Chianti with friends

Our short stay in Chianti in Tuscany was a chance to catch up with friends – some Italian locals and some Kiwi’s on tour. For three days all we seemed to do was eat and drink and tour the small villages of Chianti.

The base for our stay was the delightful Relais Vignale in Radda in Chianti. Spread across a number of traditional tuscan buildings, this hotel is a great way to enjoy a break without being limited to the “Saturday to Saturday” villa booking cycle. The service is excellent – in fact the manager Serena went out of her way to help us when our booking was affected by our overly long stay in Hong Kong.

We met up with friends from New Zealand who were staying just up the road and our good local friends Olga and Dani. Meals were had and stories relayed.

As always when in Chianti, the surprises were off the beaten track – the small village restaurant we stopped at for lunch and the gallery where the artist told us the story behind the small print we fell in love with and bought.

But after a shortened stay we packed up our rental car with our already expanding suitcases, farewelled friends, and headed north to Camogli for a week by the sea.

 

 

The train to Florence

Getting around Italy by high speed train is easy and relaxing. We have regularly used it between Rome, Florence and Naples in the past and this trip is no exception.

The one thing we haven’t done before is try out Trenitalia’s premium class. This is half a carriage of luxury seating – 8 seats in all – right at the front of the train. It costs a bit more but comes with a meal service, a cabin crew member to look after you and your luggage and more legroom than you could want. There is even a conference room in the carriage if a quick meeting is needed en route.

On this leg of our journey from Rome to Florence we treated ourselves and booked seats 2A and 2B.

 

Normal transmission resumes

After finally getting to Rome, yesterday we travelled north by train to Florence and then drove to our hotel in Chianti – Relais Vignale.

And it felt like the holiday had begun.

There’s nothing like a quiet drink in the evening before heading out to dinner.

 

Farewell Hong Kong

On Tuesday night Hong Kong airport was shut down by authorities again. There were many, many, many unhappy people who had been rebooked onto flights from Monday that now had their flights cancelled for the second time.

For us it meant another night sleeping at the airport. There was no ability to leave the airport because that meant being escorted by Cathay staff (one of the four trying to rebook thousands of stranded people) back through the security area and then having the uncertainty of not being able to get back in again.

For us the critical time was Wednesday morning at 9am when we hopefully started our dog-leg trip to Rome via London. Helping us was the fact that the airport authorities realised that cancelling flights was causing chaos and it was better to let half empty planes fly than to have increasing numbers of people trapped in the airport. So even on Tuesday night when all flights were “cancelled”, some of the high volume flights were leaving.

So with a long night ahead and no chance of getting out of the airport we sought accommodation other than “the third bench from the left at Gate 42” and discovered the only pay as you go lounge we could find – the Plaza Premium First lounge. I don’t think they often have people booking for 24 hours so we negotiated a good rate and settled in. The ability to shower, eat and drink without having to queue up for hours was a God send.

The lounge wasn’t set up for sleeping but with a bit of ingenuity people made up beds from chairs, loungers, couches – whatever was to hand.

Finally on Wednesday morning we flew out to London and dog-legged back to Rome arriving late on Wednesday night exhausted – ready for our holiday to begin.

Every blue blanket is another sleeping body

Welcome to Hong Kong

Cancellation board in Hong Kong – credit:Vincent Thian


The first we knew there was going to be a problem was when we checked the transfers board at Hong Kong airport just after we arrived on Monday evening.

Every single flight had been cancelled. Gradually we (and about 2,000 of our travelling companions) pieced together what had happened. There had been protests at the airport during the day and a decision was made by the Airport Authority to cancel all flights as a result.

This posed a bit of a problem for us – partly because of the travel disruption and partly because none of the airport staff seemed to have any clue about what was going on.

So we did what we normally do when our travel doesn’t go to plan –  we called our wonderful travel agent Petra from House of Travel. We woke her at 3am (sorry, sorry, sorry) but as usual she was on the case immediately.

When we rang her we were in the queue from hell – one that snaked around the airport, doubled back on itself and disappeared into the distance. This was the re-ticketing queue. We were in this queue for about 4 hours.

That was more than enough time for Petra  – working with Cathay Pacific to change our original flight to Rome for a flight that went to London and then a connecting flight to Rome, the long flight having the extra leg room we like and a better than average chance of our bags making it to Rome as well. She also had back-up bookings in place just in case things got worse for us.

So that’s two lessons I’ve learned today – using a travel agent makes excellent sense particularly if the unexpected occurs, and travel insurance is a sound investment as they will be paying for all the costs incurred in re-booking our first day or so in Italy – hotels, trains, rental cars, the list goes on.

So here we are, sitting in Hong Kong airport waiting to catch our flight to London tomorrow morning. We have set up camp in one of the pay-as-you-go airport lounges for a day which has made things slightly brighter, cleaner and more bearable for us both.

If there are a few typos in this post I apologise. Let’s blame it on the many hours we’ve both been awake since leaving Wellington.

Who says the romance of travel is dead?

 

 

Let the fun begin

Our guest room has taken on a new role – the packing room. It’s Sunday night so the bags are being filled with many things we won’t need and some that we will.

This afternoon we dropped the girls at their home for the next 4 weeks – Waglands Dogs’ Holiday Retreat. I kid you not, that’s what it’s called. When we left there were tears, a lot of barking and a very quiet drive home.

Tomorrow starts early at the airport at 7am and then we spend the next 34 hours travelling to Rome.

Welcome home

We have been home for just over a week and things are returning to normal. No longer is 3am our preferred waking time and we can now stay up well past 8 at night.

Spring is definitely in the air – not the 30 degree temperatures we have become used to, but certainly temperatures warmer than those we left behind at the start of August.

The grape vine that runs the length of our boundary fence is showing signs of life with green shoots growing on a daily basis.

Poppie and Bella were pleased to see us although Vicki did a great job of pampering them in our absence. They are both asleep on the floor beside the desk as I write, recovering from a day barking at the front gate.

The holiday memories are still close and there are stories to tell.