In late December I found out that I needed to be in Milan for a week in early January for work, and while the timing wasn't perfect (it came right on the heels of another work trip to Las Vegas for the Consumer Electronics Show, and cut short the climbing part of that trip which was the whole reason that I had manoevered myself into attending in the first place), I couldn't be too upset because I had never been to Europe in the winter. And, as we all know, Europe in the winter means skiing in the Alps.
Two of my colleagues joined me for the trip to Milan where we had a week of meetings, and while I couldn't persuade Riyadth that a ski trip on the weekend after the meetings was needed, fortunately Dylan was thinking rationally and he agreed that a ski trip was a sufficient and necessary condition for making the trip to Milan. So, on Sunday afternoon the three of us met at the SeaTac airport and boarded a flight to Paris that would connect on to Milan. The connection in Paris was on the short side at 1 hour, especially since connecting through the convoluted Charles DeGaulle airport usually means multiple shuttle rides, moving between terminals, and passing through customs and security. The flight to Paris was actually pretty fun (at least for Dylan and myself) since we were both upgraded to first class and enjoyed the royal treatment, all the while feeling badly for Riyadth sandwiched between crying infants back in economy class (at least until we had consumed a few glasses of champagne, then we forgot all about Riyadth).
We had taken off late, and while we had assumed that we might make up time in the air, the french don't like to rush things (we were flying Air France) so this was not the case and we landed 40 minutes late. Dylan and I both bolted off the plane (being conveniently near the front) and boarded the first shuttle bus to the terminal. Riyadth didn't manage to make the first shuttle bus, and upon reaching the terminal Dylan and I decided that I would go on ahead while he waited for Riyadth. I took off at sprint through the terminal, and after negotiating the aforementioned hurdles I arrived at the gate with about 5 minutes to spare. At first it looked like I wouldn't be allowed on, but after some negotiations I was allowed to board and settled into my seat for the flight to Milan.
Riyadth and Dylan didn't end up making the flight (having boarded another shuttle bus for the transition between terminals where I ran; the shuttle bus subsequently became stuck behind a broken down bus, ending their chances of making the flight), and I knew that there was no way that my luggage had made it on either. As a result, upon reaching Milan-Linate airport I went straight to the lost luggage desk and filed a claim, where they confirmed that my bags were still back in Paris and would be arriving that afternoon. I then headed on to the hotel where our business meetings were being held, and attended the afternoons meetings with my rumpled yellow cyclocross T-shirt striking a sharp contrast with the well-pressed suits and pointy leather shoes of the Italians who we were meeting with.
Riyadth and Dylan arrived that night, along with my checked bag of clothing that they had managed to retrieve at the airport, but Dylan's bags had also been lost in transit. I tried calling the number that I had been given for the lost luggage desk, but after numerous tries I could not succeed in reaching anyone. Dylan was in the same situation (worse actually, since he didn't even have his checked bag with his clothes). As the weekend approached I began getting worried about our skis, but on Wednesday there was a glimmer of hope as Dylan's bag of clothing was delivered (but still no skis). Finally on Wednesday we decided to physically go to the airport to try and talk to someone (since we still had not been able to reach anyone by phone), and upon doing so we were able to claim my skis which were being stored in a room full of bags, apparently not slated for delivery anytime in the near future. Dylan's skis however, were out on a truck for delivery, so at this point we were 3 for 4 with tracking down our lost luggage. I informed the man working at the luggage desk that it was impossible to get in touch with them because they didn't answer their phones, to which he laughed heartily and said "Lot's of passenges say that!".
So, we picked up our rental car for the weekend and headed back to the hotel, getting lost several times in the thick fog that seems to be characteristic of Milan at this time of year and somehow turning a 20 minute trip into a 60 minute trip. Fortunately Dylan's skis were delivered overnight, so by Friday afternoon when the meetings ended, we finally had retrieved all of our lost luggage from the chaotic Italian lost luggage service, and we loaded up our little Fiat (really little, with our skis down the middle of the car they rested on the shifter, which made driving somewhat difficult) and headed out into the Italian fog once again. After driving some loops around our hotel while we tried to determine what direction we should be heading we were finally on our way, heading north west for the Mont-Blanc tunnel which would funnel us into the valley of Chamonix.
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