Albania Bari, Italy Lord Hotel Tirana Albania Tirana Albania

On To Bari, Italy

I had a really hard time getting to sleep last night; I’m used to total darkness and the room had lots of little led lights everywhere plus a lighted phone panel. The pillow was too fat and there wasn’t a top sheet. I thought that was really odd for a hotel and now I’m worried that it was a housekeeping mistake and they’ll think I stole it.

I woke up before my alarm went off.  Ahhh, a new day with better experiences.  I jumped in the shower. It’s a really nice big shower with a huge rain shower head plus a hand held. The glass shower doors had not a single waterspot…..impressive!

I turned on the hand-held shower wand to get the water warmed up and I stepped in. Great water pressure,  nice! All of a sudden the hose fell off the wand and started flinging itself all over the place like an out of control fire hose! Oy! I tried unsuccessfully to capture it as it was whipping the crap out of my ankles and finally thought to shut the water off.  I wasn’t able to reattach the wand to the hose but did have a nice shower using the big rain head. When I got out of course the whole bathroom was awash from the water jetting all over the place. Oops!

I went into the restaurant to have breakfast and the desk clerk came in after me and insisted I check out their free breakfast buffet. It was pretty impressive! Fried and scrambled eggs, potatoes, sausages, cheeses, fruit, croissants, juice, cereals and lots of other stuff. I decided to just eat there instead and it was very good, even the super strong espresso.

I got the free shuttle to the airport and tipped the driver 400 lek. I find myself grossly overtipping here (where it’s not even expected). The average monthly wage here is around $400 so I don’t mind helping out a little. It’s a very small airport, with only 14 gates. There were no lines anywhere and you don’t have to remove shoes at Security!

I’m flying on WizzAir, a VERY budget airline. My round trip ticket cost $45 but that only includes a small underseat item. A carryon, checked bag, or seat assignment, everything else is extra. So I’m bringing quite a small daypack with way less than I’ve ever traveled with before. No little sewing kit, no first aid kit, no glasses repair kit, no makeup except eyeshadow, no laptop. One tee shirt to sleep in, a couple underpants and some leggings. I’ll be wearing the same outer clothes for 3 days straight. They wanted $14 each way to get a seat assignment but it’s only a one hour flight so I let them assign me a free seat….in the last row, of course!

I actually like the fact that I don’t have to worry about whether there’ll be space in the overhead bin for my carryon, and my back really appreciates the light load, as my usual carryon is also a backpack.

Here’s a photo of the cigarettes for sale in the airport. This is printed on all the cartons. Many many people smoke here,though I wonder how they can afford it.

The flight to Bari was uneventful except that because I was in the cheap seats, I was the last to deplane and at the end of a very long line of people at Customs and Immigration. I easily found the train station and a nice lady showed me how to get a ticket to the city center from the vending machine.

When I got off the train I realized my cellphone only works on wifi here, and I had no idea how to find Hotel Adria without Google Maps! I thought I knew the general direction though, and I knew it was nearby. . I just started walking and hoped I’d see a policeman or an internet cafe but no. So I stopped 2 different young people and they both spoke English and gave me directions, the first one not quite right because I ended up on the street behind it, but it was close. There’s a lot of graffiti here but it doesn’t feel unsafe, at least in daytime.

I have a tiny room with one comfy single bed with a nice squishy soft pillow (yay!) AND a top sheet, for $79. Ouch! The shower is ordinary so hopefully it won’t attack me. The view from the window is just all green and I’m on the 4th floor…..what the heck?

OH! When I get up close, I see it’s a huge 6 story high wall of moss & succulents! Wow!

Hotel Adria lobby

I went out exploring a little, and to try and find a restaurant for an early dinner. I walked for 2.4 miles and no luck with a restaurant; there were lots of gelato shops, coffee shops, bakeries and pizza shops and a few Italian restaurants with pizza and pasta dishes ├ábut nothing “legal” for me to eat. They have a McDonald’s here but I wouldn’t eat there in the US, so I sure won’t eat there in Italy. I was starting to think I might be fasting tonight when I ran across a little grocery and bought a little bit of ham, cheese, nuts and two bottles of water. I’ll just have a little picnic in my room.

The streets are tree-lined and the architecture here is amazing! I loved just walking along gawking at everything.

I went into a large pharmacy and they had some high quality Vitamin C but it cost $56 for ninety 1000 mg tablets! I didn’t buy them. So I guess Italy is not a good place to get supplements either.

Albania Lord Hotel Tirana Albania Tirana Albania

A Rube Goes To The Big City

This morning I took the minibus (called a furgon) to Tirana. I’m staying overnight here before tomorrow’s flight to Bari, Italy. We arrived at a huge parking lot filled with big and little buses from all over. Right away men came up and yelled “Taxi”? I told them I was going to walk. I found a calm spot and searched for the Toptani Mall on Google Maps, as it was supposed to be close to the bus terminal. It’s a huge 8 story mall and I was going to search for supplements and sweeteners. I guess I had my bus terminals mixed up because it said it was 2.4 miles away. Since I still have shin splints from Saturday’s walk, that was out of the question.

I decided to just get a taxi to the city bus terminal, which is behind the Palace of Culture on the main square. I knew I could catch the airport bus from there, and it would have cost 400 lek. I was accosted by a taxi guy again and asked how much to the Palace of Culture and he didn’t know where it was. That should have set off some alarm bells but I just decided to get a ride to the hotel. So I said I needed to go to Lord Hotel near the airport and he didn’t know where that was either. But he said “1500 lek” which is pretty high; it should have been 1200-1300. But I said okay and he led me over to the next street where all the taxis park. He went to an unmarked car, not a taxi at all but just an ordinary sedan. Oh crap. A taxi imposter! I can hear all you moms yelling “Don’t get in the car!!”

Well…..being the nonconfrontational, don’t cause a fuss kinda person that I am, I got in the car. I plugged the Lord Hotel into my Google Maps so I’d know if he was going the right way and wondered how much it would hurt if I had to jump out of a moving vehicle if I seemed to be getting kidnapped. He followed the directions though and got me safely to the hotel. Then he demanded 2000 lek because he said he based his original quote on going to the airport, not a hotel. Boy it really made me mad but I handed over the loot.

So far the hotel is making up for all that unpleasantness. The girl at the check- in desk spoke perfect English and she upgraded me from a tiny twin bed room to a huge room with king size bed a comfy reading chair and a balcony! All for $45. This room is normally $115!

It must be pretty new construction because everything is worked by touch screens. I got to my room with the little plastic card and there was nowhere to insert it. Last time I stayed in a hotel, you had to put the card IN something. I stood there feeling like an idiot and a housekeeper came out of the room next door and showed me how to place the card against a black box on the wall. Duhhh.

Then I couldn’t figure out how to turn on the lights… nothing worked! So I went and got the housekeeper again and she showed me another black box where you have to insert the card to turn on the electricity.

Later I was cold and naturally I couldn’t figure out the touchscreen controls for the heat/air. That housekeeper was long gone so I went down to the desk and the same sweet girl that checked me in said “Come, I’ll show you” So we went back to the room and she explained how it works. I’m really feeling like a complete idiot! And old, really old.

View from the balcony
Another view

There’s a restaurant attached to the hotel so I went there for dinner. The waitress spoke perfect English too! I ordered grilled chicken with baked potato for $5.50 and she offered fire-roasted vegetables instead of the potato, yay! It was delicious, and I didn’t even have to be shown how to eat it!

The hotel offers a free breakfast thing but I think I’ll splurge and go back to the restaurant for the $2.35 ham & cheese omelet with bacon.

They have a free airport shuttle so I won’t have to deal with any greedy imitation taxi drivers in the morning. On to Italy tomorrow!