Need Some AIR From Our Airbnb

It is 9:20pm in Ann Arbor, Michigan. We survived the deluge of heavy rainfall while walking around downtown, scurrying back to our rental vehicle under the measley cover of our one British pound umbrella purchase in Bath of all places.  After a half day of flying from Newark, New York via a one-hour layover at Chicago’s Midway, and taking a 90-minute bus ride from the Detroit Airport to get our rental car, we drove through some heavy rush-hour traffic and eventually made it here to Ann Arbor.  We were definitely looking forward to our Airbnb, which features a private entrance, a private bathroom, ample parking and stellar reviews.

Upon collecting our luggage from the trunk of our car, a humongous cat approached us meowing and curious as to our presence. Curious because I think we were encroaching on his or her property. We got into the room, and then it hit us. 
The awful stench of cat piss. 
No idea if this odor is fresh or from a few days ago, but from all outward appearances the place is super clean, spacious, comfortable and pleasant. This would be a perfect Airbnb, except for the smell.  We have no Febreze or air freshener drying sheets, nor do we have a clothes pin to pinch our noses. My eyes are stinging. Is this from the toxicity of the air? Or is it just a figment of my suddenly paranoid imagination?  I think the worst part about this is the fact that there is zero ventilation… We have one sliding door with no screen, which means if we open it then the cat gets in, defeating the purpose.  We are in the basement of this home so we are just breathing in stale air from x-number days of cat urine.  
We could leave. We could drive away to a hotel, or as a last resort sleep in our car. We could go up the stairs and complain to the owners.  We could, yes.  But we are hardy travelers, this will not break us!  We have had worse experiences, like the bed bugs of the Bowery’s Whitehouse in New York (which is now permanently closed, which I just found out by looking it up on Google); the Barcelona room with no air conditioning in the middle of summer; the teeny tiny $100 motel room in Missoula, Montana with the super loud yet ineffective air conditioner on the hottest day in record for Missoula; the various hostels in Honduras and El Salvador; the hostel in Anchorage, Alaska with the drunk guy shouting in the middle of the night on the street; and of course the other scary possibly drunk dude who followed me to our Airbnb flat in Copenhagen and pounded on the door saying that he was going to kick my ass.  Comparing those experiences to this one?
Yeah, I think we can survive one night in this Airbnb with the stench.  If anything, we will never forget this place and we will remember that if we have another potential no-so-great Airbnb, we can always compare it to this.
Good night.  We’ll see how much sleep we actually get..


Well, This Sucks

Location: Salisbury, UK
Sunday morning, 8:25am
Set up:
We have a train to catch at 10:26 am.
Our hotel is a mere 1.2 miles away from the train station, or a 22 minute walk by Google Map estimates.  In reality, the walk is closer to half an hour because of all of the heavy luggage that we are dragging through busy neighborhoods and being careful not to be run over by cars that we are not used to looking 1st towards the right as we step off the curb.
Our dilemma is that it is pouring cats and dogs and the forecast is steady rain all morning long. So do we risk getting wet or calling an Uber to take us there?  Easy decision!
Get a ride!
I open up my Uber app to schedule a car.  Unfortunately there is no Uber available here. The same goes with Lyft.  Well that is a shame, but fortunately we can always fall back on getting a cab, right?  I ask the lady at our hotel how much a cab would be to a railway station.  She tells me that the last person who they sent with a taxi had a fare of £15.  What?  That’s like $20!  For about a mile!  I look at my Google Maps and discover that it is actually more like 3 miles because the cab has to take some funky way to get to the railway station.  In other words, it cannot go on the same path that we can go.  And with the demand for taxis on this very wet, windy and rainy morning, perhaps it is even more than £15?!
I check for the possibility of taking public transportation to the train station.  Unfortunately, it will take us about the same amount of time just to get to the bus stop by walking, and we would only ride two stops before we would have to get off and walk the rest of the way to the train station.  Alas, that is not going to work.
So I call up some taxi companies.  I want the cab around 9:45am, building in the some time in case it doesn’t show up and we have to hoof it to the train station.  Unfortunately many people are also needing taxis this morning.  Both companies tell me that nothing is available until after 10am.  That does not work!
I call up a third taxi company, and after many many rings, the dispatch operator picks up.  She asks where I am going to and where I am coming from.  She then asks what time I need the taxi.  9:45am, I reply.  After a few short seconds, she says “We are booked, thank you,” and hangs up.
Fast forward an hour later and we are waiting in the lobby for our ride.
9:45 comes.
It occurs to me that when she said “We are booked,” maybe that meant that they have no cabs for us, instead of thinking that we have booked the reservation for 9:45?!
At any rate, it looks like plan B. We try our best to water proof ourselves for the walk, just in case the cab does not come in the next five minutes.
It does not come.
We set off.
And we walk as fast as we can.  We walk fast to not only try and avoid the rain (not possible), but to make it in time to the train station to collect our tickets and make it on our train.  The one good thing I can say about the rain is that people are afraid of it, which meant our sidewalks and streets were pretty clear of people and traffic for our journey through the popular central tourist district and up the hill.
However, it still rained and rained and we could not escape it.  This is the one vacation where I did not pack an umbrella, an emergency 99 cent poncho or a light water repellent jacket.  I mean, there is no need for it! Especially after reading that Britain has been in a massive heatwave for the last few weeks and to think that it would rain on our vacation at the end of July? Fiddlesticks!
We got soaked.  Most of it was from the rain, but part of it was also because of our sweat.  I did not plan on working out this morning. But we made it.  We made it to the station by 10:18am!  We were going to actually make this train, so long as we were on the right platform this time lol…
We went to the machine to collect our pre-purchase tickets.  I inserted the credit card, punched in our confirmation numbers, and shortly thereafter our tickets were printed and spat out in the receptacle below.
Now all we had to do was wait at our designated platform.  We looked up at the departures screen.  And after the whole ordeal of stressing out about the taxi cabs, giving up ourselves to the rain and rushing to the train station we get our next unforeseen (but really, the way things have gone, should we have been surprised?) event….

Italy by Rail and Ship: Eastpack Rules

Funny thing about traveling over the last three weeks is that we have noticed many other tourists toting Eastpack bags, backpacks and hip packs.  I do not know who does the marketing for this company in Europe, but that person is doing a great job because it is a very popular brand.  In the United States, I always viewed Eastpack as a wanna-be brand that is not up to the quality or standard of backpack makers like Kelty, Eagle Creek or even JanSport.  Yet here they are in Europe being sold all over the place and being worn by teens, millennials and the older traveling bunch.  Who knew?!

Storefront in Venice