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.
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Hey can I ask – how much that trip cost?
I was way cheaper then because of the exchange rate. A trip like that costs twice as much just 5 years later. Seriously.
If you are interested in budget travel, do a Google search on “Let’s Go” or “Rick Steves.”
You can also go to the library and read their travel guides. That is how I learned to travel without hemorrhaging money. It is also a better cultural experience to ride the rails with the masses and eat in the places they eat instead of going to a place such as a Hilton where you really will get a pretend version of another culture.
If you can afford to go for a longish time (about a month at a minimum), try renting an rv and buying and cooking your own food. For a family, it is a cheaper and it is lots of fun shopping and eating the local foods. I love farmers’ markets! And the little food stores were wonderful. That was my favorite part of the whole trip we just did.
Kym, did you rent an RV while there?
We did rent an RV and we only stayed for 2 weeks in the place we did it so we about broke even and that’s because we have 5 in our family and trying to get a motel room for 5 doesn’t work so we would have had to get 2 rooms. We really loved staying in little apartment houses like we did in England, too and that was about as expensive as staying in hotels and much more personal!
My husband driving around was a little nerve wracking (not because he wasn’t good at it–he was great–but because it made him cranky so that is a factor but I would drive next time. It wasn’t that difficult in the country which is what we like.)
We always have to get two rooms while traveling. When our son lived at home (making it 5 traveling together) it was difficult, most places only allow two to a room.
We often rent apartments and sometimes stay in youth hostels (family rooms there). The hostels I find are great cultural experiences, especially getting into that kitchen and cooking alongside people from all over. You learn from them, they learn from you.
We thought about renting an rv last summer but the cheapest I could find for a two week rental was $200 per day.
We did something called McRents (seriously it was teamed up with a McDonalds I think) It was cheaper. I don’t remember how much but we saved also because we ate in mostly using great foods we found in those wonderful tiny stores and the bread… the bread…OMG I love the bread.
But McRents scammed us. We noticed a small bit of damage on the RV before we left but the guy said it was too small==not to worry. Then when we returned it, another guy charged us $350. We fought through the credit card but eventually we had to just pay. What a jerky thing to do so I would stay away from those guys.
When we go back, I’ll have to talk to you about hostels. The ones we looked at in London were not that cheap since we would have to have 3 rooms.
I had checked into McRents. LOL. Wow, that’s horrible what they did to you on the damage that was already there.
We never did hostels in London because of the same reason, just not worth it. I’ve had the best success in that city by going through http://www.superbreak.com . Travelodge also has some great room rates for family rooms throughout the UK.
I have consistently felt ripped off with almost every place I’ve ever stayed in London. I avoid that city as much as possible and head out to the countryside as soon as I can.
My family would agree with you but I LOVED London. We only spent one quick night but I could have spent a week. (Okay, I did fall asleep in West Minster Abbey. My head on a chair that had cradled gentlemen’s butts for centuries but that was just jet lag.) Even the taxis are cool in London!
Kitty – I just wanted to say that I have read this post several times. I love this post. I feel like, though I’ve gotten to know you through this blog etc. I did not really have all the pieces together until I read this… The mischief, the adventure, the joy and flair – the ability to simply BE where you are (more complicated than you might think for some of us)… Really, the mother, father, children and “mate” in this post are amazing – enviable – their energy and choices more wild, natural and alive than those in most movies I’ve seen all year… Thank you for taking the time to write it all out… Thank you for you beautiful (wink)…
Happy (almost) New Year… [[[hugs]]]
Kym, my daughter loves London. I like it better now that she enjoys it, I like seeing her finally “get” it. The travel thing.
First time I went to London, I wanted one of those taxis.
Thanks Sulya, your comment means a lot to me. (((hugs))) back atcha, and have a great New Year.
Kitty, Angela’s mom could be reading this. Taking her underage daughter drinking in the gutters of Roma!!!! Wicked!!!
They do the shell game in London too, but they tend to use cups. Their comrades in the crowd also pretend to be players who win big, to lure the public into thinking they can win. Can’t belive people falls for that scam still. I’d have loved to see them scurrying off thinking you were cops!!! ……..And then you end up being on the run from the cops!!! Brilliant!!!
“Angela’s mom could be reading this”
That was the other Angela we took to Roma. :::wink:::
The shell game, I saw them use walnut shells, match boxes, anything small that they could pocket quickly.
I do remember telling Blane, “Dude we are going to get shanked by one of these guys,” but we kept doing it anyway.
Thanks for the tips on travel – oh, how I’d love to run away to Europe for a while!
very good traveling mind you have, and i felt “why can’t i do something like this” , traveling or flying – like birds with very good color full feathers.
and that radio thing “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.” was very funny.
healthy post.write well
Thanks, Kumar. Traveling keeps me sane.
It’s also opened my mind.
I hope you get to travel one day and spread your wings.