Tales from Italy: ch. 10.1- Day 1 Paris Misfortunes
Study? Nah, let’s go to Paris!
PARIS, The most visited city in the world. Of course it was a fantastic trip, but saying it went smoothly gives it too much credit. By the time Day 1 of our trip had ended, Laura and I had succumbed to uncontrollable laughter from the myriad of misfortune and sheer bad luck we had had the pleasure to experience.
It all began with the original plan which looked like this:
1. Take the 9:30 bus to Pesaro and catch the next train to Bologna
2. Grab a Kebab from Ali in Bologna, and then take the bus to the airport
3. Fly to Paris
4. Arrive at the hostel, borrow some towels, and get some groceries to save $$ on food
Our plan seemed full proof seeing as it was the same general plan we’ve been following in all the other cities we visit. So of course when things started to fall apart, we fell apart too.
Here’s where things started to go wrong:
1. Take the 9:30 bus to Pesaro and catch the next train to Bologna.
Laura and I were almost at the Borgo Mercatale (Urbino bus stop) when I realized I’d forgotten my coat. The bus was leaving in 15 minutes. In order to get it in time and still make the bus, I’d have to run almost non-stop there and back, and keep in mind, Urbino is one big giant hill, and our dorms are a good 15 minute walk from the bus stop as is. So I ran. By the time I got back to the bus stop, I was panting and sweating, but I had made it. I slid my suitcase into the luggage compartment and stood on line to board. Thank goodness I made it, right?
Wrong. Here’s why: Europeans celebrate a certain holiday called “Workers’ Day.” Basically on this day, just about everything is closed because workers get the day off. To our luck, we just so happened to be flying to Paris on this year’s Workers’ Day- what were the chances of that?? Oh right, 1/365!!!! Anyway, of course they couldn’t shut down public transportation, but they could significantly deplete the number of buses going to Pesaro, thusly severely crowding a large number of people into an extremely limited number of seats. Between the hours of 6:00 and 22:00, on a normal day, there are 27 buses; on Sundays and ‘holidays,’ there are 9; on Workers’ Day, there are 2, one at 9:30 and one at 11:30. Laura and I made it in time for the 9:30 bus, even with my whole coat fiasco, only to be told by the bus driver that there was no more room and we’d have to wait for the next bus in 2 hours. Laura and I were in such shock that I almost forgot to take my suitcase out of the bottom of the bus before it drove away without us. What were we to do?
Some of the other people who had been turned away were contemplating taking a taxi to Pesaro, but a taxi could cost up to 60 euros in total, and even if we split that money, we couldn’t find the right number of people to go in the car with us and therefore couldn’t afford it. So in the end, Laura and I sat at the bus stop for two hours. The time difference started to jeopardize getting to our flight on time, but it was all we could do. I called Alex to look up new train times for us. The earliest we could catch was at 1:20, which would get us to Bologna (the train station, not the airport) around 3:30 when we have a flight at 4:30. We’d have to rush, but for the mean time, we had to sit and wait out 2 hours. So much for putting in all that effort to run and get my coat…
When the 1130 bus arrived, Laura and I were well-rested despite our rushed dilemma. Yet before we had the time to start worrying again, we found out that the bus to Pesaro was a rapido, meaning it was 45 minutes instead of an hour and 10 minutes as we had accounted for. Even though we were still behind in schedule, this helped a great deal. By the time we got to Pesaro, we were able to catch the 12:20 bus instead of the 1:20 and this eased our schedule out a bit. We now even had time to go get kebabs from Ali, our favorite kebab maker (see journal from Sicily trip)! Or so we thought.
2. Grab a Kebab from Ali, and then take the bus to the airport
Directions to Ali’s kebab: leave the train station, turn left, then right. Or was it right then left? Long story short, we never found it. We ended up going to some other random kebab place. Of course we’re both biased and this place was no where near as good as Ali’s, not to mention this place had the strangest, most irritating and repetitive music playing at full blast. As soon as we could get out of there, we took our kebabs to go and jumped on the next aerobus (bus to the airport) where we ate them.
3. Fly to Paris.
We got to the airport on time and were able to make it through security and everything before boarding… almost. For some reason, Laura kept setting off the security alarm and the guards had to pat her down. It’s not quite as simple as it sounds though- the guard we had was a man, and he had to call over a female guard for Laura. So we stood there waiting, only to have the patting be as awkward as it could be regardless of the guard’s gender.
Once on the plane, it seemed like it was going to be an easy ride. It would have been had it not been for this awful baby that wouldn’t shut up. And I’m not saying the usual crying all babies do on airplanes. Oh no, that would have been a joy. This child, I kid you not, was flat-out yelling and wailing. A simple “AAAAHHH!!” would suffice as a good interpretation I think. And not an “AAAAHHHH!!” because it was scared; it sounded to be an “AAAAAHHH!!” because it had nothing better to do. At one point, Laura yelled under her breath at the baby to shut up, only to repeat under her breath again later as “Shut up, baby! Didn’t I tell you to shut up?” lol
4. Arrive at the hostel, borrow some towels, and get some groceries to save $$ on food
Upon arriving in France, Laura and I had to try our best to get by seeing as neither of us knew French. We spend most of the bus ride into the city trying to come up with a list of all the words we knew in French, only to realize that we were the only 2 people speaking on the entire bus. Not wanting to succumb to the loud/ obnoxious American stereotype that seems to be well-known around Europe, we switched to whispers and Italian. It’s nice to have at least one secret language when almost the entire world knows English.
When we got into the city, we took the metro (subway) to our hostel and, after some getting lost, finally arrived. We got up to our room, which we shared with a Polish girl and her mother. It wasn’t as nice as we had hoped- the room was very small and humid because someone had just showered. We were cautious towards the beds too, seeing as there was only one thin sheet between where we would be and the mattress; there was no mattress cover or fitted sheet- what if there were bugs?? This is a public bed!!
We couldn’t worry about the beds too long though- it was almost 9pm, we both wanted to shower, and we still had to get our groceries. First thing first, we went to the front desk and asked for towels. Here I encountered my first hostel ever that didn’t offer it’s guests towels- not even to rent for a small fee! It had none. Despite our small budgets as is, we now had to add towels to our grocery list. Not like it mattered because as our luck had showed us all day, almost everything was closed for Workers’ Day. That’s when I learned Workers’ Day was an all-European thing, not just Italian. So, Laura and I went out on a search, in a city we had never been to, with people who spoke a language we knew none of, and after dark, for any grocery or drug store that could be open. We eventually found one the size of a closet, that sold just enough stuff for us to get by. We bought some shampoo, soap, sliced meat, a loaf of bread, croissants and some apples, but unfortunately no towels. It looked like I’d have to resort to substituting one of my washcloths (a small 9”x9” cloth) as a towel, and Laura to one of her shirts.
When we got back to the hostel, we made ourselves sandwiches, ate standing up in the kitchen, and then headed back to our room. At this point it was only 9:30pm, but our roommates were already asleep with the lights out. So much for showering. If this wasn’t enough, we still hadn’t figured out what to do with our questionable beds, and now we had to do it in the dark. So, quite obviously, Laura and I broke out into hysterical laughing. Try as we might to contain ourselves for the sake of our already-sleeping roommates, we lost all control. From the bus that morning and Ali’s missing kebab, to the baby on the plane, to our lack of any French at all, to our lack of towels, and above all to Workers’ Day, we could not handle all the obstacles luck had thrown at us that day.
Maybe we actually went insane. Maybe we were sleep-deprived. Maybe there was something in the meat we put on our sandwiches. Who knows? All we could do was attempt to sleep. When we got to our beds, the pillows were small and stored under the one sheet we had- the one and only sheet on the mattress. I took mine out and wrapped it in one of my shirts as a pillow cover, then laid out the comforter on top of the sheet. For the sake of hygiene, I slept on top of the comforter so as to have more between me and the who-knows-how-contaminated mattress. In other words, I slept on a blanket, without a blanket. Good thing that shower humidity and our laughing had warmed the room up so much.