January 07, 2009

Greetings from Italy!!

Well, we finally made it! Here's a recap of our two-day adventure:

We took off from Greenville Spartanburg Airport on the 6th at 2:25pm. It was a small jet, 4 seats with a narrow aisle down the center. My carry-on bag was too big to stow in the overhead compartment, so I grabbed my Frommer's Italian Dictionary & Phrase Finder (compliments of the Larges) and checked it from the tarmac. The goal was to introduce myself to some Italian before we made it over there (so I could attempt to communicate, right?). Well, I tried memorizing a few useful phrases (basing what I thought was important on the French that I had retained from undergrad & high school: "I don't know.", "Excuse me/I'm sorry.", "Do you speak English?", "Does anyone around here speak English?", "Pardon me, do you happen to have any grey poupon?, etc."), but after about 10 minutes or so, I woke up the captain's voice announcing that we were landing in Washington DC. Oh, well, maybe on the flight to Rome...

From DC (Dulles International), we boarded a massive jet (2 seats on the outside of two wide aisles, with 4 in between) bound for Rome, Italy. We sat on the tarmac for about 45 minutes waiting on a large group of students to arrive from a delayed flight from Chicago, and this is where our troubles started. Departing 45 minutes behind schedule, we took off for Rome (arching north towards Greenland and on across western Europe). At times, we were flying at altitudes of more than 35,000ft, speeds of 600mph, through tailwinds of 130mph, and in outside air temperatures of -79 degrees Farenheit!!! During this flight we sat directly behind an Italian couple with their baby. This baby must have just learned how to wave, and became infatuated with us because we knew how to smile and wave back. Lucky for us, it was the most adorable baby ever and, to prove it, I snapped the following picure:

The sun rose just as we were landing in Rome, and we got our first glimpse of the Italian countryside:

Luckily, or so we thought, we made up some time in the air and landed in Rome only 30 minutes behind schedule. We made a quick stop at the WC (Europeans call the restroom a WC, which is short for "water closet") and began the long trek to our loading gate. Of course, as international travel would have it, we had to wait in a long line at passport services, and an even longer line at customs/immigration, and all of a sudden we found ourselves 50 minutes late for our plane. (as you can imagine, when we arrived at our gate, the plane was no longer there). So, then we had to head over to the Air One Customer Service desk to work out our problem. Guess what, another long line. The lady there was very helpful however, and booked us on the next flight to Genoa, with no questions asked. This plane was leaving at 12:25pm (6:25am EST, remember, our bodies are still operating on this schedule). We grabbed a quick bite to eat at the sandwich place nearby (16.50 Euros-cash only, again compliments of the Larges: they gave us their leftover Euros from their honeymoon), and waited for the plane to begin loading. Well, it kept getting pushed back until we finally loaded at 1:45pm and began what we assumed to be the final leg of our journey. But that would have been too easy....right?

We (myself, Lindsey, and Derrick) crashed on this flight (asleep, not "crashed" literally, like in an airplane) and woke to the captain spouting something in Italian, to which the Italians all looked at each other and laughed. Then, the other guy came on and translated to say that we were waived off of our landing grid (due to weather) and would have to circle and try again. He also said that, if the second attempt didn't work, we would be forced to divert to the nearest airport: Pisa, Italy. Well, the second attempt didn't work, shock, and we landed in Pisa about an hour later.

Once we landed in Pisa, the pilot sat on the runway for a bit while he tried to figure out how the airline was planning on getting us to Genoa ("Genova" in Italian). The result? We would all unload and hop on an "autobus" (basically a Greyhound) to Genoa. The only problem? We all go into the airport to retrieve our luggage only hear an announcement that it was still in Rome. Hahahaha...yeah. So, another line to get a piece of paper to use in Genoa to file a claim to get our luggage from Rome...

After that, we all loaded the bus to Genoa (with only our carry-ons in hand). It was dark outside during the drive, so we only got to see the parts of the country side that were lit. It became evident very quickly that the "weather issue" that kept us from landing in Genoa: snow. It was beautiful (it almost made me glad we drove the bus). We were on the bus for two hours, and it dropped us off at the airport in Genoa. We all breezed through the worst screening process ever (all of our bags went through a metal detector, setting it off repeatedly, and we all stepped through a metal detector, setting it off repeatedly, but no one stopped us...worthless), and got in line at the luggage lost and found. While we were waiting, Derrick noticed that, over in this other empty section of the luggage ramps, there were some bags still sitting by the conveyor. We held his place in line while he went over, just for kicks, to see if they were our bags. Sure enough, all of our bags had somehow made it to Genoa (we think they got put on that very first flight we missed from Rome) and were waiting quietly over in the corner. With renewed spirits we grabbed them up (as all the Italians in line realized that the Americans had found their bags, and started swarming the hidden pile) and went out looking for a taxi. At this point, I was able to use my recently learned Italian to ask an airport worker where we could find a taxi. He ushered us over to the taxi area, where the three of us hopped in a mercedes wagon taxi. The driver was very nice and felt obliged to teach us some Italian while we drove up the hillside to our destination. He drove us right to the door, helped us with our bags, and wished us good luck for the semester.

The villa at last...12 hours later than planned....but here nonetheless.....

(click here to read Lindsey's version of our experience)

1 comment:

  1. thank you for sharing the story of your traveling adventures! i have anxiously been awaiting the saga to unfold! i'm so glad you all are safe, luggage in tow, and are able to see some beautiful white percipitation! i know you're sleeping right now (thanks to your handy-dandy clock on your blog), but know that you're being lifted up in prayer! have fun it italy!! post lots o blogs and pics! give linds a big hug from me!!! :)