Tuesday, November 8, 2011

October 24th

We woke up eager to start our trip to the Cinque Terre and packed for the week quickly. We heard it was going to be rainy so I made sure to pack my bright orange rain boots so I could fit in fashionably with the Italians. We already had our matching Indiana hoodies so we were already fitting in pretty well. We went to the train station to buy tickets to La Spezia before breakfast because we weren't sure of the times for the trains, but they turned out to run every hour.  After buying the tickets, we went to a little cafe across the street from the station and got pastries with coffee. I got a pastry with pineapple on top and Chris got a pear and chocolate chip pastry, we both got lattes.

After finishing, we went back to the station to board the train and it was a smooth transition. Before the train took off we were getting into our seats and a woman came to assist Chris while he was already in the process of lifting our suitcase onto the shelf. After she was finished with her "work" she held out her hand and said we needed to pay her 1 euro for doing the work. We argued with her a little bit and paid her the 10 cents that Chris had in his pocket. She complained to us in Italian and walked away. We spent the first part of the train ride reading about what Rick Steves suggested to do in each of the cities and brain storming what we were going to do on our first day there. Chris mentioned how he was excited to see the countryside throughout the train ride, and then almost immediately fell asleep… When we got to La Spezia, we bought our tickets to go to Corniglia which is the city our hotel was in. We met some Americans and chatted with them a bit while we waited for the train to arrive and I also got a Fanta which was the closest thing I could get to orange juice which I was craving. What type of McDonald's doesn't have orange juice? Seriously? And the small Fanta we got was filled with ice and cost 1,75 Euro… Really wished there was a Euro Menu there…We were a little confused about which train to get on, but the one we had the hunch was correct.  So we got to the Corniglia train station and got onto the bus that would take us up to the top of the hill which is where the city is actually located. Since we had the big suit case with us we didn't want to lug it up the 400 stairs which is the only way that we knew for sure would get us up to the city. We crammed onto the little bus with more people than should have been on there, and the driver took us up the hillside. The little stick-shift-bus-that-could somehow made it up the huge, steep hill with somehow only stalling twice. The road was unbelievably narrow and there were some parts where Chris and I made eye contact with bulging eyes as to say "Are we going to die?" Or at least that is what my eyes were saying (Chris was probably saying “This is Fantastic!” which will be explained later on).

Amazingly, we made it up the hill and into the little square of the city. The street that our hotel was in was at the corner of the square so luckily we were able to find it rather easily; we just had to follow the numbers up the side of the hill. Thankfully, unlike Florence, the numbers were all in one color and only went ascending as opposed to jumping all over the place. It was a super cute path up to hour hotel and it felt as though I was on a movie set. Everything was so beautiful and surreal. We got to the little office of our hotel, which was the keeper's house, and he came out to greet us only after sticking his head out the window to see who we were.

He came out to the little walk way and walked us back down to where the room to our hotel was. It was a little back track but it wasn't too far of a distance. He took us into our room and it was so cute with the most breathtaking views; half of our view was the ocean and the other half was of the mountains. Chris did a great job picking the hotel and the perks only went up from there. After checking the water pressure of the shower and settling in a little bit, we set off to explore the city that we would call home for the next few days. Walking around the city and going down just about every single ally way was perfect and better than what was in the Rick Steves book so we decided to make our own little adventure for a while. After exploring most of the Corniglia (it is a pretty small town), we realized we were both starving so we got some little pizzas at a little corner place that had "gato" in the name. I am pretty sure the translation was the fat cat or something like that but it was a cute little place and so we went inside. Chris got a pesto and cheese pizza slice and I got a veggie pizza slice, both were good but Chris' was better.

We started out on our journey on the road to Vernazza and it was beyond gorgeous. As most of you have already seen the pictures, I couldn't get enough of the views. These are the things that remind me of what an amazing artist God is, how truly blessed we are for him to give us such generous presents. I love it. We met a lot of interesting people on the path and it was always fun to pick out which were the Americans. Chris is a great travel buddy and I am so thankful that we went on this journey together. I think the most amazing encounter we had was with a group of French people. They were friends who had not seen each other in ten years, and half of them were traveling to city 3 and the other half were traveling to city 4. Of all places, they bumped into each other at a random point on the path. We are not sure what they did after meeting again, but I could hear them laughing for a while after we passed them. Another exciting point in our journey is when Chris decided that he wanted to pick the cactus fruit, only to later remember why Rick so strongly advised to wear gloves if you did decide to pick the cactus fruit. He was picking out the thorns for hours and I was picking them out of my hands when we returned to Florence at the end of the week.  If you have time, try to find the photo of Chris holding up the fruit with an air of triumphant accomplishment.  If only he knew at that moment what the next few hours would be like..

We made it to Vernazza through the drizzle and it was a beautiful town. We walked around and went to the ocean. We decided that we were hungry after our hike and went in search of a lunch/early dinner (linner if you will). The first restaurant we went to was closed just as we got to the door so we went to a little place that we had passed earlier on our walk. We got bruschetta with pesto and then a pizza with artichokes and tomatoes. After the bruschetta was polished off, we realized that we should take pictures of our food the rest of the trip, starting with the empty plate of bruschetta. After our delicious lunch we walked around the city a little more near the harbor and watched them bring up the boats out of the water because it was going to start raining harder. We walked into the little church that was there in town only to be told to hurry out by a local Italian woman because they were apparently about to start mass. We then hiked up to the castle that is at the top of the town's hill only to find out that we had to pay to get in. Lame. After our hike down and a little more exploring, we decided that we should move on to the next town.

So we hiked up the main road that would take us out of city four. Trip 1. Once we made it to the top of the hill where the road was we decided that we should have gotten a shot glass from the town so we went back down the main road to look for the shot glass that we had decided we liked earlier. Trip 2. Once there, we decided not to get the glass after all so we hiked back up the road. Trip 3. When we made it to the top of the hill, I realized I had to go to the bathroom and of course the bathrooms at the top of the hill were out of toilet paper so we had to go back down the hill to the restaurant for me to go pee. Trip 4. When we made it back to the top of the hill we realized we were going the wrong way the entire time and that we were supposed to be at the bottom of the city to find the trial to city five, not the top. Trip 5 down to the correct trail was thankfully our last one. We were about to go down one road and I felt as though it wasn't right so we asked a few locals which was the correct path. They said that the path was over to our right, behind a few buildings but that we would be crazy to go because even though our book said it would take 90 minutes, it would really take us 3 hrs. We thanked them and while we were walking away, we were stopped by some Americans who said we would make the trip in 90 minutes but that we would, indeed, be crazy to go at this hour because it would be pitch dark before we made it even half way to city five. As they walked away, Chris being the expert mountain man he is, turned to me and said, "so we are going, right?" After much hesitation I agreed and I could tell that even though I was nervous, this was something that he really, really wanted to do. So with the warnings ignored, we headed up the stairs and began our journey to city five.

Very shortly into the journey we ran into younger Americans who were just finishing the trail and asked how long it took them to complete. They said 90 minutes and that we should really hustle if we want to make it there before dark. We made the best use of daylight by speed walking when we could but at the beginning of the trail there were a lot of stairs which slowed us down. It had stopped raining and so by this point in time, the trail was no longer slippery which did help a little. Almost exactly midway on this trail, we met a cat which followed us for a little while, which I named Gato, and he followed us for a little while when I called his name. Once he stopped following, I knew we were going to be all alone on the rest of our journey. It got dark very quick which made the rest of the journey scary especially when it was during the parts of the trail which were particularly narrow. The stairs at the end were especially scary because they were very vertical and uneven, so it was hard to see in the dark when to step. However, after about an hour and 10 minutes, we reached city five and had a victory sit down on a bench near the water. We looked for a place to eat because we were both hungry and after asking a few different people, decided on a little restaurant that looked crowded. We ordered the Cinque Terre wine and what we thought was supposed to be a sardine appetizer but I am pretty sure was a different appetizer dish of mixed sea foods. It was very delicious and we both looked and gawked at all the seafood that other people had ordered. We decided that we would come back the next night because the food looked too good to pass up. Little did we know what awaited us the next day.

After dinner we went to the train station to see when the next train was and met a few people that were from America and they invited us to go get a drink with them. I had my first limoncello and I did NOT like it, Chris finished mine for me. When we were finished with drinks and conversation we made our way back to the train station and made it back to Corniglia with no problems. We walked up the hill to our square on the street because we were unsure of where the famous 400 steps were and figured that we would find those in the morning when we were on our way to the next cities. We made it to the hotel finally and collapsed onto the bed.

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