Monday, February 11, 2008

And we're back!

Hells yeah!

What's up peeps? As you are probably well aware, I had a bit of a screw up with the whole 'Italy Trip' thing.
Luckily, it all turned out to be awesome and was well worth the hassle of getting there.
So here's how the Italian Job went down. Minus the photos. This will be explained later. (Also, see The Girl's account of the trip for a more interesting version of this story)

* Ok, this is like... all kinds of loooong. So fix yourself an espresso, grab a slice of pizza and warm up your eyes. Also, If you awake in a pile of drool in a few hours time, I apologise for telling such lengthy, boring stories.*

Having had a day to dwell on my stupidity, I wrote myself a list of everything I needed to walk out the door with. I ate some soup and went to bed.
(An aside: Later on I came up with the idea of having a velcro suit made, then sticking the corresponding velcro to all the important things I need to take whenever I'm travelling. This would mean anytime I was had to go somewhere, I could just roll around in our room and everything I would need would be stuck to me. I could also have a suit made in the opposite velcro, and then put the corresponding velcro on all the items I need to say, go to work. If I rolled around our room, then I'd only pick up the items I needed for work, and my travel items, such as my passport wouldn't stick because everyone knows that the fluffy bits of velcro won't stick to each other. Man, am I a problem solver or what!?)


So I awoke with a start at 10 minute intervals from 2.00am through 3.20am, each time thinking I'd slept through my alarm and had missed my plane.
I rose at 3.30am. Got my stuff together and set off for the trusty night bus.
London at 4.00am is an entirely different creature. The air is crisp and there's a calm in the air. I felt energised as steam billowed out with each exhalation. I felt good finally being on my way.
In the back of my mind I worried I'd be caught out down 'Stab Alley' and mugged, however the closest thing to a threat was a wily fox that coolly snuck behind a fence as I approached.
I caught the bus at 4.07am. It was almost empty, warm and I felt really relaxed. Much nicer than my usual Friday morning commute. At Turnham Green a man boarded the bus wearing the fluorescent threads of a tube worker. Smiling, he greeted the 8 or so of us that were sat on the bottom deck of the bus and proceeded to hand out a Metro to everyone, accompanied by a cheery 'good morning!'
It was actually a really nice journey in as I had time to compose myself which I needed considering the past 24 hours' overload.
Getting to Victoria, I caught the 5.02 to Gatwick. Arrived at the airport at 5.47, checked in early and had a seat in the departure lounge and waited for boarding.
Had a chat to a nice Aussie guy from Adelaide called Andy and then caught a transfer bus to the plane which was waiting for us in what seemed to be a vacant field.
I was asleep before take-off. Which is weird because I particularly love the take-off part of a plane journey.
Waking up, I find I'm squished between an insurance broker named Emily and an unnamed man in a leather puffer jacket with the most porno moustache and hair I've ever seen.
Still tired, I put my rolled-up hoodie behind my neck and drift off again.

I rouse as we are passing over the alps and the view is amazing. I think I'm weirding the insurance broker out as she is in the window seat and I'm peering across her at the mountains which look like cream that's been whipped into firm peaks. I never realised the alps were so vast.
I expect I look like a small child, peering out the window and grinning foolishly. Insurance broker lady asks if airport is near Milan city centre and I explain how far from Milan it is in kilometres, minutes, how much the average cab fare is, how much a shuttle bus costs and how far away Milan's other two airports are. She looks bewildered and I explain that I know this due to my frantic attempts to sort out the whole 'forgotten passport/trasferred flights' conundrum.
She finds this hilarious. I'm still not ready to laugh about it, so I nod and force a smile.

We touch down in Milan. Finally, I set my feet on solid ground in Italy. Relief.
On the horizon, I see the rocky, snow capped peaks of the Orobie Alps and all my tension, stress and anxiety dissolves.

A disinterested customs official punches my passport and I head through to the arrivals lounge where I know I have a 4.5 hour wait for my transfer to Presolana.
I buy an overpriced lunch panini, a water and some gum which is called Vigorsol. I chewed two pellets, read the label and then worried I'd end up with a four day erection. I swear I've had spam with the words 'Discount Vigorsol' in the subject line.

I'm paranoid I'm going to miss my transfer, so I do all I can to stay awake. I decide to venture outside, however there's only carparks and no footpaths, so I return to the arrivals lounge to partake in some people watching.
I was of the impression that milan was the fashion capital of the world. I think on an episode of America's Next Top Model that The Girl was watching the other night, they described the style as 'Italian Sexuality'. I saw nothing that equated to anything even vaguely similar to this description.
Apparently if you're a man, you have to wear zip-up, roll neck knitwear, jeans with huge D&G embroidering all over them, a racing style leather jacket complete with Shell and Penzoil sew on badges, aviator sunglasses, nike runners (not stylish ones, but like cross trainers or something) and some unholy arrangement of facial hair.
If you're a woman, you must wear horribly cheap looking hooker boots, jeans with huge D&G embroidering all over them (perhaps they're unisex?), something that displays your adequate stomach protruding over said jeans and again, aviator sunglasses.
Oh, also you must be so orange that you'd outshine a bag of carrots.
The fashionistas and fasionmisters were all horribly unfashionable. there was no 'Italian Sexuality' unless sex in Italy is usually conducted in charity shop drop-off bins.
Watching these people, the time passed rather quickly.
The Girl sends me a few messages lamenting the language barrier, the lack of ski lessons and the uphill walking in ski boots.
I make guilty apologies and vow to be there soon.
A ray of sunshine enters through the automatic doors as Carlo, my friendly transfer driver walks in carrying a piece of paper with my name on it.
I jump up and resist the urge to hug the man that will finally take me to my intended destination. (Hmm... I expect this may turn up some hits from people searching for homo-erotic literature)
As we travel through Milan and into Bergamo, I pull out my camera as the alps loom higher and higher above me.
I learn about the local textile industry, the river and the abundance of activities the resort offers. Seamless salesmanship from Carlo.
I arrive at the hotel at 5.40pm. For those of you who don't follow maths, that's 14 hours since I left home.
By this stage I am so excited, I rush out of the van, and attempt to check in at the reception desk. This proves difficult as the lovely man behind the desk doesn't have the greatest command of the English language.
Carlo brings me my camera which I left on the van. (Need the velcro suit)
Hands are shaken, Carlo leaves and I head up to our room.
The Girl arrives back at the hotel a short time later and I sit on the bed with her and laugh as relief washes over me and I'm so happy to finally be there.
Showered, clothed and feeling fresh we decide to descend the mountain for dinner.
We go to Pizza l Rustico for dinner and we eat the best pizzas I've had. Proffering a mashed-up Italio-English-mime-a-thon, we also manage to order a nice bottle of red and tasty dessert.
Full and content we walk back up the hill to our hotel, and fall into bed where I sleep like a narcoleptic on Ambien. Which is extremely well, in case my analogy reads stupidly.

Morning, and I open the shutters to reveal a sun kissed mountain peak surrounded by thousands of pointy green pines.
We get our stuff sorted, head downstairs for breakfast of fresh mortadella, cheese, rolls, home made croissants and coffee.
We then dress and catch the ski-bus (which I thought Carlo was calling the 'caboose') up to the slopes.
It's sub zero temperatures, but there's not a cloud in the sky and the sun is warm on my face.
We hire The Girl a snowboard and then trudge up the hill a little way where we go through the basics and then begin the potentially volatile process of me teaching her to snowboard.

What can I say. She's good.
When I was working at the ski resort in the US, I usually ran a lift on the beginners slope so had a good understanding of the steep learning curve involved in snowboarding. As such I had expectations that like most beginners, she'd spend the most of the day skidding on her butt, be completely disenfranchised with snowboarding by lunch time and possibly have called me all manner of bad words and left by 2pm.

After an hour and a half, Non Blondie was getting up on her own and was doing really well...
I put it down to my superior instructional methods, although i'd be lying if I didn't say she did really really well. I was the proudest person on the mountain. Also, I had the sorest knees on the mountain from kneeling and explaining things on hard snow.

So we snowboarded, we rode a lift up the mountain (much to the dismay of The Girl who upon boarding, remembered she really didn't like lifts at all, but still calmed herself down very bravely) and we sat in the sun and ate lunch.
I haven't had such a good day in a long, long time.

Sore, bruised and tired, we retired to the hotel where we rested a while before heading out for a stroll around the lovely village of Bratto. We went for ice cream, wandered past shops filled with cured meats, fresh made pasta, all manner of cheeses and then found a nice place to have a coffee.
We sipped on tasty lattes (Boy, does that sound wanky or what?) and watched in no particular order, a burly man pump endless euros into a slot machine, a waitress casually chat with her friend at a table, said bury man drink shots of grapper/ouzo and a midget come in with a friend to order something I didn't understand.
Not being one to racially stereotype, I suggested to Non Blondie that the midget was the Mario you start out with in Super Mario Brothers before you punch that second brick and get the mushroom which makes him go bigger.
She shook her head and told me I was a horrible person.

We then sauntered back up hill, taking photos of the sunset all the way to our hotel where we readied ourselves for dinner.
Dinner was a three course extravaganza at the hotel restaurant, cooked by the lovely man who greeted me at the reception desk. Again we mangled pronunciations successfully and had ourselves a three course meal encompassing veal, venison, lasagne, gnocchi, amaretto, pear and chocolate torte and a bottle of chianti.
Thoroughly satisfied, we paid our outstandings, received a complimentary shot of local liquor and headed up to bed full, drunk and happily exhausted.
Waking to the alarm, we packed everything up and got ready to leave. I checked that I had everything. I then checked again, just in case. And I repeated this four more times.
Satisfied that we had everything we needed, we met Carlo at 7am and headed back to the airport.
We ate a horrific airport breakfast, then boarded our flight and sighed as we soared up and away from what could possibly go down as the best short holiday ever.
Like excited school kids, we took photos as we passed back over the alps and then watched quietly as small white coastal cliffs, and then the green patchwork of rural England slid past below us.
We waited for our bags at the 'Wheel of Fortune' baggage carousel. Non-Blondie's bag came almost instantly, however after half an hour and watching another flight's worth of luggage be spewed up and hauled away by it's owners, we decided my snowboard bag wasn't making an appearance and headed to Lost Baggage.
The guy ahead of me was lamenting his smashed up cello, which had been labelled as 'Fragile'. Unfortunately this probably meant very little to a non-Enlgish-speaking baggage handler in Italy.
The man behind the counter then explained to me that oversize baggage goes to Zone 10. This isn't made known to anyone at all, so frustrated at having waited for so long for no reason, we grab my snowboard bag and head off to catch a train home.
Train is filled with Chelsea supporters and we cram into the door way. After 40 or so minutes of idiotic, Stella fuelled football banter everyone disembarks at Victoria.
The Girl and I are walking towards the gates when a shockwave runs through me.
"Oh Shit!"
'What is it now!?" Asks The Girl.
"My bag. Where's my backpack!?"
"Oh my god..." She shakes her head. (Again, need velcro suit. Need it now.)
So I rush back to the train, where there is no sign of my bag. I report it to lost property, the train cleaners and anyone else that doesn't walk away from me like I'm a crazy man foretelling the coming apocalypse. I tell them all it contains some books, clothes, my camera (SHIT!) and ironically, my travel insurance documentation.
We resolve to call Gatwick once we get home to see if they have my bag and hopefully avert a bomb scare caused by a suspicious Fitness First backpack sitting on Platform 2.
Walking down to the District Line, the hand-scrawled sign informs us that the District line only runs to Earl's Court and then the Piccadilly only runs to Hammersmith.
Sighing and already lamenting being back in Scuzz City, we catch the District line, change to the Piccadilly, then alight at Hammersmith and join the 200m queue for the replacement bus service.
Around an hour later I walk through the door at home, throw down my snowboard bag and lie on the couch while The Girl picks up some ciders and falafel wraps for our lunch.
Whilst I'm stressed over the loss of my bag and all it contains, I'm glad to be home and am already recalling the relaxation and fun of the trip.
The Girl brings in sustenance and we flop onto the couch where we spend the rest of the afternoon and evening.

It's nice to be home. But it's even nicer to be in Italy.
Yesterday, I got a call back from Gatwick who have my bag and everything it contains! Hooray for honest people!
Once I get my camera back, I'll post photos.
I hereby declare that there shall be no more stupidity on my behalf and that I'm not going to foget important things anymore.

Also, I have some memes taht I've been tagged in to do, so Mikey, Feverdog and Non Blondie: Keep an eye out and I'll get them all done soon.


Amanda said...

It got off to a rocky start, but it just got better and better! I was hanging on the edge of my seat around the point where you lost your bag though- that's my biggest fear. Qantas lost my bag on a domestic flight last year- longest 13 hours of my life waiting to see whether I'd get it back.

Yay for the Alps!

Andrew said...

Very entertaining. Do take care about commenting on Italian fashion Jiminy C. Kressley. Can't believe you forgot your backpack after all the self recrimination about the passport.

Dune said...

See, the customs official didn't even care about your passport. Stupid Europe!

So, are paninis any better in their land of origin than they are everywhere else? That's the question I also want answered about croissants.

Can't believe you forgot your bag - Girl must have the patience of a saint. However, she better, because I think she's landed herself the best boyfriend EVER. Rock on.

Mars said...

what the fuck! have you always been so scattered, or has this condition just come on with age?

i thought i was quite bad in missing relatively obvious things... but you take the cake!

jiminycricket said...

Amanda: It's true. It started horribly, but it all worked out. 13 hours is an insane amount of time to wait for a bag. Did you get it back?

Andrew: J.C.Kressley? Ha! I'm more like fashion kryptonite. But I can still pick out tacky shit at 400 yards. I couldn't believe I'd forgotten it either. Some serious brain chemistry issues or something that weekend. It's passed now though. Possibly because I'm now completely paranoid about leaving anything behind.

Dune: Yes, I blame Europe too! Paninis were much the same as they were the world over, except the ingredients were a lot better. The croissants (or brioche) however, were incredibly good. The owner of the hotel made them himself and they were like tiny clouds of joy. Or something.
The Girl does have incredible patience. And I've definitely pushed, albeit unintentionally!
Endeavouring to rock on!

Mars: I know, it's fucked hey. So not rad. I'm not usually like this. It's like sudden onset acute temporary retardation. But it's passed now and I'm not so scattery. It's the last of this nonsense now. I swear.

Fever Dog said...

I think your Twat of the Week award gets cancelled out by the Best Boyfriend Ever award -- and the genius of your velcro suit idea. Except that a backpack is sort of mean to be strapped to you anyway...

So jealous (but also secretly very glad) the two of you had such a good time.

jiminycricket said...

FD: I hope it cancels out or I'm in trouble! I think the velcro suit should be worth a few plus points though.
I'm glad it all worked out too. And I recommend everyone to go there.

Amanda said...

I got it back, but it was particularly shit because I was on a business trip. I'd travelled in work clothes, including heals, in the early morning, but the work wasn't until night- so I'd planned to change when I got there (so that work clothes wouldn't get scrunched up in the bag). It also had a few crucial items required for the work, and didn't arrive in time for that.

I spent all day walking the main street of Kalgoorlie in relatively new heals (hello, blisters!), and sulking because Qantas wouldn't answer my calls to tell me whether they'd found it.

the boy who likes to... said...

Blimey! What a story. Good to hear you managed to enjoy a few days on the slopes.

What do you reckon the chances were of the midget being called Mario? You should of shouted the name and seen if he looked.

But it sounds like you shouldn't wear a velcro suit for holidays, but instead wear it at all times.
I hate checking to see if I have forgotten something. I always think to myself the more I check it the more chance I have of accidentally losing it. Weird I know, but there you have it.

But kudos to the people who handed in your bag. I hope all your belongings are still in it. Good to hear all ended well.

jiminycricket said...

Amanda: That sucks... Lost luggage on business trips = nightmare.

Rob: Yeah I'm glad it all sorted itself out. I freak out too if I check for my stuff too often. I get super paranoid about forgetting things now. I'm so lucky someone actually handed my bag in. I'm putting it down to karma for the times I've handed people's stuff in... I hope I still have some assets in the karma bank though... I have a feeling I'll need them.