Return to Trieste - WEEK 1

DAY 1 Saturday 21 May 2005

A fine Saturday morning in Auckland, no rain about (that's unusual). I was woken early by my father repacking his bag. Like many family groups on this trip this will be the first time for many years that I have shared such close living quarters with a parent, and for some this will become a real test of patience. Fourteen nights in foreign hotel rooms lie ahead, with little prospect of escape.

Breakfast and an opportunity to meet some of the tour group, including Greg and Sel Evans and Ruth Sullivan, the indomitable Tour Leader. Breakfast was also the time to collect complimentary tour bag, sleeveless jacket and white sunhat. I had not expected these but found room in my ever-expanding bag. The travel bag would come in handy later, but the jacket was never required in the 30C plus temperatures of Italy, The hat however became a trademark of the group and could be spotted hundreds of metres away.

We survived the bus trip to the airport, the long wait to deposit luggage, and the wait for the boarding call. Finally we were through to the Departure Lounge and for the first time you could see what a large group of 150 people we had become.

Is that the Exit - there is still time to escape...
Waiting patiently at the departure lounge, Auckland


Long-haul international flights are boring, BORING...........there is no simpler way to describe them. They are mind-numbing and play havoc with all your body systems. You eat at strange times (and yes, you eat strange food at strange times) and you sleep from exhaustion when you really should be active. Sydney Airport was a blur (40 minutes in the lounge and we were away again). But not far, as one of our party suffered a heart attack, forcing us to return to the Terminal. An hour later and we were off to Bangkok.


Our late arrival at Bangkok caused flow-on problems. We were changing planes so we were rushed to the new Departure Gate. However a group of 150 people, some in wheelchairs, some needing walking sticks, does not "rush" so we were even later. Then the Boarding Passes were not available. More searching, more debate with the airline staff, until finally we were handed a pass, anybody's pass and boarded.

The queue at Bangkok
And then the wait for boarding passes

Milan was still a long way off. . . .
On these flights you have to make your own entertainment, but sometimes the cabin crew inadvertently do it for you. On the Sydney-Bangkok flight we had seats right next to the Galley, only two seats in the row instead of three. This was a good position, we mused, but. . . .

on the first meal we found that towels and trays of drinks went from the galley forward, coming up behind us and disappearing before we could react. The food however was served the other way, from the front of the cabin back. That meant we could see it coming and had plenty of time to decide what to have. Only to be told that our choice of meal had run out, and you will HAVE to have the Nile Perch. Having seen the River Nile, my father would not touch the perch. The bottle of red wine ran out, our choice of dessert had gone, the teapot ran dry and was not refilled, and the bottle of cognac went past so fast we missed out.

Perhaps the next meal would be better (it was equally bad, again everything ran out), and so did the third and last meal on that flight. The entertainment was to decide just what would run out and how many rows ahead of us......... But not to worry, on the Bangkok-Milan flight we were in different seats. "Have faith.." my Father kept saying. I did, and sure enough our choice of breakfast was taken by the couple in the row ahead of us. I laughed. My father complained to the steward and two breakfasts arrived from the cabin in front of us. But not so the drinks or food for later meals. Overall we missed out on our choice for every meal, and on every flight the drinks ran dry a row ahead of us - even the cognac! Only occasionally were they replenished for our pleasure.

And so we arrived in Milan on a bright, fine and warm Sunday.

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Last updated: 16/09/2010