Europe 8. HBD 2 Kaila Conley-Controversey

day by day, train by train: the story of our European adventure

It was our favourite (admittedly only) American-Italian amie’s 18th birthday today, so we made sure it would be celebrated in style. When Kaila left the house in the morning to ‘sort out her band card’, the rest of us covered the table with my sarong, covered the sarong in balloons and topped off this transformation with a chocolate cake that Larissa bought from the shop, chopped up kinder bueno and a bowl of left over pasta from the night before.

We even found a candle: a truly DIY celebration.


After suitable morning partying, we packed up and readied ourselves to venture to *with a rolled ‘r’* Rrrrroma!

We experienced a really revolutionary smooth bus journey to La Spezia, but only after a final cappuccino in the cafe below the apartment and a briefly bid farewell to Margherita who told us kindly:

‘I will miss you’


Triple checking that the stove was actually switched off, we confidently left Lerici and made it to La Spezia with just enough time for a brisk trip to the supermarket for a Foccacci based lunch for possibly the last time (with it being a local speciality).

We boarded the train to Rome, sleeping for most of the way, fuelled by an apparently endless supply of crackers. Towards the end of the journey, we spoke to the other man patiently waiting in our quite comfortable compartment. He told us he was from Tunisia and studied tourism at university; he had an open and kind face. In the last few bizarre and manic minutes before his stop, we offered our Tunisian trainman some crackers to accompany the rest of his journey, and in unexpected return traded us an entire bottle of fizzy apple juice: the perfect remedy for our parched mouths.

These kind of moments are my favourite: those times when we share things with people from completely different cultures and backgrounds in a single, connected act of kindness.

These instances are the ones you remember for a long time to come.


We reached Rome in the late afternoon haze, taking the metro straight to the doorstep of our hostel. ‘Home Friends Li‘ was our sanctuary for the next few nights, and we were impressed with what we got for the money. We entered a large door greeted with a marble spiral staircase encompassing a derelict antique elevator. The hostel was more  an apartment of many rooms; our rooms had a pleasant view of rustic Italian flats. I had a room of my own this time, blessed with a double bed. I appreciated the physical and mental space, but it came with a lack of fan and breakfast croissant. Though I wasn’t complaining; I had already consumed enough pastries to last me a lifetime in the space of the past week or so.

But, most importantly, there wasn’t a bedbug in sight.


We settled in and primped to go out for the evening, dressing up to at least a fraction of the nines for Kaila’s birthday. We planned to meet her friend Serena who took us to Isola Tiberina, a little island in the middle of the river which was lined with outdoor restaurants, bars, shops and lots of little lights. Wandering along the elegant riverside, I began to understand the romantic associations of Rome. Serena was equally elegant and lovely, which I’m sure is a testament to Kaila’s character.

Congrats again, K.

We found a place to eat after a typical period of indecision. I had a pizza slice and, for the first time, a ‘supplì’ (a fried ball of rice, tomato and mozzarella in breadcrumbs, common of Roman cuisine) which was deliciozo. Refreshed from a sprite, we waltzed further down the river where Larissa bought some very pretty earrings. The evening, soaked in that warm feeling you get when you want something to last forever, swiftly came to a close as our energy levels dropped and we tried to find a way home in light of a darkened metro station.

With the help of Serena’s local knowledge and Kaila’s communication, we caught 2 buses back to the hostel, meeting some rather quirky but endearing Germans on the way who reminded us all of Leon (an IB friend from sixth form).

It’s all about making connections.


Relieved to make it back to the hostel at 1am, we washed ourselves in a good night’s sleep, but not before we’d fully exploited the free wifi (on which I’m definitely NOT reliant).


Memory sparks:

  • none needed, surprisingly.

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