As I sit here and write the next chapter of our European Adventure it 7:45pm and I’m in the departure lounge of Orly Airport. Say what?! Where’s that on the itinerary? Well, it’s not. Just before we left we decided to buy back a half a day and fly to Florence rather than catch the train, as first planned. The plan changed when it came to light that the trip was going to take 12hrs. Four years ago it took 6.5hrs (to get to Turin). Consequently, we booked via Webjet a flight from Paris (Orly) to Florence.
The flight left at 9:10am so we were up at 5:45am to make our way to airport. Bags were packed, ready to roll out the door, the Hotel bill was paid and we had tickets for the direct train from the RER system to the Airport. It was always going to be a struggle lugging the cases up and down the Metro station steps as we transferred from one station to the other – three transfers in all. At Chatelet Metro our special tickets refused to open the gate so we tail-gated a cleaner going through the gate for wheel-chairs and prams. When we got to Antony RER station we transferred to the Orly train but our tickets didn’t work still. A kindly guard ushered us through and we arrived at Terminal Ouest pretty much on schedule.
Straight to the check-in counter for Vueling Airlines we went. By the way, we had chosen British Airways for obvious reasons, the online ticket we got had us on an Iberian Airways flight which has been sub-contracted to Vueling Airways – never heard of them until then. The wheels had started to wobble.
So up to the Vueling check-in counter we went to check-in at 7:50am. There the clerk told us that we had been bumped from out flight!! “But the flight is confirmed”, said I, showing him the confirmation email from Webjet. He said that we hadn’t checked-in online 24hrs earlier so the seat was allocated to someone who had! I shan’t go into all the detail about what transpired next, suffice to say that we were put on Stand-by. We waved good-bye to our bags and went to get some breakfast.
Breakfast done we went back to sit in the departure lounge, where we are now. The security bag check was very busy and slow. To make matters worse, I’d forgotten about Kerry’s tablet in my backpack so the backpack was diverted toa different queue for a thorough search. I can’t blame the airport for doing that but I was third in the queue and every bag was getting the thorough treatment. As Mrs. Murphy would have it, while waiting for my bag to be searched I was called to the departure gate to take my seat on our nominated plane. But before we could get there the flight was closed. One wheel had dropped off altogether.
To cut a long story short we went back to the Check-in desk and got confirmed seats on the plane the departs at 9:50pm tonight! Now that we had that “confirmed” we had to go and get out four bags that were taken from the plane and re-check them in. After a lot of toing and froing we were escorted to the Vueling Baggage Services department. He took us out to the storeroom where only two of our bags were!! All the wheels have fallen off now and its a diabolical prang! Just to add salt to the wound it was Kerry’s bags that were missing again.
So we sat and waited and waited and waited. While waiting Halls 1 and 2, we where going to depart via Hall 1, were closed down for a couple of hours due to the discovery on an unattended bag. That just added more angst to an already angst-full situation as we started to imagine delayed and cancelled flights as planes and passengers were diverted. But thankfully, that didn’t happen. We had some dinner, courtesy of the airline (don’t get excited, it was just a take-away salad) and proceeded once again through security. This time we made it through unscathed and here we sit waiting for our flight to be called. So much for getting an extra half a day in Florence.
The day’s not over yet…….
The flight to Florence left on time and was a good flight. Amazingly full for that time of night. At 11:00pm we touched down in Florence ahead of schedule. The plane taxied quite quickly and before we knew it we were walking across the tarmac and straight into baggage claim area. Now here’s a novel idea, the Lost and Found baggage office is in the same hall as the baggage carousels. There was the Vueling desk and there behind the glass stood Kerry’s bags. The girl simply opened the door and let us pick up the bags. No questions, no ids, no luggage receipts, but plenty of trust and observation of the unspoken messages we were sending.
Pretty soon the carousel whirred into life and my checked-in bags appeared. Everything was together again. The Italian taxi drivers lined up and quickly dealt with the long queue of tired passengers. Our did a great impersonation of an Italian Formula 1 driver, as I had hoped he would. I’d forgotten that in Italy obeying speed limits and stopping at Stop signs were optional driving rules. I think the only mandatory rule is driving on the right-hand side of the road, but I could be wrong so you might want to check that.
Anyway, thanks to Giancarlo Fisichella who knew exactly where our accommodation was, we made it to the Plus Florence hostel very quickly and very safely. Favier from Cuba checked us in and we hit the sack after a very long day.