This is a continuation of Italy Trip series. Here are the previous posts for Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 5, Day 6 and Day 7. Really early morning As I mentioned in my last post, I was told by the front desk staff that I needed more time than I had planned for in order to travel to the airport so that I wouldn't miss my flight. This meant I needed to get up at 5:30am in order to get cleaned up, finish packing, check out of the hotel, go get my car, and pick up my friend at her hotel. I set my phone's alarm, I scheduled a wake up call from the front desk, and I set the alarm clock by my bed. I guess I was a little bit paranoid. I was able to wake up by just one device and I was able to keep my schedule. While checking out of the hotel I asked if they could call the parking garage so that my car would be ready when I arrived there. The front desk even offered to have someone run and get it for me but then there was some confusion about where it was so I just told them I would get it myself.
Getting the car from parking I trekked from the hotel with my roller bag and backpack down the streets of Milan. After a few turns I came to the parking garage. I didn't see anyone attending the parking office. This caused my anxiety level to rise. After a very long minute the attendant arrived driving my car. We exchanged greetings and he went into his office. I handed him my ticket and a credit card. He tried it and it didn't work. I handed him another card. Fail! And yet another. Fail! Now I was getting really worried. I didn't have enough euros to cover the bill. This wasn't helping my anxiety level. Finally, I handed him my check card as a last ditch effort. It worked. The only thing I can think of is that the Italians don't have the same sort of system or assumptions about payment. Anyway, I wasn't happy to use that account but it worked and shortly I was on my way.
Driving to airport I headed directly to my friend's hotel. I didn't even need to use the GPS to get there. I guess I was becoming a local. I was about 15 minutes late and she was waiting in the lobby. We loaded her luggage and left, we plugged the airport into the GPS and headed on our way.
At the airport We arrived at Malpensa International Airport, piled out of the rental car, and trekked to the terminal. We had arrived with PLENTY of time. So all of my paranoia and anxiety were for not. We were on different airlines so we decided to split and check in and then regroup for breakfast. The line at Delta was relatively short and I was able to check in with little fuss. I met back up with my friend and we headed to the food court. It was Sunday just before 8am and almost everything was closed. I was surprised that an international airport that was full of people didn't have a single breakfast place open. Anyway the bar was open. The bar had coffee and a limited selection of breakfast items. We had a couple of brioches, cappuccinos, and a rather large bowl of chopped fruit.
The brioche and fruit were surprisingly good but the cafe (even though it looked good) was not that good. We sat and enjoyed (as much as we could) the breakfast while we remembered our time over the past week. Then we parted ways as I needed to make my way to my plane. I still had about an hour and a half but I didn't want any troubles.
Duty free After getting through the security line, which by the way was a lot like our security lines five years ago, I proceeded to my gate. Interestingly in order to get to the gate you are forced to walk through the duty free shops. I thought it was interesting. Other than pictures and some brochures I really didn't have any souvenirs so I decided to buy a soccer jersey for a local team. It ended up being more expensive than I expected but I guess that's what happens when you buy items at the airport.
Europe departure The trip out of Europe was pretty uneventful. I was in the aisle in the middle section of the airplane. Unlike my flight into Italy the in-flight entertainment center actually worked! So I spent the majority of the long flight watching movies. I saw the "A-Team", "Clash of the Titans", "Cop Out" and "Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time". I think I saw some more but I can't remember which ones right now. About halfway through the flight I started to smell some flatulence. Not mine I must say because mine smells like roses. No this is the kind of gas that could melt paint off the walls. Someone around me was emitting the most ghastly smells and it was making my eyes what. The guy next to me must have smelled it too but he didn't confess to being it's origin. No matter what I did the smell didn't dissipate. I just had to suffer.
Customs at JFK After arriving at JFK the first stop is passport control. Considering how much international travel goes this airport I would have figured that they would be better at getting people through the line. Anyway, I knew that I had to wait for my bag in order to go through customs so although I was anxious I wasn't going crazy. Yet! I finally get to the front of the line and I hand over my passport and what not. The man is not that happy but he scans it, scans me, scans it and hands it back. I then proceed to the baggage claim to wait for my bag. I keep looking at the clock and the baggage isn't arriving. My layover time isn't really long but I don't like cutting it close. Another 15-20 minutes later and my bag is finally in my hand. I went to the customs line which was also not efficiently managed. There were only two lines with something like 30 people in each. Finally another person opened a third line and I made a mad dash over to it. I ended up being the 3rd or 4th in line. I had nothing to declare and I wasn't chosen for screening so I continued on out the security. First stop was the baggage re-checkin. The man took my bag and told me my gate. He also told me which security checkpoint I should go to. I know JFK alright so I didn't take his advice and I went to another terminal. As I arrived at the lines it seemed like I had made the correct choice. I had about 20 minutes before boarding would start so I was in good shape. I was a little out of breathe because I had hoofed it some distance but over all I was doing well. Then the travel craziness started. The line didn't move. I could see people going through the two security screening areas but the line I was in (non-VIP) did not seem to budge an inch. Now I was starting to worry. The time just seemed to slip away. Ten minutes went by and I had moved about 5 positions. There were still about 30 people in front of me. This was not good. Ten more minutes went by once again a small move in the line. The plane would be boarding. I got the attention of a security person and mentioned that my flight was going to leave without me. She said she'll get back to me. I was getting extremely anxious and frustrated. There was a lady next to me in line that I saw was on the same flight. So to defuse my emotions I said hi as I could tell that she was going through the same situation as me. Finally security agent made an announcement for a flight that was 5 minutes before mine. I took the opportunity and went to the head of the line and beckoned the woman I met to follow. This of course only got us to the point before the x-ray machines and metal detectors but it was an improvement. I'm not sure what was wrong with the world that day but the people in line were the slowest people to ever get through security. Another ten minutes had passed and I had pretty much resigned myself to being late and catching the next flight out. When I finally was able to get through the screening I rushed to my gate which wasn't too far from the security checkpoint. I noticed a big group of people around my gate walking the other way which could mean either the flight just got into my gate OR... They changed the gate! I turned around and started heading toward my new gate. I saw the woman I skipped the line with and I flagged her to follow and told her that the gate had changed. Of course the gate was in the other concourse which was a brisk 5 minute walk. Now we are about 15 minutes from the scheduled departure time but when I arrived at the gate there were just a whole bunch of people milling around and no one in authority informing anyone of anything. I tried to find someone who would know what was going on but they were either too busy to talk to me or else they didn't know anything. The departure time came and there was finally an announcement that the flight was delayed. Well DUH! And here I was getting all frantic trying to get to a flight that was delayed. I'm so used to this type of thing that when they gave out a new departure time I knew that it was too optimistic and that would be delayed as well.
My Good Deed for the day About that time an airport representative wheeled an elderly lady up to the gate area. The old lady was definitely confused and not having a good day. Apparently she had been stuck in the airport all day and no one was really helping her. As I overheard her talking with the airport representative I really felt for her. Apparently she needed a wheel chair to get onto and off of the airplane but no one had arranged one. The representative said that she needed to talk to gate agent and then the representative left. Remember how I said it was difficult for me to get a gate agent's help, well it was even more difficult for this elderly lady. So I stepped in. I walked over to a group of flight attendants and stated that the elderly lady needed assistance and that no one was paying any attention to her. Finally, one nice flight attendant went over and talked with the elderly lady and helped get everything straightened out. I have actually paraphrased this telling as there was a lot more but it's already gone on too long. Right before they started to call us to board the plane I looked over at the elderly lady and she was napping in a chair. I went over and gently woke her up so that she didn't miss her flight. I also said by to the woman that I went through security with.
What's that noise? I finally got onto the plane and got situated. This last leg I was going to be very tired and I might even sleep a bit. The plane took off later than the agent had declared (I was right) but the trip home was smooth and uneventful as all flights should be. As we were in the air I kept hearing this strange noise. It sounding like a loud slow clapping. I tried to ignore it but it would sneak into my consciousness and disrupt my thoughts. I looked around and finally spotted the culprit. A lady (maybe not the best description) was chomping loudly on gum. I mean very loudly. She was sitting at least three rows behind me and off to the side. I wanted to say something but I was drained from the day and so I just increased the volume on my iPod.
Conclusion Italy is a wonderful country. I am going to have to visit it more often and hopefully I will have more time to spend sight seeing and enjoying the enormous amount of culture it has to offer.
On a personal note: It has taken me three months to write out my adventures of 8 days. I need to be better at this journaling.