Laura and the Collapsing Bridge
Val D’Isere is a beautiful, little village located in the French Alps. I am so lucky to have been able to spend a week there for work. But do you know who is even luckier? Laura Neto. And do you know why she is luckier? Because she gets to spend the entire winter there! Laura works as a Chalet Host for the resort and was assigned to our chalet. I spent a lot of time at the chalet with the kids, which meant I was able to spend time with Laura and get to know her. When I brought up my blog and asked if she had any stories she would like to share, she agreed! By the end of the week, she was ready to tell her story. I grabbed my wine and sat on the steps eagerly awaiting a new tale. And here it is: Laura and the Collapsing Bridge.
During the summer, Laura works as a Contiki Tour Guide. She takes groups of 18 to 25 year olds on tours around Europe via coach buses. Could you imagine being responsible for a coach bus full of 18 year olds? I’ll be sending good vibes to you all summer, Laura. Last September, Laura led a group traveling from Nice to Florence. It was quite a busy route and they left that morning with four Contiki coaches full of travelers eager to visit a new city. As a coach driver in Europe, there are strict rules that only allow one to drive for certain lengths of time before taking a mandatory break. The drivers can be heavily fined if they exceed their driving time. Just keep that in mind as the story continues.
The coach bus that Laura was on was about twenty minutes from crossing the Morandi Bridge when they were stopped in extremely heavy traffic. On the other side of the bridge was their usual pizza stop, so you can imagine how disappointing it was to be stopped so close to the other side. But pizza soon became the least of their worries. It turned out that the Morandi Bridge had collapsed. This was a major bridge that was built back in 1715 and had not had any renovations or repairs made since then. There were people and cars on that bridge, as well as a town and homes below. The first Contiki coach bus made it across the bridge with two minutes to spare. It was a complete disaster.
Of course, Laura did not want to worry the tour group on her coach bus, but they slowly started learning what had happened (thanks, Google). At this time in their journey, it was late in the afternoon. The people were starving, she was silently panicking, and on top of that, the driver only had thirty minutes left until he had to legally stop for a break. Laura found a restaurant in Genoa with only one sign, “Pizza”(thanks again, Google). That would definitely be good enough for me! Laura ran inside and realized the restaurant was basically closed, but thought, “screw it”, and asked anyway. “Please, I have 37 hungry people and nowhere to go. Please, help me!” she begged the owner. The restaurant agreed and ended up giving them a deal. Pasta and a drink for only 13 euro with tip included! What a score!
Laura helped set the tables as fast as she could. She was taking orders for everyone and soon the group was finally eating and relaxing. Being the tour guide that she is, Laura was looking up fun facts about Genoa (Google, you did it again!). Did you know that pesto originated in Genoa? Which is cool because they had just eaten pesto pasta! The people in tour group were such good sports and thankfully were all really understanding of the situation. She said to the group, “I know it sucks. It’s been a long day and I know you’re tired. But we are so lucky to be alive. We could have been on that bridge.” Honestly, I don’t think I could have handled the situation even close to how well Laura did. I would have been a hot mess of stress!
Eventually, they made it to Florence. There was a nightclub right by where they were staying and the group went out and had a fantastic night. Being alive is a great reason to go out and celebrate after a stressful day! Laura said she messaged her mom at the end of the day and just remembered thinking how lucky she was to be alive. “You just never know when things are going to happen. We drive on that bridge every time we drive to Florence.” She showed us a photo of the bridge and it looked absolutely insane. There was a truck stopped right in front of the part that collapsed.
This story really put things into perspective for me that night. It’s so easy to take life for granted, and it sucks that such a scary situation is usually what snaps you out of that mindset. But it’s true; you never know what is about to happen. I hope you read this story and take a moment to remember how lucky you are to be alive.