Traveling to Italy and France… What I’d Do Differently

Ben and I both knew we wanted to take a short break and do some traveling after residency. We gradually narrowed down potential destinations and ultimately decided on Italy and France… but I can’t remember exactly why (a non-stop flight had something to do with it, I think). It was a good decision overall, but if we did it again there would definitely be some changes!

Lake Como

Our first stop was Rome. We stayed at a mid to lower priced hotel near the Termini Station (the main rail station). It was tiny, but the location was great and all of the amazing sites were within walking distance. Things were going great until day 2, when we noticed some red itchy welts on our legs. I figured they must be some old mosquito bites and didn’t think much of it. Until I saw these.

bedbug adult

I initially thought this was a tick (and dirty grout). But I was confused why a tick would be inside, so I told Ben to come and look at it. He did. Then he looked at me all seriously and said, “I know what that is…” and starts shaking his head. I was like, “yeeeessssssss?” He turned to me again, “bedbug. That’s a bedbug. And if they’re out in daylight that means they’re everywhere. In all of our stuff. Its bad.”

Neither of us were in a great mood at that point. But we decided to see how bad it really was. We pulled back the sheets on the bed to find scampering little bedbugs of all sizes (aka: different levels of successful blood sucking) crawling everywhere. Holy disgusting. We decided that there was no way in hell we were staying there for another two nights. We debated the next steps. I was 99% sure the manager wasn’t going to be helpful, as he was rude and condescending since we checked in. So we decided to look for somewhere else to stay that night… which was not an easy task when it was already almost noon!

We spent hours trying to find a place. Ben came across some nice bedbug sites, which essentially showed that bedbugs were everywhere around us. We thought about staying in a higher end hotel, but the prices were ridiculous. It was then that I thought, what better time to try airbnb? It can’t get worse than this! So, we last-minute booked an apartment a short distance away, and we couldn’t have been happier!

balcony pic

We decided to keep our bedbug infested luggage outside and just enjoy our last few days in Rome. From then on we decided airbnb was the way to go. No more tiny one bedroom hotels for us!! We decided on Rimini as our next destination and booked another apartment with airbnb. We grabbed some train tickets and went on over!

If you haven’t heard of Rimini… well, neither had I. After our Rome misadventures we desperately needed a relaxing destination, preferably with a beach. Rimini is a vacation destination for Italians and tourists alike. Its a mid-sized city with miles and miles of beautiful beach, tons of small shops and restaurants, and an active night life (if that’s your thing…).

Rimini

Unfortunately, instead of getting out an enjoying ourselves right away, we knew we had to decontaminate our luggage to prevent bring bedbugs with us everywhere we went. Its pretty simple in theory to kill the bedbugs. You only need to heat them to about 160F for about 90 minutes (there were some conflicting temperatures and times, but we went with the highest of both, just to be safe). Ideally, you’d just wash your clothes and throw them into the dryer (and wash all electronics and such). But apparently, beach towns don’t really have dryers. So, we got creative… how about the oven?? Brilliant!! We washed and air-dried (outside) everything, and then baked it in the oven. A long and tedious process with a teeny tiny oven! And not without losses. 
pumps pics

Most of the clothes and shoes I brought on the trip were super cheap and expendable. But sadly, I did bring just a few of my favorites. Like my favorite, uber comfortable, wear-everywhere pumps. Yes, that’s them above. Enough said, yes? I was also pretty sad to accidentally shrink my favorite cardigan and scarf. Honestly, my thought at the time was, “I’ll throw all of this stuff away I just want to get rid of the bugs.” My mind wasn’t exactly clear after four sleepless nights of feeling like I was being bit all over constantly.

If only that was the end of the bedbug stories! Another interesting tidbit of information: bedbug bites can show up 5-10 days after the initial bite in some people… and some people don’t react at all!!. I hardly had any bites show up (maybe from the “immunocompromised state” during pregnancy). But Ben wasn’t so lucky. A few days in he started developing welts all over his body. And they just kept coming. More and more itchy bites, day after day.

bedbug bites

It was awful, and we didn’t know how to stop it. After a few rough days, we (reluctantly) went to the local physician. He prescribed an antibiotic (in case of a superimposed infection) and an antihistamine (for the intense itching). It maybe helped a little. The bites did stop showing up over the following days and eventually started to heal. With all that had happened, we wanted nothing more than to just relax on the quiet beach and listen to the waves. And some days we got that. Other days we were surrounded by loud, obnoxious families with trash everywhere and smoking like a chimney (below is a good day!). I don’t think Rimini will be on my “go back” list.

Rimini beachWe decided that Como sounded absolutely stunning, so we booked our next accommodations there (another airbnb!). I actually hadn’t heard of Como. But apparently its a destination for wealthy folks. And you could definitely tell!! Oh, the place was beautiful, no doubt about that. But it was stuffy. And rude. We totally felt like we didn’t belong, and we should get our non-designer wearing selves to a different city. We put Como on the “don’t go back” list, too.

Lake Como

From Como we went to our final destination: Paris. I have to say, getting from Como to Paris was no easy feat! We traveled almost 12 hours that day. We knew it was going to be a challenge. We had to make two trains (to get from Como to Milan airport), a flight (to Paris), then two more trains (to get to our place). Of course, our first train ran late. Meaning we missed train #2. I frantically bought an extra set of tickets for the next train (20 more euros…) so we wouldn’t miss our flight as well! We made it to the airport with about an hour and 45 minutes to spare. Little did we know that our train took us to the wrong terminal, and we had to take a “shuttle” to get to the correct one. It happened to be raining that day, and we stood waiting for that shuttle for a good 25+ minutes. We noticed people getting in cabs, and eventually realized that nobody knew when this shuttle would be coming. With only a little over an hour to get on our flight, we decided to pay another 20 euros to take a 5 minute cab ride across to the other terminal. From there we rushed around the airport, determined not to miss our flight.

A side note: I’ve never been to the Milan airport, specifically the “Easy Jet” terminal. Easy Jet tickets are cheap, and now I know why. I’ve never seen such a disgusting airport. There were puddles on the ground, buckets scattered about to catch the rain water that was leaking through the ceiling. The place was packed and dirty. And the boarding areas for the flights were literally jam packed and crazy disorganized. All things considered, we’re lucky to have made it on that flight.

We breathed a sigh of relief when we got on that plane, only minutes before boarding closed. But our happiness dwindled only minutes later when the pilot announced, “15 minute delay for fueling the plane.” No big deal, right? Then 15 minutes later, “2 hour delay, we missed our takeoff window.” Nobody was happy, including us. But there was nothing we could do, so we sat. And waited. We eventually arrived in Paris. Our last two trains were jam packed, but we did make it to our destination successfully. Finally.

Saint Germain district, Paris

I love Paris. Love it. I love the sights of the city. I love the shops (although I’m too poor to buy anything right now). I love the food! And I (oddly?) love the people. I have not had any experiences with rudeness in Paris, ever. If I wasn’t so freaking exhausted and sore by that point (with a ton of pain from a pulled back muscle), it would have been even better. 🙂 If you haven’t been to Paris, I’d highly recommend it. And again, I totally recommend finding an apartment with airbnb. Its a totally different experience and you almost feel like you live there, instead of feeling like a tourist all the time.

Paris Streets

paris

crepe in paris

Whew, so that was a long post! Sorry if it took like 10 minutes to load. But hopefully it was entertaining! Feel free to ask any questions or tell me your thoughts on traveling (or recommended destinations!).