Thursday, October 23, 2003


October 22, 2003

The Eurochocolate Festival is going this week in Perugia, so we needed to make the trip. Although Art was more than happy to accommodate me, the fringe benefit of this trip was a trial run to find the language school. Perugia is a large college town, and trying to find a new place on a Monday morning was not going to be fun. What we didn’t know was that trying to find it on a Wednesday morning wasn’t going to be fun either.

We had a decent map of the city, but what these maps can’t show are the hills, and the size of the streets. Anyone who has ever driven in a medieval city knows what I am talking about. You start down a road, and it gets more and more narrow. You keep thinking “well, that OTHER car came down here, so I guess it’s okay”. That is your second mistake. Your first mistake was turning down a narrow, winding, medieval street to begin with. Or maybe your first mistake was trying to drive in a medieval city at all.

Wendy had given us some oral directions, and the school had emailed us directions, giving us two different routes. The first route they gave us seemed to be the most direct. The second option was the way Wendy had told us. We decided to try the first route, and after c...r...e...e...p...i...n...g along the E45, we finally reached our exit. Once we got off the expressway and began to make our way up the hill, we found ourselves in the same traffic dilemma as before. For whatever reason, traffic was practically at a standstill. After being passed by three police cars, and inching along for 30 minutes, we finally made it to the traffic light. Whether there was an accident, or the light wasn’t working, we don’t know. Whether the police solved the problem, or just used their God-given right to ignore all traffic rules, we don’t know. I can tell you that they did NOT have their lights on. Once we were through the light, traffic moved as usual.

After a missed turn or two, we were well on our way. The school had provided specific directions…”on your right and on your left you will see places to park for free”. We see what is obviously the area they are talking about. Great. We feel confident. Then something happens. The next direction tells us to turn right at the light. It says we will see the three arches on our left. We don’t see the arches, but we see the light, so we turn. That is when we find ourselves on a narrow, winding, uphill medieval street that is very obviously NOT the street we want. Luckily, we are able to find our way out, and back to streets that are a little wider. We even get lucky and find our way back to the light. This is when I realize that this is not a traffic light per se, but rather a device to control traffic through a narrow passageway. The street is too narrow for two-way traffic, so the light indicates who has the right of way.
Now where? We continue straight instead of turning this time. As many of you know, street signs are practically unknown in many European cities, especially medieval ones. If you are lucky, you will see the street name posted on the side of a building. But of course, you also know that the same street can change names five times in as many blocks. So basically, we are just wandering aimlessly, and even if we were to stumble upon the school, we still have no idea how to get there from our original starting point. Luckily, even though we are both confused and frustrated, we don’t get into an argument. For my part, I don’t want to make Art mad and miss the chocolate festival!

While turning around in a gas station, we ask a man for directions. Of course he talks way too fast and uses way too many words. We need directions that are simple, like “go straight, turn left at the third street, then take your first right.” Of course we never get directions like that. What I do manage to catch is the phrase gallery Kennedy. I know that this is in the area of the school. We head in the direction he has pointed, hoping for the best. I see signs for the Galleria Kennedy, but never see it. It won’t be until much later that I will realize that the Galleria Kennedy is a TUNNEL. We circle and circle, each timed taking a different option, yet never finding what we are looking for. We see the name of the street the school is on, but it is not on that section.

I am determined to get us back to the place where the cars park on either side of the road. I know that we were okay at that point. The problem is, we can’t get back to that road. Combine one-way streets with lots of curves, throw in a switch-back or two, a round-about, a couple of tunnels and lots of traffic, and there is no telling where you are. Finally I tell Art, “I give up. I know I’m not much of a navigator, but whatever help I have been, I quit! Let’s just go to the chocolate festival and try this again tomorrow.”

It doesn’t take a lot to convince him. Although we both hate to give up when we know we are so close, we agree that we will do better the next time. We head for the centro, following the signs, and end up driving through the middle of the chocolate festival. This is NOT where we want to be! Luckily we have been in Perugia before. We stayed at a great little hotel just at the bottom of the escalators on via Pellini. I have a pretty good idea how to get there, and we head down the hill, past the bus station, and around the curve. This is when I see the other end of the Galleria Kennedy and realize that it’s the name of the tunnel. We both know where we are, and soon we are at the parking lot that sits across the street from the hotel we know. Although the lot is full, there are cars getting ready to exit, and within two minutes we are parked and on our way to the chocolate festival. Obviously we have been guided from above, and were meant to go to the chocolate festival instead of aimlessly wandering the streets of Perugia.

The chocolate festival is wonderful. Duh. It is amazing how many different companies and how many different countries are represented. Cuba. Holland. Germany. Switzerland. Italy, of course. Probably other countries that I didn’t even realize. We buy a few treats, not too many, really. With Perugina so close now, there is no longer the urgency. What a wonderful feeling, to know that I can have chocolate bananas anytime I want! And just for a change, now I can also have chocolate covered cherries. And the best part is they are both made with heart-healthy dark chocolate!

On the way home, I am still trying to figure out just where we went wrong. For some reason, I am a complete blank about the road in between the free car-parking and the first round-about. Then, it comes to me. Maybe there was another option. Maybe there was a place where we should have gone to the right, to go UNDER the road. Seems as if Wendy mentioned something about that. And as I look on the map, I am almost certain that we were on the right section of the road. We probably drove right by the school, but didn’t see it since we weren’t looking for it, or because we were looking on the other side of the road. I am sure we will find it the next time. Of course, we will still have to find a place to park! That may be another story.


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