Day 1: airport strike!


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Europe » Italy
May 22nd 2007
Published: May 22nd 2007
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So far, we're already off to an eventful start! Our flights from DFW to Toronto and Toronto to London were each on time, long, and rather dull. The cross-atlantic leg was only 6 hours in duration, so it didn't leave us the opportunity to sleep much. Still sleepy, we rushed through customs and claimed our bags quickly before dashing a mile (well, it seemed that far) to check in for our Alitalia flight. We were so happy to be on time. Then everything fell apart.

Italy's air traffic controllers were on strike today, we learned. What a mess! Instead of the short line in the baggage check, we turned to see a very long line at the ticketing office. We had no choice but to join the queue. It took over an HOUR for the thirty or so customers in front of us before it was our turn. There were anywhere between 2-4 agents working at a time. When we finally got to speak to one, it seemed to take him forever to get us on a flight the next day. I'm not sure what the hold up was. But instead of a 7:30 am flight on Monday, we now had a 12:30 pm flight on Tuesday. Alitalia also found us a hotel room for the night, paying also for our dinner there.

We were disappointed, but not heartbroken. When we returned to the desk half an hour later to meet our ride to the hotel, I talked with an older couple who had just exited the line. Their flight wasn't until Thursday, and the line was still growing longer. What a nightmare for those poor people! We were fortunate to be on such an early morning flight and be alerted to the problem so quickly.

The worst part came when we were given a ride to the hotel. An entire tour group that was also supposed to be en route to Italy had been booked at the same hotel as us. So Alitalia asked us to ride with them on a bus they had arranged. Driving from Heathrow airport to central London was the worst part of our entire vacation. The drive took over an hour, the traffic was stop and go, and our driver was anything but gentle on the accelerator and break. Greg and I were both ready to pull out the air sickness bags we had stashed from our flights. By now it was after 11:00, but we couldn't check into our rooms until 2:00. With the way that ride left us feeling, all we wanted to do was lay down. Sightseeing was no longer an option. There was a ticketing office next to the hotel, so we went to see if there was a show we could catch that evening. Actually, there were too many choices. Several we had seen before, several we had never heard of, and just a few in between. We finally settled on Cabaret. Unfortunately, it cost us 70 pounds! Yikes! That's over $150. But when else will we get to be in London, see a show, and not need a babysitter?

After that we decided it was time to grab lunch. There didn't seem to be much around the hotel, so we bought day passes to the Underground and went to Covent Garden, which was just two stops from our hotel. Once there, we realized that the cheap places to eat wouldn't take a credit card, and we had left the debit card with our luggage in the hotel. After walking around almost the whole square, a guy handed us a flyer for a place with a 5-pound special lunch menu. We got to the table and realized that it was exclusively pizza, which was rather silly since we were going to have much better pizza the rest of the week. But oh well, it was food. We shopped a few souvineer stands, wondering if we should pick up something for Corbin from England when we had told him we would be in Italy.

We came back to the hotel mid-afternoon, took showers, and relaxed. I called our hotel that we had booked for tonight in Paestum to explain our situation and ask for a cancellation. He was very understanding and did not charge us the fee. Greg was pretty disappointed that we wouldn't be spending the night with a view of the lit-up Greek temples. We're still planning to squeeze Paestum into Friday, which we had scheduled for Capri. Neither of those requires an entire day, so it will work out fine. Taking the train back and forth will use up a lot of our time, but that's okay. I'm just thankful that we'll still get to see everything we had planned.

Dinner was on Alitalia at the hotel restaurant. I was disappointed to see that it was really a cafeteria, although the food was just fine. There were many, many groups of school children also in the dining area, which made it extremely noisy. Some children were about 8, others seemed to be in high school, so they were obviouly not all together. It was my second disappointment with the hotel, the first being the size of our room. It's tiny! Not only that, but there are two twin beds. Bolted to the floor so we can't even push them together. The hotel apologized and explained that their double beds are all taken, but since we're not even paying them our money, we couldn't throw much of a fit. Oh, well.

After dinner we took the tube and walked to the theatre, stopping to buy some souvineers along the way. Greg and Corbin got shirts, and we also bought Corbin a little British flag to play with.

The show was in a beautifully decorated, if somewhat small theatre. Even before it started, I was thinking that there was no way I would be able to stay awake. I couldn't see the stage well over the people in front of us, and I was just too tired.

Cabaret itself was extremely unimpressive. The music wasn't catchy; the songs were too short to get into. But worst of all were these actors. They weren't terrible, but neither were they good. It was more like watching a local Dallas production than a long-running show in London. And, as expected, I kept nodding off. Despite how much we had spent on tickets, Greg and I left at intermission.

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