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.

 

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?

 

 

In the air

Somewhere over the South China Sea

We are half a world away from home and enjoying the hospitality and heat of Rome.

Our flight was largely uneventful until an unscheduled two hour delay on the tarmac at Hong Kong due to “congestion over South China” – whatever that meant.

We found out it meant that our 11 hour flight from Hong Kong to Rome stretched out to 15 hours – 2 hours on the ground and an extra 2 hours in the air as we flew a course well north of the usual route.

Rome greeted us with a 40 degree day which even the locals said was “molto caldo” – too hot.

Rehydrating in Piazza Barberini, Rome

We spent the day walking – in the shade, keeping fluid intakes up and shopping. Jean is the proud owner of a new handbag called Louis IV which I’m sure will feature in a future blog post.

All this before the jet lag kicked in and we were asleep around 7pm. We were wide awake again at 4am so for the first time in living memory the Mowday’s will be the first in the breakfast room at Hotel Barocco this morning.

Today we travel north to Tuscany and start our week staying in Chianti – still in temperatures that will top out at 40 degrees. Not that we are, in any way, complaining.

Italy calling

We are less than 12 hours away from starting our trip to Italy and there seems to be numerous things still to do and very little time to do them in. We have an early start tomorrow to make sure we catch the flight to Auckland and then on to Hong Kong and Rome.

It is amazing how the amount, size and weight of the technology we take has decreased over the years. The bulky and heavy laptop of 4 years ago is now a MacBook Air weighing next to nothing. The TomTom GPS is left at home as our phones do the same job, and apart from our phones, a bluetooth speaker, noise cancelling headphones for the plane trip and some cables, that’s it.

We have signed up for Vodafone New Zealand’s excellent $5 a day roaming product to avoid any shock roaming charges. Spark have still not matched this product and instead offer a confusion of call rates, text costs, data rates, caps and excess charges for various parts of the world – including Italy.

Our lightweight suitcases (full sized cases that weight barely 3Kgs each) are packed and well underweight. Passports are in order and tickets issued.

It’s a cold, rainy, miserable night in Wellington. Rome is sunny and hot – we are ready to go.

Two days in Rome

At the end of our holiday we had two days in Rome. It was a chance to visit some favourite places of ours as well as some new places. We stayed at Hotel Barocco in one of their junior suites – which meant we had an outdoor patio to relax on – four floors above Piazza Barberini. It was a real luxury.

As always we were looked after superbly with nothing being too much trouble. Which made it even harder to say goodbye and start the long trip home. The good thing is that we threw a coin into the Trevi fountain (well sort of as you can see from the photo) so we’ll be back.

Journey’s end

After 3 days travelling by plane, train and automobile we have arrived in Positano. Along the way we spent 3 hours in Auckland, 4 hours in Hong Kong, 25 hours in the air and a day and a night in Rome.

New Zealand farewelled us with chilling rain on a grey day and Positano welcomed us with sun, warmth and gentle breezes. The delights of jet lag haven’t quite left us yet so currently a late night is 8pm and a “sleep in” is 5am. We know that will change as the wonderfully pedestrian pace of life in Positano takes over.

As always everyone has looked after us superbly – from the welcome sight of the hotel driver at Rome airport to our room being ready for us at 8am when we arrived at Hotel Barocco. The ability to drop our bags and freshen up was a lifesaver – and no mean feat for the hotel as they were fully booked the previous night but still they managed to get our room ready in record time.

The trip south by train was blissfully uneventful and relaxing with none of the hassles that accompany air travel – although recent events in France and Belgium may change that.

The welcome at Eden Roc was as warm as ever with time spent catching up on events of the last year – had the changes to the hotel that were talked about last been made? No, too much beaurcracy and too little time  – maybe next year. Were all the staff well, who had left and who was new? All the usual characters were still part of the team – plus some new faces – it has been a good year. Were we in for good weather or was the recent rain going to dampen our holiday? No, the weather had settled and we could expect hot, dry days.

The afternoon was spent enjoying a late lunch/early dinner on the hotel terrace looking out over Positano and the bay beyond. Let the relaxing begin.