Because Ryanair had recently introduced charges for travelling with hold luggage this was our first attempt at restricting luggage to cabin baggage only. At the airport I checked in but things became a little difficult when the security checks identified the corkscrew that we had concealed in the middle of a bag.
This was quite risky because the airport web site about restricted items in luggage is quite specific on the matter of corkscrews. We knew that you were not supposed to carry one on board of course but as we consider it to be such an essential piece of travel kit thought we would try it on all the same. The scanning machine was much more efficient than we had given it credit for however and there was some explaining and apologising to do before being allowed to proceed. I am still perplexed by exactly what damage the airlines think a passenger can do with a corkscrew that couldn’t be done with the sharp bit of a belt buckle or a pair of metal spectacles, but rules are rules I suppose no matter how ridiculous they may appear to be.
The flight was uneventful and arrived a couple of hours later in a dreary, wet and overcast Galileo Galilei Airport in Pisa and as the Airport is only a very short distance from the city so we looked for a taxi to take us to our hotel.
Now everyone knows of course that Italian drivers are certifiable and I am now able to absolutely confirm this because it was just our luck to get the craziest taxi driver on the rank.
He drove at madcap speeds into the city, dodging down back streets and directing the car into impossibly tight spaces and then he rounded off this virtuoso lunatic performance by demonstrating some advanced driving skills that involved having two very loud and very animated mobile telephone conversations on two separate phones whilst steering the car with his knees. With his knees! This man was clearly on the run from an asylum and our nervous laughter only encouraged him to play some more tricks as he switched lanes and negotiated the busy traffic with careless abandon. He had obviously spent some time perfecting this talent because he continued to direct the car quite expertly without even having to drop his breakneck speed by ever taking his foot of the accelerator and we were mightily relieved therefore when he slewed to a halt outside the Hotel Royal Victoria and we were thankful to get out of the car in one piece.
We checked in and found our room and knew immediately that this was going to be a different sort of hotel. Originally opened in 1837 it had retained all of its original features. Quite literally that is! We were allocated one of the hotel’s finest suites that had an old wooden door with a temperamental lock that was reluctant to work but which when finally opened revealed a generous sized room with fascinating decoration and furniture, a solid wooden floor and interesting pictures of old Pisa decorating the walls. It had opulent decoration, antique furniture and a front window that had a balcony with good views over the River Arno directly outside.
The balcony looked rather unsafe so I was careful not to step out onto it for fear of falling into the street below in a pile of crumbled masonry, and there were some decaying shutters that looked as though they would surely fall apart if anyone ever attempted to open and shut them so I decided to leave them well alone as well. At the opposite end of the room was a an old fashioned bathroom that had everything that you could possibly want in a bathroom but looked as though it had been salvaged in a sanatorium clearance sale. This was not a problem however, the taps ran, the toilet flushed and there was a bidet, which, being English, we didn’t require for the purpose for which it is intended and was therefore a handy place for Kim to deposit her bathroom travel bag.
Outside it was still raining so without walking too far we turned left and walked along a busy road until reaching a hospitable looking bar in a square with the inevitable statue of Giuseppe Garibaldi in what turned out to be the student district of the city. If we had walked on only a little further there was a lively little district with more choice but it didn’t matter, this place was agreeable and we only really wanted a nightcap so we found an empty table near the window with some precariously high chairs that wobbled on the uneven floors and had a glass of red wine – and then we had another.
Back at the hotel I became aware for the first time that this was an exceedingly noisy room with all of the road sounds outside seemingly amplified several times over by the darkness. It was a strange thing but turning the light on seemed to reduce the noise but it returned immediately it was turned out again. I am sure that there is some plausible scientific explanation for that. When I had selected this hotel I had read some hotel guest reviews on an Internet site that had repeatedly pointed this out but I had paid little attention to these when I made the reservation. I optimistically assumed that eventually the noise would abate and settled down and slept reasonably well because tonight I was tired after the whole day travelling. Kim on the other hand found it a lot more difficult and she had a disturbed and restless night on account of the noise.
I am now advised that the hotel has been renovated and upgraded and some of my observations may no longer be accurate: www.pisaconnection.it