Monday, October 01, 2012

Is it better to travel hopefully?

It's been said that “it is better to travel hopefully than to arrive”. I don't know who said it and my Internet connection is intermittent so you, Dear Reader, will have to look it up. I would just comment that hopeful travel is a wonderful way to see the world.

We started by driving to our normal parking place near Heathrow, IBM. On arrival, we found that we were not allowed to park there anymore. Really - I have no idea why Colleen continues to work for Big Blue. There were dozens, if not hundreds, of empty IBM parking spaces but no room at the inn for one more.

“Never mind”, said the taxi driver, “I will show you where to park”. So we followed him to the spaces allocated to Lindt where he said we could park without worry. We have spent the holiday repaying Lindt for the parking by purchasing their chocolate. We got off lightly. We might have ended up paying IBM for using their parking by buying a mainframe.

The short taxi drive to the airport was largely taken up with a rant from the otherwise friendly driver. He had just pointed out the terminal set aside for Olympic athletes and I remarked “That must have been good business for you.”

Big mistake.

We then were treated to a fulmination about how a fleet of BMW cars had been imported for the Olympics to ferry around the VIPs. “Olympics being held in Britain but they couldn’t used British cars”, he fumed. “Nor do the police”.

I wondered about the police traveling about in Caterhams, or the Olympic dignitaries being squeezed into TVRs. (If you are not British, Dear Reader, look them up. As I wrote earlier, I have no Internet connection as I type this one handed beside an achingly gorgeous Italian mountain stream.)

In either a Caterham or TVR you would be traveling hopefully. You might not arrive, though.

As we debussed from the taxi, I noticed it was an Audi, made by that good old fashioned British company, Volkswagen.

The flight to Milan was nothing. Up, down, arrive late. I hoped not too late to catch our train to Colico. My case came out quickly. I hoped Colleen’s would, too. It didn't.

I hoped we would find the station and be able to buy the tickets quickly. We found the station, but the ticket office was closed and the ticket machine, having offered us the choice of English, kept reverting to incomprehensible Italian. (As an aside, may I point out that most Italian is extremely easy? As I write this, having moved on from the stream to the main piazza in Chiavenna, there is a sign in front of me saying “Banca Popolare di Sondrio. I guess - and I bet I am right - that's the People's Bank of Sondrio.)

I digress. Back to the station at Milan's Malpensa airport. At this point we noticed that the ticket office was, after all, open. We managed to buy the tickets just as the train left. It trundled off into the tunnel as the ink was still damp on the tickets.

I hoped the next train would come soon.

An hour later it arrived, gleaming, clean, modern and everything you would hope for but seldom find in a British train. For a moment I wondered if we had landed in Switzerland.

As we moved into open countryside, the rain came bucketing down. Over the years I have become used to British rain: rain which perhaps may begin falling hard as it leaves the cloud but, somewhere on the way down, becomes dispirited and by the time it reaches ground level has more or less given up. It makes you wet the same way that those little towels they hand out just after take off on intercontinental flights make you wet: there is the instantaneous sensation of something damp which is gone before you have a chance to really take it in.

This was Italian rain. It came down on you as if being chased by hordes of mafia under the orders of the local Don whose daughter you had ruined. It was torrential, exploding out of the black night and machine gunning the train windows.

I hoped it would finish before we arrived.

As the train pulled into Colico, the storm reached a new intensity. Machine gun rain was replaced by a fire hose.

I hoped the platform was covered.

The platform was open to the elements. Well, possibly not all the elements. I noticed an absence of fire and earth, but there was a goodly supply of air and any space left over was amply made up for by water. Those melting polar caps you keep hearing about? They were precipitating on Colico.

We sprinted for cover. There, wearing a shirt, shorts, sandals and a smile, was Giulio, co-owner of our B&B. His car was parked, illegally I suspect, a few metres from the platform. He was everything your prejudices lead you to expect of an Italian man: cheerful, voluble, good looking. 

Ten minutes later we pulled up at the B&B. The room was marvelous - a small lounge, bathroom, kitchenette and bedroom, all done out in wood.

Two glasses of wine were laid out on the lounge table.

I had travelled hopefully, but has been cruelly disappointed. I arrived with delight.

What was the rest of the week to bring?

1 comment:

Stephen Parker said...

“It is better to travel hopefully than to arrive” is a wonderful thought if you are crossing a civilised continent on horseback but a pretty awful one at 40,000 feet in a jumbo jet.