Saturday, October 12, 2013

Chelsea in Rocca Priori

Tuesday, October 8

I've finally got some time to write some blogs, so I'm going to try to catch up on the last few days! So, from where I left off, we were crossing our fingers for a 4am bus to Rome.

We got up before 3am to get ready and make sure we had everything together. We walked over to the bus stop a little early, and met a few others who were waiting for the bus as well. In particular, we met 2 Mexican guys, Pedro and his cousin. They were very friendly and chatty, although only Pedro spoke English. He had  lived in Houston for a little while, so we got along well. They were traveling to Rome as well, and they had 2 massive suitcases. Just looking at those things and imagining lugging them all over creation made me thankful for the back pain induced by a heavy backpack.

The bus ended up being really late, coming at 5:30 instead of 4. It was very cold and the rain was drizzly. When the bus did finally roll up, we told the driver that we were trying to ride standby, and asked if they had any room. He didn't speak much English, so he called the reservations hotline and we spoke to a woman. She gave us a little lecture about making reservations, and I assured her that we did try to do that, but that it hadn't processed. She ended up letting us have a place on the bus, but I could tell she didn't really want to.

Which leads me to a little review of the Eurolines pass and company in general, in case one of you readers is thinking about using them. First, the initial buying of the pass and first journey reservation was seamless. However, you have to have a printer. You have to print out your passes and each reservation ticket. Many of the bus stops do not have offices, and some of them are not even at terminals at all, so online reservations are necessary. Then, making second and successive reservations on the pass has actually proven impossible. We have requested rides twice now without hearing back from them. Apparently you can call a number to reserve, but without a phone in Europe, it's not really possible. Then, when we did finally get a reservation made for our trip Rome --> Lyon, we had to pay an additional fee for our seat. Basically, I'm not impressed. The unlimited pass is cheap enough, but its a pain in the you-know-what so far...

Anyway, back to the story. We were allowed on the bus, and I could tell it was just barely, as the bus was packed. We couldn't get seats next to each other and had to sit pretty far away actually. Thankfully it was still dark and we both managed to sleep a few more hours. When the bus stopped in Genoa, a ton of people got off and we managed to get seats together near the front of the bus.

Before then, however, I had to sit almost at the back of the bus. There was a couple with a baby and another girl sitting with them that wouldn't shut up. I was just thinking, it's 4am people! You could tell by their attitudes and lack of respect for other people they were the Italian version of trailer-trash. The man took up the entire back row (3 seats) laying down, then the mom was asleep on the floor in front of the bathroom door. Not only gross, but rude. The rest of the bus was squished together and they're sprawled out "luxuriously."

Anyway, once we had seats together, it was better. We drove along the coastline and saw some amazing views of the Mediterranean. Even though we didn't make it to Cinque Terre like we had planned, the view of the coast and the quaint towns that lined it was pretty amazing.

A pit stop and a few hour nap later, we rolled into Rome around 3:30pm. We had no idea where the bus stop we were at was in relation to the city, and all I had to go on as far as where we were staying was a phone number. I managed to find a nice looking girl to ask to borrow her phone, and I called our couchsurfing host.

Thankfully, he answered! He gave directions to the girl whose phone we were using, and she relayed to us how to get to his house. We had to take the metro to the main train station, then take a train to a village right outside the city.

We trekked through the rain (which was intermittently pouring), into the metro station and managed to get to the train station without incident. Once there, we used the automated machines to get tickets to the town we were heading to, and as we finished up some skeezy looking chick asked if she could help us. Immediately I smelled something fishy, and gave her a don't-mess-with-me look and a curt "No." Romeo, sweet thing, kindly replied "No thanks, I think we've got it!" As we walked off, I turned and saw her swipe her paw into the change slot where I had just taken my coins. Sneaky woman trying to nab my money!

We saw that there was a train leaving in about 30 minutes, but also one that was scheduled to depart 10 minutes ago, but had a 15 minute delay. We decided to book it to the platform, which was of course the furthest one away. Let me assure you that running through a crowded train station with a heavy backpack, heavy purse, and winter jacket in your arms (and Romeo having two heavy backpacks and his winter jacket), is neither quick nor easy. Huffing and puffing, we arrived at the platform, only to walk on the train and immediately note that there was no one else on the train. Like, at all. I stepped off and looked at the board and apparently the correct train had already left because this had no information on the board. Double GRRRR!

We took our time trudging back to the main area with the platform information, and found the platform for the next train. We headed there and got a seat. We sat for around 10 minutes when I start to notice people trickling out of the train. Strange...Since it wasn't everyone, just some people, I ignored it. Then it turned into more and more people... finally I decided something was up. We looked over and asked the people next to us, who were beginning to gather their things. They told us that the train was broken, so we were changing trains. And which platform was that one leaving from? You guessed it... the one we had just been at. Exhausted, we begrudgingly made our way back. Romeo had tracked our walking, and including all the back and forth, it was a total of 2km walking just in the train station alone.

Finally seated there, we left the station more than an hour after we had arrived. The trip out to Frascati was quick at around 25 minutes. I asked a man near us on the train to borrow his phone, and he dialed the number of our couchsurfer when I showed him. He handed the phone to me, and when I put it to my ear, I heard something in French, then in English, "This call will be charged to your personal account." Uh-oh... The call had already gone through, so I decided to just make it quick and hope it wouldn't cost the poor fellow too much. He had, after all, seen the Italian number as he entered it... Surely he knows his own phone and plan well enough to know if that was going to charge him... oops!

Anyway, we let Miguel (our host) know when we would be at the station and he met us there. We got off the train and started up the stairs to the front of the station and I heard someone call my name. There he was! I was so happy to see him, and know that not every host is shady or rude. (Our last real host, Dario, was nice too, but didn't go out of his way to meet us at the station). Miguel led us to his car and drove us the last of the way to his house, about 15 minutes further away in the village of Rocca Priori.

I could immediately tell that I was going to feel more comfortable with him than our previous host. He was relaxed, friendly, talkative, and just overall nice. He told us about his pets, how cold the house can get in the nighttime, and his plans for that night (a party to which we were invited). Having been traveling since 4am, and awake longer, we opted to relax at the house. When we arrived at the house, Miguel's mother, who lived in the top portion of the house, and his dogs met us at the gate with a smile (and tail wagging). His mom told us to call her "Mami" so I knew we were welcomed. His dogs were so sweet and friendly (although a little stinky!).

We settled in a little, then his mom sent down (we were staying with Miguel in the lower half of the house) some pasta with a light tomato sauce and fresh grated parmesan. It was light, fresh, and delicious. When Miguel headed out for the evening, we decided to watch a few episodes of the Simpsons and headed to bed early around 10:30.

The night was frigid and I piled 5 blankets on the bed. But, it was comfortable enough. I needed to rest up for our first day in Rome tomorrow! We had a lot to cover in two days...

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