California to Italy – First Stop, Venice

Goodbye, California! Hello, Italy.

I’m officially on my way toward Slow Food International’s Terra Madre conference in Turin, Italy.

But first I detoured via Venice to meet up with son, Joe, and daughter-in-law Marie, Czech Republic residents who are now card-carrying Slow Foodies. They’ll be among the first general public attendees to ever attend the conference. More than 300 countries will be represented at Terra Madre and more than 2,000 delegates, such as yours truly, of California.

Speaking of the conference, it’s only through the generosity of you – my dear friends, readers and A News Cafe supporters – that our fundraiser, A Harvest Sampler, made it possible for me to attend Terra Madre as your California delegate to represent our region. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Our Shasta Cascade Slow Food organization has an impressive collection of members who host all kinds of fun and educational (and always delicious) events. I’m a relatively new Slow Food Shasta Cascade member, but I’m proud to mention that my puff pastry-wrapped fruit-stuffed figs took first place at the local chapter’s Field to Fork; Fork the Fig cooking contest last month.

To review, Slow Food is not about crock-pot cooking. Rather, Slow Food is a mindset and a worldwide movement, born in Italy, initially as a protest against a fast food restaurant’s appearance. Slow Food believes that we all need access to enjoyable, delicious food that is good for us, good for those who grow it and good for the planet. Part of Slow Food’s mantra is the promotion of good, clean and fair food for all. Its logo is a little red snail, an ironic reminder to say no to fast food, and to live an unhurried life, beginning at the table.

My trip wasn’t Slow-Food unhurried, but it was worth it. Eighteen hours’ worth of flights began at our very own lowly Redding Municipal Airport and took me to international airports in San Francisco and then Frankfurt, Germany, with a connecting flight to my first destination, Venice, Italy. (As an aside, anyone who wants to take exception to my description of Redding’s airport as “lowly” should check it out and notice how it’s changed: The former gift shop is now a sterile space with vending machines (not one of which sold gum, a flying staple). The former “arcade” is now an empty white cinder-block room. Even the drinking fountains had “out of order” signs.)

But I digress.

I met Joe and Marie at the Venice airport Tuesday night, where we gathered our luggage then stepped outside the airport into cool, fall evening air. We walked the curvy sidewalk a short distance to the water bus for a moonlight ride to a stop that deposited us just a few cobble-stone steps from our hotel, Ca Dogaressa, that faces the canal.

This pre-conference travel preview is a cozy, family arrangement, with we three sharing a room for two nights. I feel bad that Joe and Marie don’t have much privacy, but we won’t be spending much time in the room, anyway. (In fact, I write this post from the bathroom, so I don’t disturb Joe and Marie in the next room, who are sleeping. I don’t feel the effects of jet lag, but my slumber schedule is definitely out of whack. May as well write, right?)

As usual, my trip has barely started and I have already learned lessons that I can pass along to you as cautionary tales, just in case you decide to travel to Europe and wish to have a functioning cell phone.

First, bring earplugs on long flights, just in case your seatmate is someone who coughs on average of once every seven seconds.

Second, if leaving the country, check out your phone situation well ahead of your trip to ensure your cell phone is recongized outside the U.S.

A few days before I left for Italy it occurred to me that I should contact Verizon for a travel data package so I wasn’t waylaid upon my return by thousands of dollars in fees for calls, texts and photo sharing. Instead, I learned that my phone was not global compatible, meaning it would only work in the U.S.

The good news was I could rent a phone from Verizon. The bad news was Verizon needed to Fed Ex it to me overnight, and it would arrive Saturday. The good news was I’d have it in time for when I left on Sunday. Whew, lucky!

The bad news was the phone was delivered to me while I was out running errands Saturday morning, so I was greeted by a “sorry we missed you” note. The good news was I was able to haul ass out to the Fed Ex station near the Redding Airport to pick it up just seconds before the station closed for the day.

I tried to activate the phone, but the call kept getting dropped. So I thought I’d wait until I was in Italy with Joe, A News Cafe.com’s official webtender, and my personal tech support person.

Bad idea. Very bad idea.

When I finally got a live person on the phone from Verizon, I was told that once I left the U.S. it was impossible to activate the phone. No Verizon towers in Italy, it seems. Oh. Craporini.

We’ll adapt by buying one of those disposable travel phones. But I’m kicking myself for not taking better care of the tech business much sooner before I left.

That’s OK. The gelato makes everything better.

Well, this commode makes a lousy office chair, so I shall sign off for now, and try to get a little sleep before we begin our first full day in Venice.

I will keep you posted.


Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as anewscafe.com in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke of the Czech Republic. Prior to 2007 Chamberlain was an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, CA.

Doni Chamberlain

Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded A News Cafe in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke. Chamberlain holds a Bachelor's Degree in journalism from CSU, Chico. She's an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She's been featured and quoted in The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, L.A. Times, Slate. Bloomberg News and on CNN, KQED and KPFA. She lives in Redding, California.

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