Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A Day of the Elderly...and some

Ok so Nice was interesting. We arrived in the train station and were met by a lone rose growing in the middle of the platform. Then we saw one elderly lady on the ground having fallen down the stairs (she had lots of people looking after her). Again, on our way up an escalator we watched another elderly woman take a dive. Someone managed to stop the escalator and a herd of people rushed in to attend to her as well (we were on the stairs next to the escalator with heavy packs on so there was nothing we could do). Our hostel in Nice will go down as one of the not so great hostels we have stayed at. We had to find “the pink lady (another elderly woman)” in a restaurant. She led us to our room saying “wee” a lot but speaking very little English. Our room was basically a college kid’s dormitory. The Pink lady had to kick some kid out of the room (this involved lots of yelling in French…rather entertaining), apparently (we learned later from two Canadian girls who were also sharing the room) he kept trying to find empty beds at night and not pay for them. One of the guys was staying there while he studied at some local university so the whole place had random magazine photos and posters all over the wall (he said they were to make it feel more like home). Scott and I left the Canadian girls who were watching the first season of scrubs and went out to enjoy an excellent dinner and afterwards we experienced the Mediterranean Sea shore which was very rocky.
In the morning Scott and I made our way to the train station for a long day of hopping trains trying to get to Florence. We arrived at the platform about 30 minutes early. There was a train in the station, but all the doors were closed. So when there was about fifteen minutes till the train was supposed to leave I opened one of the doors, looked inside at the empty car then stepped back to reconsider getting on. I was hoping someone more confident than I would be like, “this is the right train” and would lead the rest of us followers like sheep on board. So as I stepped back to reconsider the train started to move. I know that my train (the first train scheduled to leave from that station that morning) is not supposed to leave for another 15 minutes so I make sure Scott doesn’t jump on and we stand there as this scene unfolds. As we watch, an amazingly in shape yet aged couple runs down the platform, the wife jumps in the door of the train car, then the man chasing after her makes a flying leap into the train (this involved grabbing car handrails and pulling himself on against the accelerating train). A moment later we see his head as he leans out of the doorway looking back at the small crowd of us standing on the platform. He had this big grin on his face that seemed to represent a combination of a relieved “I made it” and a happy “I feel like a kid again”. Mind you this all occurs because of and through the only open door on the train…the one I opened. I’m pretty sure that the train the couple jumped onto was a bunch of cars used by railway workers for storage because as it passed I noticed that it was filled with hard hats and yellow vests, it also had a random small engine pushing it down the track out of the way for the train that came shortly thereafter to take us to Ventimiglia. I’m pretty sure that I have just caused a chain of events that might change history forever (For example: They missed the right train which means someone who was supposed to pick them up misses some important meeting. At said meeting he or she would have stopped some corporation from making a huge error. Said error causes the corporation to lose billions, thus it has to file bankruptcy. Thiscauses thousands of people lose jobs. The now jobless employees get desperate and cause political hysteria. Hitler the 2nd rises to power on promises of prosperity for all, thus we go into WW3…and it’s all my fault).
Anyway, our train experiences in Italy suggest that Italian trains have no need to move anywhere let alone on time. We made several needless stops in the middle of the tracks with no train station next to us. One of our train rides we had to stand because the thing was very full and second class EU rail pass holders are not guaranteed seats (I think Scott is still bitter about this). The train ride kind of felt like how I imagine a train ride through India feels (crowded, don’t know the language). On the bright side it forced us to watch the country side which was very pretty, Scott also got into a conversation with an older Italian guy. It is always a pleasure to talk with people of the areas who want to talk. On a weather related note, I had to ditch my jacket as the train was stifling; shorts will be worn for the rest of the trip as it’s nice and warm in Italy. Scott and I made a slight change in plans and did Pisa that day. We nailed it and got in with the second to last group to go up the tower (we caught the view just after sunset with the red lining still in the clouds which came with a cool and gentle evening breeze…neither of which we had to pay extra for). I also bought my first pair of aviator sunglasses (something I’ve always wanted, even though they are kind of ugly) from a street vender. He approached me and I decided that the lowest price I would pay for the glasses was 10 euro…unfortunately I told him this right away (this was due to not being ready to bargain and him starting off at the stunning price of 30 euro). I then forced him to make change for a 20 as he begged me to raise my offer and I threatened to walk away…I probably enjoyed this event a little too much (no they are not polarized mom, and yes I know he probably only paid .50 cents for them). From Pisa we caught a train ride to Florence where we ran into a gaggle of New York girls who knew the street our hostel was located on (a blessing because for the first time this trip we didn’t have walking directions to our hostel). We had a private room and bathroom which is really nice after some of the hostel situations we have experienced. Still no internet, but my internet addiction cravings are waning as I’ve been deprived for so long. Side note* Internet is one thing that I think should be everywhere, If everyone has the ability to get online and learn anything they want and communicate with anyone they want to then everyone has a chance to better themselves. (Yes I know that means everyone needs access to computers ect…but it’s a thought/start).
So today we did Florence. Scott and I got up around 7:15 and Scott went out to start our laundry while I took care of our ticket reservations for tonight (I write you this section as I am on the train from Florence to Rome). We kicked things off with a typically European breakfast consisting of assorted breads and spreads and coffee. Then we got in line to see Brunelleschi’s dome. As we finally reached the entrance Scott pointed out a sign the had wife beaters and shorts with a x over them. I was wearing shorts but I had just stood in line for quite a while and was not heading back to the hostel to change, so Scott did a good job standing in front of me as we bought tickets and I made it all the way through the Dome without anyone noticing or caring enough to say anything. There are supposedly (according to Scott who had to do a research paper on the Dome) 463 stairs to the top. The top of the dome was excellent, a beautiful view of Florence, but I got a little intimidated by the height inside the Dome. Some ancient person built an overhang at the base of the Dome which is already a good ten stories high. My trust of ancient architects is probably not what it should be. After the Dome Scott and I toured a famous bridge and an outlook dedicated to Michael Angelo. We enjoyed some genuine Italian food for lunch (Lasagna for me, Pizza for Scott). Then we wandered around Florence enjoying statues and pretty views of vineyards and Italian mountains. For dinner Scott and I decided to try a pizza place that had a sign outside claiming to have the best pizza in the world. The pizza was good (stove cooked), but I think I’ve had better in Chicago. Florence was definitely an excellent stop and I would go back again in a heartbeat. With any luck I’ll find free internet in Rome so I can post this before I have to add any more to it.

Internet in Rome has been found...it's very puney but just enough to get this blog out there and update my facebook status. Update on the evening...We got off a hot stuffy train walked some sketchy streets to a huge door that had graffetti all over it. We rang, got let inside ...the huge door slammed shut behind us ominously. But so far the hostel is very pleasant there are some Americans and Canadians about and the bathrooms and beds are clean...I still can't beleive Im in Rome!

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