I often refer to myself as being a little bit anal. Others have referred to me as compulsive. Obsessive compulsive. Rigid even. I must admit, I like to have a plan and a routine but I am certainly open to change. If I look at every way I have changed over the last 6 years I think I would have gone flipping insane if I was not open to change. We have moved from a city to a country town where I knew next to nobody. I have bought a house. I have completely changed my diet and my whole lifestyle due to illness. I made the big decision to change my working environment, took a big leap of faith and embarked on a freelance career. I have sold or packed up everything I own so the kids and I could embark on a 12 month world-wide adventure. So it is not change that I am afraid of, but I do like to have a plan. Routine is also my friend, my very dear friend. Even when I am in a new country with a different climate and completely unknown terrain I still like to hold onto elements of my routine. Over the last 7 months I could count on my hands the number of times I have missed a morning walk. Yet I had to kiss a very sweet goodbye to my children’s bedtime when I realised it was no longer plausible. I was momentarily bitter about that. Even my routine is becoming a little bit flexible.
Travel has made me realise that sometimes I can lose my obsessive compulsiveness, and tendency to being anal. One of my favourite discoveries was that I like being lost and I would never have thought that that would be something I would enjoy. I love wandering, without referring to a map and simply taking turns wherever I find them. Some of my most treasured memories over the last 7 months are of the countless kilometres I have walked, with my mouth agape, in extraordinarily beautiful places. I have often felt like I was in a dream.
However I discovered this week when I had a momentary sob in my little car, whilst reassuring the kids that I was not a fucking nutcase, but rather a woman in control who was simply having a bad day, that my love of being lost is not applicable when I am in a car. In a car in a foreign country, on the wrong side of the road, on streets that are seemingly too narrow for traffic.
Montecatini is a large town near us and one of the central towns of Tuscany. I had hankerings to explore and get to know it as I am prone to do. We were driven through it on the weekend after an incredible Carnivale excursion with the amazing Uzzano family we are doing a work exchange with. Maybe I was high on life, but I thought it was easy peasy to get from Montecatini to Uzzano. Not a problem. I was like Audrey Hepburn on a moped. I was full of grace and class and most importantly I knew where I was going whilst looking fabulous.
I did not google anything, I did not write anything down. On Monday after the kids and I had finished school and work we headed off for an afternoon’s adventure to get to know Montecatini. We also wanted to check out where the train station was along with its parking so we could start to plan some train adventures. In Australia I am a very good, conservative driver. In Italy I am also a conservative driver in that I drive very slowly, though I am not sure that anyone would call me good. I have gotten used to the road up to Uzzano and at times, when in my mind the road is too narrow for two lanes of traffic, I simply stop when I see an oncoming car. I am sure that is highly irritating for the cars behind me but I simply cannot drive straight into a head on collision. However the Italians seem to have this magic ability to make extra road space materialise whilst driving at high speeds. I do not posses that sort of magic, so I stop and breathe in and occasionally fold in my side mirrors as well. When driving on the main road I tend to get passed a lot which I cannot understand as I am sitting on the speed limit. I cannot stop using my indicators when I go on a roundabout but I don’t see anyone else doing it, so I don’t think it is the done thing here. But at least everyone can be alerted to what the strange foreign woman is doing in her car.
We were on the main road to Montecatini when I spotted a bank with an ATM. Seeing the driveway I turned into park. However it wasn’t a car parking lot, it was a weird driveway with cars parked in random spots. By the time I got to the end and found no car spots I realised with something akin to horror that I was going to have problems getting out. I simply did not feel confident in reversing as the space was painfully narrow. Seeing a tiny turning space at the end I executed what could only be called an extensive 36 point fuck you turn. Archie was at the back of me and then the front of me, letting me know when I had run out of space as I painfully moved forward and reversed inch by inch. By the time I got out of there I had lost my desire to use the ATM.
As we approached Montecatini, I started hitting strange one way streets until after about 4 or 5 turns I was completely lost and knew that I did not have one chance of finding the train station. As I was contemplating this, I turned a corner into another one way street to find an ambulance seemingly parked in the middle of the road with its doors wide open. I did not see how I could get past. There was a car behind me and a car waiting in the other street so I could not reverse or go the wrong way. Instead I looked at the street ahead of me and muttered a string of curse words in my head. Archie ended up getting out of the car, we folded in our side mirrors, I got him to shut one of the doors of the ambulance and we inched past at a snail’s pace with an occasional few inches of reversing every so often. Surprisingly enough no one honked me, I suspect we were rather amusing to watch.
At that stage as soon as we saw a space, I parked and got a ticket. We wandered towards the centre of town where there was a sign for the Tourist Information Place and when we got there it was closed for the 1.30pm – 4pm lunch break that is common in Italy. I felt like rocking backwards and forwards as I knocked my head against the closed doors. I was unable to get my map, unable to find my train station and in my head unable to get home as I did not think I would ever get out of the one way street system. On top of all of that it had become very cold and just as we got to the door of the Tourist Information Office it started to rain. I made the executive decision that we should go home and tackle Montecatini another day. That was after I had a little cry in the car. Sometimes sobs are good for the soul. Monday reminded me that some days just do not go according to plan. That it is ok to act like a lunatic and you can always try again. For a moment I really hated Montecatini.
But we did not give up. I wanted to explore Montecatini so failure was not an option. We went again today and this time I googled where the train stations were. We found them and drove around the car park whilst congratulating ourselves on how clever we were. Then Rissie somehow got us through the one way street system and we found ourselves a car park in front of the Tourist Information Office. We went for a wander. I found an ATM and an incredible park to explore. I have a map of the town and we all had a Gelato. I really loved Montecatini.
As I inhaled my gelato I thought to myself that even though best laid plans don’t always work out generally things turn out ok.