September and October, 2016
Another unfortunate experience flying to Australia but this time from Rome and with Emirates…
After last year’s episode with Cathay Pacific and adamant that I did not want to be on a plane for two consecutive nights ever again, I decided to book with Emirates. After all, this airline does have a great name, right?
Having booked with Fly365, receiving excellent service and support from Scott, I was ready to leave Italy.
Rome to Dubai
The service on Emirates is excellent and the food is really good. If it’s this good in Economy, imagine what it must be like in Business or 1st Class. Even had a Top Deck on this A380.
The alcohol flows freely and liqueurs are also on offer – even Baileys!
It’s the little touches that makes a long journey pleasant. The endless choices of movies. The food. Apart from the 3-course meal with accompanying bread, there’s cream cheese and biscuits, Melba mini Toasts with Peri Peri sauce, a dark chocolate morsel, even a little pack of 4 Tic-Tac mints, and real cutlery – all this served on your tray!
During the flight water and juices are handed out, as is ice cream. After all, it is important to keep yourself occupied on a long-haul flight and what better way is there to occupy oneself than with food?
This plane was serviced by 25 attendants and 17 different languages – amazing!
Although the plane was about a half-hour late taking off, we arrived at the massive and very modern Dubai Airport on time. Window shopped as I had over three hours to kill.
Only ever stopping here briefly in the past, this time I noticed that the Duty Free is no longer Duty Free. Everything is very expensive, unless you want trashy Chinese-made souvenirs.
Transit at Dubai Airport
We were ushered to another holding area for the flight and although we were supposed to board at 02:00am for a 02:45am take-off, an announcement came over advising: “due to technical issues, which we are trying to fix right now, we won’t be boarding until 03:15 am”. Damn! Do all my flights to Australia always have to be delayed?
Emirates advised that passengers could go back to the lounge – not a good sign.
I can’t seem to get the free wi-fi here. Managed to display the logon screen but the logon wants to charge me USD$7.95 for a 24-hour period.
I’m starting to fade now and my bloodshot eyes are hanging out of my head. I hope we board soon as there’s only 15 minutes left; we’ll see…
The saga started to unfold and was reminiscent, bringing back nightmares from the flight to Australia last year. We finally boarded at 3:30 am…a relief.
Short-lived as we sat on the plane. And waited until 4:30 am.
The technical issue, which was something to do with the hydraulics in the engine was now fixed and undergoing testing. We sat and waited some more, before the dreaded message blared over the speaker: “the plane was grounded as it did not pass testing – everyone would have to go to a hotel”.
Everyone was unloaded off the plane and ushered to the Emirates counter to pick up hotel and food vouchers.
With hundreds of people on the plane and a lot of hotels already booked, it was a long wait. Emirates had to split passengers up and shuttle people to different hotels. Passengers were first advised that the hotel was in the airport, then next to the airport, but ended up a ten-minute drive from the airport. Poor communication from the Emirates’ staff and everyone had to wait for available shuttle buses, which took ages.
Finally, I was in the rammed tiny shuttle bus with Dubai’s airport fading away into the distance like a mirage in the dessert, and onwards to the hotel. The real salt to the wounds and annoying thing is that as we left, we could see dozens of Emirates planes just sitting at the terminals!
As you can imagine, there is loads of sand here. Everything is built on sand, and it’s hot and dry. My camera battery died so no photos.
My bad luck during the last 2 times returning to Australia makes me think that I’m not supposed to return. I’m starting to feel knackered after being awake for over 28 hours and still have the 13-plus hour flight to Australia left.
Arriving at the Arabian Nights
Quite a nice hotel but think staff were stressed with all the grumpy passengers from the grounded flight.
Checking in with the hotel voucher produced a breakfast voucher in return. For some reason I received 2 separate vouchers. After a quick bite to eat from the impressive buffet breakfast, I finally entered my room at 7:30 am. Everything is provided in the room. Also very thick blackout curtains conducive to sleep. I could not sleep – overtired.
A long-needed hot shower then laid my weary head on the fluffy pillow. I laid horizontal for about 2 hours tossing and turning. Hard to sleep with doors slamming, people speaking loudly, and sounded as if a bunch of hungry wilder beast was approaching from the Serengeti!
Before leaving Dubai airport, Emirates advised: “passengers would get a wake-up call at 12:00 pm for a 12:20 pm return shuttle bus from hotels to the airport. Do not miss this shuttle bus”. This is the other reason I could not sleep.
After a very fast 15-minute buffet lunch, nearly missed the shuttle bus back to the airport.
Back to Dubai Airport
Another wait at the airport for the plane, dazed and sleepy.
An announcement of our flight delayed again came over the speaker. Sidewards’ glances amongst passengers…here we go again.
Luckily, the plane was only delayed for 15 minutes; not so bad. Are planes ever on time these days?
Boarded a little late but alas, we did take off, finally. I let out a small loud cheer to the amusement of my surrounding passengers. At last, we were on our 13-hour journey to The Land of Oz!
Excellent service on the Emirates flight. All was well with the world once more.
Overnight in Rome before flights to Australia
The Roma Termini train station appears to have grown somewhat since 2009. Although the old part still exists, there seems to be a lot of modern extensions added on.
Hotel Fiamma – 1st stay
Only about a 10-minute walk from the train station with big packs. Quite a large hotel. The room is clean albeit a little dated. Bar fridge, AC, and toiletries are provided. Breakfast is included in the €106/night double (expensive for this room). Don’t forget on check-out you will be charged €4/person Tourist Tax, which is different to City Tax. Reception staff are friendly however, the breakfast staff are quite miserable. The breakfast (07:30-09:30) is buffet style with a selection of fruit, breads, cheeses, meets, tea, coffee, juice, yoghurt, and cereals.
Hotel Fiamma 2nd stay – return from Australia
Stayed here again on returning to Italy from Australia but this time we had room 501; strange as the lift only went to the fourth floor…could be interesting.
Once out of the lift and turning the corner, a steep narrow staircase led to a door: 501. The staircase was so narrow it reminded me of Anne Frank’s hideout!
Trudging our heavy packs up the narrow rickety staircase, I thought I would put my foot through a tread.
The room was rundown compared to the previous room.
The air-conditioner did not work on heating, the radiator and hairdryer were broken, paint was peeling off the walls, and the room needed a major vamp up. There was a small bar fridge for our water, crispy clean sheets, plenty of extra pillows and blankets, hot water, and an extra bed…so all was not lost.
This room felt almost like an afterthought, an outhouse.
Don’t forget when checking out of a hotel in Rome, you will be hit with city tax of €4 per person per night, this adds up if you stay any length of time. You cannot evade this nice little sting on your way out the door.
- Walked to a nondescript restaurant near our hotel. The Cappuccino is €4.50, Espressos are €3, Primi Piatti €6+, Secondi €8+, pastries are also expensive. My Tortellini dish was tasteless and disappointing, especially for the price. All pasta dishes seem to be drenched in a white sauce.
- Café Colonna (Fumicino Airport) – On returning to Rome in mid-October, I had a 4-hour wait for my partner to arrive from the UK. Sat at arrivals for a wonderful Italian coffee (€1.50) and Panini with tomato and fresh Mozzarella (€4.50). What else do you do at arrivals? At least there’s an arrival board that is updated constantly in real-time. With nothing to do, the board can be mesmerising.
- Antico Caffe de Brasile (Via Serpenti, 23) – Serving Rome since 1908 it claims and very good prices, excellent coffee (€1.50), pastries (€1+), and great staff and service.
- Daruma Sushi (Via Di Serpenti) – Decided to try the Sushi place as not much Sushi in the south. The raw fish Sushi was good but a little pricey (€2+ for 2 tiny slithers), compared to Brisbane, which is still the cheapest and best in the world I have found so far. I haven’t been to Japan yet. Also had a carton of Fried Rice with egg (no meat) for €7 – not bad but think we have been spoilt in SE Asia for this type of food.
- In Coop – If you don’t want to pay Rome’s restaurant prices for not great food, then there’s quite a good supermarket in the train station. This supermarket is a little more expensive than other IperCoops in the country, but it is Rome.
Cheap transport to and from Fumicino Airport
Walk to the back of the Rome Termini train station and you will stumble upon Via Marsala.
From here, buses run every hour to the airport and for €6/person, it is the cheapest way. The train is €14. An Airport shuttle from our hotel is €48 for 4 people, but if the hotel cannot muster four people together, you need to pay for the full fare.
Be at the bus stop 10 minutes before departure. You can buy tickets on the bus – seats are tight. The journey takes about 50 minutes and only picks-up once along the way.
The bus stops at Terminal 3. This is the spot to take the return bus back to the train station, which runs every 15-20 minutes from the airport and stops twice. On returning to Rome, this trip took 1.5 hours as it was during peak-hour traffic.
Returning to Cosenza with Trenitalia
I have to say, not only was booking the Trenitalia tickets from Rome to Cosenza (Calabria), easy to do online from Australia, but the very comfortable train actually arrived on time. This is the same train as coming up from Cosenza over 5 weeks’ ago. The 09:26 am train (€50) left right on the dot and not too crowded yet. I’m sure it will fill up quickly.
And as the train glides its way smoothly down to the deep south, the ever-changing landscape gets better and less congested…like being swallowed up into the last frontier (exaggerating a tad).
Arrived at the change-over station of Paola again but the train was to be 10 minutes late…no big deal really, as time is on our side. The connecting train to Cosenza (€2.40) is on an older train and a slightly smelly one at that. It is only about 20 minutes to Cosenza, so a very short trip indeed.
Great to be back!
It is great to be back in Italy.
Hearing the passionate language, seeing the local hand gestures, smelling the wonderful aromas of homemade pasta, pizza, sweet pastries, and espressos; but also the whole vibe of this country, makes it very welcoming.
Here starts another chapter in Italy.
I hope this chapter is a fruitful one as I really can’t wait to explore more of Italy but also, absorbing the culture more by living here. Searching for our own apartment is the next cool job on the list this week.