Day 9: September 27th
From Paris to Pisa
Seattle got nothing….sleepless in Paris is where it’s at!! I am up before the first glint of sun and scouting around trying to find what might be a good view point for sunrise. I whisper a quick Bonjour to the Eiffel Tower as she continues to light up this magical city.
I spotted a guy across the river with the whole set-up….tripod, zoom lens and a confidence that said he knew what he was doing.
Bingo! Turns out Grant is an Aussie who now lives in the US and was super helpful. We both ended up heading toward the next bridge as the horizon glowed a soft pink, snapping as we walked.
Clouds dotted the sky and as we set ourselves up, I was hopeful that Mother Nature would turn it on for us. I moved further along the bridge from Grant and unfortunately didn’t get the opportunity after to thank him for his help and see how his shots turned out. I was happy with the ones my iPhone produced so I’m sure Grant got some great photos. As the sky changed colour, each moment presented another wow factor.
The quaint little clouds that added character to the scene earlier, now thickened and threatened to swallow up the Eiffel Tower. I took the time to take photos for couples and families who were trying to obtain selfies that captured them and the magnificent backdrop. All very grateful.
Very conscious of my memory capacity on my phone, I trek up to the Arc De Triomphe. The Eiffel Tower is now engulfed in cloud cover and only her sexy legs poke out at the bottom. I figure my climb will have to wait for another visit ……it’s a long way to climb to get the same view I will get later from the plane….the topside of those white fluffy clouds. I am a little disappointed but don’t have time to dwell on it…..Que sera sera.
The Arc De Triomphe was worth the walk. More photos ….for both myself and for others. I then imagine I am a little richer and a hell of a lot classier than I am, and stroll along Avenue des Champs-Élysées…..window shopping I tell myself. I know full well I probably couldn’t even afford to lick these windows, never mind buy any contents from within. The streets absolutely ooze wealth and flamboyance!
I’m hungry and decide I probably won’t like the size of any food bills in this area so set my sights on St Germain. Second time lucky hopefully! I check Google maps and, well aware time was fast becoming my enemy, I rent a push bike. Definitely wishing I’d done this earlier! I am getting a little taste of the beauty that is Paris!
As I manoeuvre my way across Paris I am simultaneously beaming with pride, at how well I have blended in to the fast flow of traffic, and shitting myself as I encounter one close call after another! Every now and then I walk, with my bike, alongside pedestrians ……just to keep it real (and slow my heart rate). If you like an adrenaline rush, and you’ve never travelled much, are not used to busy cities, don’t normally ride amongst traffic, have only ever known traffic to flow on the opposite side of the road…… grab a pushie and go for a bit of a spin through Paris!!!! Holy shit!!! Just when you think you’ve nailed it and you’re high-fiving yourself in your head, some dipstick parked up, decides to open their door!!! You’re cruising with the traffic, bus right beside you and knob head here flings their door open in front of you!!!! Geezus!!!!! Between navigating my way around obstacles such as this and roadworks detouring traffic, I periodically check Google maps….yep, you got it-LOST!!! I still haven’t eaten and, although I have now seen St Germain, I have ridden well past my hotel.
It seemed maps on my phone spent more time rerouting than it did doing its job!! Much prefer good old fashion paper street map! I am running out of time and I still have to find a depot to return my bike.
I order a taxi once I am at the hotel and I literally through all of my things into my backpack and I’m good to go.
Out of breath and sweating, hungry, tired and thirsty I flop my passport onto the check-in desk.
“Bonjour Madame….your flight has been delayed by an hour.”
WTF!!!!!??????????? This is my dream-ain’t nobody got time for this! I have adventures waiting!!!
Deep breaths…..you got this. I smile, “No problem. Merci.”
Where’s the bar?????
I order a drink and get my diary out. May as well waste some ink as well as some time. So, I wait……I write….. I people watch. I ponder the idea of videoing some people…..make a bit of a video that reflects the excitement of escaping, the thrill of setting off on a vacation. I look around……yeah, na. Very sullen looking crowd, maybe they’re all flying somewhere for work. Not a lot of movement or expressions worth capturing so I can that idea.
Finally I am seated on the plane and as we begin takeoff I look excitedly out the window, like a little kid, hoping to see her one last time.
Clouds, which normally make me feel serene, now cover the skies and fill me with a slight sense of annoyance, well momentarily anyway. Their fluffy white perfection really is beautiful but they promise no chance of seeing anything.
I close my blind to allow my neighbour to sleep and I order another drink.
Seems like I have only just drained my glass when the message announces we are preparing to land. I open my blind to scan Pisa for any structure that looks like it might topple…… nothing.
Getting through the airport in Pisa and finding the train station proved a little testing. With the help of an elderly man with limited English and a young man who spent time living in Australia, who was very fluent, I managed to get the right train. Finding a connecting train at the Centrale Station, however, was a disaster. My backpack now felt like it weighed 2 tonne. I was sweating and aching all over. There were no staff visible to help and all instructions were written in Italian (feasible since we were in Italy-I know). Each person gave me a different set of instructions and I frantically ran down stairs, through tunnels and up a different set of stairs, over and over again. I tried googling. I tried maps. I wanted to cry……..crying at this stage though, I figured, wouldn’t help. I was exhausted, hot and sore. After close to an hour of chasing my tail, I was on the correct train. The maps on my phone showed me the walk to my hotel wasn’t far….thank God. What it didn’t show me, is that some smartarse decided the perfect place for a fence would be between me and my hotel!!!! No problem, I got this! I walk, and walk, and walk. The sun is now beating down on me, my mouth feels like sandpaper and my arms are numb-pretty sure there is no blood circulating to them. I have to make my way through crowded markets, which I would normally thrive on. I am getting knocked from both sides. Vendors, unaware of my state of mind, are thrusting souvenirs in my face hoping for a sale. I manage a semi-smile and shake my head, in turn, to each of them and I continue to plant one foot in front of the other. As I round the corner I get my first look at the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Now, it is phenomenal, it should be breathtaking-but I am already out of breath…. it is everything you imagine it would be……but I look at it and just think, “that’s nice, where’s my hotel?”
I did get to appreciate the magnificence of it later….. but first impressions have a way of sticking.
The Tower is awesome…..my perception of it, was not. Seeing my hotel for the first time though? Priceless!!!
I shrugged out of my backback and fell onto the bed. I lay for a while before getting up to try to work the air con. Walked downstairs to ask for instructions, walked back up, fiddled with the aircon again until it whirred into action, had a cold shower and did the flop again. For the first time I was questioning my decision to travel alone……surely with someone by your side you could see the funny side of all of this? I wasn’t laughing. There were so many other little ‘hiccups’ that factored into how I was feeling, but way too many to list. Suffice it to say today had been my greatest test thus far on my journey. It scared me to think I had bigger challenges ahead!
Breath caught and freshened up, I headed back downstairs. Too tired to argue with a peddler at the front of the hotel, I accepted his good luck gifts, allowed myself to get ripped off for a necklace I didn’t need (but had someone in mind when I saw it) and I wound my way back through the crowd to take a look at the Tower with a fresh perspective.
I felt guilty for not initially giving this historical structure the reaction it deserved. It really is magnificent. I walked around the grounds photographing it from every angle. The colours and light surrounding it changing as the sun began to set.
There were people everywhere enthralled by his rigid beauty……yep, this guy gets to be a him because……. well, you know……just because. Let’s leave it at that. Amongst the crowd there was a lady screaming out about religion and an elderly Italian man shouting back at her. I could hear them way before I saw them, but paid little attention to what they were saying until I got close. Not the theatrical performance I originally thought it was, this lady from the US was slandering the Catholic religion! Declaring Catholic people to be the spawn of the devil! She then went on to criticise every other religion I can think of! The Italian gentleman was telling her, and rightly so, “If you don’t like it-LEAVE!” I found her colourful performance, which lasted maybe an hour, extremely disrespectful.
I continued my tourist trail (yes! Including all the cliche poses!), until the hunger screams from my stomach could no longer be ignored.
I wandered through an alley that sported many restaurants. I settled for one that had a nice, welcoming feel about it…..I think the red and white checked tablecloths may have also made it feel more Italian. Pizzeria Trattoria, “La Buca”, doesn’t get more Italian than that.
The atmosphere, staff, wine and food were wonderful and my spirits lifted a little.
I wandered around the Tower once more before heading to my hotel, but noticed a man had been following me since I left the restaurant. I deviated from my intended route a couple of times but he kept following. I ducked into a souvenir stall, bought a couple of magnets, then snuck through the merchandise out the back and walked in the shadows looking to make sure he was still waiting by the stall.
Glad to be safely in the hotel, I hurried up to my room and collapsed into bed. This day felt like it had lasted a week!! Hard to believe that morning I was merrily chatting to a fellow Aussie while we waited for the sun to rise! Big day!
I am looking forward to sleep!!
Love you 40-leven