Monday, August 29, 2011

Small Victories, Part I: The Departure/Arrival

Yesterday (or was it the day before yesterday?), I took my leave of the US of A. Before heading to the airport, Madre, Padre, io, and uno dei miei fratelli went for Perkins for breakfast. I somehow managed to stuff one omelet, three pancakes, two diet cokes, and some “Breakfast fries” into my stomach. It’s the quintessential last meal—nothing screams “Amurrica” like a plate of greasy, sugar-bombed food and questionably carbonated soda filled with carcinogenics. We also had a coupon. Small victory!

At the airport, my dad and I went up to check-in Bertha, who weighed in at exactly 50.00 lbs. Yeah, Bertha! You go girl! Then the four of us headed up to security, my massive carry-on and “purse” in tow. That’s where we said out slightly awkward but totally heartfelt goodbyes. They waited until I got through security, which was surprisingly easy. I even managed to smuggle an un-baggied tube of mascara through the line… small victory! (Although I do not recommend trying your luck with TSA people… unless you can pull off the ohmygodwhatisthatdoingthereiamsosilly act. As anyone will tell you, I am exceptionally talented at feigning cluelessness… maybe because I am clueless most of the time.)

The flight from Milwaukee to Cincinnati was fairly quick and painless, unless you count the fact that I couldn’t fit my massive backpack into the overhead compartment or that I was seated next to some creepy ginger kid who didn’t understand the phrase, “You need to turn off your Ipod or the plane may crash” (this is verbatim from the flight attendant the third time she told him off… needless to say, it worked). Dru (my partner in crime and best friend) met me in Cincinnati and, let me tell you, if my carry-ons were giant, hers were freaking colossal. The motto of the day quickly became “non c’e’ spazio!” simply because there didn’t seem to be room anywhere—in the overhead compartments, in our suitcases, in our carry-ons, in our leg room… the list goes on.

After boarding the flight to Paris, we both managed to catch some shut-eye… and by “shut eye” I mean falling asleep for 2 minutes only to be woken up by rough air or a flight attendant or a crying baby. I never sleep well on planes anyway… mostly because I’m afraid of missing the in-flight meals, which are always amazing (no joke). At least, they’re amazing for food that’s been made in a convection oven at 34,000 feet in the air. Our dinner on the plane  even came with complimentary wine, which is when you know you’re in European territory. Was it good wine? Of course not, but it was wine… and probably the only reason I managed to get what little sleep I did.
Somewhere between Paris and Bologna

The plane ride took a reasonable 8 hours, which didn’t seem nearly as bad as it sounds. We were excited when we landed in Paris, mostly because we expected the airport would be nicer and Parisian. It took us less than 10 seconds to realize Charles de Gaulle airport is a hot mess. It’s a maze of corridors and stairwells, all of which are accompanied by unreadable signs pointing in random directions. After 20 minutes of following signs labeled “2D,” we went through the “Boarder Police,” who barely even looked at us before stamping our passports and mumbling “Merci.” Security was next. Much like the Boarder Police, security was incredibly lax. . I forgot to switch all of my liquids back into the quart-sized bag and the lady just said something in French and waved me through. Once through, some girl tapped me on the shoulder and asked if I spoke French—in French. I automatically assumed she was trying to pick-pocket me—trying to steal my identity or something—but quickly realized she was merely looking for her gate. Sadly, I do not speak adequate French to communicate anything worth communicating. My French language skillz include “my name is…,” “yes,” “no,” “thank you,” and the highly inappropriate “Would you like to come to bed with me tonight?” which I learned from the song “Lady Marmalade.”

Dru and I finally made it to our proper gate… or what we assumed was our proper gate, as there were no labels anywhere that indicated where the flight was going. CDG seriously needs to work on its labeling skillz. For all we know, we could’ve ended up in some third-world country… or Canada (*shudders*). We were momentarily assured that our Italian was not entirely eroded when we heard some little Italian kid say “io roto I miei occhiali!” (I broke my glasses!). Dru and I immeadiately turned to each other and, without a word, high fived with huge smiles on our faces. People looked at us like we were crazy. They may be correct in their assumptions…

Upon arrival in Bologna, we got our luggage and were in a cab within 10 minutes. There was no customs check-in or passport control of any kind. At least we hope there wasn’t... because if there was, we totes missed it. The cab ride was totally awkward, mostly because the cab driver did not say a single thing the entire 20 minute ride… that and the Italian radio was playing Michael Jackson, which seemed very un-Italian of them. We got to the hotel (small victory!), which is sketchily located on a side street of a side street of another side street. It’s nice enough; the concierge is friendly and the rooms are air conditioned… but it’s definitely not the Ritz. There are two stiff twin beds, lots of mirrors (creepy), a bathroom that is two inches higher than the floor so you stub your toe if not careful, and no shampoo or conditioner is provided—what hotel stocks “intimate cleanser” but not shampoo?

Before we passed out from exhaustion, we decided to force ourselves to take a walk. The city is beautiful—well, the drive from the airport was less than desirable—but the city’s historic center is awesome. It reminds me of Rome a bit… there are modern shops lining the main streets and then random basilicas and piazzas with fountains. After getting voluntarily lost for 2 hours and getting some limone gelato, we returned to our rooms and took a 2-hour nap. Yeah, I know… we live wildly exciting lives. Not.

  1. Some street that looked Italian-y

Piazza Maggiore

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