Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Provence/Tuscany Part 2: A Kind Gesture Gets Us Back on Track Near the Train Station.

The Get Gout Fast Diet

Villefranche Sur Mer

View from the train

Villefranche Sur Mer

Bird of Paradise 

With the three things out of our system we hobbled out of France and into Italy.

We dropped our car off at the train station where we picked it up and I learned a lesson in saying "no". Keith was barely mobile, only having been able to rest his foot for one day rather than the prescribed three before having to move on. We each had a roll-a-way suitcase and a backpack to carry through the Aix TGV Station, find the correct track and board the train. Normally this would be no big deal but under the circumstances it was a major obstacle. So when I went into the Avis office to give them their keys and the attendant told me I had to park the car in a specific location I just said "No". "Sorry, Madame, you must park it in the specified spot, you cannot leave it here". A simple but firm response worked amazingly well. "No, sorry, I've got enough to deal with you'll have to do it". I must have had the look of someone who'd come through the flood and lived to tell about it, because he didn't push it (lucky for him). Besides, why are they asking me to do their work, aren't I the customer. 

We did it, we got ourselves on the correct train albeit very slowly. It turned out that a four hour train ride on SFC through the French Riviera was just the ticket. French TGV trains are a luxury - fast and extremely comfortable. And as an aside: French passengers are extremely polite when it comes to cell phone etiquette. When they receive a call they answer quietly, leave their seats and take the call in the luggage car. Could we not adopt this custom here? 

Our French train trip ended in the very pretty town of Villefranche Sur Mer. It was still raining when we got there but with a little help and an outrageous cab fare we made it to our hotel which was run by a 70-something Bridget Bardot wannabe. The hotel was cheap, sort of clean(ish) and thats about all I can say about it. It was good enough for the night and for $60 Euros in the French Riviera I had no right to expect more. 

By that evening Keith could hobble around with less pain so we went on a slow ramble to see what could be seen and to buy a rain-coat and umbrella (things I could also use back home in Vancouver). 

The next morning we caught the train once more to take us to the Cinque Terre on the Ligurian coast of Italy. The French rail trains only go as far as the border town in Italy and then you leave all comfort behind and board Trenitalia who's trains are just one notch up from rural trains in India (the only difference being that no one is riding outside on the top of the train. 

The Italian border town is called Ventimillia and it is really astounding how in just a few kilometres you go from things looking and sounding French, to things looking and sounding Italian. Suddenly Bon Jours are swapped out for Buon Giornos - which was a very happy thing to my ears.

We had a bit of time until we caught our train to Riomaggiore so we ventured out of the station and found a little cafe close by that offered wifi (a traveller's boon) along with cappuccini. We ordered some breakfast but due to Keith's gout diet he couldn't eat yeast. When the cafe owner heard this she disappeared and returned a few minutes later with some yeast-free bread for his breakfast and even made him a sandwich to take for his journey. It was this kind gesture (along with the sounds and tastes of Italy) that re-kindled our trampled travelling spirits. To think that just a day before we were seriously considering pulling the pin on this trip. We were so glad we hung in.

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