Jane Marie likes to travel with a 55-gallon bucket list on her back. She set off at the end of March along with her accompanied senior to experience Sicily, Malta, Santorini, and Lake Van in eastern Turkey. Jane Marie spent hours and days researching planes, trains, automobiles and of course hotels. She collated and sifted all this info with her frugal-traveler JD Law brain. As her trailing spouse shuffling 50 meters behind I followed the trail of bucket leaks known among family and friends as Jane’s Travel Travails.”
Sicily: “How long do you want to stay in Sicily the largest island in the Mediterranean?” A couple of days should be enough, we can rent a car, like we did in Rodos, and see all we want to see. Our first day was spent in the Marriott Courtyard at the Istanbul airport because we were 15 minutes late for checking in two hours ahead of an international flight. Half of the second day was spent driving from the Catania airport to the Villa de Bosco Hotel. Blame it on traffic where a Smart car equates to a small limo in downtown Catania.
Malta: Following our two hour (international flight) + two more hours waiting to board the 15-minute inaugural service of Volotea airlines to Malta, things started looking good for the shuffler. We shared my kind of home away from home – a full service two-bedroom apartment with a harbor view and a TEX-MEX restaurant down below. There is tranquility in group travel with Jane Marie, the shared experience with others, allows me more sedentary quality time. Malta has many beautiful and historic towns to see, so while Jane Marie, Tamara James and Lawrence climbed every hill and stair; visited every venue and tourist attraction I enjoyed four days of bacon, pulled pork, rib-eye and steak filets downstairs.
“Com’on teg, we’re going to the Good Friday procession in Zebbug, we even have seats.” You can see how excited I was in the first hour of the four-hour cross dragging parade. I’m sure it was karmic payback for teaching Chinese ESL students the meaning of T.G.I.F.
Santorini: We were joined in Santorini by Lauren ‘the millennial’ James, here along with me, in my all weather North Carolina State blue knit cap, are watching Tamara Sandwick-James explain to Lawrence James the meaning of hyphenated surnames. Tamara’s for Hillary, even without the Rodham hyphen, Lauren’s for the Democratic nominee and Lawrence, who retires from the EPA December 31, is keeping his powder dry. No Tex-Mex this time but the James family hosted us in a most splendiferous villa accommodation.
All was going well until Tamara and I told Jane, the frugal traveler, that it was going to cost at least $600 to float or fly home to Antalya. On the map it looks like, and is, a straight shot but the ferry season starts May 1st and the plane has to fly to Athens, from Athens to Istanbul and then to Antalya. Santorini is Greek, Antalya is Turk, never the twain shall meet anytime soon.
Lake Van: When Jane Marie and I went for our residence renewal interview the immigration officer said don’t go to Van (pronounced like one or the Korean won). The Turkish Airlines check-in lady just laughed and our landlord said he had never been and never would. However, none of these people had had the opportunity to scan Jane Marie’s 55-gallon bucket list. Not to worry, the ferry boat ride, to visit the Armenian church was enough to make me change my Facebook cover photo.
Erzurum: After a six-hour bus ride we spent the night in the land of the swarthy-dudes or ‘mountain people’ or the ‘black beards.’ Didn’t see many beards and conversely never saw one without his ‘stache.’
Evening strolls with Jane Marie were a shuffler’s marathon for me, cheered on with whispered chants of “stay close to me teg, please stay close.”
The next day Jane Marie left me at the Erzurum railway station to wander around the neighborhood taking pictures. After all there were 55 minutes ‘til the overnight sleeper train pulled out for Ankara. When we passed the 30 minutes to go mark, I started festering ,like I used to do when I had to make sales calls on companies that wouldn’t buy from me even after hell had frozen over. Why did I let her go out alone in swarthy-dude country even in broad daylight? Foregoing life in the present I became totally focused on the future.
Forget the $80 tickets, how am I going to tell the police my dilemma with my 15 word Turkish vocab? “What does she look like, where did she go? Do you have free wifi so I can show you her Facebook page on my laptop? No I don’t have a smart phone and she took my dumb one to keep track of the time. Where did your leading spouse go? I have no idea and maybe Jane has no idea where she is. Hopefully, the ‘mountain people’ unlike our Native-Americans, formerly known as Indians, only attack at night. Faced with this very serious situation. Remembering the immigration officer’s advisory, “don’t go there,” I began to pray. Not in the Ted Cruz ‘Body of Christ’ sense but more along the lines of “Allah for God’s sake help me now.”
I took our luggage outside, sat on the bench and using by best military training skills scanned the horizon. Still no divine intervention, I turned to rummage Jane’s bag for her phone in the hopes that… Then I heard that sweet voice, “you weren’t worried were you? I got some great pictures.”
My overly extended-wear Duke sweatshirt attracts the admiration of a French teacher on the streets of Konya.
Train trip to Ankara, Ankara, train to Konya and Konya were great places to see, with many things to do but compared to my near-losing-Jane experience in Erzurum, totally uneventful. https://www.facebook.com/tegory