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91-year-old who called his motel the 'Waldorf Astoria' got invited to Rome venue

SARAH MCCAMMON, HOST:

This next story is a good example of why it can pay to stay positive even during the most challenging times. After the power grid in Texas froze and disrupted service earlier this year, 91-year-old Ezell Holly was forced to check into a budget motel in order to stay warm.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

EZELL HOLLEY: I'm in the Waldorf Astoria.

ALEX HOLLEY: (Laughter) The Waldorf Astoria - well, Grandpa, if you close your eyes really tight, maybe it'll seem like the Waldorf 'cause at least you have heat.

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Holley's granddaughter, Alex Holley, a newscaster in Philadelphia, posted her grandpa's good-natured jokes on social media.

A HOLLEY: Knowing that my grandfather has never, ever stayed at a Waldorf before - he just knew that that was the standard, and that was, you know, the classiest, fanciest, nicest place that we could think of.

MCCAMMON: Little did they know that the real Waldorf Astoria in Rome, Italy, took notice and offered to pay for Mr. Holley and a guest to fly to Rome and stay in the hotel. After finally being given the clearance to travel abroad, he and his granddaughter Alex, plus her parents, flew to Rome late last month.

A HOLLEY: At 91, we cherish every day we have with him. And then when we went, they lined up the hotel staff, and everybody knew him by name. And they were so genuinely happy to see him. It warmed your heart. It was really beautiful to see - and just to see the excitement on his face.

CHANG: It may have been Ezell Holley's first stay at the Waldorf Astoria, but it wasn't Ezell Holley's first time in the Italian capital.

A HOLLEY: My grandfather was a veteran. And when he served in the military, he was stationed in Europe and used to talk about how he traveled when he was younger while he was stationed and saw different places. But he loved talking about going to Rome and throwing a coin in the Trevi Fountain. He's like, you know, like, they say three coins in the fountain, and it means you'll return. And he's always loved to joke, you know, I guess it's not true because I haven't returned and I'm 91. So it was always a thing like, all right, well, we got to make sure he gets back there since he keeps mentioning it.

MCCAMMON: And get back there he did. Alex Holley says her grandpa wants a photo album of their trip for Christmas and is still on cloud nine after coming back from Italy.

A HOLLEY: When you bring up Rome or you bring up the Waldorf, he just gets this big smile on his face. And he still has the robe from the Waldorf, so he gets to lounge in that (laughter). And he bought a hat in Rome that he wears every day now that he loves, so I think it's safe to say he had a really good time.

CHANG: The pair is now looking forward to planning another trip. Alex Holley says her Grandpa Ezell is eagerly waiting the next adventure.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE DINING ROOMS' "YOU") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.