Monthly Archives: May 2011

Cinque Terre

The Cinque Terre trail in Italy was one of the first things that my friend Max recommended when I first booked my ticket to Europe, since it was one of the hightlights of his Eurotour a couple years back. It’s a trail along the coast that links 5 beautiful towns together. At the time I wasn’t sure how much time I would be spending in Italy, but I had it down on my list of MUST DO’s. I am so glad I did, even if my day did end up much differently and more difficult than I had thought.

I like to compare how the day went to The Game of LIFE, one of my favorite boardgames growing up, where you make choices that either move you ahead, or set you behind, but the goal is to get into the “richhouse” at the end, or in my case: in Rome with a glass of wine at 10pm with my mom.

So the day went something like this:

9:00 am: Train from Pisa to La Sprezia, change trains there and arrive in Riomaggiore at 10:10am.  I was supposed to be able to leave my large backpack there according the advice from the hostel who looked it up for me. WRONG! The nearest place to leave luggage was La Sprezia (where I had already been!), so I would have to take the train back there. But the next train was not for a half hour.

11:00 am – Arrive in La Sprezia.  Check my luggage in the luggage room.  Purchase my ticket up to Monterosso (where I will now start the trail), AND my ticket on the 6:00pm train to Rome.  Buy a sandwhich and a large water for the hike.

12:30 pm: Arrive in Monterosso. (This is 2 hours later than I was supposed to be there.  I am now way behind on my time for the full hike, which is supposed to be 5 hours but I think I can still do it.)

12:45 pm: Make it to the trailhead.  The map I have says it takes 2 hours to get to the next town Vernazza, but I hear other people say it takes a little less.  I am determined to do it in less, and without rushing too much.  I mean, I grew up with my dad who made everything into a competition and I could hear his voice in my head telling me I could do it in at least an hour, forty-five.

About 20 minutes into the strenuous hike, I open my water and find that I bought sparkeling water instead of still! Really!?  So lame.  But it still quenched my thirst, so I just kept going.

2:15 pm: Arrive in Vernazza. 90 mins!

I stopped to buy a gelato and replaced my bottle of water with actual still water this time.

2:40 pm: Back on the trail to the next town Corniglia which is supposed to take 90 mins!  As I start, I hear that the route is closed from Corniglia to the next town Manarola, so I will have to get a train in between and then do the last bit of the hike from Manarola to Riomaggiore on foot, where I will then catch the train to La Sprezia, get my luggage and get the 6pm train to Rome.  I am skeptical that I have time for all this now, but not worried about it.

3:45 pm: Arrive in Corniglia. I now feel like I have a little bit of time to check out the town and leisurely make my way down to the train station.  I have at this point decided that I should just go all the way to La Sprezia because I don’t want to be rushed. And I don’t see the point of getting off the train for what is supposd to be a 20 minute hike from Manarola to Riomaggiore, only to have to wait for the train again. I decide that I will just have to come back again at some point and complete the hike.  After all, it’s not my fault the route is closed.

4:10 pm: Get to the top of the stairs leading down to the train station. I see a train there, take a picture, pet a kitty on the way down, which was very sweet and who tried to climb onto my backpack and then followed me down the steps a ways.

4:30 pm: Arrive at the train station with plenty of time. WRONG!  The next train to La Sprezia is at 5:41pm.  It’s a 20 minute ride.  BUT, I find out my train is at 6:06pm so I could POSSIBLY make it. So I sit around and wait.

5:42 pm: Board the train.

5:58pm: Arrive in La Sprezia. RUN for the baggage compartment while glancing at the boards to see what platform my train should be on.  Platform 3!  Ok, it’s not there yet.  Buzz the buzzer for the luggage room so many times the guy is a little annoyed, but I don’t care.  Right as he opens it up for me, my train is pulling in. But I still have to go downstairs and to the right platform with all my heavy luggage.  So I run again.  I HAD to have looked completely insane.  Dirty, from the trail all day, sweaty and redfaced, from the heat.  BUT…

6:05pm: I board the train.  And I arrived safely in Rome at 10pm, if not a little tired and dirty from my long day hiking and the stress of catching that damn train!  🙂

But look how beautiful it was!

Waiting for the train back to La Sprezia at the Riomaggiore station in the morning.

imageThe view that made me decide just not to leave for Rome right then and there…it was a lot better in person.
imageArriving in Monterosso. Again, I had to urge myself to continue and not just go lay on the beach for a day.
imageOn the trail and looking back at Monterosso
imageMy view of what lies ahead…complete with statue guy in the corner.
imageMonterosso
imageMore Monterosso
imageThe trail
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imageFirst view of Vernazza
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imageWho cares if you can’t see me!  Look at that view!
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imageVernazza
imageBack on the trail to Corniglia
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imageKitty resting on the trail (for you Shannon)
imageLooking back up at Vernazza where I just came from
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imageCorniglia
imageOverlooking the train station where I should have been right then to catch the earlier train!
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P.S.  These photos are all taken on my phone and I have much more and better ones that I will post when I can upload all my photos from my other camera!

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Elisa Pisa

When I was in grade school kids would try to rhyme my name with something to be sort of mean. The best they could come up with was Elisa Pizza and Elisa Pisa. Obviously I was never really offended since those are pretty lame insults. But these days it kind of suits me being in Italy. I eat a lot of pizza and my first stop after Barcelona was Pisa. It was a quick stop as I was there for less than 24 hours, just on my way up to the Cinque Terre trail, so I just walked into town to look at the tower, took a nap on the grass around it, and then had an delicious pasta dish for dinner. Early the next morning I was off to the Cinque Terre…stay tuned.

Pics:
1. The Tower of Pisa
2. Getting ready for nap
3. Clam and black penne pasta with asparagus…I think the best clams I have ever had.

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Lisboa, Portugal

Around two years ago, I was waiting in the Heathrow airport heading back to San Francisco and bought the book, Night Train to Lisbon, by Pascal Mercier on a whim. I hadn’t heard of it, didn’t know the author, I just thought the title was romantic and it ended up being one of my favorite reads that year. And, of course, ever since wanted to take the night train to Lisbon. So I did. It was a 13 hour journey from San Sebastian, a horrible nights sleep in a chair that wouldn’t recline, and there was a screaming child on and off throughout the night. Nonetheless, I am so happy I did it just for the sake of it, and Lisbon turned out to be so worth it.

I had someone tell me before I left on my trip that Lisbon would remind me a lot of San Francisco. The biggest reason for that being that there is the twin sister of the Golden Gate bridge in Lisbon, called the Ponte 25 de Abril.  It was actually a little creepy to walk out to the water and have this bridge come into view, because it was so familar, but so far away from home.

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imageAnother similarity: Hills and street cars
imageI stayed on the street behind this plaza.  Awesome location, awesome hostel, funny name.  Yes! Lisbon. If you go here, stay there.
imageView of Lisbon from the water.  I got tired of walking so took a boat back to where I was staying.
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imageI can’t for the life of me remember the name of this monument.  Lame, sorry.
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imageThe streets of Alfama, the oldest neighborhood of Lisbon.
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imageMural in the Alfama area.
imageView from atop Castelo S. Jorge
imageMore of Castelo S. Jorge which dates back to the 11 century.
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imageI wish the water had been running on this fountain.imageThe Tower of Belem, built in 1515 as a fortress to guard the entrance to Lisbon’s harbor.  I was really taken with this little place.
imageCool gargoyle.
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The token Elisa pic.  Still sunburnt and still can’t see anything without my sunglasses. At the Tower of Belem.imageThis picture does not do it justice but many buildings are so beautifully tiled in Lisbon. 
imageA cute little spot I stumbled across when I was leaving Castelo De S. Jorge. I was so hot and hungry and then I saw the sign for melon with Portugese ham.  Sold.
imageOh, and a delicious glass of Sangria too.
imageLisbon at dusk. So amazing.
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imageI met two awesome ladies at my hostel who I hung out a couple nights.  Here I am with Gaz (her name is Gazily, but not sure if I am spelling that right).
imageAll three of us, sitting down to enjoy some Fado (Portugese soul music). Amy, me and Gaz.
imageFado
imageAfter Fado we went to a little place, Bela, in the Alfama area for tapas. It was really authentic and really good. 
imageThis was seriously our waiter, which we assumed was the owner….?
imageAh, Lisbon.
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The Silly Tourist

I HAVE tried to not be TOO much of a tourist (silly or otherwise), although I do take pictures of everything (like 3-legged men painted on asphalt), and many times visit touristy spots, but, I mean, I try to make smart decisions and avoid tourist traps. But one day in Barcelona I seemed to just give in. I took a walking tour for almost three hours with a guide…I have not done anything guided yet…not really truly guided…but then the worst is that I sat at an expensive sidewalk cafe on La Rambla, with a huge 12 euro glass of Sangria (do you know how much that is in American dollars) and a stupidly expensive margarita pizza. The place was so over-priced, and many smarter people got up and walked away when they saw the prices. I don’t know why I stayed exactly, because I thought of leaving before I ordered. To make matters worse, there was this creepy yellow statue who seemed to be staring at me the whole time (of course he wasn’t though). I have just been adverse to human street statues since I was young. So as I sat there and wondered why I wasn’t at the beach as I had planned (I already had my swimsuit on), with some food from the local market that was close by, I just had to get over it. I laughed at the funny guy behind me that couldn’t stop talking about himself to his other three friends and who used phrases like, “I’m a comin”, and watched the people on the sidewalk laugh heartily at the yellow statue man, he WAS a funny little man, and drank my damn 12 euro glass of Sangria while thinking about how very soon while I would go back to my slightly dingey hostel and cheap travel stilo. It, of course, could be a lot worse.

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My Hostel is Hostile

I no longer have a name.  I’m just 312A.

Good morning, I’d like a muffin please.  And maybe a bowl of cereal,too.  What? My room number?…312A.

Hi, I’d like a glass of wine.  Wait, no wine, just beer. Oh, I have to buy a ticket for that…over there…at the machine? Ok, here’s my ticket. Yea, my room number is 312A.

Sure, I’ll go out for some Paella, my name is…oh, nevermind, my room number is 312A.

There are no electrical sockets in the rooms you have to give your electronic devices to the reception to charge for you…remember I’m 312A…put a sticker on it.

I Heart Donostia – San Sebastian

It was fairly depressing (as it is not possible to get too depressed when visiting so many fantastic places) to me to have to leave such a beautiful, and relaxing place as San Sebastian. Sometimes a place just feels like home, and that is how I felt about it. There was a baby bawling its little eyes out when I got on the train to leave, and I could sympathize…ok, not really…just being dramatic. I really couldn’t wait for it to stop its wailing (I’m really in for it when I’m a parent with all my dissing on crying babies on this trip) but you get my drift.

In the four days and three nights I was in San Sebastian I met some awesome people, ate some delicious pinxtos (the basque word for tapas, don’t call them tapas if you come here) – even tried some kangaroo, so effin’ good!, got shitfaced (excuse my french) drunk one night with fellow travelers from my hostel and went out dancing (thanks goes to our host Gordon for showing us some cool local spots), oh and I laid on the beach…a lot. I highly recommend you visit here!

Now for the pics…most of which are beach shots since that’s where I spent the majority of my time…
1 thru 4 are from the first morning when I arrived in San Sebastian on the night train from Paris. I thought I could check-in to my hostel at 10am, but turned out that I had to come back at noon. It was a moody weather day, and looked like rain but that didn’t stop me from walking around and chilling out on the beach…until it got too rainy…
5. Me on my walk to the top of the hill to visit Jesus – I seriously cannot see without my sunglasses.
6. A peek through the trees of Playa de la Concha.
7. View of the city
8. View of the surf beach, Playa de Gros.
9. Another city shot.
10. As close as I got to Jesus.
11. Street view.
12 – 14. Playa de la Concha
15. The man watching over the city from atop the hill.
16. My view from the beach (you might have already seen it on Facebook) from Playa de Ondarreta.
17 & 18. Pics from my night walk along the Rio Itunes to the train station to catch the night train to Lisbon.

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UPDATE: Brian wants to go now too, so going back in June when he gets here!!

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More Paris

I loved Paris and I did do more there than just see the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame (previous posts). In fact, I was so constantly on-the-go that I ended up having to go to San Sebastian afterwards for some downtime on the beach – more on that later….
Pics below:
1,2 &3. Walking along the river Seine.
4. The Louvre. I have to admit something that I am a little sorry about… I did not enjoy the Louvre very much because of the hysterical people trying to get pictures of everything inside. They totally ruined my experience. I tried to overlook it but its not even like they were just taking pictures…they were completely oblivious to anything else around them, talking really loudly, and making ridiculous poses in front of the Mona Lisa that drove me crazy. They were, in a word, rude. HOWEVER, if I COULD overlook it, this place is amazing. I’ll try going back one day, but I got some good advice from a couple people who are from Paris about other museums to check out that they prefer more…to be fair they warned me about the Louvre before I went. Anyway, enough about that!
5. I forget the name of this garden but its right outside the Louvre.
6. Me relaxing by a big fountain after my Louvre ordeal.
7. Arch de Triumph: with only one car in the picture…don’t know how I managed that since it was really busy in the roundabout that goes around it.
8. The metro sign…another notable thing I was excited to see from back when I was really into art nouveau in design school.
9. Sacre Coure, a beautiful church in the Montmarte neighborhood.
10. Me posing on the carousel by Sacre Coure which was featured in the movie Amelie…or so my new friend Marion told me who was in Paris taking her cinema exams. Plus, I’m a dork and really like carousels.
11 & 12. The Moulin Rouge.
13. Me and Marion
14 & 15. Pics from the market close to my hostel.
16. Pere Lachaise cemetery where many celebrities are buried.
17. Jim Morrison’s grave.
18. Pic of the grave right next to Jim Morrison’s that had my name on it. I don’t really see my name that much and it kind of creepers me out. 🙂
19 & 20. Chopin’s grave
21. La Fontaine’s grave
22. Oscar Wilde’s grave which was by far the coolest looking one.
23. The backside of Oscar Wilde’s grave.
24. A piece of candy someone had stuck in the door of his gravestone. Don’t ask me why I find these things funny and want to take pictures of them, I just do.
25. Last but not least, the inside of one of the metro stops that was completely covered in copper. Really beautiful.

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