Wednesday, 6 August 2008

The End or the Beginning? Italy, Part 1

Days, weeks, months later, I finally get around to recording my grand finale of Europe. The last few days in St. Andrews were a strange mixture of crazed anxiety, realizing my year had ended (months too soon!), and a calm acquiecsence to the fact that I was ready to go home. I delayed my travel plans, wasting a plane ticket in the process, to stay in Britain longer. I decided to skip traveling in France alone and go directly to Italy a day before I was to be kicked out of my university owned flat.

A side note for all those wondering what happened in Britain after I left and for more British customs: in Britain it is quite common to rent out university halls as "suites" for the weary traveller. These in fact are flats or dorms that students normally live in and the "staff" is students working for lesser wages than the Polish immigrants. We had to move out on a Saturday by 10 a.m. I later heard from my flatmate who was last to move out that promptly at 10 a.m. a warden walked into our flat demanding she be out right then. She happened to be in her bathrobe making breakfast with her brother and dad, who had driven up to move her out. I thought it was a bit unreasonable they would be so demanding, but then again this was the same warden who we encountered in the Fire Alarm Incident. There are always those who thrive in the power that university housing situations give them and lets just say this guy was the prime pimply example. Not exactly like they were going to turn the flat into for the golf tourists right then at 10 a.m.

Meanwhile, I was sailing away on my EasyJet flight to Milan. There was the usual 3+ hours to get from St Andrews to the Edinburgh airport by public transportation. Then the usual wait around the Edinburgh airport, with the important stop at La Boulangerie de Paul (a Parisian institute right here!) to get my lunch and then the restless waiting at the gate with too few seats. Unfortunately one of Edinburgh's finest rugby clubs was also travelling on the same flight. The thirty or so young gentlemen ambled around, their 20 year old bodies jostling like 7 year olds. "This is going to be quite the flight," I thought to myself.

I sat down in an empty row, observing the rows of rugby boys up ahead. "Should be ok here," but I made too many assumptions too fast. Not only did two of the boys sit down in the empty seats, but across the aisle a hen party took roost.

Now, hen parties are not just another bachelorette party. They are the most godawful British women imaginable - they are loud, hideously ugly and fat, and the most raunchy women (then add 5 hours later when they are all completely sloshed). I've tried to think of an American equivalent with little success. I guess if you imagine an ex-Hooter's woman at 45 crossed with Mae West you are starting to get close. Now imagine 30 of them together. A fair number of British pubs have signs reading "Hen Parties NOT WELCOME" and their reputation far outstrips any American bachelor party. Just do some googling if you don't believe me.

The combination of a group of young rugby players and the Hen party was almost too much. The boys kept passing around porn magazines and talking about various sports, the Italian stewardesses ("She said 'Prego' to me - that must mean she fancies me,"). Then one of them, a very precocious young man, started chatting up the bride-to-be across the aisle and after congratulating her, asked if any of their party was single. One woman was - she was a youthful 38 (the youngest in the party) - and so somehow it a process of witty Edinburgh banter, she convinced him to put her underwear on in exchange for his. So he waddled down the aisle in her panties and decried to his friends the pair he was wearing had streak marks. He was pretty horrified over the state of his boxers considering his outward nature. Eventually he came back down the aisle with his underwear in a ball and gave them to her.

Meanwhile, looking for an excuse to talk to me, one of the guys asks me what time it is and then what time we are supposed to land. Suddenly I have a throng of rugby players surrounding me - they are all about 18 or 19 and want to know where I'm from, why I'm going, what I think about Scotland, how they are going to add me on Facebook - it went on and on. Their coach came by to see if they were harassing me, but when I said no, they all beamed and continued on their tirade of questions. I was honestly enjoying the attention, more attention I'd gotten from British (or Scottish or Irish) men in an entire year, and they seemed pretty good natured. They denied knowing where the porn came from and insisted I would have had a better time at Aberdeen Uni, because of course that's where a few of them went.

Eventually the plane landed and the Rugby players went to join their teammates. I went off to hunt down my luggage and learn how to travel on my own.