Norwegian Air Gets You There

Up in the air junior bird man.  Remember when flying was as easy peasy as putting your thumb and pointer fingers together to make a mask out of your two hands and then, with mask in place, singing and zooming around the house?  Sigh, how I long for those days.  Now it is surfing the web for air fares, thinking you found a deal and then pulling out your hair as your dates won’t work.  Errrrggggg.  With an extended family that we adore deciding they should all be getting married this year, we have been flying back and forth to Italy more than normal.  That meant one of us had to handle the insanity that is ticket buying.  Thank God, Jack enjoys the hunt and doesn’t cave under the price chase pressure.

This flight back Jack booked us on “low cost” (their website words not mine) Norwegian Air.  Compared to our usual flights in premium economy seats, we saved about $1500.  

WHAT A BIG LIE! – BECAUSE WE SAVED $1500 we promptly booked a hotel in Rome for four days, first class train tickets to Benevento and ate in great Roman restaurants – What?  Jack is reading over my shoulder AGAIN and says the air fare savings is the story.  Stick to the story.  Beh.

Norwegian Air now flies directly to Rome from Newark – a much easier airport for us to get to.  So for a base price of $959 for two premium economy tickets one way, Jack started shopping.  Of course the $959 number was only good after we wanted to go.  Our tickets form Newark to Rome cost $1293.  Getting back next year will cost us the $959.  Still pretty cheap.  Jack bought the $32 priority boarding privilege.  Not bad. Then you add on the airport fees – eleven different fees to be exact.  What the hell is Council City Tax (HB) or US APHIS FEE (XA)?  Smack the fees on and our price for two  premium economy seats  was $2535.

 

Why not cram four bags and two computer bags into Tony’s car?

The Norwegian Experience —-

Tony and Andrea once again drag our suitcases to the curb and kiss us good-bye.  We were there the requisite three hours early and were the only folks at the Norwegian Air counter.  The woman who helped us was charming and fun.  We dumped our luggage and headed for the included Arts Lounge. This is the “First Class” lounge for a slew of low cost airlines.  We discovered that Premium Economy is also considered First Class by Norwegian air.  Actually, they only have two classes on a plane – couch and premium.  The lounge was incredibly full of furniture and people speaking a babel’s worth of languages.  The chairs were comfortable and they had a hot buffet.  Did I mention that our flight was leaving after 11:00 PM?  Snacks, wines, sparkling wines, beers, hot food and comfortable seats – hmmm next time we should come earlier.

I read our tickets and realized that the flight was operated by Privilege Style.  A quick google resulted in our knowing that this was a charter company that offers flights on behalf of other companies.  Gulp.  Maybe we need to cancel the flight or just walk to Pontelandolfo.  The ever tranquil Jack brought me another glass of something alcoholic and said it was an adventure.

We easily got through TSA and went to the appropriate gate.  At 11:00 PM I noted there wasn’t any plane at the gate.  A glance at the call board didn’t even have a flight listed.  I had to restrain my Jersey girl bully and started to get up to find out the story.  Suddenly, an announcement was made to the 100 of us sitting at the gate.  “Norwegian Flight 7194 was leaving from the other f%&^ing side of the airport – RUN.”  No, they didn’t say that but they should have.  We all got up and power walked to the other side of the terminal.  There this line of pissed off people calmly – NOT – went through the TSA drill for a second time.  Our priority boarding fee wasn’t worth the paper it was printed on.  By the time we got to the right gate they were boarding everyone.

Then we turned left into the plane.  Our seat – my God our seats – they were the size and shape of Business Class seats on other airlines.  There was a security screen that Jack could raise between our seats so I couldn’t talk to him.  The seats reclined flat and bed like.  There was tons of leg and wide butt room.  Cozy and comfortable.  Each of us was given a very Nordic throw to keep us warm.  Pillow?  Nope.  Headphones to watch the video screens?  Nope. Cute little bag with earplugs and eye shades?  Nope.  But hey it was cheap and I carry all that on anyway – well not the pillow.   I put on my eyeshades, plugged up my ear and slide the seat down to bed.  Ahhhh – what is that I hear – a cocktail cart.  Whisk, I was up and had my hand out.  Sorry no Scotch.  They had wines, beer and sparkling wines.  I sipped my Prosecco and went back to sleep mode.  About an hour later my nose woke me up sniffing hot food.  I vowed since this was a red-eye flight I wasn’t going to eat but the smell – – –

We both had pretty tasty salmon, salads and I don’t remember – oh year a funny messy bunch yummy potato thing.  All was served in a cardboard box with plastic cutlery.  Remember this is a low-cost carrier.  Since my earplugs weren’t compatible with the entertainment system, I popped open my iPad and watched the movie I had downloaded.  Actually, I will make sure to always do this.  Than, the choice is really mine.  After the movie, the mask was back, ears were plugged and the big snooze happened for a few hours.

At 11:30 AM Italy time, we were all woken up to the scent of coffee.  Instead of breakfast, we got a cardboard box of a brunch thing – teeny tiny pigeonesq eggs, salad, salami, salad covered in crumbly cheese and mild Nordic cheese.  Not the best food – remember this is a low-cost airline.  Correction – Jack said the food was good!

Would we fly them again?  Hell yeah – the seats went flat and were big.  Will I let Jack convince me to drop a bundle on a mini Roman holiday?  Hell — maybe.

Ci Vediamo!

PS – This is the time to register for 2019 Cooking in the Kitchens of Pontelandolfo!

 

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Italian Public Holidays

Keep the questions coming!  I will try to answer then!   When should we visit Italy?  As soon and as often as you can.  What are the holidays?  Many of you have asked about Italian Holidays – well, here is what I have discovered –

It takes government action to declare a public holiday. Workers – I’m guessing full time not contract or part time – are entitled to a day off with full pay.  If they have to work – like there is a giant sale at the mall – they must be paid 2.5 times their normal rate. Do not get sick, have your car breakdown or any other emergency on a public holiday.  Very little is open and hospitals are understaffed.  No really – do not get sick in August either.

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Here is the list of  Italian Public Holidays –

January 01 Capodanno New Year’s Day
January o6 Epifania (La Befana!) Epiphany
Monday After Easter  Pasquetta Easer Monday
April 25 Festa Della Liberazione Liberation Day
May 01 Festa del Lavoro Labor Day – May Day
June 02 Festa della Repubblica Republic Day
August 15 Ferragosto Assumption Day
November 01 Ognissanti All Saints Day
December o8 Immacolata Concezione (This is the beginning of the Christmas season.) Immaculate Conception Day
December 25 Natale Christmas Day
December 26 Santo Stefano St Stephens Day

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Religious and – as Jack call’s them – 

Greeting Card and Flower Shop Holidays –

March 19 Festa di San Giuseppe St. Joseph’s / Father’s Day
February 14 Festa degli Innamorati St. Valentine’s Day
February Carnevale Mardi Gras/ Fat Tuesday
Variable Pasqua Easter
Second Sunday in May Festa Della Mamma Mother’s Day
November 2 I giorno dei Morti Day of the Dead

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   Pontelandolfo Holidays

September 19 San Gennaro Naple’s Patron Saint
May 21 San Rita Procession & Blessing of Cars
June 13 San Antonio Procession
1st Week in August San Salvatore 7 day festa, film festival, venders, rides, entertainment
August 16 San Rocco Procession

All of the small villages in our province take their holidays seriously.  There is an incredible communal feeling to be part of a procession, share a panini on the street, listen to the music and know that you are part of a larger family.

If you would like to feel like you really are living in an Italian Village – even if just for a week, take a peek at this web-site and let us create a holiday just for you.

Ci Vediamo!

Have You Missed Me?

OMG – I flew back to the USA one month ago and went AWOL! Not really, I just got off the plane, leaped into the fray and went into culture shock. Let’s turn back the clock….

Restored Stone Italian Home
Arrivederci Pontelandolfo.

Leaving Pontelandolfo is always emotional for me.  I get a little teary eyed as I put the boxes in the storage room.  Life there is  – well – just good for me.  With our suitcases stacked on the terrace, we stuck our thumbs out and hooked a ride with the Sindaco of Casalduni and two of the consigliere. They were headed to Naples for a regional meeting on the windmills. (To remind yourselves why I hate them read – http://wp.me/p3rc2m-pp.)

These bright young men, loaded with data that defines the negative impact windmills have on their town and the towns around them, were preparing for battle.  Riding with them I felt like the fly on the wall as they revisited the travesty that is the green mandate and tweaked their presentation.  At Capodichino they pulled over, yanked our overstuffed bags out of the trunk and sped off to lend their voices to the cause.

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I pulled out my Italian passport at the Alitalia desk and attempted to check in.  Six Months ago, I entered the country on an Italian passport and figured I should let them know I was leaving.  With her heavily shadowed eyes,  the counter attendant looked at me sternly  and snarled where is your visa. Visa. Shit, I wasn’t the clandestino. She wants my visa? “Perche?” USA visa. “Oh, I don’t need one,” and  I whipped out my USA passport.  “Sono cittadina!”  She got nicer and said that she appreciated the fact that I loved my history enough to have both.  Whew. PS, she let my overweight carry-on go with a warning.

Quick leap to Rome. I had forgotten what an incredible mall Leonardo Da Vinci Airport was. It I hadn’t had to show my passport I would have thought I was at the Short Hills Mall or on Rodeo Drive. Gucci, Dolce and Gabana, Burberry, Mont Blanc…

Women with mid-western twangs sat behind me at the gate.  Here is what I listened to —

Sicily – whadda ya think?

It was Ok but there wasn’t anything you know, cute.   The shops didn’t have anything I would want. All they have are fish stores and bakeries. There wasn’t any place cute like you know Bed, Bath and Beyond… Would you come back?

Why?  We came once. How about that beach  – you know with the club? What a drop off.  Did you go in?

Yeah but in my bikini – I had to wear ugly swim shoes. Beach has rocks.  Didn’t know it was rocky and …

NO I DID NOT BLATHER AT THEM OR STAB MYSELF WITH A PEN.  I did think  – Open your bloody eyes bitches! I didn’t even turn around to see how old they were.   Well, yeah I did – Shit my age…

We love Alitalia for its Premium Economy. Cost less than First Class,  the seats are comido and it is a great bargain using air miles.

Landed at JFK on a Thursday night and hit the tarmac running.  The next morning I was meeting with the caterer and facilities manager for the the Hillsborough Jr. High 50th Reunion – scheduled for a week later.

Price point culture shock set in almost instantly.  I ordered a cappuccino and the barista said $4.75 – what the f**k – I have been paying .90 in the land of the cappuccino.

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Enough.  I’m back.  The blog is back.  You’re back.  Life is good.  Ci vediamo!

Talking For Free To Pals Scattered Around the World

Janet and Midge do Facetime

FaceTime at work!  I hate to do a commercial for Apple but I have to tell you, FaceTime is an incredibly easy way to chat with the pals at home.  Sometimes, however, the visual can be a little scary.  I mean you never know in what state of composure you are going to catch someone.  But then, they don’t have to answer the chirp.  My best bud Janet called me via FaceTime and snapped this shot of me on her iPad with her iPhone.  Facetime works really well from iPad to iPad.   What I really like is the ability to switch the camera from a shot of me to a shot of where ever I am.  There is a camera on both the display side and the back.  Or is that the front?  Apple says “FaceTime works right out of the box — no need to set up a special account or screen name. And using it is as easy as it gets. Let’s say you want to start a video call with your mom. Find her entry in your contacts and tap the FaceTime button.”  (http://www.apple.com/ios/facetime/ )  It hasn’t been quite that easy for me.  After you tap the FaceTime button you are asked if you want to use the person’s cell phone number or e-mail address.  I discovered that my friends and I had to use our e-mail addresses not cell phone numbers.  Once we figured that out it was seamless and we use it often.

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Happy Hall Family Via Skype

Skype is another service that I use to chat face to face with friends. You have to know the person’s Skype moniker and that is a pain in the proverbial butt.  I can barely remember my own name and find it tedious to e-mail pals and ask for their Skype addresses.  The Skype visuals seem out of focus or pixel yucky (note the techy jargon).  Microsoft now owns Skype and I wondered if that was why it didn’t work well with my Apple family of products.  The audio, however, is always pretty clear. Occasionally  it is a little behind the video – kind of like bad English dubbing of a foreign film. Or bad Italian dubbing of Law and Order.  I have put a few pennies into the Skype pot to make calls to landline phones and it has never worked for me.  It is pennies to call the USA via Skype and Verizon charges gold bullion for international roaming.  That said, the Skype calls never connected and were dropped.  I have read a number of reviews on line that swear that Skype calls work really, really well.  Well, I really, really haven’t experienced that.

The easiest interface to use is facebook.  All of your two thousand best buds are listed on the right hand side of the screen.  A little green dot means they are allegedly on-line.  The little green dot could also mean the computer is on line the the human is out having cocktails on the patio.  Click on the name of the friend whose green dot beckons you.  A screen pops up so that you can instant message or click on the little camera and a video call begins.  You don’t have to know their phone, number, e-mail address or shoe size.  I have used the facebook video chat a lot.

Thanks Kathy for being my communications model.
Thanks Kathy for being my facebook friend.

Facebook is how I connect with my Italian family when I am in the USA.  The video is often rough around the edges – to the point of being ghost like.  The audio quality seems to vary depending on the space the person is in – cavernous echoes have been known to happen.  I didn’t realize until I sat down to write this that Skype and facebook now have some sort of marriage.  The icons appear on both web-sites.

To summarize:  the Apple FaceTime wins but if you want to hear the voices of those you left behind any of these internet methods will work.  Happy calling!  Hey, if you know of any other ways to beat the phone companies and BS for days with pals around the world let us all know!  I’ll be calling you!