Venice DIY Trip Planning

Photo of Venice by: Ryan Darvish Venice, Italy

Planning your time: Rick Steve's has a great itinerary that flows well from place to place and shows you how much you can realistically cram into one or two days. We started here, then deleted what we weren't interested in and added a few other things based on web research. It gives you a good idea of how long to spend at certain attractions. We'll be taking his 2008 Italy guidebook with us for reference. The museum tours and walks are the best feature of his guidebooks.

Finding a hotel: What do other people think? Trip Adviser's website gets a bad rap. You of course have to be careful to choose a hotel that has a lot of really positive and recent reviews. You don't want one that has one 5 star review or one that has a ton of 5 star reviews, but recently went downhill, but still has a good average. Actually read the reviews, a lot of Americans complain about a hotel based on the size of the rooms when in reality it could be a lovely hotel that is typically European in size. I find the user photos to be particularly useful. Hotels are great about having photos on their websites which make the rooms feel larger or nicer. Seeing an actual room gives taken with somebody's 2 mega-pixel camera gives me a better idea. I take many reviews with a grain of salt, they could be competitors posting bad comments or the hotel itself self promoting with fake reviews. If a hotel interests me on Trip Advisor I look into it at least two other ways as well. For peer reviewed hotel suggestions I also look into what travel bloggers on Travel Pod have to say. It's hard to find somebody who has stayed at each place I'm interested in so this was less useful. If you're looking for lonely out of the way backpacker budget selections this is a great starting place.

I like Venere for their maps, which make it easy to find hotels by which part of Venice you want to stay in. I still book through Expedia to get my Thank You points and they are usually cheaper.
People who review hotels for a living can usually be trusted to give decent advice or word gets around and they don't sell guidebooks/newspapers/ads. I looked into NY Times, Rick Steve's Venice hotels (from his 2008 guidebook), National Geographic and Fodors.

Getting around: Guide to getting around from Lonely Planet
http://www.elmoro.com/: Practical information on how to get to Venice and move around the city.
http://www.alilaguna.com/: Waterbus (vaporetto) info between airport and Venice. www.actv.it/eng/home.php: Waterbus (vaporetto) routes throughout Venice.
Guidebook: We chose the 2008 Italy Rick Steve's for its walks and museum guides. It best meets our travel style. We like to have a general idea of what we want to do and walk most places.

The Rough Guide to Italy: Didn't have much more to offer than Rick Steves. We liked the good maps for all regions of Italy.

The Green Michelin Guide: This is useful for museums because they have very detailed descriptions of the art, but it didn't meet our needs in Italy.

Lonely Planet Venice

Other good info:

http://www.invenicetoday.com/: Events in Venice today.

savevenice.org: Venice restoration projects that are ongoing.

Venice Carnival Everything that you need to know about the Carnival...

Authentic Gondolas Learn about Gondolas and their history at the International Center for Wooden Boat Building

Wikitravel Venice

Main Attraction Websites: useful for finding up-to-date opening times, prices, and other info that might be out of date in whatever guidebook you're using. I'll add more as I find them.

Basilica dei Frari
Basilica di San Marco (39 041 2708311)
Collezione Peggy Guggenheim (39 041 2405411)
Palazzo Pisani
School of St Roch (Scuola di San Rocco)


Revised Europe Packing List

Europe Packing List (2)

After taking my Aeronaut with me on a quick business trip to Anchorage this weekend full of 27 pounds (laptop, chargers, 2 pairs of shoes, 5 star restaurant clothes, weekend clothes, work clothes, toiletries, etc.) I got to feel first hand what it felt like with that much stuff stuffed into it. Any doubts I had about leaving the laptop at home for our upcoming trip are gone, it adds a lot of weight and takes up a third of the main bag space. I also realized how necessary the Absolute strap is when carrying heavy loads. Thankfully the heavy load almost disappeared when carried as a backpack, so it was nice to know that I could handle the weight even when it is super heavy.

After living with the clothes I planned on packing for a week, reading the suggestions of my wonderful readers, and going shopping in Anchorage last weekend I revised my packing list. Hubby is off on a 4 day work trip camping with his Aeronaut with his camp stove, clothes, cooking dishes and other camping gear in the bag. He'll be reporting back on how it went

What came out of the bag:
1 dress-Two skirts with tops provide more options than two dresses.
1 pair flip flops-Not going to be taking showers in hostels and can't walk in them all day.
camera (moved to Hubby's bag)
1 hoody & 1 pair terry pants - I'm taking a smaller and easier to wash/dry sleep shirt.

Also not bringing:
1 messenger bag day bag-The flap on the bag made the items inside too inaccessible. The LED light inside also didn't work so it's going back to eBags.

What went into the bag:
1 Tide-to-go pen
1 pair Birkenstock sandals
1 cardigan
1 sleep shirt/2nd dress
1 bag lock

Also bringing:
1 hobo handbag - this replaces my messenger bag. It has a top zipper which keeps the stuff inside secure, fits under my arm, is roomy enough to carry all of our stuff for the day and has two rings on either side to attach a cross-body strap if I decide to. It also has a little pocket on the outside to slip the camera into and out of throughout the day. Ironically enough, I already owned this bag and didn't need to buy a new one for this trip, sometimes it pays to take a look around before going shopping.

I'm taking tiny travel size shampoos and conditioners from the Body Shop after still being unable to find solid toiletries at a reasonable price and because I have strong allergies which make relying on hotel toiletries to be impractical. I did get my toiletries down to just the essentials so I

I know I'll take some flack for it, but I'm still bringing the jeans and khakis. I hate travel pants and I get too cold to wear skirts the whole time. I've considered wearing leggings with the dresses and skirts, but in the end, I love my jeans, they make me feel beautiful like no other item of clothing and if I have to wash them halfway through so be it. We have two stays of 5 nights or more in one place and they will dry in that amount of time. Since we won't be moving around every day, its not as much of an issue.


His Europe Packing List

I've received more than my normal hits on this blog since posting my packing list so I figured I would add hubbies to the mix. Unlike me, his 3-1-1 bag will probably have aftershave and toothpaste in it and he'll rely on a combination of bar soap and hotel freebies the whole trip. I have also shifted some of the books into his bag and he'll be holding onto a few of our common items such as the laundry supplies and camera.

Hubby will also be toting along the 3 Skype phone. Not yet available in the US, I am going to be given one when we land in Europe to review. Hopefully my review will help future world travelers who are thinking about traveling abroad and renting or buying a Skype phone. I'm certainly looking forward to putting it through its paces. It will have tough competition, stacked up against my Nokia N95 with its 5 mega pixel camera, video camera, wifi internet, GPS and maps features, and Skype through Fring. And no, I'm not being paid to do this review, I'm just trying to make life easier on my fellow travelers and satisfy my geeky curiosity.

The reviews I've read say that the "3 Skype phone will allow users to make free Skype-to-Skype calls and send free instant messages over 3G, in addition to making normal phone calls and browsing the Internet. 3's Skype phone also packs a 2-megapixel camera, Bluetooth, an expandable micro SD card slot (up to 1GB) and weighs a pocket-friendly 85g. The star feature however, has to be the ability to make cheap Skype calls. You can call friends or relatives anywhere in the world via Skype and not spend a penny, or have to be tied up to a laptop or PC -- we like."

We'll see how it pans out. Going to Europe without my laptop has me more than a little freaked. I was browsing the Sony website looking at their 1.8 lb laptop models and even considered the Macbook Air, but I'll just try to settle for cell phones and Internet cafes. We'll see how the blogging goes with the minimal electronics plan.

Back to hubbies packing list. It features REI Adventures pants which actually look like pants, not hiking pants and they don't go "swish" every time he walks which is awesome. They are also kind of soft and feature great little security pockets for wallet, passport, etc. so he'll be happy. My man judges the quality of any garment by the distribution and quantity of pockets.

Also included are more than a fair share of Horny Toad shirts. After I wore my modal shirts from them for several days solid, including biking back and forth to work, with no sweat stains, stink, or discomfort he was sold that the brand was more than just cute and soft. When I found coupon codes for 30% off on top of their sale which is already 30% off he took the plunge. 60% off some awesome travel t's and button downs...awesome. Code is: 38630 for 30% off any order over $125 placed on www.hornytoad.com or simple for 20% off any purchase, both work as of last night.

To explain the jacket situation, I am always cold and will probably wear my jacket in Paris and London 75% or more of the time (probably just the pashmina in Italy). He, on the other hand, won't bring his jacket at all unless it is currently raining. So on bad weather days he'll bring his real jacket and on other days he'll stuff his Marmot Ion jacket which weighs 3 oz in my purse or his pants pocket to pull out only if absolutely needed.

The rest is pretty self explanatory. I am making him bring the long sleeve shirt for the one formal dinner I know we'll have at my conference and the sweater for layering purposes (he probably won't use it). He is bringing along 550 cord, which will serve who knows how many uses, the primary one being as our clothes line. He showed me an old Army trick for using it as a clothes line which convinced me not to buy one of those surgical rubber models. He stole one of my large Tom Bihn packing cubes and fit everything but his pants in it. Maybe I'll have to steal his Absolute Strap and we'll call it even. If it weren't for the shipping cost I'd order a few more cubes and the strap, those things are awesome. And yes, it all fit in his Aeronaut, including his shoes which he'll actually wear on the plane, with tons of room to spare. Yay, more room for souvenirs.

Feedback appreciated...


What Kind of D&D Character are You

This doesn't sound like any characters I've played, but it does sound like me.

I Am A: True Neutral Halfling Bard/Sorcerer (2nd/2nd Level)

Ability Scores:







True Neutral A true neutral character does what seems to be a good idea. He doesn't feel strongly one way or the other when it comes to good vs. evil or law vs. chaos. Most true neutral characters exhibit a lack of conviction or bias rather than a commitment to neutrality. Such a character thinks of good as better than evil after all, he would rather have good neighbors and rulers than evil ones. Still, he's not personally committed to upholding good in any abstract or universal way. Some true neutral characters, on the other hand, commit themselves philosophically to neutrality. They see good, evil, law, and chaos as prejudices and dangerous extremes. They advocate the middle way of neutrality as the best, most balanced road in the long run. True neutral is the best alignment you can be because it means you act naturally, without prejudice or compulsion. However, true neutral can be a dangerous alignment because it represents apathy, indifference, and a lack of conviction.

Halflings are clever, capable and resourceful survivors. They are notoriously curious and show a daring that many larger people can't match. They can be lured by wealth but tend to spend rather than hoard. They prefer practical clothing and would rather wear a comfortable shirt than jewelry. Halflings stand about 3 feet tall and commonly live to see 150.

Primary Class:
Bards often serve as negotiators, messengers, scouts, and spies. They love to accompany heroes (and villains) to witness heroic (or villainous) deeds firsthand, since a bard who can tell a story from personal experience earns renown among his fellows. A bard casts arcane spells without any advance preparation, much like a sorcerer. Bards also share some specialized skills with rogues, and their knowledge of item lore is nearly unmatched. A high Charisma score allows a bard to cast high-level spells.

Secondary Class:
Sorcerers are arcane spellcasters who manipulate magic energy with imagination and talent rather than studious discipline. They have no books, no mentors, no theories just raw power that they direct at will. Sorcerers know fewer spells than wizards do and acquire them more slowly, but they can cast individual spells more often and have no need to prepare their incantations ahead of time. Also unlike wizards, sorcerers cannot specialize in a school of magic. Since sorcerers gain their powers without undergoing the years of rigorous study that wizards go through, they have more time to learn fighting skills and are proficient with simple weapons. Charisma is very important for sorcerers; the higher their value in this ability, the higher the spell level they can cast.

Find out What Kind of Dungeons and Dragons Character Would You Be?, courtesy of Easydamus (e-mail)


Summer Travel Dresses via Travelista

Travelista has a new post on summer travel dresses. I particularly like the navy dress from J.Crew which she linked to. It would totally go with the pashmina I'm already bringing and if I threw a pair of leggings on I could wear it on the plane. I particularly like her video on how to wear a pashmina which is originally how I found my way onto her post. Here are some excerpts from her dress post:

"Summertime travel in Europe demands clothing that is functional and fabulous. Nobody wants to be a hot mess when travelling. Don’t bust out your Karl Lagerfed fan just yet, a breezy travel dress can help conquer those hot days. Dresses are a natural for traveling. Instead of packing several separates to complete one outfit you are only packing a single item. Dresses easily take you from your daytime sightseeing to evening activities. A great travel dress will make you look totally chic and put together no matter what the occasion. When selecting a travel dress, fashion takes a back seat to comfort and fit. Shirtdress styles, wrap dresses, and longer tunic style dresses are flattering choices and easy to dress up with just a few accessories."


Packing for the Man

Hubby doesn't see the need to pack this early in the game. He kind of laughed as he watched me take over the living room, laying things out, putting things back, arranging outfits on the floor and then weighing everything after checking it off my packing list. Then I asked him what he was planning on bringing and given that he won't be wearing shorts and t-shirts the whole time (his normal summer casual uniform), but pants and polos, he reevaluated the need for early planning. All of his work pants and khakis work in Alaska and are 100% cotton. This makes them unfriendly for hot weather and hard to wash as we go. He also has suit pants, which are not travel or weather appropriate. His last option is his hiking pants of which he has two pairs. The first of which have zip off shorts which act like rubber bands on his thighs. Even though the rest of the pant fits, they look awful. The second pair are so loose they look like MC Hammer pants. Men's travel pants are really hard to find.

I first turned to google. A surprising amount of men wear the zip-off pants as travel pants, blech. Being an extensive traveler myself, I never see those pants on the locals, unless I'm actually out hiking. I looked on the OBOW (one bag one world) page, but they didn't seem to have any good finds on their "Solution to the pants problem" post. I went to stand by stores Eddie Bauer, REI, and Dockers which left me with a couple options.
  • The REI Adventures Pant, which were reviewed as having problems with pilling.
  • Dockers Championship Pant Pleated are nice because they are non-cotton, they are reinforced for men bending over while lining up their golf shots, and designed for hot weather. I didn't like the pleated part of them, which adds bulk around the middle to even the thinnest of guys.

By this time I realized why we buy all of his clothes at Eddie Bauer. Their excellent return policy means that as he wears out his pants I can steadily replace them for free and their website is a one-stop place to get items for a 6'-2" guy who wears a size Medium-Tall. Most men's clothes brands don't sell Medium-Tall and in general shopping for men's clothes is boring. I wouldn't do it at all, except for the fact that he would literally wear his current wardrobe until it fell off of him threadbare if I didn't encourage him in the fashion department. I basically do the research, line up a couple options for him and then he picks what he wants. Eddie Bauer was a god-send, I get the catalog in the mail, and he just leafs through and sticky notes what he likes. I can almost always find a coupon code, and if anything ever doesn't work out, we just send it back.

Next option was actually me getting bored while shopping on "men's websites" and wandering over to more familiar hunting grounds, stores hubby wouldn't be caught dead walking into because they rely on actually trying things on. This usually isn't even an option. In Fairbanks, Alaska there isn't too much of a chance for shopping. I wouldn't torture him by shopping on vacation so we're usually web shoppers. I found out that Old Navy, Banana Republic and GAP all allow combined shipping. Banana Republic has one pair of Relaxed Linen Pants which are lightweight, breathable, and have a flat front, but they somehow don't look like something I can talk him into. I'm considering ordering them anyway just to try them. I'm planning on justifying it by getting a couple shirts which are amazingly offered in Medium-Tall and breathable linen. I'll wait until I can dig up a coupon code.

It's looking like his packing/shopping is going to take awhile. That or at the last second he'll stuff some items in a bag and say that he is going with the Tim Ferriss Buy It There style of travel. When all is said and done his bag will probably weigh less than mine even after I foist off the guidebooks and electronics into his bag. Oh well. I'll let you know how it turns out. Hubby is used to one bagging and one outfitting it with the Army. One bag of green and camo clothes and one carefully chosen outfit that will get him through almost any situation, dinner out, sightseeing, shopping, or chilling with the guys. I'm not too worried about his packing, just his laundry, if he ends up bringing 100% cotton khakis, either he'll wear one pair the whole time or we might be dealing with damp laundry on the train. Men are complicated, and their clothes are boring.


Europe Trip Packing List

Is it a tad too eccentric to be packed over a month before a trip because you’re just so excited? I was ok when I was still planning things, researching hotels, figuring out what we want to do, and ordering clothing/bags/guidebooks, etc. But once everything was “taken care of” I got a little restless. I’m excited about our trip and want to be doing something to prepare for it, to make it seem like it will be here sooner. I know that it is only 15 days long and will be over in less time than I still have to wait, but I don’t want to think about that. In my obsessive desire to hasten departure day I packed my bags last night. I put everything in a huge pile and then packed it. This is our first trip “one bagging” it. I’m tired of lugging along huge bags which weigh more than I do, especially on mass transportation. And, given the fact that we have a connection through Heathrow and our checked baggage has a much higher chance of getting lost than usual, we will be going carry-on only. One bag and one personal item each.

Being a huge black Samsonite girl prior to this or a wheelie bag toting carry-on girl for weekend trips, this presented a challenge. My rolly-bag totally unpacked weighs close to 7 pounds. I love it to death. With 4 wheels I can push it down the aisle in front of me, run through the airport without hitting anyone and easily stuff it into most overhead bins. However, it isn’t particularly easy to walk with long distances, roll on cobblestones, or carry up and down stairs getting onto metro. It is perfectly suited for getting on a plane, getting in a taxi, checking into a hotel and returning. This left me with my backpack from college, but that really isn’t luggage and is far too small. So I went to google.

I’ve been on board with the carry-on only idea for awhile. I travel 12-20 times a year and more than 150k miles, with at least 2 weeks internationally. I just never was on board with the carry your carry-on idea until now. Wheels were the way to go. Being on expenses tends to make you this way. Apparently there is a whole group of people that take immense pride in being one-bag carry-on people. There are whole blogs about it. (One Bag One World). These people debate the differences between brands like Red Oxx and Tom Bihn, MEI, REI, and Rick Steves. Hardly the Tumi vs. Samsonite vs. Swiss Army luggage wars I was used to, but they have many valid points. And the same things that attracted them to each of those brands caused me to consider each of them. These bags are lightweight, well made, well organized and designed to be carried by a real person with today’s luggage limitations.

After tons of research I settled on the Tom Bihn Aeronaut bag. It was less expensive than the Red Oxx Air Boss bag and it had backpack straps which can be hidden away. Red Oxx also makes a backpack bag, but it had bad reviews for being uncomfortable with more than 15 lbs in it. I also considered the Tom Bihn Western Flier bag, but it is smaller than maximum carry-on size and only has a cross-body strap. I know that I am not the only woman that finds the cleavage generated by messenger bag type straps to be both uncomfortable (as it pulls on our chest) and unflattering and I know that I’ll need the extra room for either my stuff going there or definitely my stuff coming back. I also ordered two packing cubes to keep everything organized in what is essentially a duffel style bag. I didn’t like the openness of the bag at first, preferring a three compartment bag, but then I realized that this is actually more flexible. With some packing cubes it has the separation of a multi-zip bag, but I can also put items vertically along the entire depth of the bag, rather than being forced to pack horizontally only and being restricted by compartments.

I was stunned to discover that even with 2 pairs of shoes, 2 skirts, 2 dresses, 2 pairs of pants, 4 shirts, 10 pairs of underwear, 4 pairs of socks, pajamas, my toiletries (not insubstantial), an iGo charger, 3 guidebooks, and all of my other stuff placed in it, I had room to spare. Before succumbing to temptation and packing some of the items I had taken out of my pile as unnecessary (bathing suit, etc.), I decided to weigh the bag. First I stepped on the scale (that’s another post by itself), then I put on the bag as a backpack. I was amazed that it weighed 20 lbs and still felt comfortable enough to walk around the airport for a few hours, race to catch a metro or wander the streets before check-in time at our hotel. First reaction was “Wow, I thought I didn’t pack that much.” Second was, “How do I eliminate 5 pounds?” I wanted to keep it under 15. And then my final reaction was, “Who cares?” It still feels light enough to carry. I’ll still probably ditch a few things (flip flops) and give hubby a few things to put in his cavernously empty bag (iGo, digital camera, a guidebook or two). For a visual idea of what all I had in the bag, here is my visual packing list. This is only round one with the packing and I still have a month to over analyze it, but here goes. I still want to order a Tom Bihn Absolute Shoulder Strap like hubby has. It feels so comfy, it literally shaves 5 pounds off the feel of the bag.


The Italian Job - AKA Me vs. Trenitalia.com

The Italian Job

All the guidebooks and all of my friends who had been to Europe told me, just buy Italian train tickets once you get to Europe…unless you have specific trains and days you want to travel, then you should book in advance. We have a pretty tight schedule, 2 days in Venice, 2 days in Rome, 4 days in Paris and then 4 days in London before the conference and 3 days of the conference. I have hotels pre-booked at each location and it would throw everything off if I didn’t get the trains I want so I tried booking in advance.

First try was with the Trenitalia website. Their website comes in both Italian and English flavors, which is convenient. It is easy to search for trains; the fares are clearly stated and easy to understand what you’re booking with the pictures of the couchettes vs. beds. My first problem turned out to be that I was trying to book too early. Everything came up as not available and I freaked out thinking that all of the trains for the days I wanted were sold out. “Impossible!” my travel savvy friends declared. Some googling revealed that seats are not available for sale more than 60 days in advance.

I waited until 60 days in advance, hitting the reload button until it struck 12:01 am in Italy. I found my trains, one of which was available with an Amica fare (20% off for booking early), put them all in my cart, put in my credit card info and was declined. First step was calling the bank. They said they didn’t see the transaction as being denied and that no transactions had shown up on their end. After googling around I found out other people have the same problem and they suggested a variety of remedies. I tried them all. I am posting them here in case any of them work for you:

Verified by Visa or MasterCard SecureCode: “Ticketless online reservations require online payment, but the site only accepts credit cards if you have set up a "3D" security system, such as Verified by Visa or MasterCard SecureCode. Those plans require you to activate and use an additional password for all online purchases. Create a user ID before booking, then proceed through the booking quickly, as there is a time limit (15 minutes).”

I set up my MasterCard SecureCode and tried again, I actually got a little further this time. It requested my SecureCode password before denying my card. Called bank again, they still couldn’t see any denied transactions and to call MasterCard because that is where the hang up is. Called MasterCard and they said they can’t see any transactions and that I should call my bank. I repeated this dance about 6 times with different people. I finally intrigued someone at my bank enough that they checked into it for awhile. They called me back and said it must be a problem with the card I was using and that they would overnight me a new one. This also didn’t work. I did find that you can login to the SecureCode website and I could see all of the transactions as they went through, apparently my bank couldn’t see them though. At least I knew it wasn’t the Trenitalia website, the transactions were going somewhere.

Your middle initial: “Basically, in the Italian database there is not a separate field for your middle initial. While American credit cards all use the initial as an extra measure of security. I was able to immediately resolve this problem by calling my credit cards companies (American Express) and another debit card and having my middle initial removed.” I was quite hopeful when I found this anecdotal bit of internet advice, promptly called my bank, deleted my middle initial and tried again. No luck!

Browser Settings: “After four attempts using 3 different cards, I called MasterCard. They said it's not their problem - they could see that they hadn't blocked anything. So then I changed the browser Privacy settings (Tools, Internet Options, Privacy tab) to the next to lowest setting. I then went back and was able to complete 2 purchases with no problem. I hope this works for others because this is hugely frustrating and time-consuming. Good luck!” Tried this, didn’t work, but at least I didn’t get a virus trying.

Call them: “The TrenItalia Travel Help Center number is +39-06-6847 5475. (From the US, you would dial 00 11 39 06 6847 5475) Ask for an English speaking Operator and they will try and assist you. Here's the same info from the "Help" section of their website: http://www.trenitalia.com/en/area_clienti/call_center/index.html “ Um, this didn’t work for me because when I called it said that number works only for verified foreign numbers. I tried several times on Skype and even GULP on my home phone, no luck, guess Alaska is part of Italy.

Fax them: I faxed in a request with all of my details and asked them to call me back to book. No response.

Use another website: www.Italiarail.com or www.raileurope.com I tried both and they presumably work. They aren’t scams that steal your money, they just overcharge you. What should have been 250 Euro ($400 at the time) worth of tickets was coming out at almost $700.00. They don’t give you any discounts or Amica fares or anything, and then they charge you to mail your tickets to you. Also, their search engine doesn’t pull up all of the same trains as the Trenitalia website and I couldn’t get the exact itinerary I wanted. A last ditch solution, but I wasn’t giving up.

US Travel: Call a travel agent, they can book for you. I did so and got great service, they called Trenitalia directly (why can’t I find their number?) and got us tickets. However, for some reason they were also in the $700-$1,000 range. Insane! Plus side is that they hold tickets for free for 30 days so I held tickets while I kept trying to book.

I was about to succumb to paying $300 and justify it to myself as an hourly savings vs. continuing my fight against travel agents. Then I called American Express to ask them one last time if they knew why their card doesn’t work on the Trenitalia website and only Visa and Mastercard do. They didn’t know, but asked if I would like to be transferred to their travel department. “You have a travel department? Sure, what could it hurt?” Their travel department gave me the direct phone and e-mail address of the American Express travel office in Venice, our first stop. I e-mailed our ticket itineraries to them, they gave me the price quoted on the Trenitalia website, no fees, no booking charges, no commission, nothing. Sweet success! We will pick up our paper tickets at the St. Mark’s Square office of American Express Travel the first day of our trip. You can do this at locations all over Italy, including Rome as well. Just make sure you do it at the first location you’ll depart from by train. Our credit card has been charged, the customer service was excellent and I didn’t have to pay a dime more than I would have if I waited and bought them in Italy. In fact, I probably saved, because even after wrestling with this for 2 weeks there was still an Amica fare available.

We have tickets Venezia to Roma, Roma to Paris for two people in two beds for 250 Euro. Man, I don’t wish this hassle on anyone else, so I post this to the blogosphere in hopes that it may save someone else some hassle.


Why I Love Expensive Gas

As an Alaskan I enjoy the second highest gas prices in the nation next to California. I currently have a heating oil bill for the months of March, April and May sitting on my desk for $1,510.94. (I'll scan it in if you don't believe me.) And yet, I am happy about the price of oil. I still try to conserve. By biking to work every day I save $2.00 more per day this year than last, but overall that's still money in my pocket. I wanted to do a post on my reasons for loving high gas prices, but the Times already did one for me. So here you go, my top 10 reasons for loving high oil prices. Yes, I acknowledge that there are many negative reasons to hate it as well.