On the 13th of February my brother and sister-in-law welcomed their son (my nephew!) into the world, so obviously I had to go and meet the little one!
The last time I remembered flying from Malpensa airport was in 2010, to Dusseldorf to then go onward by train to Luxemburg. Try as I might I couldn't remember a flight after that, so maybe it really had been nearly six years since I'd flown from a Milanese airport other than Linate - and I'd forgotten just how much of a trek it was!
I live around 10 minutes by car from Linate, so I firstly had to get into Milano Centrale to get the Malpensa Express. With a heavy case and heavy rain, this first part of the journey involved a bus and then a regional train, before even getting on the airport train. All in all it was around an hour and a half door to airport, including a mad dash at Centrale to get the Malpensa Express! I was exhausted by the time I got to the airport!
Two check-in desks which were a little hidden away in a corner (a gtheme that continued with the deserted gate) didn't open until very nearly two hours before the flight was due to depart, and there was quite a queue by that time. I got checked in around 12, which only left me 50 minutes until boarding - so much for my idea of having one of Rossopomodoro's kickass pizzas for lunch!
Waiting for the gate to be announced I had a horrible flashback to nearly a year before, waiting for my delayed flight to Amsterdam at Cardiff airport.
Gate info 12.15
Gate info 12.20
Gate info 12.25
Gate info 12.30
High winds had been forecast for that day, and it had been raining heavily since the early hours of the morning. I started fearing the worst. But at 12.28 (you better believe I was clock watching!) the gate was announced, and with only 22 minutes until boarding I marched straight over.
Gates B18-23 at Malpensa have a strange structure. The actual gates are on the ground floor, with only a few seats, but there's a large waiting room on the first floor. When I got there the room was completely empty, and there was no bar or restaurant to be seen, only a couple of vending machines (poor Malpensa, very poor). My stomach was protesting at the lack of food, but with not enough time to go wandering around looking for something to eat, I decided to sit tight.
Boarding was late (of course, Italy), and there was trouble with the bus that should have taken us to the plane. One of the doors wouldn't shut properly, and much to the exasperation of the passengers the driver kept opening and closing the door to try and get it to shut properly. Open and close. Open and close. Open and close. But there was nothing to be done, so we got off that pus (still in the rain, I might add) to get on another.
The plane was the dinkiest one I'd ever seen! Two rows across of two seats each. It wasn't quite full, and the seat next to mine was empty - result! That meant I could spread out when I had my picnic! I'm very stingy when it comes to buying food on planes or trains (I didn't even buy anything on the TGV when I went to Paris!) but I was just so hungry after not having anything since breakfast, I wolfed down my cheese and pickle sandwich and salt and vinegar crisps in record time!
We were around 20 minutes late arriving in Cardiff, and as I got off the plane I felt a bit lost, as if I had missed a step somewhere in my journey, as the only time I'd ever previously arrived in Cardiff was off a flight from Amsterdam. I was greeted my my mam and my brother, and the first thing I had to do was meet my tiny little nephew! He was sleeping when we arrived at the house, but eventually he woke up and I got lots of baby cuddles!
Monday and Tuesday mostly followed the same wonderfully relaxed pattern - shopping and coffee breaks! - with another visit to my nephew on the Tuesday. On Monday evening me and my mam pretty much collapsed in front of the TV, watching quizzes and interesting shows. I think I watched more TV during the week than I do in about a year in Italy! It was such a refreshing change.
On Wednesday we went to Cardiff for the day. I hasn't been to the capital for the best part of 10 years, but my mam had visited a few times in the years that I'd been in Italy. So many shops! I managed to go to Primark without going too crazy, but I nabbed a few things for spring and a pair of their very comfy jeans. We had some delicious noodles before catching the train back, it was so nice to have something different!
It was snowing Thursday morning! It didn't settle, but after such a mild winter in Milan I couldn't believe I was seeing snow in March! I had a catch-up with my best friend, and met her youngest son, who is very busy little boy! We had lunch at a bowling centre she knew (why wasn't there anything like that around when I was growing up??), some very nice jacket potatoes and a cheeky piece of chocolate cake. I was also very pleased to see an old colleague from my time as a sales assistant in 6th form and university later on in the day. And of course, there was another coffee break!
On Friday we had lunch with one of my aunts at a golf club & spa near her house. The veggie options for me were a bit limited, but I had a delicious carrot and corriander soup, and polished off the chips we had to share between us. We also had another walk around the shops - more chocolate from the pound shop!
Saturday was the quietest day of the week, when we went for a late pub lunch with my brother's family. My little nephew was very quiet during the meal, his big eyes observing his new surroundings.
My alarm was set at 5.30am on Sunday, as my flight was at 9.55am from Cardiff airport. Or was supposed to be at 9.55am, I should say. I walked up the stairs from check-in to see a delay pop up on the screen - 10.50am. I wasn't a fan of Flybe's check-in process, the bag drop was unmanned and you even had to put the tag on your hold luggage yourself! Excessive. Fighting tiredness I had a massive cappuccino which was calling itself small (identity crisis much??) before settling in for the wait, surrounded by a gaggle of kids on a trip. With two flights now scheduled to leave within less than half an hour of each other I'd never seen departures at the small airport so full!
The flight was a nightmare. The gaggle of kids I was so hoping were on the Amsterdam flight were on the Milan one. I was surrounded by what I could only define as privileged boarding school brats. My seat was kicked, pushed, punched, and knocked the whole way. It was chaos. What infuriated me the most were the teachers in the back row of the plane just chilling and not controlling the children. I was ready to slap each one of the spoiled little stronzi upside the head when we landed at Malpensa, an hour late.
A very friendly and intelligent signore kept me company on the Malpensa Express back into Milano Centrale. I was sorry I couldn't contribute more to the conversation, between my exhaustion (aggravated by not having a moment's rest on the plane) and having to pick up my Italian after a week of pretty much only using it to message friends.
After thinking about it for a while during my journey back, I splashed out on a taxi to get me home as soon as possible. The driver was quiet (and rather grumpy) to make a change from all the chatter I'd heard during the day.
Just over nine long hours after leaving my mam's house in Wales I was back in my flat in Milan, ready to go straight to sleep!