Well I’m back from my super-secret trip, and I can finally tell you where it was to: Roccella Jonica, in Calabria, Italy.
So why was this such a big secret? Well it was a surprise to my family who lives there (my grandfather’s sister and brother, as well as another sister who was visiting from Australia) that I was coming. It was a surprise that my aunt and uncle and two of my cousins were coming, as well.
Aren’t surprise visits just the best? This one totally took the cake.
Let me start at the beginning …
The whole concept of this trip started a couple of months ago when my aunt and uncle mentioned that they had discussed with another cousin of mine the possibility of them all taking a trip out to Italy to visit the family this summer. My aunt and uncle had never been to the family house in Calabria (This is the same house my grandfather and his siblings were all born and raised in. How cool is that?!), and they were thinking it was about time to make the trek.
I don’t know why, exactly, but for some reason the idea to join didn’t dawn on me right away. Instead, it ruminated for a handful of months, until finally, about 5 weeks before my aunt and uncle were meant to leave, I called them up to inform them that I’d like to crash in on the trip.
Now, a last minute trip to Italy, along with a hotel (well we couldn’t all four of us surprise the family and expect to stay in their home!) is not cheap by any means, but I knew that I just had to make this trip. If I didn’t, it would be something that I knew I’d regret for a long time, possibly forever if the chance never came to make the trip again.
So out of the travel savings fund the money came (mind you, Chris and I are headed back to Europe at the end of September, so some might say this wasn’t a smart move), and just like that I was booked.
The flight to Reggio is not easy. I ended up leaving around midday on Monday and flying about 7 hours to Rome, catching a 1 hour connecting flight to Reggio, and then hopping a 2 hour train from Reggio to Roccella.
Now, when I say European train, a certain vision might pop into your head. It certainly did for me. Something of the sleek Eurostar variety, perhaps? In fact, when you check the website for the actual train schedule from Reggio to Roccella, you get visions of this:
However, my friends, if that is the train you are actually expecting to take on this 2 hour journey, you would be sadly mistaken. No, my friends, what you will actually end up on looks a little something like this:
Not nearly the same, not by a long shot. And the train’s shortcomings aren’t only distinguishable by the outside. I sat inside this lovely mode of transportation for about five minutes before I realized–the air conditioner wasn’t working. And I was wearing pants. In the middle of August. At 1:30 in the afternoon. In Italy.
Not exactly my idea of fun travel.
I ended up taking the bus on the way back from Roccella to Reggio when my trip was over, and not only was this cheaper by 1 euro, but the bus drops you off directly at the airport (whereas with the train you have to either catch a cab or the local bus from the airport to the train station), plus the views were spectacular, and there was air! I highly recommend this if you happen to be looking for a way to get from the Reggio airport to Roccella.
Anyway, after this horrendous ride, I finally arrived at the Roccella train station, sweaty, exhausted, hungry and, I’m sad to say it, not just a little bit moody. I mean I was in Italy! There’s no need to be moody!
Soon after my uncle and two cousins picked me up and brought me to the house where my Uncle Patsy and his wife live with their daughter. Their two sons–Raphael and Nino–live in other parts of Italy, but luckily both were home on vacation for parts of my trip, so I got to meet them, as well.
Back at the house, my Uncle and Aunt were taking their normal midday siesta, but I was able to provide my first surprise of the day to my Aunt Emma, my mother’s aunt who actually lives in Perth, Australia, but was visiting for a couple of weeks. Man oh man it’s fun to be a surprise visitor! Lots of hugging and crying and excitement. It’s just the best feeling ever.
After taking a shower and eating something, I felt much more prepared for my second surprise, this time for Uncle Patsy and Aunt Ida. This one was a doosey, my friends! Although they didn’t even realize I was there at first, once they did, there was yet again lots of hugging and kissing and crying. Everyone was just so excited to see me, it was amazing. And I did it all a third time when my Aunt Pena arrived later on in the afternoon as well. (As a side note, my aunt Pena doesn’t speak any English, so all our communication was done through translation. I’ve never felt more sad for the fact that I didn’t know Italian than I did on this trip, I will say.)
After our greetings and catching up, I had a tour of the house:
After touring the house, we spent the rest of the day catching up, before we headed out for a walk in the evening down the piazza and the beach:
So, after all of this, I was a little more than exhausted, to say the least. We headed back to the house to grab my stuff, with the intention of having me check in and drop it off before heading back out with the family, but after the full day of travel I had had, I just couldn’t do it. Instead, I decided to call it a night until the following morning.
I’ll follow up on the rest of my trip in a post tomorrow, but first, a note on my hotel. I stayed at the Parco dei Principi, a 5-star resort in the area, and while it was beautiful, the walls are paper thin. This makes for distracted sleeping when, say, there is a party happening until 4 a.m. wherein people are blasting Italian jingles, or your neighbor in front of you has a snoring problem, or your neighbor behind you has loud sex one night. (Have you sensed that all three of these things happened to me? Ear plugs became my best friends on this trip–thank you, Maria!)
What I will say is that the service is great at this hotel. When I called the front desk asking for Tylenol for a splitting headache at 3 a.m. on Wednesday morning, I was promptly delivered two powdered Tylenol packets, informed about the fact that it could cause stomach pains and invited to come downstairs for a biscuit to avoid said stomach pains. (As another aside, I ended up taking the powder, and it was the best medicine I have ever taken in my life. It may or may not have actually been drugs. Who’s to say. All I know is my headache went away, and at that point, that was all I cared about.)
This was my hotel:
So before I close out this post for the night and save the rest for tomorrow, I’d like to make a public service announcement about babies on flights. Especially long flights.
Here’s the thing. Just don’t bring them, please. I mean, really? What do the parents have to gain from bringing along a small child on a vacation that includes a 9 hour flight to Rome? The baby isn’t happy. The parents don’t seem particularly happy. I know I’m not happy.
Now don’t get me wrong–I understand that there are times when bringing a young child on a flight is absolutely necessary. When I was a baby and we were stationed in Germany, my mom had to travel back and forth with me to the states a lot. It was a necessity. But she certainly wouldn’t say she enjoyed it, and I doubt she’d say she would have voluntarily chosen to do it if that hadn’t been the only option for her to see her family.
There, I said it. It might not be nice, it might not be kosher, but it’s honest. Because let me tell you–after a long flight with three screaming infants plus the oven-temperature 2 hour bus ride, I’m lucky the drug-Tylenol concoction that the hotel concierge gave me actually worked to cure my headache.
Too bad I didn’t ask for extras to take home with me.
Till tomorrow, my friends, bis bald!