Firenze (Florence) for an overcast sunset, David, & the lyrical ad-libber on the dance floor!
Christmas is in the air… and on the ground, and in my mouth. My fast train to Paris is passing through rolling snow-scapes and I just delicately ate a fresh and tasty pomegranate. Yes, I can feel it, hot chocolate and PJs, slippers and movies. I really just want to watch a movie and snuggle with friends and family. I did go to Madagascar 2 while in Toulon, France. It was an experience, and I got the main premise of the story, but all the one-liners were over my head. And honestly, hyperactive animated animals can get really annoying, especially speaking in French when everyone is laughing but you. I mean I was chuckling too, but I was really just faking it. In the Cinque Terre four travelers cuddled around my not-so-large-screen MacBook to watch Casino Royale, a prelude to the new Bond. I tried to go in Barcelona, but opted against the Spanish version. That’s my European movie review, back to the relatively unknown Cinque Terre, by far the high point of my Italian experience.
The CT is a nationally protected area named after the five villages of Riomaggiore (where I stayed), Manorola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterrosso that cling to rock ledges overhanging the sea. Mountains climb immediately eastward and the whole area is connected by trails (some temporarily washed out from the previous storm). There are no cars in the towns, they must be parked above. The growth that haunts so many tourist traps is forbidden and the locals are warm and friendly. The train bounces between amazing tunnels and vast views to link the corridor; it is truly a beautiful place. I stumbled into excellent accommodations at the Mar-Mar with a large kitchen, spotless bathroom (w/ heated towel rack!), and a balcony overlooking the south side of colorful Riomaggiore and a splash of the sea. Throughout the first evening inadvertent backpacker recruitment built our number to four: Pete- an Australian photographer (www.livinggallery.com.au), Shannon- an Irish-Canadian adventurer, and Colin- an engineer soon to be ski bum from Vancouver. The next day Pete cruised and sisters Michelle (nurse) and Emma (student) replaced him to represent the land down under. As I’ve said before, the company and accommodations can make an experience, in this case spectacular sunshine, vibrant views, and magical moments added to it. The steep land has been terraced over centuries of local sustainability to support citrus, kiwi, grapes, and a variety of provincial herbs. Cactus, palms, and granddaddy yucca relatives grasp to the Mediterranean facing slopes. Each town offers its own individual charm and the food is affordable, and so good. It’s the home of pesto so I heard. I ate my fair share. Manorola sports an immense nativity scene lit up on the hillside above the town, which inspired an after dark adventure to find baby Jesus. The final day Colin and I hoofed it to the heights above to reach the ridge and visions of snow-capped peaks one way and an unending aqua abyss the other. A downpour that night and next morning verified excellent timing with the stay and signaled an inevitable end. The whole time there I thought of my old friend Kit who first told me of this destination. I can see how the romance of the Cinque Terre landed him in the arms of a Rose and transplanted him after his visit there.
Colin and I buddied up and headed to Florence. A few hour stop in Pisa was enough to see the sight and, as ordered, the skies parted for just a moment to light it up for a few snapshots. Colin spent his film on the tourists taking the ridiculous (and quite amusing) souvenir shots. There’s the: “Look, I’m holding it up!” “Look at me lean on the leaning tower. We’re both leaning, how cool.” “AHHH! This big tower is about to fall on me.” “Hey man, look how big my shlong is!” I opted for the homeboy handshake and Colin, finding a non-leaning perspective on the tower, chose a shrug and look of confusion. The truly funny thing about the whole experience is some shitty architect who couldn’t build a straight building is famous for it.
In Florence we landed through word of mouth at Gary’s House. Another funny thing is it’s actually Lorenzo’s house. Lorenzo’s a good Italian guy who smokes cigarettes and googles over the girls, but he cooks a mean dinner, which is part of the 10 Euro deal. The first night’s menu would’ve been that much out. That first night was pay dirt in addition to the food. The mix of socialites staying at the hostel was perfect. We drank wine and gabbed before grooving our way to the dance club. That was a fine moment! Our crew bounced in unison down the street as Colin beat-boxed and I free-styled: “The Can-Am connection rockin’ the beats, resurrectin’ the crowds on the Florence streets, they looked in awe, as the words poured from my jaw, we took up the path, like the width of a bus, dudes did the math, wished they could be like us, but we just nodded and rolled, maintainin’ mic control, ‘til we got to the club where we couldn’t hold, our dance moves within, busted ‘em out again and again, with the girls all around, along the walls is where the other guys were found, trying to get up the nerve, while we smiled and swerved, to nearly every single song, while the night rolled on, and on, and on…” The next day I managed to hang with David and join the multitude of tourists trying to snap an illegal photo of the statue. The secret is waiting, with camera undercover and flash off, for the security to get distracted by some less cunning individual (I hate to say it, but usually an Asian tourist with flashes a poppin’). The girls at the hostel were enamored with the perfectness of David’s sculpted bod. I couldn’t help but point out that his giant hands did not really correlate to what “they” say. It is however a truly magical (and enormous) piece of artwork.
I suddenly realized my train has sped up to jet-like speeds. Now through the mountain, which have been glorious to watch pass, we are on the final flat haul to Paris. I can almost feel the G-force. It’s kinda freaky actually as the trees whip by. I wonder what happens if a cow ends up on the tracks? It’s probably better not to wonder such things. A princess tied to the tracks would definitely be screwed. I guess it was almost nine weeks ago that I was on this same speedy route, just in the opposite direction. Time slows down while traveling, it seems like ages ago. Of course, when I land back on familiar streets it will all seem like it never happened. Perhaps it was all just a dream within a dream. See you soon, and do your best not to wake me.