Probably not jet lag ...
The flight to Milan was meant to be about 1 hour and 15 minutes. We ended up arriving 20 minutes early ... a short-cut that boggles my mind. How does a plane arrive 20 minutes early?
The alarm rang in Belgium 4.59am.
Taxi at 5.54am.
Suitcase, the one that Brussels Airport broke last time I flew in there, revealed we hadn’t managed to fix it as I placed it in the hold of the Airport Bus ... 6.05am.
I may have said a bad word.
I arrived at the airport. For a moment, I forgot I was in a country whose service providers often don’t care. I confessed that my suitcase probably wouldn’t stay closed on the plane, due to being damaged last time I’d flown Brussels Airlines. Fortunately, I said, I had managed to replace the suitcase strap they had lost but could he note its fragile status?
Actually, the Brussels Airline check-in bloke pulled that face that Belgian service providers pull when they don’t really want to hear what you are saying because it’s YOUR problem and THEIR company and/or shop refuses to be held accountable.
Fair enough. I’ve been there long enough to know the impossibility of anything close to satisfaction in this kind of thing. I have lost the few battles I’ve attempted. Raising ones voice doesn’t help. These guys survived the Spanish Inquisition. Raising ones voice is NOTHING.
I had an idea and suggested it to the Belgian check-in guy. He warmed to me immediately.
I suggested I get my suitcase plastic-wrapped so it would stay closed.
He led me there, abandoning his post even.
He didn’t mention the 5euro fee for plastic-wrapping.
However, there was the relief of having my suitcase secured. I returned to complete check-in. He had handed my case on to the Belgian check-in woman.
I was early but you really need to be when you tavel from Antwerp to Brussels via the bus. You have to allow for traffic jams when you travel morning or early evening.
I wandered off and bought a bottle of coke,, looking for that instant caffeine hit. I thought the check-out chick insane. She kept asking me for MORE money. I knew we would work it out at some point. She would laugh, I would laugh, she would apologise.
But no, that small bottle of coke really was 3.50euro.
I said ‘I’ll be sure to really really enjoy it then…’ And then we both laughed.
That is a robbery, isn’t it?
It is $4.88us and $6.09 in New Zealand money.
I wish I hadn’t made those conversions now ...
On the plane and things began to improve. I met this lovely Mexican/American woman. We chatted most of the way to Milan and so I noticed even less of the very short flight.
In Milan, the big heavy Belgian-frost-protecting jersey had to come off but ... oh no! I couldn’t put it into my plastic-wrapped suitcase because I still had a long way to travel and dared not interfere with its hold on my belongings - there were two train trips to be made. I tied it onto my suitcase, hoping not to stand out as a peasant there in Milan. Found a nasty sandwich, remembered too late that I knew how to purchase them in that shop because I had been a chicken last time too ... limiting myself to simple Italian when ordering food. Sigh.
I decided perhaps I could make this my rite-of-passage experience. Each time I arrive in Italy I will have one of these disgusting sandwiches to appease the gods of travel and win myself a good visit. I ate almost all of it while waiting for my train to Genova. Breakfast had been quite some hours earlier.
On the train, I had the most incredible good fortune ... (so I’m thinking the sandwich sacrifice may be the ritual of choice on future trips). I sat next to a lovely woman called Germana. We began chatting after she very kindly alerted me to the fact that our number 7 train carriage had just become a number 6, and yes, we all had to move.
My seat was next to her in number 6 carriage and so we began to chat. It turned out that this lovely woman had, like me, had spent some time living in Istanbul. Well, that was that. We fell into conversation, talking of the lovely places she had lived, talking of family, talking of life. It was so excellent! That train trip passed so easily that I didn’t even notice the million tunnels that we have to travel through to reach Genova.
We said goodbye at the station, I found a taxi and voila, here I am, back in this city I love so very deeply.
But that’s not all. I walked into the apartment and Paola and Simon had arranged the loveliest birthday surprise. 3 bottles of truly delicious wine! Really!
So there I was, back in Genova, having met good people along the way, my suitcase had managed to contain itself and not spill open and now ... there was red wine waiting for me!
A huge thank you to Paola and Simon!
Today it’s 9 celsius, it’s pouring down after 3 very dry months here in the city, and here I am, wrapped up warmly and smiling that big smile that I try to control whenever I reach this place.
I hope your worlds are behaving today and I wish you joy.
Ciao for now.