Posts Tagged With: Ryanair

Pub Club on Tour, Milan, Cinque Terre and Home!

Ciao!!!

Well it feels like a year since the last blog update but it’s only been a couple of weeks or so. I hope you’ve all been well. 

Dedications: This blog post is dedicated to Pub Club. I had a truly great weekend with them last week. I’ve never laughed so much. They were disappointed / rude about not getting a shout out in the blog last time so: many thanks to Sweet Cheeks, Hot Buns, Wet Pants and Cupcake for coming all the way to see me, several hundred miles from where I actually live 😉  

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From left to right: Wet Pants, Cupcake, Hot Buns, Sweet Cheeks…

So the weekend went like:

Trains: There were a lot of trains. Pub Club, in their hatred of Ryanair, decided to take the Eurostar from London to Paris and then Paris to Milan. All in all over the course of the long weekend, they spent 15+ hours on trains. My journey was relatively quick in comparison: 3 and a half hours from Ancona to Milan. Pub Club, knowing me as the font of all knowledge, asked if train tickets bought ages before a journey were cheaper than tickets bought on the same day. I checked the train website and confirmed it was the same price regardless. Pub Club ignored me and bought their tickets beforehand anyway. Imagine! Un-trusting bunch. I was hurt that they didn’t believe me. And even more hurt that when I bought my ticket on the same day, I had to pay 20 Euros extra <sigh>.

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Milan Train Station – the whole station was very nice actually, inside and out. Very impressive.

Milan Part 1 (Thursday): We stayed in the Navigli region of Milan. When I tell Italian’s this they say “aw, nice” (well, not really, they say “che bello!”) but, making our way through the graffiti-ridden, desolate backstreets to the industrial unit where our apartment was, I had to keep reassuring myself that the area was just cool and “edgy” rather than dangerous. 

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Downstairs in the Milan apartment which was very nice…

Cinque Terre (Friday and Saturday morning): We headed out to Cinque Terre the next day. Cinque Terre consists of 5 coastal towns and is absolutely stunning. After waking up at 6am for a 3 hour train journey from Milan to Monterosso (the most northerly of the coastal towns), we got a connecting train to Riomaggiore (the most Southerly town) where we were staying, and then headed straight back out to Monterosso to make our way back to our apartment in a relaxed and leisurely fashion. There is a walk between all of the coastal towns (6 hours), or you can take the train (6 minutes).

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Monterosso – the most notherly of the 5 towns…

We had intended to take the train. Hot Buns had other ideas and embarked on an evil scheme to kill us off, luring us into following him with “let’s just take a 10 minute wander to the next town, I think there’s a pub up here”. Thirty minutes later, there was no sign of a pub, only a stream of exhausted looking people coming the other way wearing full hiking gear, laden with water and open mouthed at our audacity to conduct the same hike wearing flipflops, beach wear and with no water. We were at a loss: return the way we came or plod on desperate and exhausted in the hope of salvation? We plodded on (past a sign indicating there was another 1.5hrs to go). Finally, two hours into starting our “10 minute wander to the next town via pubs”, we made it to Vernazza. We learnt a couple of important lessons that day: 1) Be prepared and 2) never listen to anything HB says. HB learnt that evil deeds do not go unpunished.

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Looking back towards Monterosso. At this point we were hydrated, with un-blistered feet and blissfully unaware of the impending trek…

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Vernazza –  at this point, we weren’t sure whether it was a mirage or not.

Having said all that – the walk was spectacular and I highly recommend doing it. I’ll be going back there and doing the full walk and investigating the towns properly at some point. It’s very touristy though – it was almost like being back in London with the amount of English speaking people.  If you go, watch out for your bag – there are pickpockets.

Milan Part 2 (Saturday afternoon and Sunday): The next day we headed back to Milan to the same apartment we were in on the first night. The trains for that stretch all seem to consist of 6 seater cabins which was cosy. Perhaps a little too cosy for the old lady sharing with us who had to endure hours of an insightful and thought-provoking game of “would you rather…” and “if you had to choose between…” (for the uninitiated, an example being “would you rather have your fingernails pulled off or two of your teeth removed?” ). Anyway, I sincerely hope our fellow carriage passenger couldn’t understand English.

We decided on a cheap night on the Saturday and had pizza and nibbles at the apartment and then attempted to go out on the town. However, there are no taxi companies in Milan that: a) answer the phone or b) don’t hang up on you if they do actually answer so we didn’t make it to the town, only the balcony which was I think probably just as / more amusing.

Sunday was cultural – we headed to the Duomo (cathedral) and had a look inside and then made our way up to the roof (7 Euros each) which has some great views of the city.

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Il Duomo – from the roof

 

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Covered mall bit where all the fancy shops are – fabulous architecture…

Alas we didn’t get much time in the main city before heading back to the apartment to pick up luggage and make our way to the airports (me included – I’m writing this from the dank, drizzly and grey UK now!). Myself and Wetpants formed an economic splinter group and went with Ryanair whilst the others went with British Airways. Ryanair were such a pleasure to fly with as ever.  I lost my passport in the airport, I thought that was quite apt given my loss of the passport on the way out too. I wish I had been born in an age where my passport could be a microchip embedded in the back of my neck. Knowing me I’d probably still lose it.

I’m back in the UK now and it’s been busy! I’m sorry to the folks I’ve not had a chance to see – I’m back again at Christmas and hope to be able to see everyone I couldn’t get around to this time. I’ve got my nan’s car (bought I should add), much to her distress! It’s a Fiat – I’ve told her it’s going back “home” to its cultural heritage. She seemed to be mildly happier with that. Anyway, only one incredibly rude company will insure me to drive the car over here and in Italy. I didn’t want to go with the Rude Company. I wanted their business to fail and I wanted it to be because I didn’t go with them. But I need car insurance!!! So, I’ve had to swallow my pride and go with them. Grr.

This week will be one of sorting things out, seeing people and getting some practice driving the car. I need to plan the route back to Italy as well! Any tips welcome 🙂

Right, onwards and upwards – hope you’re all well.

xxx

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Sono qui! First day in Camerano :-)

Ciao,

Sono qui!

Well I don’t know how I made it here! I managed to lose my boarding pass with hours to go. I remember putting it somewhere safe. Hmm. Then whilst at the Internet Cafe printing out another, I left my phone behind and some guy came running out to give it back (stick that in your pipe, South London doubters!), and whilst at the airport, I dropped my passport during a race to another gate (Ryanair). I sort of won the race, or at least improved on my previous “last place” position and got a window seat and a place for my bag in the overhead lockers, AND someone handed me my passport back.  I really am amazed I make it out the door sometimes. And certainly amazed that I generally make it back through.

Ryanair were as expected. Little bit farcical with large queues, broken computers, gate changes and then a steady stream of passengers faffing around with suitcases in the first rows blocking every other passenger from getting on. I mean, I know they don’t like to allocate seats but jeez, it would make everyone’s lives, including theirs a lot easier.  The wing was bent – are wings usually bent? Being a good passenger, I checked the other side and noted it was equally bent which I decided was either very good or very bad (can you tell it’s been YEARS since I’ve been able to get a window seat on a plane?! Things have clearly moved on since the 90’s. I hope next time they will have invented time travel rather than simply bent wings).

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See?! BENT WINGS! BENT!!!

The plane was full of Italians. I did consider befriending the one next to me but he looked like he was the stag on a stag do and I couldn’t see the others which made me think he was probably just a bit odd rather than celebrating/commiserating.

The flight was just over 2 hours – not bad at all and Ancona airport is tiny which I think worked in its favour – the plane stopped just outside the terminal and by the time we got through passport control, the bags were there. 10 minutes I’d say from landing to getting out. Speedy.

To my relief, Marco was there with a sign when I got in. I’ve decided I’d like it if every time I went somewhere there was someone waiting for me with a sign (on reflection, perhaps just at airports. It would probably be unnerving if the same thing happened everytime I went into a shop or bar). He doesn’t drive like a maniac as far as I can tell but I was sort of dazed and chatting for most of it. I’m pleased to report that my Italian held up a bit at least 🙂 Marco is a lovely chap, very friendly and helpful. He’s married with two grown up kids.  He set up the school about 9 years ago. He’s tall with what I think must be exceptionally long legs. I used to think I walked fast, but Marco walks at the pace that I run at. And not even a sort of relaxed run, it’s at escaping-from-rabid-dog run levels. I think we must look odd walking/sprinting around together. He’s suggested I come around for dinner one evening.

Ooo guess what? He has a good friend with a large sailing boat that he thinks will want crew and who is a member of a sailing club that’s not too far away. He’s going to introduce us maybe on Monday or at least give me his details. Woohoo 🙂

Oooooo and guess what? Marco’s considering branching out to teaching English to Italians – he seemed quite interested that I was considering teaching English. Would be quite nice to have a bit of a job.

OOOOOOOOOOOoooooo and guess what? I HAVE WIFI!!!! IN THE FLAT!!! What a relief! I’ll be able to continue my (occasionally) undefeated reign at Scramble.

And there’s a Hungarian guy that’ll be on the course as well – he’s been here a week or two already I think. He’s been in my apartment up until now but has just got a place in Numana (a local beach town). Marco reckons that though it’s pretty and a lively place to live in the summer, in the winter it can be dead when all the Italian’s go back home. Not sure how long the guy’s staying for in Italy.

So far, I like Camerano though that was largely based on a 5 minute tour last night. It’s bigger than I thought, and MUCH more lively! Not at all like the sleepy little villages where all the old people take their chairs outside onto the roadsides in the evenings and stare at passersby like other villages I’ve been to in Italy. There seem to be quite a few bars and loads of people in them. Pub Club: You would like it here 🙂 Marco seemed to think I could just turn up to the bar and make friends. That seems unrealistically easy. He did mention that “we” go to some bars sometimes… “We” I think was him and the students, which would definitely be less daunting.

AND AND I now have an Italian SIM card (friends/family – let me know if you want the number – Whatsapp seems to work regardless much to my amazement and Skype does of course anyway). Getting a SIM card warrants an entire page in itself. Here it is: “Getting an Italian SIM card”.

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My new bedroom

The apartment is alright – it could certainly do with some sprucing up but really it’s not too bad. And they’ve replaced the metal bed frames that were on the original photo’s with wooden bed frames for a less prison cell like feel.  The bathroom smells – I think it’s the drains rather than anything I can do anything about. The view from the back of my apartment is (ignoring a bunch of factories) just lovely. I can see for miles. There’s a little town not far away on a hill. I wonder what that is… I might get my map out later.

There is an exceedingly complicated rubbish system. I have 5 bins in the kitchen alone. It’s very complex.

I went to a shopping centre this morning, “Auchan”. Auchan seems to be the name of the whole shopping centre as well as the supermarket in there. I LOVE IT. It’s huge! It has EVERYTHING (actually, that’s a lie, it doesn’t seem to have matches and it turns out that you can’t light candles with a gas lighter).  As with the SIM card purchasing, the shopping centre also deserves a page. See here for Italian Supermarket Hints & Tips for the uninitiated. I lost a notebook in the shopping centre. That was my “Italian” diary – I’ve been writing in it for a year or so in Italian. I think my annoyance is probably equal to the hilarity that it must be giving to some Italian somewhere right now!

I’m going to need a car / scooter I think – it’s too in the middle of nowhere. The busses run reasonably often and go to a few places but it’s really not too good for getting around. Driving here terrifies me but I’ll have to get over that. I was considering getting a bike (of the push bike variety) – they’re not too expensive but I’d have to be at Tour de France levels to get anywhere (ah, I’d be pushing the bike all the time. Perhaps that’s where “push bike” comes from!).

I found out how to get a pin number from the Post Office for their pre-paid travel card. You have to phone up for it. A bit frustrating. Cost me 1,15 Euros that did. Pfft. The Travelex one worked well. I’ll put some more money on that I think.

Anyway, that’s far too much writing for one day. School tomorrow!

Ciao x

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Verona, Prepositions and Other Miscellaneous Items…

Ciao,

Come stai? This week I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and not so much doing really but here’s a quick summary…

Verona: I’m going to Verona next weekend with some friends. I can’t wait! I flew into Verona earlier in the year and got the coach straight out to start a cruise in Venice, so it’ll be nice to see it at a slightly slower pace. I’ve done a bit of research on things to see and do, or rather, I have printed out some information from Wikipedia, so not “done” as such quite yet.

Italian:  My Italian (language…) is coming along nicely – it’s nice to have a holiday in mind to focus the mind a bit. Last week my Italian teacher was trying to explain “prepositions”.  Let me tell you about Italian prepositions (for info, our prepositions are things like, “with”, “in”, “a” etc.) – there is little to no logic involved. There are some rules but there are so many exceptions that it’s hardly worth bothering with.  I think one must simply “rote” learn them. Anyway, I’m used to a few by now so I didn’t do too badly.  A new guy at work speaks Italian. It’s nice when you come across someone else to talk to in a language you’re learning, it makes it feel less like you’re a kid learning a secret code.

Boyfriend: I’ll just sneak this one in here. My boyfriend (also known as Lee / Fabrizio in the blog) and I split up two months ago. The Italian plan remains but tweaked so I don’t end up an old spinster with many cats living in the middle of nowhere. It’s all about being an old spinster with many cats living near a town now…

Camerino vs Camerano: Remember that language school I was talking about last time? Centro Cultur (I would just like to point out that the missing e is deliberate – from my perspective at least)? Well, I was mildly confused when I looked up the area – the town was solidly in the middle of Le Marche. The write up said that it was a 10 minute walk from the coast. I didn’t think too hard about it but on reflection – if the town was where I thought it was, one would have to walk I think 100 miles an hour. That town would be CamerIno. CamerAno is, well, 10 minutes from the Coast. Note to self: look at a map next time. Still, I’m pleased with new actual location!!!

Airports: CamerAno is a pain to get to for anyone that doesn’t live in North London. You have to go on Ryanair <involuntary shudder> from London Stanstead. Or you can go from Heathrow on Alitalia (Alitalia goes from London City Airport too) or Lufthansa but I think they might be more money. Though to be honest, I suspect once you’ve added “going up in the air” tax, “taking up a whole seat” tax, “using the airport terminal” tax etc. the 1p Ryanair flight might actually come to several hundred anyway. So, in summary, for anyone wishing to visit me, I recommend you drive down (with some of my stuff).

Stuff: Oh my there’s a lot. Who knew?! I’m preparing an inventory of things that will stay here when I leave and a separate list of things to come with me and things to get rid of. I’ve also created a “don’t know what to do with this stuff” list which is longer than the others put together.

That about sums up my recent activity on the Italian front. Tune in in a couple of weeks for an epic on Verona.

Ciao xxx

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