When you travel with people, you learn a lot about them. When you travel with people internationally, you learn almost everything you need to know about them.
Do they get stressed easily? Can they go days without showering? Do they need personal space?
Spending every waking (and sleeping) moment with Stanley turned out to be the best decision I’ve ever made. I learned a lot about my grandfather – more than I ever thought possible – and gained a deep level of respect for his temperament, sense of humor and ability to turn stressful situations into memories and strangers into friends.
While the first half of our European adventure was filled with hiking, living with strangers and being perpetually cold, our time in Italy was spent tasting gelato, drinking espresso and Stanley screaming at the waiters that “[HIS] PASTA WASN’T AL DENTE!”
Florence was beautiful. We had rented an apartment a little outside of the main tourist area, and when we walked outside, our neighborhood was lively. At any hour of the day there were locals strolling through the streets, people drinking and eating, and kids playing soccer.
After two weeks, 4 cities and a lot of laughs, I have more memories that I know what to do with (which is what inspired this blog series). I’ve tried to capture them all, but there is one that will forever be my favorite story of our trip in Europe.
Let me paint the scene.
It was our second to last night in Europe and we were exhausted. We decided to take a quick snooze in order to gain energy for our dinner reservations that evening. Missing our alarm, we woke up around 8 pm with grumbling bellies. Knowing that most of the restaurants would be packed on a Friday night, we decided to wander around our neighborhood to see where we could dine.
We stumbled into a fancy little restaurant called Il Cibreo. Upon entering, we realized we were extremely out of place.
HOSTESS: Do you have a jacket?
STANLEY: Well yes, I’m wearing my Nautica jacket right now!
Realizing that the hostess meant a sports coat, Stanley apologized and begged for food and told them that it was my birthday. We were seated in the back (near a couple from Florida) and decided that we would splurge tonight.
The waitress was a very kind elderly lady who sat down at our table and read the entire menu in both Italian and English. We ordered six (yes, SIX!) courses and even tasted their braciole. Note: My Noni’s was WAY better, and we made sure to joke with the waitress about this.
Three hours and a bottle of wine (solely consumed by me) later, we were saying goodbye to our new friends and trekking home for the evening. All was well until we got to our apartment and the door wouldn’t open. Stanley’s phone was completely dead, and mine was at 6%. Naturally, I decided to videotape the fiasco happening.
45 minutes later and we could not get the door open. Realizing that we were stranded in the middle of Florence at midnight, I made the executive decision to bang on every door in the neighborhood to enlist help. A door opened slightly, and I excitedly asked, “DO Y’ALL SPEAK ENGLISH?”
And this is how we met our sweet neighbor-friend, Giancarlo.
Giancarlo had just arrived back in Florence from a stint in Peru, and he was extremely groggy and jet-lagged. He decided that we should probably call our landlord. Why didn’t I think of that?
We then learned that said landlord was in the countryside of Italy and wouldn’t be back until 9 am the following morning. At this point I screamed into the phone, “BUT I DON’T WANT TO BE HOMELESS!”
Sweet Giancarlo then said, “But what if I walk you to a hotel?” SURE, THIS SOUNDS PROMISING.
While walking to this no-name hotel in middle of Florence at 1 am with a stranger that could easily save our lives or kill us, I thought to myself, “We don’t have a phone, we don’t have Stanley’s heart medication; this is the end of our lives.” Stanley on the other hand INVITED GIANCARLO TO DINNER WITH US THE NEXT DAY. Okay.
We got to the hotel, and asked them if they had any vacancy. By the grace of God, they had one available room and I pulled out my credit card faster than the speed of sound.
We got to our hotel room and realized that sleeping in our dress clothes would have to suffice. I said some prayers that went something along the lines of:
GOD – I PROMISE TO GO TO CHURCH EVERY SUNDAY IF YOU CAN PROMISE ME THAT STANLEY WON’T HAVE A HEART ATTACK TONIGHT. LOVE, DEVIN.
The next morning, things were going well. We woke up, ate the breakfast in the lobby and ordered a cab to take us back to our apartment. The cab driver arrived and asked us where we were headed.
Uhhh, I didn’t remember our address.
ME: By that really large farmer’s market.
CAB DRIVER: It’s Saturday morning … Which farmer’s market do you mean?
STANLEY: The one in the square!
To say that things were going well was a complete overstatement. And to add to the hoopla, I realized that I didn’t have any money. We ended up recognizing a street, hopping out of the cab, and giving him all of our coins.
When we finally reached our apartment, our landlord was waiting on us with a very annoyed grimace. Wonder why? He couldn’t get the door open either, and ended up calling the fire department. They also did not understand why our door wouldn’t open and why this was now their problem. We finally were able to get back into our apartment, and we decided that maybe we shouldn’t tell Noni what had happened. In case you’re wondering the cause of the stuck door, the deadbolt was broken.
And, here is the five-minute long video that I took instead of preserving my battery:
**This is the last post in the Traveling with Stanley series. Thank you for following along, and be sure to check back for updates!