I was winning at life today.
I woke BEFORE my alarm and I felt like May the 27th was going to be a good day for me.
It was all part of a plan you see… to escape and evade the perpetual feeling of doom I have been experiencing, all too frequently of late, at the thought of my impending 40th birthday in July,
Not dealing with… not coping with it…even trying to rationalise it…hadn’t been working for me. Every time I thought about it I was close to tears. With no real legitimate reason why. I have hated my birthday for as long as I can remember but this years’ came with its own extra fortified feeling of lament. And I knew full well I was driving everyone around me crazy with my moping, especially Steve. So in the last couple of days I had made the decision to focus my attention on what I was going to achieve during my 40th year on earth.
It was going to be BIG and it all started today.
I was leaving the Celebrity Reflection in Naples, Italy today to join the Celebrity Constellation in Venice. It would include a quick stop in Rome. Quick being the operative word, just an hour from wheels down to wheels up on my connecting flight but I was PREPARED! On my outbound journey from the UK to the Reflection I had been booked on an airline that had only allowed a measly 5kg hand luggage allowance so I hadn’t been able to bring my ‘Trusty Goes Everywhere With Me’ backpack (which has actually recently been replaced with a new one… see appendices) or a wheelie trolley bag as my musical arrangements alone weigh more than that. I had packed them in an oversized handbag kind of affair and hoped my smiley disposition and witty reparté may distract the staff at check in adequately enough to let me by… it had indeed worked. However, Rome Fiumicino airport is huge and I have lost many a bag here. So in Piraeus this week, along with having an AMAZING lunch at Bardolini’s (see pics) I had bought a cheap wheelie trolley bag so I could pack some things for the upcoming cruise should my luggage go AWOL as on occasion, as you well know, it is want to do.
So today I was super hyper prepared. I checked out of my cabin early so the incoming entertainer who I knew was performing that night, could get into her room as soon as she arrived. I had packed a small side bag of things I needed so I could shower in the onboard spa after a leisurely hour or so in the sun on deck… I had washed and blow-dried my hair and applied a full face of slap. This whole new super organised me had planned to try and grab dinner with a friend tonight so my advance preparation was all part and parcel of my plan to maximise my time with him in Venice.
I had even done laundry.
I paid my bill at reception and after a rather lengthy conversation with someone at Guest Relations, regaling all his travel misdemeanours to me, I was off.
I had left plenty of time and I made my way with my bags to the taxi rank in the port.
“The airport please” I asked the closest taxi driver who was desperately trying to sell a tour to Pompeii to the passers by
He looked at me blankly.
“The airport please. I need a taxi. How much to the airport?”
“Fifty Euros” he barked
“No No” I replied. I know its only thirty euro’s tops to the airport and expected him to counter with a better offer.
“There. Get the bus. Five Euro” and he pointed towards the red and white rumbling engine to my right.
Fair enough I thought. I am not paying Fifty Euros for a ten minute cab ride. Though the company reimburse us for the transfer costs, it was a matter of principle to me. As a woman travelling on my own I am frequently ripped off by taxi drivers but for my own safety I often have to renage and go with it. But this is Italy and I know where the airport is. The driver even dismounted the bus, smiled at me warmly and loaded my luggage for me onto the waiting vehicle.
I sat there smugly, and as the bus departed at half capacity I looked out of the window and smiled. I like this new ‘Super Organised Me’, I thought. I’ve never been disorganised per say, you can’t really be in my line of work. I have flights to catch, connections to make, and I have started another business in this past year, finding and developing acts for cruise lines. With all of that and all that comes with it… starting a Limited Company, filing taxes, and just generally needing to run my life alongside what have effectively now become two full time jobs, I feel a little like Clark Kent at times… running into a compact space to change into my alter ego… but in my instance its most likely an aeroplane bathroom.
My luggage shot across the bus as I quickly began to realise that it matters not what size of vehicle you are the purveyor of in Naples, the drivers are all as crazy as each other.
I lunged for my bag and stumbled off the seat… the whole bus looked at me as if to say “silly tourist”
I looked back with my very best “actually… I am a professional traveller” demeanour. No one was looking. No one was bothered. After taking corners like a rally driver and desperately trying to cling on to my two cases and my dignity we stopped in ‘Piazza Garibaldi” in the Centre of Naples itself where a line of 35,000 passengers were waiting to board the fun bus.
A quick glance to my left and I saw that this was indeed a part of Naples i had yet to see. I made a mental note I must not just eat my own body weight in pizza the next time I’m in town but instead make an effort to return here. A glance to my right informed me I should not really attempt to do it by bus. As the passengers eased and squeezed themselves and their luggage aboard i felt a little uneasy. Not because of the heat, or the crowd or even the perilous half-lunge pose I was having to perpetuate to keep a hold on my belongings…something just didn’t feel right.
As the bus hurtled its way through the streets of the city, paying little to no heed to oncoming traffic, the right of way or the need for its passengers to remain vertical, I started to feel anxious.
Something isn’t right.
Something feels off.
I ran through the events of the day, trying to reassure myself that new, ‘Super Organised Me’ had if anything, over achieved today and the there was nothing to worry about.
And as the movie in my mind ran through the chronological happenings of the day and paused unexpectedly at the guest relations desk where I had paid my bill and listened to the eon’s of travel stories, it struck me.
I don’t have my passport.
I HAVE FORGOTTEN MY PASSPORT!!!
Like most people, the initial instinct was to panic.
The second thought was, well I have two passports, I’ll be OK. I am indeed allowed to hold two UK passports as regularly I need to submit one for visas.
Then I realised that because of the lack of hand luggage allowance on my outbound flight I had left my other travel wallet at home and thus the passport. For the first time ever.
I felt hot.
I knew however, that time was on my side. New ‘Super Organised Me’ had left for the airport 4 hours before the domestic flight, and pending me being able to contact someone onboard for help, I would be ok.
I alighted the bus and deliberately held my cool as I assertively pushed my face through the window of a taxi that still had a passenger in the back seat.
“Help me, help me… emergency” I blurted.
Ok, so not so cool then.
“Lady! Lady!” the driver gesticulated…fingers to thumbs, pinching motion… shaking his hands.. just SO italian… like… we were in movie about to embark on a high speed chase.
“I have left my passport on the Cruise Ship….” etc etc. And I regaled my torrid turn of events.
“You do NOT need to worry lady.” he retorted. “I have got this”
And off we smoked into the distance… the bus journey seeming like a stroll in a perambulator by relative comparison.
I swung around the back seat, trying to charge my waining phone battery with my laptop and desperately attempting to contact anyone on the ship I had a means of communicating with.
To be fair, if i was in Naples today I would also not be on the ship awaiting my communications… I would be where they were.
Eating a whole lotta pizza
I had to make a decision. The likelihood is I would now have to hurtle myself up the stairs, through the terminal building, grovel my way past two sets of security and bag checks before flinging myself down the stairs to Guest Relations to beg for my passport back. Could I legitimately do that with two suitcases and an oversized ten tonne handbag?? NO.
I asked the driver if he would wait for me.
“I will pay you. I will pay you!!!” I gasped. “Please can you wait for me??”
“Lady!” he retorted. “Why are you worrying? I said I got this. You go. Don’t worry. And I will drive you like the fast and the furious”
If THAT was not the fast and the furious, what the heck WAS the fast and the furious? I had no time to contemplate and I did something I have ever done before. I left my suitcases in the back of a waiting taxi and legged it for the ship.
I did however take my ten tonne handbag with me, my thinking being that if my driver had a penchant for ladies fashion and skidaddled with my belongings, at least I could still make a living with my sheet music.
Security were great. They did everything they could to help me, though understandably, procedures have to be adhered to and i came careering down the gangway and towards security as fast as my minisicule legs could carry me.
Earlier this week I pulled a muscle in my calf walking into Piraeus. the day before I had walked down the 580 steps in Santorini from the town of Fira to the tender boat port and it’d been a little testing on me as I am not particularly used to wearing flats. Those of you who have seen my show will know, I’m used to running down the stairs, not really walking. I was feeling a little stiff on my walk in Greece but all I did was turn sharply and something went ‘ow’ in my leg. Convinced I would walk it off I thought nothing of it.
Today however, said calf strain has decided it is not playing ball with me running up and down flights of stairs with my ten tonne handbag trying to rescue my abandoned documents. Imagine me, fringe now stuck to my face, bright red, giant bag on my shoulder shouting “oooo ow ooo ow” as I ascended the stairs like an awful Benny Hill tribute.
Passport in hand I headed back to my waiting cab where my knight in shining Ray bans was waiting for me.
“Lady! Don’t worry. I will save you!” and we screeched out of the car park like Batman and Robin if they travelled in a sensibly priced saloon.
As we pulled into the airport, with more than enough time to spare, the driver glanced at me though his rear view mirror.
“See lady! I said I would save you.”
“Yes my dear,” I exclaimed “ You are indeed my hero”
He grinned from ear to ear.
“Today lady, I am your angel”
“Indeed yes” I concurred, thinking about what a good blog this would make.
“What is your name?” I asked him.
“Gabriel” He answered, and winked at me.
The angel gabriel
Course it is.
Unfortunately, a couple of weeks ago, “Trusty Goes Everywhere With Me Backpack” had to be permanently laid to rest after an unfortunate series of events at Manchester Airport.
Twas another day, much like the above, where I had arrived comfortably early for my flight and managed to chat my way out of an excess luggage charge at check in.
My bags are all too frequently taken off the belt in security as they are often too tightly packed and on this occasion I had taken precautionary measures to avoid this and separated my belongings a little.
Murphy’s law, my bag was chosen for a ‘random search’. Whilst being routinely swabbed by the security staff, and after several other senior member of staff had been ushered over to inspect the sample, it was revealed to me that my bag had tested positive for explosives.
Mortified, I was taken to one side, questioned and searched.
Where was I going? Where had I been that day? Why was I travelling alone? What had I been up to?
I told them I had given my bathroom a good bleach and maybe that could account for the chemical traces on my bag.
It transpired that the hairbrush in my bag, which was indeed the vehicle of transportation for some of my newly dyed follicles was the culprit as apparently hair dye has some of the same components as explosive materials.
I always knew my hair had a tendency towards the dramatic, but this took it to the next level.
At this point I explained that as the music in my bag may well demonstrate, singing power ballads to pensioners does not indeed make me a terror threat and after effectively apologising for having stubborn greys, I headed off on my way.
On my return from this trip I felt it best to dispose of my contaminated bag for fear that I might trigger a series of unfortunate events forthwith, and I therefore dedicate this blog to the memory of my trusted travel accomplice, sacrificed in his prime through no fault of his own. May he find fulfilment with other discarded backpacks wherever he may now be.