I felt sad leaving Italy this evening as my slow train crossed the border into France. “It’s back to the grumpy old French,” I wrote in my travel diary. In total, I had spent 11 days in the company of friendly, exuberant Italians.
The French border police came onto the train with dogs. We were ordered to stay in our seats and show identification. Then the cops banged on all the toilet doors to see if any migrants were hiding inside; it was kind of dramatic.
As for slow travel, I think I’ve had enough. I feel the need to speed things up a little. The problem, I concluded, is that I spent too much time waiting for the train, and then sitting on the train for very long stretches. Another problem was lugging my baggage around, including up and down stairs. At the start of the trip my bags were light, but got progressively heavier as I purchased things along the way. The only solution to this would be to hire my own personal sherpa.
Today, Sunday, was a very long day. I didn’t arrive and check into my Nice hotel until 8:30 pm.
From Bologna I caught the noon train to Milan (a journey of one hour), and then I had a 3-hour stopover in Milan. In hindsight I should’ve checked my baggage in the left luggage area and walked around outside. But I didn’t do that. I just hung around the (magnificent) train station, people-watched, ate pizza and drank coffee. OK, I also indulged in a large gelato cone. I was leaving Italy, who knows when I’ll eat Italian ice cream again? Italian ice cream is simply irresistible. And I hear it’s even better, if that’s possible, in Sicily. That’ll be my next southern adventure: Sicily and Sardinia are two islands I’ve always wanted to visit.
Then I finally headed for the train at 3 pm. I had a single window seat in first class, the car was clean, spacious and nicely air-conditioned … but, man, was it slow. It was like travelling on Amtrak. From Milan we headed to Genoa (a great city, by the way, I highly recommend Genoa), and for the next 5 hours we crawled the coastline at a snail’s pace. For some inexplicable reason everyone had an internet connection but me. So I read The New York Times, Le Monde, the train safety manual, timetables, and anything else I could get my hands on.
So, two full days in Nice starting tomorrow morning, then it’s back to Paris and back to work.
I stayed at a great hotel in Bologna called the Royal Hotel Carlton. In Polignano I stayed in an immaculate studio apartment in the town centre called Il Viandante at number 15 via Anemone, it’s very original.