October 26th, 2004
Tuesday morning, after breakfast, we attempted to reach my friend who had arrived in Italy over a week ago. Before he left the States he gave us a couple of phone numbers to reach him, but none of them appeared to be correct. The first time we called someone answered the phone, but they didn't speak english. The next time, we finally got someone who spoke english but told us that my friend wasn't staying there. So slightly confused, we decided to go ahead and get on the train anyway (Dave had a work call to make at 2:00pm). My friend had told me the name of the accomodation and I had brought the printouts from the website. So we jumped on the next train to Monopoli (which according to the website was about 10 km from the hotel).
Upon arrival in Monopoli, we were surprised to find a definite lack
of places to stay. The first hotel we encountered (next to the station)
was completely closed up. We walked about 6 or 8 blocks to the town square,
but didn't see a single hotel sign. Perplexed, we stopped a local policeman
and asked him where to go. He pointed off in the distance and said there
was a hotel about 300 meters away. So our little caravan of rolling suitcases
headed in that direction with high hopes of finding a place to stay
for the night. After several more pointings from the locals, we arrived at
a hotel by the water with decent rooms.
After inquiring at the front desk for a cafe with some personality,
this was our first stop for ice cream and cappaccino in a quiet little piazza.
That afternoon we spent wandering the streets of old Monopoli...
The walkways are narrow, pretty little roads with neat arches at every turn. We did have to be on our toes (literally) for mopeds and small cars which frequently drive down the streets.
As the sun went down, we toured the castle (now just an art exhibit
for children). Then we took a picture as the moon rose over the water.
The girls had to stop for pictures with the flowers!
We decided to give one last phone call to my friend as we wandered the streets of Monopoli. This time when we called the number he gave us we asked the lady if there was a guy there from Texas with his parents. She said she would check the records on file. Finally she said yes, but they were with another couple under a different name and currently out of the room. So we gave her our names and asked that they call us back if they recognized us. Sure enough, our friend called us back that night at dinner time. Turns out they were staying just outside of Brindisi (the name he gave me was for the room and not the hotel) and they had been in our area sightseeing that same day.
Well as much fun as we had in Monopoli that day, we weren't looking to stay another day. Plus we had already seen Brindisi, so we didn't really want to go back there. After much discussion, we decided to head on down the road the following morning. We never did meet up with my friend, but we had fun that afternoon anyway.
The following morning, however, was quite a different story...
Tuesday night we consulted the train schedule and decided to take a train to Pompeii. The one catch is that the train left Brindisi at 8:30am. In order to get to Brindisi by 8:30, we needed to be on the 7:15 train out of Monopoli. So we got up really early Wednesday morning, organised a van cab to pick all of us up, and arrived at the station in plenty of time. The ticket office was not open yet, so we asked the train attendant and he said we could get tickets on the train. That part worked ok. We bought tickets to Brindisi, but would have to go to the ticket office in Brindisi to get tickets to take us to Pompeii.
Well our train into Brindisi
was running late which didn't leave much time to purchase tickets.
Then the ticket office was slower then molasses. The group went
to the train platform so they would be ready when I came with the
tickets. As the minutes ticked by, the time for departure came and
went just as I got up to the ticket window. The lady wouldn't sell
me tickets to the train since it was supposed to be leaving. I tried
to ask her if the train was still there, but she then just tells me
to go to information because she just sells tickets. So extremely
frustrated and pissed off I go down the stairs without tickets to
the platform. Dave meets me in the middle and tells me that everybody
was on the train, which left without me, because they thought I would
make it at the last minute. So Dave jumped off the trian and they said
they would get off at the next stop and wait for us. As he told me this,
Dave stood off at a safe distance while I exploded!
After I cooled off a little we went to the information office to find out when the next train stopped in that town (he didn't speak real good english). The information guy tells me "impossible, why you want to go there?" I say because my sister was on the train that just left. He doesn't really understand and asks me where I was headed. I tell him that we were on the train to Pompeii but my sister was going to get off on the next stop because she was on the train I missed. He tells me if I want to go to Pompeii just catch the next train to Naples and then take the local train to Pompeii. Finally I say that "me familia on train to the next stop and I'm not" with a lot of hand motions. Then he finally says "haaaaaa" and it is clear we have understood each other!
So the train attendant makes a few calls and tells me that my family will be on the train to return at 10:00am. I said "you talked to them and they return" and he says "yes they will be on the train". Dave and I thank him and head to the platform to await the train. As we stand there, I say I wonder how he knows it's my family. We laugh and then I say I can't wait to see what family will get off the train to greet us. An hour goes by and it turns out that my family is definitely not on the train! The only option is to go back to the information office. Finally as we head over, Dave's mobile phone rings. It's my sister and she says that it's taken them that long to find a phone card and phone and figure out how to use it all.
My sister says the village is so small that if you blink you miss it. We tell her that there really aren't any more trains stopping there for a long time, so she will need to get a cab back to Brindisi (only a 10 minute train ride away). Another hour goes by before they pull up in a blue station wagon type car outside the Brindisi station. Turns out they couldn't even find a taxi cab to bring them back and ended up getting a ride with one of the guys from the station that was headed to Brindisi anyway.
So by 12:30 pm we are finally boarding a train from Brindisi to
Rome (with tickets I might add). While we were waiting for the train
we got some sandwich makings and a bottle of wine for the long ride
ahead (about 6 hours). We decided to skip Pompeii since it would
take us too long to get there and we had already wasted a whole day.
As we pulled out of the Brindisi station, we crossed our fingers that this time we wouldn't be coming back in a few hours! What a day!!!
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