Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Holiday Ruination - Thy name is Alitalia

"You know, this holiday reminds me of when we went to Italy last time in '98. Hey, thank god we don't have to wash our undies in the sink with shampoo eh!"
"Yeah, thank god".

So where the have I been for the last 3 weeks? C and I went to Italy for 10 days for a Christmas holiday with my parents, who came all the way from Australia. We went to Naples, met my folks in Rome, then travelled north to the South Tirol Alps in Italy, for a bit of Christmas cheer, a visit to the Vatican to see old Popey and to try our hands at skiiing.

But fate, Alitalia and BAA it would seem would have none of it.

I knew from the very first hour of my holiday that it was not going to go quite my way when I was on the Heathrow Express on my way to my flight, I went to take my travel card out of my pocket, and heard the the gut wrenching "tinkle" - the delightful sound of the key to my suitcase padlock falling into the heating grate. Calling Dr D in a giggling panic his helpful suggestions consisted of:
1) Breaking open the grate of the heater. Which would require either a blow torch or electric drill.
2) Use a sharp implement to break open the padlock. Like a screwdriver or a hacksaw. I had to then point out that "um, I'm going to THE AIRPORT. They don't let you take that sort of thing on the plane anymore you know".

Fearing for my clothes being stuck in my case for the next 10 days, I finally managed to get my spindly fingers in the grate and painfully fish out the key and believe me, never have I been so happy to see one small piece of metal before. I then got to the airport, dropped my bags off at the check-in. And that was the last time I saw my beautiful red suitcase for the next 12 days.

Ah yes, holiday ruination thy name is Alitalia.

When C & I got to Naples, Alitalia and BAA managed to not only lose C's suitcase but mine as well. And the lack of suitcases was to last pretty much the entire holiday. Like every good girl, I'd brought everything I'd ever need with me on holiday and more: my digital cameras (yes cameraS. Two), ipod charger, camera charger, phone charger, laptop charger, hair dryer, snow gear to go skiing with - gloves, pants, jumpers, scarves, beanie, my laptop, nice going out clothes, loungy night time clothes, t-shirts, shirts, underwear, shampoo, conditioner, face wash, moisturiser, hair brush, hair products, elastics, band aids, medicine, socks, cool new jeans, big long black coat, and my lovely brown boots. Everything. Gone. Vamooshed. Disappeared. Where? No one, and I mean no one in the whole of Italy could tell us.

Alitalia. My god never has an name been more cursed than Alitalia. I blame every single mini crisis/disappointment/disaster to Alitalia:

At least we got to see Pompeii. Because of Alitalia and our lost bags did we get to see any of Naples? Well yes if you count the main shopping street and the airport. Did we see the museum housing all the interesting artifacts from Pompeii? No. Did we get to go to Vesuvius? No. Sorento? Hell no. We had to spend our time shopping. For clothes. And shampoo and conditioner and face wash. C & I became bag ladies whose entire worldly possessions were encased in plastic shopping bags.

My parents met C & I in Rome. I think they got the shock of their lives when they C met them in the baggage hall. Why? We frantically followed a tip off that the bags might have come in from London to Rome that day. Did we look at any sights in Rome? Not really. Did I spend time with my parents in Rome? No not really. What did we do the rest of the time? Shop for more clothes.

Don't get me wrong. I have the 2 perfectly functioning X chromosomes. But when it comes to shopping, especially forced shopping which comes with knowing that holiday insurance will only pay £100 and the only thing I wanted to buy in Italy where leather gloves, shopping for clothes that I know I have in my lost suitcase is not a great incentive. And at the end of it all, what did I have to show for it? 3 shirts, 2 jumpers, 2 pairs of under pants, some socks. I'll tell you what though, it dide make getting dressed in the mornings a heck of a lot easier. "I think I'll wear my jeans. Again. And which of the 3 shirts do I want to wear?"

The Vatican
My mum somehow got us tickets in to St Peter's for midnight mass with the Pope. I have no idea how she did it but she did. She was so excited about this, being quite a big catholic. However, thanks to Alitalia and our lost bags C & I spent all day shopping. Which meant we were knackered when we got back to the hotel. Which meant we left the hotel late, had dinner late, got to the Vatican late, were 4 people off from being seated for midnight mass. My mum was so upset, she went to the back of the cathedral and sat on the floor. I've never seen her so angry and disappointed in my life. It didn't help that if she had waited near where they were seating people eventually we would have got a seat. She stubbornly sat at the back, refusing to listen to me. When it came for communion she was openly questioning what sort of church requires you to have VIP tickets to be seated to hear mass, and starting to doubt her faith. I had to drag her up promising it would make her feel better. Little did I know this was would turn a bad night even worse. When as she got communion she went to walk away and the official grabbed her arm and started loudly telling her off in Italian and shaking her. Apparently, you have to take communion there and then in front of the priest as they are frightened that people, I don't know, are giving the bread to non catholics? Gasp. That's surely a worse sin than murder that will get you sent straight to firey hell and damnation don't you know. Whatever the random reason, it was the last straw for my mum, and she went to the back and started crying. Which in turn was the absolute last straw for me. No one makes my mum cry. I marched up to official and started politely but very firmly telling him off. When he indicated he didn't speak English, I just ranted at him in French. He thought I was speaking bad Italian of course so he got a security guard to come over who had to very slowly translate to the official that I was demanding he apologise to my mum for making her cry. To be fair, when the official realised what he had done, he became extremely remorseful, and he, the security guard and myself all went and found my mum, where he profusely apologised. Obviously in Italian. This made her cry even more, which then made me cry, which then had the security guard try to comfort me*. In the end, the official dragged my mum from the back of St Peters, forced everyone away from the barriers, and put mum and me in a great position to see the Pope walk past at the end of mass.

Alitalia - you ruined my mum's Christmas Midnight Mass. Bastards

* Dear God: Please don't send me to hell for thinking, whilst in the Vatican, oh angels in heaven this security guard is seriously cute and seriously nice. I won't hold it against you for not returning my clothes, if you don't hold it against me that I was thinking about flirting in your house. Thank you for your time.

The Alps
Ahh, the Southern Tirol Alps. The autonomous region of Italy, where German and Italian are both the official language. If you go from the border of Austria and Italy in South Tirol, there is a massive sign up that says "South Tirol is NOT Italian". We stayed in Eggen, a fantastic place to ski, enjoy the 2km toboggan slope, be in the -5 degree crisp weather. Not so good if all your COLD WEATHER GEAR AND SKI CLOTHES ARE IN YOUR SUITCASES ENJOYING THEIR OWN ROMAN ADVENTURE SOMEWHERE IN ITALY, NOT WITH YOU.

ALITALILA YOU BASTARDS. Everything. Snow pants, gloves, hats, thermals, everything. Somewhere, anywhere, but not with us. So Alitalia, on you I blame the fact that I still can't ski. I was going to go and learn. But no. I got to freeze my arse off in my jeans in -5 degree temperatures. No tobogganing. No skiing. No apres skiing!! Nothing.

However, we did have lots of time to go off exploring other parts near South Tirol, like Switzerland, Innsbruck, snow fields near Obbereggen. Unfortunately, since all my nice clothes were, I don't know, in Sicily basking in the 13 degree warmth, I got to visit St Moritz in my scummy jeans, whilst all the women were in their Bulgary, Prada and fur coats. The looks we got from the "bootiful people" which were withering at best. Distainful at worst.

So the holiday in general. How was it? Totally enjoyable isn't quite right. Relaxing wouldn't be quite right either. Frustrating might be a better word for it. Though, as I maintain some holidays just blend into each other, being so relaxing and enjoyable. Having to wash all your clothes in the bathroom sink with stolen hotel shampoo was a phase of travelling I had hoped I'd outgrown. Let's say: frustrating, unexpected, yet still strangely entertaining. And now I know I can at least survive with only 1/3 of the stuff I travel with. Who needs to change clothes everyday? That's just an unnecessary luxury.

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