Arriving at the Sea and then Calamity

I loved Nice. I arrived in a rainstorm of Vancouver proportions and that still did nothing to dampen my love of Nice.

Castle Hill

Castle Hill

I spent my time there on the beach, wandering around, heading up Castle Hill which is actually just a hill; the castle itself no longer exists. All of its stones were scavenged over time and now there’s just a little bit of foundation and a spectacular view of Nice. Also great exercise to walk up all those steps to the top. Nice not only had a great beach, beautiful scenery and great ambiance, the food was also amazing, although not seafood based, interestingly. Apparently their traditional food was all land-based in Nice, Marseilles was the fishing village. But of course things have changed now and they had wonderful seafood.

Absolutely fabulous

Seriously good seafood

Coming into Nice on the train was a breath of fresh air, because I could see the sea. I didn’t even care that it was pouring buckets. As the train came closer and closer to the sea, my breath eased, I could feel tension I didn’t know I was carrying seep away. I always forget how much I love the ocean until I see it again. I seem to slowly tense up the longer I am away from it, and ust seeing the salt water, I was happy again. As soon as I had settled into my hostel in Nice I basically ran for the sea – the rain had cleared and somehow it was blue skies. I sat on the rocks, I dipped my feet in the sea, suntanned. I was happier and more relaxed than I’d been for a while, the heat and sea salt smell soaking into my bones.

20150427_164251

My happy place

One of my highlights of my 5 days in Nice was the morning food & market walking tour of Nice. I love this medium, a short tour of the city, bringing in history through the food and specialties of the area. This tour was exceptional, Marion showed us around for 4 hours, taking us to the local market, little shops to buy great food, cheese, and tasty local treats. We stopped in a cafe to have coffee and a special local torte, an oil shop to taste the different oils of Provence, and we ate so many little local goodies she picked up for us. It was 4 hours of food heaven. If you’re ever in Nice and you’re a foodie like me, you have to take this tour. If you can arrange to have very few people on the tour, too, it makes it way more amazing. Once again I was lucky to have just me and a lovely married couple from the US on the walking tour.

On my last day in Nice calamity hit.  Okay, that might be a wee bit dramatic.  I woke up with a sore throat in the morning that progressed to a full-on, knock-you-off-your-feet cold-flu combo by mid-morning that sent me running to the nearest pharmacy for the good drugs…because here in Europe the good drugs are usually what we would call the alternative drugs back home. It was probably the best moment of that cold – wandering through the pharmacy, all natural remedies as far as the eye could see. So I bought myself some awesome high strength echinacea-zinc tablets with some other herbal goodies, whatever else the pharmacist recommended, went to the market for as much fresh fruit and veg as I could carry, and fell into bed for the day, knowing that the next morning I would be hauling myself and my 10-tonne bag to Genoa.

I arrived in Genoa in one piece, that’s kind of the best thing I can say about that. I woke up feeling somewhat better than the day before, and optimistic that I could handle a 3.5 hour train ride. It wasn’t that bad, I met some really lovely people on the train, and chatted with a young French guy who was traveling for the first time. He didn’t understand the train system yet, so I got to explain it to him! Then he ended up having the seat across from me reserved – which was kind of funny with him trying to assure me that he really wasn’t following me on purpose. He had a guitar and worked in a jazz music shop, so we had a lot to talk about.

Best shot of Genoa I could manage

Best shot of Genoa I could manage

When I arrived in Genoa though, things became a little rough. Because I was coughing and sneezing and feeling pretty miserable, I thought maybe I should not be in a 4 person dorm, sharing all the fun bugs and lack of sleep. I begged a really nice lady on AirBnB to take me last minute in her place. She very kindly agreed to the last minute booking, but she was busy so she arranged to have her friend come meet me at the train station to give me the key and directions to the apartment, including waiting with me at the bus shelter to ensure I got on the right one. At that point I was on my own, and I had to ask strangers to tell me when I got to the right stop.  Turns out Eugenia had told me  the name of the area I was supposed to get off at, not the stop.  Which was a little confusing when 3 stops had the same general name… I figured it out thanks to a really nice woman who understood my little hand drawn map from Eugenia, and told me exactly when to get off.

The beginning of a thousand steps of pain

The beginning of a thousand steps of pain

Then it was up. And up. And up. At least 15 minutes of walking up a steep never-ending set of slippery, misshapen, old brick stairs. Carrying my 10-tonnes of life on my back. Which normally I wouldn’t mind, I actually love carrying my life on my back, and it feels like an accomplishment when I get to where I’m going. Plus it’s how I work off all the gelato and pizza, cheese, bread and other great food I’ve been eating. But being sick and tired, and feeling like my body was drained of every last bit of its resources, then those stairs made me want to cry.

I finally reached the side street to get me off the stairs…and more stairs! I took a deep breath and kept going. I made it to the apartment building eventually, after I’d sweated away a third of myself… or that might have just been the rain. Have I mentioned it was pouring rain? Yup, Eugenia ensured me the next day would be beautiful, but my arrival, like in Nice, was the storm of the century.  I guess I was following the storm…or it was following me?

I arrived at the apartment building, mentally prepared to climb up to the fourth floor. Not so much prepared for the pitch dark, or the ancient stairs that are different sizes, like the Great Wall of China. I finally made it to the top floor which had only a tiny little door with no number on it, and I thought I could hear people talking inside. It wasn’t even a hallway, but a small door at the top of the stairs and it seemed to be the fifth floor? Perhaps it was because of my head cold and my brain not working properly, but I felt as though I could not find the right door to save my life. The only door that had number was door number 12, which Eugenia told me was the only apartment in the building that didn’t exist. Go figure. I wandered around the floors trying to figure out which door was which. Finally I decided to try the key in the door at the top of the stairs, prepared to apologize profusely if some angry person came out wanting to know why I was breaking in.  Right as the key was turning and the door was opening, I got a text from Claudia, my AirBnB host telling me that the door I was trying was the right one. Timing is everything?

I got inside, dropped my bag, looked for the bed to fall into and realised that it was a loft apartment, so the bed was at the top of a rickety set of stairs/ladder. I started to laugh…I might have been a bit crazed at this point. The whole day felt a bit like a cosmic joke I just wasn’t in on…but I made it to bed! The bedroom did have an unfortunate ant infestation, but I was so happy to have a bed I didn’t even care.  I spent most of my time in Genoa in bed.  I feel like it was a beautiful city on a hill that I probably would have loved, if I had seen any of it.

My arrival in Italy was not very auspicious, but it definitely got better!

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