Oct 012013

Monday, September 30, 2013 (Day 20)

– 7:10a flight Florence to Paris CDG
– 10:30a flight Paris CDG to Houston
– 2p arrive Houston

Well, this morning came way, way too early as my alarm went off at 4am, only about 3 hours after we went to bed.  But, luckily we didn’t have much to get done before our 5am taxi.  I packed up the last of our stuff and then we ate the small breakfast that the Florence Chic hotel had made for us the night before.  I certainly didn’t expect anything, but when they found out we were leaving early, they gave us yogurts, breads, croissants, butter, jellies, cheese, and orange juice in a little tray last night.


Airplane travel day

Florence Chic is a new hotel and had no reviews that I found online when I booked, but I give them a good review.  The location was unlabeled, which made it a bit hard to find at first, but it was easy walking distance from the main Florence train station.  The location was superb as we could walk to the Duomo in about 5 minutes or the Ponte Vecchio in 5 minutes.  We could certainly get anywhere we wanted to be easily.  And, of course this doesn’t apply to the future, but having a hotel right on the cycle route was absolutely fantastic!  I wish I could claim credit for planning it that way, but I had no idea.  =)  Breakfast was nice to have, though it wasn’t extensive.  The bathroom was a little tight, but the shower was big enough.  The room was a good size, and the bed was very comfortable, and was a real double bed, rather than 2 twins pushed together.  Plus the wifi worked well enough, though the signal was weak in our room, the connection was very fast.  But most of all, the hosts (a husband and wife team?) were very helpful.

This was perfect for the morning and we headed downstairs to wait for the cab at 10 minutes to 5a.  I had been secretly hoping for a Prius taxi cab, and low and behold, there one was, right outside 10 minutes early to take us to the airport.  =)  That was easy!  And from then on our day was extremely easy which is always good for a travel day.  We made it to the Florence airport in less than 15 minutes, got all checked in and through security without any delay or hassles.  In fact we were at the gate a full 1 hour and 10 minutes early.

The flight to Paris was uneventful, and then, even though I hate CDG, our transfer at CDG was actually quite smooth.  We went through a short line for passport control where the line only served our little terminal and then took a bus to the next terminal.  And, get this, we didn’t have to go through security again!  I don’t think I’ve ever done an international transfer without going through security again.  We arrived at our gate about 2 minutes before they started boarding and we got right on the plane and to our seats.  Easy.

I fell asleep right at 10:30a as I heard the engines start up and I could feel us taxing away from the terminal.  30 minutes later, I woke up and saw that we were still at the terminal!  Apparently they had to do some sort of technical delay, and we didn’t actually take off until 11:30, an hour late.  Oh well.  The good thing is that our arrival time is only delayed by 15 minutes after all that anyway.  So, still easy.


When we fly over The Woodlands located north of Houston, I always look carefully to find any subdivisions that I've designed. Well, we flew over the whole of Village of Creekside Park. I helped design most of the subdivision that you see in this photo. It's always so cool to see my work in real life.

We did end up arriving about 30 minute late to Houston, and when I turned on the phone, I saw that I had an email from Air France telling me that my baggage was delayed.  Well, that was fast and good to know.  So, when we got off the plane, I simply found the right person, and they had a list with my name on it saying my baggage would arrive tomorrow.  Then, I went to the Air France desk where they had a pre-filled out form for me to just list my delivery address and type of luggage and boom we were all done.  Easy again.  This was certainly the best lost baggage experience I’ve had, so kudos to them for being on top of it. 
The only non-easy thing that happened upon arrival was that the Global Entry system was down, nationwide even.  So, I had to fill out a customs form like everyone else, and also Mark’s Global Entry enrollment interview was delayed.  We had set up the interview for when we arrived, but since the system is done…they can’t really help us right now.  Oh well.  We’ll just schedule the interview for the way out instead.

The end of this vacation was the easiest end out of all of the ones of the past 3 years because for this end, Mark is actually coming back home with me.  Yes, he got an extended rotation leave from work, and we didn’t have to say goodbye this morning.  It is amazing what a difference that makes for us.

We had a wonderful vacation in Italy and we both really enjoyed the cycling vacation.  We are ready to go on another cycling vacation somewhere now, but not sure where.  Of course it will depend on when, but it’s fun to start thinking of it now.  We loved working with Iron Donkey for the second time.  I worked with them over the phone a month before our trip to come up with a custom itinerary that fit our needs and wants.  They created a perfect custom itinerary for us and we loved every minute of it.  All the hotels they booked were in good locations and for the most part all got good reviews from us.  Our Iron Donkey representative in Siena was knowledgeable and helpful, and explained the trip to us perfectly at our meet and greet.  His directions were extensive and worked out remarkable well.  It’s never easy to cycle in a place you’ve never been before, but they had such great directions that it didn’t matter.  Also, our rep was available by text message on the cell phones and answered our small amount of questions during the tour quickly.  We really couldn’t have asked for a better tour.

And the weather was fantastic!  We certainly booked for just the right period of time.  I can certainly see why Tuscany is the location where all cyclists dream of biking.

Thanks for reading our travel blog and we hope you’ve enjoyed living vicariously through us.  We appreciate all the comments as it is always nice to get mail while on vacation.

Until next time……

  2 Responses to “Florence – Houston (Day 20)”

  1. I loved it all–felt as if I were with you all the way. A little sad it’s over, glad you’re back home (that’s a real oxymoron, I think 🙂 .

    And how lucky that you and Mark found each other in the band at Rice (although, as I remember Mark’s father reading aloud to us the letter Mark wrote to his parents, Mark really found Joanna )!


  2. Comment #2—
    How exciting to see from the plane a subdivision that you helped design!
    Great ending to a great trip!–Gma

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