Our departure day for Rome was only a few days away when Paul’s dad became ill. He was so weak he couldn’t get out of his chair without help. A visit to the Doctor and antibiotics were started. An appointment was made for two days time (the day before our departure was due).
Before I carry on with this story I’ll point out that Paul is an only child. His dad had no-one else to care for him, and I mean absolutely no-one. When we were in Australia and things went wrong for him he would be hospitalised, or put into a respite centre until he was on his feet again. But on this occasion we were there. We took him back for his follow up appointment – he was no better. He still couldn’t get himself out of a chair unaided. His Doctor, knowing we were due to leave the next day, arranged immediately for the receptionist to type up a letter for the travel insurance. To leave his dad was out of the question, and as we were there on this occasion, putting him into hospital was also out of the question.
We called the tour company and cancelled. Of course at such short notice it was impossible to onsell our tour places. We hoped we wouldn’t have trouble being re-imbursed with our travel insurance!
We had not only the tour booked and paid for, but also hotels in Rome and Naples pre and post tour. We had first class tickets booked and paid for on the Euro star, and we had our return flight booked from Italy back to Manchester. Paul’s dad recovered, so we decided we’d try and still get to Italy for the week of my birthday, and use what we could from our original bookings. At this point we additionally booked and paid for a tour of Pompei, some extra hotel accommodation, and a tour of the colleseum.
Our flight was due to depart Manchester around 6am. We slept in, but still had time to drop our hire car off and get to the airport on time. We arrived with what we thought was around a half hour to spare. Rather than go and check in immediately we dwadled around stopping to exchange pounds for euros at the money exchange counter. I don’t know what we were thinking, or if we were thinking at all. Let me point out here that Paul and I both have the phillosophy that to be on time is to be late. We’re always early, and in the case of flghts we allow an extra hour. I can only think that because of the close proximity of all the countries in Europe we must have been thinking the arrival times pre-flight were the same as a domestic Australian flight. We weren’t thinking of it as international that’s for sure.
If you haven’t guessed by now, we missed the bloody flight! Boarding was closed, the next available flight to Rome was 36 hours later leaving from Glasgow. I was ashen! I still have trouble believing that we, of all people, missed a flight. That just isn’t like us.
So, what to do now. Italy was out of the question. I wasn’t going back to Paul’s dad’s, so where to go. We decided on the Cotswolds. We collected the hire car and set off in stunned, stony silence. The tourist bureau was super busy – it was school holidays. All reasonably priced accommodation had been taken. We left, and drove around looking for somewhere that had a bed. We found a manor house hotel in a village called Lower Slaughter. I kid you not – there’s both an Upper, and a Lower Slaughter in the Cotswolds, and they’re actually gorgeous little quaint places, despite the ghastly names. On this occasion though I could have been staying at Buckingham Palace and wouldn’t have been impressed.
Yes, the manor house hotel had a bed for approximately $500 Australian a night. No wonder it wasn’t booked out for the school holidays – Paul looked at me, what did I think? My answer was a very despondent, “I don’t care”. And I didn’t, I just wanted four walls around me so as I could cry.
We stayed for two nights in the most gorgeous accommodation I’ve most likely ever stayed in (absolutely wasted on us both at that point in time), and I cried. It doesn’t end there though. Even the best of accommodation can get things wrong!
The room was massive, as was the bed. The en-suite was all marble and huge, with double vanities, spa bath and double shower. The bed had a rather heavy bedspread on it, which i folded back only to discover some very large and rather unsavoury stains on the underside. They were clean stains, but stains all the same. I folded the bedspread in the corner of the room with the stains clearly visable, and told them at reception to make sure the bedspread wasn’t put back on the bed. We returned from an outing the next day, and you guessed it – the bedspread was back on the bed! The last straw!!!
Down to reception I marched. Paul ducked for cover. “WHERE’S THE DUTY MANAGER”, I demanded. The duty manager appeared. “COME WITH ME” I ordered, and marched him upstairs to our room. I’d had a good few days of disappointments the likes of which I’d never experienced before – let’s just say my fury was tangible. The manager was most apologetic and humble. Were we eating in the restaurant that night – he would make it up to us!
We arrived for our dinner reservation and were met by the manager who led us to the best seat in the restaurant. Neither of us were much in the mood for drinking, but I ordered a glass of bubbly, and Paul a glass of red. They had a tasting menu (in Australia a degustation menu). Not wanting to make any choices we opted for the tasting menu. I think from memory it was around seven small courses. I couldn’t tell you what they were, I’m sure it was very nice, but totally wasted on me.
The next day we went to pay our bill, expecting the meal would have been gratuitous as compensation for the bedspread. But no, only the glass of bubbly and the glass of red wine had been omitted from the bill. Again Paul ducked for cover while I let them have it with both barrels blazing. Needless to say our meals did end up being struck off the bill.
So that was how I celebrated my 60th birthday. The next day we checked out and hid out for a few days in Portsmouth at Paul’s cousin’s house until the date we were due to return from Italy. Then we went back to Paul’s dad’s.
We returned to Tassie via Melbourne. Paul booked a hotel in Melbourne for a couple of nights, forgetting he’d already booked a different hotel. We didn’t realise the mistake until the visa came through with the charges on it. Then, back in Tassie we attempted to claim the cost of the tour back on insurance. If Paul’s dad had lived in Australia it would have been covered. But a sick relative that lived outside Australia wasn’t. We tried, but it was clearly written in policy – we didn’t have a leg to stand on.
At this stage it was feeling like we’d have had more fun taking a suitcase of bank notes to the top of the Eiffel Tower and throwing them off. I think it would have cost us less.
So that’s part two of, ‘the year it all went pear shaped’. But wait – there’s more. Stay tuned for part three….