9 July 2012 Monday | 18:28 | 2012/06 Europe
Two nights before I flew from Paris to Rome, I dreamt that the journey included a three-hour stopover in Singapore. In that vivid dream of mine, I was considering if I should head home for a while to take a look. Haha! My friends concluded I was homesick. No way, my holiday wasn’t even halfway through.
The two-hour flight to Rome was scheduled at 7:30 A.M. on 10.06.2012. Which meant we had to be the airport at 5:30 A.M.. Which meant we had to leave the hotel at 4:30 A.M.. Which meant I had to wash up at 4:00 A.M.. Which meant I had only less than four hours of sleep, after squatting by the dryer the previous night.
In a bid to lighten my load, I brought minimal stuff and planned two laundry stops, the first being Paris. The original plan was to hunt for a laundromat. Then I decided that time was too precious and had the hotel wash my clothes for €8 apiece. I thought I should pretend to be thrifty and wash my own socks, instead of being charged €3.50 per pair. However, a day of airing in the room wasn’t sufficient. So I had to waste forty minutes of my life staring at the dryer on my last evening in Paris. Tsk.
Very nicely folded.
A series of unfortunate events began at about 5:30 A.M.. The driver took us to the wrong terminal. The airport express wasn’t open then, so we had to hop onto a bus after some confusing navigation. We took a really long walk because the place was under renovation. Subsequently, there was an extremely long boarding process, and on arrival at Leonardo da Vinci-Fiumicino Airport, I discovered that the luggage tag I bought in Taipei had vanished.
I wasn’t the most patient person around. The volcano was about to erupt by then. It was a good thing my friend had pre-arranged for transport to the hotel. A Mercedes-Benz no less.
However, I totally freaked out an hour later.
After all these years of travelling and working in Asia, I am accustomed to luxury hotels and other less upscale but fancy enough accommodation. But my friends would know that I can settle for three stars or even less if the place is cosy enough. (My usual hotel in Taipei priced at S$130 a night is evidence.)
Hotel Regent in Rome was beyond belief. There was nothing regal about it. The place was dilapidated; the furnishing gaudy. It was really dark, and there was a pillar in the middle of my room. Seriously?! They claim they have four stars. My new friend from South Africa would later comment, “A hotel like this in my country isn’t even considered one star!” See, I wasn’t being fussy. The hotel was a nightmare!
Before I could contact my usual gang- the people who book me hotel rooms every time I turn up at a lousy one, my friend made a SOS call back to Singapore. People were searching for hotel rooms within minutes. Hahaha. As we were leaving Rome early the next morning, we decided to clench our teeth for a night, and that we would definitely move out when we returned to Rome the following week.
Hotel Regent. You must NEVER ever stay here.
I didn’t want to linger for long. I had a lunch date with Rozz!
“Jean in Paris alone and Rozz in Rome alone. The girls in MediaCorp must be doing very well!” my friend observed.
Rozz and I became ‘new friends’ after we hosted an event together last year. She was excited that we would shed that tag and become ‘travel buddies’, albeit for a day. After a sit-down lunch, we began roaming in Rome in the scorching heat.
What a hearty snack for those birds!
The most hilarious one I saw was a bowl of coins beside a sign that read ‘INVISIBLE NAKED MAN’.
It must be the lack of sleep. We had our cameras with us, but we actually forgot to take a picture together. There’s Rozz with the gelato girl who was fascinated with her tattoo.
There wasn’t a concrete plan. It was really to hang out for a day and to breathe the Roman air. We walked around aimlessly and were happy to get quite lost. We gawked at the amazing buildings with meticulous details and elaborate carvings, then we walked into obscure alleys and observed people getting on with their lives on a lazy Sunday afternoon.
We strayed so far we didn’t know how to get back to our respective hotels. Barely understanding instructions from a helpful but non-English conversant local, we found our way to a bus stop and managed to board a bus leading to the terminal. The thing was they didn’t accept cash and we didn’t know how to pay. (I found out later that we had to tap this card on one of the machines. And we had that card from the Metro ride earlier.) The driver didn’t harass us into paying, though I glanced nervously at a sign which read, “Offenders will be fined €100-€500.” Ever vigilant in a foreign city, I scripted my lines in the event that we got caught, “請你講華語！我聽不懂你說甚麼！好了，就這樣了。再見！”
I don’t drink much and I insisted on Coke and juices throughout the previous week despite the fact that alcohol was much cheaper in Europe. But I had to order this glass of champagne to deal with the disturbing hotel room and the series of events earlier that day. And the heat! I was missing Paris already.