Tips for the intrepid tourist

The Cosi Group are a pretty impressive group of sensible bloggers. I am still amazed that they invited this Pecora Nera (black sheep) to join them.  Their recent posts on travel tips for tourists visiting Italy was awesome. Here are my travel tips for the intrepid traveler to Italy.

There is an art to packing a suitcase, you will need to find space for your swimsuit (unless you are visiting Cinque Terre where there is a nudist beach) your summer frock for when you are visiting the pizzeria and of course if you are visiting me you will need to pack 2 family packs of Walkers crisps, a jar of Branston Pickle and some books.

Only pack essential items

Only pack essential items

You have probably used a couple of weeks of your holiday entitlement and spent part of your savings to visit Italy, and there is plenty in Italy to see, so on the run up to your holiday get as much rest as possible so that when you start your holiday you will have plenty of energy to enjoy the excitement of flying with Sleazyjet EasyJet.

Mrs Smedhurst of Bridlington fainted with the excitement of flying with Easy Jet

Mrs Smedhurst of Bridlington fainted with the excitement of flying with Easy Jet (Don’t worry she woke up when my camera went CLICK)

I am often asked if I use the low cost airlines for my trips to and from the UK and what are the differences between them. On Saturday I flew to Gatwick with Sleazyjet Easyjet and returned from East Midlands with Crying Air Ryanair. The big difference between the two airlines is, one uses orange planes and the other uses blue ones.

When flying with one of the low budget airlines, you must remember you will be sat cheek to jowl with  others who can’t afford British Airways who enjoy flying budget airlines. Space is very limited and so make sure you make yourself as comfortable as you can.

Make yourself as comfortable as you can, even if it makes others barf.

Make yourself as comfortable as you can, even if it makes others barf. (sorry for the blurred photo but I was giggling at the time)

When you land you will be ushered into the nearest cattle bus to transport you from the plane to the airport, please remember personal hygiene is a must. I have never considered Old-spice or Brut cologne to be nice, however there are times it smells 100 times better than 60 people who have just flown in a cramped airplane and are now crammed into a bus waiting in 35° heat on the airport tarmac.

Help

Unfortunately I didn’t manage to capture the woman who was suffocating in her winter coat.

When you finally arrive in Italy, please remember to sample the traditional local food. Don’t go wandering around looking for a fish and chip shop, there isn’t one. I know this because I have spent the past seven years trying to find one. Last weekend when I visited England I had a perfect opportunity to sample the delights of traditional English food.

I spent the weekend eating enjoying traditional English food, KFC, Tandori Chicken and this fine Chicken curry and rice

I spent the weekend eating enjoying traditional English food. KFC, tandori chicken and this fine chicken curry and rice

You will have read that Italy is the fashion capital of the world. We take fashion very seriously, whenever I leave the house in my flip-flops Mrs Sensible goes crazy and demands that I either wear proper shoes, change my jeans for shorts or stay at home. According to Mrs S, flip flops are suitable footwear for the beach or if you are wearing shorts. Wearing jeans and flip flops is a no-no. Obviously you can completely ignore this advice. (I do)

And man-bags are worn by lots of men, so if you want to get in touch with your feminine side, now is your chance. Obviously you need to be careful or you might end up featuring on somebodies blog as this poor man has.

How not to wear a man bag

How not to wear a man bag

As we have already pointed out, you have spent your hard earned cash to come to Italy and you expect to have a good time. In England wine, beer and cider are normally associated with having a good time, please try to get to the hotel room before you start celebrating your holiday.

Burp

At least he was wearing shorts with his flip flops

In Italy we can normally spot an English tourist because they are as white as freshly fallen snow, which then goes to a nice rosy red. Some of you may have used the local sun beds and will be a nice orange colour.  We have wall to wall sunshine, please use lots of suntan lotion or you will burn.

The following is a good example of before and after effects of suntanning.

White bits

White bits

And finally feel free to wear the clothes you are most comfortable in, after all it is your holiday

Be yourself

Be yourself

This post is part of the latest topic of our little blogger group, COSItaly, on how to be a good tourist/cool summer tips. Check out facebook page

And finally the first COSI Video…. I was too shy to add my old wrinkled face.

Yoo hoo I am back

I have been away from bloggoland for almost a month and I have to say I miss you guys. I enjoy writing about the crazy stuff that happens to me in Italy, but more importantly I love the comments and interaction between other bloggers. So, normal service has now resumed or as normal as it is ever likely to get.

Over the past month, we have had an assortment of Mrs Sensible’s family arrive and depart, I have eaten too much fine Italian food and gained nearly all the weight that I had earlier lost. I have also played countless games of Scoponi, see here for instructions. My Zia gave me a new nickname ‘Furbo’, I think it means ‘he who wins every game of Scoponi.’

Some of us are naturally lucky, and some of us have 2 gold sevens in our hand

Some of us are naturally lucky, and some of us have 2 gold sevens in our hand

 Last week I flew to the UK to watch my daughter’s passing out parade, we celebrated with copious quantities of beer as only an Englishman can. The following day I was Godparent to one of my nieces and once again we celebrated with gallons of beer at the local rugby club.

Proud, so very proud of her. She is holding a medal she was awarded for attaining the best fitness in the troop.

Proud, so very proud of her.
She is holding a medal she was awarded for attaining the best fitness in her troop.

Feeling slightly hung-over and very tired I arrived at East Midlands airport at 5.30 am Sunday morning. Still wearing the clothes I had partied in four hours earlier. I consider myself a seasoned traveller; I know not to wear boots with large metal eyelets. I understand that if you don’t remove your watch and belt before passing through security, the guards become upset and will give you a quick pat down to make sure you aren’t trying to smuggle a pen knife through security. Some people do you know, even innocent mother in laws.. see here.

I passed through the metal detector without a problem, as I started to rethread my belt and scoop up my loose change I noticed that there seemed to be a bit of excitement over someone’s hand luggage. Three security men were pointing at the monitor. It was at this point that my hand baggage emerged from the x ray machine. As I waited for it to trundle down to me, (I was still struggling to loop my belt through my pants,) a female security guard picked it up, turned it on its side and pushed it back into the machine.

Stranger and stranger I thought, as my case disappeared into the machine, the guards again started pointing at the monitor. This time I took a long stare at the monitor, they were pointing at a dark grey square that looked like a big block of plasticine. Ah ha I thought, my two kilos of hermetically sealed bacon does kind of resemble a slab of semtex, or maybe even, the better quality C4 much used by the professionals.

Plasticine, not to be mistaken for Semtex

Plasticine, not to be mistaken for Semtex

As my case exited the machine for the second time, the female security guard asked in a very loud and authoritarian voice. “Whose case is this?” I sheepishly held up my hand and frantically started to worry, if it was illegal to transport parts of dead pigs across European borders. “Did you pack it yourself… sir?” she asked.

Breathing a fair quantity of the previous evening’s alcohol in her general direction, I said I had packed it. “Can I look inside” she asked. Now, I have always, always wanted to say “No bog off”, but ever so politely I said of course.  As she started to rummage through my clothes, I tried to breathe the alcohol fumes out the side of my mouth, “it’s full of dirty clothes” I said, as a pair of boxers rose to the top of the case. Ah ha, mmm hum, she muttered. She moved my camera case, that contained my Semtex Plastacine C4  hermetically sealed middle back bacon and grabbed a box of Yorkshire T bags. “Erm” I said raising a finger in the air. “Two minutes” she said as she waltzed of down the conveyor with my precious cargo of T bags.

My two favourite drinks.

My two favourite drinks. Yorkshire tea and Barone di San Pietro

When she returned, she gave me back my T Bags and said “they looked strange on the monitor, but you can pack your bag and go” I nearly, ever so nearly said you made a mistake, what you saw on the monitor that looked like a block of Semtex was my bacon. It was only because I was trying to breathe out of the left hand side of my mouth, thereby not intoxicating her with alcohol fumes that I literally… kept my mouth shut.

So the moral of this story is, if you want to smuggle Semtex bacon in your hand luggage, hide it in your camera case and drink enough alcohol the night before, so you remember not to open your mouth and incriminate yourself.

A video paints a few thousand words.

I have decided it is time for another sensible post. We have had enough mirth and merriment. So  today we will look at the low-cost airlines, that we like to whinge about.

Frederick R. Barnard in 1921 coined the phrase “A picture paints a thousand words” (see I do my research)

So here is….    A video paints a few thousand words, attributed to Pecora Nera 2013

Yorkshire Airlines

Fascinating Aida

Never travel without your Tom Tom

I survived my five days in Serbia as the translator for Franco our engineer. We flew with the Serbian national airways JAT and we were treated not only to a sandwich but a glass of pop and a cup of tea. I also noted that the airhostesses didn’t spend the flight trying to sell me lottery tickets, bus tickets and smoke free cigarettes. It was a pleasant change from Ryanair the company that I normally use to move around Europe.

We rented a little Chrysler Spark  from Unirent at the Airport, Alexsandar charged me 10,500 Dinar for the 5 days, it sounded like an enormous amount of money until I converted it to euros a paltry €90. Alexsandar said he would only charge me for 4 days because today is nearly over. It was only 8pm!!

Alexandar, Franco and I walked around the slightly battered car adding scratches and dints onto the rental form, there were so many I nearly just coloured the form in. When we reached the bonnet I pointed out a whole host of dents that did not appear on the form. Alexsandar raised his eyes to heaven and said “why should be on form, it is stone chip no? how stone chip be fault of driver?” Even so I coloured them in.

Sitting in our 90 euro hire car I tried to find the hotel on our Tom Tom, despite various searches it, failed to find the road I then tried the address of the factory which is the largest building in the city and only 2 kilometres from our hotel, again Tom Tom couldn’t locate the road.  After twenty minutes of fiddling with the Tom Tom I walked back to Alexsandar in the airport to see if he could help.

Alexsandra greeted me with a smile and “ah! you still here” I explained our predicament and he replied “Tom Tom no good in Serbia, only has big road on it” So our carful preplanning in the office and the €30 euro we paid to add the Serbian map onto the sat nav was a total waste of time. In the end we in-putted the city of Kragujevac and decided to just head for the centre and by a map.

Driving down a dual carriageway, miles from any civilisation and surrounded by very dark countryside my fantastic Tom Tom suddenly announced “you have reached your destination” Franco looked at me shrugged his shoulders and started to fire off a load of questions. Scusi non capisco I answered. Not really a good start to my week as his personal translator.

The following morning we tried once again to locate the factory with my beloved Tom Tom and failed miserably so we asked the nice lady in the hotel reception to arrange a taxi for us. Five minutes later we climbed into a Taxi that was even tattier than our hire car and set off in search of the Factory. Our driver was obviously practising for the Le Mans as he raced off through the chaotic streets. I don’t scare easily but I did whisper the odd prayer. The taxi cost a staggering 230 dinar, not only that but we had arrived at the wrong factory gate.

A second Taxi arrived and I flagged him down and shouted TAXI. The driver got out of his car and walked over to me and in pretty good English he said “where you go” I really couldn’t concentrate on a suitable answer I  just stood there staring at him with my mouth open while his taxi slowly but surely rolled away down the road without him. His previous passenger was still in the car and didn’t even bat an eyelid, maybe it is a common occurrence in Serbia. Franco broke the spell by pointing at the departing Taxi and shouting attenzione, attenzione.

While I suggested to Franco that taking this Taxi was not a good idea the driver set off running down the road after his Taxi. We did eventually arrive at the factory gates in one piece and another 81.20 Dinarios out-of-pocket.

Two taxis one heart attack total cost 2 euros 68 cents.