White European Holidays - 02 February 2010

From summer to minus 11 in 2 weeks: another european trip for Lindsey and I

Chapter 1. Italy, from Christmas to London

Last year I spent my first Christmas abroad, in South Africa.
I’m not too sure that I should still say “abroad” when talking about South Africa, since this has been my home for the past 2 years and probably it will be for many years ahead. But thinking as Italy (or even Europe) as a faraway place that I can visit only once in a while, well, it’s still weird.

So, after the last very hot December over here (don’t forget,  December is in the middle of a very hot summer, even if Santa Claus still dresses like he’s in the north pole. Crazy old fool), it was time for Lindsey and I to travel, in the middle of a very bad economy and still sky-high prices for tickets, to Europe.

We exchanged gifts 2 days earlier, during a nice breakfast with Lindsey’s family, and I think I got the best gift of them all from my wife: a fridge to compliment my pub (it was the missing piece).

This time we tried to avoid Dubai and its 5-10 hours crazy stopover, so we decided to fly Air Qatar and land in Doha, where all we needed to wait was only 2 hours.

After an emotional goodbye for Lindsey (she doesn’t really like the idea of spending any time away from family and our dogs), we discovered that we weren’t even sitting next to each other for the long flight to Doha.
It was probably my fault: the night before I tried to reserve the seats on the online checking, but the whole system wasn’t helping me in making a reservation for two seats next to each other, so I cancelled the booking and never got an email, but somehow the system booked me in some random seat, 2 rows away from where my poor wife was sitting.

After the usual 8 hours flight to the Arab World, we landed , waited 2 hours in quite a shitty airport (where women wash their feet in the sink and men let their kids weed in the…yes, you guessed it, sinks. Muslim traditions?), and then boarded to Milan for another 7 hours flight.

We left South Africa in the evening with 25 degrees and landed in North Italy with minus 3 only 16 hours later.
Malpensa, the airport, was completely white. Apparently they reopened the connections only few hours earlier.

Olga, my sister, and Davide, my cousin, were they to wait for us, and we drove in the middle of a crazy traffic to Canegrate.

As usual, coming back to my old bedroom was strange. So many things are still there, some has been moved so my sister could use it as an office, and the little piece of forest that for 30 years was just outside my window, was gone, revealing a barren land probably soon used to add some sad house developing project.

Lindsey and I were both tired but with Christmas just before the corner we still had to do some shopping. Luckily even the craziest place in Italy cannot compare to Oxford Street the weekend before the 24th of December, so we managed to find everything we needed quite soon.
Few hours later we met with my mum and her new husband, and we spent a very nice dinner in a very posh restaurant, where I couldn’t even finish the amount of food it was served to me….

The plan for Christmas was easy: eat dinner at home with Olga, Dad and dog, then go for the midnight service just to show Lindsey what is all about, go to sleep and then wake up the next day to spend the day with the rest of my enlarged family.
The dinner was simple but nice, and Lindsey enjoyed it too (even if she had to careful avoid horse meat, delicious and too many cheesed offered to her. Luckily she had enough Parma ham to last a week or more).

I took Lindsey to the midnight service
and after the usual 45 minutes service (quite boring, but hey, that’s the Catholic way, keep’em bored but not too much so they will come back to feel better about themselves), it was time for the best part of the night: the free mulled wine / Christmas cake (panettone) that was on offer outside pretty much all the churches in North Italy. It was a nice surprise for a very cold wife.

The next day we woke up quite late to go and spend the rest of the day at my cousin Renato’s house, where all the members of the family still around the area would meet and spend time basically just eating, exchanging gifts, and eating even more.

It was a food marathon, but it was great. We decided to spent time at Renato’s and his mum, Auntie Carla, simply because before people started to die or get married and move away, this was the place we spent the best Christmas’ Days when we were kids.

Yes, it wasn’t great knowing that with the recent death of my uncle now my dad was the only survivor or the three brothers, but for once it was a time to celebrate and remind ourselves that life goes on, and until you have some family, it will be ok.

I don’t know how much Lindsey ate, since her crazy metabolism helps her burn fat at an incredible rate, but I think that in 24 hours I must have accumulated a good 2kg of extra weight just be eating and drinking like there is no tomorrow (and I would regret those extra kilos once back in South Africa!).

The same evening we went for one of our visits at the usual pub, when we met with the usual faces: Beppe and Claudia (soon to be parents), Max, Mera and Luciana.

The whole evening was organized so we could decide what to do at New Year’s Eve, once we were back in Italy. My idea was to organize a party in my house, with people bringing either food or drinks. Everyone was happy about the idea and we said goodbye, for Lindsey and I was time to fly to London.

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