So... The last few day have been hectic and somewhat full-on to say the least.
I was wanting to sit down at the end of each day, with a beer or a glass of wine, and take some time out to update the blog - however given the events of the past few days, this was not possible.
I now find myself sitting in a villa in Tuscany on morning one, a cup of tea and a piece of toast at my side, looking out across an open field towards some bushland, writing about the events leading to this point.
Prepare for Depature
Early Wednesday evening we find ourselves arriving at Melbourne Airport to catch our flight from Melbourne to Dubai later that night.
At this point spirits are high, although there is some nervousness amongst the traveling group - especially those of us who are travelling with little ones for the first time - however we are well ahead of schedule so nothing can stop us now... Well except maybe a 1.5 hour wait to check in!!
Granted we are not 'regular' international travellers, but in the occasional adventures we have never encountered a check-in queue like this one before.
Rapidly we go from being 'comfortably on-time' to dancing ridiculously close to the line that results in missing a flight. Needless to say the significantly longer than expected check-in process upped the anxiety levels amongst the travelling group - and we still had to clear customs and get to the gate.
Luckily things flowed somewhat more 'smoothly' from that point. We got to the gate with (some) time to spare (they had started calling for us) and promptly took our seats.
The next 14hrs hours of flight is made up of brief naps, resettling our little ones - who were incredibly good throughout the flight - and putting the Wiggles on high repetition on the in-flight entertainment system when the little ones became unsettled.
Needless to say we all arrived safely in Dubai just slightly ahead of schedule.
Having come from the 'Antarctic vortex' that saw Melbourne temperatures avarage around 12c, Dubai was definatly a contrast with its 38c heat.
Arriving in at Duabi airport, we disembarked the plane and made our way to the arrivals hall - it was here we realised we had forgotten Tiger - Archies little teddy bear. We headed back to the plane where the staff were very helpful and assisted us in reuniting Archie with his little Tiger teddy.
This breif interlude had allowed the rest of the passengers to clear customs - meaning a very quick passage through customs ourselves.
A breif (air-conditioned) drive from the airport takes us to our hotel where we settled, had some breakfast and set out to explore the local area. We hired a driver from the hotel who helped to show us around more of Dubai. This was great until our (very tired) son decided he wanted to run to find mum - at which point he tripped on his own feet and face planted into the stone pavers.
A blood nose and a bloody mouth and a lot of tears meant this was the end of our excursions for the afternoon. We were initialy fearful Archie may have broken his front teeth - the blood made it very difficult to see what ws actually going on. By the time we arrived back at our hotel, the little guy was laughing and eating again - so we were confident that his teeth were ok.
The swimming pool was the next destination - and a welcome releif from the heat of the Dubai streets.
We all settled in for an early night as we were flying out early in the morning.
Dubai to Rome via London
Dubai is where our travelling group split up. Most of our family were travelling with Emerites and were able to fly direct from Dubai to Rome. Unfortunatly our ticket requried us to transit via London - which was going to make for a very long day.
The flight to London was fairly uneventful, and again Archie was amazing - we were now getting comments from nearby passengers about how good he had been.
London's Heathrow airport was busy to say the least - and a place I would like to avoid in future with an 18 month old (unfortunatly we will be back there before the trip is complete).
4 hours of doing nothing in Heathrow airport is truly about as exciting as it sounds. It makes the longhaul plane ride look great in comparison.
10 minutes before our boarding gate was to be announced all of the airport departure screens went out. This made for a more lively time - with everyone suddenly rushing the information desks in panic trying to find out what departure gate they needed to get to. We joined in the chaos and eventually found out what our next move was to be - Gate B32.
So off we went, and made it to the gate well ahead of time - given the flight was delayed... more waiting.
We eventually boarded our flight to Rome - with Archie sound asleep on my sholder... this is where tired little ones in an airport has it advantages - straight to the front of the line and first to board.
When in Rome - Wait
Archie slept the whole flight to Rome, and Laura had a few cat-naps. We arrived into Rome after 11pm. Our plane pulled up to the air bridge and there we waited a further 30min, as the tug had misaligned the plane with the aero-bridge and no one was able to get off - and the tug had to be recalled to relaign the plan.
After getting off the plane we cleared passport control easily and headed for the baggage area. Here we waited further. We collected most of our bags, but after further waiting, we soon realised we were not getting all of them. Our pram was missing, and so was a small backpack. Both were more comfort items rather than essential - but their loss was painful none the less. It was well after midnight by this time.
We headed for the lost baggage desk - only to find out that they could not help us and that we needed to speak directly with the airline desk... unfortunalty no-one was able to tell us where that was.
So at 12:30am we find ourselfs walking through the various terminals of Rome international airport in search of either someone who could help, or the airlines desk. We found neither - and after a very long day of travel and not much sleep we decided to just head for the hotel.
Our hotel was only a short drive from the airport - it should be simple to walk out the front of the airport and hail a cab - at least you would think... After a further 45min of walking between the various cab ranks, we eventually found where we were meant to be - unfortunatly there were no cabs around.
At this point it seemed nothing was going our way - including a call to the hotel for assistance. Apparently there is a 'local law' that prohibits the hotel from calling some very tired travellers with an 18 month old in tow, a cab at 1am.
Eventually, after some more waiting, a cab did appear and we made it to the hotel. Check-in was simple but at 2am - to discover that we didn't have a cot in the room (as requested in our booking) was pretty much the not-so-perfect end to a not-so-perfect day.
Grumpy, hot and tired we started to work on settling in for the evening to get some sleep. We stripped Archie off to get him ready to settle in for sleep - turning our back for a minute we hear a barely audible 'thud' - turning back around we see Archie has dropped a big poo in the middle of the floor. We looked at each other and all we could do was laugh. In one small action, our 18 month old had litterlly summed up our day - SHIT.
We cleaned up both Archie and the floor and headed to bed. 4 hours later we were re-united with our travelling group over breakfast.
Venturing out of the hotel a brave few of us headed back to the airport to try and track down our lost baggage. We recieved an email from the airline overnight indicating the pram had made it to London but thats where it stayed. Our backpack was still in Dubai.
Tracking down the airline lost baggage desk was no easier in the light of day than it was at midnight. We eventually found it and joined the queue at the makeshift tressel table in the back of the arrivals hall.
We decided to split up and start multi-tasking. Laura stayed at the lost property desk while I headed for the rental car office.
I could dedicate a whole blog post to the experience of renting a car at Rome airport. Not an experience I would like to repeat and would recommend against for anyone else travelling to Rome. It can only be described as pure chaos and I will keep it breif.
Getting to the car rental office at around 10:30am, I print a ticket which give me my place in the queue... Number 64 - they were currently serving 32. Not long to wait... like buggery!
I actually struggle to understand how it would even be possible to make the process of renting a car to take so long. People may not believe me if I say I did not leave the retal car office with key in hand until 1pm. It was truley insanity - and I really get the feeling this is 'normal'.
The Road to Tuscany
Arriving back to the hotel with our rental car, we met up with the rest of our family group and headed off toward Siena.
Driving in Italy for the first time was interesting to say the least - but we adapted pretty quickly, and the drive was actually reasonably straight forward down the autostrata.
We made it into Siena and picked up Mum from the train station. She piled into the other car (a 9 seater mini-van) and we headed out of Siena toward the Villa near Sovicille.
Pulling up at the Villa was exciting - and very picturesque - it was everything we had imagined it would be (pictures comming).
We unpacked and settled in for the evening - a breif swim helped relieve the heat of the afternoon. We dinned outside on a big long table with the family.
Let the holiday begin! Compared to the events of the past few days, the relaxing tranquility of the villa and surrounds is very enjoyable.