The trip/dream that seemed so far in the future is now slipping through my fingers. A trip that was proposed five years ago, now only has about five days remaining. Time is a funny thing isn’t it.
Many people did not understand me (or anyone I guess) doing this trip on my own. One person even responded, “Oh how awful!” when I first told her about it.
But it was something I thought I wanted to do. “Thought” because you really cannot know. Planning something on paper becomes something quite different when other people/places/events get thrown in the ring.
I do not know if the correct word is “adventure”. I think for me it was more about being independent…my way…no ties….no worries that I might screw something up or make someone else mad or disappointed. Or a much stronger possibility, I get my feelings hurt.
Go, See, Turn Left, Turn Right, In, Out, Sleep, Eat, Sit, Walk, Wait……it was all up to me.
I do not think a person can chase their dreams from place to place, but I think you can walk through a lot of them.
I kinda thought this trip would change me…if good happened, if bad happened…I’d be a better person for it. And to tell you the truth…I do not think that has happened. I remember asking my mom, during a walk several years ago, “How does someone FIND themselves?” and she quickly responded, “I do not think it is about FINDING but about DEFINING.” So, with this, I get to add another little number to the definition of Me.
As I sit on platform 3 of the Albenga stazione, I begin to once again get nervous regarding boarding the correct train. The announcements keep saying something about a retarded train and the people around me got off the last one that stopped here and are still standing around waiting.
My train to Ventimiglia is to depart at 10:38, but “people” are telling me to board the one here now and it is a bit early….even the attendant says, “Si, si , sisis…Ventimiglia” When I show her my ticket. The part that confuses me is that this time I actually have a PRIMO class with assigned carriage and seat….and I have been in Italia long enough to know a 2nd class train when I see one….but as has been my philosophy…there’s ALWAYS another train going somewhere…so I hop on.
Who needs PRIMO class and air conditioning anyway….not me in the past 24 hours…and YES, these are the same clothes I traveled in yesterday….I told you I did not unpack ANYTHING…more on that when my travel tips come out on another post…..
Anyway, I have this beautiful fan that I painstakingly picked out in Firenze…and they DO come in handy…
So we chug along….every so often I ask someone, “Ventimiglia?” By the way the “g” is silent…..
and 6 out of 7 give me a “Si, si, sisisi.”
The deal is now that I am on a train that left at a different time, and it is a 2nd class one, I have no reference of when we should arrive. My last schedule made it look like it was about an hour trip…on a 2nd class train, considering the stops….that could make it 3 days for all I know…
We are traveling along the coast. The water is not as pretty as it was behind me…nor the towns as picturesque.
We arrive in Ventimiglia and at this point, all prearranged travel is over. At this stop, I have to wait at the long information/ticket booth housing a real person. As I wait, I survey the options on the destination board. Nice ville is where I think I need to go in order to catch a bus to Vence, my final destination.
So 6,80euro later, I have a ticket to Nice ville in hand….the train is to depart in minutes…great timing…
This train has no air either, so I stand near a window a lot of the time. As we are leaving Italia, there is a big, dark cloud over the mountain behind us….awww…I think-a she eees-a crying-a for me-a.
We pick up speed, traveling through many a L O N G tunnel. I can’t help but get kinda spooked in them. They seem lawless to me…during an especially long one, I notice the clock on my iPhone slips back an hour….creepy!!!
And also, at some point, the language around me has gone from Italian to French….
At least with the Italian language, I could understand every 10th word or so. The andiamos, ciaos, adessos, echos, quas, alloras and bravas sprinkled about comforted me. Now all I hear is “blah, blah, blahblahblah, oui.” Not good.
Arrivederci Italia! Grazie di tutto!
The train makes a stop but it is not mine. As the doors open, I hear the unmistakable sound of the announcement system in the stations. This makes me SMILE!! During the trip with the kids and mom, we laughed so much at that little “jingle”. I can still picture the kids doing this little jig when they would hear it…I am laughing now and that feels good.
I enter the train station and size things up….in French…..no clue….so I just look for lines.
I am assuming at this point that I need to get a bus to Vence. From the itty bitty amount of research I did, I think I am about 20 miles away or so.
The first woman says, “Blah, blah, blah, blahblahblahblah, no.” Gotcha…But luckily she points in english. So I go there.
Here I find out I need to board another train to Cagnes Sur Mer and THEN a bus to Vence.
I can do trains.
At first I get a bit nervous when she says, “Blah, blahblahblah” while shaking her head. She seems disappointed to tell me the next train does not leave for over an hour.
No problem…I can do waiting as well.
This train is PACKED!!! Anticipating my stop coming fairly quickly, I do not push and shove to get on, I instead squeeeeeeze on at the end, securing a spotish by the door. I do not know HOW one would exit if they were actually seated with luggage somewhere.
I know I am on the right train, but I can NOT understand the perky little French girl that is announcing the stations….
Standing by the door is an attendant. I casually hold my ticket where he can see my stop, thinking he will either make a face that we have already passed it or alert me when we are getting near.
My slick technique worked!! Before we stopped, he started moving people out of the way, because at the station the opposite door was the exit door. He took my bag and placed it on the platform for moi. Merci monsieur…
So NOW I look for a bus right? OK, I find a window…the two people behind it speak very little english. I speak ZERO french…but again the pointing gets me from one “point” to the next.
I remember on my first trip to Europe with Mom and Jim. When we left Italy, I had this thought (I wish I had italics there) that French would come easy to me…I actually thought that! Instead, I was a nervous wreck each time someone would speak to me…here we go again.
I think the encounters I had with people in Italy, were more casual. I felt they were willing and kind of enjoyed the exchange.
OK, so the guy behind the glass points me to the street….I think he said something that sounded like “collage”….but as he said it he looked around for help….none came.
So I exit and hang a right….I walk along with my worldly possessions….and a line from Hope Floats comes to mind, “You stink Justin Matisse.”
A bus, there’s a bus…..so I runish, stick my head in and say, “Vence?” He shakes his head no and points…got it…..So I keep walking….across a freeway….again, Daddy would have loved that. But I just could not pay for a cab not knowing how far or close, hard or easy something else would be….lesson learned.
Then I stare at this one long enough and start making something out. I THINK I might be in the right place. About 10 minutes goes by, bus 200 passes….I think it is the 400 I need, and then it arrives.
I board and pay.
I will be honest…at this point, I am near crumbling. I am tired (thank The Lord for the overnight in Albenga….a day from Poggibonsi would have never worked), I am hot, I am sweaty, I stink AND you guessed it, I AM HUNGRY!! The cappuccino and croissant at the Hotel Magnolia are long gone.
AND to top it off….I really don’t have a clear idea of where I am headed….I know WHY I am going to Vence, but where it is is not how it seemed on paper.
When I see a beautiful town perched on a hill, I tap the woman next to me and point trying to convey that that point is a question. She looks at me blankly and says “Saint Paul”.
I do not even know enough to know whether Saint Paul and Vence or one in the same and this woman is not interested in the promotion of world peace.
I will cut to the chase…Vence comes after Saint Paul. In Vence, you will be let out at a little bus circle. At that point you need to once again choose a direction to walk.
I again could not contact my B&B before arriving, so I fire up the cellular and follow the blinking, blue dot to the labyrinth of Vence…
then I resort to the international pointing method again.
Near tears I arrive to my B&B, Le2 (Le Deux….don’t make yourself look REALLY silly and call it Le Two…) which is closed. Locked, closed, lights out….
In my fog, I figure out that I am suppose to call if they are closed. Which I do and Nicolai comes to let me in.
There is an additional funny story about a family that is also waiting, saying they have rented the entire place and have the key, but I cannot convey Nicolai’s “frenchness” in dealing with her…
Nicolai is very sweet and helpful as he shows me to my room, turns on my AIR CONDITIONING and makes me a reservation for dinner tonight at a bonne restaurant and not a touristy one. Nicolai…my hero!!!
And Voila….my room…
I take my time cleaning up. There is a concert in the square tonight, but since I have reservations, I do not need to worry about the crowd.
My quick walk through Vence tells me that this is just about the cutest little French town ever! I look forward to exploring it more.
I throw on one of my MVPs. A Rachel Pally maxi. I have worn this dress to dinner in every town I have been in.
I find the restaurant easy enough and happy to sit enjoying a view that is not rushing past me.
Before what I ordered arrives, the waitress brings this to me and says, “Blah, blah, blahblah a glah, marscapone”.
I walk past the craziness of the concert….happy not to pay 30euro to mix with that
And I roam home…