While I have lots of moving and touching stories to share with you, I feel most compelled this morning to share my misadventure on a train the other day.
Because in retrospect, it’s freakin’ hilarious.
On July 4th we woke up in our beautiful, comfortable guesthouse in the little city of LaSpezia, just outside of Italy’s famous Cinque Terre. Side note; if you ever come to the Cinque Terre part of Italy and want to save a bundle on a room, book yourself into La Branda. The kindest hosts on earth and very comfortable, pretty rooms. I’d go back in a heartbeat.
Anyway, our two sons and their girlfriends were with us, and we all headed into the Cinque Terre. It was as magical as everyone says! While we were riding the train, we were going through gritty little towns, then a tunnel, then a town. Suddenly, we came out of a tunnel and onto a wide open view of the Mediterranean. The whole train burst into applause and cheers and all the locals smiled. Magic.
We started our day at the farthest village, called Monterosso al Mare. We had read that it was the best place to swim, and we were more than ready to do that.
At first we just took in the sights. We strolled, we people watched, we went into shops, we took pictures. It was hard to decide where to look next! In the early afternoon we found the local beach, and threw ourselves into the clear blue waters of the sea.
It was Heaven, I tell ya, pure Heaven! We floated for so long our fingers turned into prunes. We found beautifully colored stones and sea glass, as smooth as polished marble. We had ice cold beers on the shore, then went in to swim some more.
When it was finally time to head out of the water and back into town, I wasn’t sure of where to change. My bathing suit was soaked, and I didn’t want to put my clothes on over it. But this chubby middle aged American was not about to follow local custom and change on the beach.
Bathrooms in the Cinque Terre, it turns out, are as rare as the proverbial hen’s teeth.
So I put on a gauzy, flowy shirt that covered me to about mid-thigh. I was a little bit faked out to be walking through town with so much of me on show, although the ladies all around me were unfazed to be eating dinner in bikinis. Even the chubby, gray haired ones who it seemed should know better.
I tried to just go with the flow, pulling on the hem of my colorful shirt every third step. I could just picture my flabby old thighs, complete with various scratches and bruises. I wanted to apologize to everyone walking uphill behind me.
After a while, we took the train down to the village of Manarola and walked all through the streets.(Yep. I was still in my bathing suit and flowy thing.)
It was really beautiful! We ate dinner and drank Prosecco. I had the most delicious octopus and fresh lemon cured anchovies.
Also approximately 14 pounds of fresh Italian bread.
At this point in our adventure, Nonni here had consumed several gallons of liquid, including beer and wine. It was time for some relief. But remember the part about the rare bathrooms? No matter how I searched, I wasn’t able to find a place were I could a) put on some decent clothing and b) prevent the embarrassment of peeing myself in public.
So I clenched my….teeth….and kept walking.
At last, we decided to get back on the train and head down to the last town, Riomaggiore.
“Aha!” I thought to myself, “The train has a bathroom!”
As soon as we got on, I ran to the bathroom. OK, I probably didn’t actually “run”, since my knees were locked together. But I sure as hell scuttled as fast as I could go. I had a bag with my clothes in my hand, planning to pee fast and get changed at the same time.
All would probably have been well, except for two small problems. We were only going one stop on this very fast train, and it was going to take a while to let go of all that liquid buildup. Nevertheless, off came the suit, I wrangled me into my bra and took care of business. Sighing with painful relief, I got into my undies and had one foot in my shorts when the train very suddenly lurched to a halt.
Back went Nonni, crashing into the toilet. Luckily, the bathroom was only about the size of a shoebox, so there wasn’t far to fall. I ignored my injured backside and yanked on my shorts, grabbing my sandals in one hand and the bag with my bathing suit in the other. As I opened the door, I saw my family getting off the train so I rushed to the door.
For some reason that is probably known only to the Italians, the train stopped partway down the tunnel. We had to walk in the semi-dark between the train and the brick wall. I was still barefoot, and pictured myself stepping on a rat or something. So as I made my way down the narrow tunnel, I was hopping on one foot and pulling a sandal on the other.
I was laughing though, in spite of my aching cheek. We were all laughing and talking about our fabulous day.
Right up until I suddenly realized that I had left my purse on the now departing train.
Holy panic attack.
I’ll tell you what happened in my next post.