Today started off like any normal European Holiday Vacation… late. We had gotten to our hotel (bed and breakfast, actually) at 2am, after a long day of mostly waiting, then travelling, and what seemed like an eternity waiting for our luggage. But finally, we’re in our hotel at 2am, and we can rest.
The plan for today was to go to the Italian beach. I’m a bit of a beach snob, having lived four years in Puerto Rico and going to many a Caribbean beach. This beach was not anything like the Caribbean (what is?), but it was still really nice. But first… the journey.
I got up at about 10:40, which was great because the “breakfast” part of the B&B closes at noon. We got a ticket/voucher for our entire trip to get a croissant + coffee from a bakery about a block down the street. at 10:50 Sam and I walked down the street and got to the breakfast place, showed them our voucher, and then got a lecture that we really need to get there at 10 or 11am because there’s no guarantee that after that there will be croissants.
I wasn’t expecting a lecture… we were told at the B&B that as long as we get there by 11 we would be fine. But whatever… the main message was really “we might run out, and if we do, too bad.”
Lecture over, we picked out our croissants and asked what coffee we wanted. None of us drink coffee… “can we get some juice?” “No, but you can have milk.” None of us drink milk…but maybe if we keep it up we can get juice. “Can we get some juice?” “No…” so we walked away with a bag of croissants.
We head to the bank (which is just across the street) to use the ATM. After a few tries, and finally switching it over from Italian to English, the card/ATM failed… so we walk back towards the B&B and what luck! There’s an ATM right outside of our B&B, with a bank name that I recognized! This time it worked, we got our cash, and went back to the room to wake the sleepyheads.
“Let’s go!” We had an hour travel ahead of us and I wanted to get in as much non-hotel time as I could, even though we had a late night. While everyone is getting ready we break into the croissants. Now, I’m not much of a bread/carb guy. To me, that’s not a proper meal… but holy cow, this was the best croissant I’ve ever had. If you dressed up a really tasty donut as a croissant, that’s we got. It was superb!
I got instructions from our B&B host and we were off! Today we would try the metro, since Uber is apparently rotten in Italy (it’s not the normal Uber… all Uber drivers are limo drivers, which means they are licensed or whatever, and perhaps as expensive as a Taxi), and the metro is just a block or two from our B&B. So we get on Line A and go to the very end, where we’re supposed to get a bus to the beach. Total travel time: one hour.
We get off the metro, Line A, at the end, and then go to the bank of buses. I couldn’t make heads of tales of it, except I could see there were Italians waiting by certain buses, or where buses would park, and I finally found someone who worked there. “Which bus do we take to get to Torvainanica beach, er, playa, or spiaggia from here?”
Try to say “torvainica” or “spiaggia” without any proper training… you say it about six times and the Italians laugh 🙂
“Oh, no, you need to go back on Metro A, to Termini, then get off, and go up the stairs, then down the stairs, and get on Metro B (another line), to the very end, and then take a bus to the spiaggia.”
OH. MY. GOSH. Should have done the uber for $45. We would have been there by now. But we were only into it $6 so far… we’re trying to be frugal and get used to the metro system.
So we hit the little flee market, get free beach bags (shopping bags, but we used them later at the beach), Ellie gets some pants, and we reject all the bathing suits (William and I both need real swimsuits), and go to Metro A. It was easy enough to get from A to B (just follow the hordes of people), and then … go outside and try to make sense of the buses. I’ll tell you, there’s no making sense of them. At the kiosk you pay by how far you are going (10 kilometers? $1.60. 20 kilimeters? 2 whatever.) I have no idea how far we are going, and by the looks of it, the next bus is in one or two hours.
It’s like 3:00 by now and we’re tired of this figuring-out thing. We miss uber, and we’re hungry. So, we take a taxi. The most expensive thing you could do. It was $45. See the irony here? (if not, reference the uber price a few paragraphs up)
We finally get to the beach but Job #1 is to get some FOOD. This unusual vending machine we saw right out of the taxi didn’t quite have the food we were looking for:
Unfortunately, everything with real meals is closed. What the heck, Europe? So many great places, most of them closed! The whole Appleby’s until 1am thing is looking pretty great right about now!
We go to a swimsuit/prom dress store (it had a weird variety of clothes) and me and William get our sweet European swimsuits (not that style, of course! He could pull it off, I couldn’t). While there, two girls walk in and the owner is like “English! English!” Turns out they are diving board divers brought in from Romania and Texas, and the owner thought they would interpret for us. But the Texan (who had great English, I might add) didn’t speak a lick of Italian… she has only been here less than a week :p We buy our clothes, and four towels, and are off.
We then walk to find a place to eat… and everything, like I said, was closed. Except the gelato place. Now, I’ve heard of gelato before, but wowzers. Seriously, gelato in Italy is all it is hyped up to be. Here’s an interesting article on the difference between gelato and ice cream. There were about 30 flavors… we each got a small cone for two euros and they piled on about three scoops… much more than I thought would fit. It was really nice to get any food while we were on the hunt for lunch-almost-dinner.
About a block down the road we say a miracle: a food place that was open. We went in and passed the glass showcase with the pre-made pizzas… those have not looked good to us at all yet. On the other side were various foods we didn’t recognize and that didn’t look appetizing… but there was a pan of lasagna cut into very generous portions (about 4 servings per portion!). The Trio each got a plate of that, and I opted to try some fish thing that looked good. The total price was only 22 euros… not bad! Oh yeah, add 1.50 for a big bottle of water, and we’re good.
We open up the water, as we were all super thirsty, and pour it into our tiny cups (every place we have gone in Europe, the drink cups are tiny. I think Europeans drink little at the meal (unless it’s beer) and then get home and drink a lot… who knows?), and very quickly realize this is not “still” water… this is bubbly, or gassy, or, as we call it, mineral water! YUCK. Ugh. No amount of thirst will be satisfied with mineral water :/
So I buy another bottle, after a three minute English-to-Italian (with some Spanish mixed in, and hand gestures) conversation with the lady that no, we don’t want her delicious mineral water, we just want still water. Normal water… normal without gas… oh heavens getting water is hard!
Victory! We got normal, non-gas water, and I went back to the table only to find The Trio is not impressed with their $5 lasagne. “It tastes like it’s out of the can of spaghetti-os.” This is not a complement. I try a bit and indeed, it looked amazing, but it certainly tasted like it was right out of the can. Either this restaurant was rotten, or the spaghetti-o company was right on the money with their Italian food!
My fish wasn’t much better. It was too breaded, not enough fish, and a huge lasagna noodle on the bottom, just to remind you that when you are on the road you eat a lot of carbs. Bleh.
But at least we had our water. Mind you, it’s probably 4pm now and we still haven’t been to the beach! Let’s get going! We buy two more water bottles and go down an alley and we are at the beautiful Mediterranean beach. What happened on this beach, I wondered? Anything with WWI or WWII? Trading from early Roman times?
The Trio immediately set off for the water and played in it for a super long time, I stayed with our stuff. Anyone steals the wallets or phone and we are in a world of hurt. They come back and I walk down the beach to look for shells and see the sights… I was surprised at how empty this beach was.
I come back and the Trio sets off for a walk, and at about 8pm they come back… and we figure we better go figure out how to get a bus back to the metro before everything closes down. But, surprise! You are in a small town, and things are starting to close down! The bus system was weird (not like my experiences in Mexico, or Sam’s in the Dominican Republic)… and we couldn’t figure it out. What’s more, each bus that went by was PACKED, and we weren’t sure we were going to get on any of them!
We try Uber… from the beach to our B&B is eighty Euros… UGH. But that’s the price you pay, I guess. It was late, and we were getting desperate (anyone up for sleeping on the beach?)… no taxis were passing, no buses made sense… and then our Uber driver cancelled. Get another one… he cancels too. NOW WHAT?
We try to download the Rome-Taxi uber competitor, but that is taking too long. I ask a local and he tells me to go down this street, then turn the other way, then look for a sign of a business, and there I’ll find a number for the taxi service. Remember, small town. On our way, and not trusting any local’s directions anymore, I think “the hotel!” Every hotel deals with taxis, and surely a hotel guy can help us!
So I go into a little (LITTLE) hotel and the guy is like “oh yeah, my friend… er, the taxi driver, he’ll do it.”
We just needed a ride to the metro, 14 miles away, before it closed. By now we are all having visions of beach sleeping, and I’m remembering how annoying sand fleas are from when I was a teen sleeping on the beaches in the Virgin Islands… “he says $70 to the metro… just wait out here on the chairs!”
We have no other choice… we wait on the chairs until 9, when he should come. That gives is two hours before the metro shuts down in a town where transportation is rough. At 9:07 I go back to him and ask where the driver is… we’re okay but a little nervous. “Faith not fear,” this is going to work out!
“This is Italia!” Meaning 9pm doesn’t mean 9pm… it means 9 or 10 or whenever the driver wants to show up! “And, everyone here is in the mafia!” Not sure how to take that part… I forgot about the mafia thing in Italy.
Turns out our driver, Johnny (yep), is just two minutes away. He pull sup in an older BMW station wagon and we load up and head out. “You speak English?” “No.” “Spanish, French? Polish?” “No, only Italian.” Johnny, pure Italian. Definitely mobster, I figure.
Johnny was an interesting driver. His headlights weren’t that powerful, and he was sweating profusely… I honestly wondered if he was having a heart attack! And if your driver has a heart attack outside of Rome, what do you do? Do you drive, how do you call 911… what’s the protocol? I had a good twenty minutes to think through this on our way to the metro. It’s amazing where your mind can go with a sweaty mobster driving you super fast through unlit roads.
We get there… 70 euros… here’s my card. “No card!” Ugh… I have thirty euros, and it’s getting late (the metro shuts down when??) Luckily Ellie had gotten some cash, we paid off our Johnny, and we were off! We go get tickets and wind our way down to the underground and get on a train. Getting on that metro felt really, really good! We were going to make it!
The rest of the metro ride was uneventful… we go to Termini, switched to Line A, and then got to our stop… after a few minutes of disorientation, figured out which way our hotel was (there are like 5 streets that all come into this one intersection, and we were on the wrong side of familiar), and then started off, planning on a trip to the 24 hour grocery store on the way. Yes, 24 hours… it is a miracle. And they had a lot of good stuff. Problem was we were hungry, which is not the best time to buy.
Finally, we get home, have some cereal and cookies (carbs, carbs, more carbs!) and get to bed. As we’re settling in my family calls and we get to chat for a good 30 to 45 minutes, showing them the room we are in, telling jokes, making faces, and just staying in touch. It’s so good to hear their voices and hear about what they are up to.
We find out on the news that there was a bomb or something at a Roman post office (we need to find a post office soon!), and that we had just missed the second bridge terror attack in London, and a British airways shutdown, etc. Luckily we have avoided any of that stuff… !
And that was it… our beach adventure… tomorrow, we hit ROME!
Con amore, da Italia!