It was with a bit of anxiety, some excitement and a certain numb feeling that I left my New York apartment in a Dial 7 car for Kennedy airport last Friday evening.
There was so much traffic it took a half hour to get from my Upper West Side street to 125th St and Second Avenue to cross the Triboro just to head out to the airport. But the driver was knowledgeable and by taking the streets and not the highway, we reached the airport in an hour!! Miracle. The line to check in luggage at Alitalia was long, the staff looked harried, said their computers were slow, but finally I was ready for the security hassle I was promised.
It didn't happen. Everyone was peaceful the lines moved along without incident and I was able to sit and eat my sandwich peacefully, windowshop the duty free store and embark on my eight hour flight on time.
Well, the plane had to wait for a while on the Tarmac, but we were only ten minutes late arriving in Rome. I remained "in transit" walking many steps on my Fitbit to get to my new gate, but again everything went according to airport time and my Overseas Adventure Travel greeter held up a sign to show me where to wait for our transfer to the hotel. Even my suitcase arrived at the airport contrary to expectations.
I met Carolyn, Susan and Dan and we were delivered to the Wagner Hotel in the center of Palermo, where, shortly after our arrival, I met most of the rest of our group at an orientation meeting.
The Wagner hotel is wonderful, Art Deco gold paneled,with a central staircase( some folks used the elevator) the hotel has five floors with a breakfast room on the top. There is a fitness center, but I never even found out where it is.
The lobby is wood paneled, the fireplace is dressed with cherubs, the rooms would look comfortable in an eighteenth century movie.
We were only thirteen travelers; the others had transportation difficulties. One couple who arrived after we had finished our dinner still has not received their luggage and we are on Day 4 today.
The sixteenth person cancelled, leaving everyone on the trip with a travel partner except me.
For dinner we walked to a restaurant that served tapas-like platters. This required group interaction as we shared the food. We sat at three separate tables, one for six people, two for five.Two people sat at the middle table, I joined them and then there ensued a minor scramble for seats as three people who arrived together wanted to sit together and there was no place for them to do that at the table where I was seated. One couple left the first table and joined my table and the situation was resolved.
OAT does not believe in name tags, or, thank you OAT, in leaders with flags. We have to talk with each other and remember names as we get to know the folks on our tour.
The group begins with Mauro, our 35 year-old native Palermo-born tour guide.
In the beginning, it was a bit difficult for me to understand him, but by now, no one has any problem with him. He is delightful, knowledgeable, responsible, resourceful, helpful and a lot of fun. Happy, boyish, singing open fun.
Ann and Lyn are sisters who travel together; each is married and their spouses don't like to travel.They have been to China and Thailand and many more OAT trips. I think Ann has completed fifteen! Susan and Dan, whom I met at the airport have been married for thirty one years and traveled with Road Scholar last year and chose this as their first OAT trip. Ruth, whose husband passed away, moved to an island off the coast of Savannah and plays tennis and sails as crew on her friends' sailboats. She hangs out with the threesome, Dana, Adrienne and Mary who are from Oklahoma, two are a couple and the third is mother to one. Louise and Felicia are New Yorkers--well, Felicia is a social worker, retired, who lives in Brooklyn. Louise lives in Lincoln Towers, right near Lincoln Center. Carolyn is with Sam. They're from California. Our newest arrivals who are also from California are Connie and Jim. They've been married for sixty-one years!!! More adventure to share in the days ahead.