Home is Where we Hook-up

July 17, 2008

Travel Days

Filed under: Travel in the U.S. — Heligypsy @ 8:55 am

In these days of the constant debate over how much airline “miles” are worth, I cashed in 50,000 of my accrued 93,000 miles on a round-trip ticket to Alassio, Italy. Well, not directly. The carrier I wanted to take directly to Genova did not have award seats left. Debatable whether they ever do, but not worth the argument, I’m flexible. Opting for the next best thing, I chose an alliance carrier that would take me to Milan. The charge for the trip equaled the taxes on what the fare would have been, and a newly established $25 transaction fee, (but that never showed up on my statement and they didn’t ask for it at the check-in counter, so I paid the taxes only). A grand total of $97 – yes, that’s ninety-seven dollars.

Handing my passport to the check-in agent did not bode well, I was not in the system. He asked to see my confirmation. That didn’t yield results either, so I was instructed to make a trip over to the special ticketing area this airline had set up against the windows in the terminal. By using the ticket number from my confirmation the original reservation was found. This was explained as,

“United never puts the numbers in the correct location, and you are very lucky this flight is not full, otherwise you would not have gotten a seat.”

Since I was flying home via a different airline, the agent suggested to check with my returning carrier now, before I leave, to ensure my flight coming home is secure. Very good idea. By taking the time to do so, it was confirmed in very few minutes that my return flight home is clearly booked with no concerns or issues. Keith put on his Swiss accent and joked “Ve vill not accept ze reservation if ze numbers are not in ze correct location!”

I just remind myself $97.

Keith was flying that day as well, his flight went direct to Genova and left 50 minutes before mine. Our gates were only 2 apart, so we got to hang out until his flight boarded. Was strange to watch the shark like fin of his plane slowly circle the terminal, first on the one side, next appearing across the way, slowly and smoothly disappearing until take-off. I watched the underbelly of the jet climb beyond the windows, “see you in 17 hours” I smiled to myself.

No one really wants to sit on an airplane for 6+ hours. Thankfully there is usually the allure of the destination making it worthwhile. No one EVER wants to be on the international flight with the screaming baby. The departure gate is where I first learned that I was, in fact on that flight. Watching two orthodox women feed sandwiches to their group of six kids, I smiled and noted how extremely well behaved and adorable the kids were. And only two were screaming age. I didn’t realize until I was seated on the plane there were 4 other screaming age babies surrounding me. You do know these little cutesy things are like dominos, right? One goes off and the others pretty much follow. Next comes the faint odor of baby poop, well at least that one had a legit reason for going off. The poor little guy I don’t know, 4 years old sitting in the seat ahead of me had major air sickenss. I did feel sorry for him, but now add vomit to the aroma – seriously this was hellish.

But what can you do? This is life, and it’s not really that bad. Plus, I didn’t pay the $2300 full fare, I might have a bit more tolerance.

Security in other countries is really a different ballgame than the U.S. That is surely not to say I felt any more or less “safe”, seemed about the same/same to me, only I didn’t have to wait in any gigantic lines or take my shoes off at any point, that’s all. I did feel triumphant though, departing the plane in Milan, breezing through passport control, picking my bag 3rd off the conveyor and on my way to the bus to the train. Sweet!

The bus is where I began to question my plans for travel on this next leg of the trip. A 7 Euro fare, about 55 minutes ride through downtown Milano. I chose to sit up front, so I could get the best view. The song, Perfect Day playing on the overhead speakers seemed to be talking to me, “keep hanging on”. The brakes on the bus sound like an injured dog and the driver insists on being right up on the ass end of every single car in front of him. Getting out of the airport consisted of richocheting between concrete medians, as if we were on rails. Thankfully, I was exhausted and decided this might be a good time to shut my eyes and let sleep carry me to Central Station, where apparently we made it in one piece.

Too bad the Milano train station was under massive reconstruction. I’d intended to take the first of what will be an enormous amount of photos, but so much of the building inside and out was covered in 12′ plywood, chainlink and banners, I just didn’t bother. I shouldn’t have had much time for photos anyway, since my train would leave 25 minutes after I arrived. My luck for speedy transport did not hold, the 11:10 train was sold out – I would have never guessed that to happen. I took the next train, an hour later with a change in Genova. Again, I was somewhat empowered by the simplicity of the next process. Exited the train in Genova, walked down a flight of stairs, stared at a timetable with a group of other travelers until I found “Alassio”, walked underground to bin 12, back up the stairs to the platform and waited for my train. Remember, I hadn’t had any real sleep in more than 24 hours, at this point just walking felt like an accomplishment.

Once seated on the train that I had confirmed will take me “home”, I was almost at once herded out of my seat and down through what felt like all the cars of the entire locomotive. A man banged on the window and said something to me and the other passengers, holding up 3 fingers. No sooner did he disappear than two men with reflective coveralls came aboard to move us along. I have no single idea of what or why or where we were moving, but it was clear we were moving. I just followed the girls who obviously understood what was going on. As we moved through cars they would tell other people, who would get up and follow too.

I managed to explain to the first man (who approached me later at my new seat) “Mi dispiace, non parla Italiano” to which he bit his hand, smiling all the while. Later when he came back to stamp my ticket he said “Bon Jour” I replied “Bon Jour” mostly because I don’t know how to say “I don’t speak French” in French, and I was too tired to think to just say “hello”.

Departing the train in Alassio my bloodshot eyes spotted Keith coming towards me on the platform, we’d made it – together again to explore this bit of Italy for the next 6 weeks.



  1. Thanks for reminding me why I never travel outside of the US. I am not adventurous, I guess.

    Comment by Craig Betts — July 17, 2008 @ 10:15 am | Reply

  2. Well, Craig, I do guess that it’s not for everyone. Thank goodness or I’d never get to fly on reward miles!

    Comment by borderlinegypsies — July 17, 2008 @ 10:38 am | Reply

  3. 50,000 miles and $97 is a bargain! You weren’t in a middle seat were you? That really sucks on long-hauls – as I learned on my trip to Italy last year.

    Comment by JennH — July 21, 2008 @ 8:08 pm | Reply

  4. No, I had an aisle seat – and made darn sure of it at check in. Just one more reason for arriving super early, better chance of securing an aisle seat. I really did try to get a business upgrade, but when they laughed at me I didn’t push any harder. I have a soft rule of not taking business upgrades until I can afford to always fly in style 🙂

    Comment by borderlinegypsies — July 22, 2008 @ 1:30 am | Reply

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