Do you sometimes wish you had a simpler life?
I love my life, and yet, in the last couple of months, I've craved simplicity.
We're remodeling our house, and if you've ever worked on your house, you know how chaotic everything can be.
So, it was the perfect time to get away.
My husband is half Armenian (on his mother's side) and half Sicilian (on his father's side). (Note that most Sicilians like to be referred to as Sicilian and not just Italian. My family is the same way. We like to refer to ourselves as Taiwanese American, not Chinese American.)
Before my mother-in-law passed away, she brought up Syracusa in Sicily, as one of the places she loved seeing, so it's been on our minds for awhile.
My husband and I decided to travel with a tour guide to Sicily. We're very experienced travelers, having worked on television shows all over the world. However, Sicily is huge, and we were traveling with a big group of Mazzara's -- dad, sister, brother, sister-in-law, uncle and cousin! So, we thought it would be simpler to have a guide who really knows the language, culture, and hidden gems.
The first part of our trip was just for our family. We hired a local driver, Giovanni, who celebrated his 27th birthday while we were on our trip! He helped track down relatives and locations (where family got married or perhaps lived) in Terrasini, Trapani, Erice, Chiesa Nuova, Blandano, Balatta, and the namesake town of Mazara del Vallo (Mussolini changed names when he was ruling, so the original spelling may have been Mazzara).
But look what we found...a street with the right spelling! Via P. Mazzara...
I LOVED this part of the trip. But before I dive into it, I have to say that the beginning wasn't smooth sailing for us. First of all, it's not easy to get to Sicily from Los Angeles. Next, because my husband and I had been saving up miles on American Airlines, we couldn't get a direct flight to Sicily. So, our American Airline mileage tickets went from Los Angeles to Miami, then Miami to Milan. Then, we bought separate tickets on Air Italy from Milan to Palermo for the first part of the trip. On the way back, we were flying Alitalia from Catania to Milan, then American from Milan to JFK and JFK to Los Angeles.
Here's a breakdown of our numbers (since this is a money blog, after all):
American Airlines Roundtrip flight from LAX to Milan - 155,000 miles + $118.66
American Airlines upgrade to Premium Economy seats (because Business Class weren't available with our miles) - $439.56
Air Italy Flights (one-way from Milan to Palermo for 2 people) - $82.45
Alitalia Flights (one-way from Catania to Milan for 2 people) - 113.32 Euros or about $126.35
So, a total of about $767 for both of us, or $383.50 per person, which is very good for international travel and really GREAT for getting to Sicily.
We took a Lyft to the airport, and it was a crazy ride. Our driver told us about the many accidents and disasters she experienced, which did not instill confidence. But we made it, and spent $62.41, including the tip.
Thanks to TSA Precheck, we got through security pretty quickly. We still had some time before our flight, so we went to buy some breakfast and waters, which added up to $55.88! Airport food and water is sooo expensive. We should've just eaten the Lara Bars we brought.
Our flight boarded without any issues, and we're still innocent and unsuspecting, at this point. See how excited we are in the photo below?
After half an hour of everyone boarding and the plane getting ready to take off, someone gets on the PA and tells us that there's a mechanical issue and we all need to de-board.
At this point, Michael and I are a bit worried. Our connection between this plane landing in Miami and our next plane leaving for Milan was exactly an hour. While the airline rep who booked our ticket said they would never sell us a connection they couldn't make, we were not so confident we would make that flight, now that our current flight had a mechanical issue delay.
So, while we stood in line at American's customer service hub, I also got on a call. The woman on the phone told me she would route us through London, arriving in Milan much later than anticipated. However, the in-person agent put us on a Lufthansa flight from LAX to Frankfurt, then Frankfurt to Milan, arriving about an hour later than our original flight. We told that agent we needed to re-book our Air Italy flight from Milan to Palermo, and he told us we should go to their counter, which was outside of security.
Why is it so scary to leave to go back outside of security, once you've gone through? Is it because of the lines? Perhaps it's because of the unknown.
Well, leaving security for the International terminal was risky. Here's where things started to go wrong. First, we couldn't find Air Italy, so we decided to stand in line at Lufthansa to get our seat assignments. We didn't want to leave it up to chance and end up with two middle seats.
Lufthansa wasn't open for an hour, so while we waited in line, I looked up Air Italy tickets online and didn't find any routes that left shortly after we arrived in Milan. I did find tickets on Alitalia that left just an hour later, but since there was an Alitalia station at LAX, we decided to stand in line and buy tickets, in person.
Well, Alitalia's ticket window didn't open for another hour! Then, once they did and we got to the front of the line, the agent said we were in the wrong line to buy tickets! We were escorted to another line, and once we reached the front, that agent gave us a price that was a lot more than the online price, of $380 for 2 one-way tickets from Milan to Palermo.
After buying the tickets online, I realized we could've gotten everything done and stayed on the other side of security. Now, we had to go back through the security line. This time, Lufthansa forgot to print our TSA pre-check, so we had to go back to Lufthansa's agent to get our boarding passes re-issued, so we didn't have to stand in some monstrous line, take off our shoes, take out our laptop and liquids. It really is that worth it.
By the way, I don't know if I mentioned that Michael and I had applied for Global Entry a few months prior, hoping to make our international travel even easier, but for some government slow down, we haven't even heard that our application was received.
Back inside security, my breakfast was cold and by this time, it was lunch time, so we threw it away and went to PF Chang's for lunch. Michael had a coconut curry, and I ordered Pad Thai. With tea, it came out to be $50.21. How in the world did breakfast and 2 bottles of water cost more? We also bought a snack to eat on the plane, since we didn't get a chance to order a special meal, due to the delay. (Airlines need you to order special meals 24 hours in advance.)
Since we didn't get to upgrade to Premium Economy, we were stuck in the back of the plane, near the restrooms, with seats that did NOT recline from LAX to Frankfurt. We were in the middle rows, which had 4 seats, and fortunately, the seat to my left was empty. We also didn't have much we could eat on the plane, so they just gave us salads.
Meanwhile, part of the family is on their flight from Detroit to Rome and are all smiles...
Once we landed in Frankfurt, I thought we had plenty of time! We had about a 2.5 to 3 hours before our flight to Milan, so I was taking it slow. What I didn't realize was, we had to go through customs, and the line through customs snaked all around the building and was triple stacked! We tried to get someone's attention, but to no avail. My husband almost got arrested, trying to find a way out of that line! Finally, security re-routed us to another terminal. We went through that security line, where they searched every millimeter of our luggage. It was interminable, but we finally got through and that flight was delayed!
Now, the question was -- were we going to make our (newly bought) flight from Milan to Palermo? At this point, we both asked ourselves if God didn't want us to go to Sicily.
Well, finally we got on the flight to Milan, and on that plane, I decided to shift our energy (and hopefully, our luck)! We closed our eyes and listened to a manifesting meditation. We also energetically cleared our own negative energies. We had left our house almost 24 hours, by now, and we didn't want to carry into our vacation, all of this heavy baggage. I mean, we only had carry-ons, so why carry on more weight than necessary? After this energetic clearing and manifesting, I felt lighter.
We landed in Milan later than expected and had just 30 minutes to get to our flight. However, just as our first two flights were delayed, this one was too. I had said...well, if the American and the German flights were delayed, the Italian flight isn't going to be on-time.
Because of our flight delays and traveling about 36 hours, we only got a glimpse of our first stop in Terrasini, near the airport. It looked really beautiful. We picked up the rest of our family who had lunch and a stroll there and went back to our hotel in Trapani at Hotel San Michele. It's a 3 star B&B, but it felt more like a 4 star hotel. Everything was super clean, well designed and they had the biggest bathrooms I've ever seen in a European hotel.
I'm super picky about hotels, and I would highly recommend this one! The photos don't do it justice. For 3 rooms, it was $760.72, so about $253 each room for our 2 night stay!
Since this post is getting really long, I'll continue next week with discovering family roots, as well as the second part of our trip with Sicily South, a bespoke travel company run by an adorably fun-loving Southern girl (and full disclosure, one of my clients) and her born and bred Sicilian husband. It's a small family business that makes you feel like you're traveling with family or friends.
Have you ever had a crazy travel day? This one isn't as bad as some I've had. However, it is in my top 3. Tell me yours in the comments below and what you did to change it.
Now that I'm back from vacation, I'm even more fired up to help you tackle your money blocks and shift your energy to change your fortunes! If you're even curious, let's have a conversation! Send me an e-mail at email@example.com.