This weekend we made an amazing whirlwind trip to Italy to see Cinque Terra (the famed five beach cities that everyone loves to take photos of) and our dear swing dance friend, Saskia who was visiting from California.
But this will have to be two separate blogs. Because I am sure I could write an entire blog on the insanity that was Stansted airport. Tim keeps saying we’re on a learning curve, but if I can save just one person from that learning curve, I will be happy.
So the journey starts the night before our 845 am flight. As we’re prepping and packing (still with hardly any of our own belongings…including a printer… you see where in going here?)… we read that because we have non EU passports, Ryanair wants us have to have printed tickets for them to stamp at the desk. Of course we don’t have a printer so at 9 pm I reach out to my sponsor and thank goodness she’s up and prints our tickets for us. When Tim arrives to pick them up, they inform us, good job on printing them because if you don’t print them before hand Ryanair will change you £35 PER PERSON to print them. £35!!!! Toto, I don’t think we’re in America anymore. So that’s my first word of warning. If you fly Ryanair, print those dang tickets out. Sorry rainforest.]
Another thing to you have do before you drive to Stansted airport, register your car and pay your parking fee. You’ll get way cheaper parking fees if you pre-pay versus paying the usual price.
So back to the night before. I’m reading our tickets and it says arrive 2 hours before your flight. As a fairly seasoned traveler, I’m thinking “two hours is ridiculous unless you’re flying a big international trip like America to Europe.” But let me tell you again… you will need every. Single. One. Of those 120 minutes. So we arrive, park, and jump fairly quickly on the bus to the departures. Great. So far so good. Once inside we determine where to go to check in and get our visa stamp and it’s PACKED. A worker let’s us know that if we’re just getting the stamp and not dropping bags we can go to a shorter line. This is by far the easiest part of the journey.
We go through gates similar to a train station and just scan our tickets. No one else is looking to make sure it’s actually us. I guess that’s what the visa check was for? We get to security and I realize I left my makeup in. And wonder if it applies to the put you liquids in a clear bag rule. Let me tell you now… it does. Every. Little. Thing. That could be liquid. You best take it out so they can see it.
So we go through security. No shoes off since they are ballet flats! (Only plus of the journey so far!). Watch as bags get sorted; left, right, left, right. Finally I see mine… it goes left… behind a plastic wall, and worse, behind a giant line of bags. I’m realizing they are going through every one of those bags behind the wall. All of these people have something worth investigating. Tim’s bag gets sorted to the left too and he joins me. Waiting. We wait and wait and wait some more. It took a solid thirty minutes of waiting to get to the point where they checked my bag. The culprit? I forgot my setting spray. I barely had two tablespoons of setting spray in the bottle but the bottle itself was too big. In the trash it went. Ugh. The culprit in Tim’s bag? My aerosol deodorant. If I have crap hair and stinky pits in Italy, I blame you Stansted.
So after an agonizing forty minutes, I grumble my way to the gate. As we start walking, I’m annoyed by the meandering state of people, strolling along. Maybe they knew what I didn’t and came three hours before their flight. Or maybe they just breezed through security because they didn’t forget their liquids. As I rushed past the people I grew increasingly frustrated with the enormous amount of stores we had to go through to get to the gates. I’m telling you, it was like walking through the entirety of a large shopping mall. Then! We finally get to where the gates are… ten more minutes of walking. And past the beginning of those gates? We’re all the way at the end. We finally arrive at our gates only to learn the plane is late. But really… we didn’t learn that by announcement so much as deduction of time passing and us not moving. When we finally start to move, a lady swoops in front of me even though the line stretches further back than I can see. Her husband then proceeds to insist he go in front of me to be with her. Now, normally I wouldn’t mind, we all want yo be with our spouses, but to cut in front of me after I’ve been waiting here for 45 minutes and I WATCHED you show up late, that’s just not cool. I actually got a slight attitude with the guy but at least it was enough to keep me from having a full on crying anxiety attack. I pulled myself together in line by deep breathing.
Our plane finally arrives and we board, by going outside and walking to the rollaway stairs… Burbank airport anyone? When we are finally in the air, we’re more than an hour late. And normally, this wouldn’t bother me on vacation. I mean time schedules are for work days and classes, not for relaxation. But. We have a train to catch in Bologna and while we gave ourselves an hour and twenty minutes, most of that layover was eaten up by no fault of our own. And there’s nothing we can do about it.
So I settle down, listen to some travel music, drink a €3 chai latte and take a quick snooze. When we arrive In Bologna I get off the plane onto the tarmac and it’s gloriously warm. We don’t have much time to dilly dally but for a split second i just enjoy the warm sunshine that reminds me so much of home.
We get off the bus tram and are funneled into the airport. Just as I’m thinking hey we have 45 minutes, we might make it! We have to go through passport screening. The positive of this? I finally get an Italian stamp on my passport. We then proceed to book it through the airport to the waiting cabs and jump in the second available one because just as we walk up to the first one, guess who jumps in front of us? Yup, that same couple. REALLY? Is this a cosmic joke? Our cab driver is great, but can only go so fast and he gets us to the train station with minutes to spare. Tim locates our bin number but we can’t find 2 anywhere. In broken Italian we ask some polizia where to go and he points alllll the way down the train station. Of course. So at this point, we run. Like two crazy people. Tim had hoisted our suitcases into his shoulders and were running full tilt. Behind us are two Asian girls also trying to catch it train. At least we aren’t the only crazy looking people in the place. I actually jump over something at one point and I thought “is this real life?”
And then ahead of us there it is. The train! With its doors still wide open ready for us. We leap aboard and I don’t think I’ve ever been so relieved to sit on a train in my life.
Four hours later, after three train rides, we arrive in La Spezia. More on the city, the glorious sites and our trip in the part two of Two Tickets to Italy.