Sunday, January 10, 2010
Airport Meetings & Destination Milano
I went to bed around midnight on the 21st knowing I had to be up 3 hours later. There was just so much to do before I left. I had a 6:30am flight and what with all the snow storms going on all over the place, I figured I better get an early start just in case. My friend Darcy graciously offered to drive me to the airport at the ungodly hour of 3:30am. Thank goodness for good friends! She also took care of my car for me while I was gone which saved me close to $200 had I parked at the airport.
The best part about having to be at the airport so early was the coffee! I love Coffee People! They used to have shops all over Portland but now they only have 2 locations at the airport, so this was truly a treat!
I was about the 3rd person in line to check in and the guy behind me commented on my stack of suitcases. "You don't travel light, do you?" I laughed and said, "No, I've never been one to backpack anywhere. Plus it's Christmas so I'm smuggling gifts!" Turns out he's from New York and a graduate of the Maritime Academy in the Bronx which is located in the neighborhood I lived in for 4 years. Nice guy. He came into Portland on a ship and said that he really loves the city :-) He mentioned that he liked it a lot better than Seattle. We got to talking about what Portland is known for and he specifically said he loved the variety of beer here and that the East Coast just doesn't have the quality beer that Portland does. I loved hearing that, I just wish I were a beer lover! I'm more a wine person. I do enjoy the Ruby from McMenamins but that's about the size of it. He wasn't on my flight though, so once I checked in we wished each other Happy Holidays and off I went to the gate. While waiting for my flight a woman sat next to me and we started talking. It turns out she is my neighbor, literally lives across the street in the townhomes and she is married to a man from Italy. Quite the coincidence! She was going to NY to visit her daughter who is in college. She was a vicitm of the snow storm that hit the East Coast and was actually supposed to fly out 2 days prior. This trip started so well having met these two nice people. This is what I love about traveling. Meeting diverse people from everywhere. These two I happened to have a bit in common with :-)
When I arrived in NY I walked over to Terminal 1 and went up to the departures area to check in for the next portion of my flight. I should mention that the first portion was on Delta and the second portion was on Alitalia, which is a Skyteam partner of Delta. I arrived to the news that my flight was to be delayed 9 hours due to snow at Malpensa. I was really disappointed because every moment I have with the Italian is precious, so every moment spent in Terminal 1 was a moment lost with him. Alas, I had no choice.
Initally I called my friend Rachel who lives on Long Island and she was happy to come and pick me up but I told her I needed to check with the airline to see what they wanted the passengers to do. They asked that we check in and wait at the gate in the event that the snow stopped and Malpensa was back up and running. So I called Rachel back and told her I'd have to stay there. I really wanted to see her and her son who I haven't had the pleasure of meeting since the last time we saw each other was when she came to visit 2 1/2 years ago. The airline gave us a $10 voucher (which buys you all of a bottle of water and some pretzel's in NY), so I settled in and started watching movies on iTunes. One by one I watched several planes take off, Paris, Mexico City, Taipei, another flight to Paris, Munich, etc. I started to feel like I was on the movie Terminal! No communication from the airline whatsoever. I felt particularly bad for the families with small children. They were all restless and crying. The parents exhausted. This sort of put it into perspective for me and I stopped feeling sorry for myself asap!
When they finally announced boarding, in true Italian fashion, everyone bum rushed the gate. Forget boarding group 1, 2, 3 and 4 in that order, it was every man, woman and child for themselves!
It was a long uncomfortable flight and I got absolutely no sleep. I felt like a zombie when I finally arrived around 4pm Milano time which is 7am Portland time (the next day!). It took about an hour to get my luggage, then when I finally walked out the door, I looked through the crowd of faces and didn't see the one I was looking for. Then out of nowhere I got the biggest hug and kiss. I was so happy! Exhausted but happy. It was as though not a moment in time had passed since we were last together. I'll admit that I was a bit worried about this as distance and time sometimes puts a damper on relationships but I was immediately put at ease with his warm reception. We took the pullman (which is what the locals call the bus, which is not a city bus but more like a Greyhound bus) to the Stazione Centrale, then took the underground to my hotel.