The Hendersons Final Days and Getting Home
2014 Trip to Italy and Malta
We left our friends Sunday morning and drove to the beautiful town of Lucca. We stayed in Lucca in2008 and visited it briefly in 2002. It is a joy! The town is surrounded by a wall,but many years ago a very forward thinking ruler had the town walls modified so there is a wide walking path along the top. The residents do their evening passagiata along this pathway, which is wide enough for bikes, roller bladers, families with strollers and pedestrians. There are an abundance of good restaurants. We loved our B n B – it was just outside the walls. It was roomy (a shower where you could bend over without having your rear up against a cold clammy curtain). Our host was willing to speak Italian or English with us. The room was very comfortable. We walked into the center of town, which was hopping as there was a comic book show in town, so the piazza was covered with tents for the participants. We had a lovely dinner in the center of town. I wish we had more time in this little gem of a town.
Since we couldn’t stay in Genova – although the apartment we had rented was not damaged by the floods, the center of town was still a mess, we changed our plans and went to a town called Ventimiglia (Twenty Miles – go figure). In retrospect, we would have chosen a different place – there just wasn’t much to do there and our accommodations, while alright once you climbed all the steps, getting up those steps was a challenge – steep, many 90 degree turns, the steps were uneven and the rails were either loose or non-existent. We had a cup of coffee in a bar and it was terrible. There was only one restaurant within walking distance, and it was quite good. The drive to Ventimiglia was uneventful, although there was one very expensive toll road.
Last full day in Italy. We went to Hanbury Gardens, close to Ventimiglia. I suspect they would be beautiful in the spring, but in late summer/early fall, there isn’t much to see. Like so many places in Italy, they are built on steep sloops – everything seems to be at a0 degree angle.
We then drove to a charming little town Dolceacqua (Sweet Water). It is a very pretty town about 5 miles from Ventimiglia. This part of Italy is rather interesting as the hill sides have a lot of greenhouse and they appear to grow flowers for the cut flower industry.
Time to drive to Marseille. We had plenty of time, so decided to make a small detour through Monte Carlo, Monaco. Goodness, talk about conspicuous consumption – many high end shops, lots of expensive looking cars and high rise buildings. Interestingly, citizens of Monaco (which is a tax haven) aren’t allowed to gamble in the world famous casino. I guess the government doesn’t want them squandering their wealth on such things. There really isn’t anything to see in Monte Carlo, unless you are uber wealthy and love to shop. Or drive the famous Grand Prix. Or gamble.
We then entered France. Never again. The road routed us immediately onto an Autoroute. As it turned out, we didn’t have the right change for the toll and, of course, the miserable toll booth wouldn’t take our credit card. We backed up traffic for several minutes while we waited for help. The booth didn’t take bills, only coin and only coins 10 Eurocents and higher. We had the right change, but some of our coins were five Eurocents. Eventually a man came out and gave us the correct change. Then we came to tollbooth #2. Now we only had bills. The booth wouldn’t take our credit card and didn’t take bills. The traffic backed up again, drivers were honking, but at this point we were so stressed and disgusted that we didn’t care. Eventually a woman came out and gave us change. Then we tried to buy fuel – but the pump didn’t work. Finally we went into Nice, found a Carrefore store, bought a candy bar, got enough change to take us the rest of the way to Marseille, had a cup of coffee (no cappuccino here, we are I France, after all). We eventually were able to get a few liters of diesel, drive to Marseille, turn in the car and were taken to the airport. We were going to eat at the airport since we would be getting to the hotel too late to eat dinner. As luck would have it, the only restaurant in the airport closed at 6pm – we got there at 5:57 pm.
We have sworn never to return to France…the people are so unwilling to make even a tiny attempt to help out tourists. If the crew on a ship bound for Italy won’t speak anything but French, then to Hell with them.
The flight to London was uneventful, we took a cab from the airport (just a short ride, but it was getting late so we splurged). The Arora is a pretty decent hotel and remarkably quiet given that you can see the runway from the rooms.
Thursday – a very good English breakfast, a leisurely time packing, off to Heathrow, onto the plane, took off on time, landed in Seattle within minutes of scheduled arrival time. Generally, things work in the UK. Glad to be home.