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Jamikins and Bikerscott hit Tuscany for New Years

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Dec 28th, 2013, 01:40 PM
  #1
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Jamikins and Bikerscott hit Tuscany for New Years

The plan - 8 days at Sant Antonio http://www.santantonio.it/ relaxing by the fire, reading, and of course enjoying the culinary joys of Tuscany.

We had booked flights into Rome, arriving mid-afternoon to ensure we had enough time to get to our location before dark. This did not happen!

We headed out to Gatwick this morning after finding out our flight was pushed forward 2.5 hours. Great, there goes the daylight hours for driving. As the time for the gate notification came and went we realised that our flight was also going to be late. After waiting an hour for them to turn over the late incoming plane we were off!

Our suitcases, of course, were one of the last few off the plane and we ran to the Thrifty car rental (booked through Autoeurope) to find out that if you are more than 2 hours late they cancel your rental. Prepaid or not. Regardless of whether you gave them your flight number - they will not check and keep your rental. We were not alone in this plight and soon had a line-up behind us in the same boat.

At this point it was 6:30pm and I was getting pretty frustrated! We threw ourselves at his mercy and basically begged for anything. He offered us a SmartCar. On the highway this was not really going to work but we were desperate. Begging for anything else he finally relented and we ended up with a convertible sports car! In winter!!! Why does this not happen on our summer vacations?????

So we were able to make the two hour drive to Sant Antonio in our sporty car (with the roof up!) and have just settled in by our roaring fire with a lovely red provided by Nico, the friendly host.

Phew! Tomorrow we plan to explore Montepulciano and have a nice long lunch at one of the many recommended restaurants!

Happy Travels Everyone!
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Dec 28th, 2013, 02:12 PM
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Oh, goody. Another great read from Jamikins and Bikerscott! This will be fun.
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Dec 28th, 2013, 03:17 PM
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Just watch out.

A few years back I was in Montepulciano on Dec 29, when snow was a foot deep all around. I broke my elbow.

Irrelevant with current Tuscan weather, you might think. But today's local press in Venice has only one story: the weather catastrophe 30 miles north (where it's been so cold, the mobile phone masts don't work) - while in Venice today it's been practically spring.

Anywhere north of Rome, these days, winter weather's getting as unpredictable as in England (or as flights out of Gatwick since Monday).

Hope you remembered to pack your EHIC cards.
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Dec 28th, 2013, 05:09 PM
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Ah! Glad you made it to the cozy fireside. Looking forward to further developments.
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Dec 28th, 2013, 07:03 PM
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Boy, my slice of pizza in the Costco food court this afternoon pales by comparison.
Rock on, kiddos!
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Dec 28th, 2013, 10:45 PM
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Looking forward to another great rip report!
Its hot here in Australia.
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Dec 28th, 2013, 10:46 PM
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It should read "trip report", but I am sure it will be a ripper anyway!
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Dec 29th, 2013, 12:16 AM
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Well the forecast for the week is 13 degrees and mostly rain, so hopefully any major snowfalls will hold off until later in Jan!!!
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Dec 29th, 2013, 08:25 AM
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Fantastic, put a hat on, turn up the heater and drop the roof.
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Dec 29th, 2013, 08:40 AM
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Excited for this upcoming report as well but concerned about your rental car situation. Is the 2 hours and your done policy limited to Thrifty or is it an AutoEurope policy? Why do they bother to ask your flight arrival time if they won't use the info? I don't like what happened to you. Were you just unlucky or could it happen to anyone renting from AutoEurope?
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Dec 29th, 2013, 08:59 AM
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And adding to Julie's question - did they honour your rate and/or the fact you had prepaid?
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Dec 29th, 2013, 09:35 AM
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Enjoy Montepulciano as well as the rest of the area. Looking forward to your adventure.
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Dec 29th, 2013, 09:47 AM
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Just a quick reply - it was Thrifty's policy as far as I could tell - but rented through Autoeurope. Thankfully it has worked out so no worries. They did honour our reservation and the fact that it was prepaid...I think. Bikerscott authorised something on our credit card without really thinking but we are pretty sure it was a deposit like the last time we rented through Thrifty (also through Autoeurope). Will be checking that out on our credit card tomorrow!

As for whether it can happen to anyone - at Thrifty's at the Rome airport it happened to everyone on our plane - they were all behind us. A couple who had booked direct with Thrifty's were having the same conversation - they had also prepaid and entered their flight number when booking. Didnt matter - according to the guy at the counter they are not an airline and dont care about the flights. They are a car rental place and if you dont show up when you say you are going to they give you two hours and then give your car away and cancel your reservation. According to the guy if the couple beside us didnt want the smartcar they were SOL and lost all their prepaid money. In the end they ended up with a Fiat 500 - not as cool as our convertible haha but fine afterall. No idea what the 10 or so people behind us ended up with...

So we certainly wont be booking with Thrifty's ever again!!!!
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Dec 29th, 2013, 01:03 PM
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Day One – 15 Hours To Travel 2

I don’t normally write about travel days when there isn't much going on other than a relatively short flight from London to Rome for example. This day, however, was so monumentally horrific (this, of course, being a relative term) that it deserves a few paragraphs all on its own.

Some time ago, we signed up for a professional account on Trip-It, the travel app thingy that Jamie uses to make sure I know where we’re going and when (otherwise I do stupid things like plan evenings at the pub with friends when we’re actually meant to be in Paris, or similar). One of the benefits of the paid account is that they track your flights for you and let you know when there are changes. This turned out to be a good thing, because BA neglected to let us know that our departing flight time had changed – they’d delayed it two hours. Trip-It sent a little message three days before our flight.

On the other hand, because we’re a bit paranoid and really lazy, we decided not to bother changing the car service pick up time, and so left the house at 7am for our 13:30 flight from Gatwick to Rome. Airports are horrible places, full of horrible people desperately trying to get somewhere with no time for the little politeness of normal life. We had breakfast at the Jamie Oliver restaurant, and then took refuge in the bar next door. As it was before 9am, we refrained from ordering our first pints of the day, but by 10am a few hardy souls were venturing into that lovely holiday land of mid-morning drunkenness.

Several hours later, we were watching the screen for our departure gate to be announced. It kept saying “Update at 12:55”. 12:55 came and went, then 13:00, and then longer. Jamie is not a patient person, and nearly had a coronary (things that are meant to be on time should be on time, and not a second later. She should probably have been Swiss, rather than Canadian/British). Finally they revealed our winning gate – yes, the farthest one from where we currently were. My eventual pint I’d succumbed to meant that I was quite relaxed about the whole situation.

We walked down to the gate area, secure in the knowledge that our BA Executive Club cards would give us priority boarding – all those trips to the US office for work finally paid off! This was a fortunate thing to have – the flight was packed and BA were offering to put bags in the hold for free to save room in the cabin. Surprisingly, a few people actually took them up on it.

As our scheduled departure time of 13:35 rolled past, we watched the loading of the catering through the window. Then the refueling of our plane. When this was done, the decided that maybe they should start taking the bags of the previous occupants of the plane off of it, so that those people might continue their journey. Finally, we were allowed on, only 40 minutes late. Then they started loading our bags. On the plus side, Jamie had a good view out the window and saw them load our bags into the plane – at the worst, our bags would make it to Rome whenever we finally did.

The plane slowly filled up with both bags and passengers, the loading of passengers not without drama of its own. It seems there were a few large families who hadn't bothered to both check in and choose seats online the day before, and who also apparently hadn't turned up early enough to the airport to get seats assigned together. They chose mid-boarding to throw a major strop in the aisle, blocking the back half of the plane. This went on for quite a while. It was exciting to watch, but I felt bad for the stewardess who was dealing with them.

Finally, we took off. Jamie likes to look out the window on flights, and I like to sleep, so she always makes me sit in the middle seat, rather than my preferred aisle seat. I always hope that the person in the third seat is going to be Claudia Schiffer, but inevitably it’s Roseanne Bar. This time, it was a fidgety 15 year old girl with personal space issues (she didn’t seem to think that personal space was important, which is not ideal (see the comment above about the sleeping).

It was a long flight, but we finally landed; only an hour past our scheduled two hour delayed arrival time. We knew our bags made it to Rome with us as we’d seem them being loaded, but we started to doubt what we’d seen. They actually were the last bags to come off the conveyor. This logically has to happen to someone on every single flight, but it’s not a good feeling when everyone else collects their luggage in front of you, and you are still luggage-less. I had a sudden thought that my underpants wouldn’t make it past four days if our bags had somehow been lost (today as they are, turn them backwards for tomorrow, inside out for the day after, and backwards while inside out the last day. After that would just be gross).

Finally we made it out of customs and made a beeline for the car rental place. Despite being late getting our bags, we were the first in the queue, and therefore the first from our flight to be told that car reservations are only held for two hours past the designated pick up time, after which point the reservation is cancelled and the car hired out to someone else. Apparently the car hire place is just a car hire place, not a travel agency, and thus putting your flight number into the system when reserving the car in the first place is a meaningless task. Also, it seems that paying in full in advance for the full rental isn’t enough to guarantee your reservation.

It looked like we were going to be given a Smart car – the only one they had left. I’ve always been curious about the little beasts, however I’m not sure I’d want one in the Tuscan hills, or even more on the Italian Autostrada, and with our luggage, which patently wouldn’t have fit. Jamie was getting ready to burst into tears, and the car hire guy took pity on us and gave us a substantial upgrade – to a sporty little Citroen DS3 from their “Fun” collection, which included the bonus of a convertible top – why this only happens to us in the middle of winter and not our frequent summer rentals when we might be able to take advantage of a drop top is beyond me.

Guido (a suave Italian stallion name for a convertible sporty car if I’ve ever heard on) did well on the drive from Rome to Montepulciano, and Gazza, our Australian-accented sat-nav got us 450 metres up the road to our 800-year-old converted monastery – only 350 metres short of the gates, which is pretty damn good if you ask me. We pulled in and met Nico, the very patient and understanding owner who I think cancelled his plans for the evening to make sure he was here when we arrived, only 4 hours later than we’d originally intended when we’d made the booking (we had been calling him as the flight was being delayed to let him know, including the original delay a few days prior).

He showed us our little cottage which is to be home for the week – a little kitchen, some comfortable couches, a fireplace in the corner, and a bedroom with a surprisingly good bed. We said goodnight to him, unpacked the car, lit a fire and spent an excellent evening with some excellent Tuscan wine. I won’t mention dinner, which due to a mistranslation at the Autogrill where we stopped for supplies meant that we had spicy pasta (the pasta itself was infused with chilli peppers, like fire in a bowl) with what was intended by the manufacturers to be some sort of North African meat and tomato spread used as a sauce. It was very good, and scorching hot, even for us London curry-eaters.

In the end, it took us almost 15 hours to travel from our flat in east London to the cottage just outside Montepulciano. We were exhausted, and when we finally went to bed, fell into a deep and satisfying sleep.
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Dec 29th, 2013, 02:18 PM
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Always love your trip reports. I think you two get away so often to such lovely places that when I come back for my second time around I want to be reincarnated as either of you.

I did have to smile at your 15 hour travel time. We get to do 22 hours from Savannah Georgia to Newark NJ, to Lisbon and ending in Portugal's south coast twice a year. I would love to travel only 15 hours...you Brits are spoiled and Australians....I pity them. What airline did you fly? One year we flew Easy Jet Lisbon/Rome and ran into long flight delays both ways with no one at the gate to give us any idea when the flight might be leaving...very frustrating when you need to update people on your arrival end.

Please post more soon.
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Dec 29th, 2013, 02:23 PM
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We flew BA, on points thankfully. I find Easyjet can turn around a plane so quickly, watching BA turn the plane around was so so painfully slow! Oh the 1st world problems we have!

We do travel a lot, thanks to the UK for your generous vacation policy...and also due to us spending most of our extra cash on travel and entertainment rather than cars, and clothes Honestly love our life...no complaints here hehehe..and we are so spoiled being so close to so many great places!!!

First day pics are up from me here...will update the link as the days continue:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/pug_gir...7639164500734/
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Dec 29th, 2013, 02:23 PM
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<>

<< therefore the first from our flight to be told that car reservations are only held for two hours past the designated pick up time, after which point the reservation is cancelled and the car hired out to someone else.>>

if i understand this correctly, biker, you were in fact only an hour late in picking up your car, allowing for the 2 hours grace that Thrifty told you they give their customers, yet they only had a Smart car for you? I smell a rat here; from what you and Jaimie have posted, there were at least 10 other renters on your flight similarly affected. Had they had an unexpected rush of renters without reservations in that hour? or is it that they had rented out cars earlier in the day that should have been reserved for late arriving passengers and used this as an excuse. After all it must be tempting, if you have pre-payments, to rent the car out to someone new, and then to keep the pre-payment on the ground that the renter is late, so it's their fault. eventually the credit card company will presumably catch up with them, but in the meantime, they've effectively rented out and been paid twice for the same car. Nice.

anyway, I'm glad that you have finally reached your goal, and am looking forward to reading about the rest of your adventures.
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Dec 29th, 2013, 02:31 PM
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Our flight was rescheduled 2.5 hours later at the last moment...then was another 1 hour late at the gate. So we landed 3.5 hours later than we should have. So we were all 3.5 hours late for our reservation. Apparently they wait 2 hours and because it is the festive season they had nothing left.

Surely if they had that many late arrivals they would check the flights and see that 1 flight was 3.5 hours later than expected...but nope!

I have to say I smell a rat as well...but we have worked out ok. We will never rent from Thrifty's again though!
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Dec 29th, 2013, 02:36 PM
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jamikins - that's still only 90 mins for them to have apparently rented out all those reserved cars, once you knock off the 2 hours they say that they wait.

Thank you for the warning - I will certainly look at the small print of the next car I rent to make sure that they don't do the same thing. and like you, I won't be renting from Thrifty.
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Dec 29th, 2013, 02:38 PM
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Exactly - and funny enough there were tonnes of cars in their rental area...we commented on it as we left the garage! Their area was full!!!
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