Saturday, October 21, 2023

Off to Europe in Interesting Times

We seem to have chosen an interesting time to travel. We've registered our trip itineraries for a number of years with the U.S. State Department STEP program. Our upcoming itinerary appears elaborate because much of it consists of a 10-day cruise featuring stops in a number of countries.

Since signing up, our inboxes have been flooded with warnings of demonstrations or "unrest" here and there, and the State Department has now apparently thrown up its collective hands and issued a "worldwide caution." We're always cautious, but we're not prepared to shelter in place for the indefinite future, so off we go on a trip to Europe.

As we write this, our son is on a 28-hour odyssey back home from a work trip to India that included a weekend visit to Cairo and two days of touring. A high school friend of Brian's brother returned safely to the U.S. a few days ago after being evacuated from Israel on a charter flight. He's planning a quick return to Europe to catch his previously planned cruise. All that puts our own modest travel plans into perspective.

We fly today all the way from Bellingham to Seattle on Alaska, about 40 airborne minutes, with a very leisurely overnight stay at the SEA Doubletree, one of our go-to airport hotels. We managed to make use of the American Airlines systemwide upgrades awarded us for flying 100,000 miles on Alaska Airlines and its partner airlines last year. Accordingly, tomorrow we're flying SEA-LAX in AA first, and then onward from Los Angeles to London Heathrow in Flagship Business Class. As it happens, we anticipate crossing the 100K milestone on Alaska for 2023 by the time we've landed at LHR.

We'll try to make use of the AA Arrivals Lounge at LHR before checking in at the LHR Hilton, one of our favorites. The following afternoon we fly onward to Milan, Italy on British Airways, a two-hour flight. We're staying at the Moxy by Marriott at MXP, a quirky brand we've stayed at once previously, coincidentally at Milan's other airport, Linate  (LIN). That was on our next-to-last pre-Covid overseas trip in 2020.

Early Wednesday afternoon, we anticipate greeting the rest of our travel party as they land at MXP. That would be Kathy's younger brother Tom and his wife, Ellyn, and Greg, Kathy's youngest brother. We'll only make it to downtown Milan the first night, and from there travel onward to Brescia for a few days of dining and touring.

The centerpiece of this trip is a Mediterranean cruise on Oceania's Riviera, one of our favorite ships on our favorite cruise line. We embark near Venice at Trieste, and in a port-intensive voyage visit Italy, Croatia, Montenegro (our first new country in awhile), Greece, and Turkey before disembarking at Athens. We all stay overnight at a Holiday Inn at the Athens airport. 

The following day Greg flies home to New Mexico and the remaining four of us fly to Naples on Aegean Airlines, a Star Alliance partner. We plan to spend a couple of days in nearby Sorrento before flying our separate ways homeward, Tom and Ellyn to Colorado, and we two NAP-LHR on British Airways, overnighting at an Airport Holiday Inn, before flying AA on our second systemwide upgrade from London to Seattle via Dallas-Fort Worth (LHR-DFW-SEA). We'll enjoy another leisurely stay at the SEA Doubletree before flying up to BLI the following morning, what with Alaska currently offering only two flights a day to Bellingham.

Unlike Phileas Fogg, the hero of Jules Verne's Around the World in 80 Days, we don't believe "The unforeseen does not exist" in travel. When Brian read that novel at the age of 11, he didn't recognize the irony of that comment, especially since the novel's plot is completely based on the creative ways in which Fogg overcomes a series of unforeseen events. 

Perhaps the biggest single travel challenge is dealing with the unforeseen, and we're ready to give it a try.



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