Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Observations From the Guru's Italian Adventure

The Guru recently returned from a month in Italy. I've traveled to Europe two or three times a year  for over twenty years and I thoroughly enjoy the lifestyle and pace of life there. I'm a huge fan of "La Dolce Vita".

Here are some observations from my trip:

Unbelievably Overpriced Airport Food--During my wait before departure at Orlando International Airport, I dined at an on-site Outback Restaurant. While this airport version looks like the same Outback chain I enjoy, it's not even close. I gotta a feeling they have dozens of microwave ovens humming away in the kitchen at this place. While the menu had some of my favorites, the translation was pretty sad. I assume the food was nuked into tastelessness by a microwave. I'm always amazed at the prices these airport vendors charge for absolutely substandard fare.

Flying Woes--Hey, fellow passenger:Is it really that hard to put your carry-on bag in the overhead compartment and get your fat ass out of the aisle when you're boarding a plane? It seems like every flight now, you've got people camped out in the aisle trying to stuff their oversized bag into a too-small compartment. Annoyingly, everyone must wait in line while this inconsiderate oaf tries to find a place for all his or her carry-ons. It's the same thing when you're getting off the plane as well.

Smokers Everywhere--I don't smoke and it generally doesn't bug me to be around someone sucking on a heater. In the U.S., smokers are typically hard to find these days. In Europe though, especially in Italy, people are smoking as if they've never heard of emphysema, cancer or heart disease. You see all sorts of teens and old-timers inhaling hard and fast. What ruins it for non-smokers is that many of the sidewalk cafes in Italy let them puff away while you're dining al fresco. Let's just say, I'm not a big fan of second-hand smoke wafting into my Pasta Carbonara.

AirB&B a Winner--This trip was the first time I used AirB&B and I was impressed on many levels. First, the online communication and coordination between AirB&B and the apartment owner with me was exceptional. Second, the owner, Samuele, was a super Italian guy, who helped with the luggage (nothing says they have to) and left a basket full of breakfast goodies. Add to that, a stunning view of the port of Trieste, a safe and convenient neighborhood and Mrs. Guru and I had a great week for a very reasonable price.

Staying in a Villa--About five years ago, I decided to eschew hotels in Europe and try to find alternative places to stay like villas and apartments. I got tired of the tiny bathrooms and the saggy beds you get at many hotels that bill themselves as 3-star properties. Let's face it, these dumps wouldn't stay in business two weeks competing against value-priced American chains like Hyatt Place, Hilton Home2 and Holiday Inn Express. You'd be amazed at the type of phenomenal places you can stay at in Europe for very reasonable rates if you just put in a good online search. I stayed at the Villa Bottacin in Trieste, which has a swimming pool, beautifully landscaped lawn and garden, terrace for dining at breakfast and an apartment with a balcony offering a city view. All for less than 100 bucks a night. La Dolce Vita, indeed.