After a disappointing day and an evening stranded in the suburbs of Rome, the girls and Blane (the father) didn’t want anything to do with me, not even ring in the New Year. Just as the taxi dropped us off at the hotel, Blane (the son) and Angela showed up.
So Blane and the girls go to bed and Blane2, Angela, and I hit the streets of Rome. We haggle with a street vendor for some champagne and sit on the sidewalk like hobos, drinking right out of the bottle. Angela laughs about how angry her mother would be if she knew she was drinking. The way I see it is she’s twenty and the drinking age is what, twelve, in Rome?
When in Rome, do as…
We raised our bottle and toasted her mother at exactly midnight.
I really did believe the ATMs would magically begin spitting Euros at midnight. The way it worked in reality? The machines were empty. No euro, no lira, no nothing. We needed more booze for the celebrating. Fortunately street vendors were taking all sorts of currency that night.
The city was in a great mood. A bus paused near us and everyone on that bus was dancing. People were hanging out the windows yelling for us to dance. So we did, right in the street. We danced with a bus.
Next day, I’m hungover in the train station, splayed out across my backpack, afraid to move. The lines at the ticket counter are twenty-five deep. People all over. Chaos. We have no idea which trains to take to get to Barcelona. Angela admits she didn’t listen to the Italian travel tapes so she can’t go ask. I have to do it, not that I know Italian, I’m gifted at improvising sign language. She at least holds my place in line while I try to keep from spilling my cookies.
Watching travelers leave the line, it doesn’t look hopeful. The station agent is having a good time with the language barrier. It seems people are asking stupid question after stupid question and this guy loses it with every single person. I notice a pattern. First, he rubs his face and rolls his eyes. Second, he rears his head back in frustration. Third dumb question, he jumps out of his chair, throws his hand up in the air, and walks in a circle while mumbling something like, “Mamma Mia!”
I’m at an angle where I can see him go over to the cube next to him and laugh about it with his collegue. It’s just an act.
When I get my turn, I go with it. When he throws his hands up in the air, I do the same. When he shouts “Mamma Mia!” we shout it at the same time. This makes him laugh. Hard. It gets us out of Rome and on to Milan in reserved seats. No fighting for trains.
Milan was just a waystation and what I wanted to share about being there was a couple of photos. I can’t find them, so another day on that.
We took a night train to Barcelona from some mountainous area in France. Night trains through Spain are shockingly expensive. We do like to budget travel, but since we lost a day in Milan, we had to splurge on the night train to get back on our schedule.
What I remember most about Barcelona is beautiful people. I don’t mean on the inside, but in the shallow way. Perfect noses, eyes, skin tone, the hair. They are stunning.
The people watching was downright entertaining. Have you ever seen the shell game scam? They were working it big time, practically robbing tourists. We decided to have a little fun and get into some mischief.
Here’s how it works: A guy has three shells and hides a ball under one of them…mixes them up and someone in the crowd has to chose which one the ball is under. Somehow he gets people to bet on whether “someone” will find it or not. So there is a ton of money on each shuffle of the shells. We noticed the “someone” was not really a tourist, but a comrade of the shell guy. We also noticed they had two or three other comrades in the crowd looking for cops. The magical thing was watching how fast these four guys disappeared after they won their money.
We kept seeing the same scam over and over, just different people working it. We were traveling with a set of two-way radios to keep track of each other in case we separated. They didn’t work worth a crap -but- we did have some fun with them. If we saw a shell game scam, we’d get in the crowd and pretend to be undercover agents. When we’d whip out the radio (acting inconspicously, of course) it would magically make the con artists disappear.
We did get on the other side of the law while there.
Our hotel room had this horrible sewer smell in it. We insisted they change our rooms and were promised they would but when we got back that night, they didn’t keep to their promise. We got into a big fight with the management and told them we were checking out. They insisted we pay for that day because we had not checked out by noon. The management said they were calling the police. We huddled, came up with a plan and took off running. Two couples and two little girls.
The plan was to separate. Each couple take a kid and run in a different direction. We also turned our jackets inside out so they wouldn’t recognize us that way (Spanky had a honking dalmation pattern on hers).
It was a good thing too, just a minute later we saw a cop car talking to a group that looked like us, two couples and two little girls.