Thursday, November 3, 2011

Italy- Oct. 25-26, PISA

On Oct. 25, I woke up bright and early to catch a train to Paris at 9am. I managed to find my platform, get on the right train, find the metro in Paris, and get off at the right stop. I met Brooke and Michelle in the Jardin des Tuileries, near the Place de la Concorde. It was pretty amazing... the last time I was in Paris, I wasn't very impressed. But this time, when I came out of the metro and saw the Eiffel Tower straight ahead, the Arc du Triomphe to my right, the Obelisk in the square, and the beautiful garden on my left, I was struck by how beautiful the city actually is! I am looking forward to spending more time there in March when I come back for the run.
We found the bus that took us to the airport, along with lots of other people! Luckily they had enough buses, since the airport was about 1 hour outside of Paris. Ryanair doesn't exactly fly out of the main airports...
Anyways. The flight. Well, I have never been so terrified on a plane in all my life... there was some turbulence, which was ok, but it was the landing that was freaky. We landed in a thunderstorm, and the plane was going all over the place, even after touching down. Eventful. Let's not do this again. Some of the people we met in one of our hostels said that they nickname the budget airline "RyanScare," but our flight back was great, so I think it was just the weather.
We arrived in Pisa armed and ready with our map to get to our hostel. I felt so prepared. Little did I know that no amount of Google mapping was going to help us that night... we asked around 4 people for directions, because the streets were confusing and not very well marked. We finally found where the hostel was supposed to be, but there was no hostel in sight. We asked a kebab shop worker where the hostel was, and he told us that it had switched locations and opened in a larger building. Naturally, it was way the heck back from where we came so we turned right around and marched back. By the time we got to what we thought was our hostel, we had been walking for about an hour, with our jumbo backpacks. Relieved and exhausted, we went inside and gave the desk attendant our confirmation sheets, only to have him tell us that we did not have the right hostel. We were at Hostel Pisa and we needed Hostel Pisa Tower. We showed him our map and explained the situation, and he got on the phone and called our actual hostel. We had no idea was he was saying because it was all in Italian, but when he hung up he said that someone was going to come pick us up and take us to our hostel. I thought this was very kind, but a little strange.
We waited about 10 minutes, before two Italian men showed up and asked for Michelle Savage. They apologized for our confusion, led us to their car, and explained the situation. Apparently Google Maps has been giving the wrong location, and he just found out the day before and hasn't gotten around to changing it yet. I was already a little uneasy about getting into a car with people I didn't know, but their story sounded fine. Our driver took the weirdest route though... we would literally be driving at a wall and then a tiny street would come out of nowhere. They also drive really fast. It was taking longer than I thought, and I was starting to get pretty nervous. I was ready to hop out the car at the first suspicious sign, such as the owner of the hostel asking the driver why he was taking such a weird route or the surroundings seeming less populated or the long time it was taking. I was a little on edge, so I asked if we were almost there. They said yes, and before I knew it we turned a corner and arrived at the hostel. I was pretty relieved. I mean, I'm not saying that naivete is a good thing, but it is a pretty sad thing that in our society we often tend to expect the worst, rather than the best in strangers. Or maybe it's just me and my paranoia. Either way, it reminded me of a situation that my mom was in with her mom when she was younger, in Scarborough, so I hope she gets a kick out of this story.
We got into our hostel and paid only 15 euro. The manager showed us around, and it was very cute. It was small, and had only been open for 4 months but it was the best hostel we stayed at. The rooms were bright and cheery, there was free internet and printer use, a big screen tv with satellite, a guitar, a cozy lounge area, a beautiful kitchen, and clean bathrooms. The breakfast was continental for only 2 euros, and was totally worth it! He even made us our own cappucinos...
Michelle and Brooke at breakfast.

Pretty cappuccinos!

Our cute room.
Overall, it was an excellent hostel. The manager even gave us a map with suggestions for our day. He was so very welcoming, and gave us a great first impression of Italy.
The next morning, we set out to explore the city and find the leaning tower of Pisa! It was very close to our hostel, and we had beautiful weather.
Here it is!

Peek-a-boo

Trying to get one of those cheesy tourist photos holding it up!
We didn't climb the tower, because you had to pay and we figured we could spend our money elsewhere. We walked around the city instead, and found it to be very beautiful!
I just found it amusing that they advertised pizza, ice cream... and beer?

Cute streets.

Beautiful view down the river.

An old fort that we tried to get to.
We also got gelato at the Blue Bear gelato store, recommended to us by our hostel. It was delicious! Gelato is so much better than regular ice cream. I wish we had it in Port Elgin or Peterborough! Well, maybe we do, but it won't be as good as Italian gelato.
With a fantastic first day behind us, we boarded the train and headed for Florence! More on this scenic city in my next post.
Overall, I can say that though there isn't much to see in Pisa other than the Leaning Tower, it is definitely worth a day trip if you're in Italy. The scenery is gorgeous and the people are so friendly! Successful first city.

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