Doing the laundry while travelling is just one of those undertakings that is essential, but generally unwelcomed. I like to save it up and give it one big hit. In contrast, Karyn washes as she goes. Quite often, I arrive at the basin to do the shave or teeth thing and find wet ones occupying the space. She also has this special expanding clothes line that straddles the length and width of our accommodation and transforms into a lethal weapon for unwary wanders of the night. We actually left it behind in one of our hotels. But, quick as a flash, the basic ingredients were acquired and another garrotte was created in its place. A skill Karyn apparently learnt in primary school? I always thought Acacia Ridge was a tough area.
We were in Brugge, following our epic biking adventure, and the time had come to cleanse the kit. Thankfully, Karyn had some technical stuff to do on the computer, so I made a dash for the local laundry. I usually find these places quite daunting, though on this occasion managed to get the washing on its way with a minimum of fuss. Feeling quite chuffed, I sat back and leafed through the local junk mail.
“Excuse me, but do you speak English?” I turned and found that I was being greeted by another Australian. This was amazing, a woman asking a man for directions on what to do in a laundry. What was also amazing was that within a few minutes we had not only sorted out her washing but told each other our total life story. Isn’t it funny how that just seems to happen sometimes? Well it does to me anyway.
She was originally from Phillip Island and went to Boulder, Colorado to study Karl Jung, and never left. I can understand that, as Boulder is known as one of the great wellness cities of the World. She was travelling through Europe with her partner. When I mentioned that we had just finished a bike ride through the Western Front, she told me that her father had been in WW2 and was a veteran of the Tobruk campaign – a rare breed indeed.
The tears welled as she recalled the pain of a childhood living with the secrets of war. Her dad was an obsessive stickler for being on time. It wasn’t until his latter years that he revealed that if he was late, soldiers lost their lives. I wonder how many other people are out there still living the wars of their family members.
Washing completed, it was time to move on.
The airport in Brussels was packed and Karyn and I were sitting at gate 51 awaiting our departure to Florence, via a brief stopover in Rome. The Alitalia flight attendant at check in had assured us that the plane was on time. We were warned to check this, as Alitalia airline, like many things Italian, was not known for its efficiency. At the allotted time and on the call of the PA, we rose to take our place in the line up. It was at this point that Karyn noticed that ROME had been replaced by NICE on the sign above our gate. Confusion reigned and would be passengers started wandering around in all directions scratching their heads.
When in doubt, ask. So I decided to approach the young attendant at the desk and seek some clarification. She was busy. I waited. She was still busy and continued to ignore me. I waited. Eventually, she sighed and gave me this look. It wasn’t a good one. “Excuse me, but is the flight to Rome still departing from gate 51”?
“YOU SEE THE SIGN? WHAT DOES IT SAY? DOES IT SAY ROME? NO, IT SAYS NICE.”
As she returned to her work, I thought I detected a quick gaze to the heavens and a whispered “sweet mother of Jesus!” I was going to enter into a deep theological discussion about the sense of appealing to someone who hadn’t been around for a few thousand years, or who may not have existed at all, but decided to leave it for another day.
The problem was eventually sorted by the lovely attendant who we met on our check in, and we were herded into a sardine tin with wheels for the quick journey to our flight. I think I was still recovering from the onslaught and without looking, sort solace in Karyn’s hand beside me on the bus rail. As I stroked her fingers, I was quite surprised to find the hand withdrawn rather quickly. Somewhat miffed, I turned and found that the withdrawn hand actually belonged to a young Italian gentleman in a suit and a three day growth. We both coughed and spluttered a bit, and did that macho thing of a few deep Haw Haws! I was also just about to reveal my true masculinity and discuss the results of The State of Origin football game when we were rescued by the end of our journey. Karyn just cracked up and was no help whatsoever.
Eventually we did arrive at our destination in Florence, but the planned encounter with our hosts at the apartment was somewhat delayed. After the shuttle from the airport to the train station, we couldn’t find the right local bus stop and wandered aimlessly around with packs on back for what seemed hours. It was at this point we debated the merits of having a driver stand at the airport with our name plastered all over a white board.
Following frantic text messages, we finally made our connection and were eventually delivered into the loving arms of our hosts, Allesandro and Azadeh. They were just wonderful and showed us the ropes of the apartment as well as advice on anything and everything in relation to Florence.
As a result, Karyn is now planning an encounter with ‘The David’ tomorrow at the Galleria dell Accademia. I have told her that she shouldn’t bother as she gets to see the equivalent on a daily basis. For some reason, she just cracked up again. So I guess that there will be no chance this encounter will be missed. I might have to go along as well and see what all the fuss is about.
Oh, and by the way, our apartment in Florence has a washing machine.