Archive for March, 2011
I met a Danish guy who used to live and work in Florence many years ago. He was staying at the hostel, visiting from Denmark after a nasty divorce to meet old friends … well, the day turned out fantastically – he was well versed in all things Florentine, including the Roman ruins on the outskirts. Then he invited me to join him down at the local Irish pub … things went downhill from there, although I must admit, it was a good night overall. I haven’t been in a pub at night for a long time. The Dane had been drinking since lunchtime and became increasingly boisterous. It was hilarious to start with, but he ended up hitting the spirits … in the end it was 3am by the time we got him home and it took three people to drag him there … needless to say, I’m exhausted and delirious with fatigue from lack of sleep. So off to Pisa tomorrow before heading to Rome. Florence has been amazing. The best city so far, indeed better than Paris, in my opinion. Perhaps Paris may have been better in late Spring.
I was caught twice trying to enter the Boboli gardens by accident. That was funny. The Duomo is enormous. Reminds me of St Pauls cathedral. Bought myself a new camera – got a good deal as well, so looking forward to starting it up tomorrow morning. I’m treating it like a baby and I’m paranoid about theft, so it’s in “the vault” – glad I bought the Pacsafe bag. I’ll be posting photos taken by this new machine on the blog, of course. Trying to chill out and enjoy this place instead of rushing about. If only I could sleep better, I’d be having a ball right now. Riding around the city is the only way to go. It’s madness at times – I find myself pulling over and letting people/dogs/vespas/cars/trucks/weird looking three wheeled things past all the time. Sometimes I think I may be riding up one way streets with the looks I get … still, not dead yet and no close calls that I know of … I’m sharing a room tonight – I really don’t like hostels, but there’s little choice unless I want to spend a fortune.
At first this place was a little strange … a city built on water, but it has grown on my since. Saint Mark’s Piazza and Basilica are amazing sights. The buildings are all leaning, the floors of the churches undulate … I could go on, but I’m too tired to write any more.
Just caught the connecting train in time between the border – I forget the name of the place – and Genova – I jumped on the train as it was leaving – quite literally. Anyway, finding the hostel was the next challenge. Walking up hills for two hours is not my idea of fun when carrying two heavy backpacks. My fault for carrying so much shit around, but that doesn’t make it any easier. Finally found the place and it’s a disused primary school that’s been turned into a hostel. It’s dead – there are maybe 10 people staying here at the most. I have an 8 room dorm to myself. I guess that makes it safer. I had my first real Italian pizza today and I was suitably impressed. Wafer thin crust, the tomato sauce was delish, cheese as well. There was a little Italian girl in the restaurant who wanted to strike up a conversation with me – when I kept saying “non capisco”, she didn’t understand, kept on talking … her mum eventually intervened – it was hilarious. Crap bandwidth. No photos.
Today nearly started quite badly. I got myself organised early, so I wouldn’t miss the bus. I waited at the bus stop. What I thought was the bus I should be on drove straight past … I was fuming. I asked another bus driver after waiting ten more minutes if it was indeed the said bus driving by – apparently not. I was waiting at the wrong bus stop. There’s about ten different bus stops at the Gare Thier train station. Easy-peasy. Anyway, I managed to catch the bus in the end, which was late. The scenery on the way up made up for the bad start and the long bus ride. But just over two hours from the beach to some of the best slopes in the world is pretty good. The cost at this time of year is at least half what one would pay in Australia, exchange rate taken into account as well. The slopes were practically abandoned. And there was more snow on the mountain than I’ve seen since Japan. Whistler wasn’t this good. There’d been no fresh snowfall for five days and there were still “fresh lines” to be had – a little crusty on the surface, but once I got going, it was pretty much powder. In parts of the back country I had trouble getting up once I’d fallen – reminiscent of Niseko. And I sometimes had the entire slope to myself. People just don’t bother coming up here at the end of the season, even though there’s still 150cm of natural coverage on the peaks … insane. On the way back there was a heap of congestion on the roads. I’d hate to see what this place is like in peak season. It would be a nightmare. Anyway, my wallet is empty again and I’ve yet to enter Italy. Switching from the little French I know to speaking the non-existent Italian I know is going to be hard work.
Another train trip on the TGV – fast – I’m glad I didn’t stay in Marseilles … some of the locals were living in shanty towns on the outskirts of the city. Things must be rough there. It’s also terribly run down. Every house I saw on the way through badly needed a reno’ and some paint. But apparently that’s half the charm … travelling down to Nice the mountain ranges start appearing and the colours change too – the roof tiles are all terracotta and look much the same as what I remember of the houses in Peru. I found a bus service for a day trip out to the “Auron” ski field in the mountains, so although I swore I wouldn’t go snowboarding, the weather forecast is good, the snow cover is better than anything we usually have in Australia and it’s only going to set me back 50 euro, so why not? I’ll just have to take it easy – one cannot ride a Vespa with a broken wrist. So, some leisurely turns on/off piste. There’s very limited bandwidth here, so only a couple of photos. I am severely fatigued right now – writing this is taking some effort and my usual level of vocabulary is … not … there … off to bed at 9pm for an early start.
Far more relaxed, but my fatigue is biting me again. Nimes was a beautiful little place, even “more mediterranean” than Avignon. Arles looks more like what I expect Italy to look like, not France at all. One could be forgiven for thinking they were in Italy in Arles. The Roman ruins perked my interest in sightseeing again. 2000 year old amphitheatres and buildings. Some of them so well preserved, it’s hard to believe they’re that old. The Nimes arena looks like a smaller version of the Colosseum … well, it actually is. But it’s sick how much death and carnage happened at this place. We’re lucky to live in modern times – gladiators have been replaced with footy players – slightly more civilised.
Knowing I won’t be waiting at a train station forever made todays trip a lot more enjoyable. The services are so quick and so clean. Australian public transport is a joke by comparison. Off to Nice tomorrow to do the “Cote d’Azure” proper. I really need a massage after all this walking around and carrying backpacks. It’s supposed to be a holiday.