Monday, June 05, 2006

Coventry - Luni

Coventry airport is functional - just - you can't get a hot snack and a hot drink at the same shop.We read guidebooks on the plane which did inspire me a little. When we got into the airport at Pisa it was hot.

Fools stood by the baggage carousel, letting their kids play at collecting luggage. It made getting ours off without maiming people difficult but the English fools liked to let their kids get close to the bikes. We unpacked them in the baggage hall, although much of the packing had already come off. Pumping up the tyres was too much effort for Lou so I did that whilst she screwed on the pedals and applied insulating tape to her saddle as it had punctured and the orange gel goo was in danger of oozing out.

We set off for Pisa and the tower. We took multiple wong turns in hideous traffic. People do not seem to pay any attention to road signs, laws or other road users - it's every man for himself.The square with the leaning tower is pretty grim. Gazillions of tourists, loads of fake watch hawkers, and I suspect more than a few dozen pickpockets crowded around. We took the obligatory photographs of us pushing up the tower, including one of Gulliver - Lou's school bear.
The tower itself looked fabulous, but we both felt vulnerable and didn't want to leave the bikes even double locked for a second so we admired from afar and left the church alone. We cycled back towards the railway station and stopped to have lunch at the 'Alle Antiche Navi Snack Bar'. It's on the bend of a fairly busy road in the university district. For no obvious reason a fully loaded hearse stopped outside for several minutes while its driver chatted with someone in the street.

I had scrummy pasta after some confusion about ordering. She offered us 'white or red' pasta which turned out to be cream or tomato sauce with salmon.

We made it back to the station, I even got directions from an old guy on his bike. Lou bought the tickets from a very nice woman who spoke excellent English. We had a 90 minute wait for the local train which would stop at Luni on the way to La Spezia. We sat outside on the grass and wrote postcards. I went for a stroll to get stamps and water. You can only get stamps from a tobacconist, and then only one with a black 'T' outside. The woman at the station kiosk nearly bit my head of when I asked her for stamps. The stamps I got were ugly utalitarian ones, but I really liked the word francobolle so I said it a lot.

We had to carry our bikes down the stairs through the subway to Platform 6 and back up the stairs. A muscly bloke helped Lou up the stairs with hers. Our train was delayed over an hour so we stood watching other people come and go. The was a curious gay American tour group, mostly with fabulous shaved, tanned legs which put mine to shame, although the group as a whole did disprove the 'all gay men are good-looking' theory. When our train finally arrived it came in on Platform 1. We didn't have time to struggle and having quickly got used to braking road laws we just pushed the bikes across the tracks, earning us a 'honk' from our train. I asked the guard if it was 'per Luni?', he checked his list, nodded and helped us get the bikes into the drivers area. Cool.

The trip was quick, despite a few station stops, the drivers and guards were friendly and helpful and the mountains on either side of us were terrifying. My guidebook had promised no mountains.

Luni station was called by the driver who laughed and waved. It was about 20' long with one small sign and some steps down to a dirt track. There did not appear to be a town. We cycled along the track with some houses on either side and every now and then what I guessed to be sangiovese growing as a hedge, but nothing resembling a bar or hotel and it was getting dark.We followed signs to the historic centre, but it was simply a gated community of Roman ruins

We began to panic a tad. We decided to head towards the coast as it seemed like our best chance to get a room. At the first bar we came to after crossing a bridge over the main road I asked a chap "dove un albergo?". He talked to me which really didn't help, but he also gestured and I established that just down the road on the left was a restaurant which was also a hotel. It looked fine so I went in. Reception wasn't manned which wasn't an encouraging sign. I rang the number next to the phone and I woman answered. I said "Inglese?", she said 'yes', but no to a room. We could only rent an apartment and then only for a full week. Boo.

We cycled on and after some confusion about where to go we plumped for the direction with the most signs offering accommodation. I attached a front light to my person, but as I was attracting too much attention I moved it to my shoulder strap.

After a worrying ride into town with ever decreasing accommodation adverts we found a sign and stuck with it. I asked an Italian woman "dove un albergo?". She said she couldn't understand me. Never mind. Then as we cycled on she shouted "Alberrrrrrrrgo!" laughed and pointed behind her.

So here I am at the Stella Del Magra at Fiumaretta di Ameglia near Sarzanna. We locked our bikes up in reception after shuffling some chairs around. Our room has a teeny TV, a reasonable bathroom and a great view of the bay/marina/mountain. This morning I found we had a balcony so that's where I'm writing this. Last night we walked up to O'Neill's Irish Bar, with the same branding you find at home, but it sold only Guinness and three types of Tennants Scotch Ale. At least it had wine. It also sold fabulous home made pizza. We ate and talked about the day and it felt good having packed a lot in and working well without much of a plan. I was a bit worried at Luni when it was getting dark and we didn't know where to go and Lou was texting Frank to talk about his indiscretions but it worked out fine and here I am chilling on the balcony whilst Lou gets ready.

Breakfast is included in our 110E room rate and I intend to eat my money's worth.

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