- July 2012
One Hundred And Five Different Pizzas
At last, a civilised schedule!
Although I always get up early at home (between 06:00 and 07:00) to feed the cats and the chickens and let the sheep and the goats out, this morning I could take my time because I didn´t have to leave for the aiport until 11:30. I was a bit concerned about Volotea, the airline company I would be flying with but that was more out of unfamiliarity than anything else and anyway, more of that later.
I am on my way to Venice but I won´t be able to enjoy the sights ... I have to go from the airport there by road to Trieste which is where the concert is tomorrow night.
So ... I am sitting in seat 8C on a Boeing 717-200, the smallest plane Boeing makes. It looks a little like an old MD80 that has been left out in the rain and shrank! It seats 125 people and has a short range of 4-6 hours when empty and 1.5 hours when full. And it was very comfortable. The cabin staff were pleasant and professional and there was an unusual buzz around the plane because there were so many young Spanish couples headed to Venice on honeymoon. The city of Venice has such a deep history and such a mystique that it pretty much markets itself just by name and reputation and I was to experience a slightly less romantic example of that on my way home.
But I am jumping ahead again ...
Volotea Airlines is based in Barcelona and got it´s name from the Spanish verb "volotear" which means to fly, but more in the manner of a butterfly than an aeroplane. That verb is "volar". Or something like that. The name is directly inspired by a poem by Spanish poet Antonio Machado that describes the flight of a butterfy ("mariposa"). I know all of this because I was grilling the cabin crew about it and they were kind enough to tolerate my inquisitiveness ... but I haven´t managed to find the poem yet and I really want to. As those of you who have seen, borrowed or bought Love & Other Mysteries will know, I have a little "thing" about butterflies. I really recommend this airline if you ever need short-haul travel in Southern Europe.
We flew over St. Tropez, Monaco, Bologna, Genoa and Verona on our way into Venice. That was cool but only one of those cities has an F1 race and Bologna´s only relevant because it´s not far from the Ferrari factory!
My bags and I arrived safe and sound (again!) and Alessandro and Daniele drove me to the hotel Milano in the centre of Trieste. As you come off the Autostrada into the outskirts of the city, the Adriatic Sea is on your right and it is a beautiful sight but, quite suddenly, the view changed with hundreds of people sun-bathing, almost on the side of the road. Alesandro explained to me that they do have cold winters there and don´t see a whole lot of sun and 33 degree temperatures, as it was today.
The hotel was central, small and quite old but I was happy to see an ash tray in my room and moved in quickly. I declined various offers to go out and decided to work a little, and then explore to find some dinner. I ended up on the terrace of a nice Pizzeria at the side of a canal and ordered safely. It is a shame to see trash in the waterways which are otherwise so beautiful, but that was nothing compared to the trash I was about to be exposed to at the table next to me when four students from various English speaking countries decided that I (and anyone else in earshot) needed to hear their loud cursing and detailed descriptions of their drunken black-outs and sexual adventures. The girls spoke proudly of getting trashed and somehow I found their foul language more offensive than I normally do. I am probably being a little old-fashioned here but that´s how I feel ... or felt at the time!
So ... a short stroll back to the hotel and bed.
All in all, not a bad day!
Breakfast was quick and healthy but not because I wanted it to be! This little 3-star hotel didn´t do cholesterol or carcinogens so I ate cereal and yogurt. I decided to add a healthy croissant ... with a mountain of butter on it! So there!!
At 12:30 I met Alessandro in the lobby and the band went to the venue to unload their gear. I went to the restaurant and ordered after again politely declining persistent and delightfully well-intended efforts for me to be accompanied. I don´t know why but sometimes people with better things to do feel they have to somehow protect me, but I actually enjoy being alone at times. That way I can watch the pretty Italian ladies flying around the square on their scooters (Italy really is a romantic country!) and feed the pigeons without fear of offending anyone.
If you love Pizza you would love this restaurant, though of course I can´t remember its name ... duh! They had 105 different Pizzas on the menu! 105!!! Maybe you have seen this before but I certainly haven´t. It was so confusing that I had to call Caca and get advice. She´s a Pizza expert but my ignorance wasn´t the only problem ... the biggest problem being that I simply don´t like Pizza! But, after phoning home I ordered something called "Esotica" and it really wasn´t bad. A bit of pineapple here, a raisin there ... The band and I went over the set list and prepared for sound check and then they went to set up while I went to Wonderworld.
Trieste is on the Italian Riviera and it is an extremely old city. The venue for tonight´s gig was a castle high up and overlooking the sea and the city. From where the stage was you couldn´t see any of that but you could hear the church bells that rang loudly in the key of D ... on the hour! Sound check was slow but relaxed so, by the time I got back to the hotel I found myself thankful that I had had my siesta earlier than usual. Just time to jump in the shower, briefly check out the Olympic celebrations in London and meet back in the lobby.
It took only 15 minutes to wind all the way up the hills to the castle, where the show was already under way. Before us was a band that I suppose was a so-called "prog" band. Lots of complicated time changes, mysterious chord progressions, a guy backstage making noises with a laptop computer ... But not a song in sight! All very clever but really, really boring.
It was so hot that I was sweating before I even got on stage. But it was a great show. The band played well, the girls sang beautifully and the audience was just fantastic! I was told that there was a curfew so I pulled one song but, after I thought we had to stop, the curfew was relaxed and we did our encores ... SOOOPER!
I met many new friends at the meet & greet and signed a LOT of stuff. To all of you who were there I say a big thank you. You made it really special. We had time for a few pictures back-stage and to grab a little food but I had to haul ass because I had an early start the next morning.
A great night and great memories.
I ma (now this is a typing error, caused by my fat fingers. I am leaving it because ... if you read it as it is, it sounds Italian and I was in Italy at the time) not sure how I feel about GPS systems! Let me just say that, by the time we actually left the city, we had seen all of Trieste at least three times! And you all know me ... I hate being lost and I hate being late! The sunbathers were back at 08:30 while we made good progress to Venice Airport (it´s called Marco Polo, in case you care).
I did see something weird though ... On the close entrance road to the airport, there were two guys begging in the traffic. Seeing people begging in traffic is not unusual at all these days, but both of these guys were missing their left arms!!
Maybe you don´t find this strange but I did.
Venice airport is tiny but, because of the global "pull" of the city 8which I referred to ealier) and its history, this tiny airport has to handle traffic from all over the world, including groups of tourists who are requred to follow someone through the terminal, even if that someone has no idea where they are going. It was a total ZOOOOOOOO!!! But my little Spanish airline, Vueling, had short lines and soon I was checked in with an hour to go. Security was a challenge but my Iberia Plus card got me through "fast track" and I even had time for a fag before heading to Barcelona.
Now things got complicated ... we were held by ATC (air traffic control) for a LONG time and I only had a short connection in Barcelona.
This is very frustrating!
These rubbish airlines (who will be out of business in a few years anyway) ask you for all of this extra money for check-in, extra bags, guitars, breathing, being allowed to speak to them, but they can´t get a flight in or out of an airport on time!
Well, I made it, but my bags didn´t so, after going through the usual procedure (along with a few other tormented souls) I made my way to the exit where my dear Monica was waiting with a huge smile.
Suddenly my world was okay again!! Again!