Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Jetson's of Bolzano and the Beverly Hillbillies of First Class

We are back in Vienna. It is great to have a home base. Ann is busy doing laundry and the kids are decompressing from the whirlwind tour. Our return from Bolzano Italy was scary smooth. We caught the bus with 10 minutes to spare from St. Christina. We descended the Alps marveling at the tight turns the significant numbers of switchbacks and the close proximity of other buses as they made their way up the hills. You could see if the person in the other bus had a runny nose they were so close! The 2 hr train ride from Bolzano was a snap. We waited 30 minutes on the platform and were pleasantly surprised to get nice comfy seats in a "real" air conditioned car. This was an open car not compartments like before but there were tables with electric. Out came the converters and in went laptop plugs and i-pod cords. We were staring down a 5 hour ride from Innsbruck, we didn't have a reservation on that train so fully charged laptops and I-pods are a huge win for team Glavin. Folks all around us were quite curious about the Americans. You can imagine that we aren't exactly the quietest group you'd ever meet. Add the fact that we had rolling suitcases with sneakers hanging off them and kids doing Math and reading with a "kindle" that looked like nothing an Italian had seen before and we were like the Jetson's of Bolzano. The train was a delight and the scenery like stuff jumping off the canvas of Thomas Kincaid or photos from Ansel Adams. We pulled into the station in Innsbruck grateful for a nice comfy beautiful ride and fearful that's we'd be standing in the train aisle for the 5 hour ride to Vienna. Ann rushed to the ticket counter, hoping for reservations and someone that spoke English. The train leaves in 1 hour so we want to get on even if we have to volunteer one of the kids to clean the trash cans! Eamon is lugging Ann's rolling suitcase so she can get to the counter unencumbered. As we walk by one of the platforms, Ann is at the top of the steps. Now I know my sense of direction is a huge joke on this trip but I know that the ticket counter is around the corner not up the escalator! A few brief seconds later and the loud squeal of the alarm for the escalator starts to blare. Turns out when Ann made the turn from our platform to get to the ticket counter a woman in her late 70's was falling down the escalator trapped by her bags and her feet were where head was supposed to be. Ann and another woman rushed to the rescue. A successful Good Samaritan effort in Austria. She can do it all!! We're thinking of getting her a cape soon.

While Ann got tickets I went to the store for essential 5 hour travel food supplies, peanut butter rolls, cheeses, apples, chocolate, cookies and popcorn usually make the list. I see Ann emerging from the ticket office, a wry smile, and wonder to myself "hmmm what is she up too?" Turns out you can't get a reserved car unless you do so 24hrs in advance. Guess we'll be split up. Not so fast says Ann, I got 1st class tickets. Man I love how she thinks. We amble onto the train into a car marked "#1". Just love how that sounds. We're like the Beverly hillbilly's with our packed, filled to the brim with dirty laundry, rolling suitcases, our food bag, our crock shoes and our overflowing backpacks. Folks had that look, you know the one "Where ever they are sitting I need to find a different car!" So off to the other #1 cars went the dapper well dressed men and woman with gucci bags and D&B luggage and in went team Glavin to settle in for a nice 5 hour ride. They have electric in first class too, at each seat, way cool. Pearse even said "Can I take a picture of the seat?" Now that must be first class when the 8 year old thinks the seat is "picture worthy".

Carpe' Diem

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Italian Job

Success is the best description for this trip to Italy. Our goal, simply stated, "to find housing for ski season". We narrowed the search to the Italian Alps in the Val Gardena region. It was best to do it "in person" because we didn't want another internet palace that turns out to be a shack with a bed. We're glad we made the trip because we did change from the town of St. Christina to a town down the road a piece called Ortesei. It is a quaint alpine town with picturesque vistas and a postcard perfect town square. It is a bit touristy but we are already getting "local" status as we won't be 1 week wonders.

The woman who will be the landlord is Emily. She is a nice Italian woman who is grateful to have the place rented and not have to "welcome a new family" every week. Her boys speak English and as an added bonus "they are ski instructors". Could you ask for more than that?. Oh and yes they run the wireless network for their mom too.

We leave Italy, for now, with a spring in our step and a mood of "this is what we signed up for."

When we trudge through the snow in cold, wintery January of 2010 we'll have Russia, Israel, Hungary, Spain, Portugal and who knows where else in our rear view mirrors looking for the adventure of the Alps ski season in front of us!

I fell like having some hot chocolate! Care to join me at Villa Astrid, Italy?

Carpe Diem

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Blogs and V-logs

This is the first installment of, The Glavins in Europe. We recored it on August 25, 2009, in the out door cafe area at Hotel Touring. Since it is the test run we would like all positive and negative feedback to make the videos as close to perfect as possible.
EDIT: Pictures (only) are not enough; and we will work on improving the sound and speaking

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Soaring Italian Alps at St. Christina and Ortisei, Our Future Winter Home

Have you ever seen the movie “Planes, Trains and Automobiles?” Well Team Glavin was part of the sequel “2Planes, a bus, a train and another bus!” It doesn’t quite have the same Hollywood ring to it, now does it? It was a long day to the Italian Alps and our final destination St. Christina. By the time we arrived at the hotel we were on the road some 15 hours. We were tired, hungry and had the feint odor of Ode de American. We trekked from Berlin’s Teagel airport to Cologne Germany’s airport and then to Innsbruck airport. We grabbed a bus to the train station in Innsbruck, kicked out a squatter in our train compartment, had a cabin mate that slept the whole trip. The kids enjoyed his nervous twitching while asleep, and then we disembarked in Bolzano. We’re a 48km bus ride from Bolzano, uphill if you’re the topographical type. We had a bit of a setback in Bolzano. We don’t speak Italian and the women in the bus terminal ticket station doesn’t do numbers so well, you see Platform 7 is different than Platform 2, so we missed the first bus to St Christina. Hey what’s another 2 hours tacked onto this journey? The kids were great considering the 4:30am wake up at the Berlin Marriott. We were on a 3 country odyssey this fine day.
The ride out of Bolzano is uphill. It takes 1.5 hours because the slope requires a somewhat slow ascent and there are quite a number stops along the way. We have a bit of a challenge as the bus is full, the driver speaks zero English but assures us he will tell us when we get to St Christina. Each stop is filled with anxiety as we aren’t sure if this is the right stop or if we need to make a quick exit. Can you make a quick exit with 3 kids, a tired wife, 5 suitcases and 5 backpacks and husband doubling as a pack mule on this trip? Did I mention we got a few souvenirs in Berlin that needed some TLC along the great trek?
A few passengers on the bus sensed our angst and alerted us to the “STOP” and we jumped out replacing the anxiety of the bus issue with a new anxiety, finding the Hotel. “Is it uphill or downhill comes the question from the kids?” After 15 hours I’m pretty sure I said “Ask your mother.”, but probably not in such a nice tone. It was a few minutes of quizzical looks from strangers and a couple of shoulder shrugs later we discovered “downhill”. TGFSF Thanks God for Small Favors! Downhill and uphill here are very different than at home.
Our hotel looks out on the amazing vista of the Italian Alps of the Dolomite region of Val Gardena. We feed the team, we watch a concert from the patio of our hotel and the 15 hrs. journey melts away like the ice cube in my highly carbonated Sprite.
Now where do you find housing for 5 Americans in St. Christina/Ortisei? We’ll leave that anxiety for tomorrow.
Carpe Diem

World Track to the Alps by Eamon

As I ride on the train to Bolzano, Italy I think of the past few days. The seats we had in the stadium were all spectacular, the competition was fierce, and Pearse could not stop smiling at his autographed shirt. The most common question he asked was, “How much do you think this shirt is worth?”
On the final day of competition, Seamus, Pearse, and I thought about getting autographs, and lots of them, due to a day of finals and victory laps. On our way down to our seats in section F we noticed that now getting tons of autographs was possible. After every gold medal won by the USA, the boys ran down to the end of the isle, which was ten feet from the track, and yelled to the athletes as they went by.
Pearse was wearing one, highly favored shirt, his autograph shirt, and Seamus and I wanted to throw it out to the athletes to sign. Pearse did not. He didn’t feel comfortable standing there half naked or having his shirt thrown around. Then I noticed Seamus was wearing two shirts, the top one was to throw out to the athletes and the other to wear during the signing. I told Seamus to give Pearse his 2nd tee shirt; I threw Pearse’s shirt out to the American 4x400 Gold Medalists and they all signed it! I felt like a genius. Pearse could not stop saying, “Jeremy Warner signed my shirt!!”
Overall, the 3rd day of the World Track Championships was a top ten of the Glavin Adventure.

The Italian Alps……..I let those words and scenery sink in while on a bus from Bolzano to our hotel, Hotel Touring. We waited for 2 hours at the bus station because of insufficient information. Nonetheless it was a bus ride very well worth waiting. As we drove through the devastatingly beautiful terrain I could not stop thinking about how much more beautiful it will be in the winter. From where I am sitting right now I can see many things: two ski lifts (those will come in handy), a tunnel with many cars, friendly people, and mountains that will be amazing to go snowboarding on.
Last night there was a band playing at our hotel, and all of the songs were in English and all the jokes were in Italian. We walked around all night and listened to the band, they were pretty good. When I finally fell asleep I had dreams of the mountains flowing under my board.
The next day the boys had a job to go and find out where to rent, are there ski/snowboard teams, and where can we get ski passes. We were only able to find out where to rent because EVERYTHING else was closed down (I think for the summer). We also had to do our run……….and everywhere was uphill, but what do you expect in the Alps? I decided to do something very unordinary, run up a ski slope to see the view and to say, “I ran up a mountain in the Italian Alps.” Seriously, who else can say that?!? The view of the town was fantastic, unbelievable, out of this world, extraordinary, inconceivable, beyond belief, incredible, astonishing; however none of these words can describe it enough. I wish I brought the camera up, than you would know what I am talking about.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Hey Mister Can I have your autograph? by Pearse

I can't believe I got to go to The World Track Championships. I am so awsome I got Jeremy Warner's autograph! I got the whole 4x400 relay team's autographs. Yesterday, I got to see the womans marathon. A Chinese woman took 1st place. After they finished Seamus and I stood where the athletes came out to see their families. 2 days ago was the most sad day we have had - we had to drop off Collen at the airport. We had a great time in Berlin.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

This could have been you, Colleen! by Ann

Colleen, I took this picture just for you. Pascal became quite a fixture at breakfast over the last two days and we even ran into him in the hallway on the way to the SPA today. He recoginized the boys both at breakfast and this evening at the stadium. Check out the pictures for all the photos of him with Eamon, Seamus and Pearse.

We met quite a few athletes, coaches, and volunteers over the last five days. I must say they were all so very nice and so excited to meet the boys and sign Pearse's shirt. Even the spectators enjoyed watching the boys "in the hunt". I think we will all cherish the memories of the last six days in Berlin - at the stadium, in the hotels, and just on the street. I think this sets us up for London 2012!!! Anyone else interested in the adventure?

Hanging Like A Cloud

The final day of competition was fantastic. The USA finished the competition with 3 gold medals in 400 relay men's and women's and a long jump world leading jump for 2009.We started the day in one hotel and moved to the Marriott, a free night!!! The Marriott was right on the women’s marathon route. We got a 2fer with the Glavin men getting in a run and when we finished we got to watch the end of the women's marathon seeing China cross the line first. The Marriott has great internet speed so we loaded tons of Ann's pictures. The pictures capture the amazing effort of the athlete in all kinds of disciplines and the enjoyment of our World Track Championship experience. The boys learned the ropes quickly on "how to be an autograph hound". While many in the USA will not know the athletes that signed Pearse's shirt, he will treasure the fun of a guy leaning over to sign his back or his shoulder or his little chest. How could anyone refuse our Pearse with his bright smile, his red hair and his infectious personality. Seamus and Eamon travelled as his "wing men" pointing out bogies like in a fire fight "athlete 12 O’clock" "High jumper at 6" and my favorite Jamaican 400x400 relay team in the Kentucky Fried Chicken on the Platz. BTW the busiest KFC I have ever seen. The last day in the Stadium will be yet another memory for the ages. It was nonstop "finals" action. You couldn't even go to the Water Closet or you'd miss an amazing race or a cool Javelin duel. The little radio controlled remote taxi for the Javelin was a team Glavin favorite as it whizzed the javelins back to the athlete after his toss. With the Berlin Bear mascot affixed to the little car it looked like he was shiskabob "on a stick". What would PETA say about that "Bear on a stick"? I can see the protests now! We leave Berlin with wonderful memories. It was a first rate competition executed with German efficiency. The backdrop of the historic Stadium setting with its Olympic Rings and the cauldron for the Olympic Flame still present was an awesome reminder of the athletic spirit that is universal in the world. I will cherish the days in Berlin as the boys happiness hangs in the air like cloud on a beautiful summer day! Tomorrow we are off to Italy!