First Impressions

First Impressions

posted in: Italy | 0

It’s really hot here in the boatyard.  People aren’t very forgiving when it’s hot out.  So take this post with a grain of salt.  Or better yet, a tall glass of icewater.  Or a pina colada.  Mmmmm…pina coladaaaaas…

After a great day exploring a huge, cool ancient Roman city called Ostia Antica, the Burnetts set out yesterday from their boatyard near the town of Ostia to explore Rome, which is farther inland.  This involved a bit of work that included a taxi ride, two train transfers, and miles of walking, as our boatyard is 20km outside of the city center.  We didn’t know it ahead of time, but we were about to embark on an epic journey.

When one goes on a journey, one first needs a steed.  Our first mighty steed, “Radio Taxi Ostia,” was not easy to tame.  These taxis show up with anywhere from 5-7 Euros already on the meter and refuse to clear it (as the travel books say you should request) “because I had to come from the city center.”

Our first destination, the “Metro Station of Obfuscation,” chosen because Radio Taxi Ostia was too pricey a steed to take on the entire quest, was riddled with obstacles.  The ticket office was closed, according to the guy Mel nicknamed “Cerberus,” who was just sitting there doing nothing at the window.  We had to use the automated machines, one of the two being broken.  The remaining “ATM Machine of Unrealistic Demands” would not take our credit card.  It would not take a 50 Euro bill, which was the only thing the ATM’s spit out.  Once we bought a bag of chips to get change, as Cerberus would not make change either, it would not take two 20’s – it required you to use successfully smaller bills.  Once through the station, there were NO SIGNS showing you which side to stand on or which way the trains were going.  The Metro Station sent the usual “cigarette smoke and urine” smells our way to foil us, but we persevered.

After two train transfers, the travelers had to stop to eat in Rome.  Mel had a $20 salad that consisted of 4 slices of pears, 4 walnuts, and 8 spinach leaves.  The Waiter of Distraction barely got our pre-ordered ketchup, costing 0.80 each, to the kids before they finished their hamburgers.  We then learned two things the hard way:  1. Do not take pictures of the Italian military, and 2. You should subtract 20-30 minutes off of posted closing times.

On the way back, we had to wait a half an hour for the Metro to Hades to arrive.  When we finally got back to Ostia, we realized we had no groceries and walked to the Carrefour of Lost Hope next to the train station.  Exhausted, we were overwhelmed with all of the weird shit in the store, and Mel accidentally bought ground pork instead of ground beef.  “I will not make Italian food out of you, Macinata Carne Suina,” Mel said later on the boat, when it surprisingly turned grey instead of brown when she cooked it.  “It’s tacos for you!  Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha!”   At the store, we waited in a long line for 15 minutes while the clerk rang up 6 other customers, slowly filling out a form to get more cash for her drawer at one point, while another clerk rifled through even more forms instead of checking people out.  Oh, the Italians are masters at wielding the Sword of Bureaucracy.  After shopping, we waited for a taxi – “It’ll be fifteen minutes.”   Being clever, we know this means “25 minutes” in taxi-speak the world over.  Finally, our Radio Taxi Ostia knight arrives, 7 Euros on his meter of course.

On the way back, looking at all of the trash piled up on the side of the road, Mel thinks about the day and has an epiphany – “Wait, Is Ostia…a shithole?”

Allie climbed up the ladder to the boat after our trip saying, “Whew!  We survived!”  Not the typical summary of a trip to a great city, but a great ending to a mighty chronicle.

Oh, but the trials are not over.  The next day, Greg embarked on his usual hunter-gatherer trip to forage for Wi-Fi and a car, now that we know the taxis are not to be trusted.  This became a saga only because rental car agencies here apparently close for hours whenever they damn please and don’t bother to tell you when they will be back.  He set out for Hertz but ended up with Avis.  “Avis: We Are Open A Little Bit More than Hertz.”  Wi-Fi was ridiculous, meaning Vodaphone data was ten times as expensive here than in Portugal.  We went with TIM and its 4G, but we have to top off our data in person, not online, because the online part won’t let you top off more than 2 gigs once a month, for no apparent reason.

Mel is starting to understand why the “Hero’s Quest” is so popular in Italian folklore.

We are trying really hard not to be the “Ugly Americans” and generalize our experience to all of Italy.  Really hard.  I mean, Ostia Antica and Rome itself, by the way, was awesome.  So awesome and massive, we are going back a few more times.  Because we are mighty Roman warriors now!  Wish us luck!

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