The last few days before our departure both raced and plodded. And the morning of July 2nd was a madhouse. Why did I think that it was a good idea to make a dentist appointment on the morning we were leaving for Vancouver? Dentist, bank, another bank, a third bank (don’t ask me why I bank at three different institutions…it seemed like a good idea at the time), dropped by to say bye to Barb (my friend and hairdresser) and to give her a couple of final messages for her son and daughter-in-law who are housesitting for us, then rushed home to throw the suitcases in the car and head off to Nanaimo where we were to catch the ferry to Vancouver.
It was our plan to take advantage of the beautiful day and meet my daughter at English Bay. She and I were always close, but in the past 2 ½ years since she moved away from home, we have become even closer. I couldn’t possibly leave for 2 months and not see her first. The plan was to meet her and her best friend Lauren (my ‘adopted’ daughter) at three.
This was the beginning of a string of mishaps that lasted until after we had landed in Sicily.
1. As the ferry was pulling into Horseshoe Bay where we would dock and disembark, the captain made an announcement that sounded something like this. “Mershmershmsshm captain speaking. Due to mershmershmshrm unable to dock at this time. Mershemshermshmshm thank you mershm patience.” What the heck? We were stuck on the ferry for goodness knows how long due to mershmershm. Goodness knows how long turned out to be half an hour.
2. “Finally!” we thought as we pulled out onto the #1 Highway. I turned on the radio to listen for traffic reports. Accident on the Lions Gate Bridge. Traffic down to two lanes. Forty minute delay. That’s okay, the Ironworker’s Memorial Bridge (Second Narrows Bridge to you old time Vancouverites) would be a good second choice. No, wait. Highway #1 backed up to Westview (for the non-Vancouverites, that’s a long damn way). So, my two choices were a long wait and an even longer wait. I opted for the long wait. We crept along, bumper to bumper until each driver had an opportunity to oogle the accident on the bridge. It was worth the wait however, as we had a lovely visit with my daughter and Lauren.
3. After long hugs from my daughter and promises to Facebook, Nick and I got back in the car to make our way to his cousin’s house where we were to stay for the night. I turned the traffic reports back on. Accident on Highway #99. Not the end of the world. Accident on Boundary Road. Traffic backing up on Highway #1. Hmmm, not so good. Accident on the Alex Fraser Bridge. Dammit. I tried to weave my way through the traffic in a polite manner but still we got stuck on our way to the Alex Fraser. Two hours bumper to bumper to reach Surrey. But, once we got there, we did have a very good visit with Antonietta and Dominic, two very sweet and generous people.
4. Things from there seemed to go pretty smoothly; we caught the Skytrain without much trouble, got to the airport with lots of time, no problem with checking our luggage, plane took off on time, landed in Montreal on time, we got to the next gate on time. Everything was great – or so we thought. An announcement told us that our plane was delayed about an hour. This was a problem – we only had 1 hour and 10 minutes between landing in Rome and our departure for Palermo. The Air Canada attendant assured us that we would be put onto the next flight if we missed our connection. Great! But what about our car rental in Palermo? Would Air Canada contact them for us? No…of course not. In an earlier blog post I made the comment that it was always a good idea to use a travel agent and here was another example why. One quick call to Sarah our super agent at Flight Centre and she was on the line with Eurocar to make sure that they were aware of our problem and that we weren’t actually no shows.
5. Finally we were ushered onto the plane to hit a wall of heat. The air conditioning was off. The power connection to run the a.c. was faulty and there would be no air conditioning until we took off and the engines took over powering the air conditioning. This was one time that it was better to be sitting in economy class. The first class and business class passengers had been in the airplane a good 15 minutes longer than we had. Eventually the plane took off, the air conditioning started and the captain stopped making garbled announcements that were completely unintelligible and which interrupted whatever movie passengers had chosen to watch.
6. The flight itself wasn’t too bad. Air Canada’s economy class was so much more comfortable than Air Transat that it made the extra cost well worth it. The food, however was much worse and halfway through the flight, I broke off the plug for the headphones in the outlet and could no longer listen to any of the movies on my tv. Grrrrr.
7. We arrived in Rome 10 minutes before our next flight was to depart. Not a hope in hell of catching it. We went to the appropriate desk to make sure we were on the next flight. The first clerk said that yes, yes. She would get us on the flight and we were to sit down and wait for about 5 minutes. Twenty minutes later we realized that she was gone from the desk and so we approached another clerk. Good thing we did. The first clerk was long gone and had done nothing for us. The second clerk got us our boarding passes and promised us that our luggage would be on our plane.
8. Our flight to Palermo was uneventful – I slept through most of it. We arrived in good time, disembarked, and made our way through to pick up our luggage. We waited, and waited, and waited as all the luggage came down and onto the carousel. Finally there were no more bags and the burgundy Sampsonites had not made an appearance. But wait! Apparently there was another carousel for luggage originating outside the EU. Surely they must be there! A few odds and sods were sitting around the carousel, none of which were ours. The carousel started moving and half a dozen sad looking bags came around, none of which were claimed by the various Canadian and American passengers who had been on either the late flight from Montreal or another late flight from Los Angeles. We all shuffled our way over to the lost baggage desk. We stood in the crowd of people – thirty or so – who were missing their bags and waited as, one by one, we were attended to by the three rumpled and bored clerks. Most of us patiently waited but of course there was one woman, naturally standing right behind Nick and I, who went on and on about how this would never happen back home and could you believe they only had 3 clerks working and why couldn’t they work faster and what kind of an airline would lose your luggage in the first place and this was a dingy excuse for an airport and blah bu blah bu blah. I was exhausted and just wanted to get our lost luggage report done and I felt like turning around and slapping her across the face. Fortunately, I was just too tired to do it.
9. Eventually we got our lost luggage report done, exited the airport, got our rental car (which was exactly what we had asked for) and made our way out onto the road to Cianciana. Two hours later we were driving through the town to meet Scott, our contractor, since he had the key to our house. He took us through the house to show us all the work that had been accomplished. He had done some really marvelous work. There were still a few things to be finished and in a couple of weeks he would be back from his wedding and honeymoon to finish them. After chatting with Scott, our neighbours, the Vaiana’s came over. They told us that the mother of the person from whom we had bought the house had come by after the sale was done and removed a number of items from the house that were supposed to be left behind: a barbeque, two air mattresses, a radio/cd player. Also, we had left two boxes of things behind. She had been about to haul away these boxes (marked with our name) when the neighbours pointed out that these weren’t her things. She put the boxes back but dug through them and took two brand new sets of sheets that were still in the packaging and a brand new espresso pot. So, we arrived exhausted in our new Sicilian home. It was full of dust from construction and from the winds from Africa and we had no sheets for the bed, we had no clean clothes to change into, and we had no coffee pot in which to make our coffee in the morning. All we could do was flop down on our dusty mattress and fall asleep in our clothes.