What a marvellous trip! It felt like we were away for a month instead of a week- which was nice! Most European universities have two weeks off for Easter break but mine only has one- nothing to complain about! It really was nice to visit a place that isn't usually frequented by tourists and definitely off the beaten path.
Our travels kicked off very early Monday morning to catch a train to Bratislava, which is about an hour outside of Vienna, where we would catch the plane. The four of us; Robin, Sarah, Axel and I were all quite excited about the adventure so none of us got much sleep the night before- which wasn't a great thing considering the trip to get there was a logistical nightmare. The cab driver who brought us to the station was convinced that we were going the wrong way and was surprisingly helpful about double checking our travel plans on his GPS. We were, in fact, correct about our plans and arrived at the train station on time.
How fun it was to fly over the Alps... They really looked so close and majestic.
Once we arrived in Bratislava, we took a bus to get around the downtown area to arrive at the airport.
For my regular readers, you'll notice that I've recently been having bad luck with airports... This trip of course was no exception. Robin accidentally made her reservations with Cameroon as her nationality. Luckily, the man looking at her passport believed her when she explained that she was actually Canadian. Needless to say, it was the joke of the week- Two Canadians, a Swede and a random from Cameroon.
Because we were flying with the cheap and cheerful Ryanair, they only allowed a carry-on bag and nothing else, otherwise it would cost you. They screened my bag and took away my shampoos and hair products- grrr.
After the short flight from Bratislava to Bergamo, we were finally in Italy! Ciao Bella!
We hopped a bus from the Bergamo and then proceeded to take three more trains through the Italian countryside until arriving in Zoagli (pronounced Zoally), which became our home base for the week. Upon arriving the quant seaside town, I was immediately in awe by its breath-taking beauty. It really more than I expected. Narrow winding roads and little walkways overlooking the beautiful turquoise sea. We arrived during the off-season so the locals watched us as we walked through the town, with absolute fascination on their faces, some of them even emerging from their bright colored homes to get a better look. We didn't have to venture too far, before a young tanned fellow came up to us and asked if we were the group staying at his villa for the week. Turns out his name is Giorgio, and just like everyone else in the community, he was exceptionally friendly and accommodating.
Because it was Easter week, all the businesses in the area ran on different operating hours and it was very hard to predict when they'd be open. For example, one could be open from 7:30 am to 9:00am another day it could be open from 12:00pm t0 3:00pm. So different!
The next day, we woke up late and had breakfast at a little cafe next to the water. The locals who were there welcomed us to their tiny community and one even came up to Sarah and performed a magic show for her. He had a few magnets and showed her the magic behind them. Maybe that's how Italians pick up girls?
After a stop at the other cafe which had Wifi, we headed to Rapallo to get a few groceries and toured around a little. It's a larger town and really seems to be a hot spot for tourists.
I found myself reflecting on what life might be like if I hadn't chosen to do this exchange as I walked the beach and ate gelato. I must say I'm glad I decided to take a chance on this.
After we stopped into a little shop which boasted Italian leather. Of course, I really wanted an Italian leather purse to commemorate the trip. It was relatively inexpensive and very fashionable. The clerk insisted it was the genuine article. I was disappointed to discover that once I got home, after further inspection, it was in fact, made in China. Talk about annoyed. I have decided to look at it as my new Italian purse... Who cares if it's not leather ;)
The following day, my allergies started acting up and I began to feel ill. The weather wasn't great that day either as we ventured into Santa Margherita ( one of five interconnected villages which make up the Cinque Terre National Park a Unesco world heritage site) for the day. We visited a few centuries old church that had a bar in it to get out the rain. Yes, that's right, the church has a bar. It was part of the architecture and was not a new add on. What an interesting concept. We had some real Italian pizza, but was not as good as the pizza we had in the latter part of the visit.
Thursday's adventure included a trip to Monterosso to sunbathe and relax on the beaches. This day, we had proper Italian pizza- so delish! After which the girls and I brought matching real Italian leather bracelets to commemorate the trip. So cute! Sarah ended up getting a sunburn on her face but I barely got any colour at all! It was such a perfect day with such beautiful landscape all around. It is easy to feel inspired and blessed when you're touring such beauty.
My flu only seemed to get worse this day and we made a trip to an Italian pharmacy, luckily, they were very helpful and gave me a few things that helped all the coughing and sore throat. It certainly is an odd experience looking for medical help (even on the small scope) in a foreign land.
The woman who owned the little cafe we were at a few days ago was on the train back to Zoagli with us and seemed glad to see us. What a friendly and welcoming little spot!
On Friday, we decided to stay in Zoagli and suntanned on the local pier. Robin made crepes for us that day which turned out to be delicious and Axel whipped together a batch of his famous cinnamon rolls. That evening, we all chipped in to make a family Easter dinner, which was absolutely lovely. Later in the evening, we had an egg hunt around the villa, such a small space to try to find the eggs- what a hoot.
We got directions to Portofino for a day trip from a Texan travel agent on Saturday. She opened up to us about her frustrations about the women who comes into her office every Saturday only to use her bathroom. What a character!
Portofino turned out to be such a picturesque little town- the kind of place you'd see in movies, and sadly enough, my pictures do not do it justice. Everyone wanted to buy souvenirs but we reminded each other that Ryanair doesn't allow extra luggage so there would be no souvenirs for us!
We left Portofino and went to Rapallo to pic up a few last groceries and some fresh canolli. It certainly is different from the President's Choice variety, but both are delish.
After which, we napped and then decided to go out for supper for a change. We stopped into a lovely little seaside seafood restaurant. The interior was subtle nautical theme but very chic which I enjoyed very much. And I must say, the food was probably some of the best I've ever had in my entire life. Growing up with seafood, I'm not easily impressed- but this meal was sublime! Fresh muscles, prawns, squid and clams in a white wine and tomato sauce. Oh so yummy.
The next day, we packed up all our belongings and said goodbye to Zoagli. We then took a long train ride into Milan to tour around. This one long train ride, took the place of the three we took to get there. We were in Milan for almost literally five minutes. Not long to see the sights but we had to catch our next train to Bergamo to catch the plane the next morning.
What we did see of Milan was lovely, a historic church and so many fashion brands everywhere. I certainly felt underdressed. I wished we would have had the time to visit the Gucci museum.
We just barely caught the train to Bergamo and arrived mid afternoon. Unfortunately, none of us booked a hostel for the evening and everything was booked up. In which case, we were forced to stay at a two star hotel... It had blue felt on the walls- just to give you a mental image. We dubbed it Hotel California.
We got up the next morning at 4:00am and took a cab to the airport. No security issues for myself for Robin this time. Thankfully we all napped for the entire flight.
Once back in Bratislava, it was only a bus, then train, then bus, then ubahn until we were safely back at our Vienna home. :)