Thursday, November 26, 2015

Surprise Holidays

Holiday Decor, Reception Desk Pompeii B&B

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone, hope you are all having a wonderful day!

It occurred to me that, had I been traveling out of the country today, there is a very good chance that the day might have passed me by completely unnoticed. We lose track of the days when we are constantly on the move, and that can have some very inconvenient consequences.

While forgetting an exclusively American holiday overseas would not be a huge deal, not realizing you are traveling on a holiday celebrated at your destination can be a very big deal indeed. I know this, and yet have managed to be caught by surprise three different times.

The first was many years ago, arriving in Paris on Bastille Day without any local currency in the days before ATMs were prevalent. I, my mother, my brother's mother-in-law and young sister-in-law were all starving, as we walked the streets looking for somewhere we could exchange our dollars. I finally thought of the American Express office, and thankfully they were open. Fortunately, I would need no checks today, because I don't remember the last time I actually owned any. But free ATMs abound now in Europe and the U.K., so we rarely ran into any currency problems.

We did run into other problems, however.

When Martha and I stopped in Monte Carlo during our cruise, I jumped ship to drive around France for a week. She came off the ship with me, because she wanted to mail a package of stuff back home. Her strength still wasn't completely recovered from breaking her shoulder before leaving for Europe and she didn't want to carry unnecessary things around.

But when we asked officials on shore where we could mail it off, we got a nasty shock.

"Yes, there is a Federal Express not far from here. But no place will be open today, it's May Day."

I actually knew, in a vague sort of way, that May 1st was a holiday in places. But I had no idea how huge it was. We asked if it was just in Monaco that things were closed, because we could just zip over to Nice, which is where I was headed anyway to pick up my rental car.

"Oh no, it is all over Europe!"

Alllrighty, then.

I ended up taking the package with me and shipping it from a Fedex in France while I was driving around over there, but it reminded me again why it's important to pay attention to the calendar while traveling and note any holidays that might be unfamiliar. The thing is, we shouldn't have needed a reminder, because we'd just gotten one a few weeks before.

I never got around to describing on here our trip to Pompeii. And there is a very good reason for that. We got to the town, but never made it to the ruins.

Pompeii is just a very short trip south from Naples. In fact, most people just make it part of their trip to Naples, taking a train over there to see the ruins then catching a train back. But we were continuing south, and there was a nice B&B in Pompeii, so we thought we'd just stop in for one night.

Rain was forecast, but we were lucky enough to get there while the sun was still out. Finding out the bus we wanted wasn't running was an unpleasant surprise, but Google Maps said our destination was a 30 minute walk away, which is doable for us even with suitcases. We took the attitude that the walk would be a good way to see the town, and headed out, planning to grab a bite to eat along the way.

When it began to rain, we just brought out our umbrellas. When it began to rain harder, we began looking in earnest for somewhere to eat. That's when we noticed everything was closed. We remembered it was Sunday, and Italy pretty much shuts down on Sundays. But there are usually restaurants open and we were seeing none.

It took a while, but I finally remembered. It was EASTER Sunday.


By now it was pouring so hard that our umbrellas were practically useless. And so was Google Maps. All over Europe, we had been complaining that Google Maps only got us close to our destinations, then we would have to go looking for the exact address ourselves. Later I would learn that this was because of privacy laws, the app was not allowed to lead you directly to the address you enter.

At this point, though, our situation was close to dire. We were completely drenched, and wearing out fast. We had gone over a small bridge with a not so small incline, only to discover we'd gone too far. After we'd turned around and gone back to the other side - same incline, different direction - a car stopped with two men in it and asked if we were looking for the B&B.

It was our host, who happened to have gone to get his father and seen two women with suitcases trudging up and down in the rain. Since he was expecting two women that day, he stopped to see if we were looking for his B&B.

Martha and I happen to believe in everyday miracles, and these two guys certainly seemed to us to have been sent from God on Easter Sunday even though we hadn't been to church and had no plans to find one.

We were driven to the B&B, shown to our lovely room, dried off and changed our clothes, then waited for a break in the rain to go see the ruins.

We hadn't gotten to eat, so we dragged out all of our leftover snacks. They were pretty meager, handfuls of nuts mostly. So we gratefully accepted the tray of tea and cookies brought by a young woman to our door. 

Finally the rain stopped, and our weather map said we had at least an hour before it was expected to return. So even though it still looked like it may return any minute, we went to the back gate and tried to remember the instructions from our host for leaving. 

No luck. It was a big electric gate, with no way to get past it if you didn't know how to open it, so we went back inside to the front room facing the street. We'd been given keys and asked to make sure to lock the door behind us if we went anywhere. But we couldn't get the door unlocked, none of the keys seemed to fit.

We stood around for a minute, then said "Screw it." and went back to our room, stopping only to leave a note for our hosts that we would love to have dinner there at the very reasonable extra charge. The menu on the blackboard was completely unfamiliar to us, in spite of knowing a great many Italian dishes, but we figured it couldn't be that bad no matter what it was.

It turned out to be spaghetti with ham in a red sauce, which was completely new to both of us, and not the most wonderful thing we'd ever eaten. But it was served at seven and all we'd had to eat that day was leftover nuts and the cookies from the tea tray, so we were very grateful for it. Especially since it was served with some fabulous cheese and prosciutto, plus a carafe of excellent house wine.

The next morning, we had a very nice continental breakfast which was included in the price of the room, and got a lift back to the train station from the host. So all we saw of Pompeii was a walk through town in the pouring rain while it was completely shut down, and the inside of our B&B.

The B&B was lovely, though, so we just considered it another stop on our trip and ignored the fact that we missed a local attraction. We missed plenty of local attractions on our trip, but there was no way we were going to see everything anyway, so our mindset was always to enjoy what we could and don't worry about the rest. Hopefully we will get to return and see some of what we missed. If not, we were still extremely fortunate to have such an amazing trip.

Next time, though, I'm going to put holiday reminders on my phone. Just in case.


  1. Every so often, I think, "I need to tell this woman just how much I enjoy these posts." So I am stopping to tell you how much I enjoy reading what you write. You have a real gift, girl.

    1. Thank you! I really, really appreciate hearing that. Sometimes it can feel like I'm writing in a vacuum and, while I still want a record of all of this for myself and my family, knowing that it's interesting to read is huge motivation to continue.


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