Sunday, June 22, 2003

More Travel Journal Stories


Tuesday, 6/7/97

I opened the front door to one of the most breathtaking mornings I'd ever seen -- the kind where you can't do anything but mill around stupidly and say, "Wow" a lot.

The smell of the morning hit me and stayed with me. It was so clean and natural, that I just stood there breathing for a bit.

There was an old woman on the beach, her dress or shorts hiked up high on her thighs, walking back and forth up a stretch of the beach. I caught her eye and gave her a very big, sincere smile. I was feeling rejuvenated.

She smiled something back and asked something like, "Are you Italian?" I shook my head and said no, and she called up a reply that involved Angelo. I didn't hear or understand, so I shrugged and smiled.

I watched this old man take his boat down to the water. It was really a two-person job, but he was doing it on his own. He had to make sure the boat didn't slide onto the sand, while he went around back and picked up wooden slats one by one, to toss onto the sand in front of the boat.

It really occurred to me to help him, and I thought he might actually say yes, which was a nice idea.

I felt incredibly happy at this time, I felt whole, healed, in my perfect center. I felt a connection to the village and the people.

I was still in my pajamas, so I rolled up my long johns and hopped onto the beach. But I chickened out and didn't ask to help the man. I really wish I had, but I didn't want him to say no, though I think it would have been a perfect gesture for how I felt. I think that had I asked, it would have changed the outcome of today.

I, instead, dipped my feet in the water and felt how good the sand was against my feet. I smiled at the old woman a few times, and as she was leaving the beach, she waved at me. That felt really cool. :)

I skipped stones for a bit, getting the best skip of my life off this big, odd-shaped stone. I then headed to the stairs, and on my way, I noticed a snail on the sand.

My first thought was about why there was a snail on the beach. My second thought was that I should pick it up and place it somewhere it would fit in (like a garden). I put it up on the walkway and watched it for a bit.

It had pebbles stuck on the bottom, and it slid out of those easily. I skipped stones for a bit more, then went up the stairs.

The snail hadn't gotten very far, and I knew that if it kept up its slower-than-snail's-pace, it would get smooshed by speeding cars.

I considered the situation a bit, then picked the snail up and put it in a flowerbed. It was very happy and sped off.

Thinking about the snail, I really wonder how it got there. It would have died if the saltwater had touched it, so it hadn't been there long. Also I know there's salt on the pebbles, and it wasn't dead, so I think maybe a bird dropped it.

I then walked back to the house and went to bed. I didn't wake up till after 9.

Kim woke me up a little earlier to work the shower for her, and then she woke me up at 9:30, because she wanted to leave the house by 10.

She seemed angry, reserved, and defensive. I was so exhausted; I couldn't get out of bed. Kim was cleaning the house like crazy, and that sort of forced me to get up.

I packed and made my bed, and then we eventually left the house somewhat after 10, searching for Angelo.

We went to the post office, where they were more than rude to us. We bought some fruit and focaccia bread, and met these two Americans.

We went back to the pescheria, to say goodbye to Angelo.

It was only about 11am, and you could already tell that the day would be a scorcher. We were toting our backpacks, and sweating so badly that we both needed showers again.

We walked over to new Monterosso and Kim wanted ice cream. So we stopped and got ice cream, and the popsicles looked really good. I bought one, and the guy behind the counter called it an "ice lolly". Heh!

We were dripping sweat when we got to the station, where we decided to wait on the wrong platform, in the shade and on the cool ground. Our train wasn't for about 45 minutes, so we sort of just sat and waited.

Kim pulled out a cigarette and I decided to roll one, just because I had nothing else to do.

As soon as I took out my rolling papers, this old man appeared from nowhere and offered me a cigarette from his case. He didn't want me to have to roll my cigarette, and I thought that was very sweet. He stood and talked to us for a while, in Italian, and we were getting a kick out of him, he was so cute.

He said something about "American", "Americana" and said "è stupido" ("is stupid"). I thought he was insulting us, which was so out of character to the sweet old man who'd just offered me a cigarette.

He later clarified that he thought English was stupid -- he didn't like the way we say "American".

He had this way of sort of cackling every time he said something he thought was particularly funny. I was loving this old guy, he had a very friendly, sincere demeanor, and I appreciated his gesture to me, of offering the cigarette.

After a bit, he waved and walked away, leaving me to wish I'd gotten a picture of him.

We waited a while more, and I tentatively offered Kim an apology for everything I did wrong in Monterosso, but I didn't get a chance to finish before the train got there. Kim was being very distant, and I don't blame her.

We got on the train to La Spezia, which is thankfully air-conditioned. I hold onto my apology for a while more, feeling edgy around Kim.

It only took about ten minutes to get to La Spezia. Ten very quiet minutes. When we got off at La Spezia, we find out that there's no direct train to Florence and that we'll have to go to Pisa and transfer to a train to Florence.

We sat on our platform, waiting, and I finished my apology. Kim sort of blew it off, telling me that actions speak louder than words. I accepted that, and hoped to God that thinks would pick up.

We took the train to Pisa, sharing a cabin with a very nice older man who helped us with our bags, a younger man who didn't say anything and just read the entire time, and a woman who looked like her head was bald under her hat, who was terribly antsy and kept getting up and leaving.

Kim's been reading Reviving Ophelia, and I didn't have anything else to read, having finished my book, so I browsed through the Brittany section of our France book.

Brittany is going to be very cool. I've been reading this series by Mary Stewart about the life of Merlin, and Brittany plays a big part in that history. I'm very excited to be going there, because I love history and legends, and Brittany is chock full of both.

Kim isn't very interested in history, which disappoints me because I'm so excited about it, and I'd love to share that with her. I start to tell her all these really cool things that fascinate me, and thrill me, and give me goosebumps, and I'm rewarded with her eyes glazing over and a blank stare.

Brittany is going to be my show, since Kim doesn't know much about it, and I don't think she's incredibly thrilled.

I was talking to Kim on the train about all the legends and myths, about The Enchanted Forest of Paimpont.

Then we exited the train at Pisa, and we waited a few minutes for the train to Florence. Not only was the train not air conditioned, it stopped at every little hick town from here to Florence, so there wasn't much by way of breezes in the train.

A couple of people tipped us off that we could get off at the next stop and then board an express train to Florence, which is much better and faster.

It really was, too! We went fast enough to create a breeze to stay relatively cool, and we arrived in Florence in no time.

I surprised myself by sleeping on the train, and I was so tired that I couldn't keep my eyes open. I just wanted to keep sleeping!

We got off the train and it was still hot. I was tired and cranky, and not very excited about being in Florence, especially with all the rude drivers and gross exhaust fumes.

We walked to a hostel that a friend of Angelo's had recommended, but they were full. The guy at the desk suggested we try to get a room in a place not too far away.

We headed there, and were a little confused by the lack of signs saying "Hostel" or "Hotel". We found the number the guy gave us, and tried to open the door, but it was locked. We stood there in a brief moment of confusion, and then a num poked her head out a little window and we asked if they were full. She didn't say anything, but unlocked the door for us.

I was still confused, not wanting to believe that the entire place was full of nuns, but when we stepped into the foyer, my fears were confirmed. There was religious artwork all over the walls, and a crucifix, and the whole atmosphere was that of a convent -- very quiet, dark, and cool. Before we had a chance to discuss the situation privately, Kim and I had paid for our room and were being escorted upstairs.

The whole thing hadn't quite sunk in yet, and we were exchanging looks and stifled giggles.

Our room was large, with five beds, five nightstands, six chairs, a dresser, an armoire, and a table. The sound of the street was very loud and the room was cool and dark.

Kim fought with the nun to open the shutters; the nun wanted them closed to keep in the cool, but Kim wanted them opened for the breeze. After the nun left, Kim opened the shutters anyway. I really, really needed a shower at that point, so I went to the bathroom down the hall, which was really two different bathrooms -- one with a toilet, sink, bidet, and tub, the other with a shower, sink, toilet, and bidet. I chose the shower, and the water didn't get hot until my shower was over.

It felt so good to be dripping wet that I didn't dry myself off or dress, I just wrapped my towel around me and went back to the room.

I dressed there, and then laid down for a nap. I think Kim did the same, and we got up a few hours later, when our roommates, two nice Japanese girls, came in.

We got ready to go out to eat, having no real idea where we were going. We were just looking for somewhere cheap, and we ended up at this restaurant called Baccus. Kim had tortellini with ham and cream sauce, and I had tortellini soup, which was absolutely delicious. We must have been very dehydrated, because we drank a ton of water.

We wanted dessert, but the waitress was obviously confused and brought us the wrong thing. We'd ordered vanilla ice cream (I swear we were more than clear on that) with banana and chocolate sauce, but she brought lemon sorbet with chocolate sauce and banana -- eeew.

When we got our check, we noticed an extra 4,000 Lire charge that we didn't know what it was for -- it turns out that it was a cover charge, something I'm not familiar with in restaurants.

We decided to walk a bit more before we had to return to the nunnery, and we had to stop to get Kim ice cream -- for the third time that day!

We made it back to the abbey right on time, and when we got to the room, our roommates were already in bed.

I decided that, in order to be able to sleep in that noisy room, I would have to be stoned, so I went to take a shower and brought my pipe with me.

I closed the window and smoked, then took a shower. I opened the windows and got dressed, then went back to the room. Kim was quiet and distant -- writing postcard and in her journal, so I pulled out mine and began to write, as well.

When she got up to take a bath, I finished writing and went to sleep, finding it blissfully easy to conk out.

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