I apologize for being the worst blogger ever lately! I gave you a teaser a few weeks ago, along with some excuses, but now it is time!! (Although I have one more excuse up my sleeve: The comma key is pretty much stuck, making it hard to write commas...)
Two weeks before leaving, I got a cold. I remember thinking that I was glad I got it in time to get well before I was going to leave… Well, I got to eat my words because my cold turned into a flu and a particularly painful cough. I tried resting as much as I could and drinking lots of water, since there wasn’t much I could do. When I had been sick for ten days, the Tuesday before my Saturday departure, I went to the clinic. I didn’t think I had anything that I needed medicine for but I figured I should check it out. The doctor said my cough sounded like croup but that I didn’t have pneumonia or anything like that, but she gave me an antibiotic anyway, along with some cough pills and cough syrup. (I was not happy about taking an antibiotic when she wasn't sure it was necessary, but at the same time I felt I had to do what she told me!)
Unfortunately, I didn’t get any better and Wednesday, Thursday and Friday was a feverish blur. On Friday I was really worried that I had to postpone the trip, but there was really no way to do that without spending a lot of money. Friday night I was able to get out of bed for a little bit and that made me hopeful that I could actually do it. Good thing I had written a detailed packing list weeks in advance, which made packing very easy! I had also decided to go with a carry on size suitcase which meant I just couldn’t take a lot of stuff.
Saturday I rested as much as I could before going to the airport for my 4:30pm departure. I got there early hoping to change my middle seat to an aisle, but no such luck. I was told to try again at the gate and an hour before departure I was able to get an aisle – in the last row of the plane. But when I got on the plane they asked me to switch so that a couple could sit together, and I got another aisle seat. Puh!
Waiting to board was not fun – I felt so sick and weak and really just wanted to lay down, something I knew I wouldn’t do for another 24 hours or so! I was constantly taking different pills and drinking lots of water – whenever I stopped I would go into these very unpleasant coughing fits. I am sure my fellow passengers were thrilled to have me there!
We boarded and I took some more cold medicine, hoping to sleep. That didn’t happen either, so I watched movies, ate some food, and watched the time go by. It sure didn’t go very fast… But shortly after 6am we landed in Paris and the thought of being in Europe gave me some energy. Since we were one of the earlier planes from the US, things went quite smoothly and it was only 7 or so when I was in the terminal for my next flight, scheduled to leave at 9:45. I had wanted enough time but there and then I wished I was on the 7:15 flight.
After a tasty pain au chocolat and some tooth brushing, I once again felt that crashing feeling, and I had a long time to go. I started to feel a little desperate when I saw that all the benches were separated by armrests, so there was nowhere to lie down. All I wanted was to stretch out! Luckily, after walking around for a while I found some more comfortable chairs and rested until my flight. I was seated next to a nice American lady and we had fun talking about where we were going – it was her first time going to Italy and they were basically covering Rome, Florence, all of Tuscany, Bologna, and Venice in ten days!! Crazy.
We landed on time (even though we had left late) and the luggage didn’t take too long. I got on the 12:35 train to Termini (just made it!) and started a series of coughing fits, once again delighting my fellow passengers I am sure. I went through a crazy amount of water bottles trying to stop it. The train took longer than expected, almost an hour, so I was glad I didn’t wait for the later train. At Termini I bought some snacks and got on my already packed train to Lecce. I was so happy I had the tiny suitcase as it was easy to put it on the shelf above my seat. I was happy to have a window seat and hoping I could sleep a little bit – I had been traveling for 17 hours and had almost another six to go.
At first I didn’t talk to my fellow passengers (I even slept for an hour!) but after a few hours it turned into one of those fun Italian train conversations. I was traveling with a family, including a daughter my age, who had been visiting their other daughter in Rome, and a wannabe hipster 20-year old who had never been outside of Italy but quickly declared her love for the US and everything American. It was a lot of fun and they definitely took me under the wing when they heard I was traveling alone.
When we got to Lecce (after 5 hours and 45 minutes!) the family offered me a ride before I could even look for a taxi. They were from Galatina, about 20 minutes from Lecce, but graciously dropped me off just a block from my hotel, Casa dei Mercanti on Piazza Sant’Oronzo (named for Lecce’s patron saint.) Franzi, the manager of the hotel, showed me my beautiful room and gave me a map and some advice on getting around.
I knew I was going to like the city when I saw the lively passeggiata going on, and although I was so tired I could hardly see straight, I went out for a quick slice of pizza. It was still very cold but lots and lots of people were walking around and I was thrilled to be back in southern Italy, cold or no cold.