffic for it to pass! A lot of people who don’t normally have a chance to see New York thought it was fun, but I was not amused. Then, once he crossed Manhattan into Brooklyn, I thought he would get on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway to JFK, but instead he went into the middle of Brooklyn (and through more traffic) to get on the Van Wyck Expressway. By the time we got to JFK, it was 3:30 PM, and we only had an hour and a half before our flight was supposed to leave.

Once at the airport, the woman at the counter had a problem with my reservation because the people at the travel agency made my reservation under my maiden name instead of my married name. Actually, what they did was to hyphenate my name, which is not the way it is on my passport. I had a minor coronary when they told me I didn’t have a ticket on the flight…and it took three people to straighten it all out! After everything was settled, the woman at the counter told me that I should change my passport to reflect the hyphenated name. I told her that the hyphenated name was not my legal name, and she told me I was wrong. I’m not sure why the woman at the airline would think she knows what my legal name is better than me, but I guess they must breed a certain special arrogance at Air France.

The view from the tarmac. That plane is passing us in line!

I arrived at the gate about 20 minutes before boarding time, with enough for me to grab an overpriced sandwich at the terminal so I didn’t starve to death. I shouldn’t have worried, though, because 5:00 came and went without a call for boarding. The crew was a half hour late getting to the gate, and then we had to wait another half hour before getting on the plane. Once on the plane, we waited for another hour in line on the tarmac to take off.

Needless to say, we missed our connecting flight in Paris. We also missed the next connecting flight, too, because of the time it takes to transfer and get through customs. After going through customs in Paris, we had to go back through security, even though we our connecting flight was in the same terminal, and the people at Charles de Gaulle also had a problem with the name on my passport not matching the name on my ticket. Although they figured out the problem a lot quicker than the folks in America, they did make fun of my poor French.

We also had to wait in the plane in Paris, this time for some connecting flights to arrive. Once we got in the air, we were yet another 2 hours behind schedule.

We arrived in Rome at about 12:30 PM Italy time, which for us jetlagged travelers was about 6:30 AM East Coast time. We had to wait, however, for the bus to Spoleto to arrive and be loaded with our bags, so they told us to get some lunch and come back at 2:00. We ended up leaving the Rome Airport by 2:30, ready for an hour and a half bus ride to Spoleto.

Unfortunately, our bus driver was Ukranian, and he got completely lost! He circled around Rome a couple times before finally finding the right highway to get on. Our “guide” was no help at all and sat at the front of the bus with a deer-in-headlights look on her face.

Our bus had some seats with tables, so I sat in a seat facing the back, which was a bad idea. The ride that was originally supposed to last an hour and a half lasted almost 3 hours, and for the last hour I was terribly car sick. That was also the part where we started climbing the hills and going around and around in narrow, curvy roads. Ugh. While the rest of the singers were exclaiming about the beautiful scenery, it was all I could do to stay upright.

Our first rehearsal was supposed to be the day we arrived, Monday, at 6 PM. But since we arrived in Spoleto at 5:30 PM (11:30 AM in Philly, 24 hours after we were supposed to leave), they pushed the rehearsal time to 7:45 to give us time to find our apartments and change. But the folks at the festival totally screwed up everyone’s housing, so some people didn’t have a place to stay that first day! Luckily, I ended up getting moved to a different apartment, but my new apartment was much closer to the center of town and a larger place, so I couldn’t really complain.

I had some frustrating experiences with the Italian pay phones trying to call Ray. It was so frustrating, actually that I ended up getting an international cell phone, but that’s a story for another day, I think, since I am almost out of time here at the internet cafe.

View of the Piazzo del Mercato from my room.

Suffice to say that although those 24 hours were particularly hellish, the next morning was so beautiful, especially after a good night’s sleep, that I was finally able to appreciate how lucky I was to be in such a gorgeous Italian town.

Ciao from Italy
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