You would think that when one lives next to the train station that one would have an idea of the timing and frequency of the trains. Or maybe one gets immune to them. The grand master plan was to take CalTrain from my place in Mountain View to Milbrae, transfer to BART for the short ride to the airport, and thus avoid cars. We strolled out to the train platform starting about 8:20 AM; by the time we crossed under the tunnel to where the northbound train would stop it was close to 8:30 AM. But I should have checked the schedule; a train had departed just a few minutes earlier, but the next train headed north that would stop at this station was not until about 9:20 AM. Oops! Time to sit and relax.
The train pulled up about 9:25 AM, we loaded ourselves and our awkward bags (S&S bike bags) onto the train, and settled back for a quiet ride to Milbrae. At Milbrae we made the quick transfer to BART and were soon headed to the United Airlines counter. Whoa! The line was long so we had to cool our heels while making it up to the counter.
Lesson #1: Cheap tickets can be costly. Our flights between San Francisco and Venice were purchased through a cheap fares site. A stopover in London was necessary and, as it turned out, so was a change of airports (Heathrow to Gatwick on our way over, reverse on the way home). A bit of post-purchase research showed this was easy but time consuming and expensive. Cheapest alternative (bus) was £17 each. Then we found that a schedule change made it impossible to do a same day connection on the return trip, so an overnight in London would be required. And then, to top it off, the discount fare shop failed to secure seat assignments. Getting on the plane from SFO to Heathrow became an issue!!! No seats available when we checked in; headed down through security to the gate and waited for seat assignments. Change of gates, so we transfer ourselves and our carry-on luggage over to the new gate. The agents still refuse to talk seat assignments. Finally, about 15 minutes before scheduled departure they call us up and assign us seats - in different parts of the plane. Two minutes later we are called again and they assign us different seats, still 6 rows apart. Then I am called up and given a different seat only one row in front of Sarah. Sheesh!
The plane was packed, and given a northern route less than a week before the summer solstice the sky was light the entire trip. In London-Heathrow we worked out way to National Express and got a bus to Gatwick. At Gatwick it was another waiting game; they did not assign a gate until 20 minutes before departure, so we had to sit in the dead zone between security and the gates, a region with all the food and shopping (hmmm, maybe a planned thing), awaiting the gate assignment.
The flight to Venice was relatively short and not too full, so we rested. Once in Venice it took just a few minutes to get the bags and be ready to depart. I searched out an ATM, took out some Euros, and then we purchased tickets for the bus to Mestre. A very short time later we were dropped off at the Mestre train station, two trains, two airplanes, and two buses after we left my place in Mountain View. I had booked a hotel supposedly near the train station, but did not see it right away. So I whipped out the GPS, set it to navigate to the hotel, and about 3 minutes later we were in front of the Hotel Bologna.