Wednesday, February 13, 2013

You Can't Sneak a Fifth Person into a European Hotel... And other weekend travel discoveries

Train Station at Reggio Emilia

I had started this post several weeks ago, so now I'm back-logging, which is always annoying.  The internet here is spotty and I actually (believe it or not) do have studio work to keep me busy during the week, so I apologize for the slow-coming blog posts.  I will attempt to pick up the pace!

Our first trip as a class was to Reggio Emilia  to do some research for our project on a Thursday and Friday, and we had the weekend free.  We decided that we needed to do an independent trip just to have it under our belts - to say that we had been somewhere and that we had done it ourselves, with the idea that after planning the first independent weekend trip, it would only get easier.  So we booked transportation and accommodations in Torino (also known as Turin), Italy.  If it sounds familiar, it's probably because it was the host city of the 2006 Winter Olympics.



Why Torino?  That's a question we were asked by several, and honestly, we don't have a super great answer.  We wanted to go somewhere rather close and inexpensive.  Our first idea had been Portofino, but we had been (falsely) told that we would take a day trip as a class to Portofino.  It turns out that our class day trip would actually be to Torino, but by the time we had figured that out, the trip was booked and paid for.  So Torino it was - the location of our first independent adventure.

I booked the hotel, so the discovery of the title of this blog post is my fault.  When searching for hotels, I had entered "4 people" as the number of guests for a number of reasons that I will throw at you - 1) I'm from a family of 4, so that's just automatic for me 2) in the US, unless it's some sort of package deal, it's usually not a big deal to add in an extra person and request spare towels, pillows, and perhaps a rollaway 3) okay, okay - I like to cheat the system!  And sneaking in a fifth person is definitely cheaper than something awkward like a room of two and a room of three.  I am assuming that families of five can relate - (quoting Jon Gosselin, of all people) the world was built for families of four, and anything more or less usually isn't as good of a value.

So fast forward to the trip - we caught our train and made it to Torino.  The hotel was close to the station (this was one of our requirements and what lead me to book the hotel) and easy to find.

And then we go inside.  A young Chinese man was working the desk, which meant that there was a good chance that he spoke English, but for some reason, I chose to be a mute and instead plopped the reservation papers on the desk and smiled.  He pulled up my reservation.  "This is a reservation for four."  "Yes."  "But there are five of you."  Chinese man can count.  Think fast - "She's not staying here," and I pointed behind me at who knows who.  "Oh, okay.  I need to make a copy of your passports."  We handed them over, and Courtney spoke up, "Do you need mine, too?"  "Huh?"  "I'm not staying here.  Do you need to make a copy of my passport?"  "Oh, no."  This was the first point that I realized who I had pointed to and how lucky I was with my random hand flinging... out of everyone, Courtney was the most composed and definitely the best improv actress.  He finished copying our passports.  I paid for the room.  We got the key and started to head up to the room when, "Wait - since you're not staying here, I need to keep your passport.  You can get it when you leave."  DAMN IT!!!  Courtney promptly relinquished her passport as if this was no big deal and headed with us to the room.

Opened the door, and what do you know, the light wouldn't turn on.  So I had to go back down to ask about the light.  You had to put the card in the wall... I've found out that this is very typical in Europe, so if you're ever in a hotel room and the light switch won't work, try inserting the key card in the wall.

With the lights on, it was time to FREAK OUT!!!!

What do we do?  I was the only one ready to continue lying about the fifth person, looking for fire escapes to sneak her in through (I get this break-the-rules determination from my dad who taught my sister and I to tell people that we were 5-year-old twins when I was 7... he has always taken advantage of my baby face and tiny proportions).  Are we going to need to get another room?  We can't leave Courtney on her own.  I had already paid for this room.

With the lights on, I noticed that one of the beds was much wider than a twin, but not quite a double - two of us could share that bed.  We decided to go to the front desk and ask if we could pay for a fifth person.  Courtney played it cool, "I haven't gotten a room here, yet, and I was wondering if I could pay to stay here." "Oh, yes, it's a very big room."  If he picked up on the fact that we were really a group of five people who booked a room for four and realized we couldn't get away with it, he didn't let on.  He asked us if we were from America and told us he was saving up to visit there.  Courtney made small talk with me about how glad she was she didn't have to go looking for a hotel at this hour.  Such an actress!

In the meantime, back in the room... Alex had opened the door to the balcony and couldn't get it to close.  We had to go back to the front desk and get him to help us with that.  He couldn't figure out how to close it, either, and ended up jamming it closed.  There was no way to lock it, so we resorted to our own methods of fortifying the room....

Fortifying the Room

Fortifying the Room

As freaked out as we were about the hotel, it really wasn't that bad.  It was in a good, convenient location.  We had a private room and bathroom, unlike we would in a hostel situation, and it was a good price.  Yes, we had to go out of our comfort zones a little, but isn't that what spending the semester in Italy is all about?