Tag Archives: travel

On Snow


And Lo! Italy donned a white velvet cape, a luxurious garment;  dove-white and soft to the eye. It sparkled when the sun came out, like milk diamonds.

It lay across houses and hills. It alighted on pine needles and berries. It washed over mountains and formed on fence posts like waves about to crash – and stopped there, mid-crest.

It flowed like a river of cream down the roads and paths and tracks and cracks.

Laying in folds across neatly stacked fire wood and forming small tufts along windowsills

It is so grande that it begins to drag on the ground a little. Here the river of cream was pushed back to make way for the cars that are  dug out of the hills of sparkling white. Driving cautiously, topped with precarious mounds they dirty the pristine garment beneath their wheels.
Little jewels of light shine from within the postcard houses, the steepled churches, the antique brick cottages.

Necklaces of pointed ice dangles from sloped shingle roofs, beautiful as they are deadly.

  The wind ruffles the garment as it passes by. It  brushes past the imperial pine trees and small clumps of white shake themselves loose to hit the ground with a dull whump! or a soft pfff.

And the girl from Australia gazes apon Europes winter cape with wide eyes. It coats her hat and tries its hardest to smother the tenacious winter berries.

(Or perhaps they’re flowers?)

She nibbles tentatively on it, humming ‘Glad to have a friend like you’ under her breath. It dampens her gloves.

After she watches it from inside the warm house with her hands wrapped around a mug of chai tea as it she tries to put into words her first experience with snow…

….

Note: My camera seems to be working again folks, so all these photos are taken once again with my wonderful little beast…

Advertisements

In Which Miss Nom Talks About Couchsurfing

So its time I told you all about Couchsurfing.
Gather round, sit down, would you like a cup of tea?
Are you comfortable? Good, then let us begin.

I first heard about Couchsurfing a few years ago. Now to explain the image that popped into my head on hearing this combination of words I first have to tell you about something in the Guiness book of Records.
There is, in said book of incredible feats, some gentlemen in England who took a couch and made it into a car. A car which you can drive on the road, complete with a pizza tray steering wheel. It has vehicle registration.

They are in the Guiness world records for highest speed achieved by furniture; but between you and me I think the old boys at the Records department just wanted to put this fantastic piece of invention in their book.
Now you can imagine that when I heard someone say ‘Couchsurfing’ I immediately pictured a vivacious and plucky young fellow sailing bravely atop the ocean on some sort of couch-surfboard. That is just the way my mind works.
Unfortunately so far no one has invented a couch-surfboad.
Fortunately someone did invent Couchsurfing.
It is, in essence, a way to travel and meet people.  You stay on someones couch or spare bed or hammock…. And you spend a few days with this person, or people or family.
But more than that. It is a way to immerse yourself more in the culture of the country you are travelling in than when you stay at a hotel. A way to meet the locals, to meet like-minded people and to be reminded that not everything in this world is a business transaction.
It is free. And it is wonderful.
To begin is simple: you join. You make a profile of yourself. Of your likes and dislikes, interests and experiences. You put a photo of yourself. Then before you head to a city or a town that you will be staying in you look at people in the area. People with similar tastes to you. Or different, but something you find interesting. You can send a message to this person telling them why would like to meet them and the fun begins. Of course they have no obligation to accept. But its fantastic to be a host too. A way to travel without leaving your house. To meet interesting people and share your life with them for a moment.
But how safe is it, you ask.
Pretty darn safe, actually. After you stay with someone you leave feedback on your stay. And they leave feedback on how you were as a guest. So when you are looking for a host you simply read about other peoples experiences with them. And if you are, like me, a woman travelling alone, you stay with people who have had lots of guests. And you read about them and you trust your instincts.
In the words of one guy I told about it, and I quote -‘Ah! Its like Ebay!’
Well, sort of, but not really…
Of course occasionally people may be less than great but then they have bad feedback on their profile and you simply dont stay with them… But so far, let me tell you, every experience I have had has been amazing.
I have cooked and danced with these people. I have been to islands and natural hot spring. To concerts and bars. I had a picnic on a bridge in Florence and explored the valley of temples. I have shared stories and met people from all over the world. And my experiences (so far) are just in Italy.
Travellers from Spain, Turkey, Isreal, Syria, Romania, Hungary, America, Mexico, Canada, England, France, Iceland, Ukraine, Nepal, Norway, Germany, Africa and Belgium. I have met people from all over Italy. Young people and old people. Doctors and volenteers and bus drivers. University students and english teachers. Marine bioligists and concert musicians. A single mother who is a physological journalist.
In the last four months, since I started travelling so much of my journey has been with couchsurfers. And couchhosters.
But wait – there’s more.
Let me grab a hunk of local cheese from the fridge… Would you like a slice? I have some fresh sourdough breading knocking about.. Delicious, wot?
Ok. So say you feel a little uncomfortable staying in someones house. Or say you have a gorgeous hotel already set up in London (or Bangkok or Timbuktu) but you would like to meet some people. A traveller or a local. You can. People can put a little coffee-cup symbol on their profile to let you know that they would like to meet for a coffee. Or a tea. Or perhaps to show you around their favorite part of London (or Tokyo or New Orleans)…
Say you would like to meet some people in your own city or small town but you are fresh out of couches or have a difficult housemate or you live in a shoebox size house… No problem! Just pop that little coffee symbol on your profile and a note about meeting people and you can meet travellers from around the world and show them YOUR favorite bookshop or rock climbing place. You can tell them of your trip to Norway last year and they can tell you how they just couchsurfed their way across Brazil. You can meet new friends like this and the world seems a friendlier place.
There is some cynical part of us in this day and age that forgets that people can do acts of kindness, not for monetary gain or work exchange, but simply because its a wonderful thing to do.
And people of every race, of every religion, of every country are sharing their homes with the world. And you can too. It may just change your life…


Flowering Almonds

Today is my last day in the south.
I came here with the plan to stay four or so days in Palermo and then go Wwoofing. But, as everyone knows, when you are on a trip with no plans and you try and make plans, well, things are bound to get twisted.
But how wonderfully twisty these last two months have been. I stayed a month in Palermo, spending Christmas and New Years with the amazing people I met here. Then I did indeed go Wwoofing. I spent three weeks atop a hill in the Sicilian countryside, working on a farm, meeting beekeepers and dairy farmers, seeing old tombes and castles, spending time with my wonderful hosts over long outrageously delicious hand made lunches and learning to make ricotta.

It was often cold when the wind blew off Mt Etna, but when the sun came out you could sit on a rock and see all the way to ocean, across valleys of trees. Old rock walls snake their way hither and thither across the countryside, sometime going nowhere or joining nothing. Painstakingly put together hundreds of years ago in an effort to de-rock the ground, they are quite simply a work of art.
My first wwoofing experience was a wonderful thing.

After many a tearful goodbye I leave the Sicilian countryside to head back to Palermo for a week to catch up with my friends here. I have caught a bit of a cold and feel a quite silly as I spent most of the week reading and watching movies on my laptop that I have already seen.
On the weekend there is a festival called Mandorle In Fiore, which is a festa to celebrate the almond blossoms and I am wildly excited to go to this festival. There will be processions and stalls apon stalls with many different things made out of almonds and music and…
Well before you get too excited let me tell you that it was my first disapointment of this trip.
I rode a bus two hours to Agrigento. It was a cold and windy day. When I arrived I discovered the people I was meant to be meeting couldn’t make it. The procession was fantastic, almost and hour of group apon group of people in medieval dress dancing and singing and throwing ceremic vases in the air, or flags at each other like colorful javelins.
But after I went to where the stalls were and they were all very commercial and mostly had nothing to do with almonds, flowering or no.  I walked around in the drizzle staring at imports from countries, the same that you can find at almost any market. There were some almond nougats and pralines, but that was about it.
So I spent the day reading Huckleberry Fin on my new E-reader and drinking too many coffees in my attempt to stay out of the rain.
Which was grande, because Huckleberry Fin is a wonderful book (read it, I tell you) but all in all a sad disapointment overall for this flowering almond festival…
Perhaps on other days it was better, and the weather put a damper on things… I dont know.
But tomorrow, ladies and gentlemen, I fly back to Bologna to catch up with people there and to see snow for the first time! By the time you read this, I may just well be making a snowman or else hiding by the fire and trying to keep warm.
One of the two. After Bologna I head to Verona to see the city of Romeo and Juliet before getting crazy at Carnevale in Venice.
I believe its going to be packed full of people like sardines in a tin… But they will all be wearing masks and gowns, and that will make it all worth while.
See you in the land of the snow…


Countrywards

After three months of being a tourist I am beggining to get itchy fingers. I dont remember the last time I went 3 months without  working or studying. I like to learn and be active. I have discovered that in the last few weeks that I seem to fall into a hole of laziness if I do not keep myself occupied. Not really my cup of tea. And so, without further ado, I head countrywards.

Wwoofing is a worldwide program that involves staying on small organic farms and working  in exchange for food and a bed. In the process you get to meet people, exchange cululture, learn about organic farming and whatever else your particular farm may be doing. In each country there is a list that you recieve apon joining and within can be found a description of all the farms that take wwoofers and you can contact them individually.

I contacted four in Sicily that sounded wonderful and recieved an immediate reply from one I was super excited about. A married couple and the lady’s mother owned a farm where they had 6 dogs, 4 cats, 2 donkeys, fruit trees and olives… They have a woodfired oven which they use to make bread and pizza and sometimes they make cheese.

And now I am here and it glorious.

 My hosts are named Sylvio and Miki and Miki’s mother Gueseppina  and together they run this rocky sicilian farm. They have a huge 200 year old renovated house and like anywhere, there is plenty to do on the farm…

 There are two other wwoofers here, a retired American couple from Cape Cod, who escape the winter snows each year by Wwoofing somewhere warm. They have their own farm on the Cape where they too have a renovated old house and grow fruits and vegetables which they sell to some very lucky local restuarants.

  Guiseppina is 74 and one of the most sprightly ladys I have ever met. She cooks, cleans, gardens, irons for the locals, helps with the animals and keeps their beautiful home as clean as a pin, all with a huge smile on her face and a warm laugh.

Since I arrived we have learnt to feed the donkeys, pruned, cleared fallen trees, burnt brush, collected firewood, cooked many incredible meals with many exclamations of, ‘Buono! Buono!’ and occasionally, ‘Buonissimo!” and even sometimes ‘Bella Sape’ which is Sicilian for ‘Beautiful food!’

  Guiseppina speaks not a word of English but we have been communicating with the help of wild hand gestures, some mutual words and the occasional use of the dictionary till we arrive at our final point whereapon we both start yelling, ‘Capito! Capito!’ … ‘I understand!’

 Two days ago I made some homemade pasta using a rolling pin. I was a little nervous for two reasons. First of all because I have never made pasta using just a rolling pin (I normally use a pasta machine) and second because I was making pasta for some full blooded Italians and the Nonna of the house…

  They loved it! They told me to stay forever and never leave and everyone was laughing and the wine was local and plentiful and it was a grande moment indeed.

 The morning starts with fresh espresso that fills the kitchen with the rich smells of roasting coffee. After our morning work Sylvio takes us for a tour of some the local scenery. Nearby there is a large estate owned by a Baron. I kid you not, a baron. On top of the hill there is a small castle that we go to see.

Let me paint a picture for you. It is technically still winter and when the wind blows from the north you can feel the chill. But today the sun is shining and the north wind has stoppped and before long we are taking off our big coats. We stop the car by a gate and begin the walk up a long driveway bordered by fields of coarse brush, tenacious little flowers and flourishing wild fennel. At the top of the hill is a small castle. Sylvio tells us that hundreds of years ago the baron would come to this small castle-atop-the-hill, climb to the top and from there he would use his spyglass to select beautiful girls that would then be sent to his house. Or so the story goes. On each side of the castle there are rose bushes that are still hibarnating but apparently each bush is a different colored rose. You can see all the way to the sea from here and many of the land you can see is owned by the Baron who doesnt even live here. He visits in the summer but normally he lives in Syracuse. There is a huge old olive tree that I fall promptly in love with. It is gnarled and twisted and filled with holes and has so much character I feel I could spend a summer reading while sitting in the nook of one of its wrinkled branches.

  Next up is the Barons summer house. It is vast and ancient with sloping fields of olive trees and an orangeria (a garden full of orange trees for strolling in) a pool the size of a small ocean and beautiful little garden nooks. There is a huge old olive press that was pulled by a donkey back in the day. And nobody lives here most of the year. There are workers to look after the olive groves but other than that it is mostly abandoned. It is breathtakingly gorgeous.. The only reason we are allowed to see any of this is because Sylvio seems to know the caretaker. At least I think he is the caretaker…

After walking around with our mouths open for half an hour we get back in the car to go to see some 4000 year old tombs. They are really just big holes dug into the side of the mountain but it is a little crazy to be inside something that people were buried in over 4000 years ago. We find 4 little spears of wild asparagus and gently take them back to the house.

Ah Sicily.

I spend the afternoon making biscotti (the real name is Cantucci) because I mentioned the night before that I knew how to make it.  This is a more exciting task than usual due to the fact that this family grows almonds and they happen to have some. So for an hour I crack open the little beauties with a hammer and ‘the special rock’  and bake them into biscuits. The house fills with the aromatic scent of almonds and orange. After a lip-smacking dinner of penne with broccoli, fresh ricotta fritters and steamed fresh artichokes with with yoghurt dipping sauce we consume the crumbly cantucci with local moscato and laugh till our sides hurt after Gueseppina tells us that her friend, apon hearing that she was hosting a chef, tried to set me up with her son. Apparently he has 100 cows. Well there you go.

Tomorrow we make fresh ricotta, and, weather permitting, we will light up the woodfired oven and bake pizza for dinnner….

 

Note : Due to the fact that my camera is currently slightly broken there is no pictures for the moment. I will do my best to rectify the situation as soon as is possible.


Spotted Apple Of The South

Palermo. Where do I begin? Words swirl in my head at trying to aptly evoke the feeling that is this city.
Imagine, if you will, an apple.

A little withered, puckered perhaps, but natural. This apple is not coated with wax and polished to within an inch of its life before being displayed on a supermarket shelf for shoppers to stare at. It has spots, little rotten patches, it has lived. But if you dare to take a bite you will see that the fruit that is still good is sweeter, richer, filled with memories of sunshine. My lonely planet guide says Sicily is more of a expresso than a cuppacinno and I see this now. And no where more than Palermo. There are old parts of the city that if you walk through you feel as if you are not sure if you are still in Italy. The middle east, perhaps. Or here you are in Africa.
The markets are an explosion of color and noise and smells, all vying for attention. Stray dogs prowl between stalls, eating scraps from under the tables of the fish vendors. Artichokes piled so high you fear for their health nestle alongside zuchinis and abundant herbs.

Everything is wildly cheap. 1 euro for a kilo of almost any fruit or vegetable that is available. Trays of spices in little bags. Fennel, each bulb looking more appetising than the last.

Half rabbit carcases hang from hooks and enormous swordfish heads displayed alongside shiny trays of squid of every size… The vendors are all yelling at you in Sicilian and the sun is shining and your nose becomes assualted with a deluge of smells. One moment there is the aromatic scent of fresh oranges the next you are hit with wet dog. Fancy a sniff of salty seafood followed by a blast of hot black coffee? You got it.
I am staying at the house of a wonderful spanish girl in the old part of town. Last week I stood on the roof terrace. 360 panorama. In one direction is a huge baroque church, ornate and imposing.
Turn.
An apartment building so modern it wouldnt look out of place in Sydney.. all shiny white plaster and repetitive square windows.
Turn.
A narrow street, alley even, lit only by a dingy light that spills from small windows and between cracks. Large rusting sheets of tin lean lean against walls, bordered by piles of rubbish and a rummaging wild dog or two. Beams of wood criss cross between houses, for what purpose, I am not sure. The words ‘slums’ scuttles across my mind.
Turn.
Ancient stone building, crumbling and graphitied. Held together by sheer character and possible a little mortar.
And above and beyond all this the mountains sit. Ancient and unchanging. A beautiful thing, really, to see mountains while in a city.

From this roof you can get a feel for this mismatch city. A metropolis ran just as much by the mafia as by the government. It was under middle easter rule for over five hundred years, a trading port,  this is a city where it is sometimes hard to breath.. but it is easy to fall in love with the temerity of this puckered, spotted, sweet, sweet apple.

I have been in Sicily for just over two weeks now, and I am wonderfully glad that I came south. It may be december in Europe but it is hot and sunny by day and refreshingly cool by night here on the Island that gets that most days of sunshine of anywhere in Europe. I have spent a weekend in Favignana ( the dot of an island renkown for tuna fishing) swimming in crystal clear beaches and exploring rock mines that we later found out to be extremely dangerous…whoops!

We bycycled, cooked, talked and lay in the sun drinking beers.

This week I explored Syracusa’s ancient Roman and greek ruins with a Belgium guy named Gijs before bussing it to Agrigento to get all gangsta in the sun while enjoying the breathtaking valley of the Temples.

Almost defying gravity due to the awesomeness of this place…

Back in Palermo the night life spills out from the bars onto large piazza’s.. a thriving mass of humanity. On saturday we went to a live performance by a local band that was a fantastic blend of balcun and celtish sounding music where we danced till we were sweaty and laughing and out of breath…
The people I have met here are a wonderful bunch. Life somehow moves faster and slower here in the South and I am now in the process of organizing to do wwoofing (wordwide oppertunities on organic farms )… Next week the farm adventures will begin and a whole different experience awaits.. Excited plus! Come to Sicily.. Its glorious here!


Rome – An Adventure in Parts – Part 3 – Touching History



Dear Jetlag,
You are a vicious and powerful beast.
Why did you make me sleep my whole first night of Rome away?
Do you hate me? Do you hate Rome? Are you just selfish, Jetlag?
*peers at the Jetlag beast with a quizzically raised eyebrow*
Well, I’ll make a you deal Mr. Lag. You leave me alone and I wont tell anyone how selfish you really are…
What do you mean they already know?
Dang.

                                                                       Miss Nom

I awoke at some point in the evening, got up, had a shower, sat down for a moment to moisturize my legs then promptly fell straight back to sleep.

I awoke for a second time at about 5.30 on tuesday morning. Hot Damn! That is a lot of sleep!
About 13 hours.
I lay in my small bad and stare around at the room. It is bare. Very simple. This hostel is in an old nunnery. I think its about 400 years old. Just a baby, by Roman standards.
The walls are whitewashed and there are long blue curtains that fall from the high ceiling to the ground in stately folds. Everything is pristinely neat and quite austere.
I like it though. There is a stillness here, just a few streets away from the hustle and bustle of everything. I sort of feel like this would be the place to come and meditate if that was what you felt like.
I sneak out of the room and hop on the computer. Breakfast is not until 8 and everyone is sleeping like logs.
I talk to my friends back home, check my emails, have a shower. People begin to stir and walk sleepily into the breakfast room.
The breakfast is your standard hostel breakfast; continental. The bread though, is horrible. Its presliced and in individual sealed bags. I eat some yoghurt and begin talking to this older woman about the standard of bread. I say I wouldnt expect it from Italy. Before long we are talking about everything.
There is a fire in this woman. But also a tiredness. She tells me of how she just came back from a hostel in Iceland where it was very warm. Fresh food, little flowers, welcoming, like a home. She tells me of the corruption in Italy. She comes from L’ Aquila, a city that two years ago was rocked by an earthquake that killed many and left thousands homeless. But the city is so mired in corruption that you have to pay people to even get permission to rebuild your house. That they raised money to help the people, but the people saw nothing of it. And two years later there are still people living out of their homes.
She works for an organization called the International Womens Association that fights for the rights of women across the globe.
She is bold and brassy and educated. Half Italian and half english.
She writes articles that often dont get published because they come just a little too close to the truth. She has made a movie about Gandhi and Mandela and the anti-violent movement called ‘Together we lit up the sky.’
We decide to find some nice bread. So we walk and talk she teaches me a little Italian and I tell her about my childhood. She is off to a meeting but she shows me a bakery and we buy some biscuits and some nice (homemade!) bread and she shows me the Victor Emanuel Monument whichs she tells me conspiratorially the Italians called ‘The Wedding Cake’ because of its over the top frothiness.

 

We try to buy some cheese and the guy ignores us for a while, serving other costumers that come in after us and chatting to some men in uniforms until we actually have to get his attention.
He then puts far too much cheese in a bag and tries to charge us 20 euro. Bettina laughs at him, and then tells him in no uncertain terms that that is enough mozzarella for a family and that we wont pay and that he should be ashamed of himself. And with that we leave the store.
She explains that you still get this sometimes in Italy.. Men who will ignore you in favor of serving men and then try to treat you like a tourist. She apoligizes for her speach. I tell her that I find her attitude refreshing.
We have morning tea together even though she is running late. Because, in her words, ‘When you’ve misbehaved this badly, you may as well be late with style.’
I bid her goodbye and head out on the streets alone.

I get a little lost.
It is nice to get lost in Rome.
At least its nice when you’re not dragging your entire life worth of luggage with you.
When hunger strikes I find a place filled with Italians and order the Gnocchi with baby clams and a glass of white wine. They bring me a jug. Its a small jug, but a jug none-the -less.
The food is good. Really good. I mean seriously.. look at this…

Makes me want to eat it again. Pretty sure that sauce is just butter and garlic and wine. Mmmm.

I devour it all and then drink the wine cause I feel too akward to send it back and then head back to the hostel feeling a little silly.
I find some properly priced cheese from a polite fromagerie and also purchase some tomatoes and garlic from a fruit and vege store. (frutta e verdura)
I spent the evening having beers at a bar nearby with some ladies from the hostel. Two gals from the states, a lady from France and a woman from Canada who is originally from Russia.  We talked and beered and listened to the people speak Italian and then we went looking for food. We found a place that was small and filled with ropes of garlic, bunches of chilli and bustling with locals.
Our choice was good. I tucked into pasta with cream, peas, mushroom and pancetta.  Simple, well down and perfectly seasoned. Not to mention cheap.
The owner was a humerous guy who was very proud of his decorations. Near the end of the meal the chef came out, and, apon seeing Meradith drinking coffee WITH her soup he threw his hands in the air and yelled, “No! No! Caffe? E soup? No!” And he took her coffee away. Only once she had finished her soup did he bring her coffee back.
“Now..’ He says. ‘Caffe.” I hid my coffee and was glad he didnt notice.
We were all laughing and they braught us out giant rolled up pieces of card about 1/2 a metre each and proclaimed, “Bill.” With a huge grin.
In fact they were posters for the restaurant. And they gave us a discount . We all left laughing. I will be going back there, let me tell you.

My next few days are spent hanging out with Meredith and Meggie from the states. They are Wwoofing in Italy. We visited the catacombs of San Callisto and the Pantheon (serious OMG Factor – see below) and a the Cuppachin crypts (art made out of the bones of 4000 cupachin monks).

I spend a day with two awesome girls  from australia where we TRY and see the inside of the Colluseum, but due to large rains in the city it is closed. Closed I tell you! We dont let this stop us from taking some rediculous photos before checking out the Ancient Roman Forum.

As you can see, we are behaving like serious adults..


Here I

am wearing my best ‘Italian hands’ while Grace just thinks Im rediculous…

We see some interesting pasta decorations outside of a restaurant and stop her for the best Gnochi I have had in a long time. The waiter is charming and the wine is good.
Rome is  in my blood…

 


Rome – A Story in Parts – Part Two – Heels and Wheels


To begin this post I will steal a line from the late Douglas Adam (may his nose rest in peace) and modify it to suit my situation.
‘Cause thats how I roll..
‘Rome,’ says Miss Noms guide to the World,   ‘Is old. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind- bogglingly old it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to the age of Rome.’
While you may, in fact, be able to comprehend it; for a girl from Oz, who up until now thought that a building of 100 years was old and  200 years simply ancient.. to walk on the streets of Rome, where the cobblestones you stroll apon are 100x older than what you recently percieved as ancient; this is both humbling and inspiring.

How can one place be both? I dont know. Ask Rome.
On every street and every corner there is a building with enough history to fill a book. Some will fill three books. Its outrageous. Details abound!
Here, some intricate carvings!

There an alleyway with washing strung between houses! Here, a crumbling wall held together with creeping ivy and sheer force of will.. There! A peeling painting depicting Ancient Romans with goats and slaves.
And look! Even the bins are fancier here. You couldnt possibly deposit your garbage in a non-ornate recepticle – that would be rediculous!


But impressive and filled with history Rome may be, that doesnt stop a certain young lady from making a basic mistake…

Somewhere on the flight I used the last of the battery on my trusty little laptop.. I thought nothing of it. I would simply recharge it later.
On arrival at the Airport in Rome i was hit with the realization that the address and instructions for my hostel were on said small computer. Its all good. Everybody stay calm. A plan for forming in my brain…

Use travel money card to retract some euros
Locate Internet cafe and aquire hostel address
Catch train to Termini (Rome central train station)
Catch a cab to hostel using previously aquired address and euros
Bobs your uncle

Simple, right?

Wrong. At the currency exchange booth the lady told me that my card was not working. Thats ok. I thanked her and went to an ATM. It told me in broken english that my pin is wrong.
Ok. So Im in Italy with no money or idea where to go. And everyone is looking at the crazy girl with too much luggage staring around as her plan falls apart.

 

Take some deep breaths.
I am damn resourceful.
Just watch me go.

I locate another bureau de change and tell him my laptop is out of battery and that I did a stupid thing and wrote down the address for my hostel on there and I just need a couple of Euro. I only have $5 australian dollars left in my wallet (previously comfortable in the knowledge of a travel money card) and normally these bureaus dont change anything smaller than $50. But he takes my 5 and gives me 2 Euro. Maybe he ripped me off a little but I dont mind.
I locate yon internet terminal and into my bank account first. If I cant get my card to work, no cab, no hostel, nothing.
I change my pin.
It confirms. The internet terminal eats the last of my money. No biggy. I dont have time to check the hostel address. I will get to Termini. And find it from there.

I have been told in no uncertain terms not to catcch the bus from the airport to the centre of Rome as all the pickpockets in Italy will be on this bus to take advantage of the jetlagged and unaware tourists.
Out the front of the airport I am looking for the signs to point me to the trains and all these men are telling me, ‘You catch the bus to Termini?’
No thanks, Im taking the train.
‘Ah, but Madam, coach is better! Better for you! Better for me! I show! I show!’
No thanks. I like my passport. I think Ill keep it.
I find the trains and purchase with my travel money card and it works! Hell yeah! Take that, scary overseas situation!

On arrival at Termini I find a map but no ATM. I will get money later. Right now I am excessively tired and Im wearing heels and my feet hurt.
I see on the map that nearby there is a large cathedral called Maria Maggiore and my hostel is called Orso Maggiore. It must be nearby. Cab time.
I walk to the cab rank and the man in a uniform asks, ‘You need a cab?’ I say yes and show him the map. We load all 36kg of my luggage into the car. Then I notice it has no Taxi light on the roof. But it is in the rank? Gah! I tell him I will pay him 10 euro for the trip so he doesnt try and take me some long way and he agrees.
Cabs, I have found, the world over, will try and take you the long way if they think you dont
‘You take card?’ I ask. He says no, confirming my suspicions that this is not a real taxi.
Mamma Mia!
He will take me to an ATM. We stop just by one and I get out, heart in my mouth, to get some cash. My essentials are in my bag that is on me but the rest of my worldly possessions are in that car. I take not of the number plate and then take my eyes off the car to put my pin in the machine. It is a leap of faith.
Oh god. I am insane. He seems ok. I have a good sense and judge of character.
The car is still there. He drops me off at the Piazza Maria Maggiore and he helps me unload my luggage and and bids me a good day.
I breathe the biggest sigh of relief that everything didnt just go wrong.
I ask people if they know the hostel Orso Maggiore. The dont. Or they dont speak english.
I wander in circles, dragging my 36kg of luggage around in the sun, painfully aware of how much I look like a tourist right now.
But there! A tourist info booth!
I explain my situation to the man. He doesnt know Orso Maggiore and the only one on Google that he can find is halfway across Rome.
Perhaps there are two hostels with the same name. I am sure it is near Termini.
I tell him I have the details on my email. He says I cant access email here. But I can leave my luggage at the booth and there is an ATM near and an internet cafe.
The ATM is broken. I cant find another. I walk for another 30 minutes trying to locate one but to no avail. There are so many people trying to sell me rip-off Luis Vitton handbags and ‘real cashmere scarves, made in India’.
I just want an ATM.

Calmness is my middle name.
I will make it work!
I return to the info house and tell him that the ATM is broken. He says not to worry and we call the Orso Maggiore in Trastevere  and lo and behold! It is the right one! And it is halfway across the city from here!
But it is a beautiful area, he says.
So. He gives me a map. And directions. I walk to the bus station. And reach the stop. And take some photos. Everything is now on track.
So what if I am jet-lagged and in heels and have been walking around like a headless chook for 5 hours?


I just survived and ordeal and everyone has been so helpful and old dudes keep telling me I look nice in a roguishly charming manner and I am in Rome! And the sun is shining. I find the river and just sit on the bulastrade (is that the word?) and let the stress piss right off and then I walk through small alleyways with cobblestone streets with local people yelling at each other in Italian and waving their arms and there is ivy and nobody is trying to sell me cashmere and it is wonderful.


I find the hostel on a little street and there is a lift (small miracles) and there! The sign that says Orso Maggiore.
I have rarely been so happy to see a sign.
I am shown my room by the friendly receptionist and it may be only 2 in the afternoon but I fall asleep so fast its as though Ive been hit over the head  with a brick.

Heres some advice for free; write things down on paper.
Your feet will thank you.

… Miss Nom …