The Europe 09’

Trip report


Walking bridge Frankfurt



After lunch Margi & Bonnie went to S. Piedro’s while I ran around Roma (20k loop)


Margi in the middle






We’ve had great fun and luck in the past leaving everything besides flights to/from Europe and the first hotel up in the air. In this case that meant we booked a flight to/from Frankfurt and a hotel there, but how we were then going to get to Roma, would be a game time decision.


Why Frankfurt? Well, thanks for asking, we used frequent flier miles from two different airlines and Frankfurt gave us the most flights and meet up options.


This would have probably worked out if we had not planned on flying into Europe on a long weekend. Arrive on Good Friday, go to Roma on Easter or Monday which was a bank holiday. In short as my friend Imran said “Dave mate, you sure picked a weekend to arrive. Everyone will be traveling”


A week before the trip I started trying to fill in the blanks and realized quickly, it wasn’t going to be cheap and Frankfurt is a long way from Roma.


The compromise travel became this:


Friday – Arrive in Frankfurt and check into hotel


Saturday 10PM – board an all night shared sleeper car train for Milan.


Sunday 7AM – arrive in Milano, and “Hey Margi, I’ve always wanted to go to Milano, want to spend the night there?” “Yes” and a hotel in Milan was booked.


Monday 11am – Pick up a week long rental car and drive to the coast via Genova and maybe spend the night somewhere on the way to Roma.


Later in the week we’d reverse that to catch the all night train (on seats this time) from Milano to Frankfurt Sunday night to arrive 4-6 hours before our flights back to the states.


Margi arrived at 8am and I was arriving at 3pm. Margi was very pleased to find the room ready for her upon arrival and only 1.5 blocks from the train station.


I was pleased that the room was really cheap because we had to walk through the red light district at night to get to the nicer areas of town.


Schwiezer Platz is the nice restaurant area of town. The market provides a rather impressive shopping situation, if you’re into that kind of thing. I won a free dinner by being the first to spot the H&M store.


For restaurants I recommend Adolph Wagner’s for pork pieces, just beware the waiters who are mean N@*!s.

Train to Milano


That was trippy. We boarded with a few bottles of wine and were lead to a car with six beds in it. We had the two middle beds. We had various other passengers in the other beds during the nine hour trip southwest.


We both slept surprisingly well as those electric trains are so smooth and quiet.


We got to stop and do a meet and greet with the Swiss and then Italian border police.



Arriving at 7am on Easter Sunday and having our room not ready for us gave us a unique opportunity to visit a nearly deserted central square. We found food, took pictures and wandered around for five hours waiting for our room to be ready.


After it was we took naps and went back out to a completely different Milano that was full of people wandering around. It was like we were there two days in one day.


The shops and good restaurants were still not open, but we got by on aperitifs which Milan is famous for. Essentially you sit in a restaurant, order a drink and pay a little extra and they bring you a plate of prosciutto, cheese, bread and fruit or vegetables.


The morning we left I was faced with an adventure.


Orient my way across town to the rental car pickup and then orient my way back across town to the hotel to pickup Margi. Finally, orient our way out to the Autostradt (highway)




Schwietzer Platz Frankfurt


Frankfurt Mall


Milano Mall



Migrant Egyptian art



Pantheon, Peroni and me



Roman Forum



I had brought running close and a bike messenger bag with papers and water.













I picked a route and started off with the map in my bag. I soon realized I needed it in my front pocket and finally that I had to hold it in my hand as my map was a car route map and did not include every street.


I made it there on time and a thought hit me a few blocks from the Europcar pickup location. It’s a bank holiday in Europe, would they even be open? And in fact, no they weren’t. Next step, go to the train station which had a Europcar office that had been open on Easter Sunday. The same location that gave me the map I was using to orienteer.


It was open and I only had to wait an hour in line while customers in front of me exchanged cars they didn’t like for ones they did. The Belgians didn’t like their automatic; the Americans wanted a bigger car.


Driving back to the hotel turned crazy quick. I missed the Corso and the Viale that would take me close and soon found that I no longer knew my East from South and was nowhere recognizable map wise. So I took a deep breath and headed for what looked like a major street. From that street I looked for signs pointing to Centro. I needed reference points like the castle and Bonaparte street to the market square. After that I needed that RayBan sign on the building that pointed me toward Via Torino which our hotel was on.


Strangely, that all worked out. I picked up Margi and the bags and had a similar experience. Missed the Corso and Viale to the Autostradt and then simply followed signs that said AutoStradt on them and once there it was pretty easy to follow numbers and signs to Genova.

Driving down the coast


Driving into Genova was really pretty. Pretty canyons, pretty houses and then a left turn to drive down the coast.


First thing we noticed was we didn’t drive down the coast. I think we saw the water twice. First 20K or so was a series of impressive tunnels. That was followed by country side and then Toscana where we became Tuscan Raiders and I had my only allergy problems on the trip. I could see Toscana’s relation to California.


One of our goals was to hit a coastal town and due to its proximity to the E80 we were driving down, we chose Follonica. Follonica on a less cold and windy day and after a bottle of wine might have enticed us to spend the night. None of that happened and we made the decision to push all the way to Roma, nightfall be damned.


Biggest problem with that idea was it was Monday evening after a long weekend when everyone was driving back to Roma. We hit traffic. I think if there hadn’t been traffic, we could have made it by day light and Civitavecchia where the cruise ships are would have been neat to drive through. But I may never know. The locals later told us all the good beach towns in Italia are south of Roma.



We received a wonderful greeting from Bonnie and Alioscia upon arrival. They even made it really easy by directing us to an easy to find Piazza and then escorting us to their place. Bonnie had made a great dinner and I was at first shocked that we ate at midnight and then were still awake at 2AM and we slept in until after 10AM. That showed how new I was to Roman life.


Each day in Roma we did something. Bonnie outlined things to see on a map and we’d go out on the Tram and then walk all over.  Later we’d meet up for aperitifs and then dinner. Rinse repeat.


We found it pays to have good local connections. Besides dramatically different food quality, Italian lessons and tips about how things work. We got to go to some neat events like the party at the French embassy for the film festival and Alioscia’s dad’s art show.


It also pays to know the Italian, aka, correct spelling of places. For instance, asking an Italian how to get to Florence can be problematic. While, asking them about Firenze will have better results. Alioscia and I were talking about that, why is it that other countries change the names of cities? Two theories came out, 1) Different cultures historically viewed each other in different ways, for instance us and them, us being “People of the island in the sun in the river” instead of “mean people in the river”. Theory 2) was a memory problem. A traveler goes to Firenze and is told the name, and then three months later when he returned to England he remembers it’s something like Florence. And then when he passed through Par-EE he wrote the name down so he wouldn’t forget it, but then a month later back in England he couldn’t remember to pronounce it correctly.


One thing we did notice, Italians were very nice about helping Americans with the language. A lot nicer than in some other countries. (Italia is the new France)

Roma Highlights


We never do touristy things, but in Rome during the day, we broke our own rules. Notable things we did:


·         The Colesseo. I’d wanted to go there since I was about seven years old when I heard about the Gladiators. It was intense from the first glimpse of it a half mile away. If you go, a great way to save time and money is this: Outside they’ll offer to take you on a tour and skip the line for an additional 10 Euro on top of the 16 Euro to get in. Say no and get in line. Once in line they’ll offer the same tour and line skipping for 4 Euro. Do that and then skip the tour.

·         Campo Di Fiore. We were there for at least a half hour every day. Great place to meet up with people or take a break.

·         The French and Brazillan Embassies. Alioscia complained that the Italians give away their best buildings to foreign embassies. It’s true.

·         Trastevere. In the children’s book, “This is Rome” it says that the most Roman Romans can be found in Trastevere. I’m not sure if that’s true, but it was my favorite area of town to spend quality time in.

·         That park above Trastevere where Via Garabaldi turns into Via Aurelia Antica. I ran a 20K into this park and then back out and did not find the end. It used to be a rich families hunting grounds and so there is neat stuff from lodges, to café’s to a roller skating rink in the park. Oh, and don’t worry about carrying water, this is a fully supported route with fountains all the way through the park.

·         Fountains. The Romans are proud of their water and for good reason. They pioneered water relocation and have placed healthy, safe fountains throughout the city. Buy a water bottle and then carry it around with you while refilling it in the cities fountains. Oh, and that fountain that I can’t remember the name of, oh yea, Fontana de Trevi,  that I was told was on the TV show the Bachelor, it’s really pretty and right by all the expensive shopping (see underwear above) just down from the Spanish steps, is really neat.

·         O2 Club. About a block from the Pantheon with two for one happy hour drink specials with cute locals in attendance.

·         The Spanish Embassy. They get their own shout out as they have one of the best views of the entire city and a nice fountain.

·         Our favorite restaurants were Cul de Sac for lunch in a piazza about a block from Campo di Fiore and for dinner, Enzo which was on the other side of town toward the Aventino.


The Return


We were sad to leave, but did it anyway.


Driving out of Roma was pretty easy. I’d ran the route out to practice the day I went to the park and from there we followed the signs to the autostradt.


I was happy to drive 150-160KM/hour most of the way but don’t translate that speed to miles for my mom.


Besides a little rain we arrived in Milano with plenty of time to turn in the car and have dinner with the English and Americans. (Only English and American families eat dinner at 7PM in Italia.)


We then went to the station and bought some wine for the trip to Frankfurt and after an additional appertif, and billete purchase (ask me privately about that) we boarded the all night train back to the Deutschland.


The interesting thing about this train ride was we were in a six person sitting car with a crazy “thought she was hot” german lady, an African mom with her three year old, and an African man.


We read for a while and slept for a while until we reached an area north of the Swiss border where the Swiss and German border police could take turns checking us out and showing us their dogs.


Well, they didn’t like our male African friend. We didn’t figure it out why until later. He didn’t look like his passport picture and he’d boarded the wrong train. He was headed to Hamburg on a train destined for Frankfurt.


Well, they sure searched the heck out of him.


Back in Frankfurt we found ourselves buying breakfast at the same place in the station we’d ate at a week before and then carrying the food next store to the pub where I saw replays of Sebastiene Vettel winning the Chinese Grand Prix in the rain the day before.


We then took the train to the airport where I helped Margi get checked in and onto her flight back to the states. Man, was she happy to be rid of me!


I then had 4-5 hours to kill in Frankfurt so I headed back to town, bought a beer and called my buddy Imran, who was in Hamburg, at 10am local time.


He asked why the beer so early, and I said, Well, what time am I in really? Back in the states it was closing time.


I talked to him for almost an hour and then headed to the airport where I bought lunch for my flight which started a chain of events.


The people in front of me wanted to get rid of their euros and were 1 euro short to buy their food, so I said, “Hey, here’s a euro, use mine” the guys behind the counter thought that was great and when it was my turn they didn’t just sell me a sandwich, they gave me a cup full of chocolate covered nuts to take on the plane.


I then offered those nuts to anyone on the plane I came in contact with, including the flight attendants, who play for the other team, and who thought that was neat enough to waive my drink fees for the entire flight back to SF.


A good time was had by all.