A 'holiday' on The Continent
As I write this I can hardly believe the last few days have been and gone. Ever since my Mum suggested that she and my sister took a holiday and came to visit me, I have been excited about the prospect of being with 2/4 of my family and most of all people I know and love. They took trains through Scotland, England, France and Italy to meet me and together we explored what Genoa had to offer at Easter.
We wandered (no mooching allowed!) around and found some markets, including a lovely Farmer's Market with delicious local produce - most notably Pesto Genovese - the original pesto, fresh, bright green and yummy. It was nice just to wander the old, narrow streets and babble about my travels, hear their news and stop for the odd ciocolatta. We popped into a few elaborate Catholic churches - I always love the echoey and still sound and calm in these great churches, if not the decadence. We decided not to join the mile-long queue for the aquarium but were happy to stand in awe of the wooden pirate ship and be glad my vessel was sturdier. There wasn't much else to do except weary our feet walking and eating and savouring the culinary delights of Italy. Many places were closed for Easter so it was hard to find anywhere but we 'lucked' upon a nice outdoor cafe for pasta Genovese (pesto) and seasonal spring lamb and cheesecake.
The next day we decided to get the scenic funiculaire to Casella. We found our way along with lots of others with the same idea to the little station and hopped on. The one hour journey took us up and out of Genoa and through some beautiful countryside, three valleys of lovely scenery, little villages and signs of spring (and summer too- I think the nature in Italy is confused- climate change perchance?) Wood anemones (we think) and elderflowers. At the end of the line there wasn't actually that much to do but join the throng and buy an icecream. So we assented and tried to ignore the proud list of E numbers displayed. In the evening more eating with slightly less success but still tasty, local seafood. I even managed to eat some 'Good Fish Guide' recommended clams! Feeling fat as anything we rolled home to sleep.
Day 3 and we were ready to move on , next stop Milan, where we met up with some friends from when we lived in Italy. More eating on the agenda! as we savoured delicious risotto Milanese and other local fare with Gian Carlo and fresh and seasonal (in Italy anyway) asparagus and gnocchi with Penelope and Gabriele. Thanks to everyone for lovely meals and for coming at such short notice! We had a brief break in between to look at the magnificent Duomo and Central Station. Then it was time for the night train to Paris. Italy is such a fantastic country for 'local food'. They are rightly proud of their culinary delights and local specialities, using fresh ingredients and seasonal produce- why can't more countrys follow suit?
On the delayed night train we were lucky to only get one other person in our 6 berth cabin and none of the lovely teenage school kids. Compared to some of my recent train experiences it was not the best. The beds were tiny and I can't imagine how squashed it would be with 6 people- well except from tales from Mum and Penelope's experience on the way down. Cosy is the polite word for it. Either way it was a popular choice with few seats spare. Nothing much happened, we slept and chatted to our room mate and her ultimate frisbee friends and soon were arriving in Paris. After more local specialities, Gauffres Chantilly and Chocolat Chaud for brekky (well I am in continental Europe now!) it was sadly time to say goodbye again. I felt pretty emotional as I realised I would be alone again, our time had been too short and it had been quite tiring for everyone. I don't know how people do these 'mini breaks' I can't believe they are relaxing. So Mum and P safely back on Eurostar I pull myself together and get practising my French. I get a crepe au fromage, sit on the steps to the Sacre Coeur in the sunshine and look down and Paris and listen to lots of lovely buskers play.
My Paris experience was fun and consisted of tourist wanderings, watching lots of street theatre and buskers, a trip to the Louvre and of course Mona Lisa (pretty small in real life!) eating lots of cheese and the most expensive beer of my trip so far. I chatted to some locals for hours on the steps to the Sacre Coeur, my new home, and tried to sort out bicycle stuff with shops in Paris and at home. Thanks to the guys at CAT and also the lovely Jonathan and co at the Holy Trail cycle shop in Machynlleth, I will soon have a bicycle in Paris and am set to cycle through the Champagne region and see what slow travel is really all about! I can't wait.