Arrivaderci Toscana

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September 23rd 2017
Published: February 28th 2018
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Waiting for the first train of the day
(finally completing this September 26 in Brighton, ON)

Wary of getting up late and missing my train I slept fitfully, if at all - waking several times during the night. At about 2:30 I turned on the TV to get a time check (it's faster and easier than booting up my chromebook or wandering through the camera settings) and ended up watching the replay of Bologna-Napoli soccer match. It was infinitely better than the Serie 3 game Bob and I had watched part of earlier in the week, but despite its allure (these guys were really good!) I watched only until the end of the first half, figuring I really ought to get some sleep prior to my 23-hour nonstop travel day. (For anyone interested, the game was a scoreless draw when I left it; I have no idea how it ended.)

At about 6:30 I decided there was more risk in rolling over and oversleeping than in getting up early and being even more tired at the end of the day, so I chose the latter. Ever responsible and eco-concerned, I took our accumulated recyclables to the bins I'm sure no other hotel guests were even aware of,

How not to get connected on the train
packed the last few items in my carry-on bag, and loaded up with breakfast/lunch supplies at the hotel restaurant, which wasn't quite yet officially open for the day but which was very accommodating nonetheless. As I waited outside reception for my lift to the train station, I recognized Chiara's car coming up the drive. I thought she was just coming in to work but to my pleasant surprise it turned out she, and not Aran (the 'bike mechanic'/maintenance guy), was to be my chauffeur. A short drive and a few farewell hugs later I was the lone person on the platform, waiting for the first of the 3 trains I was to take today.

I have to say the Italian rail system is great, although paradoxically I am told it is the high-speed trains that are occasionally late. My segment from Firenze (Florence) to Bologna was on one such Frecciarossa, but almost the entire journey was spent in tunnels so I really couldn't appreciate the fact that we were rolling through (beneath) the countryside at something like 300kph. Even worse under the circumstances, although there was free Internet access on board, since I didn't have a cell phone to

Two of the Roma women outside the bus
receive the required password sent upon registering I couldn't use it. So I ate a banana while scenes of dark tunnel flashed by the window.

Disembarking in Bologna I found it much more humid than I had become accustomed to; worse still, it seemed the magic of Tuscany was already starting to wear off as I returned to urban life. Even though my train had arrived somewhat later than scheduled, I had contemplated spending some time in the city before heading to the airport, but changed my mind when I saw the large crowd waiting for the bus to the airport. Not knowing when the next one would arrive, and if there would be enough room for us all, I opted to head directly to check in. As it turned out, as I was crossing the parking lot the bus appeared, so my timing wasn't too bad, and unlike many others I even managed to secure a seat.. There were several Roma women milling about the bus stop offering to 'help' people at the Aerobus ticketing machine. Coincidentally, on the flight in I had read a blog regarding various scams targeting tourists around the world, and perhaps it was

The open zipper. Coincidence?
just coincidence but when I placed my bag on the bus I noticed the zipper on a side pocket was open.

Bologna airport is different from any other I have experienced - check-in is at ground (Arrivals) level, after which you go upstairs to Departures for security and gate access. Curiously, there were only 3 of us in the 'already have your boarding pass and just want to drop off luggage' lineup (I printed my boarding pass at the self-serve kiosk) while there was a huge queue of others waiting to check in at the counter. As usual, Air France had only two stations open to handle it all. However different the airport was at the front end, it subsequently proved exactly like all others, offering the universally horrid experience, although the ridiculously long lineup to security actually moved quite quickly. Once through, though, I found I couldn't connect to the airport wifi so blogging would have to wait. It was at this point that fatigue started to catch up with me; although I had already been travelling for 7 hours or so I knew I still had a long ways to go.

My flight to Paris was

This is the distance we needed to get bussed to the plane in Bologna
late, leaving me with nominally only a few minutes to change terminals and get through passport control before my flight to Montreal left, but with such a large plane to board I ended up having plenty of time to wait until the line cleared. The good news: was that I was in seat 11H, on an aisle near the front of the plane (i.e. exit); the bad news was that once again I was seated immediately behind the RSI (Requisite Screaming Infant). There also didn't appear to be much worth watching on the entertainment system. It looked like it was going to be a long flight.

But I (obviously) did eventually land, get through customs with my 3 bottles of wine thankfully still intact, find the Air France bus back to Ottawa, get picked up at the train station, and make it home (which I was relieved to discover was not in fact stifling as I had feared, given the heat wave Ottawa had been enduring) before midnight. It had been quite a long day; in spite of that (and despite waking briefly at 2:30AM) I made it to my soccer game at 10:00. I rode my bike there, of course.


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