After the wedding on Sunday the 20th, everyone pretty much left town the next morning. Cierra and I left Santa Therese area and headed to the West side of the Island to Alghero, where our flight would leave the next morning AND which is thankfully the same airport where Cierra’s backpack was sent. We got a ride there with my brother’s friends Scott and Laura. The trip to Alghero took a few hours, but was pretty much uneventful. Except that Scott was really cranky and didn't try to hide this from the rest of us. We went straight to the airport before heading into town to find a hotel, because Cierra and I were desperate to find her backpack. Something as simple as picking up a backpack took over an hour and went something like this:
We found a baggage department and waited in a line, only to be told to go to another office related to the airline holding the bag. We waited there while a screaming African man took about 15 minutes of time, well, screaming, at the young woman sitting at the desk. When it was our turn, we showed her the bag receipt and she looked confused, told us in Italian that the bag was not there but with the police? Or maybe she said security. So I asked where we should go and she went in the next office and talked with another woman, and then got a key out of a drawer. I was really kind of holding my breath through all of this, hardly daring to believe that we would actually get the bag. She then walked across the hallway to the security office, but she came right back without the backpack!! Then she talked again with the other woman in the office next to hers, who told her to make a call. She made the call, and tried again to go across the hall to the security office, but no luck. Then she talked with the other woman again, and then told us to follow her. We followed her across the airport corridor toward departing flights and she told us to go through the security screening. So we did, but of course they wouldn’t let us through because WE HAD NO BOARDING PASSES!!!!! She was gone by then, and we were stuck trying to explain to the Italian security guards that we had been following a woman to get our bag back, and he looked around and said “What woman?” Finally, realizing we could not follow her, our woman, (whom I was seeing as the incompetent woman by then), came back and rescued us, only to be told that we did not have to go through security, so we then followed her around security and went outside where the planes are, then back inside another door, over to a closet which she unlocked. I immediately spotted Cierra’s backpack there. It was one of maybe 4-5 bags there, and I tried to point it out to miss incompetent but she shooed me out of the closet in Italian. She finally looked at and matched the numbers on her paper with Cierra’s backpack, and gave it to us. PHEW!!!! We hugged and kissed the backpack and made our way back to the main part of the airport, found Scott and Laura, and left. So that was the saga of the lost luggage. THE END.
We later found a pretty nice hotel in Alghero and spent the night there because all of us left early the next morning. Scott and Laura were flying home from Rome, and Cierra and I were flying into Pisa where we would get a train to Cinque Terre. Laura was really helpful because she and Scott had already been traveling through Italy a while before the wedding and she had some very helpful information about the hotels for us. One thing is that you have a card attached to the key ring, which has to be placed in a slot near the door for the electricity to work in the room. This way, when you leave, there is no way to waste electricity or air conditioning because you leave your room key at the front desk. She gave us her Italian phrase book, which has been very useful at times, and she and Scott gave us some tips about finding places where they sell “Kababs”, a kind of wrap with meat and lettuce, kind of like gyros which are greek food. These kebab places are relatively inexpensive and "to go", so they can save money when one is hungry.
But I must pause here to talk about the food. There is not much in the way of vegetables to be had when you are on the go. Of course, if you can cook, there are plenty of ways to eat veggies, make salads, etc.. But without a kitchen, it’s hard. Combine this with trying not to eat gluten or dairy, and you are in trouble. Since leaving Sardinia, we have struggled with how to eat so we feel healthy, avoid foods that cause us to have bad reactions, and not spend a fortune at restaurants. I’m sorry to say, we are pretty much failing at all of the above. One success was a “kebab” place across from a train station in Viareggio, where we stopped on the way to Venezia. It was kind of like Indian food, and we had rice, chicken, and potatoes in a curry sauce. We have also been able to find some rice cakes which we can eat with Nutella for breakfast, or with meat and cheese, tomatoes and olives for lunch. We usually have yogurt, fruit and coffee for breakfast. But dinner is not easy. We have often been exhausted and starved by dinner, and that’s when all the places with foccacia or pizza start calling to us. It’s also hard to find places to go to the bathroom, so often you have to pay for something to eat or drink if you want to pee. EVERYTHING costs money here. Going to the bathroom in Venice cost us each 1.50 Euros each time, which is about the equivalent of $2.00, so aside from when we ate in restaurants and used the bathrooms there, I spent $8.00 for us to pee!! The other money issue I discovered is that since I bought all our train tickets in advance through RailEurope, I paid around $650.00 for both of us to ride trains for a week. Now that we are here, and asking the price for train rides on the local trains, it appears I was charged almost three times what we should have paid for these train rides!!! It makes me nauseous just thinking about the "helpful" woman who sold me these tickets. I feel like someone should sue this company for what they are doing to innocent and ignorant tourists!!
But back to the food. It’s really good, and very fresh. There is amazing fruit, cheese, fish, wine, yumm. But each time we eat out, because we try to avoid pasta, we spend about $50.00 to get some fish and maybe some potatoes. A grilled fish, with nothing else, can easily cost 10 – 15 euros, and so we have to order French fries or salads so we don’t end up hungry. The salads are usually just romaine lettuce, maybe tomatoes and carrots. They cost about 5 euros, or about $7.00. So if I had no concerns about money, this might be a bit easier, but that is not the case. Once we get to Paris we are staying with my brother so we can cook. But otherwise this is turning out to be another difficult part of this trip. I should stop complaining though. I know it’s such an amazing reality that we are even here, and yet I have to write what my experiences are, or this blog will not happen. So I will move on from the food issue.
Okay, one more thing. The Italians can be rather gruff at times. Not all, and when people are nice and helpful, it REALLY makes a difference, but there are some who just can be downright mean when you ask for help. I think the traveling experience is helping me get a little thicker skinned. I have to ask for assistance at each new place we go, often in a mixture of Italian, English, or French. It seems like the people who work in the informazzione booths at train stations or airports really DONT want to give you any information! The post office experiences have been the best so far. Actually kind of hilarious. The people we have had helping us have actually been very nice, but I don’t know if we will ever see the things again that we mailed home. We really brought too much and have also bought some things so it became clear pretty quickly that we needed to send some things home. The funny part is that we get very different responses depending on the post office. Today was crazy. We wanted to send home 3 books and a pair of sandals. They made me separate the shoes from the books for some reason, which one woman tried to explain to me in French. It costs a small fortune to send anything, so it was probably not worth it, but after you spend 30 minutes trying to get a box and then trying to understand what they are saying, I have found I just want to be done with it all. I spent about 47 Euros which is about $60.00. OY!
I had a funny experience the first post office we went to in La Spezia. I waited almost an hour in line, and then the man helped me put everything in a box and tape it. (By the way, he didn’t mind that there were shoes and books in the same box). But after all this, it was 1:30 and they were closing for the day. So I had to leave with all my stuff in a large box because they wont postpone their lunch break for anything, and he said they would not reopen until the following morning at 8:00 a.m.! So we had to mail it from the next town on our journey. It's all rather exhausting, but definitely a learning experience!
I will have to explain about the bus and train strike that occurred on Friday, but it will have to wait for another time, 'cause again it is late and we need to sleep. Thank you for reading this. It helps me to have all these new experiences and then say to Cierra, "we have to blog about this!!"
Things I will blog about in the next several blogs:
Cinque Terre, the train/bus strike, a very bizarre bathroom experience at the train station in Viareggio, Venice and the incredible shabbat evening, and my thoughts about being a fearful person in the world, (me), Vs. a trusting person in the world, (Cierra).