But before realizing this, I woke up happily in La Spezia, ready to spend the next two days on a beach and hiking in Cinque Terre. We all woke up and took showers, gathered our belongings and lazed around the hostel living room, sitting down at the little table near the patio doors to talk for another hour or so. Checkout was supposed to be 10, but everyone's trains left a bit later, so we lingered until we had to leave.
We headed to the train station to catch the last train before noon and hopped on, carrying backpacks again. Every time I put the damn thing on, I remembered how much I hated to carry it. As we sped through Riomaggiore and Manarola, Noah pointed out the fact of the stairs. Oh, right. The stairs. And it was 80 some degrees, and we were each carrying 20 some pounds on our backs.
Luckily, being the observant lady that I am, I remembered seeing the bus stop near the train station, so we waited in the scorching sun for the bus to arrive, and took that up to the town. We couldn't check into the hostel until 3pm, so we had about four hours to kill. We dumped our stuff on their storage rack and headed back down the path marked "To the sea."
I laid on those perfectly smooth, flat rocks by the water for almost 3 hours. It was perfect. There were only a few people laying out nearby, and a handful of people on the dock, taking turns jumping into the water. I wanted to go in and swim to a little mini beach across the bay, but the rocks were slippery and the water was a little too rough around them, and I'm a scaredy cat when it comes to the ocean. But I got my feet in, and it was pleasantly chilly after laying in the sun for hours. When it was time to check in to the hostel, I hunted down Noah, and another banana for sustenance, and we went back to check into
In Corniglia, I picked Ostello di Corniglia. It was a cute little place that used to be a school, and pretty affordable considering it was very much tourist season. They had en suite bathrooms and a small commons area, which I never visited, because it was generally really quiet at night. It was kind of strange, though. In the middle of the day, they closed for 3 hours and there's no access to the building. So if you're out and need something from your bags, tough luck, until they reopen again. There was also a cicada living in the tree outside the window, which was driving me just a little crazy. But the view from the window was spectacular, especially as the sun was going down.
|And the sea in the other direction|
|pursed lips sink ships!|
And it was right next to this guy!
I had picked Manarola as the town to watch the sunset from this first night, because I hadn't yet seen it, and because it was supposed to have a lovely little bay from which to watch. The train took us back three towns to the stop, and I fell in love with the whole place all over again. Manarola is beautiful. From the train tracks, you walk down into the town, past shops and hostels and hotels, and into the main square. A double staircase and a little hidden ramp bring you up onto a platform where you can see all the way out toward the Mediterranean. Then back down again into the other side of town, the walkway lined with restaurants and musicians, out to the little bay and the dock area. There's a giant rock to jump off of, and apparently the "best deep water swimming" in 5Terre. Right around the corner from this is the beginning of the path to Corniglia (the second easiest!), also unfortunately closed.
We found a little hole in the wall restaurant (literally, it was kind of carved into the wall, and was just a barrier and a little kitchen), and ordered cones of seafood and french fries (no seafood for me!), and walked down to the water to rest our weary legs. Along the way, I overheard a man saying something about his friends back home blowing stuff up for their fourth of July celebration. Was it fourth of July? The day was almost over, and I hadn't even realized it was a holiday in my own country. I had pleasantly lost track of the days pretty soon after starting on this trip, days started feeling like weeks, and they all bled together in a way they only do when traveling.
I decided we needed to check out the path that was closed and see just how far we could go before it was blocked off. The path winds along the edge of the cliff, and all the rocks along the way are laced with marble. The rock has been so uplifted and distorted that it has twisted and created these amazing patterns that, again, were making me wish I had retained more from my geology classes. I stopped to take a picture of the town and a couple walking by asked, in English, if I wanted a picture of Noah and I. I shrugged and said sure, why not. They took our picture and we wandered a ways, kind of at the same pace as them. I kept stopping to take photos of the rocks, and the guy appeared to be doing the same thing. Noah, apparently bored waiting for me obsessing about the rocks, asked them if they'd like a picture in the same spot. So we started talking to them, and it turned out they were from New York, and he was a geologist, and she spoke Spanish (among a few other languages), and had lived and worked in Ecuador. She was head of a study abroad/masters program, which was very exciting, and so we walked the rest of the path with them, she and I talking and walking ahead of the guys.
|Manarola, in all its sunbathed glory.|
It was a bit treacherous getting out there, and I kept laughing to myself thinking about the fact that I was in Italy, leaping across gaps in the giant slabs of marble thrown into the sea, to avoid dunking myself feet first into the Mediterranean ocean. It seemed very surreal. The sun was already on its way down, colouring everything a beautiful golden orange, and there were a few people out on the rocks ahead of us. We found a comfortable spot, upon which Noah proclaimed he wished he could take a chunk of marble home with him, and he and the guy (whose name I unfortunately can't remember), clambered down to a lower spot and started whacking at the marble with other pieces of marble, flying white chunks of the stuff everywhere. Jessica and I made fun of and/or yelled suggestion at them, until they came back with handfuls of powdery white rock for us.
|It was (obvio) very picturesque|
I'm pretty sure I've not seen a nicer sunset in my entire life. It was ridiculous.
|Feelin' super fancy|
All the food distraction had caused us to miss yet another train, and the next and very last one of the evening didn't come for almost an hour. We sat at the edge of the water, wandered the trail some more, and then headed down the extremely long tunnel, lined with pictures and information on all five towns, to hang around at the train station. We had to head back so I could write out the nine billion postcards I had promised everyone, as our hostel was right next door to the post! I wasn't sure when I'd see another one (and I was tired of carrying around postcards), so that was the plan for the next morning. And hiking!
To be continued.