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Family of 5 just back from Italy and Greece

Family of 5 just back from Italy and Greece

Sep 8th, 2006, 08:54 AM
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Join Date: Apr 2006
Posts: 305
Family of 5 just back from Italy and Greece

I want to thank all of the Fodorites who helped me plan my trip. Starting with Brotherleelove who told me to "Get off my duff"..thank you for that Brotherlee because I did. Others were Ira, CotswoldScouser, TRSW, Mimar Missypie, Suze, Nessundorma, Franco, laclaire, Bettinazzz and Bob the Navigator, and countless other Fodorites. I have been on this website since April and I have enjoyed the wit and humor of the fodorites, but also was sad and melancholy when I heard the news of Cigalechanta...how are you, Mimi and Jerry, doing?

My itinerary:
3 nights in Venice
3 nights in Milan with day trips to Fox Town Factory Stores in Switzerland and Lake Como for dinner.
4 nights in Rapallo.
3 nights in Mykonos
3 nights in Santorini
2 nights in Athens.

Even though many have posted trip reports on these locations, I hope that just maybe one person might discover something new, a restaurant or accomodation that hasn't been covered. I am going to try to post some pictures but I'm still trying to figure that one out!


Traveling was my husband, (DH), my 17 yr.old son, my 9 yr old daughter(Lil B) and college son we would meet in Athens. He could not do Italy with us. We flew on AirNewZealand, leaving LAX. I was very impressed with the airline.All of the planes had been refurbished. All seats including Coach seats have there own t.v's with a great selection of movies.The Coach seats are larger than the normal standard coach seats you find on American, Delta, British Airways etc. Because we are a tall family we welcomed the extra inches. My DH and I took an ambien and slept maybe 3 or 4 hours. 17 yr.old watched "Mission Impossible", "Thank you for Smoking", and "RV". Lil B(daughter)played games on the t.v. It was great. This airline would be a lifesaver for college boy because the day he was to travel was the day after the terrorists were caught at Heathrow. As luck had it we traveled through Heathrow. Next year I think I will use a different hub than Heathrow, just haven't figured that one out yet...more on travels of college boy later. We left LAX around 4:40 pm that afternoon. Our flight was an overnight flight. I hate those because I can never sleep on the plane.We ended up arriving at Heathrow at around 11:30 am the next day.(We left before hell had hit Heathrow 12 days later.)

We were going to take the Heathrow Express but my DH the night before contacted a private van, Website is www.fcmbs.com phone number is 01784430000. It was just a little more expensive than the Express and after a all night flight he new Lil B and I would be tired.The van was an 8 seater which was great because of all of our luggage.(I already knew we packed to much).

We got to Gatwick and proceeded to wait in line to get our boarding passes on Easy Jet. Easy Jet for those who don't know is a budget airline. No food, just drinks you have to pay for.Its like you are in a cattle call. Easy Jet doesn't call the gate until 15 minutes before the plane leaves then everyone runs to the gate. My son was over the weight limit because he brought his weights for working out so he wouldn't get out of shape for football. Believe me, we had many fights about that. Here I'm telling everyone to pack lighter on this trip, and HE brings his weights. Well he was over the weight limit and we had to pay extra for him...I told myself he could be into worse things than packing his weights. So I just let it be. The flight left on time around 5:40 pm and got into Venice close to 9pm. My DH had arranged for transportation with the hotel.

A car picked us up and then we got on a private water taxi straight to our hotel. If my husband and I were traveling just the two of us we would not have had a car to pick us up.We would havetaken the shuttle down to where the water taxis were. Once we got on that water taxi I just couldn't believe we were in Venice! I had worked so hard on this trip and it was becoming a reality...Coming into Venice in the evening was just an experience I will never forget. What a magical place!

Our hotel was picked by the 17yr old. One day in April he heard me complaining about how many hotels there were and how was I going to pick one. We like staying in boutique hotels, modern or old. My son challenged me that he could find a hotel in less than 1/2 and hour. I challenged him and he came up with the PALACE BONVECCHIATI on Calle de Fabbri. I checked it out for a couple of days along with my own hotels and I actually decided to book his hotel. I was shocked he found it so quickly. I didn't want to deter his enthusiasm in planning for this trip, so I took the risk and booked it. It is minutes from St. Marks square and a 5 minute walk from the Rialto bridge. The location was superb. The water taxi pulled up right to the hotel,

The water taxi took about 20 minutes to get to the hotel. I booked a special price, I think it was called the Wellness Package. The rooms were Jr. Suites and they were both overlooking the little canal Oreseolo. The Gondolas would come by right under our windows. It was fantastic. The decor of the hotel was contemporary. The walls were done in a venitian plaster. The bar was just a chic little european bar. The airconditioning was strong and the entrance (lobby) had a spectacular "Botero" sculpture. The breakfast room was roomy. When I go back to Venice I will go back to this hotel. It also had a fabulous little gym that had a view of all the rooftops in Venice. I don't know the exact price, but the rooms I remember go from 150.00 euro to 450.00 euro(suite). We were very pleased with this hotel. Most of all was the wonderful staff. They were very helpful with anything we needed. Whenever I e-mailed them they were very quick to respond back to me.


We were in Venice for 3 and half days. Not enough time to tour this beautiful city. We were set to tour with Michael Broderick with Venicescapes for three half days. If I had to do it over again I would have booked with Michael for one full day and left the other 2 and a half days for doing our own stuff. Michael was wonderful for my husband,son and me. He was to intense for my daughter. I think no one under 12 should go. He is very passionate about enice and it shows.He really knows Venice.We had booked with him "The story of the Mercantile Empire" which is 6 hours but we did that tour in two days because of "Lil B" The tour covers things like A Gondola building yard, St.Marks square,the Arsenal, and The church of St.Mary of Good Health. We were also able to visit an old Venitian Palace owned by the Pisani Moretta family. It was spectacular and it was wonderful to be able to feel like you were living in the 15 or 16 century. Also seeing the Gondola yard and realizing the importance a role the Gondola's are in Venice.

The other tour we took was called the Splendors of Piety. That tour was my favorite because it was about the works by Titian,Giovanni Bellini ,Paolo Veneziano ,Tintoretto and works by Veronese. The art is what I like. We visited The church of our Lady of the Friars, The Greater School of Saint Roch and the Church of Saints John and Paul. After our touring with Michael. On our own we visited The Doge's Palace. I have included some pictures. Built in
in 1309, our family was in awe with the beauty and splendor of the architecture.

After the tour and The Doge's Palace we went back to the Bonvecchiati and "Mr Jet lag" set in. We slept maybe 3 hours...we just all conked out. When it time to go to dinner we left the hotel at 10pm. That is too late to go out to dinner in Venice. We had no idea how early the restaurants closed.(Fodorites kept saying how early Venice is...but I didn't believe it) The hotel recommended a place called Aqua Pazza. Also two of the tour books recommended it also.When we got there(10;30) it was packed. Probably the only restaurant that is open! Anyway the food was DELICIOUS but expensive. I had a delicious shrimp salad with exotic greens. My son had the spaghetti con le Vongole e il Diavolillo and a salad, my husband had a penne al radicchio e pancetta. We ordered a bottle of Bardolino..can't remember the name. It was delicious. We got to bed that night around 2am. We were really messed up with our body clocks.It was hard to get up the next day to tour with Michael but we did. After touring with Michael that day we later went to St. Marks Basilica, the cathedral church of the city and seat of the patriarch of Venice since 1807. What I liked the most were the medieval mosaics, depicting stories and episodes of the Old and New Testaments.The mosaics are not only a biblical meditation but a sign of God's presence in the World. I got the Basilica tickets through (Fodorites) Thanks! the web site is...http://www.alata.it/eng/index.asp. Tickets are free.The Basilica is a place to worship so you must wear suitable clothes.

After, we strolled in St. Marks square. The square was bustling and busy with people setting up for a concert.There hasn't been a concert in St.Marks in 15years. Pink Floyd was playing. It was not the picture I had wanted, chairs cluttering up the St. Marks Square! You can see on my pictures! After, we strolled around all the little shops in the back alleys and sidestreets that make Venice famous. We found some beautiful Venitian Masks that we loved and ended up buying three. We shipped them back to California and they have arrived. Sadly one did not make it...it had water damage. Strange maybe when FedEx packaged it some moisture was left on one of the masks. It just desinigrated in the box.

That night we tried to go to Franco's recommendation, Osteria all Botte, which was very close to the hotel...Again we started to late that night at 10pm but the restaurant was open till 11pm. When we got there the place was bustling with locals. The food looked good. We walked straight to the back and waited to get seated. A waiter came up and said they were closed. My husband said what time do you close and the guy said, "What time do you have?" He just didn't want to serve us. (I think it was he did not want a 9 year old in the restaurant) We were really bummed that Botte sent us away. But, we would not let that get us down, I mean we were in Venice with a full moon and we were near the Rialto Bridge. Little did we know there were many little restaurants there on the boardwalk. We decided to go to the busiest. I wish I could remember the name of the restaurant because the food was great! We sat on the boardwalk and watched all the people go by on a beautiful night with a full moon.

Last Thoughts on VENICE:

Pack lighter
If you are in a tour group, leave enough time to tour on your own
Eat dinner earlier
Bring a sweater(It was cold the three days we were there and I'm talking about August)
Also something to think about not even having to do with Venice is look at your passports the night before. On the thread "What did you forget to take??" I had commented about switching passports with college boy and high school boy and created a nightmare the day we were leaving LAX. Look at that thread for the story.

Pictures I hope come out: http://picasaweb.google.com/lakerfan384/Venice2


anamaria is offline  
Sep 8th, 2006, 09:03 AM
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What happened to your other thread?
missypie is offline  
Sep 8th, 2006, 09:45 AM
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missypie: Fodors e-mailed me saying to repost.My computer is set up for music(used to be disc Jockey)All I have are thousand's of songs. I am not very good with programs. It's my first trip report and I'm trying to do this all before my mother goes into USC on Sept.13 for surgery for a aortic anuerysm. Fodors must be so tired with me..I have forgotten my password 6 times in the last two days. I guess I'm just nervous.Hope you like my trip report. Milan is next!
anamaria is offline  
Sep 8th, 2006, 09:55 AM
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Enjoying your report much more now that it doesn't have the odd formatting--perhaps only some of us saw it? Anyway, keep it coming!
ellenem is offline  
Sep 8th, 2006, 10:00 AM
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Prego ! Good start--keep truckin'
bobthenavigator is offline  
Sep 9th, 2006, 09:47 AM
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The day we left for Milan was a beautiful day. No rain. The hotel took us by water taxi(included in room charge). We got the train out of Venice to Milan. It was a 2 and half hour train ride. We traveled in first class and the conductor never to our tickets.We arrived in Milano around 5 p.m. We took a taxi(5 minutes) to our hotel called the Carlton Hotel Baglioni.An old beautiful hotel, 10 minutes walking distance to The Duomo. The hotel is right next to the Public Gardens which were beautiful.Our rooms were beautiful with a terrace, they were done in silks and rosewood furnishings.Everything was within walking distance..Duomo,La Scala and the Castle.

Milan, people don't just lounge around living "la dolce vita", they work. This city is the economic engine of Italy, a melting pot of people who come from all over to make their fortunes. Our hotel "The Baglioni" was charming and old, just the opposite to the Palace Bonvecchiati in Venice.That night the hotel sent us out 5 minutes by taxi to a chic and hip restaurant called "Giannina" on Via Pisani. It was fabulous. Mostly Milanese, just from work. The room next to us was a party of fashion Industry people and there were also alot of models. My 17 year old's eyes were bugging out of his head because some of the models were wearing some very provocative outfits.

For dinner I had Orecchiette,scampi with zucchini flowers. My DH had the mussel soup and the Veal Milanese and my son had a pasta and the Ossobuco alla Milanese. Our daughter had a pasta with pesto sauce. We also had a bottle of Sassella a (Valtellina red wine). We ended the night with Tiramasu. Wow I needed to run in the park the next day after that meal! This meal was our best so far on the trip.

That FIRST night in Milan was quite hectic. My DH had picked up a cold (from Venice) and we ended dropping off 17 yr old and lil b back at the hotel. We kept the taxi and went to the 24 hour pharmacy at the train station.DH had this dry hacking cough and I had a runny nose. It was around 12 midnight at the pharmacy. It was closed inside, just a window was open to talk to the only pharmacist on call. He came over to the window and in my broken italian I told him our symptoms. He looked at my husband and said I have something strong for you, then he looked at me and said "Nothing for you" and walked away. I thought is this guy the "soup Nazi from Seinfeld?" My husband then told the guy he needed something for his nose and he went to get something for my DH which in turn he gave to me...how weird is that? Anyway we finally got back to the hotel and went to sleep. It was hot in the room because DH didn't want air conditioning that night because of his cold. At around 5 am that night we heard this buzzing, DH jumped out of bed and said turn on the lights, look MOSQUITOS! Oh no, my worst nightmare. We tried to figure out where they were getting in. Alas, the door out to the terrace wouldn't close all the way. DH pushed while I pulled to try to get the damn thing closed. Every mosquito we killed would splatter out blood...OUR BLOOD! This was not good. It took us 2 hours to kill them all. We called the front desk they sent up a can of RAID and some contraption that kills them. I hoped that the kids were ok in the other room. We survived that night and we made sure the next night that door was closed. I told the maids do not clean the terrace because you will not get that door closed.
I really never went back to sleep after the (mosquito morning). (I found out later from our tour guide that Milan is having a problem with mosquitoes and its not just our hotel.)

I ended up going to the park for a little run right next to the hotel. It was lovely. It was a Sunday morning and everyone was out with there dogs. I just loved to see everyone enjoying there Sunday am. They had a kids playground, a outside cafe for espresso, water fountains,joggers,walkers....even a dog run for the intense dog people. It was great. I got back to the hotel and found out the kids had a great sleep, I was so relieved, no mosquitoes. The breakfast at the Baglioni was included and was wonderful.Eggs,bacon,sausage,fruit,croissants etc. In a buffet style.

Today we would tour with a lady named Lorenza Scorti. I don't remember how I found her but she was great! Her e-mail is [email protected]
She showed up at the hotel and we proceeded to tour the Duomo, the 3rd largest cathedral built in or started in the year 1386. We walked from our hotel to the Duomo through the Galleria. The Galleria, named after the first king of a unified Italy, was designed by architect Mengoni in 1861, to connect the squares of the Duomo and La Scala, symbolically unifying both church and state. The iron and glass arcade was beautiful. Shopping was represented right here in the Galleria. The glass dome was magnificent. The mosaic's in the floor represent Europe,Asia,Africa and the America's. Also included was Turin's Bull, where its a tradition to stand and spin on your heel and make a wish.Lorenza showed all of this to us and as I am writing this trip report I realize I remember it all. She was easy going, fun and engaging. She was great with our 9 year old daughter. When she found out our daughter sang "arias" she asked Lil b to belt one out. Right there on the corner of La Scala , Lil B belted out for Lorenza"Alma del core" Lorenza also has children and told us that she sometimes loves to pair her daughter(9) with clients children that are traveling so her daughter will learn from other children. I wished we had her for more days because she was great! We found out later that she works with Rick Steeves and that he just left Milan after doing a t.v. show. She says she worked with him the entire time and doesn't know if she is in the program, or edited out. After the Duomo, La Scala and the Castle we walked to Santa Maria della Grazie to view "The last Supper".Lorenza two months before could not get us tickets so I went to Fodors for help. As always you guys came through. Someone said to try tickitaly.com for tickets. I did and selected two different times. After waiting for a couple maybe three days I got the tickets. We had to pay maybe a few more euro a ticket but I could not even fathom going to Milan and not seeing The Last Supper! When we got there we didn't have a ticket for Lorenza. Luckily she knew the lady taking the tickets and said to not do her "tour" for all the other people viewing the Last Supper" ,We were so lucky to have Lorenza in there with us because she gave us all the "little secrets" about the masterpiece.

Milan was a wonderful city, apart from my husbands cold and the mosquitoes the entire experience was great.
Pictures I hope come out.

Next, Fox Town Mall and Lake Como day trip with race car driver Jeff Gordon, no I mean DH.
anamaria is offline  
Sep 9th, 2006, 10:19 AM
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Hi anamaria, I am so enjoying your trip report and I am also really enjoying your photos. You have a beautiful family, but you certainly don't look old enough to have a college age son, your secret please? Good genes I guess, lol. And it is strange but LilB reminds me so much of my now grownup daughter at that age.

I am so glad you enjoyed Milan. I love that city!!

Thank you for sharing your trip with us. I am looking forward to the next installment especially about Jeff Gordon (or isn't that Mario Andretti since you were in Italy) lol!!
LoveItaly is offline  
Sep 9th, 2006, 10:41 AM
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I'm enjoying your trip report - thinking about a similar trip next year for our family of 4.

Keep going!
rosetravels is offline  
Sep 9th, 2006, 10:41 AM
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Thank you LoveItaly for your kind comments. Lil B is quite a handful but I think she keeps me young. Her favorite part of the trip as she says was Venice,The Astra Apartments in Santorini and buying a Paddington bear in Heathrow.
anamaria is offline  
Sep 9th, 2006, 11:18 AM
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Yes anamaria, my daughters absolute favorite was Venice also without a doubt although she also loved Rome and still does (actually she even married a Roman so be forwarned). My daughter also loved the rooftop of the Duomo in Milan..I smiled when I saw your photos taken there. Now about Mario...
LoveItaly is offline  
Sep 9th, 2006, 11:33 AM
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Off to singing class with Lil B. I promise later in the day, Mario is up next. My 17 year old loved Rome last year, so I know what you mean.
Thank you rosetravels I promise more for you!
anamaria is offline  
Sep 9th, 2006, 12:51 PM
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Great report so far! I love reading about others who travel with teens. We were in Milan, Lake Garda, Venice and Wengen (Switzerland) with our 12 and 15 year old boys in June. A lot of your pictures have brought back great memories of the places we visited.

Looking forward to the rest.
fun4all4 is offline  
Sep 9th, 2006, 01:36 PM
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Gorgeous pictures. Gorgeous family - especially's the son's eyes on the opening shot of Venice!

What a great trip!
starrsville is offline  
Sep 9th, 2006, 03:09 PM
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Thank you for the nice comments about our family. If you could have seen our 17 yr. old 5 days before we left on this trip he had two huge black eyes because of a broken nose in a very physical basketball game. He looked terrible.
More on the trip
Fox Town Stores in Switzerland and Lake Como.

The next day in Milan I had mapped out for us to go to to Switzerland, shopping at the Fox Town Factory Stores. Many of the stores in Milan were closed for the month of August. I knew that so I had planned on a half day in Como and a half day in Switzerland. I told my DH he was in charge of transportation so he rented a little car through the hotel. I think it was a Fiat, but he thought it was a Porsche.
Car was small for us, but it had a good trunk. (perfect for packages). Fox Town is across the "chiasso" or border, a indoor outlet mall. All the top labels are represented, just start at the stop and work your way down. Everything was in Swiss Francs, not euros so we were prepared to use our plastic. I don't think DH knew what this mall was about. I planned to go shopping first and then to Lake Como for dinner. AS we drove to Fox Town I noticed how fast DH was going. He said everyone in Italy drives fast. (did we have to drive that fast?) Anyway he turned into Jeff Gordon. We were going sooooooooo fast on the Autostrada, I thought I was going to have a heart attack. When I looked for the kids to side with me, all they could say was Wow This is great.

Fox Town was GREAT. I had promised my husband that on the trip I would only do ONE day of shopping and no more shopping the rest of the trip. I just don't think he knew we were going to a mall. And what a mall it was. On the top floor was a huge store of Giorgio Armani. Great stuff in there, I found two classic suits, one white and one black. !7 year old found some great pants, and I found the black Italian loafers that college son had wanted. His brother had bought a pair last year and college boy steals them all the time. In another store my lil b found a great Italian jacket.Also there is a FRETTE store and we bought 2 beautiful sets of sheets for our bed back home. Everything was at least 1/2 off or more. For example our sons shoes in Milan were listed at 500.00euro. In Fox Town the same shoes were at 120.00 swiss Francs. I couldn't believe the difference. The swiss franc in comparison is more than the euro.
We stayed at Fox Town for 6 hours. A little more than my son had wanted. He really wanted to take a swim in Lake Como just to say he did that. The only reason he wanted to go to Fox Town was to say he went to Switzerland.
We got lost on the way to Como, and it was probably due to the fact my husband was driving like a maniac!
If anyone knows what Como is about there are little streets in the city and one main street to Bellagio. Anyway DH was driving so fast he just would go round and round these corners and I would tell him to slow down so I could at least read the signs. Our 17 year old couldn't have cared less.

anamaria is offline  
Sep 9th, 2006, 04:10 PM
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We were 30 minutes into the drive to Bellagio. We didn't even know how long it would be. DH didn't know because he was driving so fast. The roads to Bellagio are very narrow and winding. We pulled over to take pictures and we asked a old lady how long to Bellagio and she told us another half and hour. It was already 9 pm at night and we had not had dinner. I told DH , by the time we go to dinner and drive back to Milan it will be 1 or 2 a.m. We turned back to Como to eat dinner there. Our 17 year old was getting antsy and hungry(he's always hungry) and he wanted to swim in the lake. Why I asked at 9 pm? He responded just to be able to tell my friends back home I swam in Lake Como.
Anyway we drove back ,parked, and son got out of the car went behind a wall right on the sidewalk and stripped to put on his bathing suit. He walked down to the lake(mosquitoes) and dove right in and swam at 9 pm. Then he got out t.shirt dried off. We did not have a towel. He tried to say he could use the Frette sheets, and I said no way. He changed back into his clothes behind the wall and we went to dinner. The pictures I have of that trip are in a memory card I can't find. Thank Goodness it was just the pics of shopping and Lake Como and not the entire trip.
Lake Como was just beautiful. I could see myself going back and spending a week there with the kids. Especially with a beautiful moon it was one of those memories I will never forget.
Next up are travels to Rapallo and LIL B getting stung on the back's of her legs by the MEDUSA. I have pictures of the poor girl.
anamaria is offline  
Sep 10th, 2006, 03:28 AM
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anamaria - really enjoying your trip report and your photos are fantastic!! My husband and I have just got back from Santorini & Amorgos; i just love your photos of Santorini. At least you get to return to sunny Cali - we're back in London (which is sunny now but that won't last..) looking forward to the next installment... AP
Sep 10th, 2006, 10:26 AM
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Ally Pally, Did I put pictures of Santorini up yet? I am new at this picasa google pictures thing. I am going to put up pictures of Greece coming up. You meant Milan right?
Rapallo is next.
anamaria is offline  
Sep 10th, 2006, 10:39 AM
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Your pics of Greece are on the website with all the Italy pics. If you click on "Christophers Public Gallery", you get your trip subfolders. Sorry, couldn't help checking the Greek ones, my fave country on earth! My husband and I visited Santorini for 6 nights and then ended up marooned on Amorgos when we had every intention of going to Naxos or Mykonos! Gives us an excuse to go next year. Your trip reports are really detailed, which is great - those are my favourite kind!
Sep 10th, 2006, 11:06 AM
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Now I see what I did. Oh well!
anamaria is offline  
Sep 10th, 2006, 11:09 AM
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Sorry to skip ahead of you - that was a bit rude of me! Still looking forward to the rest of your trip reports!!

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