Although getting lost can be quite an adventure, getting found again is so very wonderful.
After the grand comedy of errors our first night in Albania (click here for the tale), we finally traversed the maze of Tiranë – thanks to the finger-pointing, arm-sweeping, head-nodding directions of numerous Albanian gas station attendants – and found our hotel, the Vila Baron.
Words cannot describe our utter relief at seeing the golden glow of lights shining in the darkness, the assurance of a smiling lad at the gate waving us in, and the immeasurable comfort of big welcoming hugs from our hostess.
It was nearly midnight but the dear lady and her two sons welcomed us as heartily as if it were the middle of the day. They hauled in our luggage and beckoned us into the dining room where they served us delicious homemade pasta and glasses of red wine that washed away the stress of the previous hours.
At last we trudged groggily to our rooms, utterly exhausted, pausing to smile at the individual pairs of house slippers laid out for each of us, before falling into bed.
We were asleep within minutes that night, and nearly croaked at our 5 a.m. wake-up the next morning. But the views from our windows were so worth getting our heavy eyes open.
I felt like a fairytale princess on my balcony with roses clambering up the stone walls.
The sun flooded the valley with light, opening up vistas we never imagined on our nighttime meanderings through the blacked-out city.
Hastily packing our suitcases, we arrived blearily downstairs to find our lovely hosts beaming and urging us to dig in to a buffet table lined with trays of sliced cheeses and meats, baskets full of bread, and little white dishes filled with yellow butter and jewel-tone preserves. I couldn’t believe they had stayed up so late to cook us dinner and woken only a few hours later to make us breakfast. Truly, such hospitality goes far above the call of duty.
With my breakfast in hand I found a seat on the balcony, delighting in the cool morning breezes as I sipped my delectably strong coffee and took in the views of the Albanian countryside.
All too soon it was time to load the van and head out to explore Albania.
We bid farewell to our wonderful hostess who gave us squeezy hugs like a beloved mother would, waving good-bye as she watered her flowers.
How to Rest Well in Albania:
- Plan for the unexpected. A 2-hour trip in the day time can turn into a 6-hour one at night. Leave in plenty of time to arrive at your hotel in daylight if possible.
- Secure a good, inexpensive hotel like the Vila Baron. For only 30 Euro ($42 USD) a night, you get secure parking for your vehicle, complimentary breakfast, and free internet. They also have late check-in which is a comfort when things don’t go as planned.
- Choose a hotel with a restaurant included. After a long day of travel, it is so nice to have hot food ready a short walk from your bedroom. Vila Baron serves delicious homemade Albanian and Italian food. Although we’d just spent a week in Italy, we all agreed that the best pasta we ever ate was at the Vila Baron in Albania.
- Take time for a glass of wine or hot herbal tea with dinner. The stresses of travel melt away and you can fall asleep much easier in a new bed.
- Bring ear plugs. I never leave home without them. Every new place has strange noises, construction at odd hours, and random horns honking. Block them all out with ear plugs and sleep like a baby.
- Choose a hotel with breakfast included. Especially if you’re road-tripping, it is wonderful to start your trip with a full belly instead of trying to find a place early in the morning.
- Take time to visit with your hosts. A little kindness goes a long way and new friendships, no matter how brief, are what great trips are made of.
What helps you rest well in a new place?