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|June 26-30, 2003 |
Fred takes a hike to get away
from a showerless T.J.
Im in a train station right now
the story of my life for the past two weeks.
Anyway, its 6:15 p.m. and the train I have to catch doesnt arrive until 3:41 a.m. Along with the French deciding to go on strike for the trains, the other interruption seems to be a rockslide on the tracks between northern Italy and Monaco. Therefore, the train schedules are all messed up which makes getting to Barcelona a little tricky. But I think I have it figured out.
After the marathon 36 hours of trains and layovers, I hit the ground running in Rome. Saw the Vatican and St. Peters Cathedral one day then crashed. The next day I went to the Colosseum, the Arch of Constantine, the Roman Forum, and the Palatine. Of course Michelangelos Sistine Chapel was impressive but I liked Raphaels School of Athens even more. That was a nice surprise to see it there, I hadnt realized the Vatican housed it as well.
Speaking of the Vatican and nice surprises, they dont tell you when you get your entrance ticket but, not only do you get to see all of the great artwork and such, you get free admission to the zoo! Holy cow! There were so many people it was not even funny.
St. Peters was the same way. You could pay 4 euros and take the stairs (a lot of them) or you could pay 5 and take the lift (elevator, to those of us who dont speak the Queens English. By the way, who the heck ever decided that the word queue was better than line?).
What did I do? I avoided the queue, saved a euro, and hiked my fat butt up the stairs. It was nice to get away from all the people, only to meet them on top.
The hostel in Rome was a dump but I guess you get what you pay for (Over here you dont even get all that you pay for).
Then it was off to Florence. Arrived in Florence too late to go to any museums so I had yet another Panini (toasted sandwich). A little later I started walking to the Piazzale Michelangelo. It s a plaza on top of a hill overlooking the city and theres an imitation David up there as well as artists, hippies, gelato and a restaurant. I didnt know exactly how to get there so I just started walking. I asked these two girls how to get there and through my Spanish and their broken English they pointed me in the right direction. Then they said it was really far off and that I should take a bus. I said Nah, I wanna walk.
This impressed them for some reason, I guess they figured all fat Americans would rather ride than walk, so they said they would show me. We got to the part where you start going uphill and I told them I could take it from there, but they insisted that they would show me. About halfway up they were huffing and puffing and sweating, they had both decided theyd had enough and just pointed up the hill and said it was up there. When I reached the top I got some gelato and it was awesome, probably the best Ive ever had (and Ive had quite a bit lately so Im becoming an expert).
The next day I went to the museums. Saw David and Botticellis Primavera and the Birth of Venus. It was all worth seeing. Hopped on a train to Le Cinque Terre. Before getting there though, I got restless on the train so I hopped off at some small town called Spazna. It was during siesta hours so a lot of places were closed, but I eventually found this pizza joint and I think it was the best Ive ever tasted. I kept trying piece after piece after piece (which probably explains why my pants were a little tighter the next day).
Got to Riomaggiore, the first town in Cinque Terre, and they were all full. I stayed in the nearest town to Cinque Terre and the next morning got up early enough to snag a room. That was yesterday. I did the Lovers Lane hike yesterday and liked it so much I did it again today. Its 12 kilometers of hills, vineyards, terraces, and the Mediterranean. It was awesome!
So here I am at another train station after a week or so of Italy, a lot of pizza and Panini, way too much gelato, and a few extra pounds later. I chose Cinque Terre over Venice (thanks to my cousin Ryans advice) and Im very pleased that I did. I had enough tourists and closed in spaces after Rome and Florence.
My pack is at least five pounds lighter because Brad agreed to take some of my less useful things that Id brought back to Dallas. So pretty much Im floating around now, because it was light to begin with. Granted, I have a few less changes of clothes and if I ever have to sleep outside Im in big trouble, but Im loving it right now.
Showers are still on a day-by-day basis. (Some days I take them, and some I dont). I feel sorry for whoever is sitting near me on this train though because I didnt have a place to take a shower after the four-hour hike today. Deodorant is still rarely used although in the interest of international relations and basic human courtesy I will use some tonight to make up for the lack of shower.
The change from art and culture to hiking and scenery was a nice one. Fouts and I dont have too many firm plans other than to check out southern Spain (Andalucia, where maybe Ill see a horse farm) and run with the bulls in Pamplona. The longer I travel and the more people I meet, Im convinced that more than half of the travelers in Europe at the time of San Fermines go to the festival to at least watch if not run with the bulls. Im excited. Its gonna be a blast.
Thats about all I have from this end of the world. Hope all is well with everyone in the States. Although Im having a blast and seeing lots of great things, I have to admit that seeing everyone at Ryans wedding and big servings of iced tea with free refills are definitely two things Im looking forward to.
T.J. '03 and Fred
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