(This is my second post on my journey through Italy The earlier post outlined the planning for the three-week trip through Italy )
At last we were ready to execute our well laid out plans with tickets and a Schengen Visa in hand. As we would be out for three weeks the only packing tip to note was that you should be able to wheel along your bag and baggage by yourself (no matter what size) across lobbies, platforms and travelators. Besides many hotels do not have elevators. While some porter support can be sourced it is not advisable on grounds of cost and often not available.
Emirates Business class is a “not to miss experience” , my son advised and so Emirates it was. We had to suppress our pangs of national loyalty towards our very own Maharaja even though the fares were substantially cheaper – My wife forced the issue after reading about recent incidents of bedbugs and fleas In Air india Biz class and the never ending problems of the Dreamliners.
The web site of Emirates is exceptionally user friendly and we were aware of the wines on offer and the menu on our flights to Rome a week before we left . Gave us time to figure out the wine list and with suggestions from my son Jayant opted for a Champagne Cocktail. I shall post the recipe some other time. Malati had a Tomato juice !! My wife, Malati is a vegetarian and we booked a special meal for her – See the picture alongside. This picture was taken specially for Jayant who had given us numerous wining and dining suggestions for our Italy trip. A near empty flight saw us in Dubai without much of a hassle.
Dubai Airport strikes you by the immense size of the airport- We only saw one – Terminal A. The airport staff is nearly all Indian and one feels like home except I wonder how a trip across the Arabian sea makes them so customer friendly. We could do with a lot more of that attitude back home in India. We had a stop over of a few hours and we set out to see the much touted Duty Free shopping – It is pretty much the same thing repeated over and over again like all international airports -Liquor, chocolates, perfumes, electronics, some luxury brands and in Dubai- gold shops. A larger shopping area does not imply newer and different goods – it just means the same items get repeated over and over again.
We headed then to the lounge after struggling with the lift buttons – They were on a pillar by the side of the door and we were pressing the display light as we do in India.
– Apart from the sheer size of the lounge and a variety of food and drink what really warmed my heart was the smoking lounge. A smoker myself I have been treated as a pariah in India – In my office in Mumbai I had to walk out of the premises, at home my wife has laid down stricter rules – A corner in the balcony only when the wind direction is right, and No Smoking in public areas . Even the airlines have banned smoking. I remember the good old days when I could smoke on an aircraft, then was relegated to a smoking zone and then was finally banned But here in Dubai I was given all the respect that a smoker deserves and was ushered into a smoking lounge (see the picture alongside) complete with a choice of cigars, an ashtray and coffee served on the table with a mouth freshener as a farewell. Don’t miss the size of the lounge ! And finally goodbye to carrying lighters in checked in baggage. Any where except in India one Cigarette lighter is permitted to be carried on board an aircraft in cabin baggage or person.
From the lounge we boarded the aircraft directly and reached Roma after an uneventful flight More wines and more great food and a good movie to watch.
Passport control at Rome was disorganized and we took nearly an hour to get through with an illegible endorsement on the Visa-Rome still has semi automatic systems unlike our own world class immigration counters at Mumbai, Delhi and even Hyderabad – Never mind the Mallyas and the Choksis! Headed out with our bags and were transported to the Hotel in an S class Mercedes courtesy Emirates. We covered the distance of about 30 kms in less than 15 mins and hit the bed at a decent hour ready to conquer the tourist spots of Italy next day onward.
One of the drawbacks of traveling with “only” your wife is that one has to make do with solo pictures like this one or take selfies – Although we made several attempts at selfies one or the other vetoed the photo on grounds of striking resemblance to our Aadhaar card selves ! Hence there are very few joint photographs of us on the trip !