As I mentioned in my picture post on train travel, I’ve recently switched from a stopover in Nice to a stopover in Ventimiglia. If the above picture is not enough of an explanation why, I invite you to come with me on one of my stolen afternoons in Ventimiglia:
Because I arrive at the same time every trip, I always look forward to how the light plays on the passage that goes from the tracks to the station.
My next stop is down a long, hilarious hallway to check my bag. When I reach the end, I ring a bell and someone comes and opens the window. I give them my bag, they take a photocopy of my passport, I give them 2 euro, a lot of paper shuffling is commenced, and a few minutes later I walk away unburdened of the schlep factor.
I always use the bathroom there afterward, just because it’s so nice not to have to do so without being surrounded by all of your worldly possessions. This is the only drawback I can think of to traveling alone. (Note: Go to the cafeteria first and grab some napkins, because it never, ever has toilet paper. I learned this the hard way.)
Then I head out the door of the station.
On my way down that street, which ends at the sea, I usually stop into the market and get a farinata.
For lack of a better description, it’s like a thin slice of polenta. They roll it in paper, stick it in a bag that gets delightfully greasy, and I’m on my way.
Sometimes, particularly if it’s a weekend, I watch bus tourists crowd the market. They gawk at the gorgeous produce lovingly arranged, and stare wistfully at the enormous blocks of cheese they will never be able to get through customs. I listen to them order food from the take-away stalls. The Germans trip over their hesitant Italian pronunciation, unused to subject and predicate being so intimately related. English speakers brazenly use their mother tongue in a shocking array of accents from both sides of the Atlantic, blissfully unaware that the vendor does not understand them and instead is waiting for them to point to what they want.
I take my little treat and walk down to the sea, cross the footbridge to the other side of the Roia river, and eat it on a bench.
(My favorite pictures of the sea here are from a spectacularly stormy day. I must remember to get pictures of the sea when it’s sunny, too, as it usually is!)
Even when there is snow on the Alps in the distance, I’ve rarely had to bundle up. I sit in the sun for a while, letting it warm my bones, blowing the indoor life of a freelancer away in the breeze. Sometimes a family will walk by, chatting happily after a big lunch. Sometimes there is an old man who sits on another bench and feeds the seagulls, then lies down and naps there. Once I watched as three burly Russian men walked out to the jetty, set up an enormous picnic, and chowed down. They were as giddy as kids playing hooky.
Sated, refreshed and thoroughly happy to be on Italian soil I head back to the station, ready for the next part of my journey: Ventimiglia to Milan.
This post has been entered into the Grantourismo–HomeAway travel writing competition. Does the post resonate with you? Does it inspire you? Have you had similar experiences? How do these kind of everyday experiences compare with visiting a major tourist sight? Lara and Terry of Grantourismo are keen to hear your thoughts.