A long layover in Brussels

This holiday season comes with many strange feelings for me. It’s the first time that I will not be spending Christmas with my family.  In October I decided that since my office undergoes a holiday shutdown from December 23rd through January 3rd, I might as well take advantage of it. So, I thought, where should I go that I could get tickets affordably and also not be completely alone? Naturally, the answer was Italy.

Hours spent looking at frequent flyer tickets I realized no flight the day before or the day after Christmas was going to be available with miles, or would be too expensive, leaving on the 27th or 28th wouldn’t lend me enough time for a Europe trip because I couldn’t use vacation days after the break is over given our crazy meeting schedule that resumes the day work is back in session. So I opted for a 30,000 mile and $25 fee ticket with a long trip duration, getting me to my beloved Bologna by 5:30 on Wednesday, December 21st. YEAH!

Anticipating my trip, but also feeling sad about being a loner wandering around Italy while I could be home eating 7 fishes with my favorite family members, going to church, eating Nonna’s lasagna, and watching movies with Uncle John, my departure date finally arrived!

Thankfully my cousin Juliana came and brought me to the airport, so I did not feel so disconnected from the family. She was so nice! It really made a difference being left by her J

Sunset view from Logan, Terminal B
Departing Boston at 5:30, connecting in Montreal and then again in Brussels, my total travel time would be nearly 18 hours, with a 6 hour layover in Brussels. I tried everything I could, called United, bothered people at the ticketing desk to try and get me on the Lufthansa flight, BOS -> MUNICH -> BLQ, or BOS -> FRANKFURT -> BLQ, that both arrive a number of hours earlier, but it’s Christmastime, no luck. Everything was booked. So I resigned myself, and decided not to worry about it, besides I had all these United Club passes that I could use at the fancy lounge when I got to Brussels and I’d have all this time as an excuse to enjoy being in airports, blog and read my book.

I say that now as I’m drinking a shitty cappuccino that came out of a automatic machine that I had to pay almost 4 euro for because, yes you guessed it, the Star Alliance does not ally nicely when it comes to utilizing beautiful perks like the “Air Loft” lounge in the Brussels Airport.

Airport vitamins
But hey! I’ll still try to look on the bright side of things. This long journey has allowed me to think about how bummed I am that I am not spending Christmas with my family and friends at home, but it has also got me very excited when I look at my crazy (non relaxing) itinerary for this vacation. While I might not be with my American family and friends, I have a unique opportunity to spend 12 days during the beautiful holiday season to take in Europe and visit with friends made during my time in Bologna, our family friends the Grillos and my beloved host family who I stayed with 6 years ago in 2010 during my term abroad in Florence. How lucky am I?

My itinerary goes like this:
Wednesday, 5:30 arrive in Bologna – EXPLORE
Thursday – Bologna/Forli to visit Lina for dinner
Friday – Bologna/Modena to visit a family friend of my mom and dad
Saturday – Monday – Firenze to spend Christmas with my host family J
Tuesday – Back to Bologna
Wednesday – Torino to visit with the Grillos
Thursday – Sunday – Chamonix with Serena and amici
Monday – Tuesday – ROMA, the back to Boston.

What I am most looking forward to is spending time with all these people I see so rarely, and turning my Italian switch on for a full 12 days.

Set up shop, not at the lounge.
Cappuccino from a machine
Additionally, Italy during the holidays is such a magical sight. I can’t wait to step off the plane in Bologna and feel that charm envelope me and take me in. Christmas markets, aperol spritz outside under heat lamps, lasagna alla Bolognese, streets lined with holiday lights, Christmas trees in every main square and the smell of chestnuts being roasted on every street corner.

I know that Bologna will have also changed so much since the last time I was here, so I can’t wait to see what new shops, restaurants and bars I come across. And I know one of my first stops when I get chilly will be my cioccolata fondente calda con panna from Grom on Via D’azeglio.

If only I could’ve convinced my mom and dad to join me!

BRING IT Italy! I’m ready! [Just 3.5 more hours until I depart from Brussels!]

(I also hope travelling alone will get me back in to Blog mode, I want to put more of my time into my blog in the new year, and I owe Toni a post on our trip to Italy last March, salutero’ Nonno <3)