Monday, July 03, 2017

traveling to a very sunny Italy

There is no sense in pretending that this will have been a night of good sleep. Turning off the computer well after midnight, and ready to sprint up and out at 3:30. You can doze inbetween, but it's not much more than a doze. Indeed, I shut off the alarm. I don't need it. I'm well aware that I have to, absolutely have to catch the first city bus of the day to the airport.

In the winter, I often take a cab. It's too miserable to walk up the hill, dragging a case that gets stuck in slush and snow and then to wait, shivering, at that beastly early departure hour. But now, in the summer, as I hurry past familiar blocks...


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... I smile at the luxury of walking in daylight. Not even 4:30 and it's light outside! A light sky, a light sweater, a very light suitcase -- it's all so easy right now!

I wait at the bus stop. The streets are, of course, nearly empty.


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And the bus is nearly empty when I get on.  But it isn't empty for long. Many people have early flights out and the bus has standing room only by the time we reach the airport (without traffic it is exactly a half hour ride: Warsaw's airport is close!).

And now things get complicated. Security check lines are long. People nod -- yes, yes,  it's the beginning of vacation. It is how it is when so many people leave for the summer months.

This isn't the worst of it. I now make a Very Regrettable Decision. The agent asks me if I want to switch flights. Instead of taking two to get to Milan, they're offering me a direct one, but on another airline, leaving somewhat later. I weigh the pros and cons. My flights are well timed to meet a train -- for which I've already purchased a ticket (buying a ticket at Milan's station is not for the faint at heart, so if I can, I buy it in advance).

So I say "no thank you."

What a terrible mistake!

We get on the airplane for our flight to Paris (where I am connecting) and we wait.

And wait.

The pilot comes on and he is very apologetic and not a little exasperated. Air traffic control has blocked our departure. I do not know why. I think they don't know why either. I hope we'll be out shortly.

But we are not out shortly. A packed plane of people, sitting at the gate and no one knows why.

For a brief moment I am thinking I am in the old Poland that I knew, where things happened for no reason, or for reasons that you did not understand. Oh, airports worldwide are notorious for placing obstacles to a timely departure, but always, always, you are given some reason as to why. As I look up at the clearing skies and other planes taking off, I cannot even imagine what the issues are and if you don't know the issues, you don't know what the resolution will be.

The pilot comes on again. Malhereusement... he begins. Oh, it's never good when the captain begins an announcement with "unfortunately." He has little to add: still blocked, still no one's talking as to why and therefore when.

And so we sit. Long enough that I will miss my connection to Milan for sure and therefore I will no longer be able to use the perfect train connection to Parma, and I will most certainly have a very long layover in Paris: not long enough to hop into town, but long enough to make me feel like I've just flown over the ocean instead of a short (but so so early) flight from Warsaw.

Never mind. I send an email describing the latest developments to my bed and breakfast hostess, my friend, my big reason for returning to Parma in the first place -- Patrizia.

She is all smiles and encouragement, but I know I am whittling down an already teeny tiny visit to something even smaller.

Mea culpa. I should have taken the direct flight. The world does not always belong to the risk takers.

(Finally, in flight, from Warsaw. We never did find out why the flight had been blocked for so long.)



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On the upside, I could do worse than be stuck at the Paris airport for three or four hours. The lunch is lovely and, thanks to my obsessive airline loyalty -- free. I skype with Ed (the good side of his irregular sleeping habits is that he is not infrequently up at 4:30 a.m.), and munch my foods, and try to recall why I was even upset about the much delayed departure.


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Roll forward to Italy! But do it slowly, because it is SO HOT here (low 90s F, mid 30s C)! On the upside, it was EVEN HOTTER last week and it will be HOTTER after I leave.

But I do not mind. She who travels to Italy in the summer can expect sunshine and heat. There is a reason why everything closes down during the midday hours.

My second flight, the one to Milan, also comes in late. I guess this is a day for being late. Let's just throw in all those latenesses together and create one big mess for Nina! Of course I've missed my planned train. I've missed three subsequent ones too. And now I am at the train station and there's talk of slowdowns, due to an accident on the line.... Oh, I'm just going to take my chances! Put me on the next train!

On the upside, I have some time at the station. There is an eatery and wine bar in the corner of it that has always been my refuge in times of compounding travel messes and I seek it out now. It is a perfect place for an Aperol Spritz.


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And now, I'm on the comfortable and punctual (yes! on time!) train which, in one hour and nine minutes, whizzes me south to Parma.


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I walk from the station to Patrizia's house (where she lives and also rents out two rooms). Parma,  lovely in the winter, is stunning at the end of a summer's day. 


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Finally! A very long trip that should have been a short one ends here, at Patrizia's place. I'm trying our her second bedroom this time around.


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We go out to dinner together. Actually, I thought I was taking her out to dinner, but somehow that got flipped. We're at one of her favorite places -- Trattoria del Tribunale. She loves it because it has three important qualities - great food, kind people and it's not fussy. We eat outside and suddenly, the flavors of Parma -- those that I fell in love with during my winter visit here -- fill me with deep satisfaction. The prosciutto stuffed into pockets of fried bread! The tortelli! Parma's food is the original comfort food.


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It's a beautiful meal, eaten by the light of the moon.


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Parma couples, families, friends are out and about and I swear, Patrizia knows half of them. When I tease her about it, she smiles: this is Italy. (She meets a friend. And another. And another. And this one...)

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And now it is of course late (though you wouldn't know it, judging by the crowds on the restaurant speckled streets)...


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... and the towers and churches and campanile's are beginning to hide under the cover of night.


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And, me, I have to figure out how to post without internet, and perhaps more importantly -- how to get a good night's sleep tonight.

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