Day 1 (Thu, May 3): Flight from Seattle (SeaTac) to Florence (A. Vespucci)

The day before we left we were busy packing. It helped to have lists (what went in carry-on, checked bag, personal bag, etc.) from our previous trip to Padua/Venice. Neighbor Mike McMullen took me to Best Buy to get a charger for my iPod; Karen vacuumed the stairs and did other non-trip chores. She and Mike took our Samoyed Lulu to the Plush Pooch for boarding. Dinner was a small steak with steamed cabbage and carrots. Mike and Raylene came over later. We sat around talking after Karen showed Raylene the plant-watering stuff. Evan Schmidt came over to check about feeding our cat Edgar (he had just finished a five hour AP test in American History).
Mike McMullen took us to the Amtrak Cascades station where we boarded at 8:35 am. Had a lovely ride to Seattle, arriving on time 10:55. We had planned to leave the afternoon open in case we had to buy anything last-minute, but it turned out we were pretty well prepared.
We lazed around all afternoon. Talked with Matt and Kate (who is recovering nicely from hip surgery). None of us felt like cooking anything, so we ordered Asian food. Mine, cashew chicken, was too sweet to eat; Karen's Kung pao was fine. We received a call informing us that Karen's Mom had suffered a fall (she's in assisted living); took her to Emergency just to be safe, but learned nothing about the cause. We went to bed (and even slept!) at 9:00.

We were up at 3am in preparation for a 3:55-4:15 Shuttle Express. That showed up ten minutes early, so we quickly said goodbye to Chris and rushed outdoors. Got to our destination with no problems. Surprisingly, we encountered no long lines at the airport.

SEA Seattle IAD Dulles FRA Frankfurt FLR Florence
United Airlines 916
18E, 18D
Boeing 767-300/300ER
Seating, amenities
2,312 mi (3,721 km)
4hr 53mn
United Airlines 916
47J, 47K
Boeing 747-400
Seating, amenities
4,065 mi (6,542 km)
7hr 52mn
Lufthansa Cityline 4060 (United Airlines 8968)
BAe Avro RJ85
Seating, amenities
447 mi (719 km)
1hr 30mn

The guy who checked our bags examined our flight and said we'd "get lost for sure" in the Frankfurt airport. He hated it and stuck out his tongue to emphasize the point. He said if we ever got lost from each other we might as well give up. Not very encouraging. They did handle my pacemaker problem gracefully, unlike Oakland last Fall. We had coffee and lemon-poppy seed muffins at a Starbucks near our gate, did the NY Times crosswords (which I had xeroxed a set of for each of us, each day of our trip). Most pleasant. Flight departed on time at 7:25am. We had seats 18 E-D. Got to Dulles at 15:19 (I had set my watch to 24 hour time since that's what Italians use). Dulles aiport was, well, dull but easy. I'll take that over our experiences at JFK anyday.

On the transatlantic leg -- different plane, same flight number, leaving 17:15 -- we were in row 46, J-K (Karen by the window, me in the middle of three seats). The aisle seat was occupied by an older German woman with diabetes. Her husband had been all over the US with the military and she wound up widowed in Alabama which she didn't much care for. We sat by the galley which remained active for the crew the entire flight. I managed to watch most of "Music and Lyrics", which I enjoyed. The rest of the movie offerings were crap. When I stood up to join some other "standers" a few rows forward, I ran into Jill, a blonde student from Sonja's Italian class at the Whatcom Community College. Also spent some time talking with a computer guy who was on his way to India. We were joined by the Alabama lady. Talking with them helped to pass the time and also kept me standing, which was good for muscles and circulation anyway. I read some of a Brother Cadfael mystery, "The Rose Rent", and didn't sleep a wink. (narrative continues next day)

For the record, our tour was named Elderhostel - Classic Tuscany And The Treasures of Florence. The link (if it's still active) is the Elderhostel online description of the program. Here's a map of Tuscany: