Things We Learned on the First Day

Things We Learned on the First Day

For all the things we have learned in the last three years, it has become painfully obvious that there are also skills and knowledge that have been lost and forgotten. And as with many things, it isn’t until you go to use those skills once more that you make mistakes and realize that you may have forgotten some of the most fundamental elements of “travelling”.

Right off the bat (and somewhat reminiscent of the day/night/day – as it turned out – of my second son’s birth), we should have been on notice that something was about to go very much awry when everything seemed to be going oh so smoothly.

Here comes lesson number one. For the first time in my fifty years of travelling life, I did not check to ensure that my name on the plane ticket was correct. In my defence, I was busy checking to make sure that Don’s was right and didn’t think to correct the Air France’s auto fill-in feature for my own information. So when the agent said, “I’m very sorry, but the name on your ticket has to be the same as the name on your passport”, I thought, “yeah, I know that”. (But I didn’t actually say that out loud, which will be a relief to some of you out there.) She held it up for me to see and, I’ll be darned if it didn’t say “Jan Currie”. Our hearts sank and I was wondering what my chances of getting someone at Air France on the phone were, when she said that it actually could be fixed, and I had two options: they would actually allow me to fly that day on the first leg, but with the knowledge that I would have the same problem in another language when trying to check in for our return flight; OR if we didn’t mind waiting, an agent who knew how to make the name change could help us when she was free and it would be correct for our return flight in October. Since we were so early (3 hours and no lineups except the one developing behind us), and we had plenty of time to wait AND had absolutely no desire to have this problem again (in French no less), we sung a resounding “YES” in chorus and stood aside to wait however long it took. In the end, an agent was able to change those two flights, but not the flight from Paris to Florence. But “don’t worry – it is like a domestic flight and they probably won’t check”. “Well, at least we will be in Europe by then”, said Don and off we went to our gate, and all was well, including having time for lunch in the departures lounge because out of the four of us who voted, only one thought that they would serve us lunch (that’s you Jeanette!). But that’s okay – we had lunch twice that day.

The much anticipated shit-show of arrivals and passport check in Charles de Gaulle airport, turned out to be fake news – 20 minutes from outside security to our gate. I had a little sleep on a wooden bench, to which Don commented, “If you can sleep here, you can sleep anywhere” – which is actually true if you are tired enough.

And the ticket agent was right – no one in CDG cared about my little heretofore catastrophic name problem.

Florence airport is tiny – we had to do a “hard brake” because the runway is so short. That was fun. Our seats were not together, and I ended up being squished between an interestingly shaggy old fellow moving from Brazil to Italy and a young guy who said he does lighting technology for a band, and who was heading to Italy for a total of 3 days to attend a wedding with other band members scattered throughout the plane. The Brasílian guy insisted that the young guy was famous, but I thought he was kidding. Now I am thinking maybe I should have asked, but didn’t want to be “that guy”. Anyway, we had a great chat.

So we get to our hotel, and before I tell you “the rest of the story”, I am going to post a photo of the hotel’s best quality, the rooftop bar and pool.

The Student Hotel, Florence

Now, there is a little hint at the downside of this hotel in the name, and as we entered the lobby, there was one (long) line-up for students, and one for the rest of us (just us). Our room was spartan (to say the least) and Don – believe it or not – was at a bit of a loss for words when he saw it, because I did all the bookings this time and he did not know where we were going other than the two stops he requested we stay at places we had been before.

But we were only here for one night and the idea was to be close to the train station for our morning train, so okay, let’s see this pool. And yay! The pool is amazing. With a bar. Once we had our beer and Aperol spritz in hand, we hatched a plan to go for a swim and then dinner, trying to stay awake until 8:00 before crashing. The place seems to be some sort of quasi-school, though I can’t believe these 18 to 23 year old kids are paying 150$ a night to stay here. And I am happy to say that there was one other couple that were older than us. The people-watching was pretty fun for an hour or so. Especially the part where everyone in the seats with the primo view was on their phone.

Don thought the girl watching was pretty good – I didn’t get many photos of that tho

We went to find the nearest pizzeria and took the longest way of course, in the wrong shoes, so consequently I limped back to the hotel (the shorter way) and am nursing sore feet (but not yet blisters thankfully). Second lesson is that you are always walking a long way, even if it’s only for dinner, so forget the nice sandals. Everyone here is wearing runners anyway.

So as we drop gratefully into bed (at 8:30), the music is blaring from the courtyard and the kids are at least two hours from banging down the halls and bidding all their new friends adieu. Lucky we were exhausted and the music wasn’t that bad, so at least one of us fell asleep pretty much right away. Of course that same person had to get up at about 2:30 am to use the washroom, and that was when what looked like a piece of fluff started walking around on the bathroom floor. I am guessing silverfish. Yay.

Wide awake before 6:00 am, we both had showers and hopefully woke a bunch of hungover kids up. This is one of the sweet revenges of the senior that we have just discovered . . .

We got the train no problemo and enjoyed the views on the way. Don loves a good train ride. We changed in La Spezia and when we got on the connector train, quickly became the information booth for everyone asking if this was the train to the Cinque Terre or some version thereof. Even though we were the new experts, we almost got caught up in getting off at the first “La Spezia” stop, being completely off the train before asking a fellow passenger (newest new expert), who said no – it’s the next one that you want. Don grabbed both suitcases and virtually threw them back on the train as I hopped on – if it had started then, only one of us would have made it to the correct La Spezia stop. But we both did (I was considering risking an arm in the door if it started to close, but luckily didn’t have to make that choice). Oh – I forgot the third lesson – never expect “il toilette” to have any paper of any sort. Always have a cache of Kleenexes with you. This may be the most important lesson of all. I was ok thankfully, but used the last tiny square of tp and had to warn the next lady that there was no more. She returned to her seat to stock up on tissues. Fourth lesson is always have a euro coin in your pocket. Pay toilets are the thing here. The cafe where we had coffee and croissants (!) had a toilet but you needed a code that was printed on the receipt that they took from you when they made your coffees. I held up the line long enough for the cashier to give me another receipt with the code and there was a large male enforcer at the bathroom door who punched in the code and said (to me and the two ladies behind me) “Due!!”. Meaning 2. So the 3 of us crammed in and closed the door. I’m pretty sure neither of them had the code. Chalk another one up for the sisterhood.

We finally made our way to Riomaggiore, to stay once again in one of Don’s favourite places in the world. Casa Lorenza is run by the most wonderful woman and we had a loud, huggy reunion on the front patio when we arrived.

Casa Lorenza, Riomaggiore

The rest of the day consisted of lunch, naps, blogs, dinner and sitting on our patio to watch the sun set. Don is fast asleep beside me in a lounge chair and we have (almost) made it to a normal bedtime for the second day in a row, so the jet lag should be behind us by tomorrow.

Bonna Notte everyone – until tomorrow . . .

7 responses to “Things We Learned on the First Day”

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