I am publishing this post again as there was a problem with the wifi at my hostel and it doesn't seem to have been correctly published as the link takes you to another post :-). This hopefully remedies the issue.
On Friday February 7th, 2014 I got up early to head into Carcassonne to catch the train and begin my journey to Italy.
Before I left I made a birthday card for Luke and managed to mail it, along with several postcards to friends and family, at the local post box before we headed into Carcassonne. It was the last job on my list.!
We left Labastide Esparbairenque at 6:00 on a rainy, misty morning. I was sad to say goodbye to this beautiful village and La Muse Inn, which had been such a haven for me.
John kindly drove Jena and I to the station. This was the day. Everyone was leaving La Muse as our wonderful four weeks at the writers retreat was at an end.
I had previously purchased my ticket to Genova as it was quite a complicated route. Luckily John had accompanied me into the station's ticket booth the previous week. I had written down all the changes I would need to make in order to arrive at Genova, but the ticket seller passed me onto another staff member, who also didn't seem too willing to help lol. Eventually I did get my tickets, so I was all prepared on my arrival at the station early on this Friday morning. I validated my ticket in the machine, this was a pracitce that I had never seen before, but something you must always do in both France and Italy.
My first leg was the train to Narbonne.
As I stood on the platform awaiting its arrival I got a few last pictures of my time in Carcassonne.
Soon I was at Narbonne.
I made my way to the platform that would take me to Marseille St Charles station.
John had explained to me how the station platforms in France had these electronic plans of the train displayed so you could see where the coaches would be in order to find your correct coach for your reserved seat. I had never seen these before.
The train set off for Marseille. I realized that my journey involved changing at Nice eventually and I was really hoping that the train route would take us near the Mediterranean and the Cote D' Azur.
On route to Marseille we passed some beautiful towns and cities, this one situated on a river. It was nice to see the castle on the hilltop.
So many of the stations we passed through were beautiful.
Soon I saw the blue of the Mediterranean and was really happy to think I would get a peek at this famous stretch of coastline.
I took a few shots from the train as we paused in Nimes
Then we were off to Marseille.There were more castles and beautiful countryside.
As we approached Marseille the scene became more urban. Graffiti abounds along the railway lines and on the buildings as well as the trains.
There were still lovely rivers and bridges to see.
Seeing the words, Provence, Alpes and Cote D'Azur on the side of this train really brought home to me the reality that I was in fact travelling in this famous region. I was on my way to Italy. This was really happening.
We stopped at the station for the airport. We had to be close. :-)
More houses and a glimpse of the sea through my window. It was overcast, but not raining.
Soon I was in the St Charles station at Marseille. This is what the high speed trains look like. Built for speed.
The station in Marseille was beautiful, very spacious and elegant, with trees and lots of high end shops.
I heard some music playing and was surprised to see that they had a piano in the station. It was available for anyone who wanted to play. While I was there I saw two different and very talented men play for the people as they passed by, or stood and watched.
There is video of one of them playing on my facebook page for My Beautiful Life. (Http://www.facebook.com/blogmybeautifullife)
This fellow was immersed in his playing.
I took a moment and wandered outside to see the wonderful sights that were right outside the station doors.
The station itself was beautful. Wonderful carvings and details. It had been raining, but stopped as I was walking outside. :-)
Back inside I found my platform for the train to Nice.
It was a massive station and reminded me of the ones I had seen in London.
Once on our way we truly did follow the coast of the Cote D'Azur and the scenery and views were stunning. I was so excited. My daughters had visited Nice on their travels many years ago. I had decided when I set out on this trip to honour many family members who had travelled to Europe before me. This was for Beth and Laura. Later I would be in Milan, in memory of my Dad and his time there in WW2. Verona would be for my daughter Claire who visited that city with her cousin, when she was just out of high school. It was something that I felt connected me to my family as I ventured so far from home.
Here are some pictures I took as the train whizzed by.
Eventually we reached the legendary city of Cannes. Perhaps I will be back again one day to take some time in this famous place.
I managed to capture some of the hotels there before we sped onwards.
Finally we were in Nice.
Once again I was at another fantastic station. This one was as lovely as that in Marseille but had its own distinct style.
I had some time between trains so I got to sneak out for a glimpse of the city.
I could peek down the roadways and see the waves of the Mediterranean at the end of the streets.
I was also happy to see the palm trees everywhere.
Outside of the station there were massive renovations taking place.
Inside it was like a stately home, with this beautiful painting on the ceiling.
From here I was destined for a tiny town I had never heard of, Ventimiglia.
I managed to snap some shots of Nice as we headed out of town.
Here is one of the roads leading to the beach.
I happened to notice my reflection in the window so took a selfie. lol
The train tracks ran right along the coast and the skies started to clear. I was so lucky.
We stopped at so many small stations along the way.
We even stopped in Monaco. This was a place I really wished I would be able to see first hand. Beth and Laura did, lucky them. :-)
The sun was beginning to go down as we approached Ventimiglia, it had been a long day.
Also I saw mountains. The Italian Alps? And more graffiti.
Ventimiglia was a lovely little town. As I rushed into the station to find my connection I was confused. My train did not appear on the board.
I approached a man in uniform asking about the train to Genova. He told me it had been cancelled as there had been an accident on the line. He directed me outside to the buses.
I went outside and saw some buses down the road.
I took some pictures as it really was a lovely place.
I saw a bus but there was no driver and no sign on it to specify where it was going. Luckily I got talking to a very kind man who explained that his daughter was also unable to get to Ventimiglia as she was coming the other way.
He suggested I go back inside and talk to the ticket office for more accurate information.
This was my first experience in Italy and the magic of the buildings enchanted me.
I eventually headed back to the pretty little station.
Looking up at the clouds scudding across the blue sky, I noticed the rocky hills and the distant water.
I decided I had to venture down some sidestreets to get a few more pictures.
This was my first view of the scooters I was destined to see throughout my stay in Italy.Eventually I headed into the station to try and find out how I was going to get to Genova. There was a long, slow line up at the ticket window, as there were many others in the same predicament.
There were two young men in fornt of me who were supposed to be going to Venice, but ended up going to Milan, as they wouldnt reach Venice in time to find their hostel..
When I finally got to the window, it was explained to me that I must get the 18:14 train to Diana Marino. Then I was to get a bus and then another train in order to get to Genova.
I managed to find the train alright, but was confused as to where I was supposed to get out, the lady at the ticket booth had limited English and it seemed like I was going to Savona, not Diana Marino.
Fortunately for me I asked a lady who was sitting a few seats ahead of me if she spoke English, and she did. She was also heading for Genova and said she would guide me there. I was so relieved, as this really took the uncertainty out of the remainder of the journey. I was so grateful to her. We got off the train in Diana Marino and caught the bus that took us to Andorra, and then we got onto another train for what we thought would be Genova.
I was hoping that we would be going to the Piazza Principe station, as that was where my directions to the hostel were from.
As it turned out, this train only took us to Savona, lol. We had to get yet another train to get to Genova. We had to wait at the station and she took me to the cafe where we managed to get some food and a drink, it was pretty late by this time. It was my first Italian pizza! I also bought a brioche (Italian for croissant) so I would have something for breakfast the next morning.
When we finally arrived at Piazza Principe station it was 10:00. I had been travelling since six in the morning. I was still in awe of this magnificent station as I walked out into the evening air.
As I exited the station I was in a piazza and it was lovely. I headed across as my directions said I should.
The directions I had for the Manena Hostel were very clear and I managed to walk there in about twenty minutes. The city streets felt safe and it was beginning to rain. I rang the bell and was so happy to get inside and find my bed.
I was so tired I was unaware that I had just walked down the famous Via Garibaldi on my way to my hostel.
The next morning I went up my lane towards the sounds of accordian music to set my eyes on the beautiful buildings it is famous for. But that my friends is another story.