A Travellerspoint blog

October 2020

Oct 31st update (JT)

Travel update

Sorry, I know we have not posted anything for a bit.

So I am going to start writing some just little short updates about what we are doing and what is coming up. Now, Shelley is the writer in the family, so she takes care of the more detailed and better written stuff. I am just going to write some quick notes, so please forgive me if things are not written well or if I misspell stuff, cause that happens all the time.

So lets see if I can do a quick update. We have left London and are in Edinburgh Scotland. We spent about 10 days in London which was great but expensive as hell. I am glad to be somewhere a bit cheaper and it has also been a bit more relaxing here.

We only have a week here. We were going to try and stay at least one more week but the place we are staying was not available so we are just going to head to Inverness on Wednesday. In case you don't know Inverness is in the Scottish highlands and is up near Loch Ness. It's about a 2 hour train ride.

As you know COVID is ramping up all over the world, including here but still no where near the levels in the US. We have been hoping to find a place to just settle in for an extended stay but we have not found one. We are hoping that Inverness will be that place. They have very low COVID cases and if we like the town and the place we are renting, we might try to extend our stay. The other options are to head to even more Northern Scotland in hopes of seeing the Northern Lights or maybe coming back to Edinburgh and staying several weeks.

COVID makes it very hard to plan ahead because restrictions and rules keep changing. As of right now we only have things planned until Nov 11th. We really are making this up as we go.

So that is my update. I hope that was not too long. I am going to post one later that I wrote about getting into the UK but that one is long and I really should have Shelley look at it and help me polish it up a bit.

As you can imagine Scotland is just beautiful with weather like Portland. The people here have been great as well as the people in London. They have been sweet and very helpful.... Of course, we tell them we are from Canada.

Good night all. I hope to post another update when we get to Inverness. Hopefully we will know what our next move is by then.

JT

Posted by tatehomberg 15:07 Archived in Scotland Comments (0)

Santa’s grave and other reasons not to visit Bari

Santa’s grave and other reasons not to visit Bari

Feeling surprisingly rested after our trip across the Adriatic in a Jadrolinija ferry (10 PM to 8 AM), we armored ourselves in all of our luggage and ventured off the ship. Here was the moment of truth - are they going to let us in?

There were no signs, so we just started walking over to an official looking building with a queue area set up with orange plastic barricades. They waved us in, took our temperature, and we entered the building to see three booths with windows. The middle one was open, so we gingerly approached the sour-looking man seated in the booth. Not just impassive - this guy had resting “fuck you” face. We tried to smile charmingly (hard to do through a mask) and said buon giorno. No response.

He just looked at us. Not even asking for our passports or the paperwork we had to fill out in triplicate to enter Italy. We passed the stapled papers and our passports under the slot in the glass anyway. He took them without a word or acknowledgment and began looking through them. Shelley pulled up Jamie’s negative test results on her phone and pushed it under the glass as well.

That got his attention! He took the phone and looked at it carefully, scrolling up and down. He pushed the phone back (only having seen one coronavirus test result). Still without a word (or change in expression), he gathered all of our materials together and left.

We looked at each other and shrugged - at least it wasn’t an outright denial. While he was gone, we became aware of a conversation two booths down between another customs agent and what sounds like another American. The English words we overhear are United States. American. Impossible.

We look at each other and try not to react. We hear a pleading female voice say “but we are coming from Croatia”. While we wait for our own agent to return, we hear her explain that she has done her research and thought she could come in via Croatia. Their agent only says “Impossible.”

We dare not draw attention to ourselves but exchange a look of panic. We both take a deep breath as our (still silent) agent returns with a man who is obviously his supervisor. He addresses us in clear English to ask where we are going and Jamie explains that we are in Bari for a night or two then on to Naples.

“Then where? Back to America?”

For some reason, instead of explaining our plan to travel through Rome, Florence, and so on - Jamie says, “The United Kingdom.” Which was going to be true (eventually) but turned out to be a stroke of genius in this instance. The man handed back our materials to the original agent, said a few words in Italian, and left.

Mr. Happy, our border check guy, flipped through our papers and passports, still not saying a word. Now we are just standing there looking at him and trying to unobtrusively listen to what is still happening two booths over.

“We didn’t come from America - we came from Croatia”, the woman pleads. “I did research on the internet… I can show you.” Her border guard keeps cutting her off with “No. Impossible.”

The silence at our booth is becoming unbearable, when we hear a loud “clunk” and see him holding a passport under a machine. We hold our breath as we see him holding a stamp. One, two, three - and he pushes our passports back under the glass.

Not even daring to speak (not that he seems to require a “thank you” or “good-bye”) - we take the passports and walk past him, through the gate into a lobby. We walk quickly, expecting someone to stop us. We can still hear the poor lady trying to plead her case, which sounds exactly like our situation. Maybe she didn’t stay long enough in Croatia. Maybe they didn’t have COVID tests. We don’t know why we’re in and they are not, but we don’t look. We just keep walking.

We step outside into Bari, Italy and check our stamped passports, lightheaded with relief. Shelley collapses onto a bench, finally allowing the pent-up tears to flow - a release of the fear and stress, but most of all empathy for the fellow travelers who weren’t going to make it to this moment of relief on the other side.

Bari is a worn down port town, covered with graffiti and showing signs of wear - beat up boats, scooters with torn seats, closed and battered gates over shops. Our AirBnb host allowed us to check in early, so we met her mother on the street after following GPS to the address. Not a bad place, but our most expensive one to date, due to my mistake in booking - always put the number of people in the Airbnb search! I had mistakenly left it at one when I booked, so when she realized we had three people she jacked the price. I should have listened to my better judgment and cancelled - it would have saved me some hassle down the road. Rule #1 of travel - listen to your instincts!

No need to tell a long boring story of problems with AirBnB hostess and her dismissive responses to the lack of wifi and other promised amenities - we just decided to cut our losses and leave for Pompeii a day early.

We took a couple of hours to wander around Bari - some neat stuff, but hardly worth the stop. The best thing to see is the St. Nikola church, home of - you guessed it- Santa Claus. Or to be more precise, his tomb. It was definitely a weird moment, taking your kid down to see Santa’s grave.

Apparently there are miracles attributed to the body of Saint Nicholas, which lies in the basement of the church. The body supposedly secretes miraculous liquids, but my Italian wasn’t advanced enough to ask for a sample of Santa ooze. Would’ve been a cool souvenir though!

With AirBnB issues, online ticket buying and website crashes, and problems finding the bus to Naples, Italy is starting off with some bumps. However, we made it and are on our way to Pompeii - where their issues really put our little annoyances into perspective!

Posted by tatehomberg 00:17 Comments (0)

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