a relentless quest to expose the
A couple of pointers if you're catching the train from Palermo's Stazione Centrale (central train station) to the Palermo Falcone Borsellino Airport:
you need to catch a train from Stazione Centrale to Punto Raisi train station and the trip takes about an hour, and on the Sunday we were leaving - 28 Sep 2008 - the trains were running every hour - which means that a worst case scenario is it taking you some two hours to arrive at Punto Raisi train station (assuming trains running on time).
The Lets Go Italy 2008 guide guide says that "Free shuttles run every 30 min. to and from the nearby train station at Punto Raisi". In fact, once we arrived at Punto Raisi station, it was a short walk to the check-in.
The easyJet check-in was at counters 4 and 5. When we arrived at those counters there were two long queues and the signs at the front of the queues indicated "Bologna"...however it became clear that the Bologna sign was a red herring - everybody was queued for the easyJet flight from Palermo to London Gatwick Airport (a check-in lady went through the queue to individually pick out the poor souls who were flying to Bologna).
On arriving at the front of the queue we discovered we were 2kg overweight...horror of horrors - I had heard about hwo harsh low cost airlines can be about this and expected the worst. The check-in lady gave us a choice - either offload luggage or pay 20 euros extra. In front of a long check-in queue we rummaged through our personals and managed to be only 0.5kg overweight...which the easyJet check-in lady was kind enough to waive. My strong sense is that Ryanair would have been more ruthless in this situation, and easyJet scores major points for showing some flexibility here (not to mention the fact that easyJet allows 20kgs, whereas Ryanair restricts one to 15kg).
In common with most airports, Palermo Airport has ripoff prices for snacks. Here's the prices we paid after check-in:
4.2 euros for a ham & cheese roll
1.7 euros for a small glass of granita
On the easyJet flight our order of water and 7 Up came to 4 euros (more expensive than similar items cost at the top of the dome of St Peter's in the Vatican).
easyJet don't pre-book seats, instead each passenger is assigned into a group:
passengers with children
Each group boards in order, and takes seats on a first-come-first-served basis. Now where a bit of chaos enters the equation is that everybody, regardless of which group they've been assigned into at check-in, tries to get as close to the boarding gates as possible. This means that if you're group A you may have to push through a bunch of group C's to get to the front. We were in the second group with a child, and secured a window and aisle seat in the fourth row from the front.
Our suggestion to easyJet is that they follow SouthWest Airline's model of physically grouping the passengers before boarding time, with seperate areas allocated for each boarding group.
In the easyJet inflight magazine, Andy Harrison (easyJet's Chief Executive) advertised easyJet's winter sun destinations; naming Turkey, Egypt and the Canary Islands. EasyJet have teamed up with hotelopia to offer packages (this is well-integrated into the easyJet booking process, and we used it to book a night at Hotel Ducale near Venice), and you can book online at easyJetholidays.com. Andy also highlighted easyJet's skiiing destinations in the magazine, pointing out that they now fly to the Austrian city of Salzburg.
Sardinia (an island off Italy) is high up on my priority list of places to visit. Apparently Kate Moss flew easyJet there (like that should make a difference); and Michael Ballack and Cristiano Ronaldo have been there recently.
A French nudist resort near Montpellier has started blacklisting guests who don't adhere to the rules (which inlude a requirement to strip off).
From 1 Jan 2009, shops in this Roman Catholic town will be banned from opening on Sundays.
Apparently the property market at the bottom of the Italian boot (Puglia, Basilicata and Calabria) has some of Italy's lowest priced but fasted rising property markets - a good beach apartment is available for less than 100,000 euro. Puglia (the high heel of the Italy boot) is more expensive than Basilicata and Calabria, but recent property buyers there include Mickey Rourke, Helen Mirren, Francis Ford Coppola, Amanda Lamb and Stuart Copeland. If you're into rural living then Basilicata (the instep of the boot) may be a better fit. The best spots for renting out your house are the Itria Valley, Salento Peninsula, Lecce and Ostuni (in Puglia); Matera and Maratea (in Basilicata); and the Tropea promontory (in Calabria).
It was interesting to read about easyJet's Mastercard, which they try entice you into using by offering a free easyJet flight.
Well, easyJet's inflight mag has the answers:
Birmingham's Jewelery Quarter (which is 200 years old)
the historic St Paul's Church and the park around it
the rag market where exotic silks are bought & sold
Ikon, a free contemporary art gallery
Sardinia, the second largest island in the Mediterranean, is home to the traditional canto a tenores (tenors song), where 4 male voices combine to produce a sound reminiscent of African tribal harmonies. Sardinians have even created their own musical instrument, the launeddas (a flute-like device).
We forgot a purse in the plane, and the ground staff at London Gatwick found it and returned it. The Gatwick ground staff at lost and found luggage deal with unhappy passengers all day, and in our experience did so professionally and with a good sense of humour to lighten the moment. Kudos to them.