Sometimes travel makes you downright giddy, and you just want to sing out loud. Remember back in the day when Italian trains had those compartments that could fit around 6 people? It was me, my brother, my cousin, and one lone Italian guy in a private compartment and my cousin decided to bust out VOLARE at the top of her lungs. The Italian didn’t say anything, but his lips were definitely tugging at the corners, fighting a smile.
Then there are the less savory moments that bring about a fit of frustration when things don’t go to plan! But sometimes those stories become the BEST souvenirs, especially when you can laugh in hindsight. And that my friends, is the type of story I’m going to tell you today. We seriously couldn’t have planned this series of ironic events even if we had tried!
Let me take you back to the Spring of 2005 when I was studying abroad in Torino, Italy. We had a long weekend and all of us American girls wanted to see as much of Europe as possible, so off we went to Corsica.
We left late in the evening after class on a Friday night. Our plan was to stay the night in Nice , France, and then take the ferry to Corsica in the morning.
We arrived in Ventimiglia, Italy late at night where we were to change trains at the border. However, there were no more trains going to France! They had all stopped for the night, contrary to what we thought the train schedule had said. I can’t quite recall why we didn’t just stay the night in Ventimiglia (if I remember right, we heard there were no vacancies, or maybe that’s just what the taxi driver told us…hahaha). Anyways, we decided to take a 40 minute taxi ride to Nice, arriving at midnight.
Nice has always been one of my favorite big cities in France, and it was a place that I had been to many several times before. On the way to the port, we strolled down the Cours Saleya, and I was charmed once more by the streets lined with cafes and filled with farmers market and flower vendors. The ferry was late, but we were finally off to Corsica, an island in the Mediterranean Sea belonging to France.
We arrived in Bastia, Corsica much later than we had anticipated. We were getting hungry, but our priority was to find a hotel before night set in. We had always traveled without reservations sans problem, even to popular destinations like Florence (the advantages of traveling Europe in the off-season). In fact, the one time we had made reservations, we ended up having to cancel them and lost our deposit. Since there were 5 of us girls, we figured it was better to travel without reservations in case something came up last minute again.
We wandered the streets of Bastia, stopping in every hotel, only to hear the same answer: complet = NO VACANCIES. We met another foreign couple in our search who had just gotten the last room available…in the city!!! It turns out there was a girls high school basketball championship going on. Seriously?!
$#$%!!! We were on an island, with the closest town over an hour away! I glanced at the park bench, thinking it just might have to be my bed that night.
At one particular hotel, the receptionist took pity on us and made us a reservation in Calvi, the next town over. The sky now dark, and our bellies empty, we found ourselves in our second unexpected taxi of the trip, careening around steep, narrow mountain roads. We had to pull over a few times for two of the girls to hurl.
Calvi was absolutely stunning. Narrow, cobblestone streets glowed golden in the lamplight. Our hotel was cozy and charming. And best of all, there was still a street vendor serving late night food. My tummy stopped rumbling and my frazzled soul was southed by the sea air.
The next morning, I couldn’t believe that such a place of beauty existed. The clear blue Azur sea was snuggled against the mountains, my ideal combination.
Our fascination with Corsica was short lived, however. Our nerves were frazzled, and some of the other girls wanted to get back to Torino, so we decided to take the ferry back to Nice, where we would have to spend another night since we would get in late again.
We went back to the very same hotel we stayed in before, only to hear the dreaded words again: NO VACANCIES. We couldn’t believe it! Surely this was a fluke. So we went to another hotel, and another. After 5 hotels had turned us away, we happened upon a billboard that read: International Marathon. Somehow the irony of the situation squelched any feelings of panic, and this time we just surrendered. Surely in a city as big as Nice there would have to be a room?
After hours of searching, we finally found a hotel that had a room meant for 4. We took it without hesitation. That would be good enough for the 5 of us.
It wasn’t very funny then, but it is now! I mean, what are the chances of TWO late night taxi rides to the NEXT town, and no vacancies in TWO different cities in the same trip?! 😂
The moral of the story? If traveling without reservations, always make sure the city isn’t hosting some random event. Or, maybe just make a reservation! 😉