The sky was bright blue and clear. Although I could not see any frost, I could feel a slight crunch with each grassy footstep. The air smelled clean. As we walked toward the rising sun, the river was already twinkling in the early morning light. Without any wind, the cold, crisp day felt pleasant, invigorating. It was not even necessary to close my coat. Everything... the water, the leaves, the grass, even my dog's fur was lit up like so many shimmering, sparkling sequins. Winter is near.
Sunday, August 6, 2017
I hate flying. Everything about it…not just being in a plane, but everything…airports, lines, kiosks, lines, gates, uncomfortable chairs, lines, junk food, lines. I hate flying.
So, off we go to the airport. Newark is a huge airport, but I am now somewhat familiar with it, to my chagrin. We check in at an obnoxious kiosk with the help of an attendant. We have two LARGE bags to check. Each must be under 50 pounds to be put in cargo without charge. One is over, one is under. We have to rearrange the contents. My husband thinks they cancel each other out. He won’t listen to me. So, I have to ask the attendant the question to which I already know the answer…we MUST rearrange the contents so that EACH bag is under 50 pounds. No one tells me I was right.
Once that ordeal is done, (there are tables to do this and scales located next to them) I head for the line for checking baggage. Again, my husband has another idea…that we already “checked” in, so, we don’t have to wait in line. So, I have to wait for him to be redirected by someone in charge, to where I said we had to be in the first place. Once again. Ahem.
We get our bags checked and boarding passes. Now we proceed through security to head for the gate. We have “special clearance” only because my husband traveled all over the world with his job. I had to put up with frisks that last time because I bought the tickets. HE bought them this time, and suddenly, I have special clearance. It’s about money.
The good news here is that this is a non stop flight. IF I live, there is no stop over. I tried to watch a film….I will never do it again…the noise of the plane drowns out half the dialog and the stinking film was depressing anyway. I got the gist of it, but…..
Then my husband says, look out the window at the stars. Well, that was quite a sight. Imagine the stars twice the size of what they usually look like…..we were over France at this point. That was magical. It was like a fairy tale sky.
I could see areas of twinkling lights on the black ground….and I wondered if one might be Paris.
Knowing we were over France gave me hope that we were not far now…..from our destination in Italy.
All in all, the flight was smooth and we arrived early. One of our bags, however, was severely damaged, lost an entire handle….but the contents were alright. Customs was nonchalant. Seriously nonchalant. Boom, bam, proceed.
We had a car waiting..the driver was in the bathroom. Another driver told us he would be back in a minute….which he was..then I needed a bathroom rather badly. Then we headed out…it was now morning in Rome.
The drive to Pescara takes about 2 hours. It is a long way. Luca, our driver, spoke a little English. A young man, he told us he works mornings for the cab company, has a wife and a young son (four years old) and lives in the countryside. He pointed out where he lives on our drive.
I was very happy to see (for the first time, because my other trips were in darkness) the beautiful countryside, unmarred by billboards of any kind, and spotted with wind turbines on the mountains and several “solar” valleys.
Since our flight was early, we arrived at our bed and breakfast early. The street was closed to cars. Luca parked at the closest intersection and helped up with our bags. We got to the hotel and it was locked. !!!
My husband went through the trouble of getting an “international” phone before we left. It….didn’t work. So, Luca called the hotel number. A cleaning lady let us in. Luca was given a hefty tip.
The room was not ready, so we waited in the “breakfast” room until they tidied up. More torture…how long have we been awake?
Oh, yes…how could I forget….the “hotel” was three flights up. By stair. No elevator. Two LARGE bags, two small and a PC. Forty-four steps. Up. They do not tell you this on the internet when you book a room.
The room was tiny, but meticulously decorated. The décor was lovely…no doubt about it, chrystal chandelier, white and gold, one wall a floral montage, a lovely little balcony…but, the room was, nevertheless, tiny. And, there was a screaming child downstairs on the first floor in an apartment. Screaming. Screaming. Most of the day.
We showered. We changed into clean clothes. We were disoriented, tired, sore and…hungry.
So, after a nap, we venture out. We have no phone and cannot reach our realtor. The hotel has wifi, but I have no idea how to sign on. We will deal with this tomorrow. For now…..where to eat.
We find a place just down the block..see people, but..they are not open. Come back at eight. Eight? We will be dead by eight. It’s about six thirty. We continue walking. The Burger Lab. No one there, but they are setting up. Perhaps they will let us wait it out with a drink. Yes, yes they do. AND they have someone, a lovely woman who looks like George Clooney’s wife, who speaks English and is charming and fun. She lets us sit and sip a beer while they get ready to open.
When the time comes, we both order chicken burgers (no beef for us) and fries….it was the best we could do in a pinch. It was all done quite well, and the waitress lady allowed us a free after dinner drink.
We went back to the hotel ready to collapse. In spite of the heat (approximately 90 degrees Farenheit and no air conditioning) and the street noise which continued until about two a.m., we slept.
We start the new day by figuring out how to sign on to the internet and I frantically email Daniela. But, I am getting no response. The hotel owner offers to call her and he manages to get through. Daniela nearly breaks my eardrum…”You are here!” Ahhhh, yeah…..do was have an agenda for today? “I will be there at 2:30 pm!” Okey dokey. In the meantime, we cobble together a breakfast and mosey around Pescara.
Two thirty comes and goes. Three. Three thirty. Four. I have no phone and Roger’s doesn’t work…..we give up and go up the many, many stairs. We are the only ones here……exhausted, still, we lie down for a bit. After a while we hear a buzzer. Is that here? Could it be Daniela? Neither one of us can speed down the stairs to find out and we don’t know where the intercom is. OMIGOD.
Finally, I get an email that is was, indeed, Daniela. She was very, very late due to having a client looking at properties way up in the hills. She apologizes. We will meet tomorrow morning.
We know the street that the hotel is on is closed to car traffic except for four hours out of the day….so I tell her we will be standing on the corner….since the street is one way, I assume (never assume, and you know why) that she knows which corner I am talking about.
In the morning we trot to the corner, the only corner a car can approach. We wait. And wait. My husband is prone to anxiety and he is way out of control now. He is getting me upset and scared and he won’t shut up.
Then I hear her……behind us….”Oh, Daniela!” “Ciao!” She was, of course, on the other end of the block…..but she walked to the other end and found us.
We MUST get my phone working. So we all walk through several pedestrian malls, we see the bus and rail station (good to know) and find a cellular phone store. And, their system is down. Naturally. I am feeling so dehydrated my voice is hoarse and it feels like my lips are glued together. We all grab something to drink at a pizza joint….water for me.
Then Roger says, well, let’s take some money out of an ATM. Let’s use my Italian bank account. (I don’t want to do this because I am not even sure the card is activated since it was sent to Jersey months ago.) We try. It doesn’t work. Swell. He has no problem taking money out with his own American card. Why didn’t he do that in the first place?
We head back to the phone store and the system is working. I cannot get a regular service because I am not a resident yet, so I have to get a “summer” plan that is really meant for kids and only temporary, but it should get me through to the end of September. While I’m at it, I buy a European charger. Yay, I have an Italian phone number!
That killed most of the day, so Daniela has to go, but we plan for the next day…closing day. We have to check out of the hotel and the closing is not until late afternoon. What will we do with our bags?
No problem, we will stash them in Daniela’s little tiny car and she will stash us at another property in Montesilvano that is currently not occupied. We can just hang out there for a couple of hours. For now, we are done.
For the evening, we wander around the promenade and stop at a café for a glass of wine. Babies, young people, old people, people with strollers, people with dogs….everyone walking around the promenade. It is clean, peaceful and convivial.
Hungry again, we head back toward the Burger Lab because next door is a nice looking place with Italian cuisine.
I ask for white wine and get prosecco…the Italian version of champagne. Roger orders fish, I order pasta. It was lovely.
Somehow we manage to climb up the blasted stairs again and collapse for the night.
Friday morning. I am excited. This is closing day. We have a small breakfast in the “breakfast” room…tea and a roll for me. Then we begin to pack up.
We head to the bank to cut the checks for the closing. While there, we attempt to fix the problem with my card, but their system is down. Really. I kid you not. So, there goes that idea. Maybe Monday.
We get the checks and then pile back into the car to be deposited at Montesilvano for a couple of hours. It is a cute apartment with a big terrace and a view of a courtyard and gardens. We both snooze for a bit.
We head back downstairs at three o’clock to meet Daniela. She is happy that we are outside waiting so she doesn’t really have to park. And off we go to the closing.
The closing takes place in the office of an attorney or notary, as they call them. It is a typical law office….a small waiting area, a secretary…..Piera, Daniela’s business partner, is there. I see two people in the small waiting area, a man and a woman. They must be the sellers. They have a funny surname and I always get it wrong. I am correct, though, it is the Juggernauts. I extend my hand and the man extends his and begins to rise from his seat. We introduce ourselves and sit and chat for a bit. They are Australian and he just retired, so they got a big country house. We want the opposite…something small, easy to care for.
After about fifteen minutes, we and the Gigglesmiths are led into a conference room with a huge table, about 12 chairs and hundreds of law books lining the walls.
The lawyer is seated at the head of the table, with his PC and a large window overlooking the streets of Pescara. Roger and I seat ourselves on one side of the table and the Gagglesmacks seat themselves on the other. Daniela and Piera take the other end.
The contract is in English and Italian and the lawyer proceeds to start reading it in its’ entirely in both languages. He is a slight man, dark hair, dark rimmed glasses and completely fluent in English. Nevertheless, this is an arduous process….making sure every detail is correct throughout all seven or eight pages of it.
Once that is done, we all have to sign every page, we and the Jiggeriches. Round and round we go.
At this point the mood lightens and the lawyer decides to tell us he lived in Hoboken for twenty years. So, no wonder he is so fluent in English! And, he said that in Hoboken he had “the best pizza” of his life!
Daniela is reaching across the table to give me the deed – the most important piece of paper we have to show the Consulate in New York when we go to apply for visas. And, I am being given a set of keys. With this, involuntarily, my eyes well up. This has been an ordeal….physically, mentally, emotionally…..I’m getting emotional and I have to curb that. We are in a law office, after all.
Back outside, we squeeze back into Daniela’s car and head up to Penne. The moment of truth…..Roger has never seen the place. I’m terrified. The entrance to this ancient city is a large stone gate. The entire town is stone and brick. I have no idea how Roger will react. But, he likes it. He is being critical, but he likes it. And what wins him entirely over is the balcony because the view is absolutely breathtaking. My bonus came in finding out that there is a dishwasher. I had no idea, it is “concealed”…I thought it was a cabinet.
We get the bags out of Daniela’s car and we meet an expat from Britain, who is also Roger. He looks like John Hurt. He has been here almost a decade and says he will meet us later for a drink. Then, before she leaves, Daniela gets a call from the Jigglesmirks and THEY want to meet us for a drink. I guess we have to, it would be impolite not to do so, but the truth is I don’t want to meet anyone…..I truly would like a bit of alone time, but it just isn’t going to happen yet.
Daniela goes home and we ARE home, sort of. We try to figure out where we will put things. We try to unpack a bit. At seven the Jangleglitches arrive and we walk down the cobblestone paths to a small restaurant, café called “Angoletti”…Little Corner…pizza and calzone…..we are both quite hungry, but the Geigersmiths want “aperitif” which in Italy is a snack tray. Meats that I won’t eat, cheeses and bites of bread. They are very pleasant people, and Roger One arrives at eight and joins us. He orders himself a pizza and I am jealous. When the evening is done, off everyone goes and I am hungry but too tired to do anything about it at this point.
Back at the apartment, I shower and get into bed…I brought sheets and a pillow…Roger Two has no pillow, so I cobble together some towels in a pillowcase. It will have to do. Sadly, the mattress is awful. Every little movement transfers throughout…somewhat like I imagine a water bed would be. We will most definitely have to buy a bed.
Morning arrives…..we venture out….to a café around the corner….lovely cappuccino and a chocolate croissant. Because Roger One gave us some valuable information, we know where the nearest supermarket is…and today is Saturday..the big weekly marketplace in the streets….it makes it more difficult to figure out where we are, but we find the supermarket, and the post office, and the bus station….all very close together. I find “English Breakfast” tea…Roger Two finds a cappuccino instant mix, we buy dish detergent….and we find a little store that sells sundries and housewares. We venture in and I ask, by his supply of shopping carts, or I try to ask..in my stumbling Italian…if he sells anything like this. Carolla! Si, si, una carolla!!! And he does, a sweet little number in red…and he not only takes it down, but unwraps it and proceeds to put it together, getting the wheels on properly and such. Wow. He asks where we are from…New York!!! New York!!! Ahhh! And I tell him we have bought an appartamento in Penne…..we will be back in the Fall. Bene! Bene! I also note that he has a very nice teapot, only one, in the store and I file that away for future reference.
In the meantime, we head back to the apartment with a few groceries (dog food, canned veggies for Harry, dish detergent, paper towels, butter, olive oil, spaghetti)…oh, yes, while in the supermarket we were searching for spices. No luck. I see a man behind the deli counter.
“Scusate, signore, ma dov’e….pepe, sale, originate?” He points to my right. I was standing right there. Ahhh! Grazie!!!! (Duh!)
In the meantime, we head back to the apartment with a few groceries (dog food, canned veggies for Harry, dish detergent, paper towels, butter, olive oil, spaghetti)…oh, yes, while in the supermarket we were searching for spices. No luck. I see a man behind the deli counter.
“Scusate, signore, ma dov’e….pepe, sale, originate?” He points to my right. I was standing right there. Ahhh! Grazie!!!! (Duh!)
Tonight I make my first dinner in our new home. Spaghetti with olive oil, spices and parmesan. A piece of supermarket bread better than any bread you can imagine, toasted with a bit of olive oil on top. Roger Two said it was the best toast he ever had in his life!!!!
We once again attempt to sleep in the terrible bed …I took drugs…hahah.
We wake to the amazing balcony again. This morning I have Italian “English Breakfast” tea with water heated up in the microwave. I have to get that teapot…….. the tea is not bad and I am, for some reason, thinking that it would make great iced tea…something I haven’t had in decades.
We have toast…amazing toast…and venture out again….this time to a housewares store outside the city gate that Roger One told us about. They have tons of stuff…we buy a hand held vacuum for Harry hair. I get pot holders and a spoon rest. Toothbrush holder. Ice cube trays.
No gyms necessary here…just walking the slightly inclining streets keeps you in shape. I can feel my knees getting stronger already.
We bring the stuff home, but I am determined to have a proper teapot. We go back to the little store by the supermarket. “New York!!!” He remembers us! I plunk down the teapot….he asks something that sparks a memory in my mind…..arrosticini? Arrosticini? Oh, yeah…I remember…”Io so!” He asks…”Che cosa?” “Arrosticini e un cibo tradizionale di Abruzzo!” “Brava!” It is meat on a stick..usually mutton, that is a traditional dish in the hills of Abruzzo...meat on a stick....something, actually, that was also common on the streets of Astoria, Queens, NY....but not mutton. He was clearly pleased that I knew what it was and that I was able to cobble together a coherent sentence in Italian. (I was pretty pleased about that too!)
I now have some food…to be placed in the freezer, a teapot and tea, dog food….enough to get by for a few days before we can settle into life like normal again.
Now we have to plan on leaving….something I don’t really want to do…but I know we must. Another awful night on the awful bed with the awful knowledge that we have to get up in the middle of the night, anyway, to catch a taxi to the airport. Torture. Sheer torture.
Three in the morning. We pack. Hit the bathroom. Ready? Ugh.
We walk to the city gate. No taxi. Well, it isn’t even near four a.m. yet. “Yeah, but they are usually early” Four. Four fifteen. Call them. We wake some man up….he says the taxi is in Pescara. Pescara????? What???? He never checked the computer, never checked the notes…the driver is a half an hour away…..GET HIM HERE NOW!!!!!!
More waiting. Fretting OMIGOD, the anxiety. I call the driver, whose number we got from Mr. Sleepyhead. Where are you? I am in Penne. No you’re not. No you’re not…because we are standing here and you did not pass us at the very entrance to the city. Where are you?
Roger Two goes off toward the Duomo. I stand there like an idiot. A car pulls up and the driver jumps out frantically and starts loading the bags into the trunk….but…but….my husband…….thank goodness, I see him coming out the city gate…….HURRY!!!!! We pile into the car…… Scusa, scusa, they send me to Pescara…no, no, it’s not your fault, it’s the sleepy guy who sent you to the wrong place…..but now we are heading back to Pescara….and I know the way..having done it a half dozen times by now…and I tell him where to turn in Loreto and he goes the other way…..what?
Then we are driving on dirt roads and through olive groves in I don’t know where in the dark. What the hell? He has GPS but I don’t think he knows how to use it. We wander around in circles and he pulls up to a gas station and asks someone how to get to the auto strada…..the main highway to Rome. Shit, man…I could have told you that!
We wander more and wind up back in Pescara and he misses the sign for the auto strada. I can’t make this up.
We go around in circles again and finally get there. By now we are seriously late but still hoping….but….as in any large city, there comes the rush hour and now we are in the middle of it. Tick tock, tick tock. Not going to make it.
Oh, the countryside is gorgeous. We are going to miss the flight. Tick tock. Gosh, I never saw the giant statue of Da Vinci before..everytime I did this it was in the dark. Wow.
Finally, we pull up to the terminal, rush out of the car, I am moving, leaving the details up to Roger Two….the terminal is packed…packed.
Roger catches up and we head to Lufthansa…..but our plane is already boarding. We missed it. We …missed…it.
We go to a counter and they tell us that the flight was booked via United so we have to find another flight through United, which is all the hell the way that the other end of the terminal. Off we go. There is a security guard who will not let us beyond the point we need to go to get to United. SO….we go back to Lufthansa……..on the other end of the terminal…….they again say…United. But….they won’t let us through……”I can escort you.” YES! YES! You have to…..
She gets us through and the United people..if there are any, since some were Lufthansa, some were Al Italia, some Air Canada….they tell us we have to call….on the telephone..United. My little summertime Italian plan comes into play once again…we call United, we get rebooked…it is not ideal, but we still get back on the same day by way of Chicago……we take it…and as I am verifying the information the phone goes….bloopty blooop! I have run out of minutes for the day. Errrrrrrrrrr.
With this, we trudge back to Lufthansa with our new information and lo and behold, the tickets are there and she prints them out and checks our now empty and busted up bags and we proceed to the gate.
I actually don’t remember much else…..other than the plane itself. It was nicer than the one we took in. We had more room. There was a little Chinese lady next to me…I was in the middle again..lucky me….she was wearing a face mask. I spent the flight slipping in and out of consciousness….and I made the mistake of eating the airline food which was abominable….I think I would have been better off hungry than wondering if I was going to hurl. It was spinach ravioli, which would have been fine but it was covered in some god awful yellow cheese….just vile. The roll was a tasteless wad of white nothing….it was all awful. Never again.
We landed at O’Hare, in Chicago….we had barely enough time to get through security and customs to make it to the little commuter plane to Newark. Crowds. Lines. We had to get our bags at baggage claim..and RECHECK them! People coughing….sneezing…a kiosk to scan my passport which also took another lovely, flattering photo of an old tired lady who had been up for more than 24 hours……really nice. Security check. Wait! Liquids! What? Geez, they handed out bottles of water on the Lufthansa flight and I stuffed it into a bag. Liquids!!! Geez, guy, take the stinking bottle of water…I don’t care….have a blast….hydrate to your fullest! Enjoy! Can we go now?
The flight was already boarding and I had to pee badly. The boarding seemed to be proceeding slowly, so I ran to the nearby bathroom. Good thing. As we boarded, they insisted on taking our carry on away…crowded flight…no room…so sorry…and once again I was in the middle between two rather large….I’m saying obese…people.
Then the pilot told us that we had to taxi around for a while……because…..because why? Because of a late incoming flight….because lighting struck something…… because……..so we went nowhere for quite some time…as I became more and more uncomfortable and disoriented….my muscles started jumping involuntarily…I drifted now and again into doze land…..
It finally took off….and I watched bits of a movie the girl to my left was watching and bits of something the guy to my right wasn’t watching…..”Gifted” about a little math wizard..and I can’t remember what the other was…since I was barely there to begin with.
Newark. At long last. I have to teach my legs how to walk again. I am swollen, sore, incomprehensibly tired. We get our bags. We find our car. We turn the air conditioning up way high to stay awake. Just a little more…stay awake, stay alert. Don’t get killed now.
Here we are. Back in our “not” home. Roger Two collapses almost immediately, face down, on the bed and he is gone. I have to unpack my meds, my phone, take a shower, and have a glass of wine so my muscles stop jumping around. THEN I can go to bed.
Tomorrow morning, we pick up Harry and the adventure continues.
Wednesday, April 5, 2017
The day has arrived. My hands are sweating. The anxiety level is extremely high. Besides my lifelong dislike of flying, I am filled with trepidation at the thought of being in a foreign country all by myself. Yet, here I am, about to fly to Italy…alone.
I try not to cry when I say “goodbye” to my husband. Stiff upper lip. Don’t lose it now, this is just the beginning. Through the security checks….crap. I have to take my shoes off. I twisted my knee several days before, so I have to wear a small brace around it, which, of course, sets off the metal detectors. Lovely. Nothing like a nice frisking. She was respectful, though, no horror story here.
Ok, ok…..to the gate. And, boarding…which seems to be haphazard. No announcement….Group A…..Group B. Just a big, mushy hoard of people. I have an aisle seat. A nice man helps to put my bag overhead. A good looking young man has the window seat. He looks like an actor whose name escapes me. He promises he will sleep and not bother me. I have a Neurontin on me….once in the air, I swallow that puppy and hope for a nap. What to do….what to do? Movies. I opt for the chronicle of the early days of The Beatles, “Eight Days a Week,” because I know the story very well and the music soothes me. It’s hard to hear over the droning din of the plane, in any case. No nap. No sleep comes. The staff passes out some kind of meal which I pass on. I find it impossible to eat in moving vehicles and I really can’t understand how anyone can enjoy it.
My seat mate now has to use the rest room. Which is fine, because I need to stand up. Back in his seat, I return to mine. I try to calm my mind and close my eyes. After a small eternity, we arrive in Lisbon. I left on Sunday evening, it is now sunrise in Portugal
We disembark and have to go through another security check. Then we have to have our passports checked. The officer says, “You are not staying very long.” I agree. “You will have to do a lot of walking in three days.” I agree again. He stamps the passport.
I walk down the corridor to the airport and the first thing I see is a stinking McDonalds. It is followed by a Kentucky Fried Chicken and a Pizza Hut. Seriously? A little further down is someplace called “Versailles.” I go there and get a croissant and a nice, hot pot (yes, a porcelain pot) of tea. I have packed my medications in tiny plastic bags, so I take my morning meds and try to wake up. I can see the “Departures” screen from my seat…..my connecting flight to Rome has been delayed…..again. It was delayed by HOURS before we drove off to Newark Airport, now they are pushing back yet another half an hour. This really bites. It will be rather late when I finally get to Pescara.
What to do? Go to the bathroom and refresh a bit. Walk around, and around, and around. Sit. Check the flight time again. Try to find a way to put my feet up….I put my laptop bag on my lap and rest my feet on my carry on case. My ankles are swollen. Shit.
Finally, finally…head to the gate. Since they delayed and delayed, there are an awful lot of people here. Another not so clear boarding procedure. I get to the front and the woman tells me that the flight is very crowded and they have to take my carry on. Not to worry. No worries, it will be at baggage claim in Rome. I don’t like this. People take far too much stuff to “carry” on these flights….big tote bags, big, fluffy coats..and they cram it all into the overhead bins. So, I get to lose my carry on. Swell.
This flight is only two hours. Takeoff and landing very smooth. Welcome to Roma. Big sign….baggage claim number 10. Okey dokey. The people are boors. Some guy just HAD to step on my foot and nearly knock me down. They are grabbing for bags like the idiots who storm through store doors on a big sale day. I don’t see mine.
A man behind me is equally pissed. He is on the phone to someone saying what a nightmare this is and he had a carry on but they took it and he has no idea when the hell he is going to get out of this airport. My sentiments exactly. And I supposedly have a car waiting for me. I sure hope he’s waiting for me. Oh, dear. Where the hell is my bag?
I hear another snippet of conversation from a woman. She said her bag somehow wound up at claim number 9. I go to 9 and look and look. I go back to 10. OMIGOD. Where the hell is my bag? I can’t wait any longer, I need help. There is a line to the lost baggage people. There are two of them on duty. I am very tired and finding it difficult to stand because my feet are killing me and my ankles are swollen. Finally……fill out this form…describe the bag. “Oh, wait! Your bag is right here…it went to claim 9.” Really? Are you sure? “Go over there, and I hope not to see you again.” Yeah, me too.
I hobble back to claim 9. I walk around the entire thing. No bag.
I’m baaaaaaack. At least he signals me to the front, but, naturally, the people behind me get angry….they are informed that this is my SECOND time here. Finish the form, give them my destination. Bye, bye.
It is now about 10 o’clock at night. Honestly. I’ve been awake forever. I have no hope that the car will be waiting. But, as I leave, a man approaches and asks if I need a taxi. I explain that I was supposed to have a car waiting, but…I…doubt……I see my name! I see my name! He’s here! This poor guy has been waiting HOURS for me! Then he asks me if I want to stop for coffee! No, no….just let’s go, please. My husband has been calling the car company and begging them to wait. It is still a two hour drive to Pescara….in a nice Mercedes with this nice driver. My husband calls the driver’s cell phone and I break down and cry. Stinking airline took my bag. Stinking airline LOST my bag…….it’s the middle of the night…….I…can’t.
I notice that some trees look white. What can that be? Maybe I am so tired I’m seeing things. Then I realize….they are blooming. It’s warmer here. We just had a snowstorm, but spring has arrived in Italy.
We get to the hotel. Italians, like most Europeans, earn decent living wages and are not accustomed to “tips.” But I felt terrible that this man, who reminded me of Bob Hoskins, waited all that time for me. So I ask him if he will accept 25 Euros from me for being so kind. He does.
The man at the hotel desk speaks no English. I barely speak Italian. He shows me to my room. Sadly, all rooms are up one flight of stairs. Between my feet and my knee, I climb one at a time, like a baby.
Pescara is a beach resort and it is not the season quite yet. As with most “beach” hotels, this is a little seedy, but it was affordable, since it is off season. They do have wifi and I have a little piece of paper that gives me the codes. I struggle to explain that I need a “wake up” call at 8 am. The shower is like a phone booth…way too small, with folding doors and the water is cold. Good grief. I hit the bed. The mattress is ok, the pillows are like rocks. I cannot turn my brain off. Where the hell is my bag? How could this happen? I have no medications now. I have no clean clothes. Where the hell is my bag? My body won’t turn off, either. Muscles are jumping and cramping all over. I’m a mess. There was a weird dream, so I know I got some sleep. Even so, I woke up before the phone rang.
I take another quick shower in the phone booth before putting on my used clothing. Ick. Now I am officially missing my medications. Time to hobble downstairs to the hotel’s breakfast. But first I have to find some toothpaste. Around the corner is a little shop…and older woman is behind the counter. “Scusa, dentifricio, per favore?” Si! Oh, yay. But she does not have any toothbrushes. For now, this will have to do.
Back at the hotel, the breakfast is underwhelming. I try a croissant, but it isn’t very good. Lipton tea. Nothing new there. Except now the desk lady is telling me that I “didn’t sign up” for the breakfast. “How much is it?” “Five euros.” Fine, I dig five euros out of my pocket change. At this point, I just want some hot tea.
In walks a familiar face. I recognize Piera from her website. But she is early. The desk lady knows her and offers her an espresso, on me, I guess. So we sit with our coffee and tea. She is early because she has an appointment she has to go to but wanted me to know that Daniela will be along in a few minutes to take me to look at houses. She rushes out and I go to brush my teeth with my fingers. (Sigh)
Daniela is right on time. She is in slacks and a sharp leather coat. We hop into her little red car, a Linzia. Penne is about a half hour drive from Pescara. There are three places to see today, then we will come back…refresh…and go to the municipal office for a tax identification number, much like the Italian version of a social security number. Okey dokey.
Daniela is talkative and I am surprised to learn she has a husband and two sons, fourteen and five. She tells me she is forty nine. Honestly, I thought she was about twenty five! She and Piera have had their own business for about 7 years and they deal only with expats. We are their second American clients. They just sold a house to a couple from Texas. I joked…hahaha…the first wave of American refugees. Haha….not.
The first “house” is a working dental office. No kidding. There are four or five anxious looking people in the waiting room, which could be a bedroom, or small living room. The floors are a lovely, realistic wood laminate. There is “music in every room,” as pointed out twice by the dentist. The problem is, there is no kitchen. What would be a kitchen is an exam room…so, there is a sink. No other appliances. The adjoining room, nice and big with lots of windows and light, is a lab, with a large, industrial fluorescent light fixture taking up most of the ceiling. My mind is going “cha ching!” Ms. Dentist needs more space, and while it is very nice, there is too much work to be done to change this office into a home.
The second place I recognize from the website. I hope it is as nice inside as it appears in the pictures. We enter an outside door that opens into an enclosed cortile (courtyard) that is totally shady as it has a roof. The door to the house, or apartment, is to the left. There is an entryway….the living room is to the left. It has a sunny window and a fireplace. All of the floors are new and they are white tile. To the right is the bathroom, which has also been redone. Small but serviceable and warm, inviting. It reminds me of walking into a sauna.
Beyond the living room is the bedroom. Restored, curved stone ceiling…another sunny window. A built in shelf on one side and a recessed area where there is a highboy and a dresser…perfect.
Down the hall is the kitchen, which is bright, light and cheery. New backsplash tile. Washer and dryer. BIG plus. At the end of the kitchen is the glass door leading to the terrace. Daniela opens it and out we go. Spec. Tac. U. Lar. I gasp. The view is astounding and literally takes my breath away. We can see all the way to the Adriatic. Stunningly beautiful. Not a big terrace, but enough for two chairs and two small tables. It has an eve, so we could even sit out there in the rain. I’m sold.
Back inside, one, or is it two more rooms? They are linked….there is a wall and a door to a room that could easily be a guest bedroom. The “window” is glass block, to let the light in from the adjoining room. It is small, but has a real window that looks out to the terrace and amazing view. It is big enough to hold my husband’s computer screens and such.
I love this place. I love it. I love it. There is no work to be done other than some paint and a light fixture or two. Washer and dryer. Fireplace. Terrace. All on one level, no stairs. Love, love, love.
We move on to the third and last place of the day. We have to meet another realtor…the ones contracted by the seller, I suppose. Off we go….this place is up three flights of stairs. Somehow I manage. It is large, almost too large and the ceilings are very high. It echoes. Although large, it is a “railroad” home…each room leads to the next one behind the other. Each room has a double door to a Juliette balcony….but I don’t care for the layout or the acoustics. And the kitchen is old.
Daniela suggests we take a little stroll up the block (all three places were within a couple of blocks of one another). We stop at a café and she orders something for herself. She does not understand what a “mocha” is, so I say, “just an iced coffee is fine.” She comes out with something in a small martini glass….it is coffee with chocolate….about three sips worth. Odd. She has a lemonade and a small bruschetta. We get to know one another a bit more…I talk about my daughter…she talks about her family…we laugh, we cry, we bond.
Now it is time to head back to Pescara. I hope against hope that my bag has arrived. It has not. I take another shower and crawl back into my dirty clothes and try to nap.
A bit later, Daniela shows up right on time to get to the municipal building. We get some forms…she helps me put the right information in the right places. As with our own Social Security offices, we had to take a number and we have to wait until our number shows up on the LED display. 344. We wait. 342….Daniela gets a call that she has to take outside. “I’ll be back in just a minute, don’t worry.” She left her car keys. Naturally, 343 is skipped and 344 pops up. I hear them say “Quattro.” OMIGOD. Daniela! I grab her keys and my forms and go “running” to the best of my ability….as I turn the corner, she comes blasting through the doors….I’m waving her keys….”What number?” Quattro…four!!!! Ah, it’s right here…..now we are laughing……my heart is racing……a nice lady reviews the forms, copies my passport and issues me a tax number and an official form. Done.
That is our business for today. Daniela has to pick up her youngest. She takes me back to the hotel, but first she points out a restaurant she recommends around the corner. I tell her to just let me out, since it is, literally, just around the corner from the hotel. “Go get your child!” With that, I decide to explore further, while I still have the energy. I won’t be going to any restaurants in the clothes I’ve been wearing for I don’t know how long. I have my eye on a little pizza joint. So I walk to a main intersection. Gelato. Gas stations. Bistros. Restaurants that don’t open until 6:30 or so….I may fade before then
Ah, a wine store. A man and a woman inside. Buona sera! They say something I can’t understand…..so I say, “Un vino bianco e secco, per favore.” Si, si. “Come chardonnay?” Chardonnay? Si, si. I noticed taps when I walked in, along with shelves full of wine bottles. I wondered if they sold beer, too. Silly me, the wine came from the taps. The lady filled an empty plastic liter bottle….while doing so, she pointed under these things….like the tops of cat pans…..I thought there was a kitten, perhaps. So I look more closely. It’s a bunny. A black bunny. He was afraid of me….he came out briefly but I could not approach. A wine store with a pet bunny and wine on tap. Four euros. Grazie.
My walk back brings me to the little pizza place. It’s pretty much like any pizza place. Located close to an elementary school, mothers and fathers take their kids here for an after school snack. I look at the menu…and I ask for a pizza marguerita. The man behind the counter looks and sounds like the Soup Nazi of Seinfeld fame and I clearly have displeased him but I can’t understand his tirade. As he finishes up his diatribe, I pick up a word or two…….oh, I get it. All the little pizzas are in little iron pans….what you see is what you get today. One does NOT come in and order. They are all individual, small pizzas. I choose two. Due. 3 euros. Grazie. Sorry I made you mad, I’m a stupid American.
Oh, one last stop. Since I still have no bag I have to stop in the open pharmacy and pick up a spazzolina…a brush for my hair and another for my teeth. I find a toothbrush right away, and I see hair products, but no brushes. A young man in a white jacket comes out from behind the counter and offers to help. He understands what I need and looks in exactly the same places I have just looked. Then he goes into a back room behind the counter. There is a girl back there in a white jacket. They talk. She looks out at me and seems somewhat bemused. Am I really that funny looking? I see the young man reach into a drawer and find a brush and he slips a cellophane sleeve over it. He comes back out and rings both brushes up. He seems a bit nervous. 6 euros. Grazie.
I notice that their sign has a word that appears to resemble “veterinary.” Once back at the hotel, I get the joke. I have just bought a cat brush. I don’t mind, it works just as well on my hair as an overpriced human brush….but, now I know why there were giggles and anxiety.
The wine is VERY good, as are the little pizzas, which have somehow managed to retain some warmth. You would think that at this point I could sleep. I can’t. The pillows are still like rocks and my muscles are jumping and “Where the hell is my bag?” It is a long night with a couple of strange dreams, so I guess I did sleep some, after all.
Day two begins. Same old clothes. I sniff and hope I am not kidding myself that they don’t smell bad. I skip the hotel breakfast. I would like to go to the cute place around the corner called “Miss Littlecakes.” It is a tea room with pastries and rolls all decked out in pink and white and most likely owned by a British ex pat. I generally am not a fan of pink overload, but this is done very well. However, I have neither the time or the energy.
Daniela arrives promptly once again and off we go up the hillsides. The first house on the agenda today also requires another realtor. His name is Vittorio, another young man who looks much like the guy from yesterday. We park on a flat, cobblestone piazzetta and start to walk down the street. Down…really down. “Daniela, where is this house?” Just over here. Over here….where? Then the street curves and I go into panic mode. It is like a roller coaster…straight down. How does anyone live here? How do you get anything inside? It is so steep that some of the stones regularly stick out…as footholds? I can’t do this. Daniela senses my anxiety. “You don’t want to see this? I should have known better.” Omigod. My palms are sweating. “Vittorio! Vittorio!”
I begin my labored climb back up while Daniela explains to Vittorio that the road is too steep. I know my husband and I could never do this. I can picture stepping out with Harry and falling flat on my face. No…no, never.
I’m sorry that this didn’t work out…..I apologize to Vittorio and Daniela apologizes to me. No matter, there is another house to see with Vittorio. This one I can reach.
We pull up to a two family stone house with a terraced stoop in the front. A middle aged woman is on the small front terrace. It is just a few steps up.
Right away I see new and beautiful windows and a lovely front door. Inside, it is clear that this lady has good taste and I like her style. But the place is small. Oh, there’s an orange cat. Hello, piccolo gatto!
There is no dining room so they have the dining table plunked in the middle of the living room, between the fireplace and the sofa. It is rather cramped, especially with four people in the room. Oh, there is another cat, a black one. In front of the fireplace is a large pet bed, as large as the one I have for my dog. I wonder how many cats this lady has?
The kitchen is way too small. I cannot imagine how anyone can prepare a meal in here. With two of us in the kitchen at the same time we were on top of one another.
There is a hallway to the bedrooms. Look at the beautiful marble floors! Yes, they are lovely, but there is so much large furniture in a small space, it is hard to appreciate them. The first bedroom is also claustrophobic. Each room has a lovely window with a view of Gran Sasso mountain. My eyes are drawn to the windows and my mind is saying, “Escape!”
The bathroom is nice, a decent size and contains the washer and dryer. It is the only room that has enough space.
The second bedroom, again, meticulously decorated with beautiful things, is tiny and cramped.
“Grazie, grazie. Arrividerci! Grazie.” We step out to the front terrace again. There is a fat calico sitting there. I notice that there are cat pans tucked into spots on the terraced stoop but the little orange guy is peeing in one of the potted plants. Ah, cats. I miss having a cat. Just one though. Just one.
The last house is Campogallo. From the realty website, it looked like a possibility. In person, however, it is somewhat run down and echoes because the vaulted ceilings are so high. There is water damage in one room that, to my eyes, is quite severe. So, rather than feeling homey, it is giving me the creeps.
“Do you want to see Bella Vita again?” Yes! We go back. I love this place. I want to stay here. I want very much to put a bid on this house.
Daniela and I then go down the promenade to the gelato store. She has pistachio. I have chocolate. We will put a bid on Bella Vita. She is confident that it will be accepted. The owners are retiring and already have another place and just want to sell and not worry about it anymore. Yay for us.
That’s it for today, so we head back to the hotel. As I walk in, the desk lady says, “Your bag is here! It’s in your room!” Oh, hallelujah!!! Yep, there it is. Someone put a plastic strap lock on it. I have to hobble back down the stairs and ask for scissors. “Is it ok if I return them later?” “Si, signora.”
At last. I plug the adapter in and charge my laptop. I turn my phone on…it knows that it is in Italy….wierd. I shower once again. I put on CLEAN clothes. Oh, what a wonderful feeling. Catch up with home via email. I know the restaurant that Daniela recommended doesn’t open until 6:30 pm, so I will take a walk along the beach front.
The actual beach is not open yet, but there is a bricked path for walkers, joggers and a bike lane. People are walking their dogs, strolling with small children, jogging and biking. It seems about 70 degrees, the sun is shining…gorgeous afternoon. Finally, I can take some pictures. There are tiny green lizards darting around in the shrubs and flowers. The Adriatic is calm and so very blue. No waves. Daniela said that kids at the beach get so excited whenever there is any kind of wave! Closed concession stands, playgrounds, places to play…something…volleyball, maybe. Lots of clean, smooth sand. Restaurants everywhere.
I’m getting tired and the restaurant should be open. My little celebratory treat to myself. The lights are on. The door is locked. Hmmmmm. I look in the window…….then right behind me I hear, “Buona sera!” A somewhat rotund man in white, accompanied by a younger girl. Big smiles. Must be the owner. I have the place all to myself.
The specialty is fish. Tutti pesci? Si. Non pasta? Oh, si, si! Spaghetti, ravioli……Ah, ravioli! Pomodoro? Si…..pane….acqua…e un bicchieri di vino bianco. Perfetto.
The girl is trying to convey something……she is making a motion with her hands…like in the Hawaiian hula dance…cascading fingers….I’m baffled. She brings two bottles of water….sparkling and natural. Oh, I get it. Naturale, per favore. I sip my water and my wine. She brings out a bottle of olive oil and a basket of bread. How can I describe the bread to someone who has never had fresh made, real bread? The texture alone is so wonderful. It’s chewy on the inside, crusty on the outside….it tastes like something!
The ravioli arrives with tomato sauce. This is homemade pasta, not the kind you buy in a box or bag in the supermarket. Each piece is like a little taste of heaven. I use the bread to soak up any leftover sauce. Perhaps I will sleep tonight. Ravioli to die for, chewy, crusty bread, an entire bottle of water and two glasses of wine. 19 euros. Wow.
Back to my little room. Check the computer. Sleepy time.
My last day. Today is bank day. 9:30 sharp, Daniela is here. We go to the bank…I’m glad it is the one that my husband is familiar with. We have an appointment. I am also happy that I am dressed appropriately and that I am clean. Oy.
Everything is computerized. I sign and sign and sign on the tablet. I give the information to the bank lady. A little old man recognizes Daniela and they talk. “Italians like to talk,” she says. Yes, I can see that.
There is no such name as “June” in Italian, except as the label for the sixth month of the year. Everyone is confused by my name, which in Italian is “male.” Perhaps I will have to reinvent my name when we move and use a form of my middle name, which is Alyce. Maybe I will be Alisa. I’ll have to think about that.
Finally, after quite a while and many signatures, I have bank account. I then have to go to Massimo, at another desk, to make an initial deposit, because only Massimo can change US dollars into Euros.
Now, Daniela and I go to the ATM with my new bank card. I have to activate it and make a password and pin. Errrrrrr. I write it down quickly before I forget it.
That’s it. My business is done. Everything has been accomplished that could be accomplished in such a short time. Daniela takes me back to the hotel and gives me a big hug. She explains what comes next. Thank you so much for all your help!!
Back in my room, I catch up again via email and decide that I will have to try and sleep or rest as best I can before the odyssey of getting home begins. I trot down to the pizza joint again…this time I know the drill, so nobody gets mad at me. I still have some wine from the rabbit wine store. I also have mountain spring water that Daniela collected while in Penne…collected from a cistern in a piazza. Wow.
Naturally, not surprisingly, sleep evades me as usual. I stare at the dark….but I know what an ordeal lies ahead. I have to be up in the middle of the night so my brain refuses to turn off. Torture.
Alright, it’s that time. Get dressed again….pack everything up. Head down the stairs…..the man behind the counter hears me and takes my bag. Grazie. Mille grazie. Ugh. It must be one-thirty. Where is the cab? Every expletive known to man is going through my mind. I see a car with a light on top. It pulls up. Hooray….a guy gets out…he has a Bogart thing going. He’s in a trench coat, glasses…his graying hair seems a bit dirty. He takes my bag, I have the laptop.
Right away I nearly gag...the cab reeks of smoke. I see the time and he is fifteen minutes late. The car, besides stinking, is not in the best of shape. I have a bad feeling the driver isn’t either. He has to stop for gas. Then he attempts to ask me something…caffe? Do I want coffee? NO. Do you? He wanted something because he stopped again and got a soda, I think. Oh, please tell me he hasn’t been drinking. What the hell?
He has an annoying radio station on…sounds rather like “talk radio” in the U.S. Whatever. As long as it keeps him focused. It’s a long drive. Two hours. Luckily, there is no one on the road. But, it is dark and sometimes I fear we will go flying through some barriers and off a cliff.
When he opens his damned bottle of soda he used both hands…meaning no hands on the steering wheel! Then, he does the unthinkable…he takes his glasses off! What? Should I say something? You wear glasses and you’re driving and you take them off? I’m going to die before I get to the airport. This is a nightmare.
At long last I see signs for the airport. He misses the turn off. Now I’m pissed off and terrified at the same time. I am now learning over the front seat and when I see the next turn off for the airport I start yelling. I seem to have startled him out of a stupor. He makes the turn. Now all we have to do is get to the terminal. To me it seems a small miracle that he pulls up to the terminal and I am still in one piece. I have the money in an envelope. This creep isn’t getting one more euro more out of me. I slap the envelope into his hand. He already has a cigarette in his mouth and he starts counting, but I have turned my back and am already walking away. I feel soiled and hope I don’t reek from all the time spent in his little portable hell hole.
It’s the wrong terminal, but it is not a disaster because it is not a large airport. Just a short walk to the correct terminal. Find the check in. Window or aisle? Aisle, please. Off to the gate. Here we go again. Take my shoes off. Open the laptop. Haul the bag up to the scanner. Alarms go off because of the knee brace. Another pat down. Get my shoes back on, close my laptop. Find an uncomfortable seat and wait.
This hop to Lisbon has more cushy seats than the one that came in. All goes smoothly but I didn’t realize that we would be steered to a different place in the airport. So, my plans for tea have to be adjusted. There is place, but they use glass and since I am alone, I cannot handle that. Luckily the girl who takes my order understands, but the only paper cups they have are small. I have no choice. It’s enough and I can take my meds.
Another gate. Another uncomfortable chair. Another wait. The sun is coming up. Some men haul in a couple of tables. I see police officers. Those of us waiting at the gate are instructed to get up. ????? An extra security check. That makes me feel all warm and fuzzy. Line up and have our passports compared to our tickets. Some people have to open up their bags on those tables. I’m allowed through. Sick, sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.
We board. I have a middle seat. Not happy that I will be scrunched between two people, but my bags are stowed above, so I have as much room as possible
Amazingly, no one sits on either side. I have all three seats to myself. The arms pull up. I take my shoes off my swollen feet and ball up the blanket and little pillow and try to stretch. Restless. Try to find a movie……start “Manchester by the Sea” and get bored and depressed very quickly. Let’s try “LaLa Land.” Ugh. Are they serious? “Loving.” I watch that all the way through and cry and cry. Trying hard not to sob. Now, maybe I can stretch out a little and snooze. So tired. I’m so tired I think I hear the captain say that the “plane is going through something terrible.” What? Did he really say that? No one else is panicking. Geez, am I hearing things?
Dreamlike. Maybe I did sleep a little. We are nearly there, so I watch the little computer plane approach Newark. Fifteen minutes out. Ten minutes out. We had winds in our favor and we are an entire half hour early. That would be great, but the passport check line is enormously long and out of about twenty counters, they have all of four people working while scads of international flights arrive. This takes an hour. Take off your sunglasses. Did you buy anything? Nope, not a thing. Welcome home, dear. Dear?
Walk, walk, walk……finally. I see my husband…….”I have to sleep for the next four days.”
Chinese food. I am craving eggs, so he got eggs foo young for me. I’m swollen, sore and Harry is crazy mad at me for going away. Suddenly a curtain is coming down on me. It feels like I’m going to faint. Jet lag. I have to sleep now.
Daniela told us the bid was accepted. The adventure continues.
~ March, 2017