(Reworked from several old posts.)
Don’t get me wrong—I love Europe!! But not all the time:
Thirty odd years ago (granted, some years have been odder than others!) my husband & I flew to France to visit our daughter & our niece, who were roommates there. We thought it would be fun to go to the Costa Del Sol in Spain, where we had never been, for week or so of rest & sun before coming home. It was so beautiful & relaxing there we decided to fly the girls over to join us. We had a rental car & were on our way to the airport to pick them up when we stopped for a traffic signal. THEN ALL HELL BROKE LOOSE!! What seemed to be hundreds of college students ran into the intersection, blocking it & carrying signs & chanting slogans. My Spanish is passable, not great, but it was impossible to understand what they were trying to say. (It’s pretty hard to understand what a riot mob is yelling even if it’s in your native language.) I even thought it might be “Death to the Americans!!” They started rocking cars & since we were 3 cars back from the signal with cars behind us & in the left lane with a foot high concrete traffic divider next to us, we were stuck. Then the riot police came with their shields & masks. It looked like the students were going to win this battle. It scared the “mierda” (Spanish for s**t--see, I do speak some Spanish!!) out of us. The driver in front of us had apparently had enough, flipped a U turn over the divider & left. Not being entirely stupid, we followed. I can’t remember whether we eventually made it to the airport or went back to the hotel & had them send a car for the girls. We later found out the reason for the riot. It seems that some student refused to pay his electric bill, so the nasty old company shut his power off. That just didn’t seem right to “los otros estudiantes”.
Well before the age of computers, I used to write a monthly newsletter that went to a dozen or so members of our family. It was Xeroxed (remember that?) & sent by snail mail. I tried to keep the family up to date on each other & also included jokes, cartoons & weird articles from the National Enquirer such as, “Male 4 legged space alien mates with human female. She gives birth to brilliant talking dog!” Someone had given us a little (8”) teddy bear, made of mink. We (Bud & I) ran a contest in my letters to name her. I said the prize would be $100,000.00 or a cookie, depending on the discretion of the judges. Our daughter & her cousin, who were roommates in Italy, won with the name, Theda Beara. (Theda Bara was a sexy silent movie star--before even my time.) I don’t know if there are any still around, but some bakeries used to make cookies that were the size of a pizza (10”?) & decorated them like cakes. We were going to visit the girls & bring them their prize--which certainly wasn’t the $100,000.00! The cookie went into a pizza type box & we brought it to Italy. Customs officials & everyone else who saw the box wanted to know why we were bringing pizza into Italy!
At another time, our “prizewinning” niece was living in Bordeaux, France. She asked us to visit her, which we did, on our way back to the US. She booked us into
some Godforsaken rattrap a very nice hotel. The room clerk spoke English & was quite
pleasant. I took a bath in preparation
to meeting our niece for dinner. I tried
to drain the tub when I was through, but it wouldn’t drain. I pushed--or pulled--something & created
our own private Vesuvius. Water was
everywhere & we couldn’t stop it. I
called the desk downstairs for help. Mr.
English Speaker had left & no one else there spoke English. My French is passable under quiet, normal,
non-emergency conditions--which these were NOT! I identified myself & gave him our room
number, we were talking—that is to say he was talking, I was panicking--&
he asked me to hold for a moment. He
came back on & informed me that he was sorry, but WE WERE NOT THERE!! I
finally managed to get him to come to our room, where he saw the bathroom floor
covered by an inch of water. I had built
a dam out of towels & managed to keep the lake in the bathroom. He turned off the water, brought in more
towels & blotted it up as best he could.
He informed us that since it was Sunday he wouldn’t be able to get a
plumber until the next day, so would we be so kind as to not bathe again that
evening? Because of the inconvenience he
kindly offered to take $10.00 off the cost of our room. But the story doesn’t end there—oh, no! After we got back from dinner I was
exhausted. We had flown from Italy to
France, gone through all this at the hotel, then got cleaned up (or at least
tried to), dressed & went out to a fancy restaurant for dinner! It was very hot & humid (Bordeaux is on
the coast) & I felt sticky, but obviously I couldn’t bathe. I climbed into bed & immediately rolled
into the middle, where I felt velcroed to my equally sticky husband. The thin-to-start-with mattress had, over the
years, morphed into the shape of a “V”.
We could not stay separated. I
ended up taking the bedspread, putting it on the floor & sleeping on it. I guess it wasn’t too bad of a deal--we did get $10.00 off!!
We were visiting our daughter who was going to school in Padua, Italy--about a half hour outside of Venice. We were walking down a one way street near the curb, & I was looking at everything except where I was going. She pulled me onto the sidewalk & yelled, “Watch out!!” She said I was almost hit by a cab going against the traffic. I pointed to the one way sign & asked her why a cab would be going the wrong way. She told me the smaller print on the sign (which I couldn’t translate) explained it. It seems it was a one way street--except for cabs & buses. Go ahead--explain the logic in that to me--I’m waiting.
nagging coaxing he had a calamaretto (the singular) almost to his
mouth when she said, “They’re better if you knock their little eyes off, Daddy!!” It took a couple of years before he deigned
to try them--now he loves them.
Calamaretti fritti (fried)
(Editor’s note) My friend was in California & waiting in a bar to join her friends for dinner. The waiter offered her some calamaretti. She asked what they were & he told her. She was about to try one when she asked him what the little things sticking out were. He told her they were tentacles. Down went her hand!! She thought he’d said “testicles”.
Things weren’t much better in Rome. Bud & I were in a taxicab & wondering why, with such wild driving, there were relatively few cars on the road that had dents in them. We figured it was because they all got totaled. Not so. Our cab, while we were in it, got into a fender bender. Our driver asked if we were OK--we were--& then told us to please excuse him but that he would be stepping out of the cab for a few minutes to argue with the stupid son of a female dog that had hit us--&, gentleman that he was, he would be turning off the meter while he was out of the cab!!
We hire a car & driver (whenever possible) when we’re traveling in a foreign country. That way, we never get lost & we both can enjoy the scenery. It’s an especially good idea if you’re in a country where they drive on the other side of the road. In an emergency situation, we tend to veer right. The other driver would tend to veer left--your right!! We had hired a gentleman to take us somewhere in the countryside outside of Rome. We had a lovely morning & stopped at a hunting lodge for lunch on the way home. The driver was sitting with us & he & I were drinking wine & laughing & drinking wine & eating--& drinking wine! (Bud neither speaks Italian or drinks. Do you think it’s easy to drink for two?) On our way back to Rome, the driver stopped by the side of the road to “use the facilities”. Bud said that was the only time he ever paid a driver to pee in the woods.