A few years back, my sister and I experienced a wonderful two weeks touring Greece and Rome. We laughed, we drank, we ate, we saw many a splendid sight. It really was heaven. Our trip was not without its adventures, however. We both love to laugh, but there were those times, I’m afraid, when we were sorely tested. Here are a few of those moments.
Roma is a stranga place
Did you know that the railway unions are on strike in Rome, and therefore there are only 2 trains to Rome’s airport on a Saturday? A 9:22am and a 9:53am, then they are done for the day! Alternative is to take a taxi from wherever you are or a van at 55 euro ($100 bucks). If you get on the train without a ticket you get charged 100 euro ($150 bucks). The train going from the airport into Rome closes at 9pm. No trains into the city after that. So if your flight gets in later, or by chance AL ITALIA loses your luggage, there is literally no way to get out of the airport without taking a taxi. Better people than I (namely, my traveling companion, my older sister) have had to sleep on the airport floor until the next morning when the first train for Rome leaves for the city. My sister, who by the way has Multiple Sclerosis, didn’t need the experience of sleeping on the cold floor of AL ITALIA hell.
Score: Rome ONE, Venice ZERO
Okay, we missed our flight from Rome to Venice. I’m not whining because apparently it was our fault, but we don’t know how it happened. We arrived at our gate in Rome a full hour before our flight. Sat in the extremely crowded food court area, in eyesight of our gate, eating inedible fries. Loudspeaker shouted out constant news in Italian language, which neither of us understand, and besides, the noise level was blaringly high.
So half hour before our flight, we casually saunter over to the gate, where they tell us we’ve missed our flight! How can that be? we ask. We’ve been calling you and calling you, they say. This is not your gate, they say. The flight left from another gate. But…but…we looked at the board and it said this gate. Well, they changed it and we tried to call you but you didn’t answer. We held the plane for you! You made the plane late! But, we didn’t hear our names being called. Well, we called you several times, you made the plane late, and now you’ll have to take another flight to Venice. And since it was your fault, you idiots, you’ll have to pay all over again.
Well, can we get on this flight to Venice, which says it’s leaving in 45 minutes? No. You mean, there’s a plane going to Venice right here but you won’t let us on? No. Why not? Because your luggage won’t be on the same plane with you, and that would violate our policies. When is the next flight? Not until tomorrow, they reply. Where is our luggage? We pulled it off the flight, which made the plane late! You ruined our schedule! Well, how can we get our luggage? You’ll have to go to customer service. Where’s that? Down at the other end of the airport. But my sister has MS and she can’t walk that far. Not our problem. Can you put us up at the airport hotel? After all, my sister is a senior citizen with MS and we have nowhere to go. Not our problem. And her medications are in her suitcase and we don’t know where her suitcase is. And we didn’t miss the plane on purpose. We thought we were in the right place at the right time. Not our problem.
So we traipse back and forth, back and forth, up and down the corridors of the nightmare that is AL ITALIA, trying to find our luggage. After five (FIVE!) hours, we collect my bag. My sister’s is still nowhere in sight. Can’t take a 100 euro taxi into Rome to find a hotel, because we can’t leave without her bag. We don’t buy more plane tickets to Venice, the prices are astronomical and besides, why are they charging us again when they’ve clearly lost our luggage? Not to mention the Gestapo-like security officers and insanely inept customer service staff. (That’s another story in itself.) Airport closes down for the night and we have no choice but to sleep on the cold, cold stone floor of the airport. We build a barricade with the one suitcase and our various belongings, pull t-shirts and other clothes out of my bag to serve as mats and blankets, and settle in for the night. Sister is exhausted and falls asleep without trouble. I lie with my purse underneath me and an eye open, scanning for thieves and rapists. Desperately plotting my revenge on the airline from hell.
Where is Athena when you need her?
Second excellent way to get robbed, Athens style. This is a true story, happened to my sister on the very first day of our trip. She lost 300 euro, $450 approx, plus her wallet, credit cards, driver’s license. Thus we spent much of that night on the phone with the credit card company and the next day searching for the Athens police station to report the crime. Because it’s so difficult to locate addresses written in Greek, this takes most of a day out of our precious vacation. The police were nice enough but basically shrugged. What can you do? It’s these Gypsies. The Greeks would never do this to American tourists. It’s the Gypsies, I tell you. A few days later, we were buying trinkets in a gift shop, told the Athens store keeper about our being pick pocketed. She shrugged. Eh, whoever robbed you probably needed the money more than you do. Looked my sister right in the eye and basically says you deserved it. My sister says, uh, what? Pushes all her little conservative capitalist buttons, for sure. Hahaha! Ah, nothing like travel!
We had a simply mah-velous time in Greece and Italy, despite the various setbacks we encountered. Okay, so it’s a little strange for me to have taken so many pictures of feet.
Even feet need feeding in the Greek isles!
These feet were big enough for a person to sit between (if we could have hoisted ourselves up!) Florence Italy
Foot of the goddess, with mortals
This jumbo jet is taking off
I’m home! Back from a fabulous two weeks in Greece and Rome. This trip was not without adventure. I will be writing about it ad nauseam, I’m sure. Meanwhile, here is a poem I wrote on the airplane ride home. Other poems I wrote while half asleep on the plane: Temple Athena, Athens Metro, Suitcase Woes, A Tale of Two Davids.
It’s good to be back, and yet, if any of you want to take me with you to Greece, or Italy, or anywhere in Europe, just let me know as soon as possible!
I made two wishes at Trevi Fountain
Turned my back to Neptune, the watery colossus
And tossed in a couple of small coins.
Why wish for what I can’t have?
What’s the point, I think.
So I make my desires more mundane
No riches, nothing Romanesque
No god-like dreams
Just regular stuff
The Parthenon at the Acropolis – Athens, Greece. There is nothing that can top this sight. I had the privilege of visiting this and many ancient sites in Greece and Italy. What a fabulous trip!
So you’ve all heard that we got robbed on the Athens metro, right? And another adventure we had was even worse. Here’s what happened: We were flying from Athens to Venice via Rome. We had to stop in Rome and change flights. Well, through no fault of our own (I swear!) we missed our connecting flight to Venice…
We were waiting at the gate that was listed on the overhead board and also on our tickets. We got to the gate an hour in advance of the flight. So we (my sister and I) were hanging out in a super noisy terminal, eating bad airport pizza and the absolutely WORST French fries imaginable. You couldn’t even bite into them – literally! You had to gum them! hahahaha They were bad, really bad…inedible…
Then we stood at the gate for our flight and got to the ticket taker, who told us that we were in the wrong line and furthermore, our plane had already taken off! This was bad, very bad. He told us to go to the Al Italia ticket counter. We went there, and the agent said, ‘We called you but you didn’t answer, you missed your flight, we had to delay the plane a half hour to get your bags off. No, you can’t just take that flight that you were in line for. You have to retrieve your bags on Belt 16. There is no way you will make that flight. And furthermore, there are no other flights until tomorrow morning at 8:30am. Furthermore, there are no trains from the Rome airport into the city, they’ve stopped for the evening (9pm!) You’ll have to get your bags and wait until the morning.’
So after insisting that we never heard anyone calling us, down we trod to the hell known as Belt 16. It was at the farthest end of the terminal in the bowels of the building. We looked and waited, looked and waited some more. No bags. We checked in the lost baggage storage room – shelves and shelves filled with bags that no one had claimed. We looked and looked. No bags for us. (Seinfeld soup Nazi episode springs to mind!)
Now we’re getting mad. We’ve (haha – I give myself too much credit here, it was my sister) prepaid for the hotel in Venice, and it’s clear we are not going to make it to Venice anytime soon. This is pitiful beyond reason. Terrible, our (her) hard earned dollars going to total waste. So we went to the Baggage Customer ‘Care’ line and stood with dozens of screaming Air France customers. Air France had lost everyone’s luggage, a whole planeful of luggage! There was a screaming Italian whose specific words we could not understand but the intent was clear. There was a Chinese woman saying ‘I’m here for 3 weeks. I missed my connection, and so you did what? You sent ALL my luggage back to China?’ There was a proper British couple at the counter, reserved but turning red with steam coming out the ears, mumbling bad things as they turned to leave. There was a woman of indeterminate nationality (maybe French) saying ‘I have a wedding tomorrow! My clothes are in my bag!’
This was a bonding experience for everyone in line. We were all like best friends whose common enemy was the airline we had had the stupidity to pay money to for transporting us and our bags. Al Italia – you are rotten! We despise you! Good – I said it in writing!
What happened next was like a nightmare…