The last of the Trip

  • Jul. 25th, 2009 at 7:14 AM
honeyelle: masquerade mask falling (unveil)
1.14pm (Brisbane); 7.14am (Dubai)

After such a big dinner on Monday night (we ate dinner, a traditional Italian dinner with Tuscan grown vegetables, with the other guests), there was no way we were doing anything on Tuesday. Another rest day.

On Wednesday, however, we got up early, caught the seven o'clock bus, which we knew ran on time, and went to Florence – or Firenze as it's called in Italy. We were going to see David. Ann, our travel agent (do not get me started), said that we'd be able to book tickets online or over the phone while in Tuscany. No, actually, it was booked out until August sometime. We took the chance, and waited in the queue.

The queue wasn't that long. We waited for about half an hour and because we were there so early, we got straight through with the first group of people.

Everything pales in comparison to David. It is unreal. It was like the Colosseum, I could sit just staring at him for hours. If I was by myself, I probably would have. I looked at other paintings and other statues, but you just come back to David.

There wasn't anything else we wanted to see in Florence, but we came across, totally by accident, a rather nice looking church. We didn't go in, the outside was impressive enough (I don't think you could go in, anyway). Those two things are what I will remember of Firenze, and I can't be happy about it.

Thursday, being the day before Moving Day, we just chilled. I went for a swim – I wish we had a pool, but more, I think, I want to just start swimming again.

Yesterday, Friday, was the beginning of Moving Day. And as per usual, Moving Day had it issues. The bus from Anselmo turned up late, took a long route and did a couple of unusual stops along the way. Our train to Milan was an hour and ten minutes late; from what we can gather, someone hopped off the train – it wasn't going from Florence to Milan straight, it had stops on either side – and was hit. Then there was traffic on the way to the airport. We were dropped off at the wrong terminal and had to catch another bus. I don't know why the fates decided to be cruel to us on Moving Days (since Santorini to Paris, our second Moving Day), but we have not been fazed at all by it – maybe that's why – and think it's just part of the adventure.

It did pay off, though. The entire five of us were upgraded to Business Class from Milan to Dubai. I don't know if I'll be able to travel anything but Business Class from now on. It's so easy, it's so comfy and it was much easier to stay awake. And awesome noise reducing headphones and useful gifts (I found a new, must improved make-up bag) and great food. I think it was easier to stay awake because I'm back on Brisbane time. I'm trying to position myself with as little jetlag as possible.

We're waiting at Dubai International Airport, until about 10am here (two and a bit hours) for the economy flight to Sydney. I like Dubai's airport, but when a noise happens (bell, siren, alarm) it's headache enducing. There's people everywhere. I like airports, but this is not my favourite. Brisbane Domestic is familiar, safe. I long to be home.

A Field of Sunflowers

  • Jul. 20th, 2009 at 5:39 PM
honeyelle: (writing in notepad)
1.39am (Brisbane – Tuesday, 21 July); 5.39pm (Tuscany)

Saturday and Sunday were rest days. We laid by the pool on Saturday, it was very warm, and covered ourselves in sunscreen. Saturday night, I started Shattered – which isn't exactly for university, but I am so happy that I've been able to write anything at all after Sam's grade.

Sunday on the other hand, it was a little cooler. Cool enough, well breezy enough, that no one really wanted to go outside. Plus James was arriving, so Beth didn't want to do anything but see him. We watched a lot of MTV. I wrote more Shattered.

Today, however, we took the chauffeur, Giovani (I think that's how you spell his name), and he took us around the Tuscan countryside showing us all the walled, medieval towns and castles and dropping us at a few to walk through. It was so nice to be driven around in a car and not getting a bus tour. It felt just like a private tour. I didn't take many pictures – and I missed the sunflower picture moment – because after a while, all the walled cities, all the landscapes look the same on film. Even in person they tend to run together.

Vineyards are one of those things that you need to see in person. Not picture can capture the beauty of a vineyard. In pictures it just looks like a sea of green. In person, you can actually see the lines, see rows and rows of grape vines. Even see the grapes. This was true for both France and Italy.

Italy, I didn't realise, doesn't just have vineyards of wine. There are olive trees and sunflowers (for sunflower oil). The sunflowers are beyond words. Fields and fields of sunflowers following the sun. If I were to come back to Italy, I would try and find accommodation looking over a sunflower field. I would love to wake up to a sea of yellow – not a yellow room, but yellow made by nature. I can only imagine what it looks like from the sky. Also, sunflowers are very defined – you know exactly how they “feel”. If they're happy and 'singing' they're yellow and looking to the sun. If they're sad and, basically, dead, they're faces are fallen, they aren't a bright yellow but a vomit green and they're looking at the ground. Out of everything today, this is probably the best moment I had; seeing the sunflower fields.

The "trip" to Pisa

  • Jul. 17th, 2009 at 11:20 AM
honeyelle: (new dawn/new beginning)
7.20pm (Brisbane); 11.20am (Tuscany)

We went to the Leaning Tower of Pisa. I forgot. Between our two trains on Wednesday, we had a bit of a break and walked to the tower. Unfortunately, it was the hottest day we've experienced on this holiday so far; and if you've been to the tower, you'll realise that there is no shade in the tower's fenced area.

As a family, the tower wasn't as cool as the buildings around it. But also, like other tourist points, it was packed. I was more than happy to look at it from the ground and not go up on top. Anyway, what if the tower decided that was the day it was going to topple over?

Right now, I'm lazing by the pool with Beth as some Dutch or German boys play in the pool. It's rather weird looking at kids of about eight years old organising a game of tag with a ball in a different language knowing that I used to do that in English.

Mum and Dad just returned from the bus stop. They've missed the bus twice today. They were early the second time, but so was the bus. Obviously it's a sign that they shouldn't be traveling by bus today. But they picked up some fruit and veg for lunch – it's just too expensive to eat here; plus we have to notify them ahead of time, which we didn't do.

This is the holiday: lazing by the pool. (Even if it's a little noisy than it was earlier this morning.)

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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