Not Quite a Disaster But Pretty Close! 3rd June 2009

Posted on June 10, 2009 by sonjabarrie

Wednesday June 3rd 2009 ( Day 8 )

Today is the day we drive from Rome to Foggia. We have to pick up the car at 10am at the Hertz office in the station. We were going to send Tim off to get the car and then try to put the cases and stuff in it outside the hotel but parking is a nightmare in Rome, same as in any big city I guess. So we check out the hotel and drag the suitcases to the station, only 5 minutes away so not a big deal although cobbled streets do make life interesting.

We find the Hertz office, halfway down platform 24, not where one would expect to find it but we are here, so are 25 other people. It seems the morning is when everyone wants a car. There are 6 other car rental companies here, Avis, National, Budget etc but no one is waiting in their lines, I guess Hertz really is the cheapest.

Tim waiting for ‘Hertz Gold Service’ on platform 24 of Rome’s Stazione Termini

As there is only one woman on the desk and everything has to be re-entered into their computer it takes 2 hours before we get the keys and are told to walk 150 meters down the road to the parking garage. Great, more cobble stones and sidewalks with no ramps, at least they have a lift to the 7th floor.

We can’t find the car, the license number written on the paperwork doesn’t match any car we can find, we then have a brain fart and decide to use the remote to see if we can hear a car unlocking. Sure enough, we find a car and thankfully it is just big enough for all our luggage in the hatchback and Claire in the back seat and the license plate matches the tiny print out we were given thankfully or they might have thought we had stolen the car. The way things are going so far I wouldn’t rule out anything!

We get out the GPS and the cable only to find out that the cable only connects to the base that sits on the dashboard which we didn’t bring because of our weight allowance. Now what do we do? Tim goes all the way back to the Hertz office to get a map and some directions, in the mean time we try to jot down the directions from the GPS before the battery dies. We know it runs on battery for at least 5 hours but we had used it in the UK without charging it and trying to find the hotel when we first arrived from the UK. It lasts about 10 minutes, just enough time to write everything down and then dies!

Tim comes back with a map and Claire Y has a real brain wave. The GPS has a firewire slot and she wonders whether a phone charger cable would work. We don’t have one with us for the car cigarette lighter but we do a have UPS cable with the correct ends which we use to sync the Blackberries. (Well just mine now but don’t remind Tim!) We boot up Tim’s laptop, thankfully he has 2 batteries, and plug in the GPS, the screen switches to computer mode and there is no way to see if it is actually charging but at this point in the game it is now past 12:30pm and we need to get on the road. Tim arrives at this minute with a map from Hertz and some directions, the first of which is to take a left out of the garage but it’s one way the OTHER way so this doesn’t bode well

We then decide to have a quick pit stop before leaving the garage as we have been faffing around for so long, I take of my wrist brace in the bathroom to wash my hands and as there is nowhere to put it I hang it on the door handle, when we leave Tim is standing in front of the door so I completely forget it! Anyhoo, we wind our way down to the exit ramp only to find at the gate that we need an exit ticket, Hertz didn’t give us one, now we have to back up the ramp, go park the car and try to figure out how to get an exit ticket. We were lucky as there was no-one behind us until we were almost to the top then we had to hang out the windows gesticulating wildly that they back up so we could get to a parking space and off the exit ramp. Tim sits in the car I go up to the 7th floor again where I saw a small Hertz office and ask them for a ticket, they sent me to the ground floor area where we walked in to get the ticket, thankfully I had the Hertz paperwork with me or he would have sent me off for it before giving me the exit ticket.

Honestly you couldn’t make this stuff up!!!

Back to the car, we now manage to get out the car park and we end up making a number of U turns but make it out of Rome. Halleluya!!

After 20 minutes we unplug the GPS and turn it to map mode and it is charging albeit slowly as the laptop is in battery mode but we use the directions we had quickly written up along with the map to get out of Rome and on our way to Foggia.

Claire Y’s contribution to map reading…..catching zzzzz’s

The Scenery is amazing, it really is a beautiful if very poor country.

I really wish we had been able to record the sound of this car, it was worse than the lawnmower we rented in England, mainly because it was a diesel this time and was seriously laden down with bodies and luggage. It moaned and groaned all the way there, was so noisy it was impossible to listen to the radio and you could hear the little feet under the car running like mad to get it actually moving when you put it in first gear and let off the clutch.

It takes about 5 hours to get to Foggia so we turn on the GPS occasionally to check we are going in the right direction which we almost do, made one small detour but no worries and the GPS dies just as we hit Foggia. You know, they say it is all about timing and I guess we just don’t have it! We had a Google map with us and the Hotel was shown with a Google pointer but when we got where we thought it was we couldn’t find it. Managed to flag down a guy who spoke fast Italian and no English, gesticulated wildly and we were no wiser although he did also point so we had a bit more of an idea where it was. We drove around the block and found it but unless you knew it was there you never would have found it. A small sign next to a closed blank metal door, but we were there and none too soon, we have to have dinner at Gianni’s parents house tonight and it’s 6pm already.

Did I mention Italians eat late??? Late is an understatement. We were not even supposed to arrive at their house till 8pm and we know dinner won’t start till at least 9pm and will drag on plate after plate for a couple of hours.

The dinner was great though, as with all Italian meals, there was the starter, the first plate, the second plate, the fruit, the coffee and dessert and then the liquers. Gianni’s parents, Tina and Tony and his brother Simone, and his fiance Anna are all really nice. Simone speaks some English but is hesitant as he is never sure of himself but his English is actually very good. Gianni was the interpreter of course and his English is great but we managed to flumox him a couple of times and teach him some new words!

A picture collage of the proud grandparents!

I even managed to hold Leo for a minute before he was whisked off to bed, apparently they kept him up till we got there which was great. All in all it was a very nice and pleasant evening, I am certainly going to learn Italian so that next time I can communicate with them. Spanish is close to Italian but not close enough so that I could hold a conversation with them. They are all really nice people and I hope to spend a lot more time with them.

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