Unexpected Travel

Kevin’s grandpa, Voke, had been sick for awhile, we knew with our trip in April it could have been the last time we gave him a hug.  He was not just Kevin’s grandpa, he was also Kevin’s godfather and felt like my grandpa, he was very special to me. He was the first person of my in-laws that I really bonded with. He accepted me for who I was, with open arms, and always treated me nice and with respect. This meant a lot to me, because in-laws are hard enough, but throw in cultural differences and problems are created even when they shouldn’t.  I always felt like he was family, a visit with Voke was always one of the highlights of our trip to Belgium for me.

He took a turn for the worse a couple of weeks ago and was in the hospital. He was touch and go for over a week. We sat helpless over 5k miles away. We had to make a call, either we try to make it before he passes or we go for the funeral. Voke was not alone, Kevin’s mom and uncle sat with him. We decided what was healthiest for us and our son was to talk to him on the phone when he could handle it and save the travel for the funeral.

So, we waited in sorrow, occasionally checking ticket prices, trying to put some organization in the 20 hour trip overseas in a moment of unknowns. He passed away Sunday Oct. 14, 2012. We were fortunate enough to have money saved up and it coincided with a fall break for our little piglet. As we searched for tickets, we were unsure how the last minute and/or bereavement fares worked. We spent all day that Sunday on the internet and phone with various customer service reps. The funeral was on Friday, we would leave Wednesday (getting in on Thursday) and come back either Sunday or Monday. With school and work, we knew we could not spend too much time over there.

After many searches and questions we discovered that the bereavement fare did not have any real discount. A small amount or percentage is taken off a flexible fare full price, so it was much cheaper just to buy the ticket online. We also know that Mondays and Tuesdays are the best days to buy tickets, but we didn’t know if that was the same with last minute. We found United had the cheapest tickets, and, a major bonus, if we booked on their site not only would we get triple miles (using our Chase United card) but we had a full 24 hours to cancel or change our trip without being penalized.

So, we checked all options, nearby airports and other possibilities, these tickets were not cheap, and we needed three of them. The cheapest rate seemed to be destiny, we were going to make the proverbial lemonade out of lemons. We could fly SLC-BRU then BRU-FCO (Rome sweet Rome) FCO-SLC. Making it to Rome on Saturday would also add in that Lazio was playing an important home game, we could go to the stadium! So we booked.

We booked our tickets at noon on Sunday. Monday we spent the entire morning scanning sites to make sure we made the right decision. We had. Tickets had shot up several hundreds of dollars per person. We were leaving in a few days for family, funeral and then our second home, Rome.

The funeral was beautiful, athough it was all in Flemish, the feeling and sentiment came across clearly. It was in a lovely Catholic church in the town of Ranst (where Voke lived). It was about an hour then we had coffee, tea and snacks at a restaurant that had been converted from an old barn before spreading the ashes. The weather could not have been better, it was a warm, sunny day, a rarity for Belgium. It was nice to sit in the sun, have a Belgian beer and catch up with our Flemish family. There were some tears and some laughs.






On Saturday afternoon we were off to Rome, in a few short hours we would be at the Olympic stadium. We stayed at the same hotel, Ripa Hotel, in Trastevere, easily reached by the airport. We had to make it to Porta Pia to pick up our Curva Nord tickets Paolo from lazioland.com had so kindly gotten for us. We arrived at the stadium, picked up a flag, and had plenty of time for dinner. We headed straight for the bus with the porchetta sandwiches. Jet lagged and in a whirl, I neglected to take any pictures of this Roman delicacy. With the eggplant and roasted pig in our belly, we walked in to our seats, just in time to see the eagle, Olympia, fly the stadium. There is nothing like walking in the stadium, up the steps, when you get to the top and are in the middle of sky blue and white sea of cheers. The energy, emotion, and anticipation is indescribable. To our joy, Lazio beat Milan 3-2.

We spent Sunday taking in a few more sites, the Mouth of Truth, Circo Massimo and back to the Coliseum.  We had lunch on Isola Tiberina at Sora Lella (can’t refuse a recommendation from Anthony Bourdain) drinks at Campo dei Fiori, then dinner in the center at Percento, dining next to Paul Haggis (director of Crash) finishing the night with an Amaro Lucano in Trastevere. I think we made the most out of our 40 hours in Rome. I will be adding info on these places in the coming days, check under the Travel tab.

We got home Monday night and tried to get back to routine on Tuesday. Our bodies were not happy with us. We are just now getting over jet lag, having spent basically a whole week, Thursday-Thursday pretty much out of commission. The money spent, our bodies upset, it was worth it. RIP Voke.

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