Heading to Rome

Returning to Italy after 50 days seems, at least, extravagant. But circumstances converged to make sense, from my point of view, to go to Rome in late February despite having left Florence at the end of December. I have a lot of banked vacation days; instead of spending them cleaning closets in our house, I proposed to travel a bit with Allie. Surprisingly, she agreed. My work schedule makes travel at the end of the month more manageable than early in the month. February is off season, so better airfare and hotel rates can be found. End of March is spring break, so too many other travellers are snapping up flights and hotels. By April, Allie is sure to be home. Most importantly, an exhibition of works by the painter known as Caravaggio opens in Rome on February 18. Thus, I’m off to Rome.

My complete works of Caravaggio book:

The exhibition on the 400th anniversary of Caravaggio’s death has been described as a blockbuster. Caravaggio, whose name was Michelangelo da Merisi, painted around 80 canvases, before dying at age 38. This exhibit will include key works which without debate were by his hand. Included will be some of his important late altarpieces from villages in Sicily where Caravaggio was in exile after killing a man in Rome. (He’s not been called the bad boy of Baroque for nothing.) If you’re interested in Caravaggio and his paintings, try here.

I used Aeroplan points to book from Calgary to London, then booked British Airways from London to Rome — and collected BA points for future London travel. Scott doesn’t feel he can take the time off, so it’s just me going to meet Allie in Rome — we hope Allie will be there!

As a Canadian student in the Netherlands, Allie requires a residency permit because the Netherlands is a party to the Schengen Agreement. (The agreement is named after the town in Luxembourg where it was signed.) The Schengen Agreement includes most of continental Europe and allows free crossing of borders for nationals of the member countries (among other immigration provisions). Citizens of most non-member countries require a visa, but Canada is among the exempted countries. However, the exemption for entering and staying in the Schengen countries only applies for up to 90 days in a 6 month period. Then you must leave for a minimum of 90 days before you can enter a Schengen country again. Otherwise, a residency permit is required. Allie got one as she was there to study, but it expired on February 8. She cannot get another because she is no longer a registered student nor is she employed in the Netherlands. After some calling around to the Canadian embassy (who were no help) and different Dutch government agencies, Allie was told by the Dutch immigration office that she could travel for two months after her permit expired as long as she could show she was leaving.  So, we hope, a copy of her eticket for her KLM flight to Calgary will keep her from getting deported or fined as she travels around in February and March.

Meanwhile, I’m planning to take just one carry on bag so that I can bring Allie’s big brown suitcase, aka the turd coffin, back to Calgary, leaving Allie with a few essentials to travel with until she returns, since after the end of February, she will no longer have her room in Groningen.

The turd coffin as seen in Amsterdam in August:

As we travel more, I’m learning to pack less.

Discounting the overnight flight, I will have eight days to pack for. Shoes are the biggest problem because you can’t squish them down. I don’t wear the same shoes every day (to help keep my feet happy), so need two pairs. At least I’m not packing heels. I’ll wear comfortable boots and pack a pair of walking shoes.

I’ve managed to reduce toiletry items by saving the free samples of facial moisturizer and fragrance that cosmetic counters give away as well as other samples like shampoo and conditioner. In fact, I’ve been doing too good a job saving samples. When I recently cleaned out a bathroom cupboard, I discovered I have about 20 little vials of fragrance. But with the liquids restrictions for carry on luggage, these small packets have been crucial to getting all my lotions, creams, gels, hair products, contact lens solutions, mascara, nail polish, lipbalm and toothpaste into that measly one litre bag.

I’m also taking my tiny netbook which means I need the bulky power cord. I’m taking my UK mobile phone since it worked well in Florence as well as in London and doesn’t incur international roaming charges like my iPhone. (A 20 minute phone call to Bob and Nancy cost $44 at a reduced rate!) But I’m also taking my iPhone because it stores my itinerary, contact details, notes, ebooks, games, music, Italian dictionary and generally eliminates heavy books and other papers. In a pinch, despite the expensive data roaming charges, I may want my iPhone for its maps and GPS, and I can use it to post to this blog. Of course, my camera is getting packed along with the European and UK adapters for all these electronic items.

Hope I can manage these bags:

The carry on plan should work well getting to Italy. However, I’m also packing a duffle bag to use on my return trip from London to Calgary since Allie reports the turd coffin is overweight. Under Air Canada’s new luggage policy, it’s $50 for a second bag; 10% less if I purchase online instead of at the luggage counter. That’s better than the overweight charge of $100. Hmm, if I have the duffle with me in Rome, I might be able to use it going from Rome to London if I buy too many bulky things, like shoes or lovely Italian fashions. Not that I’m saying I will buy a bunch of things!

And so I’m off, and if Allie fails to arrive, then I’ll be on my own travelling solo (and not for work) for the first time since in many, many years.

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