Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Venezia, day 4/5 – an unscheduled trip across Italy

We discovered that you couldn’t buy bus tickets with a credit card; luckily we had some sterling with us, so we were able to change it (albeit at eye-wateringly bad rates and an with an astonishing commission charge).

First step was buying biglietti for the bus to Mestre train station; we had to validate the tickets at a little machine at the stop, then it took half an hour to get to Mestre (i.e. the train station at Venice – which is obviously mainland and not on the island).

At Mestre train station, we bought tickets to Milan. Actually, that was quite fun – explaining that mio figlio ha dodici anno (because he looks older); but the ticket clerk told me that from the age of 12 you count as an adult anyway for train ticket purposes. However, you can get family tickets, and the clerk was a sweetheart and booked us four seats together.

So, at 6 pm, when we had expected to be halfway home, we validated our ticket at the yellow machines on the platform, and caught the train from Mestre to Milano Centrale.
Italian trains are FABULOUS - aircon that works, a laptop socket, and a table with hinged edges so it's easy to get out and have enough table space.

plus comfortable seats and a decent head rest - bliss.

Our train stopped at Padova, Vicenza (very pretty), Verona, Desenzano and Brescia; and we also got to see a gorgeous sunset.

At 8.30 pm, we arrived at Milano Centrale. The biglietteria where you buy tickets for the airport shuttle was closed. So was the station information centre… but there was a note saying that in case of problems you can go to platform 23. OK. Queued up, and was advised that you can pay for your ticket on the bus.

Followed the signs to the airport shuttle. Outside, the station, there were two signs, both saying ‘navarre’ (i.e. shuttle to the airport). The one on the right was also written in English… and actually, that led to the taxi ranks. We tried the other direction, and yippee. Shuttle bus. Bought tickets and climbed on.

Milan at night: large, lit up, full of markets, lots of cars driving very fast. City itself seems to be full of insurance company offices. Lots of restaurants. Kids say very politely that they’re hungry. ‘We’ll be at the airport soon and we’ll get something there.’ (Famous last words…)

At 10.30, the bus finally dropped us off 50km away at terminal 2 of Milano Malpensa airport. Everywhere was closed. There wa nowhere to get food, not even a vending machine. Kids were white-faced, tired, hungry and really unhappy (but behaved impeccably – no hissy fits, no sobs. Am immensely proud of them for handling the situation with such maturity). At this point, I was losing the ability to think in my own language, let alone switch between Italian and English! Found a clerk – she didn’t speak English, but managed to understand me in a mix of French and Italian and pointed me towards a colleague who could speak English. She told to get the shuttle back to terminal 1, saying, ‘There are lots of bars and restaurants there.’

So we took the shuttle to terminal 1. Yeah, there were loads of restaurants. And all of them were closed, except one place that had very little choice. Told them the ‘cotelete’ was like a chicken escalope (OK, slight fib, but there was nothing else there they liked as littlest hates cheese and eldest is fussy about bread). They tried, but couldn't handle it. Dinner ended up being spremulata and crisps, plus in my case the tiniest espresso I have ever, ever been served.

The night at the airport must rate as one of the lousiest ever. Seats had metal bar armrests so the kids couldn’t get comfy. Son tried sleeping on floor with head on rucksack, daughter curled up in seat and using me as a pillow. Then, at 11.30, someone started drilling (yes, really). Finally they stopped; but then the man on the floor-cleaning machine came round our bit, which made the floor shake and woke son up. (There was the guy who looked a bit like Robbie Williams and had the smile/slight nod of head down to a fine art and he kept walking past - amused me even more when I saw him later in the queue with a guitar slung on his back. Wish now I'd said something because he would probably have been really chuffed and might've made our wait a bit easier by singing/playing to us. But hey.)

At 4, we caught the shuttle back to terminal 2. Checked in, and thank goodness it was easy from then on – still too early for most places to be open, but we did manage to get a couple of croissants for the kids and more coffee for us (again, super-small cups – I’d say a quarter the size of an English espresso - but at least it was coffee and it was warmish).

Through passport control, in to the departure gate… and, while we were waiting to get our boarding passes, we saw the sun rise.

As we went to embark, the pedometer said 32,500. (So that’s a total of 120,500 steps since Tuesday morning… hmm, and despite the gelati and carbs consumed during the week, that was 5.5 lbs off for me…)

And the last pic from my Venice shots is just like the first: the Alps. We were on our way home.


Jan Jones said...

What an adventure! And I'll say you should be proud of the kids. That's fantastic behaviour from them.

Jane Jackson said...

Your children behaved wonderfully - a tribute to them and to you. Looking back on your return journey will be far more pleasurable than actually living through it. But hey, you're home, safe and well, with memories to treasure and research just waiting to be used!

Carol Townend said...

Glad it all worked out in the end, though there had to be a lot of teeth-gnashing somewhere in the middle of all that...

Caroline said...

Best the children loved their adventure! Caroline x

Lacey Devlin said...

That's a teensy bit harder? You would have been totally justified to lie on the floor of the airport and kick and scream (entertaining too). I'm pretty sure that if I was in your shoes I'd still be over there...

Kate Hardy said...

Jan - they were wonderful :o)

Kate Hardy said...

Jane - absolutely, and I'm dying to get on with the book... but I have another one to sort out first :o(

Kate Hardy said...

Carol - absolutely, but the trick was not to show it: you get a better and faster solution by being polite and reasonable.

Kate Hardy said...

Caroline - apart from being hungry, yes! (They're both having growth spurts and do nothing but eat...)

Kate Hardy said...

Lacey - LOL! But it wouldn't have got me a flight home, whereas being polite and empathetic did the job ;o)