Friday, 14 August 2009

the long trek home

Thursday 29th July
The only thing that went right today was that we managed to get up in time to get our 7:30 taxi to Fumicioini airport. It was all downhill after that.
The taxi dropped us off wrong terminal and after finding our way to the right terminal and a long wait, Air France, with whom we booked told us that we’d been queued up in the wrong place because though we’d booked with them, it was actually Alitalia who was going to be flying us to Paris for a connection through to Dubai. This wasn’t mentioned on any of our documentation. So after another substantial period of queuing and with the clock fast running down we finally got ourselves checked-in and through customs with moments to spare.
We raced to the gate, jumped onto the bus and breathed a sigh of relief. Soon we were on the plane, bags stowed, books and glasses organised ... all ready for the two hour flight to Charles de Gaulle. Time passed with nerry a word from staff nor movement from the plane. Word came that we had to disembark because of a safety issue. So after being herded back on buses and back to the airport, and standing around for 45 minutes not sure what was going on, we were lead back to the gate we had originally left from where we again waited. It soon became apparent that we were going to miss our connecting flight to Dubai.
Back on another plane that rattled and creaked like no plane we’d ever been on before, babies screaming and a teenager with lots of ‘tude sitting next to me, we finally got into Charles de Gaulle airport several hours late. After queuing for almost an hour we met a very pleasant man who kindly organised another flight for us ... leaving just before midnight; 11 hours after we were supposed to leave. As compensation Air France gave us a voucher for a free sandwich and drink! Were they kidding? After expressing disappointment at their offer and after a bit of argy-bargy I wangled access to the Air France lounge where we felt somewhat better after an OJ, a Bombay and tonic and a snack. Spending ten hours there was a bit over the top, but ... you get that. However, our revised expectations to be home by midday the next day were soon thwarted when once again we were sitting on the runway for 30 mins, 40 mins ... wondering what was going on. It became clear when a medical team boarded the plane that one of the passengers had suddenly taken ill. After an hour and a half the gentleman was taken off the plane to get the required medical care and the plane was soon in the air without further mishap.
This is the guilty plane sitting at Rome airport just before we boarded the first time.

Tuesday 27th July - Naples
Life-threatening, but cool.
Oppressive 40 degree heat, the taxi windows are wound down, we’re stopped in dense, noisy traffic and there’s no a/c. The driver decides this is a good time to light up a cigarette making it even harder to breathe in the thick, still air. His phone rings. He takes the call. The traffic moves, he accelerates still smoking and still talking on his hand-held phone. As the traffic speeds up, he changes gears without missing a beat in his phone conversation. He begins weaving in and out of the traffic, picking the gaps to the millimetre while still distracted by gears, the cigarette and his phone. The bright side is that with the taxi now moving, there is some air flow and thus some relief from the cloying heat. And ... who said men can’t multi task?
We had a pizza and some Pinot Grigio in an upstairs labyrinth on the main shopping strip in Napoli. It was magic!

Scene taken from the big square

When enough is enough

Much of what we saw in Napoli looked like this

And this

Though there are some lovely monuments and buildings, there's a sad and ugly side

Monday 27th July
Naples today and the penultimate day of our trip. The ship has become a home; a refuge from the world outside. Would I cruise again? Yes. Would I do it for 20 days? Probably not. The lustre begins to wear off around 12 – 14 days. Yesterday saw us in Sicily’s capital, Palermo. We did the sightseeing bus thing – pity they didn’t have much enroute in the way of sights that were worth seeing.

Reclining bunny

Another speccy sunset (with another crooked horizon!)

Dinner on the ship - last day. This was called a vegetable stack - though I'm not sure why.

Gardens of our hotel in Rome on the last night