London to Rome
That's it for England: this evening, I flew out of the country, and now I'm in Rome! As with the US, England has been nice and easy: no language barrier; everything home-like and familiar; and really, nothing that took me radically by surprise. But then again, England's also boring, it's expensive, and the weather is foul. It's quite funny: although this is the first time I've been to England, I feel like I may as well have been here a thousand times before, as it's so socially and culturally similar to Australia, and as I've learned and heard so much about it for my entire life. Anyway, now I'm in Italy, and that should be far from boring: new language; new cuisine; and new craziness.
My flight this afternoon left from London's Gatwick airport. I was hoping to get a bus to Gatwick, as buses are easily the cheapest way to get anywhere, here in England. Unfortunately, the only bus to Gatwick is a National Express, which only leaves (from Victoria Coach Station) once an hour, and which takes over 75 minutes to complete the journey. Plus, I just missed the hourly bus that "might" have got me to the airport in time. So, I was forced to take the "Gatwick Express", the slightly ripoff — albeit fast, gets you there in 30 mins flat — private train from Victoria Station to the airport. Anyway, at least they have a student discount, and at least it's a good service. And most importantly, at least it got me there on time.
This was my first experience doing the "budget European airline" thing, that I've heard so much about from all my European buddies, and that seems too cheap to be true. For my inaugural budget flight, I went with easyJet — one of the most popular ones at the moment. Basically, the flight was about the most spartan I've ever been on, but I have no complaints about it. Sure, there are no assigned seats (you just run on and grab what you can), and there's nothing served in-flight (even the peanuts aren't free); but it's quick, and it's cheap, and it gets you there. Seems like a good enough airline to me.
We got in to Rome Ciampino at about 8pm (Rome's secondary airport — just as they don't go through Heathrow in London, the budget airlines don't go through Da Vinci in Rome either). When I went through Italian immigration, I really had to bug the guy on duty to stamp my passport: he was on his mobile and having a snack, while waving people's passports through; and it seemed that he didn't have a hand free for doing the optional stamping at all. There was also quite a wait for our baggage to get onto the carousel, at Ciampino — and a bit of a wait to get the bus into central Rome. Otherwise, coming into Italy went fine.
When the bus dropped us off at Rome's Termini train station, I was relieved — because I had directions to my hostel from there. All I had to do was find "Via Del Viminale", which was a street branching off from one of the corners of the train station square. Once I found this street, it would be little more than a 10-minute walk over to the hostel. I asked a taxi driver which corner the street was on, and he said: "oh, that's miles away — why don't you let me take you, it'll only be €20". Err... no, it's not miles away, I checked before I left — it's on this block! Anyway, I wandered off and found the street myself, while he was still shouting at me: "wait... €15... 10!" Nice to be back in the Latin world, where you can safely assume that anyone will tell you anything, no matter how blatantly untrue it is, if it will result in them getting some money off you. The world makes sense again — England, what the hell's wrong with you?!