Sunday, July 05, 2009

Bruges to Venice July 4, 2009

While you have been parading, barbecuing, and watching fireworks as the US celebrates another Independence Day, Peter and I flew from Belgium to Italy to start the second part of our trip.

Today was a real comedy of errors. Everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. And yet, for all that, everything worked out in the end, as these things tend to do, no matter how much we obsess over them.

The first problem cropped up last night. For some reason I thought to look at my contacts for the rental agent in Venice and discovered that the telephone numbers had disappeared. The address, note on the vaparetto stop, email, were al there, but the telephone numbers she had sent me were gone. I sent some frantic emails. But it was 9 pm on Friday night. And I had no idea whether I woul d have internet access today. As it happened, I didn't. However, I had printed out the rental information, which a phone number that was different but might work, so I put that one in my phone and hoped it would be ok. This was a portent of things to come.

Today actually started out well considering that I hadn't been able to sleep and finally got up at 4:30 am. Since we left so early we weren't able to have breakfast but we figured we would have time at the airport after we checked in for our flight. As usual we were ready early and, to our surprise, the Bruges taxi was already waiting so we got to the train station early (the buses don't run that early in the morning). WE SHOULD HAVE TAKEN THE EARLY TRAIN THAT CHANGED AT BRUSSELS SOUTH. Then we would have had more time to deal with the potential disaster that, unbeknowst to us, loomed ahead. But the ticket agent, when we arrived in Brussels, had told us that the train we were taking meant we didn't have to change at all. We could go straight through to the airport. Wrong. We found out that we changed at Brussels North, an easy change on the same platform but a change nevertheless. So that turned out ok, except that the train was running slightly late. We went up to departures and entered the melee of Brussels Airport. People pushing, shoving, yelling, running all over, and to our dismay, no sign of Ryan Air. Peter pushed his way to the Delta counter to ask where we could find Ryan Air. And that's when we discovered that Brussels Airport and Charleroi are not one and the same. Those of you who know that are probably laughing at this point. We weren't. The man at the information desk told us that if we got a taxi, wemight just make our flight. Taxis were, as the English say, thin on the ground, and they really just want to take people to hotels. But I persuaded a taxi driver to take us, mostly by saying Charleroi over and over in a pleading voice. It was an expensive trip.

An interesting aside here (at least to language buffs), Dutch speakers in Belgium usually speak Dutch, French and English and all of them well. French speakers speak French and not much else. So our driver's English was minimal and panic was not increasing our fluency in French. However, our driver obviously had had some ambitions to be a Grand Prix or Formula One driver at one time because he got us there in record time. We checked in and were ready to board on time as he told us when we ended our rather wild ride. I even had time to buy a croissant for Peter and coffee for me on my way to the gate. Then, of course, we baorded late and took off late. STill we were able to buy more or less edible stuff on the plane and we got in more or less on time, which a recording over the plane's intercom tells you with a flourish of trumpets.

We got our luggage, took the bus to Venice, bought our mnonthly passes or theIMOB cards that we had thoughtfully purchased when we lived in Venice for five weeks last summer (they are good for three years and we can ride the water buses unlimited times for 28 euros each), called the apartment agent, and met her at San Tomà after a ride on the very slow vaporetto no. 1. So life seemed good again.

Our apartment is small with a kitchen that is about as incovenient as the one last year without the redeeming feature of a big bedroom since the living room is the bedroom. Last year the living room was the kitchen or rather the kitchen and dining room were in the living room. However it is on the ground floor in a good location on the Campo San Tomà near the Frari church. Too bad I am not doing research at teh Archivio di Stato since I am practically on the doorstep.

We have had the usual problems of finding enough outlets and one of them doesn't work. We still have the challenge of figuring out how to set up the CPAP machines tonight. When we went grocery shopping at BILLA, Peter couldn't find his debit card, which caused some panic. I paid and eventually his card turned up. So no frantic calls to the Credit Union in our future with canceled cards. We asked the agent about where we could find the closest Bancomat and Internet point. She gave us some directions. We did find a Bancomat but not an Internet point although we found a Punto grocery that we may try. And we have mosquito bites from leaving our windows open in Bruges when it was hot. Europeans don't believe in screens. So we both have large welts and we itch. The pharmacies won't be open until Monday. These are all the usual travel things.

The final glitch, we thought, was that we coldn't figure out how to open up the sofa bed. In the end we had to have the agent back to show how to do it. Instead of pulling it out from the inside like most beds, you pull it over from the back of the couch. It is hard to explain and we would never have figured it out on our own. She also had to leave us her lighter. We have a gas stove and there were no matches and it does not have an automatic starter. Not being smokers, we didn't have a lighter and it was too late to get one.

The final disaster happened at the end of the evening when Peter discovered that we have no hot water. I have sent her a text message but I had to go outside to do it since the phones don't work inside the apartment. We can't usually get a signal there. I hope that we can get it fixed on a Sunday.

So far most of our problems seem to be working themselves out. With all this stress, all these potential disasters, all these lucky saves (and help along the way) have we learned to relax, let things go, assume that everything will work out? Probably not. I think worrying is in our genes, even when our hot water problem gets fixed.

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