Monday, December 31, 2007

Logbook: Last Stop La Spezia

Laststoplaspezia1Thursday was a pretty grueling travel day as it took four trains -- and over 12 hours! -- to complete the Ljubljana-Venezia-Firenza-Pisa-La Spezia route. The two middle trains in Italy ran late which meant I missed my connections and had to improvise along the way. Once again having none of the local language or any familiarity with local ways of doing things added to the complexity. Being the object of attention of an extremely drunk woman of questionable repute throughout one entire leg of the trip pretty much put things over the top. As you can see from my European rail/ferry map, I've had pretty extensive exposure to the milieu since April and have to admit that this was the most exhausting trip of the lot. Upon arrival in La Spezia -- my last stop in Europe! -- at about 10pm I opted for a cab ride to my hotel and barely had enough energy to find some food before crashing.

Laststoplaspezia2I slept in a little bit on Friday and mostly made it a recovery day, but I did venture out enough to get a brief glimpse of the town. Overall, La Spezia, is a fairly compact little city nestled at the base of a moderate coastal mountain and has a mix of narrow, winding pedestrian streets and chaotic vehicular avenues. There is a fairly extensive green space along the waterfront with plenty of statues and places to sit. The fact that the sun was shining, the sky was blue and the temperature was moderate made it quite pleasant overall. The harbor is lovely and it is a treat to be near the water again. I did struggle a bit with being out of sync with the clock here, as restaurants all seemed to be closed at what I thought were meal times and shops seemed to be open at quite odd intervals. I chalked it up to still being pretty wiped out from the day before and expected to get in sync in due course.

Laststoplaspezia3The past three days have been "mixed-use" ones for me, fairly well balanced between being inside to handle online stuff and going outside to do exploration and chores. I'm afraid I can't report that I have had much success yet at getting in sync. Shops that are open when I first see them and note their location for later are closed when I return. I think the main problem here is that I tend to be out and about in the middle of the day when the local culture seems to be pretty much shut down for extended lunch. I also have not yet had an easy time of finding a meal, and have been somewhat unimpressed with what I have gotten. Admittedly, I don't understand a lot of what's written on the menus -- and I really don't get the whole first plate, second plate, multiple course thing -- so I'm certainly at a disadvantage to give the cuisine a fighting chance. I did have the good fortune of finding one little cafe where a nice lady in a chef's outfit seemed to understand that I just wanted to eat. She fed me well and I enjoyed the wine that has her picture on the label. If present trends continue, I may just make dining at her place my daily routine!

Laststoplaspezia4I'm afraid I also cannot report that I am growing fonder of La Spezia as my time here goes on. On closer inspection, the city is a little shabby, with a fairly high proportion of moderately run down buildings. There is a lot of construction going on which adds to the messiness level, plus there is trash and graffiti pretty much everywhere. The large colonnaded walkways on the main streets are quite nice and the pedestrian streets are attractive in spots, but the overall impression is not that great. While I can't say that I don't like La Spezia, I can't really say that I like it either. Normally I would chalk it up to experience and move on, but I need to be here for a couple of more days until my ship arrives and I head out to sea. I may make a day trip to the nearby Cinque Terre, but since I've got some "end of year" stuff to handle and a fair amount of preparation yet to do in advance of being at sea -- and possibly completely out of touch -- for 34 days, I will probably postpone that exploration until another time when I will be able to give it more attention than a quick, one-day glimpse.

It is now New Year's eve and I'm going to head out to see what's going on. A little bit later I will post a Report I've been working on to celebrate The Voyage in 2007. It has been a fantastic year for me, and I look forward to more great exploration in 2008. I wish you a very happy New Year as The Voyage of Macgellan continues!

No comments: