Days One & Two, 2014

Typically, Day One is stressful. We're jet-lagged, seeing our new home for the first time, hungry and unbathed. We haven't gotten our car yet so we haven't done a big shop yet, nor have we retrieved our big boxes of household things we store here. Household things that make us feel less like we're camping and more like we're living.

This year, Day One was a breeze. Our apartment is one we stayed in two years ago. Big, clean, centrally located, nice neighbors, and above a wine store to boot. Day Two, however, was a different story. I went to get the car at Hertz, a new place for us because the EuropeCar office we've been going to for years seemed to have closed (according to the internet in the spring when I tried to book). I'd heard good things about Hertz.... their rates and their location. I knew it was near the train station, so I walked there and asked. The train station guy was baffled. Never heard of it. So I walked to a nearby hotel where the concierge was also baffled. After finding it on Google Maps, he told me it's way too far to walk. So I took a cab. Unheard of for us because there's nowhere we can't walk that we ever need to get to. Ten euros (three miles) later... that's five bucks a mile... I arrived. I handed them my reservation (for a four-door Punto, like a Ford Fiesta, only a Fiat), all pre-paid (to the tune of $1800, $500 of which will be returned to me if I don't damage the car). She pointed to a CinqueCento and asked if that would be okay. It's a two-door, next size up from a Smart Car. Not happening for a month of travel for a family of four, two full days of which will be driving ten hours to and from France. I told her my reservation was for a Punto and I had two big boys, and a husband to fit. She said that's all they have. No sign of ever having anything bigger. Apparently the only reason one makes a reservation is in order to be able to pay two months in advance for whatever wheels they have on hand when you show up. We went back and forth about other ideas... Can I have a full refund? (But where would that leave me? Maybe EuropeCar--which is alive and well, by the way, and two blocks away from our apartment--would be out of cars. Maybe other Hertz offices have Puntos. I sat behind the desk with the office workers and tried communicating via Google translate. I can get by with my Italian for ordinary things, but for discussions about waivers and  "paid in full," I needed help. Turns out there is a Punto--two, actually. One in Orvieto and one in Civitacecchia. Both an hour away. They suggested I take a train to GET IT. I was so stunned that it was my job to retrieve my $1800 car, that it took me another 20 minutes to think of the best solution:  I take the CinqueCento, drive up to Orvieto, get the Punto and return it on July 30 to THIS office. Deal. And so that's what I did. She told me to be sure and top off the gas tank before switching cars. I did not and was not asked to do so in Orvieto. Before I left, I logged on to Google Maps to locate the Orvieto office, then took photos of the computer with my phone so Henry or Owen could co-pilot. We've been to Orvieto enough to know the general area. And thankfully, this whole process went incredibly smoothly. No issues with the toll booth eating my credit card, no issues with their not expecting me at the Hertz office, no issues with having to pay more for what is now a far bigger car than a Punto. Yeah, it's not a's an almost SUV-like Fiat... dwarfing us all, who are used to seeing each other in the Mini Cooper at home. Glancing into the back seat I couldn't even see a trace of Owen. THAT'S how big it is. Parking isn't as easy as it usually is, but it will be nice to have for the drive to France later in the month.

Before & After Cars

Back in Viterbo, we rushed to do the first big shop, but first to get SIM cards and internet keys for phones, iPads, laptops... This took a while, but went smoothly. So our shop was a medium shop instead of a big one since we had to meet someone where our boxes are stored. When we got there we found out the time had changed. Not for another hour. So home we went. We shout up to Fred when we pulled up since we can't park where we live, but we can unload. Fred came down and helped, after which he and I went  back to the boxes place because it's not worth finding a place to park for 45 minutes, coming back to the apartment, then going back for the car. So we brought stuff to read. When the guy arrived to get our boxes, he couldn't find, on his massive wall of keys to every apartment in this building, the key to the room where our boxes are. He said our director has them. She left two weeks before we stored the boxes last July and she is in Massachusetts right now. She does not have the keys.  He can't find his. We were told to come back at noon the next day when a locksmith would arrive. We asked that we be contacted AFTER the locksmith opens the door :)   We are very demanding Americans. An hour later we got a text. He found the key. It had fallen behind something. We can come back tomorrow. It's okay... another day without a teapot or a bar of soap or a dish rack or a coffee cup. We wouldn't enjoy the highs if we didn't experience the lows. So Day Three will be a banner day of nesting and settling in.
Before & During the Group Dinner

Mirto (a berry liqueur from Sardinia) and homemade biscotti,
courtesy of the bar where we watched the US not beat Belgium in the World Cup.

Another typical summer Tuesday night in Viterbo.