Greece, Montenegro, Croatia, Slovenia, Venice, West Chester, Pennsylvania!
As wonderful as the accommodations were on our trip, it was great to sleep in our own bed last night, especially after having woken up at 4am in Venice to begin the journey home.
4am in Venice. That’s 10pm in West Chester. It’s just mind-boggling that I had to get up at exactly the same time that I would normally be going to bed.
The flights home were quite the challenge. Did you know that Venice airport is a ‘silent’ airport? No announcements over the public address system until you get to your gate. It was borderline serene walking through the terminal.
Our first flight was a 2½ hour hop to Heathrow Airport in London. We arrived on time, but due to a labor shortage, there was no one to connect the walkway to our plane, so we sat on the tarmac for half an hour…which resulted in our missing our connecting flight to Philadelphia.
Heathrow is a sprawling city. Once we got into the terminal, we had to take a bus, a tram, an elevator, 2 escalators and then walk about a quarter mile to get to our gate. The security lines were long and the technology to move through the various passport and boarding pass checkpoints confusing. Fortunately, though, signage was clear and we muddled our way through in our sleep-addled state.
Once aloft, I decided to sleep as much as possible on the 8-hour flight while Sally decided to stay awake the whole time. We arrived in Philly around 5pm and we both went to bed at 9pm. It will probably take us 2-3 days to get back into our normal routine.
Reflecting back, the journey was both a feast and an assault on our senses, cognitive abilities and biological rhythms. Just the thing the doctor ordered for dementia prevention!
The sights and vistas were breathtaking across the 5 countries we sampled, topped off by the 27-hairpin turn climb to the 3,000 foot view from a mountain top in Montenegro back down to our ship in the turquoise harbor below.
We discovered that sunrises and sunsets don’t get old, no matter where or how often they are viewed.
The various on-board lectures and tour guide narratives filled our heads with new information about the last 4,000 years of history across the region. By the time we did the tour of St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice, I just couldn’t absorb another byte of information. Fortunately, it was our last day.
Food was a ceaseless adventure. Between the on-board options (ranging from buffet to gourmet with paired wines) and the tastes of local cuisines on land excursions, our taste buds joyously put in a lot of overtime.
Music was everywhere, from the guitarist in the nightclub to the Beatles songbook in the theater to the violin and cello duo in the atrium to the pianist in the lounge to the string septet concert in a 15th century church on the lagoon in Venice.
I’ve already described in depth the assault on our circadian rhythms as we adjusted to time zone changes. Add to that the assault on my gut biome that I believe was precipitated by my drinking caffeinated coffee every morning. After a few days, I was able to restore a bit of routine to my diet by replacing my usual breakfast granola with muesli and a plate of fruit. On the other hand, I continued to consume more sugar, flour, butter and bread than I had in months.
We didn’t have to worry about performing a lot of mental arithmetic to convert currencies as the euro and dollar are at parity right now. I was surprised, though, at the wide varieties of credit card readers that I confronted. Sometimes it took me a while to figure out whether to tap, swipe, scan or slide and where on the device to do it. Cashiers, though, were more than willing to guide me through it.
All in all, it was quite the adventure. We didn’t get lost during any of our free time (which surprised us) and we managed to muddle our way through every situation we confronted, even if it took us 2 or 3 passes to get it right.
To be honest, I’ve had enough neural stimulation in the last two weeks to last me for a while. I’m definitely looking forward to re-establishing my hum-drum routine and sticking with it…until the next time!