Sweet Anticipation. Getting There is Half the Fun, Right?!

Marco? Polo! Marco? Polo! Prego

Part One: Last Ones on Earth to Check Italy off our Bucket List

Our dream vacation!!!!

Casino Di Venezia where German composer Richard Wagner died in 1883. Photo by Stephen Howard

One we’ve been planning for ten months.

Diligently checking off the first 31 tasks on our timeline.

Now we’re down to the last nine!!

Two Days Ahead

32. Make Sure Your Lights Are on a Timer

33. Prepare Family Car Entertainment and Emergency Supplies (N/A)

34. Double Check Shuttle Reservation

35. Pack Appropriate Clothing After Checking Weather Forecast

36. Weigh Check-Ins to Prevent Baggage Charges

37. Pack Carry-On Just-In-Case Checked Baggage is Lost

38. With Contact Info, Pack Itinerary in Your Suitcase

One Day Ahead

39. Print, Charge Electronics, Water, and Turn to Vacation Settings

40. Check Flight Status

In twenty-four hours it would finally be here!!!

Oh, the joy of anticipation!

Oh, the …

We’re sorry for the inconvenience and we’re actively trying to rebook you on the best available flight. We will notify you again once your rebooking is completed. For more immediate action, visit My Trips or use the Fly Delta app for self-rebooking.


It’s 7:33 am!!!!



 My Delta app turned out to be useless.

We couldn’t find out what happened.  

Emma called the airlines.  

We got rerouted via Paris-CDG airport instead on Air France. 

Right off the bat we had to rearrange the Supper Shuttle Business Express pick up for an hour and half earlier since our new flight departed at 3:15 pm instead of 4:50 pm.

I figured out that I needed to download the Air France app from the Apple store in order to confirm our reservations, check in and boarding pass on my phone.  

Jay and Elle didn’t and had to go to the ticket window and wait for a long time at LAX.  

Jay motioned us over.  

Turns out not only was there a size dimension for carry on bags, but a weight requirement too.  (How did we skip: 36. Weigh Check-Ins to Prevent Baggage Charges?)

Our two black bags weighed too much, like theirs, so we checked them through to Venice, Italy.

Hours later.

French Pecking Birds

While waiting at the gate in France at Charles de Gaulle airport for a four hour layover not quite awake, not quite rested, but in a sleep deprived zone, Elle and I noticed birds sitting on top of a display sign behind us.  

We sat inside a building with glass windows revealing planes parked loading and unloading passengers and baggage.

Another three birds pecked at something on the carpet a few feet away from us.

Or did I dream the scene?

I can’t say we were at the top our game.  

Questions flooded my feeble mind.

“What else could go wrong?”  

“The luggage gets lost?” 

“They don’t honor our reserved seats?”


We booked all four of our seats next to each other on our flight to Amsterdam on the original KLM Delta Partner flight after a Delta flight attendant walked us through how to identify the plane and guided our seat reservations.

That was KLM.

This was Air France.

Air France boarding passes to Marco Polo Venice International Airport from Paris-Charles de Gaulle airport. Photo by Stephen Howard

Not the same seats, but at least each couple sat together.

Finally on the flight I struck up a conversation with the flight attendant who inquired about the reason for choosing them.

Our original flight was canceled due to technical problems we were told, but this is a vacation celebrating our birthdays and our wedding anniversary.

She looked a Emma but said she wasn’t as lucky saying, “I’m a failure.

Emma replied, “No you aren’t.

Later she returned and asked us if we’d like to visit the cockpit after the meal service since this was such a special occasion?

Seemed a little odd to me, but we both agreed.

Still later she returned saying because we’re flying from the U.S. she couldn’t arrange it.

Of course, we figured, it’s got to be against every security protocol put in place since 9/11.

Champagne, Monsieur?

Then she asked,  Do you like champagne?


So just before we started our landing descent, she returned again with a gift wrapped with a little ribbon around the neck and sealed inside a plastic bag.

We thanked her and thanked her and felt maybe the vacation we planned almost a year ago, actually did get off to a better start.

But, that feeling didn’t last.

Venice on the Adriatic Sea in Northern Italy near Austria, Slovenia and Croatia. Photo by Stephen Howard

In Italy, of course we needed to go through customs and security.

Still groggy I juggled a water bottle, the champaign, my carry-on while desperately searching for my passport.

All the while a little voice reminds me not to put my iPhone in my jeans back pocket, right,  like I have always done. 

Since 7am I’d conditioned myself with that internal dialog, “Wait, no you can’t do that. Stop. Put it in your money belt instead, stupid.

And without my wallet I felt odd.  

I fumbled for my money belt holding my passport and phone around my waist.

We placed our bags on the conveyor belt and crossed our fingers that we could pass through the security arch without sounding an alarm.

That was the least of our worries. 

The security agent flagged my half empty water bottle and the champaign.  

He kept asking for the champaign’s receipt.

We told him it was a gift.

He said too bad, but without a receipt we couldn’t keep our gift.

Emma retold our story.

He didn’t budge, like a referee who made his call and it was absolute and it was final.

No amount of instant replay would overturn his ruling.

Bubbly Bottleneck

Besides fellow Air France passengers were backed up because of the “bottleneck” we were causing.

During the confusion I grabbed my water bottle and forced it into my back pocket where my iPhone or wallet would normally be found under the jacket wrapped around my waste.

I’d much rather it had been the champaign.

But c’est la vie.

Venice – an hour and 45 minutes by boat admiring hundreds of islands, bridges and alleys. Photo by Stephen Howard

Exiting the Marco Polo International Airport confused us.

We could have taken a train, but chose instead to take the public boat, Alilaguna Blue Line, for the 1 hour and 10 min trip.

Of the hundreds of decisions facing us, that one had been made and checked off our list ten months earlier.

I think I was the one who spotted the logo for water taxies pointing the way out of the baggage claims area and to our left.

Following the trail sign-by-sign led us back inside then outside, along a conveyor belt and long walk overlooking a parking lot to our right (huh?), but eventually to water off in the distance.

Alilaguna Blue Line ferry connecting Marco Polo Intl. Airport to San Zaccaria. Photo by Stephen Howard

A good sign.

Romantic Setting Sun

The sun began to set, so we felt this could be another good sign as we boated into Venice.

However, comma. 

The water taxi windows were covered with dried sea water splashed on them as every fast boat sped by.

We followed a channel of brown wooden posts sticking out of the water vertically.  

Paranoid about letting our luggage out of our sight we climbed below only to discover an almost full group of passengers with their bags taking up seats.  

So we made do, figuring it couldn’t be any more uncomfortable than the knee banging leg room we endured from LAX to Paris and from Paris to Venice.

Wrong again.

We didn’t know much about Venice

It was romantic, right?

Casanova and gondolas attracted us for our romantic anniversary.

When you go on holiday to Italy you have to check Venice off your bucket list, right? 

Yes, the sun was setting, but we sat so low in the sea of luggage we couldn’t see much.  

Even if they paid someone to hold on for dear life on the outer starboard rail and cleaned the glass.

Or installed windshield wipers.

Conversations or Better Seats?

So we struck up conversations, but I didn’t listen.

Half of my attention filled with anticipated dream snippets of what we’d see — the beauty of the canals, wondering if we’d see the home of the Venice Film Festival, being awed by the cathedral in San Marco ….

Using the other half, I tracked open benches as some people got off and others joined us at each stop.

I wasn’t ever sure whether we’d find or miss San Zaccaria the email instructions from the Hotel Campiello said to find.

Cruise Ships, Tall Ships, Yachts on the Adriatic Sea. Photo by Stephen Howard

Besides the conversations usually followed the same sequence. 

Oh, how long have you been in Italy? 

First night?

Where were you before this?

Where are you going?

Where are you from?

Nearly everyone burst with tips and “be-sure-you-see this or that.”

One guy in his sixties had been coming to Venice almost every six months for years. 

He’d rent out his other home in Great Britain and take this longer public water taxi trip each time. 

Since he wasn’t a virgin Venice tourist like us, “Why?” we asked him. 

He never had to be anywhere at any particular time, so he didn’t have to take the quicker bus or faster train to his destination.

Johnny Depp Meets Angelina Jolie

I don’t know why maybe talk of the train reminded me of the opening scenes in “The Tourist” when Johnny Depp meets Angelina Jolie zipping towards Venice. 

They end up staying at the Hotel Danieli next to the Bridge of Sighs steps from St Mark’s Square.

The romantic thriller stimulates my sense of anticipation, until I’m drawn back in to the conversations.

A baby boomer couple from the states had been in Naples.

All four of us Emma, Jay, Elle and I exchanged knowing glances.

We hadn’t heard great reasons to visit Naples and had eliminated it from our itinerary during the first week of planning.

We were on the front end of our vacation adventures and they were heading back home now at the end of their trip.

Sitting immediately in front of me a millennial guy with backpack, a floppy hat and iPhone at the ready – the kind who I’m guessing stretches every Euro as far as he can, stays at youth hostels, and fills his Instagram with selfies – chatted up the older, long blonde-haired women to his right.

They got off two stops before us.  

Were they mother and son?

Or just traveling companions who hooked up?


From the water taxi. San Marco. St. Mark’s Square, San Giorgio Maggiore Photo by Stephen Howard

When they and the Naples couple disembarked and the other family with all the bags stepped off, we stood up.

Not out of respect, but more out of aiding their exit.

Awkwardly, we squeezed between our suitcases and backpacks, now pulled up from the boat floor on to our seats, and waited for them to pass before finding room to spread ourselves and our stuff out in the hull. 

Breathing room.

Roaming Brexit Connections

I picked an open bench next to another Millennial couple with British accents, both comparing maps on their iPhones.  

The Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana (National Library of St Mark’s) designed by Jacopo Sansovino. Photo by Stephen Howard

Excuse me, do you both have WIFI connections on the boat?

No, they’ve got what sounded like a perk from being from countries in the European Union – celluar data plans that seamlessly transfer from country-to-country roaming across three plans for no extra charge or inconvenience.


Then they both looked out the glazed over window at the setting sun as they contemplated how Brexit might disrupt their key tool for wandering around the continent.

Part Three: How to Stuff Three Days of Venice Into Just 24 Hours

Vacation Planning Timeline (Source LA Times, 2011)

One Month Ahead

18.  Set Up Internet-Accessible E-Mail Account

19. Verify With Your Bank Cash, ATM, Credit Card Transactions

20. Evaluate Your Bags

21. Arrange for Pet Care

22. Arrange Final Air, Hotel, or Car Maintenance Logistics

23. Assess Appropriate Clothing Needs

24. For International Travel Register With Smart Traveler Program

25. Confirm Healthcare Coverage and Prescription Refills

One Week Ahead

26. Notify Post Office and Newspaper

27. Make Multiple Copies and Give Out Itineraries For Emergencies

28. Include Copies of Prescriptions With Critical Information

29. Arrange for Trash Take Out and Shuttle Service

30. Organize Trip Documentation in Carry-On Bag

31. Pick Up Local Currency, List What You Need to Pack; Contacts in Smartphone

Two Days Ahead

32. Make Sure Your Lights Are on a Timer

33. Prepare Family Car Entertainment and Emergency Supplies

34. Double Check Shuttle Reservation

35. Pack Appropriate Clothing After Checking Weather Forecast

36. Weigh Check-Ins to Prevent Baggage Charges

37. Pack Carry-On Just-In-Case Checked Baggage is Lost

38. With Contact Info, Pack Itinerary in Your Suitcase

One Day Ahead

39. Print, Charge Electronics, Water, and Turn to Vacation Settings

Day of Travel

40. Check Flight Status