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Ventimiglia

Weekend get away to the shore

Friday April 15th I returned to Torino last night with no problems. I got a very warm welcome back from the boys. Luisella had messaged me while I was gone telling me that Vittorio was sad because Kay's sons had "stolen their Bonnie" so they were happy to see me. I asked Luisella if I could possibly get the keys to the flat in Ventimiglia for the rest of my time off (Friday till Sunday.) She doubled check I knew I had to be back Sunday sometime because the children have no school Monday and she would be away all of the next week working in Napolie.

Upon my assuring her yes I would return Sunday she left the keys for me. But then she gave me the children's schedule for Friday asking if I could pick them up from school and take them to a party afterwards until she arrived. I wasn't going far so I said of course I can get the children. Then she returned to the house a little before noon Friday to show me where the gift was, realized I'm still supposed to be off and asked her father if he could get the children. Their grandfather is the sweetest guy he helps out all the time, and even when I am at the house makes sure I'm comfortable being with all of the children before he leaves them with me and heads home.

I checked the train schedule, realized if I want to get to Ventimiglia before dark I need the next train. I packed very quickly, and ran out the door. The bus comes into Rivalta on the other side of the square goes around the town, and picks me up at the last stop. I saw it come in, thought to myself okay ten more minutes, 25-30 minute ride to the tram, and so on double checking that yes I should be able to catch the train I want no problem. When I realized F*** I forgot the keys to the flat in the house. I speed walk to the house(I don't run unless I really have to) grabbed the keys and as I was closing the door the stupid cat who was in heat and constantly trying to escape did. I had to catch her and get her back inside, which I managed to do but not with out getting a rather large scratch on my arm for my efforts. With the cat safely locked in the house again, I take off back to the bus stop and make it just in time. Damn I cut that close, thanks to having to chase down the stupid cat.

I got to the train station and once again used a kiosk because lines are huge to deal with a real person, plus the machines never ask "just one ticket? You are alone?" Ventimiglia is the last stop so once I'm on the train it's basically smooth sailing until I arrive. Once I finally do arrive in Ventimiglia I used Google Maps to see how far from the train station the flat is. It's a six minute drive or a twenty minute walk. The sun is going down, I don't know the town, neighborhoods, or anything so lets find out how much a taxi will cost. You can always walk up to a taxi driver tell them where you need to go and ask about how much it will cost. So far they have all told me a price that ends up coming with in €2 of what they told me. This taxi driver tells me €7, deal.

He drops me off on the one way street a little past the flat because its hard to read numbers on buildings. I walk back down the street a few buildings, and find my way through the complex to the door. Now what I didn't take into consideration was that there are like nine keys on this key ring and I need one for this front door. Fourth time is the try, Yay! Take the tiny elevator up and then I know it's the flat funky key for the front door. Once I'm inside though I realize there is no power, water, or gas. Damn I have to text Luisella to figure this out. While I wait for a response I open all the storm shutters to let in the sunlight, these will stay open till I leave. As I've mentioned I like natural light. Turns out in Italy flats have like three switches in the flat to turn power for that part of the flat on/off. So I go through and turn the power on to the areas I'll use. No need to turn it all on. There is a handle in the bathroom to turn the flats water on/off, alright water on. On the patio I have to find the box for the gas, I get that on. I turn on the stove and can smell the gas but even using a match I can't get the burner to light. Forget this, I'll eat the chips and crackers I brought with me for dinner. I never did figure out how to get the gas to work properly so the next morning I just shut it off. After all of this adventure I'm tired and call it a night. I'm not sure how sitting on a train for four or so hours can be so exhausting but it is.

*Saturday will be a separate post for my day in Monaco*

Sunday April 17th As I've said I like natural light so today I woke to the sun coming in the windows. After repacking the few things I've taken out of my bag, I decided to wander my way through town to the train station and take the first train to Torino. When I get there this time I end up with a train that requires switching trains part way through. No biggy, I can handle that. The train stations I've used are pretty small so you just get off the train, take the stairs down and walk one or two tracks over to the next train. I get back to Torino early afternoon sometimes, and catch my tram back to Rivalta to spend the rest of the afternoon relaxing in my room. I have a feeling the children may be a little wild tomorrow being home from school and no mom to tell them to behave so I better relax while I can. Plus after these last nine days of whirlwind traveling relaxing for an afternoon/evening sounds like the perfect ending.

Posted by Bonnie7825 04:40 Archived in Italy Tagged italy traveling au_pair Comments (0)

Cinque Terre

Wednesday April 13th, today is my last full day in Lucca and before I got here I booked a trip through viator.com to go to Cinque Terre. Cinque Terre is a national park made up of five villages, most people know these villages by the look of them but not by name. These are some of the rainbow colored villages on the cliffs on the coast of Italy. Most people have seen post cards of these Villages, at some point. Before I start telling you about my day let me just tell you it's gorgeous and if you have a chance to go you should.

The tour offers hotel pickup but because I was staying at a house and not a hotel I declined, therefore the default place for your private driver to pick you up from is in front of the tourist information center in Lucca. I rode the bike along the wall and the visitor center is right there next to one of the walls gates, making it super easy to find. My private driver took me to a gas station Cafe out on the highway so it would be easier for the big bus to just pull in and pick me up and keep going.

Once I was on the bus I started talking to the couple who sat behind me they said that the rest of the people on the bus started off in Florence except one couple that they stopped to get somewhere between Florence and me. On our drive up to the Cinqua Terre area our driver gave us a bunch of information on the area. We passed the marble mines on the side of the mountains where White marble has been mined for hundreds of years and still is. In fact that area is where the marble used to make the famous statue of David came from.

Our first stop was the second of the five villages called Manarolo. The bus dropped us off and we walked down the hillside. We had about half an hour to spend here and then we all took the train up to Village number four Vernazza.

In Vernazza we had again about 30 maybe 45 minutes before we were to meet at the end of the dock so as to take the ferry from here to Village number five Monterosso.

Monterosso is the biggest and most famous of the five villages so we had two or so hours to spend here. During that time those who had paid for lunch went to get lunch first then had a free limoncino tasting. The rest of us had the Limoncino tasting first and then we could get lunch, walk around, shop, or go to the beach, or do anything else we wanted. All throughout the day I kept talking to the couple who sits on the bus behind me, G & M, on the ferry from Vernazza to Monterosso the husband asked me where I was from. I told him I'm from California. He told me that they are also from California, but that I probably don't know where Vacaville is. This is hilarious because Vacaville is exactly where I am from. Although we consider it a small town, we have a hundred thousand people and yes we consider that a small town in California, I have never met someone from Vacaville traveling around America let alone all the way in Italy. Yet here's this couple who works and lives in the same town I do who I have never met before, all they way over her in Italy on a tour of 40 people with me. It is occasionally an extremely small world that we live in. We had lunch together, and went shopping, and kept talking about how small the world is and what a coincidence that we ran into each other so far from home. It turns out that M actually works with two of my friends back home!

When time was up we all got back on the train and took it all the way down to village number one Riomaggiore. Here we had about 30 minutes to see the village and do any last shopping we wanted to do it. This is one of the smaller villages so 30 minutes was enough time. However M and myself had seen a couple things back in Monterosso that we wanted to buy but didn't want to carry around, then ran out of time to go back and buy. That means we were on a mission to find those items here before we had to get back on the train. We found everything we were looking for and still had time to stop and grab a soda and take some photos before we had to meet at the train station to leave.

From here we all took the train 2 stops out of the city where we met the bus Which took us back to our designated pick-up/drop-off spots. My driver was waiting at the same gas station that he dropped me off at to pick me up and took me back to the tourist information center. I got back on my bike and rode it the opposite way around the wall to get back to the house, because as I've mentioned before Lucca's just such a pretty city I wanted the extra time riding up on the wall to look at everything before going inside for the night.

Posted by Bonnie7825 04:05 Archived in Italy Tagged italy traveling au_pair travel_europe_cheap Comments (0)

Lucca day 1

Monday April 11th flixbus, Megabus, and the train all failed me they either didn't go from Milano to Lucca today, or we're asking more money than I was willing to spend so I used BlahBlahCar.com. It's available throughout Europe, and is in America but isn't as well known there. A gentleman was going from Milano to Viareggio. Viareggio is on the coast a quick like 20 minute train ride from Lucca so it was perfect for me.

When I got to Lucca it was around noon, and Kay a friend of my host mom, who I was staying with while there wouldn't be home from work till 7ish. This means that me and my rolling overnight bag had all afternoon to explore. I walked from the train station to the old part of Lucca which took literally like 5 minutes, and spent the rest of the afternoon exploring. I stopped for lunch, wondered around the entire city within the walls at least, and wandering around on top of the walls part of the time as well. Pretty sure I saw pretty much everything that was worth it to see within the walls in those 7 hours. A place any visitor needs to see is the Anfiteatro Romano, which is famous because it's basically a oval shaped Piazza. There are four tunnels leading from the street to the center of the Piazza and they go through the first floor of the buildings because the buildings themselves make a complete oval. This is a nice place to stop late afternoon for a piece of chocolate cake and a glass of local wine, always drink local wine when you are in Italy.

Eventually she got home from work I found the house she showed me around and then she introduced me to her youngest son. Her older son came home with her husband later we all had dinner and then we all called it a night. Kay speaks no English but her husband does and their boys speak a little. The older boy speaks an OK amount, the youngest one can tell me I speak little English and then count to 10 but he leaves out number 8. I was with them for 4 days, well let's say two and half and not count the days I arrived, and departed. The entire time her son kept repeating his numbers to me and no matter how much I tried to correct him the number 8 never made it into the count it was adorable.

Posted by Bonnie7825 05:05 Archived in Italy Tagged italy traveling au_pair Comments (0)

Switzerland

Sunday April 10th today I have a trip up to Switzerland it's the Swiss Alps Bernina Express rail tour from Milan. I booked it on viator.com before I got there, however if you go to the tourist information center you can book it there as well.

We all got on the bus out in front of the tourist information Centre and went up to some small restaurant on the side of the highway that we stop that I know are going to happen and we got a chance to stretch get breakfast with cute little restaurant even have a play area for kids. Then we continued on to a village about 10 minutes from Tirano, there we saw an older church that has a hand carved wooden organ. It was interesting to see but I wouldn't go all the way to that village just to see it.

We then continued on to Tirano, which is located at the foothills of the Swiss Alps, and is where we were going to get on the train that would take us up to St. Mortiz. Some people bought lunch with the tour, some of us didn't. A group of about five of us got gelato, then wondered around the little village together before some of them went to lunch, while a Gentleman, and I went to lunch together. After everyone was done eating and wandering around we met outside of the train stopped and we got on the train.

When we first got on the train the villages we passed clearly we're in springtime; green grass, families sitting in the backyards, flowers blooming, & the rivers were flowing. The farther up we went the more it became winter. We passed multiple lakes on the way that were frozen over, with snow all around. The only ones I can remember the names of are Black Lake, & the white Lake. Both were frozen.

Our tour guide kept telling us nobody get off even for photos at the stops because the train does not stay in the station long enough and he doesn't want anyone to be left behind. Well at one stop I said the snow is close enough you can almost touch it from the train. Our guide went over to the door, pushed the button to open it and told me if I want snow I better be fast. I ran for the door jumped off the train, and grab the snow. Anna leaned out the window and asked me to give her a handful so I gave her the snow I was holding and went over to the Hillside and grab another handful before jumping back on the train. Right after the door shut behind me we left the station. Best stop yet. We all passed the snow around it to each other, they laughed while I jumped off to grab it but still played with it once it was there. As it started melting we just tossed it out the window. My hands froze but it was totally worth it.

When we finally reached st. Mortiz you get off the train walking couple yards to see what channel walk through the parking garage and then take an escalator what feels like four floors up the hillside to get to the Village. If you were smart you take the escalator if you are stupid you go up the stairs. Well I decided I'll climb the stairs. The fact that I could not see the top of the stairs should have told me that the stairs were a crazy idea. The stairs are shorter than your average stair, and steeper too. However I did make it to the top, my leg muscles and lungs were dying but I made it. When you come out at the top it's a two-block walk to the square of the middle of the village, on this walk our guide was telling us what we could find in each direction the chocolate shop, cafés, Etc.

Priorities people I went to the chocolate shop first. Swiss chocolate is supposed to be one of the best in the world so you can't go to Switzerland without buying at least a few pieces. Switzerland is expensive though so I bought a few truffles and called it good. Then I started walking around. I noticed a lot of places that we're not cafes were closed even some of the shops. I finally found a little souvenir shop that was open and bought a magnet, because I buy myself one everywhere I go, and a t-shirt for a friend back home. Then since I only had about 15 minutes left I decided to just slowly wander my way back down to the escalator to go down to the train station. Yes this time I said forget the stairs, and took the escalator even though going down stairs is easier than going up them.

Well we had taken the train up our bus driver was taking the long way to meet us there. We then took the bus back down, our driver took a store cut to save us an hour and a half of drive time. The shortcut look like Lombard Street in San Francisco going down the side of the mountain instead of the hill and the curves we're not pretty since there were buses on this. We got to see a bus slightly bigger than us take the curve a little too tight and took about 4 minutes to correct and manage to make it around that curve. Our bus driver was awesome and did it in one try. About an hour outside of Milano we stopped at a small Café so that we could all stretch. A few of us bought slices of pizza, and called that dinner because we had to leave Milano early the next morning. The bus dropped us off in Milano back in front of the tourist information center where it picked us up at. I walked the 12-14 blocks to my hotel and called it a night.

Posted by Bonnie7825 04:25 Archived in Italy Tagged italy switzerland traveling au_pair bernina_train saint_moritz Comments (0)

Getting to Milano

Part 1 of my whirlwind week traveling Northern Italy!

Part of the time that I was away from this blog I was busy speeding around as much of Northern Italy, seeing as much as I possibly could! I asked my family for one week off so that I could see more of Italy then just Torino. They said of course being proud Italians I need to see more Italy. I was given the week of April 11th through the 15th off to go see whatever I wanted. Well I spent at least two weeks before that planning what to see, where to go, and how to see as much as possible while trying to not blow through ALL of my savings. Traveling is cheaper here then it is in America but it still cost money and I'm not making much, but thankfully did think to save some money before I left home so as to have a little money specifically for traveling while here.
Anyways I managed to see a LOT in those nine days! Because I saw so much and did so much I am going to break it all down by day.

Saturday April 9th I left the house at the ungodly hour of 5:20 am so I could catch the 5:30 am bus out of Rivalta. Thankfully getting out of Rivalta is the easy part. There is literally only one bus that comes here to take to Torino. Bus #43 is your only choice. Once I got to the parking lot where normally I would hop onto the #4 tram and zip on into Torino proper. This time I needed to find the Flixbus location and for that I had to take bus #91 for half an hour and then walk about six blocks. It was fairly easy. (Flixbus.com also has an app for Iphone & Androids. If traveling in Europe I highly recommend them. The buses are clean, some have wifi, the ones I was on had outlets to charge your phone, yes you can eat on them, and they are bright green so easy to find.) I was catching the 7am bus to Milano! While on the bus they said use their wifi and app to book your next trip and save big. I had my travels all booked except how to go from Lucca back to Torino so I got onto the wifi and looked to see how much it would cost. Most trips for 2-7hours where ranging €7-€15, I had in fact paid €7.50 for that bus ticket from Torino to Milano. There was one bus at 1:30pm leaving Lucca for Torino and it would only cost me €1. I pulled out my debit card and booked the ticket right away because there was NO way I was finding a deal better then that! I was hoping for €7.50 because Megabus, the train, and every other route I'd looked at was €12 or more. I was very happy.
The bus finally arrived in Milano and to my surprise because I have no clue where bus stops are it drops me off at the far outside edge of Milano. Thankfully it's right in front of the last Metro station for the red line. I bought a ticket for the Metro didn't have to worry about which way to take it since this was the end of the line and went into the city proper. I used my Google Maps app which has been a huge life saver while over here to figure out when to get off the metro and how to find my hotel. Once I got off the Metro I had a thirteen minute walk and voila I was at my hotel. The Hotel Cavour is a very nice hotel, if I ever get the chance to stay there again I shall. It had a good location, next to the hop off hop on bus which if you want to see museums and the typical tourist/visitor locations I always find to be useful. Even though it was only 10am I went inside and asked at the desk clerk if I can leave my bag there while I go out to see the city, and then check in later since I know check in is not until 3pm I just do not wish to haul it all around the city with me. The gentleman behind the counter was very nice and helpful and offered to see if a room of the type I'd booked was ready and if so would I like to check in now? Um Yes please that would be wonderful. Sure enough a room was ready and he got me all checked in, gave me the key to room #421, and asked if I wanted a map of the city. I took the map and asked if he happened to know if the hop on hop off bus came anywhere near the hotel and to my luck it stops on that street just a few blocks down! After thanking him for his help I went upstairs with my bag. I left my bag in my room and immediately went back out into the city to start exploring since this was my only day in Milano to actually see Milano.

I continued typing this post for almost three more hours filling in all the things I did. Thanks to a computer glitch the drafts for it all some how did not save and when I hit preview it all disappeared. So for tonight this is what you get. I know it's not much but tomorrow I will redo everything that was lost and get it posted in separate posts for each day I guess in case the site glitches again. Thank you to everyone who read this because I just saw the numbers and I am honestly blown away I really only expected two or three people at most to read this.

Posted by Bonnie7825 11:53 Archived in Italy Tagged italy traveling au_pair travel_europe_cheap Comments (0)

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