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Bumbling my way to and through Italy good Lord whats going to happen when I use the train system?


Dec 29th, 2007, 09:39 AM
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Bumbling my way to and through Italy good Lord whats going to happen when I use the train system?

I have never felt so incompetent on a trip in my life � and I thought I was actually a pretty good traveler! I guess 2 heads really are better than one � at least when the one is mine.

Not that anything drastic has happened � I missed no flights, lost no luggage, and have been spending my nights in the hotels I planned on � it�s just that finding all of the above was more of a challenge than I expected.

It all started when my driver picked me up to bring me to JFK. As he pulls out of my driveway, he starts driving down the road in the LEFT lane, and there�s a pickup truck heading straight for us � I had to tell him to get in the right (and right) lane! Yikes! We arrive at JFK with no additional incidents, I get into the airport, find AA check in for business class, check one bag, get 2 of my boarding passes, find my way to the Admiral club, get to the gate to YUL, and find out I have to gate-check my carry-on. Not the end of the world, but I�ve never done it before, and something I read said the bag may be picked up either at the gate, or they may bring them to baggage claim. When getting off the plane, I kept my eyes on a gentleman who seemed like he had done this before, and thankfully he stopped on the ramp (where I would never have know to stop!) and that�s where they brought the bags. Great! Off to customs � and all of a sudden it hits me: do I have to claim my other bag and then re-check it? Or is it checked all the way through? It never occurred to me to ask that when I checked in! So, I go to the connections area in customs, and I ask the customs agent (very sweet young man!) who called someone, and they both decided that they didn�t know, so I could either go to baggage claim and check, or just �hope� it got to LHR. I had plenty of time for the connection, so I chose the �go to baggage claim and check� route. Had to go to another customs agent, who was confused by what I was doing, and even as I explained, she said, �Oh no, your bag will be checked through � they gave you your boarding card for that flight. But, you can go look if you really want to.� I said I would be worried the entire trip if I didn�t check, so off I go to baggage claim. And of course, there was my bag, riding around the carousel! Thank heavens I checked!

So, now I have to find my way to �baggage re-check�. I stop where I think it should be, and the woman says, �What are you doing here?� I say, �Well, I�m trying to re-check my bag�. She tells me to go to BA and have them check it. And where is BA? Around that corner and up the stairs. Ok, I find BA, and I realize that now that I�m on a bigger plane, I may not have to re-check that bag after all � I should be able to carry both bags on (they�re both small). Well, when I asked at the counter, that created a problem � oh, no � it�s already been checked through � can we cancel? Maybe, who knows how to do that? Wait � Joe knows � get Joe! Joe arrives,(bringing the number to 5 ticket agents)and he cancels my checked-through bag. I�m on my way BA lounge to wait for my flight with both of my bags� except, I can�t find the lounge� I ask someone who points me in the right direction, and I�m in.

By now, I decide a glass of wine is in order � it�s been so stressful already, and I haven�t even left North America yet! I go to the plane, find my seat, and the gentleman in the seat ahead of me proceeds to drop and shatter a glass of orange juice all over his seat and in the aisle. So now maintenance has to be called to clean up the glass � which they did with rags. (?) And now I decide a glass of champagne is in order.

The plane was further delayed in leaving, as they had to de-ice (something that I always hate to hear!). Get up in the air, and find out it�s only going to take us 5 � hours to get to LHR � I was happily amazed! Ate a terrible turkey dinner, had another glass of wine, and slept for 3 � hours. Had some breakfast, we landed, and as I had no baggage to claim, all I had to do was find the National Express to LGW. Now, I had plenty of time to do this, as my next flight was not leaving until the next day�. And it was a good thing I had time, because I searched and searched for the place to buy the ticket and I just could not find it. I kept seeing signs for Bus Info, but when I would go to where the arrow pointed, all that I could find was a billboard with some schedules, but no one to sell me a ticket. I finally asked someone (one of those purple-coated people who work the Heathrow Express), who tells me he thinks I have to go to either terminal 1,2 or 3, but that National Express doesn�t come to terminal 4. Now, I�m pretty sure this is wrong, and I think he could see the doubt on my face, so he says, �there�s an information booth over there � just follow the signs and they can tell you for sure�. Well, I follow the signs, and then can�t find the information booth (still bumbling along here! Geez!) � I finally find it, and ask her where to buy tickets for the bus to LGW. She tells me that I have to go outside the terminal, cross the first street, and there�s an office there that sells the tickets. OK � find it, find the right stop, get on the bus and make it LGW. Whew! I�m staying at the Hilton at LGW, but once again� I can�t find my way to the hotel. I ask, get pointed in the right direction, and finally find the hotel. I check in, get my room #, proceed to transpose the number in my head (I am tired by now), and of course the key won�t work in the wrong door. I don�t realize it�s the wrong door, and so I�m fuming to myself as I�m heading back down to get the key re-magnetized. The desk clerk was quite surprised that it wouldn�t work� and that�s when I very sheepishly realized that I was trying the wrong door. Back upstairs, I start looking for the correct room #, and I can�t find the room! I�m not kidding � it was not where it was �supposed� to be. The number was just missing. Now, I�m about ready to start stomping my foot I�m just so frustrated. How can I possibly be this stupid???? I find a maid - who speaks no English � but we manage to understand each other through pointing and pantomime. She takes my arm, and leads me down a hallway where my room was located. Good lord, this is a lot of work � and I�m still not in Italy!

I take a nap, go workout, have some dinner, and go to bed � after arranging for a wakeup call, setting the alarm clock in the room, and setting the alarm on my phone for 4:30AM. I was a little worried about over sleeping! I slept surprisingly well, and was awake before the alarm chorus started. The clock was first, I manage to hit snooze as the phone is ringing � I answer that and it tells me to hit any key if I want to snooze � I don�t, but I�m wondering to myself � if I hit �any key�, how do I NOT get a callback� sorry � it was 4:30, and I am in this really stupid mode, so at the time it was a logical question. I eventually just hang it up, and of course it did not call me back. I found the �off button� on the alarm clock, and by now my phone alarm is ringing � but I can�t find the phone because I packed it in my suitcase last night before I went to bed. Geez � do I even HAVE a brain???? After what seemed like 5 minutes, I finally find the phone & turn off the alarm.

The Hilton is located in the South terminal, and my flight was in the North terminal. As I�m checking out, I get instructions on how to get to the North terminal � sounded easy� but I couldn�t find the monorail. I�m not kidding � I couldn�t find it. I didn�t realize that I was supposed to go through the tunnel-like corridor INTO the South terminal � the way it was described, I thought it was right as you leave the hotel. Well, I eventually find it, and get checked in, the plane leaves, and, FINALLY, I am in Italy!

My driver was waiting for me as I came through customs, and he brought me to the Vesuvio. It�s a nice hotel, and the staff is wonderful. I�m checked in by Rita, who shows me to my room� she leaves, and I�m sitting there, and realize that I can�t stay in that room. It was a single, maybe 8 � 10� wide, with hardly enough room to walk by the bed. I call Rita, explain my dilemma, they come up with another room for me, not as good a view, but it has a terrace, and it�s a regular sized room. I�m waiting for my luggage to be transferred up, when there�s a knock on the door � instead of the bellman, it�s Rita � apologizing like mad, but she had shown me the wrong room. Ok, no worries � let�s go look at the correct one. No terrace, even worse view, but it was a little bigger, and it was just fine. I finally unpack, and get settled into my room. I�m completely jet-lagged, so I have dinner at the hotel restaurant (Caruso�s) and go to bed. For a starter I had a �crustacean stuffed� ravioli, and my main was seabass. It was adequate, but nothing special � especially for the price.

I slept until about 9:30 this am (but only because I couldn't fall until 2:00AM), had breakfast at the buffet, walked up to Piazza Municipio, stopping in a couple of churches on my way, and took 2 of the CitySightSeeing tours � it was a lovely day � about 50-55d and sunny, so I sat up on the open-air section. (Of course, by the end I was frozen, but it was worth it!). What a beautiful city!

Got back to the hotel at around 4, and was starving, so I walked to Antonio et Antonio�s for a caprese insalata and a pizza margherita. Both were fine, and I ended with an espresso � wow! It was GREAT!

I�m going to be struggling with the dining hours � I�m accustomed to eating at around 6:30 � 7:00, and to bed by 9; but the restaurants don�t open for dinner until 8:00! I don�t recall this from previous visits to Italy � is this the same in Rome?

And I had forgotten (if I ever knew?) that tips have to be left in cash. My waiter at Antonio et Antonio�s told me that the service charge added to the bill was not for him � it was for the restaurant, and that if I wanted to give him something I should put it on the table. (???) When I put some money on the table he came right over and said, �Is this for me?� When I nodded, he scooped it up and left. ;-)

A question � is it polite/acceptable for a solo person to write in a journal while at a table in a restaurant?

It was a good day in a beautiful city. As I was eating my pizza, I was facing Vesuvius; the sun was setting and the mountain turned a lovely shade of pink on the upper slopes. If the weather cooperates tomorrow, and I am in a good location, I need to try and get a photo. Here�s a link to some of the shots I took today: http://tinyurl.com/ys3etz
cynstalker is offline  
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Dec 29th, 2007, 10:05 AM
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<is it polite/acceptable for a solo person to write in a journal while at a table in a restaurant?>


Loved your story, cynstalker! At least you kept your sense of humor. Maybe next time you can find a non-stop flight direct to Italy? That would have eliminated most all of your initial problems.
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Dec 29th, 2007, 10:07 AM
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oh my, cynstalker - what a start!

are you writing this right now? in which case good luck for the rest of the trip - it MUST get better.

yes of course you can write your journal at the dinner table, or read a book, or gaze at the waiters - just as you like. personally, i like to write letters/postcards - they act a bit like a journal for me and it helps to keep in touch with friends.

as to restaurant hours, you may find those with earlier serving times, but they are likely to be aimed at tourists and therefore may be less good than the others. but if you aim for a 8pm reservation, you should beat the locals to it! at least it's not Spain, where lunch doesn't start til 3pm, and dinner not til 9pm.

service is included in Italy - by law I think, and you are NOT obliged to leave money on the table for the waiter - if you do, small change is OK.

hoping your luck changes, and looking forward very much to the next installment,

regards, ann
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Dec 29th, 2007, 11:17 AM
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cyn, you made it!

Yes, write in your notebook at meals. And you will adjust to dining later.

I'll be following your adventure, so please keep posting. Have fun and hang tough,

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Dec 29th, 2007, 11:43 AM
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Another case of the best travel stories being the worst to live through! Very much looking forward to the rest of this. And absolutely write in your journal at meals - or read - unless the people at the next table look interesting and are willing to talk.
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Dec 29th, 2007, 01:37 PM
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cynstalker, thursdaysd gives good advice: journal unless you get a chance to chat. It's exactly what happened to me on my trip last summer: sometimes a chat, otherwise journaled.

Your report is so level headed, the calmness coming after the storm?

Keep us up-to-date! Cheers.
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Dec 29th, 2007, 02:13 PM
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What a great read--I feel as though I am right there with you!

"...alarm chorus..." -- love it!

Look forward to reading more!

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Dec 29th, 2007, 03:38 PM
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Oh, my gosh, what a trial you had. I couldn't keep from laughing altho' I know it wasn't funny to you! Still, you wrote it with such humor. Talk about a good sport!! I'm so glad you had so much time between flights; I always make sure I do as it's difficult to find places. Looking forward to reading more and hope all goes much more smoothly
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Dec 29th, 2007, 04:21 PM
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OMG, was laughing and then crying. That is so like ME!!! I just bumble my way around, get lost all the time, ask people, and then have to ask again. It's a wonder I ever get anywhere. Glad you made it and are settled in for a little while now.
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Dec 29th, 2007, 04:39 PM
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Thank you for the giggle, and the pics! I love the "bumper" scooter and the Christmas trees on the balconies.

Can't wait to hear more.
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Dec 29th, 2007, 04:43 PM
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Just checked the pix - they're great. Glad to hear you're enjoying Naples, as I'll be there in April. Someone else has been posting about how there's a big garbage problem in Naples right now - have you seen anything like that?
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Dec 29th, 2007, 05:22 PM
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Cyn - just wanted to tell you I'm really enjoying your report (and totally sympathize with not being able to find anything!). The thought of a solo trip somewhere is just beginning to materialize in my head, and I'm really interested to hear how the rest of your trip goes!
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Dec 29th, 2007, 05:41 PM
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What a tale, but don't feel stupid. You found everything when you needed to find it, so you were a success story. Everytime I travel, there are moments where I feel like I'm maybe four years old, rather than a competent adult.
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Dec 29th, 2007, 06:54 PM
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I, too, flew into Heathrow as a solo traveler and had a terrible time finding the bus to Gatwick and a worse time finding the Hilton at Gatwick. I was going in circles, seriously jet lagged and of course I never slept more than an hour the night before I left home. At Gatwick, I asked for directions and every time I would lose the trail to the Hilton. I thought I was losing my mind! When I finally found the hotel, I almost died when I saw the cost of a single room with the exchange rate last summer. And I, too, had the dilemma of how many alarms to set to make sure I got up in time for the morning flight. End result? Not much sleep.

If I ever have an itinerary like that again, I plan to sleep in the airport. The frustration of dealing with finding the Hilton and the cost of the room were an awful way to start a trip.

Are people even allowed to sleep in the airport overnight on a bench?
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Dec 29th, 2007, 07:09 PM
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Much cheaper than the Gatwick Hilton is a local B&B. Horley, the nearest town, is crawling with them, and they'll pick you up and drop you off at the airport. You can walk to Horley station if you want to go up to London, or just catch up on sleep and then eat dinner at the Six Bells pub. I stay at this one: www.springwoodguesthouse.co.uk, which is currently charging 38GBP for an en-suite single, but if you google gatwick guesthouse or b&b you'll find plenty.

If you'd really rather sleep in the airport, check out www.sleepinginairports.net.
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Dec 30th, 2007, 08:49 AM
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Great photos and great report, so far. Can't wait to hear more about your time in Naples.
Thanks for sharing!
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Dec 30th, 2007, 10:33 AM
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This is great!!! Thanks!
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Dec 30th, 2007, 11:27 AM
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Wow, your pics are great! What's up with those funny Santa decorations? People have them all over in Paris too ...

I'm really enjoying your story. My work exp. here has been sort of on big bumble, so I totally relate. I'm very happy that you kept going and made it to Italy--can't wait for the rest!!!
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Dec 30th, 2007, 02:42 PM
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Thanks everybody for joining me on this journey - it makes it a lot of fun to think you all are along for the ride! I really did see the humor even as I was getting frustrated. My Dad, before he passed away, used to grin and shake his head at my Mom (who is a bit of an airhead) at some of her "antics" - their word - and I know if he could have seen me, he would have been grinning and shaking!

To answer 2 specific questions:

The Garbage:

Until I read the post about the garbage, I really hadn't noticed it. To me (and I don't mean to offend city dwellers) all cities are dirty and have bad air quality and the traffic is crazy - that is city-normal. Yes, there's some garbage - but I have yet to have to walk through any or smell it, or.. I don't know - it's just not bothering me.

The Santas - they are everywhere! Kind of like an invasion or something! They're climbing up every other balcony... they're on street poles... they're theyd're they're just everywhere! (And they are cute)

December 30, 2007

Still fighting the jetlag (no surprise there, I always struggle with it), so again couldnt fall asleep, and then had a terrible time waking up. Thankfully they serve breakfast until 10:30! Tomorrow, I have to be up, as Im meeting a guide at 9:00 to take a walking tour V at least this time I probably wont hide my cell/alarm in my suitcase before I go to bed!

Today was another good day, for the most part. Buffet breakfast at the hotel is good, the coffee is great. Opened up my window this morning to listen to the church bells ringing through the streets V beautiful! It was another sunny, cool day V again in the 50s. Took a taxi to the Museo Archeologico Nazionale. I apparently have a terrible and incomprehensible accent when speaking Italian V neither of my non-English speaking cabbies could understand me and had to read the destination that I had written down. Im doing much better at finding things V I managed to walk right into the Museo without having to ask anyone! (Of course, the cabbie got out of the taxi and pointed to the building and said Museo. He must have heard about meK) I was surprised to learn that the Museos dont take credit cards (darn it, there goes about 30 miles I could have had today alone!)

It was very cold in the museum V I think it was colder inside than out, so I kept my coat for the visit. I struggled with my lack of Italian in this museum V there is very little that is identified in English, and there are no English leaflets with a map to assist. I could have purchased a guide book at the museum, but I have such limited room in my bags, that I would have had to toss it or given it away at the end of the day V seemed like a waste, so, I didnt get one.

When I walked up the stairs and entered the first room that had the Pompeii mosaics, I got chills V they are stunningly beautiful. I cant imagine how they could have survived the fallout from the eruption. I wonder how much reconstruction had to be done on them. The rest of the museum was wonderful too, I really enjoyed the gem collection, the frescoes and the bronzes are just gorgeous. And V the place was pretty much deserted V I never had any problems taking photos (no flash), and I could gawk at something for as long as I wanted and not feel like I was holding anyone up. I was a little worried that it might be crowded because it is a Sunday, but it was great! I spent about 3.5 V 4 hours there - truly a memorable museum.

Next, I got a taxi to go to the Museo di Capodimonte (luckily I had it written down, because again, my Italian is undecipherable to Italians. ) This time, my cabbie and I had a true communication problem. The fare was E5.5; I gave him a 10, and then the problem started. He kept saying something to me that seemed like 5 and 10. So Im thinking, he wants to rip me off? Were both looking around for someone who might be able to translate, I take out my dictionary, and he takes out his roll of money and showed me some billsK so I took out a 20, and said, Ok you want more money. Give me back the 10? He takes my 20, give me back the 10, and then gives me 15 back. I still have no idea what that was about. Im guessing he had no change to give me for the 10, but I think we both left confused.

I enter the gate and walk through the grounds to the museum building - there were lots of families there playing with their dogs & kids, enjoying the beautiful day. I had better luck with the English at this museum V their leaflet is in both Italian & English, and more of the exhibits are labeled in both languages too.

I was pretty tired after the day at the Archeological Museum, but this place has some fabulous works of art! And I got to see an old friend from Boston V Van Goghs La Berceuse is being displayed, lent by the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. That was fun!

The porcelains were beautiful. The royal apartments were interesting V and that room where the entire walls are done in porcelain is amazing. When I walked into the ballroom, I wanted to do a waltz, and had to smile when I turned around and saw 2 young children doing just that.

I went through this museum pretty quickly V my feet were dragging, about 2 hours.

And I did get ripped off by a cabbie on my way back to the hotel. My own darn fault, but it sure is aggravating. I didnt pay attention when we first left, and we had gone about 5 minutes when I thought to check to see if the meter was on V it was not. He was one of those chatty types, giving me a tour, put an American flag on the seat for meK E25 for the ride V oh thats the normal rate, he says. No, I said its not. But I was not in the frame of ride to argue. Ill show him, I thought. I walked to the hotel door, turned around and stuck my tongue out at him. There. (Yeah, pretty juvenile, but I am still jetlagged).

I really have started worrying about my train connections, so I went to the website, copied all the stop-detail for each leg, and emailed them to the hotel so they could print them out for me. Otherwise, in addition to paying for the internet in my room (grrrrK), I would have to pay for the business center access too. It seems to have worked V the printout was in my room when I returned.

On to dinner V my last free night out (Ill explain about the gala tomorrow). I asked the hotel to recommend a place for seafood. They had 2 suggestions: La Scogllio di Frisio (the preferred, but closed it turns out) and La Scialuppa, which is where I went. They told me they opened at 8, so they made my reservation for 8. Its right across the street from the Vesuvio, to the left of the Castel dOva.

I arrived at 8:00, and the place is full. I walked in, this man in a tan sweater says, You must be Mrs S. Obviously, they have many solo diners thereK Im the only one. It was a tiny place, and it was full. (Which begs the question V if they dont open until 8, why were all these people there eating?)

Its a fairly small restaurant, and is filled with mostly Italian speaking people, although there must be some other English speakers, because the strolling musician (Mr Guitarman) is singing an English song. I order my dinner V prosciutto and mozzarella for a starter (delicious), and Risotto a la Scialuppa, (which contains seafood. The seafood was outstanding V really good. The risotto was a bit over-salted and not very creamy, but it was still pretty good), and a half bottle of red wine (Rubrato Aglinico Dei Fuelo Do San Gregorio 2005, whatever that means - it was good.)

And I had a blast!

Mr Guitarman makes his way over to my table and asks what I would like to hear. Now, hes already done O Sole Mio, so I suggest Gershwins Summertime from Porgy and Bess. (I mean, isnt that a likely choice?) Well, he knows the guitar part, but not all the words, so he tells me I have to sing it. So, K. I do! I just belt that song out like theres no tomorrow V top of my lungs kind of thing. All by myself at my table, in Naples, singing Summertime, and the livin is easyK 2 verses! No, Im not kidding. Thats just what I did - AND V I got applause! Now, it may have been pity-clapping, but I dont care, it was applause V from more than one person. (actually, it was from half the restaurant. No wait, it was the whole restaurant. And they were on their feet shouting bravo bravo! Ok, Ill stop now) And, there was a table of three other Americans who, through our waiters, invited me over after to dinner to have a drink with them. We ended up going back to my hotel for an after dinner drink and we had a fun political discussion V it was great!

And, the only reason I could actually sit there and sing my little heart out was because I was traveling solo V the only person I could embarrass was myself, and it takes a bit to do that. I had a lot of fun today, she said with a bit of surprise.

Here's a few pictures from today: http://tinyurl.com/2tpcaf

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Dec 30th, 2007, 03:09 PM
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Sorry for the odd charactors in that post - I thought I had figured out how to get rid of those by copying from my word doc to notepad and then to here, but it didn't work - and editing didn't do a darn thing either - it ignored all of my edits. Hope it's at least readable!
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