Travel slowly, staying in vacation rentals (villas, farms, cottages, apartments)
Report 678: Italia - Umbria, Lago di Garda, Lago di Como & Visits with Friends in Empoli and Coccaglio
By girasoli from Hawaii, Spring 2005
Page 23 of 24: Two Day Trip Back to Hawaii
I woke up early and could not wait to get out of that room. I did not sleep that well and ended up watching old Italian movies at three in the morning. For a three star hotel, I was not impressed. The bathroom amenities consisted of a sliver of soap. The buffet breakfast was “ok”. Perhaps it was because I was staying in the older section of the hotel but still, I personally would never stay here again. I paid my bill after eating breakfast and took the next available shuttle to the airport. I was very happy to leave that hotel.
At the airport, it took a few minutes to figure out just where to go. There was a separate area for oversees flights and an extra checkpoint where each person’s name was checked against a list. I tried to peek at the list wondering just what it did say about me, but was not able to see much. Check in was quite easy. The flight was overbooked and they were offering a night’s stay in a hotel and 500 dollars or euros credit (not sure which) for a future flight, but no upgrade to business class, and so I passed since I woud then have to find arrangements in Houston the following night. After checking in, I went to get my last Italian coffee, bought a newspaper, and then headed towards the gate.
I wandered through a few shops and then waited to board the plane. I ended up sitting next to this woman that was in Italy for two weeks attending a clown workshop in Puglia. She was given a grant for this workshop with all expenses paid, even airfare! Hmm...an idea for a future trip??
The flight was fine except that they did not have my special meal listed and the movie screen was not working. I was able to watch the movie for 2-5 minutes at a time and then the sound would go off and a few seconds later the screen would switch to audio station one. This was affecting two rows on the plane. After a while, we all became very adept with our fingers hitting all the buttons to get us back to our movies, holding that remote the entire flight. The flight attendant came by telling us that he would reset it, and after about three times, became a little irritated and told us that we were 30,000 feet up and there was not much more that he could do! Yes, we were on an airplane, and thus not on the ground and we did not expect him to be able to solve the problem, but it was the way he reacted that was upsetting to many. We were not complaining constantly. I guess since it affected about 8 or 10 people, each person saying one thing about the movie screen added up.
I watched Sahara twice, first in English and the second time in Italian, switching back to English during the parts that I missed the first time around. With a little patience, I ended up seeing most of the movie after watching it twice.
When we landed, we quickly went through customs and then waited for our bags. I was SO happy to see my bag arrive, since I have lost one bag (most likely stolen) from Italy and on another occasion saw my bag two weeks later. I found the place to recheck my bag to Houston, bought a salad and treat at Bon Appetite (since there was no food on the next flight), and then found my gate. I heard that the flight was full. After everyone was seated, I saw that the plane was really empty. I was eyeing the seat I was going to switch to.
While waiting for the stragglers to board to make my move, we were told that the Madrid flight was late and many people on our flight were on that flight and so we waited 30 minutes for their plane to arrive. The plane was so nice ad peaceful until the people from the late plane arrived. On walked a couple with a crying baby and screaming three-year old. We also ended up having to wait 30 more minutes due to a storm down near D.C. The peaceful, roomy plane turned out to be full with a screaming child and crying baby. Oh well...for a minute there, we were all pretty excited about this flight! Luckily my movie screen was working and I was able to drown out the noise for most of the flight.
Due to all of the delays, we arrived in Houston an hour late. The walk to the baggage area seemed to be the longest walk I have ever experienced. It took 40 minutes for the bags to come out. Once I got my bag, I waited for my hotel shuttle to the Wyndham Hotel. The temperature outside was 100 degrees. I had decided to splurge a little and stay at this hotel…big mistake! It took 56 minutes for the shuttle to arrive and another 40 minutes to reach the hotel. I was not a happy camper! AND, because of airline delays, a big group of people boarded the shuttle at the next terminal. They were all being put up at the hotel for the night due to a delayed flight. This resulted in people sitting in the aisles. I was very surprised that this was allowed.
When I got to the hotel, it ended up taking at least 15 minutes to check in (for the express check in) as there was only one person at the desk and since I was the first person on the shuttle, I was the last person off. I was so tired when I got to my room that I never left and did not even get to enjoy the hotel. I checked about the morning shuttle and was told that I just needed to let them know in the morning the time I would like the shuttle. When originally making the reservation, I was told that the shuttle left every 30 minutes. When I called to check on the shuttle, I was not told that the shuttle times had changed.
Sunday morning, I took my time getting ready figuring that I had plenty of time to eat breakfast and then catch the shuttle. When I went down to inquire about the shuttle, I was told that since it was a holiday there would only be one shuttle on the hour. It was Sunday, July 3rd – NOT a holiday!!! AND what is this anyways about it being a holiday. Don't people usually stay in hotels on holidays?? I ended up only having five minutes to eat something at the wonderful buffet breakfast where I had a free coupon which I got from booking my stay over the internet. The man running the buffet made sure to tell me that the tip was not included. I was so upset with the entire shuttle experience, I was not about to leave a tip for five minutes of grabbing something to eat on my own at a buffet.
I had intended on taking the 10:30 shuttle but instead had to take the 10:00 shuttle as I did not know what the check in line would be like at 11:00 and figured less than two hours would not be enough time (my flight was at 12:20). The shuttle had just enough room for everyone to fit. I was not the only person upset with the "hourly shuttle" for the holiday. This was a HOTEL! People normally stay in hotels on holidays! I did write a complaint to Wyndham and also filled out a survey they sent me online about my stay and have yet to receive a response from them.
At the airport, there was only a very short line of people waiting to check in. When I got to the e-ticket check-in, I slid my passport into the scanner area as an ID was requested. The screen said that I needed assistance. The woman asked me if I had any other identification. I told her “no” and she asked me why not! You would think that the passport trumps all other IDs! She started the check in process over again, which somehow did not involve my ID, and then I finished up the check in process, got my bag checked, and found my gate.
I sat next to a local man that seemed to not realize that the arm rest was neutral territory. I felt squished most of the flight and I am not that big! I was very happy to arrive back home in beautiful Hawaii.
I have to say that the only bad part of my trip was from the moment I arrived at the Hotel at the airport in Milan until I arrived back home…otherwise, I had a WONDERFUL trip to Italy! Next time, my arrangements will be different for my departure back. Time flew by much too quickly and I cannot believe I am back home already. I am already thinking about my next trip...
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