Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Chinque Terre

Oh my goodness it's hot!

Today was 34 degrees C, and for someone who has recently experienced minus 25 degrees C, this is ridiculous. I'm ready to expire.

Today we drove through Tuscany to Florence, Pisa and the Chinque Terre. Tuscany is an awesome place, with undulating hills and vineyards or olive plantations growing on them. Most of the hills have either little villages on them or a Tuscan Villa - or even a castle on the top.

Most of the castles are ruins but one can still appreciate the magnitude of them and the associated history.

I was surprised at the size of both Florence and Pisa, both very large cities but do not be alarmed, I have STILL not been shopping, even though I am dying to support the economy. My driver and George seem to have built in antennae that tell them to avoid cities and especially places of interest for ladies! We even passed the Gucci factory without batting an eyelid!

George has been getting us lost all day today, in fact he is so full of tripe that when he starts to talk I already have my "whatever" hand up. We took a walk into a village in the Chinque Terre, and my driver took George with us. We were looking for a hotel. We were on foot. George was directing us. He started off by saying "in 25 meters, turn right". We did. Then after walking for a few more meters he said, "perform a U-Turn when possible". He has absolutely no clue.

The Chinque Terre is a magnificent stretch of coastline consisting of five small fishing villages at the bottom of a mountain pass. Once one reaches the bottom of the pass, one can walk from village to village along a ridge on the mountain. The villages are only accessible by foot. Cars are allowed as far as the top of the mountain pass, then one has to park (and pay, mind) and then trek into the village by foot.

We went to one of the villages hoping to find accommodation, but unfortunately they were all fully booked. We eventually drove to a seaside city called "La Spenza", where we are now stationed for the night.

We have been very close to France and Monaco and somehow my driver thinks he is racing in the Formula One. The speed limit on the freeways is 130 kilometers per hour, that has gone well but on the winding roads along the mountain passes, my driver shifts his gear stick into lower gear and puts his foot flat on the accelerator. I wouldn't mind if the roads were wider and if there were no other cars around but in my drivers case, he is performing a dangerous act. My calf muscles are aching from pressing down my imaginary breaks so often.

The freeway system in Italy is fantastic. There is a major freeway that runs up the centre of Italy. This freeway is actually a toll road but is unlike any toll road I have ever been on. In Italy one enters the toll by collecting a ticket (not paint money) and if one switches freeways one still doesn't pay. One can drive to anywhere that the freeway system goes to but one only pays when one exits the freeway. Payment is therefore calculated by how far one has driven ob the freeway instead of a set fee for a section of road. I have to admit, these guys are ingenious.

We are thinking about staying at this hotel for a couple of nights so that we can fully explore this area. The hotel is fairly new, but the rooms are very small. I know one only sleeps in a hotel room, but I do like my comforts!

~ Vanessa

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