August 2010 - Italy

0 Hours

Our story begins on a sunny Sydney afternoon, after frantically packing the morning away and eating the last remaining contents of the fridge we were on our way to the airport for a much anticipated adventure.

Now I know I usually don’t start with plane rides, or anything that happens before that point, but I feel special mention needs to be given to the Verve Cliquot sitting in the open bar of the Emirates Lounge, as well as the food that filled me well before the meal on the plane. This was no ordinary trip. This was Business Class and I was travelling in style—or at least trying to minus my usual yoga pants.

+3 Hours

Dad caused chaos earlier than anticipated when shorlty after sitting down he had pulled his tray table out only to find it wouldn’t go back in. An engineer was sent, but in the end couldn’t fix the problem, fortunately there were many spare seats on this leg and Mum and I bid Dad farewell and continued to stake claim on our slightly larger than normal patch of real estate. I say this because of these new ‘flat beds’ (and you will understand why I say it that way shortly) are noticeably smaller than those old business class seats. Precious width has now been given to all the electronic gadgets you can imagine, partitions to ignore the person next to you, wireless remotes not for your TV but for everything else under the sun, an American power point (handy when your travelling to Europe) and finally a little nook just big enough for my teeny tiny handbag (that I admit was kind of handy). And then there was the TV, bigger than the first TV I put in my room, far enough away that one doesn’t go cross-eyed and a playlist that was available as soon as you figured out where the remote was (and how to use the damn thing).

+3.5 Hours

For the third time I tried to help Mum understand the remote. ‘Don’t roll your finger over it.’ I kept saying. ‘Push and hold it to the left…. See the mouse is moving… Give me your finger.’ Finally after about three interruptions to Diary of a Whimpy Kid (Movie #1) I selected the movie for her and after that point she seemed to get a handle on things. Don’t know how long it took Dad to figure out, don’t think he watched a movie on the first leg and every time Mum went over to visit he was fast asleep.

Side Note: Don’t be in the last row of Business Class, the tendency is for all your economy buddies to use your excess real estate to gather families at the beginnings of flights and to switch sides of the plane when the other queue isn’t moving. It’s rather annoying.

+5 Hours

I made a comment to Mum about the fact I don’t even feel like I’m on the plane. Began watching Shrek 4 (Movie #2) whilst on a three course dinner after eating my way through the buffet in the lounge (that food was better). That finished with the dessert cart and some chocolate dessert that I can’t pronounce but it filled whatever void was left.

+6 Hours

Flat beds aren’t exactly flat beds. If you dip the head you also dip the feet so you end up at this rather annoying angle where you feel like you are sliding down into the footboard—and you probably are.

+11 Hours

Sandwiches and mini desserts. Yum.

+13 Hours

Bangkok airport. Off the plane, back through security, waiting, waiting, waiting, onto the plane again for round 2.

+16 Hours

I figured it out. As long as you don’t dip the head too far you can raise the legs to horizontal… Nice. Sleep.

+21 Hours

Reached Dubai where the United Nations looks to have been represented that morning. There were people EVERYWHERE. Security barely gave you a second glance, seats were rare and hard to find and walking through the shops was more an effort to avoid people than anything else, but I found a McDonalds and two Happy Meal toys later (scores) we were waiting again.

+24 Hours

Half the airport had already left by the time it was our turn. Cramped like sardines back in economy again we were on our final flight over to Rome. Tried to sleep, couldn’t, so watched some TV, proudly bought to you by iPad, and watched as the hours slowly trickled away.

+30 Hours

ROME! Well, the airport anyhow. Our drama free day was about to go downhill.

The plan was to have a hire car waiting at the airport to pick us up and take us to Sorrento (about 3 hours down the coast from Rome). This is where the problems began. It was just before 2pm Rome time when we exited customs and guess what people? You know what I'm about to say right? Noone was there to meet us. We watched as drivers came and drivers went but noone was holding up WHITE to whisk us away from this place. Our guts sank, if there was no driver how in the hell were we meant to travel 300km south to our Hotel?

Dad managed to find the desk where all the transfers were handle (and a sign that said the company we had booked with). He waited patiently to speak to the lady and when he finally did was dismissed in about ten seconds with a this-isn’t-us response and pointed to a hospitality phone next to the counter where we finally managed to speak to someone through broken English. Another 15 mins later and we were told to wait twenty minutes. It seemed that they hadn’t organised our transfer. Twenty minutes clicked by slowly, Thirty clicked by and Dad is starting to say for the second time that we need to think of options. He called again and as he was on the phone our saviours finally arrived. But the problems weren’t to end there. Three bags, three people weren’t going to fit in a normal car. They called one of their other people to come and take us and with no more information than that we were led to a Minivan.

We began the drive wondering how we were going to survive with no air conditioning, but it wasn’t long before another problem presented itself. It seemed we were heading into Rome, and not on what one would consider main roads. The driver, of course, didn't speak a word of English so we were wondering WTF was happening. Dad was trying to clarify Sorrento, the driver started saying San Remo and now it looked like they had our destination wrong. We finally pulled out or Italy map and it was agreed that Sorrento was where we needed to go and the driver was on the phone.

If we thought our problems were to end there, we were wrong. Still we weaved our way into the heart of Rome, having no idea where we were. Me trying desperately to find us on a offline map because that was another problem… Optus losers had switched off all our global roaming… None of us had service. The driver pulled up outside a random shop front on the residential street with no signs to indicate it was… well anything of benefit to us. He gets out of the car and walks off and here we are wondering again WTF.

Apparently we needed to switch cars, but you can imagine how we felt. Middle of nowhere, no communication, no language. I don’t know about Mum and Dad, but I was thinking the worse. We switched cars and got back on the road a few minutes later and I can’t tell you how relieved I felt when we saw our first sign to Napoli or the fact that we drove right through the historical area of Rome without knowing it.

The trip was long, the driver liked 140km/h but as far as I was concerned this day could not end quick enough. I hit the wall and crashed on top of my backpack in the back seat. We finally got water at a petrol station because during the drama we hadn’t thought of anything like that. Our driver spent more time on his phone than I spend in a week. It was clear that he wasn’t expecting to do this trip. I loved the fact that he shifted gears by taking his hand off the steering wheel, still chatting away on his phone.

We make the turn off to Sorrento and we can see it on the mountain side. Yes, we were almost there.

No, we weren’t. One word people… Traffic. Stop dead, move one car space every minute stop dead traffic. Every time we caught a break it was only to find more traffic around the next corner.

+37 Hours

We drove past the Hotel, which doesn’t have an obvious entrance. The Police Officer in the middle of the square pointed us back to the entrance and our driver slowly reversed up. We finally go to check in and the lady asks if we would like a reservation at their restaurant for dinner. What time? Our response? What time is it? Remembering that we were out of customs at 2pm. It was 830pm. 6 and a half hours later.

We were wrecked and for anything less than this I may have been disappointed…