Bonjour my dear friends......
Well I have now made may way from the South of Italy to the South of France and have a tan to rival Paris Hilton's fake one (but mine is real and achieved through periodic application of sunscreen).
After Rome and travelling with my partners in crime, Giddo and Spitty, I needed to sit the next few plays out.....
Siena was the perfect place to do this, as there is not a great deal to do there. Siena is in the region of Tuscany and lived up to the stereotypical image of the area. It was set in a very hilly area full of vineyards (yes Darcy, wine farms) and small towns that pop up out of nowhere. As the goal of my 2 nights here was to take it easy this is exactly what I did. On the first day I walked around Siena which had some fantastic shopping and also tasted the best gelatti that I had in Italy. Day 2 comprised of a day trip to San Giginamo a smaller fortressed town about 1 hour from Siena. It had amazing views of the region and was full of local people as opposed to tourists. All in all the stay at Siena was very relaxing but providing of very few stories given the sobriety of oneself.
Florence was a whole new kettle of fish as I made new friends!!!!
When we arrived at the camping ground in Florence I realised that I had booked the wrong accommodation and as such had to deal with a surly Italian mama who didn't want a bar of giving me the Busabout discount to which I was entitled. After giving her the sob story of losing €30 to the previous accommodation I had stayed at (this is true) and by dropping a few Italian words that I knew from Malta, she gave in and gave me a room to myself plus the discount - thanks Lionel for teaching me those negotiating skills!!
After relaxing and having an afternoon beer with Shrek and Donkey (driver & guide Matt) as well as the Kiwi spitting image of Hugh Jackman, Aaron I was ready for a night of karaoke!!!!! We all headed into Florence for an orientation tour that took in the main sites and basically showed us our way around the city then onto dinner with most people from Busabout. By this stage I'd made quite a few new friends so was in my element to get back behind the microphone. Matt, the guide thought I was all talk - obviously not familiar with the "Loz I dare you to (fill in any activity that may result in me injuring or embarrassing myself) phenomena...." which led me to wanting to prove him wrong waaaaaay too early in the night. I jumped up to sing Livin' on a Prayer only to find that this karaoke guy didn't have it. Yes Al, an absolute travesty. I decided to settle for a Land Down Under duet with another girl from the bus only to put poor Tiff and Mish to shame when I forgot most of the words. I somewhat redeemed myself with Eye of the Tiger thanks to the previous few months rehearsal with The Bollocks (Josh, you would have gone down again) and expert shadow boxing training from Kate & Todd (unfortunately sans Converse sneakers).
The next day was spent with Ian Murray, old ad exec from Melbourne. We spent most of the day trying to find a wine tasting place that had been recommended to both of us but just managed to get lost. Our frustration was only heightened by the fact that summer had well and truly set in and we were in dire need of some rehydration. We gave up looking and settled on a local wine bar in the suburbs outside of Florence. It was actually a blessing in disguise to get out of the hustle and bustle and to be surrounded by locals rather than tourists. Ian is a great guy and it was a refreshing change top have a normal conversation as opposed to the somewhat teenage dialogue that Ive been experiencing of late.
Friday saw me take off by myself into Florence where I simply wandered around for hours. My eye was caught by a stall selling leather jackets and although I had no intention of purchasing one I made my way over to take a look. After chatting with the stall owner for a bit he took me back to his shop and showed me a jacket that I fell in love with. It was marked €385 which is approximately 2 weeks food and accommodation. He instantly said I could have a 50% discount but I said I needed to think about it. On my way out he asked me to join him for a coffee and I thought - "Why not, this can only assist in the process of negotiation". Half an hour later I had him down to €150. This still wasn't good enough so I said goodbye and in the meantime received very drunken phone calls from Dan and Guy, both of whom slurring told me that I absolutely should buy the jacket and I may never be in Florence to do so again. So I decided that could I get him down to €100 I'd buy it. Half an hour later the poor guy was being admonished by his boss and I was walking out of the store with a gorgeous leather jacket!!!
Cinque Terre was the next stop and I had only heard good things about it....
If you haven't heard of it, the Cinque Terre consists of 5 small villages built into the side of cliffs along the northern Italian coast. It is absolutely stunning. All of the houses are really brightly coloured and literally built on the cliff face. I spent the first day with Ian and Rose (a lady I met from the Sunshine Coast). We took a ferry from Riomaggiore (town 5) to Monterosso (town 1). After exploring for some time we returned to Manarola (town 4) and walked back to Riomaggiore. Italy were playing.... actually I can even remember who in the soccer so the atmosphere around town was fantastic. Despite planning to do the 6 hour walk town to town the next day Ian, Rose and I enjoyed quite a few drinks before dispersing and finding our own groups of locals to chat to. I had such a great time as everyone was so happy that Italy had won the game!
Despite knowing that there was a world of pain ahead of me I rose at 8.30am to meet Ian and Rose to do the Cinque Terre `walk'. I am now more acutely aware that this so called walk, is actually quite an intense hike, and unbeknowns to any of us we were about to become the 3 billy goats gruff. We smashed the first 4 towns with ease, in around 3.5 hours and henceforth were known as the A-Team. It was here, perhaps due to the sudden bout of confidence that all party members possessed, that things started to fall apart. As you may remember I had sprained my ankle in Rome so by this stage it was once again, beginning to resemble a coconut however I insisted on pressing on so I could say that I had walked all 5 towns. We checked a map and came to the conclusion that as long as we didn't take route 8 or 8b we would be at the last town in 1.5hrs. After 2.5hrs of hiking uphill and sweating like a Kraft cheese sandwich in a 6 year old's lunch box, not seeing anyone else and having swallowed around 10 bugs we came to the conclusion that we were on the wrong track. To our alarm the first sign we saw said none other than the dreaded route 8. This was 2.5hrs into the trek and we finally ran into some serious hikers who informed us that we were at least 2.5hrs from out intended destination. By this stage I was imagining myself dying. I had visions of passing out and rolling down the side of a cliff never to be seen again. So the A-Team decided to turn around and we made it back down the track in half an hour. I hope this is an indication as to how steep the hike up was. Needless to say I was no longer up to trekking the correct track to the final town so returned to bed for a much required nap.
I have so many more stories to share about the South of France where I am now that they deserve their own email....
Thank you to everyone who has been writing to me. It really helps when I have a few days alone and the homesickness kicks in. I miss you all very much and love hearing from you. So wait with baited breath for the next installation that will cover Pisa and the South of France.
All my love