Monday, June 16, 2008

Arrividerce Venice!

I had reserved a spot for us on the hotel shuttle boat at 3:50 PM. That was the last boat and even though our plane didn't leave until 9:30, I thought it was better to wait in the airport and shop in duty free rather than remain in the clutches of the Westin Luxury Collection hotel mafia. We got back to the hotel after lunch with some time to spare and we sat in the beautiful marble lobby and allowed our body temperatures to return to near normal from their previous heat stroke levels.

All is going smoothly. We can see light at the end of the tunnel, even if the tunnel is a narrow Venice canal. And joy of joys, they have a van to meet the boat to carry us to the airport and a guy actually carries my bag from the boat to the van. Nothing is too good for a departing tourist!

Small European airports operate a little differently than in America. The airlines do not have any permanent check in counters. Each point has a TV screen that tells you what flight they are checking in. They change all the time. Therefore, EasyJet does not have a check in counter open when we arrive. In fact, they won't have one open until about 1-1/2 hours before the flight. This means we can't check in and also that we can't go to duty free heaven on the other side of security and immigration. And don't think that any new European airport, which Marco Polo is, is going to waste any money on seating and food concessions in the check in area. No, no, no. That would be a waste of money. So, we tough it out for several hours until we can check in. I keep my wife supplied with diet cokes and even a salami sandwich (and they aren't going to waste any money on extra salami and dressing, either)

Finally we are free to get to our gate. Having been through the cattle chutes of EasyJet in London, we are prepared. We stay close to the gate and when it looks like someone is even close to letting us through we charge to the front of the herd and squeeze ourselves into the bus. Being travel smart that we are, I tell my wife to stand close to the door of the bus because my engineering mind tells me that there will be no organization when they open the doors and the closer you are to the front, the better chance you have of getting a good seat. Sure enough, they open the doors of the bus and people literally run to the boarding stairs. If getting off the Titanic was like this, it was a wonder that any women and children survived at all. So much for "Women and children first" or "Be British, lads".

Anyway, we make the plane and a short time later we land. We have to undergo the insult of having to fill out a landing card as non EU persons and I have a short melt down at the people milling about (with those God Damn backpacks!!!) who can't figure out how to write their name in the space provided. But, finally we escape the crush and walk out to find our friendly driver ready and waiting. I was never so happy to see a black man.

If you ever need the name of a reliable chauffeur company in London, I will recommend these guys highly. They were the highlight of the trip for being friendly, on time, efficient and a relatively good value. As I was telling someone about the trip, he said, "So, the water taxi was about the same cost as the airline tickets." I realized he was right. The tickets were $125 each way per person! The water taxi was $100. Go figure. I guess I gotta join the Venice water taxi union. If you go to Venice, bring Vaseline.

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