It's been one of those days that just doesn't go according to plan... and by some heaven-sent chance, we got super lucky!
So, in order to do this story justice, I have to go back a little while. First, leaving Erin's house:
Erin's dad took us to the train station. from there, we were to take a train to the Frankfurt Main Train Station, then catch a bus to Frankfurt Hahn airport. At the train station in Hofheim, Erin told us that the tickets were about 4Euro a peice, but that they barely check tickets. She said that if we got on, most likely they wouldn't check tickets. If they did, we could just buy tickets from the person checking tickets.
We decided to risk it without tickets and just buy them when necessary. Of course, someone came to check tickets. We were a little nervous, and the person asked us for 40 Euro... per person. We were still processing what was happening when a couple next to us explained that the fine for not having a ticket was 40 Euro and the ticket checking people were very strict; we weren't likely to get out of the fine.
We accepted this, although very confused still, and handed over 40 Euro. Then the girl next to me asked us where we were going, etc. We explained out situation and she relayed it to the ticket person. By some miracle, the ticket master allowed us to only pay the regular fare. What a crazy blessing!!
Even more so, when we got off the train about a minute later, an elderly lady got off and offered, speaking Spanish, to show us where the bus stop was to catch our bus. It was fun to listen to her speak Spanish and to attempt to talk back with her. She was an amazing help to us.
We just barely missed a bus from the train station, but caught another leaving about 10 minutes later. The bus was supposed to take 1 hr 30 minutes, but instead it took almost 3 hours! Our flight gate was supposed to close at 7:25pm, but when we got there at that time, the man at the desk allowed us to check in!
We looked at our carry-on bags and even checked them in the little box: neither of them fit correctly! I was getting a very bad feeling, like I was going to be charged 60 Euro to take my bag on the flight. And, I was sure that Romeo was going to be charged as well.
But, it wasn't a sure thing we would be charged, so we decided to risk it. We hustled over to security but then i realized I hadn't separated my liquids. We had to go off to the side, open our bags, and get out all our liquids. We finally went through, but then I had to get patted down. Then, I had to take off my shoes (outside the US, you don't usually have to do this), and THEN finally got to get my things. Romeo had forgotten that he had a bottle of ketchup in his bag (attempting to avoid the outrageous ketchup packet costs in Europe) so they took that. Then, they asked him "Do you have scissors in your bag?" He said, "No." They said, "yes." It went back and forth a few times before he realized that he did indeed have scissors in his sewing kit.
Finally, it was around 7:40pm, flight scheduled to leave at 7:55pm. We hussled to the gate, and I was still expecting to get some flak about our bags. But, the lady checking boarding passes didn't even mention it! With some amazing luck, we managed to be the last people getting on the flight. And about 20 minutes later, we were airbourne and on our way to Italy!
When the flight landed, we were both exhausted and hungry from a stressful afternoon and evening. We were just ready to get to a bed. We caught a bus going from Pisa to Florence city center. It took a little over an hour, so I slept and Romeo played Plants vs. Zombies on my iPad.
We got to the train station, spied a McDonalds, and ashamedly had that as our first Italian meal. So sad! But, everywhere else looked deserted. After eating, we asked directions to Romeo's brother's hotel. We took the long way, but eventually got there. When we asked his brother's room number, we were told there was no one there by that name. My heart literally sank.
Romeo asked to use his computer to message his brother and ask. Apparently, Romeo hadn't read their itinerary correctly, and they would not be in Florence until noon the following day. I was pretty devastated. I was tired and feeling sick, and now we didn't even have a place to sleep. I almost started to cry.
We went around to a dozen different hotels in the area to find a room, but they were all fully booked. I started to lose it at one point; my bag was getting heavier by the second and it was looking grim for us. The thought of sleeping on the sidewalk somewhere broke me.
We finally found a place that had one room available, at a rate of 110Euro. I thought we should take it, since no where else had any space at all. But Romeo didn't like the idea of paying so much. I didn't either, but what else were we to do?
Romeo asked me to wait a second while he walked across the street to ask some people where some hotels were. I waited and watched him speak to a group of about 4 girls and 4 guys. They were young. After about 3 minutes, I see Romeo give one of the guys a hug. I walked across the street to see what was happening.
Apparently, Romeo had told them our story and they offered to let us crash on their pullout couch. I lost it - I couldn't help the tears coming. The guy who offered us the couch, Justin, gave me a hug and I was so overwhelmed with gratitude. They were students from America studying at the university here in Florence. They walked us back to their apartment, and I got to talk with the girls a bit. They were all so kind. Justin's roommate, Ken, chatted with us a lot and he's actually from Houston, although he was studying out of state.
We got to their apartment, which was a little ways away, but bearable. We crashed almost immediately. I slept until 10am, which was amazing. Their apartment had no windows, which I would hate to live in, but thankful to sleep in for a night. We offered to take them to breakfast, the least we could do for their hospitality, but they had to go to class and Ken wasn't feeling well. Ken ended up showing us a great sandwich shop to eat at, and directed us back to the hotel to meet Romeo's brother. Thankfully I added him on Facebook and we hope to return the favor in some form or fashion back in America.
I literally cannot believe the luck we have had on this trip so far. While we have gotten intosome potentially terrible situations, we have survived thanks to the kindness of strangers. I am so thankful and we definitely want to pay it forward in some way, because I'm sure these adventures won't be our last on this trip!
Next up, I'll share about our day spent with Javier and Shannon, Romeo's brother and sister-in-law.