Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!!

So, the end of the year's upon us eh? It's such a cliche to say it I know, but this year really has gone so fast!! Personally I've had a great year, and I'm looking forward to an even better 2010! I'd like to say a big grazie to all my Italian friends who have helped me settle in and made me feel so welcome this year, you guys rock!! Happy new year to everyone, I hope 2010 brings you plenty of happiness! Don't forget to wear your red pants and to eat plenty of lentils!!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Christmas at Home - The Journey!!

The journey was so traumatic it deserves its own post! Maybe writing about about it will help me recover??

So yes, my journey home for Christmas started last Tuesday morning, after an epic snowfall of 11 inches in Milan! I knew it was asking for trouble, the day before all BA flights to Heathrow from Linate, except for the last one of the day had been cancelled. But the weather was better, and the BA site that morning said that the flight was delayed by only 19 minutes, so I left for Linate feeling slightly optimistic, if still nervous.

It doesn't matter where I fly from in Italy, the state of check-in is always the same. It's never really chaotic, just not very organised, and never enough check-in desks open. I had a bit of a funny turn in the queue though, not exactly sure what provoked it, but I nearly fainted! And that was after I'd eaten something because I felt lightheaded!! But I managed to sort myself out somehow, get checked in, through security and on to the gate...

Where I had to go through passport control, and where there was nowhere to have food - only half-empty vending machines. No water, only fizzy drinks. Luckily there was some Fanta, it helps when I'm suffering from my low blood sugar. And then we waited. Boarding time came & went, and no news, not a peep. From the screens every single flight was delayed, but there was nothing about ours. Eventually someone turned up at the desk, and everybody got up to queue - even though there was no announcement or anything. Until the announcement that eventually followed that we would be boarding in 15 minutes. Fair enough, I'd still have enough time in Heathrow before getting my coach at 5.45pm.

It was when we were waiting at the gate that I started to hear people talking about baggage problems. I couldn't believe it. I'd had no idea about any problems, and hoped that everything was in fact ok. But when we got on the plane I found out that infact, everything wasn't ok. There were problems in the terminal, and not all of the luggage would make it onto the plane. I honestly started to cry. All my presents were in my case. Home was at least 5 hours from Heathrow, and with the bad weather & it being 2 days before Christmas I knew that I didn't stand much of a chance of getting it in time.

After being told initially that we had a 65 minute wait before take-off, that was then changed to 15 minutes a little later. We eventually left around 2 hours late. For the whole flight I couldn't keep my eyes off the screen that gave us the progress of our journey, and I tried not to think about the possibility that my case wasn't on the flight.

I arrived with around 1 1/2 hours to spare until my coach, and flew through arrivals!! Then it was baggage claim. I had to wait to see if my case would be there or not. More and more cases arrived, and finally - mine!!! I'd never been so happy to see my case!! And then I was off to find the coach stop!

I couldn't believe I arrived at the coach stop with 1 hour to spare!!! I decided to sit outside, I wasn't going anywhere and risk missing my coach! The National Express staff were lovely, checking where I was going, and letting us know what was happening with our coach home. The coach was nearly hour late after breaking down, but I didn't care. Even if I missed my connection in Swansea - where I would've had 70 minutes to spare - it was close enough for someone to come and pick me up. So I settled down for the journey, and tried to get some sleep.

The coach arriving late in Heathrow was actually a blessing, I only had to wait around 20 minutes in Swansea for my connection. By the time I had arrived it was around 11, it was cold, dark & wet. But I was nearly home, and too tired and frazzled to care.

I arrived in Carmarthen around 12.15am, after all the delays I was just about on time, to be greeted by my mam and my brother. I'd made it, and with my case full of presents to boot. After the snow in the UK and Milan, a 2 hour delay in the airport, and a broken down coach, I'd made it home!! Luckily the journey back to Milan was nowhere near as traumatic!!!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

This morning I went into the centre of Milan to finish off my Christmas shopping, Italians don't do Christmas decorations in a big way, but with the snow it was definitely feeling very Christmassy!!

From afar it looked like the tree had snow on it, but the whiteness is actually flowers! Slightly unusual I thought, but pretty!

The Galleria has lights in it this year too, not as impressive as last year in my opinion!

And this is the obligatory look-at-the-snow-in-the-piazza photo!

Pretty, isn't it?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The BA cabin crew strike - my 2 centesimi

As usual, I'm a bit slow on the uptake. But I've been trying to get my head around the whole strike situation, and trying to calm myself the hell down. I was fuming on Tuesday when I read the news, I can't even remember the last time I was that angry. I'd never sworn so much in the space of such a short time!! I've not slept well since finding out either, I'm so tired.

If anyone was reading my rants tweets about 3 weeks ago when I was trying to book my flights home would've seen how stressed I was just trying to book the flights! Nobody would come and pick me up from any airports, which created a nightmare situation for me. Normally I would've gone to Bristol with either Ryanair or Easyjet, and then get the train home. But after nearly losing my flight the last time I did this, I wasn't prepared to go through that again. After searching for flights from SEVEN different airports, the only options I had were to go to Gatwick, and then home on the coach, which would've included 2 changes - in short, no thanks, I can do without that stress. Then there was BA, it meant standing around in Heathrow for a few hours on the way home, but with a pretty straightforward journey home, one change in Swansea (the best part of an hour away from the end of my journey). So after some persuading from my mam, I booked my tickets with BA, to fly home on the 23rd and then back to Milan on the 29th.

And today BA and Unite are holding talks again to try and resolve the planned strikes, so things are just as up in the air as ever. I've almost quietly accepted my fate though, if I stay here for Christmas then so be it. It won't be nice, and I'll just want to be at home all day with my family; but if that's what'll happen, then that's what'll happen. I'm not even going to start ranting about it again, because nothing I do or say will change things; and I'm not letting myself get wound up again. All I can hope is that on Christmas Day I'll be home with my family, eating Christmas dinner, and opening my presents. And not here in Italy on my own.

A Weekend in Venice!

After over a year in Milan, and a whole academic year studying down in Urbino, I finally made it to Venice last weekend!! It was for my work's Christmas party, and party we did! Venice is the most surreal place I've ever been too, the second I stepped out of the train station it was like I was entering a different country. It was bizarre being able to understand everything - I say everything, but the Venetian accent isn't the easiest one for a wannabe milanese to understand! - and to be able to speak to everyone without a problem. It's only 2 1/2 hours from Milan, but a completely different world!!

When we arrived in Venice it was dark, and Piazza San Marco with all its lights was beautiful! After partying the night away, I managed to drag myself out of bed Saturday morning to do some sightseeing - no hangover was going to stop me from seeing Venice!! We had (a very expensive!!) breakfast in Piazza San Marco, a lovely way to start the day, and something that definitely had to be done! Lunch was fantastic too, one of the best pizzas I've ever had (might've had something to do with the hangover & sleep deprivation though...!!) with scamorza (my favourite cheese!) and potatoes (yes, potatoes!)... all washed down with a glass of beer! Sorted me right out!!

The highlight of the day was a gondola ride home! It was completely a spur of the moment thing, we'd not planned to go in a gondola at all! It was lovely, we were in a pimped out black gondola with prosecco, and a legend of a gondoliere! I'm so glad we did it, definitely worth it!!

And being in Venice, we couldn't leave without buying masks! As you can see from my picture on here, I do like my masks, and this one is the first genuine Venetian one I bought! Very pretty!!

I can't believe it took me so long to get to Venice, it's so easy to get to from Milan!! Definitely be back there soon!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Song of the Week 4

I know I'm a bit slow on the uptake with this song, but it has grown on my recently. It's Ti vorrei sollevare, by Elisa and Giuliano Sangiorgi (of Negramaro, possibly my favourite Italian band).

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Song of the Week 3

My 'Songs of the Week' do what it says on the tin - I pick my favourite Italian song that's doing the rounds that week. And this week it's Alex Britti's Piove.

No rain in Milan today though, but a crisp, sunny December morning!