I was excited, and that smile said it all – Italy, here I come! I even had vacation toes done by hubs the night before. He did a really great job, don’t you agree?
The easy-going spirit started to wane as the hours ticked on. It was awful, likely one of the toughest journeys so far. I’ve learned, or it’s been reinforced, that multi-connecting flights are not a good fit for me.
The flight from Toronto to Montreal was a breeze – an easy hour and fifteen minutes from gate-to-gate. Montreal to Zurich on Swissair was less than pleasant with the 3-4-3 seat configuration, which hubs has told me that Air Canada is moving to. I’m skinny, and I even noticed how narrow the seats were. The woman next to me was not fat, but when her arm was on the shared rest, it was up against mine that was not on the rest. Every move she made, there would be some bumping. That’s how close we were. Walking down the aisle to go to the washroom also demonstrated how little room was left in the aircraft. My little bag was hitting people as I walked by. The flight attendants also had troubles with the carts, having to stop regularly to realign the cart. I was actually worried about the cart bruising hubs’ arm on the way by, but he told me afterwards that he was keenly aware of his legs and arms at all times. And how can I forget about meal time. It’s incredibly challenging to eat while keeping your elbows glued to your side.
I couldn’t understand why my leg room was divided, but hubs explained that those were the original seat anchors for the 3-3-3 seat configurations (on the Boeing 777). We’ve basically lost a couple inches of width per seat. Not cool. Flying is already uncomfortable, unless you’re flying business class, and it’s expensive, but now they are making the experience even less desirable at a higher cost. They are doing this to encourage people to upgrade, I’m sure. Greedy bastards.
To make things worse, the kid (I use the term loosely – he must have been in his 20s) behind me was playing games on the entertainment monitor. Whoever thought adding those to the system was a good idea should be fired. I spent 45 minutes feeling the hard taps on the screen. A normal person would have turned around and asked him to stop, but I wasn’t sure who was sitting behind me at the time. Had I known it was a dumb ‘kid’, I would have said something. Needless to say, I wasn’t able to get any sleep when I tried, with the tapping at the back of my head, and the movement from the woman next to me, who was also snoring. It was a long 6.5 hour flight.
We arrived in Zurich at 6:15 am (12:15 am EST). We had a 7-hour layover. Hubs had been excited about Zurich airport, because it offers useful and interesting services, like hotel day rooms, bike rentals, and the ability to get on a train into the city. I wanted to sleep. I was so exhausted as soon as I stepped off the plane, and I knew nothing would be open yet at this hour. Hubs seemed worried about the cost of the day room, and he wanted to explore, so I agreed to take the train into the city. This was a huge mistake. Don’t do this if it’s so early in the morning, and if you don’t have a plan on what you might want to see. We went to Zurich HB (downtown). I tried to put a positive spin to this by suggesting that we go into the city and grab breakfast. Having just come off a longish flight and not eating very much, I wanted bacon and eggs, but the very few places we walked by only served baked goods. We ended up eating at the train station before going back to the airport. Yes, we opted for a Japanese noodle place in Switzerland, but soup noodles is always comforting. This cup of noodles was mediocre.
I was hoping we would then get a day room so I could even get an hour of rest, but hubs said we only had 1-1.5 hours left, so it wasn’t worth it. Believe me, it would have been enough for me. I was stewing. I made it known that next time, I was not going to do this the same way. In fact, I probably wouldn’t want such a long layover again, unless it involved sleeping in a day room.
We finally boarded our tiny plane to Bari. I can’t comment on that flight as I conked out before the plane even took off. I woke up freezing cold, but we were going to be landing soon. The views were quite spectacular, minus the overcast skies, which turned into rain just as we were about to land.
The plane was very small, so the winds caused some strong turbulence, but the pilots expertly handled the little jet and instead of crash landing as I imagined could happen, it was a soft, smooth landing. When we touched down, it was a heavy downpour. We were stuck on the tarmac.
Our two humorous flight attendants had tried to open the front door, only to have the front kitchen flood. They requested a covered air-stair to deplane; however, Bari’s little airport did not carry this type of equipment. The final attempt to get us off the plane was to open the back door – bonus! – we were seated in the second last row. I bounded down those steps as quickly as possible and ran to the shuttle. I was in better spirits even though the weather was horrible. At least I had about an hour of sleep. We made it! We’re finally in Bari, Italy, 20 hours after our first departure.
After retrieving our luggage (and I am so thankful that our luggage was not soaked like some of the first pieces that rolled in on the baggage carousel), we got into a taxi to Hotel Imago. The driver gave us a taste of curious comedic Italian driving. Let me set the scene. It’s raining fairly heavily, and by the looks of it, it’s been raining for a while. It started out looking like heavy rain, and as we continued driving, the car starting kicking up more and more water. Eventually, we were on seriously flooded streets. It’s Friday afternoon, a workday, so there were quite a few cars on the flooded roads. Clearly street drainage isn’t great, or maybe non-existent outside of the city centre. Given these conditions, our taxi driver was still zipping around not noticing the river we were driving through.
He was passing cars however he could, meaning passing on the right or left on the single lane road. He’d be driving partially on the wrong side of the road. I thought he even ran a red, but hubs told me later that the light was red for people going straight, but it was green for the left turn lane. We were going straight, and our driver took the left-turn lane to go through. He did try to slow down as we passed a guy on a motorcycle, but the motorcyclist had no hope. As we passed him, he disappeared into a huge wave of water. I can’t believe he was brave enough to be on a motorbike in this weather!
Once we reached the city centre, we encountered typical European narrow streets.
Cars are parked right on the corners! I was certain our driver was about to scratch a car on the turn, but he missed by hairs. I also find it interesting how cars will partially pull into driveways as a parking option.
We finally made it to our hotel. Our room is large and spacious and very clean. We are in room 17, which is between floors 2 & 3, so we still had to contend with stairs (14 steps either up or down). I’m very happy with this hotel and would absolutely recommend it.
The only negative is that the safe is not bolted to anything, and it has no batteries, which means it does not work anyway. We showered, and took a 3-hour nap. Had it not been raining, I likely would not have allowed myself to nap, so this was a bit of a blessing. We went down and asked the kind woman working the desk where she and her friends would go for dinner. She recommended a place called Terranima, not far from our hotel. She said it was not a tourist restaurant. It was a good recommendation; however, the food won’t stop you in your tracks.
Of course when in Puglia, Italy, one must sample the orecchiette (little ears) pasta. Orecchiette originates in the sunny southern province of Puglia, Italy, where the weather is warm and the wheat crops plentiful. The ridged exterior and cup-like interior captures chunky sauces and scoops up small vegetables, making orecchiette perfect to serve with sauces.
Secondi dishes, the protein dish, usually consists of meat or fish. On this evening, hubs opted to try the horse meat sausage, which he said was good, but did not have a distinct game flavour.
After our meal, we wandered down to the Old City where I had my first taste of gelato from Sandrino (Piazza Mercantile location). It was a major disappointment. I ordered the pistachio gelato, which is my favourite from Lola’s in Toronto. This one was not even close. It was so salty!! Needless to say, I had about 6 mini spoonfuls before the rest of the cup ended up in the bin. We made our way back to our hotel. We had polished off a bottle of wine with dinner, which contributed to our already tired state. I made myself a cup of peppermint tea and as soon as I finished the last drop, I was asleep (this was about 11:30 pm). When I finally woke, hubs told me it was about 6 am, so I lay back down thinking that I couldn’t possibly go back to sleep, but somehow I managed to sleep for another three hours. We woke up in time to catch the last of breakfast (€5,00 pp/pd). We’re now about to head out to explore the city.