Europe -- April - May, 2004

The scheme calls for a spring-time trip to Europe - mostly Italy - with the return flight no later than May 14.  That way the flight will 'cost' us only 40,000 Alaska Air frequent flyer miles each, but if we return after May 14, it will cost 60,000 miles, thus leaving Sue too few miles left for a 'free' ticket for the Hawaii trip in September.  We talked with Alaska Airlines and were disappointed to discover that to use frequent-flyer miles for free flights to Europe, you really need to get reservations way in advance, and there was virtually nothing available this late.  We were miserable for a while, then a couple days later got back on the horn for a lengthy discussion with a most helpful ticket lady, who put together an open jaw 'fly into Zurich and out of Rome' trip.  The only problem was that it returned on May 18, and therefore would cost 60,000 miles.  We were willing to do it anyhow, and made a 'reserve it for 7 days and then automatically turn it into real tickets' reservation.  Figuring that we had nothing to lose, we got back on the horn a few hours later and put together a 'fly into and out of Zurich' trip that would have us leaving Zurich for home the morning of the 14th, albeit by a most inefficient route.  After making sure that it will still cost only 40,000 miles even if the flight departure from Zurich was delayed till the 15th, and even though we would be scheduled to get back to Seattle via flights that would actually originate on the 15th, we signed up.


The First Cut At It...

It is to be an unpleasantly circuitous route, but the price is right...

Seattle to Zurich
Leave Seattle Tuesday at 8:36 PM / Arrive SF at 10:45 PM
Spend the night at the SF Airport
Leave SF Wednesday at 7:41 AM / Arrive Dallas Wednesday at 1:00 PM
Leave Dallas Wednesday at 2:55 PM / Arrive Zurich Thursday at 7:50 AM
Zurich to Seattle
Leave Zurich Friday at 10:55 AM / arrive NY Friday at 1:40 PM
visit the Statue of Liberty and spend the night wandering NY aimlessly
Leave NY Saturday at 8:00 AM / Arrive LA Saturday at 11:05 AM
Leave LA Saturday at 1:29 PM / Arrive Seattle Saturday at 4:08 PM

The tentative itinerary looks something like:

Day 1 Arrive Zurich 7:50 AM, train to Chur (4/22)
Day 2 Train to Arosa, snowshoeing in Arosa, return to Chur (4/23)
Day 3 Salzburg (4/24)
Day 4 Salzburg (4/25)
Day 5 Vienna (4/26)
Day 6 Vienna (4/27)
Day 7 Prague (4/28)
Day 8 Prague (4/29)
Day 9 Prague / Bratislava (4/30)
Day 10 Bratislava / Budapest (5/1)
Day 11 Budapest (5/2)
Day 12 Budapest (5/3)
Day 13 Vienna (5/4)
Day 14 Venice (5/5)
Day 15 Assisi / Umbria (5/6)
Day 16 Siena / Tuscany (5/7)
Day 17 Portoferriao on Isola d'Elba (5/8)
Day 18 Portoferriao on Isola d'Elba / Cinque Terra (5/9)
Day 19 Cinque Terra (5/10)
Day 20 Cinque Terra / Milan / Como / Lugano  (5/11)
Day 21 Milan / Como / Lugano (5/12)
Day 22 Como / Lugano / Zurich (5/13)
Day 23 Leave Zurich 10:55 AM (5/14)


Hmmm...  Major re-think...

Having looked at historical weather data on the web and discovering, as we suspected, that Vienna, Prague, Bratislava, and Budapest are far from balmy in late April, we decided that the prospect of walking around these wonderful places in lousy weather sounds like a less than good way to spend our time, so we're thinking of heading from Zurich to Zermatt for some snowshoeing, then down to warm, sunny Italy:  Domodossola, Lake Lugano and Lake Como, then Milan to Venice, then down the east coast of Italy to San Marino, a side trip on the ferry to Dubrovnik (on the Adriatic coast of the former Yugoslavia - now Croatia), maybe a side-side trip to the Greek island of Corfu, back to Italy, down to the south coast, out to Sicily, up along the west coast past Rome, to Assisi, Siena, and Florence, back to the west coast and Isola d'Elba and then up to Cinque Terra for a few days, then Genoa, Milan, Lecco and Belagio on Lake Como, Tirano, the Bernina Express to St. Moritz, to Chur, snowshoeing in Arosa, then the Glacier Express to Interlaken, Grindelwald and Lauderbrunin for some more snowshoeing, then Lucern and finally back to Zurich.  

Vienna, Prague, Bratislava, and Budapest will just have to wait till next time.  Plus, much as we like the trains in Europe, we don't want to spend too much time riding the rails.

We called Alaska Airlines on 3/15/04, the day before the reservations automatically rolled into tickets, to double check on the itinerary and etc, and to confirm that it will be a 40,000 mile frequent-flyer mile trip - not 60,000.  Not so good: 'Have to check with the supervisor on the mileage.'  Oops - we must have 'misunderstood' - that'll be 60,000 miles, please...  WRONG - we specifically triple checked about this when we made the reservations in the first place.  Oh well, we ended up with the trip being shortened by 1 day, but with a better route home

Seattle to Zurich
Leave Seattle Tuesday at 8:36 PM / Arrive SF Tuesday at 10:45 PM
Spend the night at the SF Airport
Leave SF Wednesday at 7:41 AM / Arrive Dallas Wednesday at 1:00 PM
Leave Dallas Wednesday at 2:55 PM / Arrive Zurich Thursday at 7:50 AM
Zurich to Seattle
Leave Zurich Thursday at 10:10 AM / arrive Dallas Thursday at 2:25 PM
Leave Dallas Thursday at 5:55 PM / Arrive Seattle Thursday at 9:12 PM

and the price is still right.

Day 1 Arrive Zurich 7:50 AM, train to Zermatt (4/22)
Day 2 snowshoeing in Zermatt (4/23)
Day 3 snowshoeing in Zermatt (4/24)
Day 4 head to Italy via Domodossola and Locarno (4/25)
Day 5 Lake Como / Milan (4/26)
Day 6 Milan / Venice (4/27)
Day 7 Venice / east coast of Italy (4/28)
Day 8 east coast of Italy (4/29)
Day 9 boat trip to Dubrovnik (4/30)
Day 10 Dubrovnik (5/1)
Day 11 boat trip back to Italy (and Corfu?) (5/2)
Day 12 east and south coast of Italy (5/3)
Day 13 south coast of Italy / Sicily (5/4)
Day 14 Sicily / Sorrento / Capri / Assisi (5/5)
Day 15 Siena / Florence (5/6)
Day 16 Portoferriao on Isola d'Elba / Cinque Terra (5/7)
Day 17 Cinque Terra (5/8)
Day 18 Cinque Terra / Lecco (5/9)
Day 19 boat trip to Belagio (5/10)
Day 20 Lecco to Chur on Bernina Express (5/11)
Day 21 Chur to Zurich (5/12)
Day 22 Leave Zurich 10:55 AM (5/13)


Or maybe...

Head directly from the Zurich airport to the northern Italy Lake District (likely Lake Como) for Thursday afternoon and night, spend Friday boating around, Friday night in Belagio, spend Saturday getting to Bologna, Saturday evening and night in Bologna, then Sunday take the train south to Imola for a day at the Formula One Grand Prix.  Lawn seating at Tosa is available for less than exorbitant prices, but we're not sure whether we need to try to buy them in advance before we leave home, or if we don't whether there will be any tickets left by the morning of the race.  We sent the following e-mail to the track ticket office

I hope to attend the 24th Foster's Grand Prix of San Marino, and would like to purchase a 'prato Tosa' ticket for Sunday . Please inform me whether I can purchase a ticket at the Imola race track on Sunday 25.04.2004 for the race, or if I must purchase the ticket prior to 25.04.2004. I am concerned that no tickets will be available for purchase on 25.04.2004.

Spero di assistere al ventiquattresimo grande Prix adottivo del San Marino e vorrei comprare 'un biglietto di Tosa di prato' per domenica. Informilo prego se posso comprare un biglietto alla pista della corsa di Imola la domenica 25.04.2004 per la corsa, o se devo comprare il biglietto prima di 25.04.2004. Sono interessato che non ci saranno biglietti disponibili per l'acquisto su 25.04.2004.


The Italian part is the English as translated by Altavista - we are wondering what it really says.  Anyhow, we got back the following reply


Your message has been correctly sended to the Direction of the circuit.

o something has apparently gone somewhere.  We'll see what else shows up.

Then after the race head south along the coast to Ancona, then boat across to Split on the Adriatic Coast of Croatia, a day boat trip down the coast to Dubrovnik through the Dalmatia archipelago, then back to Bari on the east coast of Italy, down along the south coast of Italy, Sicily, up along the Amalfi Coast, Sorrento, Capri, Naples, Assisi, Siena, Florence, Isola d' Giglio Castello, Isola d'Elba, Cinque Terra, Milan, Lecco, Tirano, Bernina Express through St. Moritz to Chur, snowshoeing in Arosa, and finally back to Zurich.


Perhaps Corsica and Sardinia and the Aeolian Islands?

Maybe this will be the 'Islands of Italy Tour'.  Off the west coast of Italy we find Corsica and Sardinia, and north of Sicily it's the Aeolian Islands.  The problem with going to Croatia is that it involves a 9-10 hour over-night ferry from Ancona to Split, then another long over-night ferry from Dubrovnik to Bari, with the latter running just once a week, and we don't want to deal with coordinating the departure from Italy and the run to Dubrovnik all constrained by the infrequent ferry to Bari.  We'll drop down to Dubrovnik from Budapest next time.

"The train is never late," jokes the beady-eyed black-bearded station master as we wait in the middle of the Corsican mountains for it to arrive, "but the timetable is often a little wrong."

Definintely Corsica and Sicily.

In fact, here is a rather strong endorsement for the latter from Johann Wolfgang Goethe:

Without Sicily, Italy leaves no image in the soul.

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