Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Extended Travel Report: Italian Holiday 2015 - Day 1

This is the unabridged version of my travel report to Italy. If you don't have time to spare, you can read the shorter version here.

So, I finally went to Europe for the first time last May. I chose Italy - more specifically Tuscany - for my first time, out of so many great options. Frankly, I can't tell you why. It just sort of had been beckoning me for a while and it felt right.

Anyway, for the flight I chose Turkish Airlines because the price was right and I only had to take one connecting flight. The second best option was Air France but it had 2 connecting flights - one in Abu Dhabi, another in Paris - each transfer was not more than 2 hours so they wouldn't have enough time for sightseeing in the city. The Turkish Airlines flight had a 10-hr layover in Istanbul on the return flight and I figured I could make use of the time to check out Istanbul.

Queuing to Check in
 We left Singapore in the wee hour on Monday and immediately we were served supper on board the plane. I thought that was weird but I didn't realize how hungry / thirsty I was until the meal had been served. We were served some kind of chicken dish with rice at 2:00 am somewhere over Thailand. It was very spicy and definitely helped with the nausea that I had suddenly developed.

The Chef onboard the Flight

Spicy Chicken Dish
The flight from Singapore to Istanbul was 11-hr long. As it was my first long-haul flight, I was quite surprised that the seat was as tiny as those in short-haul flight. It was not as bad as I'd thought it would be but it was definitely not that comfortable. Some of the highlights include being awakened somewhere over India and when I peeked outside, I found we were flying among stars. Literally, the stars were twinkling next to you. It was unbelievable! The other is watching The X-Files as we were approaching Istanbul. It was great to have Mulder and Scully be there in one of the milestones of my life, 16 years after I first became their fan.

We were served breakfast just before we landed, an egg dish this time.

The plane landed at Attaturk airport at around 6:00am. I was officially in Europe! We had about 2-hr layover and so we decided to check out the airport. Unfortunately, the experience was not that great. The airport staff were not so friendly, most of them didn't speak English well and they looked like they didn't really want to help.

Attaturk Airport

Anyway, we decided to just spend the time at the foodcourt and we ordered pistaschio baklava and some baked eggs to accompany us. The pistaschio baklava were delicious! The eggs were so-so.

Before long, it was time for us to board the plane on our last leg of the journey. We bid adieu to Istanbul and tried our best to contain our excitement as Italy was just on the horizon.

Aerial Istanbul
 The flight took about 2.5 hours. I was squealing with joy when I saw Italy's eastern coastline from my window.

FYI, we were served another breakfast on the plane! =D

And finally, after a total of 15 hours of journey, we finally, finally, touched down at Gallileo Gallilei airport, Pisa, Italy!!

Interesting building just as we were about to land

Touched Down at Gallielo Gallilei!

Front of Gallileo Gallilei Airport, Pisa

Great balmy weather, it was sunny but the temperature was pleasantly cool. After clearing the Immigration, we met up with Gloria at the Arrival, the owner of the apartment rental where we would be staying for the next week. As she drove us to the apartment, I was busy admiring Pisa from the back of her tiny car. The city looked so mellow, cute, tiny, and there were flowers everywhere as it was almost Summer. I loved it!

She gave us the grand tour of the apartment rental and left us with a bottle of wine and a bag of chocolates. Finally, we had truly arrived in Italy!

The Bedroom

The Kitchen

Small private balcony at the apartment

View From Our Rental. The Baptistry and tip of the Leaning Tower are visible

After unpacking, the first order of business was to stock up the kitchen with basic stuff such as bottled water and food items, so we headed down to PAM supermarket which was located conveniently nearby to go groceries shopping.

PAM supermarket
 We bought bottled water (wrongly got the sparkling ones), lots of frozen pasta, pizza, and risotto (like the moronic tourist we were), this velvety packaged vegetable soup, and canned artichoke hearts. We were caught off-guard as we didn't know that supermarkets in Italy didn't provide plastic / paper bags so we sloppily carried all the groceries back to our apartment by hand.

Back at the apartment, we settled ourselves in by doing pretty much nothing, wandering around the apartment, just taking it all in. We then decided to take a nap, not realizing how tired we were and proceeded to sleep until 10:00pm.

And that's how we spent our first day in Italy, folks!

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