Saturday, October 9, 2010

My Arrival in Florence

Pictures at the airport in Munich. The washrooms beside my gate and the Italian Caffe.

On Sept 30th I got on a plane from Toronto to Brussels with what was to be a 4 hour layover followed by a 2 hour flight to Florence, arriving 2pm on Oct 1. That didn't happen! Firstly when checking in my luggage there was some difficulty as many of the airlines, including Jet Airways with whom I was flying, now only accept 1 piece of checked luggage when flying to Europe! As I had become aware of this I called in weeks ago to verify but was pleasantly told that as I was proceeding on a connection to Florence I would be permitted 2 pieces of checked luggage. Luckily the manager let me slide through after my explanation but I did need to remove 7kgs from my suitcases as they were an unacceptable weight. 7kgs! Goodbye to my extra shoes, jewelery, superfoods, all so I could keep my precious immersion blender with me. I sent a couple of laundry bags of stuff back with Firas (thank you!!). I was still to be charged for one of my bags overweight (as I was now within the acceptable limit, but above the free zone)however the man forgot. I really lucked out:)

While we were going through this ordeal I was approached by a woman from Jet Airways as the flight was overbooked and they wanted to send me on a flight to Florence, connecting in Paris, with Air Canada and I would be compensated with 400 Euro credit with Jet. A pretty good deal! This flight didn't leave Toronto until a few hours later but that wasn't the issue, the issue was- my 2 suitcases. She bounced back and forth numerous times between Air Canada and us trying to get this arrangement to work but as they also only accept 1 piece of checked luggage, she wasn't able to get them to make an exception for me. Although she offered 300$ US Cash instead of the 400 Euro voucher so I could pay for the extra baggage upfront. Feeling like it was just creating too many issues, and not worth the tiny bit of cash that would be leftover, I turned her down and proceeded with my original plan. Toronto to Brussels, 4 hour layover, 2 hours to Florence. The plan that I'd scheduled at least 6 weeks ago.

Goodbyes with Firas were tough, feeling so many emotions at once, but I proceeded through security with tears as it was getting close to my flight time. My bags were meticulously picked apart as they were also quite densely packed. My purse, my laptop bag with my laptop and it's peripherals, and my large carry on bag. All, picked, apart, meticulously. Then they took away my precious blender attachment. I admit I shouldn't have packed it in my carry on. That tiny blade encased around a metal shield could really hurt someone??? Darn. They said I could mail it to myself but I didn't have time. They said I could send it back with someone but I was pretty sure Firas had left as I had been out of view for quite some time. Plus I didn't want to do that to him all for the sake of my blender attachment. So I let it go, I had bigger things to think about. I rushed off to my gate, also having to abandon a device much like a pencil sharpener for veggies, it cuts carrots and zucchinis into lovely ribbons. Perhaps I'll find another one one day.

So, all was well, I got on my plane, sat in my window seat, although I though I had requested an aisle. When the guy sitting next to me was chatting with a woman a few rows ahead, in an aisle seat, I took the opportunity to offer a seat switch:) So I ended up getting the aisle seat I wanted afterall(I like to be able to get up for easy bathroom trips;)but once I sat down the Indian man sitting next to me was offering up his window seat, he wanted the aisle! I told him perhaps we'd switch later, and that's what happened the first time he wanted out, because I was drifting to sleep and didn't want to be bothered again. I drifted in and out of light sleep for the first couple hours until....the message that we would be turning back to land in Newfoundland for someone having a medical emergency on board. Yes, we were part way over the ocean when we had to turn back. After the paramedics came in to take the person, we sat on the ground for at least 2 hours, refueling and I don't know what else. It was boiling hot on the plane for some reason and everyone was in a bit of commotion, there was no way I could sleep it off. So I ate my fruit plate that I was saving for when my digestive system was back on earth and turned on the Godfather to focus on what was ahead. Once we got back up in the air, I drifted in and out of consciousness. I was aware there was a chance I'd miss my connecting flight but I decided not to worry about it and deal with it when it was time. Once I got off the plane I was instructed by Jet to go see Brussels Airlines as they were the ones who issued the connecting ticket.

I started my journey. 3 heavy bags slung around me for a long walk to the other side of the airport, one more scrupulous trip through security and a stop for a fresh cucumber, fennel, parsely, pear juice at Helixer (thanks for being healthy, Brussels!). I managed to find a Brussels Airlines attendant but was told they couldn't help me, that I needed to go back to Jet Airways....what??? I stopped at one other customer service desk where they verified this and gave me vague instructions on where to go. To which I replied 'does that mean I have to exit security??'. Argh, it did. So, my back breaking I trollied back through the airport and ended up in the baggage area, when it occurred to me, what's going to happen to my checked luggage?? So I asked someone and they called in my baggage numbers as they were in limbo somewhere. He said in the meantime I could go talk to Jet. This gave me some prickles though as I was worried about squeaking by the 1 bag check rule, unlikely this would happen again...

Anyhow I managed to find the Jet desk and eavesdropped as the attendant helped another couple whose destination was also Florence. There was an option tonight through Munich or a direct flight in the morning... I was helped by the other attendant, and I explained I needed to check with my hostel as they didn't normally accept check ins after 7:30pm. I called them as soon as the phone at the Jet desk stopped ringing incessantly and confirmed that they would check me in at 9:30pm when I arrived for an extra fee of 20 Euros....sure. So they set me up for the flight that night and I told her about my bags and how I didn't want to check them again because of the bag limit issues. She called down and muttered something like, 'hopefully there's enough time' and then handed me a paper sent me to line #8 without much other instruction.

So there I was, standing in a huge line #8, not really knowing what time it was or what time my flight was, and I started to wonder....was I really in the right line?? I scoured the paper she had given me for clues, but all I found under airline was LH. Could that mean Lufthansa? If it did, then I was NOT in the right line. But if I WAS in the right spot I couldn't risk leaving as the line had extended substantially behind me already. I called over a boy pushing carts and asked him if he knew, he didn't. But I asked him to send over a person from the Lufthansa booth adjacent. They verified I WAS in the wrong line and helped me over to their booth where there was NO line. However, they told me my flight was leaving soon. I asked the woman if perhaps I should just reschedule for the flight in the morning as I didn't want to risk missing it. She assured me it was better to get the flight tonight as tomorrow was Saturday and it would be much busier, and I would be ok. So I trucked back down to security, feeling nervous about being short on time and having all my bags be scoured yet AGAIN.

Being proactive, I observed the line choices and picked the same one I was in earlier, thinking perhaps they'd recognize me and let me breeze through. Then I though again and changed to the line which seemed to be moving faster. This was a wise choice. I plunked all my stuff into trays, at this point I'm an expert in organizing them optimally into 8 trays. Took off my boots, my coats (I was wearing 2 because there was no space left in my suitcases), and put a smile on my face. For some reason in Brussels I still beeped in the metal detector, I couldn't figure out why as I didn't in Toronto, perhaps the tiny hooks on my bra? So I got ready for the pat down. As I did so, they flagged 2 of my bags for inspection and put them aside. After the pat down, no one was waiting to inspect my bags, so I took my opportunity for freedom. Pretending ignorance, I grabbed my bags and walked calmly to the escalator, half expecting to be chased down. But I was home free, thank you!!

I made it to the gate, got on the plane, desperately jammed my bags into the tiny spaces vacant in the overhead bin, and slept the 1 hour flight to Munich. Once landed I navigated my way to the next gate, thinking it was going to be a rush also (there were no times printed on my tickets!), but I made there plenty early and took the opportunity to slow down. Drank some water in a cafe ran by Italians! They saw me carrying my passport and started speaking in Italian. After all that drama, my brain was def not working in Italian so I explained my situation in English. They told me I needed to learn Italian. I agreed:)

The 1 hour flight to Florence was pleasant also and once landed I stood and waited at the baggage carousel, and waited, and waited. Well, at least I made it to Florence, even though my bags didn't. I followed up at the baggage desk and gave them my information. They said my bags would be delivered the next day and they gave me an 'overnight kit'. Exhausted, I proceeded outside and waited for a taxi, showed him my paper for the hostel and requested 'questo indrizzio' (this address), and soaked in the nighttime streets of Florence as he zig zagged through the streets. I checked in at the hostel and although was tempted to look around Florence a bit, I knew after my 24hour trip it was best to get a good sleep for the next day, so I crashed in my single room with a blocked window (how deceiving). Realizing I didn't have any pj's I peeked into my 'overnight kit' and found a huge t-shirt. Perfect. I took a shower, put on the t-shirt and went to bed, waking Florence!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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