abroad travel

Hiking in Five Towns

Back in 2010, Wife and I took an awesome trip to Switzerland and Italy. Below is one of the days from our adventure.

After sleeping in until around 8, when Manarola begins to stir with speaker announcements, Wife and I prepared for some hiking through the national park.However, we first needed breakfast and once the bags were packed, we walked down the hill and found a little café close to the water.

The woman behind the counter took our order in perfect English (it might help to point out she grew up in New York). As learned from our friend Ricky, Italians have some bread and coffee in the morning, that is it. So Wife enjoyed the toast while I enjoyed the coffee (with some ham and eggs).

With a few calories settling in our stomachs, we began the short hike across all five towns. The first part of the hike, between Manarola and Corniglia, was quite nice until we reached the steps that took us up to the cliff-side town. I don’t remember how many steps there were, but both of us were quite winded and sweaty by the time we reached the top. Before we go next time, we are definitely working on a stairmaster!

The trails became smaller as we left Manarola and made our way to Vernazza. Once in Vernazza, we decided we wanted lunch and found a cafe near the water (you can tell the town was getting bigger with all of the cruise ship visitors). Once the pizza and beer was gone, Wife and I discussed our next move. I said we should continue while she argued that the views would be the same. Lucky for me, I won in the end.

Well, not really lucky for me. Rick Steves suggested to make the hike between Monterosso and Vernazza first and we were doing it last. The trail (if you can call it that) was large enough for one. It was difficult and the hike down the side of the hills into Monterosso went on forever. But we made it!

We arrived in Monterosso in the late afternoon and decided to take a boat back to Manarola. The cool ocean breeze felt great along with the slight spray from the boat. Once back in Manarola, we enjoyed some gelato and walked the La Via dell’Amore to Riomaggiore just so we could say we walked the entire trail in one day.

After a shower and dinner, we relaxed on our balcony, once again enjoyed the view, and fell asleep dreaming of hiking trails and our next destination, Florence.

abroad travel

The Longest Day(s)

Neither cabin crew strikes nor volcanic ash kept us from arriving in Lausanne, Switzerland, last Wednesday night after a fairly uneventful, though veerrry long, day of travel. Our bags were packed-yes, just a small backpack and a carry-on for each of us-and off we went!

We left San Diego at 11:50 am, but not before I got the news that I won the Burke Administrator of the Year Award at USD! I was thrilled! It is the highest honor in my division, and even though I missed the announcement, it felt amazing to be recognized for what was really an outstanding year for me professionally. With that great news, I skipped right onto the plane for what I now knew was **officially** a well-deserved vacation.

The plan was to fly from San Diego to Chicago, Chicago to Heathrow, Heathrow to Milan, then take a train from Milan to Lausanne. We did try to pull an Amazing Race move while at the Heathrow Airport and hop a flight into Geneva instead of Milan to save us a train trip, but unfortunately all the flights to Geneva were full. Instead, off to Milan we went and got our first glimpse of the Swiss countryside when we hopped the train to Lausanne. Not really knowing which was up or down, if it was night or day, if we were sleeping or awake, we had a pleasant conversation with two missionaries from San Francisco and finally managed to drag our limbs and luggage up to the front door of Mark and V’s place in Switzerland.

I was so excited to see my friend V, that I didn’t have any trouble staying up to chat until almost 11 pm before we finally fell into our comfy Swiss bed.

It was by far, the longest day(s). In the end, we departed San Diego at 11:50 am on Tuesday, May 25 and arrived in Lausanne, Switzerland at 8:40 pm on Wednesday, May 26. Total travel time was almost exactly 24 hours (note lesson learned below!).

Savvy Traveler Moment of the Day: Thanks to my research, even barely functioning, I recognized the bright yellow ticket validation machines tucked near the entrance to the train platform in the Milan station and “kerchunked” our tickets.  This validated our tickets and saved us from a hefty fine that Italian officials are notorious for sticking tourists with when they don’t validate their tickets.

Lesson Learned of the Day: Four legs and three connections=too many; three legs and two connections=possible; two legs and one connection=preferable.