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Monday, June 20, 2011

Arrivederci Italia; Merhaba Turkey!

June 19, 2011

Today was Mom's day to be depressed. The lack of clothes is really wearing. I feel like I've spent a significant amount of time at the Internet cafe figuring out our bags. The courier service is closed today (of course) and we leave on the train to Milan at 6:55am tomorrow so we won't get them before we leave for Turkey.

We were both feeling pretty lazy have the serious hiking we did yesterday and the weather was AMAZING so we just wandered around town. We found a store on the waterfront where I found a pair of shorts, a blouse and a tank top that should hold me over for another few days. They were actually pretty cute! Maybe I should rename this blog "How to Survive Europe with a school backpack." I felt a lot better after having a third outfit so with a little more pep in my step we jumped on the train to Riomaggiore.

As an aside, I mentioned in an earlier entry about the Cinque Terra card and how you can only get up to two days. Well today was our third day and I'd realized something. When you first buy the card they tell you you MUST it is stamped at the yellow ticket machine. It stamps the date and time on the card. It is this date and time they use to determine when you first started using the card. Well Mom and I had never bothered to get ours stamped so I realized if we got it stamped today then they wouldn't be any wiser. So that's what we did right before boarding the train.

Riomaggiore turned out to be WAY cooler than I'd originally thought (you might remember the nasty beef egg thing I ordered at the restaurant there). I'd realized that on our previous visit we had completely missed the best part of the town, the Marina. I wasn't surprised to find we missed the Marina as the only access to it is a dark staircase that looks like a service entrance.

After going through the tunnel from the train station most people turn left into the light and see the upper part of town. Instead of turning left out of the tunnel look in front of you for a dark staircase. Yup, that's it. On the other side of the staircase we were greeted by a stormy, rugged coast, waves crashing against the wall of rocks that protects the town from the ocean. This area of the town feels like the last remaining stronghold of an empire. In other words - AWESOME.

I headed straight to the water's edge and turned for my mom to take my picture. Right as she aimed the lense, a giant wave took out my left side. Yes, I was soaked. And she was laughing so hard tears came to her eyes. I slicked back the left half of my hair, Two-Face style, and we contined to the other side of the Marina where I got some great shots of the town nestled in the rocks. This one is definitely climbing the ranks of favorite city.

The plan was to head to Vernazza to hike the last remaining part of the trail left, Vernazza to Corniglia, but my flipflops were making my feet bleed so we had to take a detour back to Monterosso. We were amazed by the crush of people that met us at the train station. Where did they all come from!? We were elbowed from all sides but had learned to stand our ground. I would recommend avoiding weekends if you ever come here though. So much more relaxed and empty during the week.

Back in Monterosso, we stopped at the same restaurant where we'd had dinner the night before and I purchased a speck and brie sandwich to-go that was delicious. Mom was getting more and more depressed so we decided to skip the hike and just relax at the hotel. We spent the next few hours tanning on our lovely terrace. A room with a terrace is a little extra but let me tell you it was WELL worth it. I finally feel a little bit like I'm on vacation! The warm weather definitely cheered my mom's mood (doesn't a tan always make you feel better?) so I convinced her that she had to do the hike. Afterall hiking the entire Cinque Terra is on her life bucket list. Can't stop now!

So we headed for Vernazza. The town was bathed in the soft light of the afternoon sun which transformed it into a golden city. I left mom at the base of the trail we hiked yesterday and ran up it a mile to the outlook where we'd taken photos before. I couldn't resist retaking the pictures with the town looking like this. The raging sea made it look even more romantic.

When I returned I found my mom lurking near the Blue Marlin. She is postitive that this is the same bar that she and my dad had come to when they visited the Cinque Terra almost fifteen years ago. The bartender at the time apparently looked like a carbon copy of Dad and she was determined to find him. Instead we found an old man, the owner, who continuously molested my mom until I finally said I'd take a picture of the two of them if he would let her leave. He literally grabbed at her to take the picture. EW!

After this nonsense we prepared ourselves and began the hike from Vernazza to Corniglia. Just outside of Vernazza we came across a bar on the right side of the trail that had a patio built into the side of the mountain with a gorgeous view of the Vernazza and the ocean. We were more than tempted to bail on the hike and stay to down some beers and watch the sunset.

But the bucket list drove us on. This trail was unlike the tourist-ridden trail of steep stairs from the day before. Not that there weren't a bunch of stairs...but this trail was more wooded. I felt like I had entered the forest where Sleeping Beauty is hidden. I kept waiting for singing rabbits to start seranading me from the bushes. It takes an average person about one hour to hike this trail making it shorter than Monterosso to Vernazza.

After trekking along the coast, we came around a corner (I love how they put amazing places just around a corner) and saw Corniglia set out on the mountain cliff in front of us. It looked like a storyboard castle, strong and solemn atop the bluffs, but also colorful and inviting. I swear it needs to be made into a jigsaw puzzle that shows the town, the bluffs and the angry ocean below. The water around the bluff was a poisonous green with a fiery white froth. But the mountain easily took its abuse. We passed through miles of vineyards and old rock walls into the town.

By now it was very late in the day, close to 8pm, and we had to pack and print our tickets so we headed straight to the train and got the opportunity to ride on a brand new train called Arenaway. I need to look up the company to learn more but from what I could tell its a first class train complete with tables and computer outlets. I think you can even order food. I'll have to get back to you on this.

After another visit to the Internet cafe, we showered and went to Tortuga Restaurant which is situated near the castle tower in Monterosso. It was the best food we've had yet - sea bass with pine nuts and tomatoes, green noodles with bolognese and creme brulee with a bottle of Brunello di Montalcino to wash it down.

Our table looked out over the ocean and the sound of glasses and silverware tinkling was no match to the overpowering roar of the ocean below. Such a romantic dinner with Mom! The couple sitting next to us was super friendly and from Bristol so we had a chat about the Royal Wedding and our thoughts on Kate and Camilla. Our server's name was Denny who said it had been very busy and it was his second job of the day. He took a little while to warm up but we finally got him to relax.

Feeling drunk and truly content for the first time on the trip we soaked in our last moments of the Cinque Terra as we silently returned to our hotel to pack and prepare for our long travel day tomorrow.

June 20, 2011

We woke up first thing this morning and boarded our 6:55am train for Milan. I was so tired that we almost slept through our stop. Upon arrival at the airport, we spoke to Barbara at the Lost and Found who spent a lot of time reaching the courier and getting our bags in order. Apparently they should meet us in Turkey in a few days. By the way if you ever lose your bags and need to get back into baggage claim you CAN go through the area that says NO ENTRY as long as you have the lost baggage claim form and your passport.

We went through security where the man was nice enough to let Mom keep her pesto after hearing our lost bags sob sorry. Unfortunately, to get from Milan to Istanbul for less than a couple grand we had to go through London which is only completely out of the way. However, the trip must be getting better because once we reached Heathrow airport there was a litte cafe with amazing salami and goat cheese sandwiches. Maybe I was just hungry. The guy working the counter reminded me of the soup Nazi from Seinfeld. We stood at the counter waiting to give our order when he informed us that we were standing at the pick-up counter. We moved about three feet to the left and suddenly we were in the order line. Our mistake.

Finally we boarded the plane from London to Istanbul and sat next to a Scottish man that sells airport parts to airlines. He was immensely interesting and told us that we needed to visit Syria specifically Palmera and Damascus. Palmera is where the many ancient trade routes collide and Syria also boasts the cave where Cain supposedly slain Abel. The Bible come to life - that's cool! We also met a woman getting off the plane whose carry on luggage has the coolest tag - "Pretty sure this isn't your bag." She said she bought the tag from a website called Pamela Barsky. I took a look at the site and she sells some fun travel stuff.

We landed at 11:15pm and voila our airport pick up was right there! We got to the Esans Hotel which is super cute and a little ridiculous. The wallpaper is white with a turquoise leaf-like pattern that is glittery. Yes, like they dipped the entire thing in glitter and then pasted it on the wall. My mom also felt the need to turn the air conditioner down to subzero so my toes are freezing as I write this. It is 1:10am so I am going to head to bed but look forward to my new entries in a new place - Turkey!

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