Starting Our Trip to Milan, Lake Como, Rome, Florence, and Venice!

Day One- Jax to Fort Lauderdale

The day started out at the airport in Jacksonville, FL (JAX) to fly to Fort Lauderdale (FLL).  Paul and I were a little tired as we didn’t sleep well last night, but overall, we are ready for our big adventure!  I’m feeling excited to go out of town.  I know that airplanes make people nervous, and on occasion, it makes me nervous too, but still, I’m super excited to get on the plane!  I miss flying. Talking about travel this whole month while working on my blog has me with flying on the brain, so while I’m not feeling great, I’m looking forward to being up in the air again.  Such a pretty view 🙂

The flight to Fort Lauderdale was a little bit rough, but totally fine. Unfortunately, it was fairly rainy in Fort Lauderdale. The plus side of that is that we had very little we had to do, which made for a calm afternoon. 

At Pier 66 in Fort Lauderdale

After I’d already made the reservations for the trip, which included a night in Fort Lauderdale at Paul and I’s favorite hotel, Pier 66 Resort and Marina, we received an email from Pier 66 saying that June 9, 2019 would be their last regular night of operation before a major renovation project.  I knew the renovation was coming, but had no idea when it would be happening. While I’m sad that the classic version of Pier 66 that holds a lot of memories for Paul and I will be gone, and I’m sad I can’t visit for the next two years, I’m very excited to see what the project will bring. And, what are the chances that our already booked night would be the last night that they’re open?  I’m so happy to be there for their last hurrah.  

We were fortunate enough to find out that our favorite employee, Richardo, would be working the lounge that night!  Still, there is a sadness in the air. Our check-in person, for instance, was sad about the closing and hasn’t yet secured another job.  Still, she was kind and upgraded us to a better room for the same price. The Marina view rooms are my favorite, and I’ll miss staying in them.  

Once we got settled in our room, we walked around the marina and saw a few really large yachts, including one called the Aviva, owned by a man worth $5 billion! It is a working yacht, and it’s likely he was living on board while we checked around.  Everything looked very luxurious on board, but we did find a piece of duct tape on the side of the ship which we found pretty humorous. 

We ate with Richardo for a late snack and got a photo with him, and then had a larger dinner at the Pelican Bar out on the Marina, which will stay open during the renovation.  As usual, the food was good and the view was excellent. We decided to have an early night and were all in bed probably by 9.

We slept well, got up, and had a fairly lazy morning. However, we were already by about 9:30, which I thought was impressive considering three people were using the same bathroom. We took a few more pictures of the property, said a final farewell to the Pier 66 we know and love, and went to the Hard Rock Casino. I have never gone before, but called ahead and found that we could check her bags at the counter, so it seemed like a good move.

Our Afternoon in Fort Lauderdale

We ate breakfast and walked around the hotel Hard Rock Hotel and Casino.  They’re working on a large renovation, partially for the upcoming Super Bowl in Miami.  They’ve built a huge, mirror reflective guitar for the new hotel that points skywards and holds regular rooms, suites, and fancy penthouses.  It isn’t open yet, but will be later in the year, and in the meantime, the new portion of the casino was already up and running.

I won $32 at first on penny slots and was very proud of myself.  We had until about 3pm to kill time and we had arrived around 10am, so of course by the end, I had lost the $32 and more. I did find a second pair of cheap sunglasses for $14 so that was nice.  We ate in the food court. I had pizza, even though I’d promised myself that I would have no more pizza before Italy. Oops!  I have a pizza addiction.

Our Flight to Milan!

We got our bags from the Hard Rock around 2:30 and had a kind of wild Uber ride to Miami International Airport (MIA). We got there around 3:30 and got in line to check in.  I forgot that in Spain they didn’t open the check-in counter until one hour before the flight, which had made me so nervous standing behind a couple hundred people without having gone through customs!  Apparently, AirItaly (and perhaps most European airlines?) so the same, so we weren’t able to check in immediately. Still, we were probably only 40th in line for the check-in counter, and the counter opened around 3:45 for our 7:10pm flight, so I think we are going to make it! 🙂

We very easily went through security.  It was a longish line, but it moved fast, and dad met a lady and struck up a conversation.  It turns out that she lives in Florence! Her English was very good, and when we got to the gate we sat and talked… for hours! We got to the gate around 4:30 and the plane got delayed, which gave us plenty of time to chat.  It was wonderful to meet her, and she gave some most excellent tips for our time in Florence. I feel like we became friends by the time we boarded, which wasn’t until 8:15 with a departure time around 9. The delay was a little frustrating, but not the end of the world.

Overall, I was happier with the seats on AirItaly than with the seats on Iberia.  Actually, I was happy with my seat location on Iberia, but the seats didn’t recline and the screens didn’t work, and I had a massive panic attack, and overall, just nothing was good about the overnight trip over.   On this plane, though, everything worked just right, and I feel like we had a couple more inches of space, as well. 

I was tired when I got on the plane and well hydrated.  I started a documentary about SpaceX that was interesting.  The seats on the planes were well equipped with TVs that had all kind of entertainment, and we had free headphones, blankets, pillows, hand towels, and overall were quite comfortable.  The dinner was good, and I had cheese and mushroom ravioli.  With dinner, I took an aspirin to prevent too much swelling at the beginning, other pills I typically take, and melatonin to help me rest.  By the time dinner was finished, I was wiped.

I put on my neck pillow, turned off the screen, leaned back, and slept! That was about 11:15. I still can’t believe that I slept on the plane. A couple of times during the night I woke up and shifted, and Paul says I elbowed him once, but otherwise, I was comfortable and happy.  Around 5:30 I woke up and dad brushed his teeth. A few minutes later, they turned on the lights and served breakfast.

We Arrived!

Can I point out again that on my last overseas flight, I had a full on panic attack that lasted hours?  That was partially due to the high amount of stress I was going through, and I gave myself no time between getting off work and going out of the country, but wow!  I AM SO PROUD OF MYSELF THAT I SLEPT ON THE PLANE!

We landed around 1pm Italy time, which was about 7am US Eastern Standard Time.  

Day 1 and 2 of our trip was officially over, which means that the adventure was just beginning!  If you’re interested in learning more about our Italy adventures, sign up here for our newsletter, read my post, 13 Experiences in Italy, or check out Day 3 of the Italy Trip here!