All roads lead to disaster…and eventually Rome

Where to begin?  As I said in my hasty post before leaving on Thursday, we didn’t have the ingredients for a smooth trip before leaving.  Only one person knew Italian, we didn’t know exactly how to get to the airport, and a taxi may or not have been reserved for us and may or may not be waiting at Rome Ciampino airport when we arrived there.

Disaster struck, to say the least.  The root of our problems was that Paris Beauvais airport is actually an hour and a half  northwest of Paris.  Why on Earth they would name an airport “Paris ____” when it’s over an hour away from said city is beyond me, and something that no one in our group thought we should look up.

the distance from Beauvais to Paris
the distance from Beauvais to Paris

To get to this remote airport, you could take a train or bus to the city of Beauvais and then a shuttle to the airport itself.  We got to Gare du Nord, the main train station in Paris, but first couldn’t find the line we had to get on, then couldn’t buy a ticket because the machines did not accept cash or coins, only European credit cards (they are powered by chip technology, whereas American credit cards have the magnetic strip).  We went to get on line at the ticket booth, but it was easily over a half hour wait and our train was arriving in 20 minutes.  The next one after that was too late for our flight, so our only option was to take a taxi from Gare du Nord to Beauvais.

We were lucky to find a taxi big enough for the six of us in rush hour, but we had to pay an obscene amount of money each for the hour and a half trip.  We made it to the airport fine but then one person in our group had a problem with her boarding pass and had to reprint it.  The printer in our terminal was not working so we had to run halfway to the other terminal to print it out and finally get through security.  After some people in our group had additional pat-downs, we were finally at our gate and boarded the plane.

This would be more than enough travel stress for one day, so I was glad when we landed and got a taxi to our hostel ok.  Our room was more of an apartment, with two bedrooms, a little kitchenette, and  two bedrooms.  Pat, the only male in our study abroad program and on the Rome trip, had his own room and the five girls that went shared a room.  It was no Ritz-Carlton, but it far exceeded my expectations of what a hostel would be like.

We were finally settled and relaxed from the crazy travels of the afternoon and Pat was figuring out how the keys worked.  The next thing we know, he’s locked outside of our hostel and we are locked in.  Two hours later and a lot of panicking, Pat was still in the hallway and we were about to call the International Police because it was a safety hazard, it was 2 a.m., and we were out of ideas.  Thank goodness there was not a fire that night, or I may not be here to tell the tale.

To understand our panic, it is important that we arrived in Rome around midnight, so we had no idea what was around our hostel or where in the city we were.  We were panicking that we didn’t have cell service to call for help (so Interpol couldn’t have helped anyway), that none of us spoke the language, that Pat was going to have to sleep outside, and that the five of us would be locked in the hostel until the manager came into the office at 10 a.m. the next day.

We were finally able to get him in through a crazy combination of him turning the key and pushing the right spot in the door and us pulling the door at the same time.

And thus ended our epic and stressful travels to Rome.

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