One thing that I’ve just realized is that I’m no longer as nervous a traveller as I used to be. I am, of course, paranoid about time and compelled to reach every place at least half an hour earlier than the earliest time required to reach, but that paranoia is not specific to travel.The flights out were as smooth as possible. I mean, I didn’t make a fool of myself anywhere I got onto the right escalators, aerobridges, terminals, airport coaches and planes at the right times. There was a moment, a very long moment, at Dubai when the bus I got onto for the flight to Rome took such a long route, which had so much traffic, and so little evidence of planes, that I thought that either I had accidentally been put onto a bus headed for city center, or we were actually going to be driven all the way to Rome. As the moment lengethened into half an hour, I became increasingly convinced that it was, in fact, the latter.On board the flight, I was thrilled when my non-lactose meal was thumped in front of me with little ceremony and without comment. The food on the flight to Dubai was fairly hopeless, but the food on the flight to Rome was delicious. I watched Knight and Day on the flight, which was a good masala movie without a hint of credibility. The only thing I slipped up on was not realizing when the drinks trolley came around that beer and wine were on offer…
I’d been given strict instructions by Amit to test my forex card at the first opportunity and to obtain a sim card. He’d also given me various tech specs for the sim card and assured me with the lofty certainty of ignorance that I’d be able to do both things at the airport. Consequently, I wasted a good hour exploring the airport end to end searching for an ATM machine and a seller of sim cards. Of the former, I found only one, and it wasn’t a Visa machine. Of the latter, I found one too. They assured me that prepaid sim cards came without 3G (internet-ability) and took several days to activate. How about a nice calling card instead? At only €240, I don’t think so!
I found the train to city center and there I resumed my hunt for an ATM machine and a sim card. At last I found both and the sim card came with 3G and would only take 2 hours to activate. By this time it had been about three hours since my flight landed and I was frantic to call home, imagining that Amit would be fretting for my ‘safe arrival’ call. So I went to a coin phone and spoke to him and the kids, feeding in coins at random and worrying that they would run out. They did, eventually, but not before I’d spent €10, which was as much as I’d spent on the sim card, which promised a talk time of 150 minutes! So not smart!
It was about 5.30 local time when I headed for the youth hostel, five minutes’ walk from the station. There was a free pasta dinner at 7, they told me, so I grabbed a plate of that and collapsed in bed. It was only 9 p.m. local time but my body clock was set to midnight-thirty and 23 hours after leaving home, I was exhausted. But wow – I was sleeping in Rome!