28/9: Day 10
Pisa to Bastia
The toll of a bell wakes me and the sun’s morning rays peak through the slats of the blinds. Yesterday’s hard slog is telling its story now; I am aching all over. I consider finding a masseuse but am keen to get down to Livorno. I figure if I get down there early enough, some sun and swimming on the beaches of a sleepy seaside village might be exactly what I need! I take time to enjoy breakfast in the quaint hotel restaurant that looks out to the Leaning Tower.
Not a bad start to the day I reckon! The strong coffee was a great kick start to my day and I take a final couple of photos for tourists on my way to where I have been directed to the LAM bus stop.
Thanks to some locals and a couple of tourists this part turns out to be quite easy. I return to the rabbit warren that is Pisa Centrale and start to feel a little panic set in. Here goes! I manage to seat myself in, what I hope is, the correct train after only being redirected twice! Things are looking up, although my aching muscles are already starting to groan.
At the Livorno Centrale station I head West on the platform towards what appears to be the entrance. I find a shop (newsagent) and make my way inside. The helpful lady behind the counter sells me a bus ticket and directs me outside emphasising, “Catch the LAM BLU bus. I don’t know where you need to go exactly, but this will get you into the city so you can ask.” Good start I reckon!! I head out and find the BLU bus quite easily. There is a couple standing beside me who have travelled on the same train from Pisa and I overhear them speaking English. I introduce myself as a Nomadic Aussie and explain where I need to go. They are heading to the Port as well, but to a different section. I find relief in knowing I am at least heading toward the ocean. The bus ride reveals, however, this is no sleepy seaside village. Could have sworn I researched it a little in Hedland before leaving……clearly not!!! This city represents yet another example of preserved architecture and a culture proudly celebrated. It is massive, and again, a destination that is worthy of more time than I have, to explore. I feel rather than ticking items from my bucket list, I am steadily adding to the list daily. While I know my new friends are not heading in the same direction exactly, I disembark when they do as the route map shows the bus will veer in another direction shortly. We get off at Via Grande 3…..it turns out to be a pretty good call. I ask around straight away but have no luck finding someone who speaks English. Just past a Macca’s, I see an information sign and make a beeline for it. Already, in my travels, I have encountered the need to be more assertive, but never as poignantly, as at this very point in time. Standing in, what appeared to be, a queue, I afforded the people in front of me some privacy…..as one would in Australia. I stayed back about a metre and, with my backpack weighing down on my already sore shoulders, I waited. The customer in front of me had no longer finished speaking and a group of ladies jumped out of thin air it would seem, to lean on the counter in front of me. Manners have no place in Europe!!! The man behind the counter, aware (I believe) of my surprise, serves the horde anyway.
A man beside me asks, “Are you waiting?”
“Yes,” I inform him, “I am worried I may miss my ferry, and I have no idea how to get there.”
“Oh,” he says, and jumps in ahead of me as the next counter opens!!! What the…!!!!!!!????? He looked over his shoulder at me and offers a pathetic little smile that vaguely represented some form of an apology! My eyebrows, I’m sure, are still up near my hairline and me head continues to shake of it’s own accord. “Fuck me!!!” is all I can get out…..I think that phrase may be international; seems everybody in there understood my English now! When he had finished he pointed to me and told the man, “This lady needs help!”
“Damn straight I do Buddy!!!!!!”
I drag my increasing weight to the counter and explain where I need to be and when. I ask what bus I need to get or should I get a taxi? He informs me, really happy with himself, “It’s so close, you can walk!”
I can feel another “Fuck me” brewing so I take a deep breath, shift the weight of my backpack slightly and ask…..”how far exactly?” Surely he can see the tears pricking my eyes and the sweat running from my brow? If not, I would have thought the desperation in my voice would give some indication to my mindset. He takes out a map and, to his credit, proceeds to give me the most explicit and precise directions I would get for this entire adventure!
It may have been only a little way ordinarily, but to me it seemed like an epic expedition! I found comfort in his directions, though, and set off, map in hand, on the route he had so thoroughly described. These directions never let me down….they were PERFECT!! It was a little trek still, but knowing I was not going to get lost was enough to keep me forging ahead.
When I finally reached the Cruise Terminal, there was nothing to indicate I was in the right place so I approached the Cruise Terminal Bar. Reluctant to shrug my load off just yet, I approached the ladies behind the counter.
“Parlez-Vous Anglais?” I asked before remembering I was still in bloody Italy! Shit! I hadn’t even thought to learn a couple of useful Italian phrases.
To my relief, the lady behind the counter smiled,”Oui. Yes.” I didn’t know if I wanted to kiss her or cry.
I showed her my boarding pass and asked if I was in the right place and did she know what I needed to do. Still smiling this memorable radiant smile, she said, “You are exactly where you need to be and you need to do nothing! Sit and wait. Your ferry will dock at that Port, when it comes in” indicating to the wharf outside, “and you can make your way over there then. For now, just relax.”
Okay, so now I am fighting back tears of relief, shrugging myself out of my backpack, wanting to kiss this lady, wanting to talk her ear off because she understands me……I want to do so many things all at one time, yet, in true Aussie style, the only thing that escapes my dry mouth is, “Can I please have a beer?”
Backpack off, tears dammed, breath taken, beer in hand, I begin to talk to this lovely lady. She recognises my accent and tells me of her love for Australia. She has spent some time over here….not in Port Hedland exactly, but Australia nonetheless. She gets the attention of her friend and tells her of my solo adventure and together the three of us chat easily. Eleonora shows me her Southern Cross tattoo and Diletta speaks fondly of how she used to tell her son she loves him to Big Ben and back after I tell them of our ‘Love you 40-leven’ tradition. The idea of loving someone to Big Ben and back represents a timelessness and resonates with me….I like it. These ladies, as friendly as they are, have NO IDEA, how much of a breath of fresh air they are to me!!! They have singlehandedly put the zest back into my step and given me a renewed sense of adventure! Their hospitality….together with the beer and the pastry they gave me free of charge, has lifted my spirits tenfold!! If you ever come across this blog ladies….please know how eternally grateful I was for your help that day….your seemingly small gestures meant the world to me!! THANK YOU!!!! For anybody who stops into the Cruise Terminal….call in to the bar and wish these girls a beautiful day!!! They deserve it!
As Eleonora is finishing her shift, she takes the time to bid me farewell and advise me The Mega Smeralda is about to dock. I thank her again. I collect my things, lug the backpack into position and thank Diletta as well, before making my way to check-in at the marquee not far from where the terminal is. To say I am gobsmacked when I see the ‘ferry’, is an understatement. Admittedly I haven’t traveled much, but this is beyond my wildest dreams. I feel I can tick ‘Been on a Cruise’ off my list today as well!! I am aware I am walking with my mouth wide open and know how I must look….I simply don’t care-I am in my element!!!! Definitely not what I had in mind when I booked my ferry!
Boarding pass checked, baggage stowed, I make my way to the top deck. The sun lounges are all taken by this time but I could care less! I prefer to walk around taking 100’s of photos anyway.
You know you’re in Europe when everyone starts peeling their clothes off and nobody bats an eyelid!! Just to straighten that image up for those of you who are a little warped…..not ALL of their clothes, just the restrictive layers. It is a refreshing custom, quite liberating…..not enough so that I partake, but enough that the scene before me makes an impression. People of all ages, colours, genders, sizes….settle back and absorb the sun’s rays while they await departure. I wander and observe. Take in the beauty around me and relax, looking forward to my adventures ahead.
Once we are well off shore I make my way to get the meal I pre-ordered. At this point I will say….pre-ordering when you speak only English is actually NOT a good idea. I was unable to ask what I was entitled to so ended up paying again for my meal. It was not that flash but the beer I washed it down with was cold and well received!
I explore the decks after my meal and finally settle in ‘The Dancing Palace’ Bar. Now this, is where I should have eaten! The atmosphere in here is great and the staff much friendlier. They also speak English which is a godsend. I settle in front of massive windows that give one the sensation of Jack and Rose on The Titanic. I feel like I am riding the waves, leading the voyage. I bask in the sun beating directly onto my shoulders and sip contentedly at my first cocktail…..then subsequently the ones that followed. The sun dances from the tips of the gentle waves and the play of light is hypnotic. I turn and look at the dancefloor, presently laying dormant between myself and the bar, surrounded by the sleepy ambiance that fills the room. I wonder, though, at the stories this room could tell and I imagine it to be the birthplace of many treasured memories.
As I sit and drink the last of my cocktails, I look across the passage before us. The passage across the Ligurian sea. I sit and I look …..sometimes it’s nice just to ‘be’.
Slowly the land mass ahead of us becomes clearer and myself and the other passengers race to the top deck to watch as we draw nearer to Corsica. The island rises before us. It beckons us. Inviting us to step ashore and taste her many delicacies. She looms before us growing in size as we get closer. The small glimpse I am afforded, promises to offer everything I wished for and more. I run to the lower deck to collect my backpack, which now feels as light as a feather as I rush to the queue waiting to disembark.
My hotel is only a short walk away so I make my way quickly through the crowds. I know I have to collect the key from one hotel and then make my way to another. I’m over the moon when I find out that the hotel where I collect the key, is the hotel where my room is! Tempted again to kiss this lady!!!
The hotel for tonight is Hotel Posta Vecchia. I have borrowed an image from Hotels.com site as unfortunately the ones I took were a part of the 100’s of photo’s I lost. The service was great and this Hotel is ideally located!!
When I push open the slatted window shutters, the view that hits me is spectacular! I feel like the luckiest person in the world to be experiencing this beauty. I swear if I had a decent voice I’d start singing at the top of my lungs so the world knew how happy I was! A quick shower and I am off to explore, while there is light, and to taste what Bastia has to offer.
I order a pasta dish and a red wine and watch the people meandering about. The setting is picturesque and the atmosphere alive, yet tranquil.
I shake my head as I recall waking in Pisa….only that morning! Feels like a lifetime ago! If nothing else, my emotions are enjoying a holiday rollercoaster!
I allow myself another hour or so after the sun has set before making my way back to my hotel. I pick up my car tomorrow and the real exploring begins. Throw caution to the wind and see what transpires……judging by what I have encountered so far during the ‘planned’ part of my vacation, anything is possible…..or should I say probable??
Night all….love you 40-leven!!