Sunday, April 18, 2010

Murphy's Law of Lacey in Italyland

This will be a several part series in which I describe the mishaps of my most recent adventure. I would like to preface this tirade by saying I had an awesome time on this trip. Traveling is stressful and requires much patience and planning and even with healthy doses of both, there is so much that can go wrong. I couldn't have picked better travel companions though - they each had their merits. Katie was the optimist of the group, putting a good light on it all. Plus we discovered a shared passion for the lesser-loved veggies - namely beets and brussels, a passion our boyfriends are strongly against sharing. Jamie was on top of all the reservation and booking and shared my opinion that only amazing food should be consumed while on vacation. And Ryan had the (difficult) job of keeping me in line every time I wanted to despair, feel guilty for Europe's downfalls, or crank.

So,on to the tirade. I just got back from Italy a few days ago where I spent a week and a half with my boyfriend and two of our friends, seeing the sights, eating great food, and....running into several ridiculous problems. While I am counting on my pictures to convey the positive aspects of the trip, a few words are required to express the lower points.

As the trip was approaching I started to set about packing. I had decided to send a large suitcase full of books and winter clothes back with Ryan because I was a total idiot and brought 3 large suitcases with me to France, and now that it's almost time to move home, I was starting to regret it. Thus, a large suitcase wass crammed. Getting it up to Paris on my own would be a hassel I knew (because contrary to what you might believe, my giant arm muscels are just for show) but it seemed like it would be worth it when come 6 weeks I only had 2 giant suitcases to wrassel by myself.

Arms acheing and legs bruised from constantly banging my bag against it going up and down strairs (elevators aren't in fashion here yet) I got to the airport in Paris with the bag intact and a duffel bag of clothes to wear in Italy. Surprise! Found out my duffel was too big (according to this airliner) to be a carryon so I had to check it. Well I was only allowed one piece of luggage and only up to 20kg. Both bags combined were 31kg. I" You will have to pay for the overage" the man said in crisp French. ""Ugh.....ok," I said in pitiful scraping the bottom of my bank account English.The man behind the counter gave me a sad little smile as he filled out the form for me to take to another desk. I watched as he wrote on the form in big bold letters 31KG.

Flustered and upset I made my way to the counter he had vaugely pointed out and in usual fashion I walked 10 feet, looked back to make sure he was no longer watching and then asked someone else where I should be going. I guiltily handed my form to the woman behind the counter (once I finally found it) and she started plugging away at her calculator. "Well Miss, you will have to pay per kilo that makes.....620 euros. Will you be paying in cash?"

Yeah I pretty much died. My eyes filled up with tears (I can always count on those little pathetic beads of weakness to pearl up at the smallest sign of confrontation) and insisted that there must be a mistake while in my head I was wildly searching for an escape...could I just go out in the parking lot and burn the damn suitcase? She sighed and picked up the phone to call the man with the sad smile to verify the numbers. Putting down the phone she mumbled to herself , scribbling out the 620 and replacing it with a 220. "Voila." I still wanted to cry. I forked over the money, via bankcard, and dejectedly rolled my obese suitcase back to the man with the sad smile, and watched as it slowly rolled down the conveyor belt.

Fast Forward a bit. I got to Rome and easily found the others and we headed to the hostel. It was located in a seemlingly convenient part of the city and in really cool old building. The wooden door stretched up to the second floor and there was a beautiful hole in the sky courtyard in the middle of the building. The woman had said to take the elevator up to the top floor, the 5th. In front of us loomed the cage of an ancient elevator.

But for some reaons my eys followed the woman who had come in before us, who quickly ducked into a side door and disappeared into a small elevator. Lets follow her shall we? In any case I figured they went to the same place. Katie and I squeezed our bags into the tiny elevator and just managed to squish ourselves in next to it. I pushed the 5 button, remarking that there was also a 6 . She had said 5...but she had also said the top floor. We got off the elevator and waited around for Jamie and Ryan to repeate the same tetris adventure that is the european elevator. 5th floor. No signs for our hostel, cutely named Alice in Wonderland. So we started ringing doorbellls. I had that old childhood itch to run away (my poor neighbors in Gaithersburg) but I staid put and eventually a tiny, stooped Italian woman opened the door. I explained the situation, fighting the urge to speak loudly,. She spoke back to me in perfect (I can only assume) Italian. I realized this was going nowhere. She smiled and shut the door.

Ryan volunteered to run up to the 6th floor and scout. He yelled back down saying there was only one door and he could see a statue through the keyhole. He was convinced we had found it. Statue = Hotel Reception. The rest of us voiced our doubts, sighting for example, that the sign on the buzzer clearly said it was a doctors office, and that the woman had said it was on the 5th floor. Not wanting to disturb another old resident we opted to go back down and try the buzzer again and get the directions again.

Directions had. We tried the more obvious elevator. The one clearly visable when you walk in the big imposing front door, not the one hidden behind a side door. Success! I went up first with my bag to make sure. Stepping off the elevator I noticed the big sign on the door in front of me reading Alice in Wonderland and seconds later the door opened and a woman came out. "You already made a reservation yes?" she asked. "Yup" I repleid. "Do you have the confirmation." "I don't but Katie, who is coming up in the elevator, does." "Oh there are two of you" "No actually there are 4 of us and we reserved two rooms." Her face remained fairly blank through this entire exchange but her voice took on more and more of a stressed high pitched tone. The others arrived, one by one, and we handed over our booked confirmation. She lead us in, telling us to leave our bags in the hallway and wait in the living room. We sat at an empty table in the living room as the couch was already occupied by a bored looking couple. I noticed a pile of luggage heaped in a corner of the room.

My travel companions looked...well like they had been traveling. Rumpled and tired but putting forth an effort. We waited for a while, discussing our strange reception and remarking on the pile of abandoned luggage. Other groups filtered in from somewhere else in the apartment. They asked if we had a place to stay. far as we knew....

We waited some more. Pilfered some blood oranges from a bowl on the table. Waited. Talked with other people coming in and out. Finally Maxi, one of the owners, came to talk to us. Here's the scoop he gave us: messed up...and maybe he was a little sloppy too. In short, there are no rooms for us. Nor are there rooms for the 5-6 other groups (that we saw) that also made reservations here.

"But I emailed you personally two days ago and you confirmed the booking" Jamie said. Maxi looked embarrassed. We quickly realized that there was nothing we could do about it. But smooth talking Maxi had it all under control. "I've got this great place I can take you to, but its not ready tonight, it will be ready for tomorrow. So....for tonight you can stay here (meaning the living room), no charge. We will set you up with some beds. and tomorrow I will take you to the other place.

Not ideal but what could we say? He gave us some towels and Jamie went to take a shower while the rest of us lounged on the freed up couch and contemplated a night in the living room. Jetlagged and red-eyed I could tell all Ryan wanted to do was take a nap, well and he said so several times, but since no one was interested in my idea (find out where the prostis hang out and rent a hotel for a few hours....what?) there was no napping to be had for any of us. So we consulted our list of vegetarian restaurants, put our luggage in the kitchen in a corner, and went out into the city to get dinner.

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