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Monday, June 27, 2011

Day 4 Driving June 27

O. My. God. The past three days have been going way too smoothly its only natural that today everything broke down. The day started off like any other before. A wonderful breakfast of freshly baked croissants and jams followed by the best cappuccino. Mom and I packed up and check out of our hotel early. Our driver Francisco was to take us to Pozzuli, a hill town outside of Naples about a two hour drive north of Sorrento. My parents rented a house in Pozzuli when my dad was stationed in Naples and that is where I was born. My parent’s landlords were an Italian couple who became my Godparents. The first 45 minutes or so I tried to count how many times Francisco said, “ya know”. I got to 135 before I fell asleep.

Mom has not been back to the house in twenty years. She didn’t have the actual address; we just had to go on look and feel. Gulp. O I should mention that my Godparents do not speak English. Thanks to the power of the internet and my mother’s surprisingly good stalking skills she some how managed to find a recent phone number called the house and got in touch with one of my Godparents children, I didn’t even know they had children.

Anyways the combination of a driver who does not listen and my mother’s bad memory going on twenty-year-old directions made for an interesting combination. Plus we are driving through the circus otherwise known as Naples. Interesting side note, currently in Naples the garbage workers have been on strike. It has been going on for a couple of weeks so well you can see the results, piles of trash for whole city blocks.
Garbage strike

By some miracle we made it to the house. It was great to see something my parents have always talk about. The parents are actually in France on vacation but will be back on Tuesday so we have to go back and see them. So after our little visit Francisco drove us to the Naples airport were we had to pick up a rental car which mom would drive to a little bed in breakfast in a small hill town north of Rome. Well we were in line for the rental car agency when I forgot about the passports. When you check into a hotel in Europe you have to give them your passport and when you check out you get them back. The guy at the hotel in Sorrento never gave us our passports back. Mental head slap, this is like breaking the Nazi study abroad orientation leaders cardinal rule…”always have your passport on you”.
We made it! The house I was born in
So after what seemed a giant production Francisco arranged to get us the passports and leave them at the car rental agency when we returned the car. I don’t think I have mentioned it but now seems like a good time so you can understand the craziness of this situation but Mom and I do not have a working cell phone over here, all of our phone conversation back and forth to the different hotels and my god parents we had to ask someone to borrow their phone.

We get our rental car and transfer our entire luggage in. It’s a little Fiat, think European version of a Smart Car and more importantly it’s a manual. I look over at Mom; “I didn’t even know they made manual cars anymore. When is the last time you drove a stick?” Her reply “its been about twenty years”. Shit and it showed too, she tried to put the car in reverse to back out of the spot. No such luck, our car leaps forward. She tries again, still no luck. Shit. Then finally after the fifth or sixth try she flags down a young guy “excuse senior, reverse?” Yes we actually had to ask a guy how to get the car in reverse. If this wasn’t a sign we didn’t have business driving a car in Italy I don’t know what is. At this point I was mentally kicking myself thinking I should have gone into the little church back into Sorrento and lit a candle and said a prayer. 
Watch out!
 We had a three-hour drive to a little down North of Rome were we would be staying at for the next two days. The travel agent recommend this place saying it was like an Italian bed and breakfast. Mom and I interpreted that to mean “rustic”. Miraculously we managed to get onto the highway.  At this point I figured it would be best for my mental health to adopt my policy of “ignorance is bliss” so I closed my eyes, said a prayer then preceded to go to sleep. 

Mom woke me up when it was time to get off the autostrada, which is a highway with basically no speed limit to help navigate (navaguess?) to the hotel. The directions called for us to get off at an exit that was simple put in the middle of nowhere. If you looked up into the mountains and weren’t blinded by the sun you could vaguely make out a small village way up in the clouds. That had to be it. We succeeded in our first test of actually making it up the mountain; I would like to credit it on my great navigating skills and ability to read Italian. When we arrived this little village was empty, seriously it was a ghost town. The streets were cobblestone, extremely old and extremely narrow. So narrow that only one car could pass at a time and you had to turn off the cars AC and pull in the side mirrors. We got to the hotel and nobody was there, as in door and windows closed and not answering the phone closed. Mom quickly made the executive decision we would not be staying here. We got back in the car and drove to the next big town over.


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