Moving to Tuscany

  • Jul. 17th, 2009 at 8:10 AM
honeyelle: (new dawn/new beginning)
4.10pm (Brisbane); 8.10am (Tuscany)

Four days is probably the longest I've been without writing up our Europe adventures. Last time I said I was going to go to the beach on Wednesday. Well, we did go to the beach, but I did no writing or reading. We met a Canadian couple, Tyler and Candice, who were on their honeymoon. (Although, why they're calling it their honeymoon, I don't know; they travel overseas once a year.) We sat under umbrellas and chatted for several hours. They gave us their email address and Dad gave them his website (which now means I have to go home and update it very quickly) with contact details and a drawing he'd done of a clock tower in one of the Cinque Terra towns.

Mum really wanted to use the paddle boats that were mention on Hotel Pasquale's website. We hired one for an hour and it had a slide on the back. I think Mum liked the paddle boats the most. Dad lost his sunnies going down the slide, too; we left part of our family at the bottom of the Cinque Terre beach.

The next day, Wednesday 15 June, was another moving day. There were no strikes and we didn't have to catch any taxis. For a moving day, that's pretty good. I don't remember much of the day – as I think I've mentioned, I fall asleep on transport, anyway.

When we arrived at the accommodation (oh, wait, we did have to catch a taxi to the place we're staying), we stepped out and were nearly knocked down. The heat was awful. The heat is like an Australian summer; that isn't a fun heat. They showed us the 'apartment' we're staying in. Well, you can read my TripAdvisor review: there's no air-con, the flies are everywhere, the food costs a fortune, there's no easy access to transport with the accommodation taking us to train stations and such.

It shocked us. It's not what we expected.

Yesterday, we got up real early, six o'clock early, to catch a bus to Florence, to then try to catch a train to Rome because I wanted to see the Colosseum. Trains work a little easier in Italy than in France, in the sense that we were able to book seats on the next train. It took an hour and a half to get to Rome, and once we got our bearings, it only took a twenty minute walk to the Colosseum.

Isn't it big? I mean, I knew it was going to be huge, but it's really, really big. We didn't go inside (it was an hour and a half line) or take a tour (it costs a fortune); but we sat a little distance away eating ice-cream just looking at it. The heat was unbelievable yesterday too. But even if it wasn't, that's how we like to look at tourist points; sitting down, out of the sun, absorbing the atmosphere, a little bit away from all the tourists. That made the whole experience of the Colosseum better; although next time I'd like a tour, but a tour when there are no tourists in the Colosseum. A private tour. Of course, I'd need to be insanely rich and not care about where I spend money.

We didn't see anything else in Rome. It was too hot to be walking anywhere. The traffic was awful; we couldn't catch a bus or a taxi to see the Vatican (the only other real point we would've looked at). In the end, we went back to the train station and changed our train time to get us back to Florence earlier.

It was still hot at our accommodation (yes, I don't know the name of it, but it's no hotel), we ate some dinner and went to sleep.

Burning Skin

  • Jul. 13th, 2009 at 9:23 AM
honeyelle: shows coloured pencils with "i live to create master pieces" (Default)
5.23am (Brisbane – Tuesday 14 July); 9.23am (Cinque Terra)

I got burnt today. I didn't mean to and to us it seemed like the sun didn't urn our skin as fast. I shouldn't have been so stupid about it. Honestly, how could I expect to not get burnt? I'm fair skinned; fair as Snow White. Unusually enough, only one side of my left arm got burnt.

This came about once we caught a train to Riog[???] to walk back through the five towns of Cinque Terra, back to our hotel in Monterosso. We started to walk. My left arm was facing out from the coast, to the sea. The first walk from R to Manalora[?] was easy, as was Manalora[?] to Cornila (save for the steps), but the next walk to Venzetta, dear lord! I think we were on the easy path. Yes, it's easy if you're a hiker and mountain climber. We got to Venzetta (four kilometres over one and a half hours), had an ice-cream and gave up. The map said that to go from Venzetta to Monterosso it would take two hours and it was only three kilometres in length. Obviously, it was going to be hard. So we gave up and caught the train back.

And that was that for the day. Tomorrow is beach day where I shall sunscreen up and do some editing or writing - hopefully.

What happened to Italy?

  • Jul. 12th, 2009 at 7:42 AM
honeyelle: shows coloured pencils with "i live to create master pieces" (Default)
3.42pm (Brisbane); 7.42am (Cinque Terra)

I had planned on writing on the train yesterday, but of course, something came up. A big something. But let me start from the beginning.

On Friday, we were still at Beaune. Dad and I visited the Hotel-Dieu Hospice, which was visiting, but I think I might have enjoyed it more if there was less construction happening. It took us about thirty minutes to go all the way through, so that was our morning taken. (I also had to return my bike, unfortunately.) As a family, we decided the Friday would be a rest day, merely because we were travelling to Monte Carlo (Monaco) on Saturday and had to prepare ourselves for that. I am not the best traveller in the world. Travelling makes me tired, even if I sleep all the way from Destination A to Destination B.

Saturday, we got to the train station on time, only to find that the train we wanted was no longer running. Beth and Mum's stomaches dropped to the centre of the Earth. They were thinking we'd just try to get trains all the way to Monaco, even though we'd miss our own booked trains and all of the other fast trains were booked out. I didn't even think of all this. I heard only a little bit of the conversation with the station attendant, as I was not next to Mum and Beth, but for some reason I immediately thought of a taxi. Obviously, Mum and Beth talked to Patrick (the taxi driver who drove us from the station to Rue Fauborg St-Martin) and found another taxi driver willing to go to Lyon's train station.

After a detour, two hours of watching the GPS and 340€ later, we arrived in Lyon, before our train made it in and got onto our booked trains.

We arrived in Monaco sometime in the afternoon.

Monaco, I thought, was similar to Las Vegas. There are casinos everywhere and it's a very glitzy place. It isn't. There are only a few casinos, all in the same spot – where the snobs drive up their cars and get stared at by the people waiting for someone famous to arrive. (I didn't see anyone famous.)

We went into one of the casinos, not to anywhere the tables were because we weren't properly attired, but we played the pokies as Beth had never gambled in her life. She won 40€ on top of the original 10€ Mum gave her. I didn't win anything, but I think it's because the machine went cold after paying out to Beth.

We went back to our itsy-bitsy hotel (where the showers were awfully small) and slept.

The next morning, after breakfast, we made our way to the train station. Next to our train it said “siprime”. Because none of my family speaks fluent French (unfortunately) and the word wasn't in our phrase book, we ignored it until 10.00am – twenty minutes before our supposed train. Usually at about the twenty minute mark, they also put up which platform the train will be arriving on. When this didn't happen at 10am, I went to ask another train attendant what's happened to our train. It turns out that the Italian trains were on strike. I was told we can take a train to Menton, a fifteen minute cab ride to Ventimigla and then try to figure out what to do from there.

We did exactly that. But in Ventimigla there are no buses to Genova directly (where we were trying to get to, to then get to La Spezia). We were told we could hope town to town to Genova. We hopped on a bus to San Remo (without a ticket because we didn't realise the bus driver sold them or that we had to get them beforehand; and we couldn't pay when we got off as their was no one at the bus depot), hopped off at the bus depot and supposedly there was a bus to Genova. We waited an hour and forty-five minutes. The bus did turn up, but wasn't letting anyone on – whether they had tickets or otherwise; the driver took on extra people in Nice and therefore the bus was full.

In the end we took a three hour, 400€ cab ride to Montorosso (Cinque Terra). Which is where I'm sitting now, looking out my window at the view.

This account, unfortunately, does not include all the people we met. In particular, one Swedish lady at the bus depot who spoke Italian and English. We seemed determined not the leave us without knowing how we were going to get to Cinque Terra. She rang her friend, who's a cab driver and got a guaranteed 400€ fare compared to what the drivers at the taxi rank where charging (500€). I feel that we could've made it through the day without her help, but would've paid much much more money doing so. We were so grateful Dad gave her one of his drawings.

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