Thursday, September 29, 2016

End of Summer 2016, kudzu and Bucatini all'Amatriciana

The calendar tell us we are in autumn already.  Here, it still feels like summer, albeit the end of it.  Last Sunday the temperature was 93 F (33.8 C) but this week we are starting to have a "cold front" which means the temperature will be in the low 80s F (28 C.)  The little flowers you can see in my heading picture bloom in late summer and have a pleasant sweet fragrance.  What type are they? you may ask.  They are flowers of the Pueraria montana plant, from the pea family Fabaceae, subfamily Faboideae, or in plain English, they are the flowers of the kudzu vine.  (Click on collage twice to embiggen.)

I understand you can make jelly from these kudzu flowers, but I certainly don't want that many vines in our front yard as kudzu is invasive and will kill trees.  In the top photo in the collage above you can see a large black pipe in the background.  The county Water Commission cut over 30 of our trees (see pictures in my January post here) and their machinery propagated the kudzu vines to our front yard.  Kudzu is from Southeast Asia and was introduced in the US in 1876 as an ornamental shrub then later on, in the Southern US, to feed goats and as an erosion control.  But it grows rapidly and will cover everything in its path.  There was a field close to our house with a small abandoned house in the center of it.  Within 2 or 3 summers the field was totally covered with kudzu and the house was just a bump in the field.  Below are some photos from a road about one mile away, kudzu around our mailbox and climbing on pine trees in our front yard.  (The barn covered in kudzu courtesy UGA.)

Throughout August the Water Commission worked on our road, digging and installing big water pipes for their water main.  They even used dynamite which made our house shake.  They also cut our cable often and toward the end of August, for over 10 days, we had no cable access (no TV, no computer) from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm.  Some days we could not get out of our driveway for hours, or get back home.

I took pictures as the work progressed.  It was noisy and dusty.

But the summer had some highlights - such as the Tour de France which I followed on TV.  In the evenings, from August 5 through 21, we watched the Olympic Games held in Rio de Janeiro.  The U.S. women's gymnastics team was spectacular, as well as champion swimmer Michael Phelps.  Congratulations to the athletes of Team America for winning 121 medals.  It was fun to watch small countries winning medals, such as Ahmad Abughaus, 20 years old, who won the first medal in the history of Jordan, in men's taekwondo.  Dilshod Nazarov of Tajikistan won the Olympic men's hammer title and captured the first gold medal for the Central Asian country since it gained its independence with the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.  Majlinda Kelmendi made history by becoming the first athlete from Kosovo to win an Olympic medal (the first medal since Kosovo became a state in 2008.)  The Fiji men's rugby team finally landed their country its first medal, a gold one, when Fiji beat its former colonial ruler, Britain, by 43-7.

How about France's golden boxing couple?  France's Tony Yoka won the gold medal against Britain's Joe Joyce.  Tony is the first Frenchman to win gold in boxing heaviest division.  His girl-friend, Estelle Mossely, competed in the women's lightweight boxing match against Chinese boxer Yin Junhua and won the gold as well.  Tony and Estelle are planning to be married, and France is super excited = boxing and love! C'est magnifique!

But not everything was fun and love this summer.  There was the terrible tragedy in Nice, France.  When a tragedy happens in one's country, a city visited many times, it seems to hurt more.  We see so much bad news on TV that, unfortunately, we often cannot grieve as well for unknown parts of the world.  One year I purchased my flight on Delta Airlines months before flying to Paris to see my mother.  Then Delta had a sale.  They gave me a coupon for the difference in price.  The coupon turned out to be the same price as a round-trip flight to Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  So, I flew there, by myself, and stayed several days.  Baton Rouge means "red stick" in French.  It was translated by explorer Sieur d'Iberville and his exploration party in 1699 from the native term "Istrouma" or the Choctaw "iti humma" which means red pole.  I took photos with my old film camera and also purchased postcards.  Here are some below.

I rented a car and visited many historic plantations along the Mississippi River.  I'll try to find my old film photos and if some are OK I'll have a post later on.  Below is a postcard showing some of them: Nottoway, Houmas House, Oak Alley, Destrehan and San Francisco plantations.

In mid-August I was so sad to watch on the news the extreme flooding in and around Baton Rouge.  It was difficult to look at the devastation - 60,000 homes damages or destroyed in Louisiana.  I remembered the city well with its friendly citizens.  I had even spoken French with several Cajun families.  Below are some photos showing the flooded Baton Rouge area (courtesy Baton Rouge Advocate newspaper.)

In high school in France we had to study two foreign languages: 1) English or German, 2) German or English, Spanish, Russian or Italian.  I took English as my first language and Italian as my second.  We were about 37 in my English class, but only 3 students in my Italian class.  Consequently, I spoke much better Italian than English when I finished high school.  I had an Italian pen-pal who invited me to stay in her home for several summer vacations and I went there during the months of July and August.  She lived on the bank of the Adriatic Sea in the town of San Benedetto del Tronto.  I remember when I arrived there the first time I was in awe.  Coming from grey Paris here was a town with palm trees and flowers in the avenues and a turquoise colored sea.  I did take pictures, but they were small and in black and white.  But here are some old postcards below.  I placed a blue dot under Ancona (under San Marino, on the right) in the region of the Marches, to show where San Benedetto is located.

The parents of my pen-pal Marisa, had a farm/winery inland also, in the surrounding area of Ascoli Piceno, near Arquata del Tronto (shown in pictures below.)  The Tronto is a river that ends in San Benedetto del Tronto.  We would drink the wine from their farm and it was very good.  They had a rose wine, like a sherry, in which we would place pieces of peaches and then eat and drink this as a dessert.  They also had an amber colored wine, sweet and strong, which was a good accompaniment to smoked ham and melon.  I was able to achieve a similar taste with a Serrano ham, a "melorange" melon from Arizona and a glass of Ipsus Pantelleria Passito.

On August 23, 2016, at night, before turning the light off I checked my iPad and saw that there had been an earthquake in central Italy at 9:36 pm US Eastern time, or 3:36 am August 24, in Italy.  I stayed up to find out where this earthquake had been.  The epicenter of the 6-2-magnitude quake was in Accumoli, 9 miles from Arquata del Tronto (where the family had their farm/winery.)

The next several days I was on the computer as much as possible (whenever the Water Commission did not turn our cable off...)  reading on Italian internet sites.  This quake caused the death of 297 people and flattened most of Arquata del Tronto, Amatrice and Accumoli.  Many injured were taken to hospitals in San Benedetto del Tronto, 44 miles away (71 km.)  Such a terrible tragedy - I'm deeply saddened by the loss of life and all the destruction.  (Pictures below courtesy La Repubblica.)

What a devastating loss for these close-knit communities that have been there for centuries.  These picturesque mountain villages are sparsely populated.  As you can see by my collage above most buildings have crumbled.  I heard an old man saying on TV "il mio paese non esiste piu" /my village does not exist anymore.  It is heartbreaking.  I read an article talking about the seniors living in these villages, saying (in Italian and I translate)  "...Old people who have lived their whole lives in familiar four walls saw them collapse in a matter of seconds.  They are lost in the crowd of desperate people who have lost everything, like them.  Almost.  Because when you're old you no longer have the time to reconstruct a different life.  You do not have time to get used to a house that is not yours, and that you never knew.  No time.  And perhaps not even want to.  They are left there to watch the ruin of their past and the massacre of their future..."  Below are photos of Amatrice from before (on left) and after the earthquake (on right,) courtesy USA Today.

I went to look at the internet site of the city of Amatrice, which had been voted last year as one of Italy's most beautiful historic villages.  It still showed an ad for their upcoming festival for the 50th anniversary (on August 27 and 28) of their famous sauce for spaghetti called Spaghetti all'Amatriciana (invented by local shepherds in the Middle Ages.)  I copied the artwork you can see below.  It also showed the welcoming sign, at the entry of the town which said "Amatrice, 955 meters above sea level, citta' degli spaghetti all'amatriciana/city of the spaghetti a l'amatriciana."

But the festival did not take place, alas.  For a sad remembrance of their beautiful festival and to honor the people of Amatrice I drove to the DeKalb Farmers' Market in Atlanta (40 miles away/64 km) to buy the necessary ingredients to make Bucatini all'amatriciana.  It is a classic, simple but hearty Italian pasta dish.  The dish has six ingredients: bucatini pasta, not spaghetti (bucatini pasta is thick and hollow,) guanciale (cured pig jowl) but pancetta can be used, pecorino cheese, red pepper, white wine and genuine tomatoes from San Marzano.  I added a small onion in mine.  I was pleased to find the bucatini pasta and a genuine can of imported San Marzano tomatoes.  It did not take long to cook and it was delicious, but bittersweet.

I wished to finish the end of the 2016 summer with something positive.  To bring these villages back to life, they should not be just names on a map.  There was joy there, the love of good food; so we need to keep alive their famous pasta sauce, Amatriciana (there are many recipes on the internet.)  (for those who wish to help, here is a link to .)

I hope all my blogging friends had a good summer 2016, filled with good memories.

Above is a photo of the Frecce Tricolori (Tricolor Arrows) the aerobatic demonstration team of the Italian Air Force (the Aeronautica Militare Italiana.)  This is to express my sympathy to the members of the Italian Air Force (I enjoyed working with them for almost ten years) and to Italy.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Clouds, the friendly skies and more ...

In my last post I explained why our trip to Orange County in California and back had been a challenge; click here if you wish to read it.  What was upsetting to me was that I did not remember the name of the person at Southwest Airlines who helped us find our lost luggage.  That made all the difference for our attendance to our daughter's wedding, the next day.  When we came back to Georgia I wrote a letter to Southwest relating our experience and asking if they could locate their staff member who had found our luggage and give her our warmest thanks.  A week or so later I received an email from Southwest acknowledging my letter with a reference number and a telephone number.  A couple of weeks later I did call the number, curious to see if they had found the luggage person.  I am not sure whether they had found her or not, but the SW employee told me she was sending me two vouchers for $250 each to be redeemed on their airline before August 2017.  Then another couple of days later, I received an email, from another PR Southwest employee, giving us 50% off saver coupons good on any of their flights, and valid until the end of January 2017.  Yesterday, I received another email from an executive in Southwest PR with profuse apologies about our challenging trip and an offer for reimbursement of any extra expense we incurred on the trip.  I had not even sent a letter of complaint, just a letter to express our gratitude to one of their team members ...

After all this I guess we have to get back on a trip in the friendly skies, -:).  I am checking Southwest's route for a possible destination for a short winter trip - somewhere warm.  I would not mind going back up in an aircraft to watch the clouds from above.  Looking at my photographs I noticed that I have a very large number of cloud and sky pictures, both from above and below.  Habits that one started in childhood are often kept throughout adulthood.  When I was a wee child in Paris - I am talking 4, 5 years old, during World War II, my mother and I would look out of the living room window (pictured below) to see if any German planes were flying our way.  Then later, every morning my mother would ask me to look out of that window to check the weather.  The habit was formed to look at the sky.  We would often walk up the 15 minutes to the Sacre-Coeur of Montmartre in Paris.  The view of the sky from the hill was striking.  When my parents bought the house in St Leu la Foret, a Paris suburb, I would hike to the forest top with my dog.  If the sky was clear I could see the Eiffel Tower in the distance.  Here in Georgia we are close to Kennesaw Mountain with a great sky view to Atlanta from the top of the mountain.  (Click on collage to enlarge.)

As I was looking often from the window mother would ask me: "Are you seeing some cumulus? Or nimbus? Or nimbostratus?"  Then she would add "You should know, you always have your head in the clouds ..."  My favorites are the cumulus clouds.  They are fluffy, look like cotton candy or even look like a nice head of cauliflower.  I also thought they resembled little sheep in the sky.  Below are the different types of clouds (courtesy US and French Wikipedia.)

I really was surprised at the number of cloud and sky pictures I have accumulated.  My husband looks at clouds every time we go shopping, or anywhere.  As I drive, he will tell me to look up at a nice cluster of clouds.  Often I have to stop, park the car and look up - then I take a picture.  I found many pictures of lovely cloudy skies from the trips we made.  It is difficult to choose from some of the pictures I took on our coastal voyage from above the Arctic Circle to Bergen, Norway, as the Norwegian fjords were breathtaking under any sky, any weather, as shown below.

Even if one is not of a poetic inclination, it is difficult not to become lyrical while looking at these beautiful clouds and skies from Norway.  A quotation from the Prince of Roeulx, of the Royal House of Belgium, comes to mind: "Clouds are fantastical dream machines - wondrous and magical, and in touch with infinity."

For about 26 years I worked in an aircraft manufacturing plant here in Marietta, at the Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company, Air Force Plant No. 6.  It is a huge facility containing about 4.2 million-square-feet.  There, I was the Customer Liaison in the C-130 Hercules transport aircraft division for about 15 plus years.  Then I worked for about 11 years as an Analyst in the C-130J Super Hercules' Supply Chain Management for one of our customers, the Italian Air Force.  The production floor is huge, with no windows, just two grand openings at each end of the building.  When I drove the trainees or customers to the various labs, such as the Avionics lab, or Power Plant lab, the first thing I did was to look up at the sky, always.  There could be one of our C-130s flying, or a C-5 ...

"There is a certain feeling of courage and hope when you work in the field of the air.  You instinctively look up, not down.  You look ahead, not back.  You look ahead where the horizons are absolutely unlimited."  Robert E. "Bob" Gross, Lockheed's Chairman/CEO 1932-1961.

I also like to look down at clouds while flying.  I never get tired of watching clouds, as long as there is light, rather than watching a film or using a laptop or iPad.  All these ethereal clouds let you imagine that you are in the land of dreams, with no stress or constraints, with infinity ahead.

Pictures must be taken quickly when flying over a group of clouds.  They pass by in an instant or change shape, from transparent to fibrous or silky.  They can be soft looking with opalescent colors or have a somber aspect, with menacing dark shapes.  They can form a halo or be quite dense, thin or semi-transparent.

Clouds have inspired painters.  Below are two such paintings.  On top left is Cloud by John Constable, English (1776-1837) next to Study of Clouds by Simon Denis, Belgian (1755-1813.)

They have also inspired poets and novelists.  Below is an excerpt from Marcel Proust's school writings, 1885-1886.  I'll translate it below. 
« Dans tous les temps, dans tous les pays […] les nuages ont dû séduire l’imagination de l’homme par leurs formes changeantes et souvent fantastiques. Toujours l’homme a dû y deviner les êtres imaginaires ou réels qui occupaient son esprit. Chacun peut y trouver ce qui lui plaît. […] Il peut découvrir alors dans les nuées […] toutes les fantaisies brillantes de son imagination exaltée. […]Ces belles couleurs de pourpre et d'or donneront à son rêve un éclat magnifique et grandiose  […] Puis, se laissant aller presque involontairement à une rêverie qui l’absorbe, l’homme oublie peu à peu les objets qui l’entourent ; ne voyant plus rien, n’entendant plus rien près de soi, il prête à son illusion le caractère de la réalité, donne la vie aux formes qu’il a devinées et assiste à un spectacle grandiose que lui-même il a créé. »  (Les nuages).

Translation:  "At all times, in all countries [...] the clouds had to capture the imagination of man by their changing and often fantastic shapes.  Man had to always guess in them the real or imaginary beings that occupied his mind.  Everyone can find in them whatever he wishes. [...]  He can then discover in the clouds [...] all the brilliant fancies of his exalted imagination. [...] These beautiful colors of purple-red and gold will give his dream a magnificent and grandiose radiance.  Then, almost unwittingly indulging in an absorbing reverie, man gradually forgets the objects that surround him; seeing nothing, hearing nothing close by, he lends to his illusion a character of reality, gives life to forms that he fancied and attends a splendid spectacle that he himself has created."  From "The Clouds" Marcel Proust, French (1871-1922.)

I just also realized that for a heading, when I started this blog, I selected a photograph of clouds over Newfoundland, Canada - I did not think about it until just now as I looked up.  I like to take pictures of cloudy landscapes whenever I see them.  Below are 3 pictures taken in Hawaii, (starting with the palm tree) then on the left column is Long Island, NY, above a bridge over the Mississippi in Memphis, TN.  On the right column, below the sunset in Honolulu is a beach at St Pierre et Miquelon, French island near Canada, then all the rest are pics of New York City.

We flew to New York City numerous times.  I was there for a visit in October 2001 - see post here.  Then we were there again in October, 2011, to visit the 9/11 Memorial, see post here.

 As I am writing this post, it is past midnight now, and it is September 11, 2016.  We remember that day with sorrow but also remember that we all came together in this nation, and many other countries joined us, people of all religions or no religion, to stand together to mourn the victims and to stand against hate.  It has been fifteen years since this horrible tragedy, but we will never forget, we still grieve.


Addendum -  We live close to Kennesaw National Battlefield Park.  This afternoon as we were driving around the north side of the mountain, near the visitors' center, we saw a multitude of flags.  

It was a beautiful sunny day with a light breeze.  We stopped and sat under the shade of an ancient tree and watched the flags waving in the wind.  They are there to remember and honor those who lost their lives on that fateful day.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

A challenging round-trip to Orange County, California

Our eldest daughter's wedding was to be celebrated on Friday July 22, 2016, in Mission Viejo, California, where the parents of her fiance's live.  So on Wednesday, 20 July, we got up early for our trip to Southern California as we had to board our cats at the veterinarian.  We had no time for breakfast. We live about one hour + away from the airport and usually park our vehicle in an offsite parking, close to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta Airport.  Unfortunately, after we parked, we had to wait a good 20 minutes, in full sun in the parking lot as the shuttle van had a flat tire.  I thought that this would be our only minor problem, optimist that I am  ...  We did make it to the airport, checked our suitcases, went through Security and arrived at the gate.  I always take a picture of our checked luggage, in case of them being lost or misplaced.

We had booked our flights on Southwest Airlines from Atlanta to John Wayne Airport, in Santa Ana, Orange County, California (SNA,) which is the closest airport to Mission Viejo.  We boarded the aircraft at about 2:00 pm for our 2:40 pm departure.  Then we waited, and waited.  The pilot told us that there had been a computer malfunction but we would soon leave.  We left Atlanta at 6:00 pm, sitting in the aircraft with our seat belts on all those 4 hours.  Our flight was not a direct flight, as we had to change in Phoenix, Arizona.  By the time we left Atlanta, I knew we would miss our connection in Phoenix.  I had a window seat and enjoyed the view to Arizona, though.  Below are some pictures I took from Atlanta to Phoenix.  The flying distance between the two cities is 1586 miles (2,552 km.)  (Click on photos to enlarge.)

The top left photo in the collage above is an air-view of Atlanta and the bottom photo on the right is arriving in Phoenix; Atlanta is much greener (one of the cities in the US with the most trees.)  As shown in the aerial views below of Phoenix and suburbs the developers have built communities of homogeneous houses, very close together.  The Millennial and Boomer generations are thought to wish to live in compact developments with easy access to shopping, but in and around Phoenix it looks like builders are still creating suburban sprawl - buying empty lots, further out, and quickly covering them with houses that look alike.

We arrived in Phoenix at about 6:16 pm Arizona time (3 hours time difference with Atlanta.)

Our connecting flight had been cancelled.  Another flight for Santa Ana (SNA) was to depart around 7:30 pm.  We boarded it at 7:00 pm and waited, and waited.  We were told then that Southwest's technical outage was statewide and most flights had been delayed or cancelled.  At 9:30 pm, still in the aircraft, we were asked to get off the plane as it was not going to fly to SNA and to re-book another flight.  There were hundreds of people waiting in line to re-book flights, it was surreal.  We went out of the area, back to Phoenix departure counters to get a faster reservation on another flight.  The only flight going to SNA was to leave the next evening, Thursday at 6:30 pm.  We could not accept this because if this flight were to be cancelled then we would miss the Friday wedding.  We requested to be placed on any aircraft going closer to California.  The only flight available was one going to Las Vegas, Nevada, around 10:00 pm - we agreed to take it.  We went back through Security and to the gate, and waited.  Since Tuesday night we had only eaten the little crackers and peanuts given to us on the one flight but were afraid to leave the gate.  We watched the almost empty tarmac and the sun going down.

We boarded the aircraft at about 10:30 pm and waited.  Fortunately, we only waited in the aircraft for one and half hour.  We departed Phoenix around midnight and arrived in Las Vegas around 1:00 am or so.  There, we were told that the next flight to SNA would be in the morning, at about 6:30 am.  We sat at the gate and waited, still with no food because nothing close by was open then.  The distance between Las Vegas airport and the SNA, John Wayne airport is 228 miles (367 km) and takes about one hour.  Luckily we did walk to the water fountain at about 6:00 am and noticed that our flight gate had been changed - no one had told us.  Below is a Southwest map showing our flights.

At 7:00 am our flight took off from Las Vegas and we finally arrived at the John Wayne Airport at about 8:00 am.  By then I had been on this trip for almost 30 hours (with no sleep or food) since getting up early on Wednesday (a much longer trip than flying to Paris!)  It turned out that because of a faulty router in their computer system Southwest cancelled 2,300 flights and delayed many more.  That is more than Delta's system outage two weeks ago when 300 flights were cancelled.  At least I saw the sun come up over the Arizona Mountains.  When we reached California it was quite light.

As we watched the luggage carousel turn round and round, we saw no sight of our luggage.  We waited in a long line to find out where our suitcases were - no one knew.  They did tell us that we should get them within a couple of days ... A couple of days!!  The thought of my husband taking his daughter down the aisle with his old jeans and snickers sent tremors through my body - impossible!  Our daughter had planned this wedding for a year, with family wearing complimentary outfits of similar colors; she was to wear a beautiful long ivory gown.  She could not enjoy looking at her wedding pictures throughout her life, with her parents wearing jeans and snickers among the formal party, goodness no.  After we left all our information and picture of the suitcases we went to the car rental reservation where I had booked a Prius with a GPS.  That vehicle had been let go when we did not show up on Wednesday night.  We were given a Toyota Camry without a GPS, but an archaic manual GPS in a small bag.  It turned out that it was defective, which I did not know then... Totally exhausted and weak we boarded the car and drove toward the freeway to Mission Viejo (see map below) - supposed to be a 20 minutes trip at most ... It was close to 9:00 am then, Thursday morning.  Anyone would think we were finished with our troubles then ... Not!

Our daughter had given me some directions to Mission Viejo a month earlier, but I had not paid much attention as I knew we would have a GPS - I had no map, either.  She had advised me not to take one of the toll freeways as one cannot pay for the toll with cash, it has to be done online, and it is not that easy.  Of course our on-again, off-again manual GPS would only direct me to toll roads, then would go blank.  So I would turn right or left to avoid them.  We did that for quite a while.  I did not see many signs.  By 11:30 am (we had left the airport at 9:00 am) completely disoriented, close to tears, I had to admit that we were lost, really lost.  We had kept driving higher and higher in the hills; there were hardly any houses left and we finally had to stop, because the road itself had stopped - there was just a walking path ahead.  I reluctantly decided to call our daughter - I knew she must be so busy because of the rehearsal dinner later on that day.  She told me to stop at a fast food restaurant or a gas station and ask for directions.  A fast food restaurant?  A gas station?  There was nothing around us but rocks and grass - maybe just a small sign on the left.  She asked me to see what the sign said.  I got out of the car and walked to it.  I did a double take and took its picture.  The sign looked like it had been eaten, and it said : "Warning Mountain Lion Country  A Risk ..."

I told her not to worry; we would turn back and stop when we'd reach some houses with people.  There were many new developments in the hills but they were not finished, with no one around.  Finally we saw a sign for "Model Homes."  I thought there could be a staff selling them.  We turned around several empty streets and finally saw a building with some cars parked.  We stopped and I could hear voices in the background.  I came close to the gate and said "anyone here?" a man came forward.  Later on I found out he was from Vietnam and his friends from Laos and Thailand (I had visited these last two countries years ago.)  We were at a community center.  First I asked him to tell our location to my daughter, on the telephone.  He did.  He told us it would take a good 45 minutes for someone to get us and invited us inside to wait.  It was a lovely place with large swimming pools and a profusion of flowers.  He gave us some cool water bottles - which we gladly accepted as the temperature was close to 100 F (almost 38 C.)  It was lovely to be resting for a while in a beautiful place after that trip.  I'll show on the Orange County map below where I think we drove - but I am not sure ...

Our son-in-law, our youngest daughter's husband, came to get us and we followed him back to the hotel in Mission Viejo.  We were able to go to bed for a couple of hours before the rehearsal dinner, which was to be at 5:00 pm (when we finally ate something, but were still in our traveling clothes).  This was the first time we had gone to sleep since Tuesday night and it was 4:00 pm Georgia time (1:00 pm CA time) on Thursday afternoon by then.  Our nephew drove us back to SNA airport after the rehearsal dinner as we never could reach the luggage counter by phone.  Once there and after waiting we found out that the luggage had just been delivered to the hotel.  At least we had our clothes and were very thankful.  The wedding on Friday was very nice and I'll have a post on it when I get more picture.

The week after the wedding we stayed in the area, by the sea, for several days.  I'll have posts about this stay later on (another challenging stay...).  Then we flew back to Atlanta.  I was hoping this trip back would be much better (being optimistic again...).  The flight from John Wayne Airport to Phoenix was on time.  But, unfortunately, the connecting flight to Atlanta was delayed.  I looked out of the window from the plane until there was no more light.

We arrived at the Atlanta Airport at 1:15 am.  The little train carrying passengers to the luggage area stops at 1:00 am.  We were told that we were welcome to walk the 1 1/2 mile in the tunnel to Baggage Claim.  There were many children, infants and persons like me who have problems walking (me, because of my knees) and many carry-on luggage.  Finally, since we were still over a hundred passengers, a special train was sent for us at about 2:00 am.  We piled in the two cars like a box of tight sardines.  Our luggage was there on the carousel at the Baggage Claim.  Then we caught a shuttle back to our offsite parking.  We finally were at home at 4:00 am - it could have been worse!  This is why I call this round-trip a challenging one - it is a trip to remember, or maybe to forget ...


Addendum -  Monday August 29, 2016 - As I pointed above, I tried not to enter any Orange County Toll Road while driving from the Santa Ana Airport to where ever in the mountains on my way to Mission Viejo, but I must have.  It was a challenge avoiding these toll roads and I, somehow, must have entered one for a moment, and did not realize it.  Just now the mailman delivered a letter from Irvine, California, from the Violation Enforcement of "The Toll Roads."  They are advising me that on July 21, 2016, at 9:47 am I entered a Toll Road without paying the toll.  The notice says "The Toll Roads are collected electronically from a pre-established FastTrak© or ExpressAccount© online via our One-TimeToll© payment."  This was something I was not aware of, apart from my daughter telling me it was a hassle.  So, California tourists to Orange County beware of this.  Oh, the penalty - it is $101.96 (or 88.29 Euros, or 129.56 Canadian Dollars, or 130.68 Australian Dollars or 75.26 British Pounds.)  

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