The “April Fools!” joke was on me—my plans were in shambles

After so many trips here, I have a good idea of how to “roll with the punches” that come with several plane changes and unexpected delays, and I did some advance planning to get myself from my arrival in Florence directly (by train) to Spello the same night. My friend, Anne, was in the hospital for some testing, and offered the help of her companion, Alain, to pick me up at the airport and bring me to her home for the first night, and then he would take me to the train station the next morning, and see me off to Spello. This was our regular routine, but I didn’t want to be an extra burden with Anne in the hospital, so I declined her offer. I was due to arrive two hours before the last train to Spello departed, and figured that I could easily get from the airport via shuttle bus, buy my train ticket, and arrive in Spello at 11 p.m. I had contacted Leonardo in advance, and he was planning on meeting me at the station at that hour, and bringing my bags and me (including the bags under my tired eyes) up the hill and to my house. All was arranged, bypassing a night in Florence this one time, and missing my normal visit with Anne.

The first challenge was the arrival of my plane from Los Angeles to Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris—a full hour behind schedule. The 90 minutes to change planes had become only 30 minutes, and I had to get from Terminal A to Terminal G. First, a train shuttle took me to Terminal E, next a dead run through the huge terminal on a sore foot that was not happy about the pace (not at all what I had expected, since the old, small airport I had visited in 2003 has been completely changed into a HUGE hub for Europe), and then a shuttle bus to Terminal G, and another dead run through the terminal. Outside security (Again? At each terminal?), the agent assured me that my plane was still boarding, but once I was through security and to the gate, the doors had been closed for take-off, leaving me both breathless and behind at the gate (staring at MY plane, right outside the window, beginning to back away). At the minimum, my luggage was catching up with me—and my bags would arrive in Florence at the same time that I did.

The desk agent at Air France was very apologetic about my missed flight, and gave me a voucher for a sandwich and drink at the bar nearby, then re-ticketed me for a flight two hours later—arriving at the same time the last train that day from Florence to Spello would be departing. With Leonardo expecting me in Spello later, I was in some big trouble with my plans, at that point.

I went to the bar with my voucher, and tried to convince the waitress that I would exchange my voucher for €25 for a single beer—but she would not serve me. She showed me all of my possible sandwich choices (including quiche), but I only wanted a beer—an impossible substitution, with the total financial advantage going to the bar. When I asked for a bottle of water and no sandwich, same reply—that would be impossible. Finally, a supervisor came by, and I got a bottle of water in exchange for the voucher (the most expensive bottle of water Air France has EVER purchased, perhaps), and two hours to sort out my sore foot, determine my plans for the night, and try to avoid spending the night in either an airport or a train station with my bags.

I was delighted to find out that my Italian cell phone (for an exorbitant price, of course) could connect me to Italian numbers, so I was able to call Alain and arrange for him to pick me up, as well as call Leonardo and let him know that I would not be arriving that night. Alain was waiting when my plane landed, and took me out for a wonderful pizza dinner before leaving me off at Anne’s house for the night. The next morning, he picked me up and drove me to the hospital for a great visit with Anne, and then later to the train station, so I was soon on my way to Spello—for my arrival on . . . April Fools Day. (No wonder. Duh.)

A later flight from Paris to Florence put me over the Alps as sunset

A window seat and clear skies for a great view

Stunning views, in the golden sunset light--a nice reward for my inconvenience

Leonardo was at the station to help me with my bags, and drove me up the hill to my place, where he helped me into my house and left me alone to collapse.

Soon, I was unpacking. Covering the table were all of the things I had carried for gifting to others, including microfiber tablecloths (Paola), Enzyme CoQ10 (Anne), graham cracker crumbs, baking powder and vanilla extract, and two books (Suzanna and Phil), nitrile garden gloves (Paola and Giorgia), a birthday gift from my friend, Cheryl (for Robespier) and ratchet pruning shears (for Signor Antonio, easier on his arthritic hands).

All things I brought, destined to be gifts for others

In addition, I had carried more things for the house: the metal canisters from my Grandmother Ryan’s home (a great memory from my childhood, always full of her cookies), more coffee filters for the “American” coffee maker, tools and gadgets for the kitchen and the barbeque, cork coasters, pistachio nuts, an ice bag for my swollen and throbbing foot, and a pack of the blue sponges I have not been able to find here—non-scratch, for my stove and pots.

"Gifts" for the house: coffee filters, sponges, ice bag, BBQ tools, garden seeds, coasters, measuring cups (better ones)

Cheryl's "Hot Italian" shirt for Robe (box nearly destroyed by the trip), and my Grandmother Ryan's cookie canisters

Soon, my bags were empty and ready to be stowed under the stairway (a secret storage compartment, and a real convenience), and I moved in.

Unpacked, moving the mess from inside the bags to scattered around every room of the house

It was not quite the arrival that I had expected, or a stress-free entry, but carrying my Italian phone with me saved the day when I missed my plane in Paris, allowing me to call ahead and change plans—AND not spend the night in an airport. I did arrive a day late, but also (thank goodness!) I missed the chance to kill the scorpion that Leonardo had found in the kitchen the day before, while checking on the house prior to my arrival. He spotted the unwelcome visitor in a corner, and removed the shattered corpse before I could ever see it. (WHEN will I get over my constant vigilance for the next scorpion in the house? Ever? And HOW are they getting into the house?)

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