Three-Country Europass '95
Cinque Terre to Carcassone
|It was in the Rick Steves
books that we first read about the Cinque Terre, Italy's "Five Lands" that
lie along the rocky coast a little north of La Spezia. At the time that Rick
Steves first wrote about this region, it was relatively uncrowded and really
qualifies as a part of his "Back Door" adventures. Today, it is much more
popular and can become really crowded at certain times of the year. In most
of the villages, accommodations are severely limited. We managed to spend
one night in Vernazza at Gianni's, but on the first night, everything was
full, and we stayed in La Spezia.
||It is easy to travel up and
down the route of all the villages by using the local trains and by walking.
We really liked Vernazza most of all and after taking a quick look at the
other villages spent most of our time relaxing by the harbor, watching the
boats, and reading. In Rick Steves' books, he recommends the Cinque Terre
for taking a vacation from your vacation. It's a place where you don't feel
compelled to look for a museum or a famous sight; just have a bottle of the
local wine and let all worries disappear.
|Manarola is one of the other
villages of the Cinque Terre. We took the train from Vernazza down to Riamaggiore
and then walked along the Via Amour (the cliffside path) back to Manarola.
The views along the Via Amour are among the most memorable that we have
had in all our years of travel. The sounds of the waves splashing on the
rocks far below and of the birds calling cannot be soon forgotten. At the
time of our visit, the Via Amour had been recently repaired after some damage
that had been done by landslides. The walk between Riamaggiore and Manarola
probably wouldn't take more than twenty minutes or so if you weren't constantly
stopped by the awesome sights.
||After leaving the Cinque
Terre, we took the night train across the south of France to Carcassone.
This was the first time we had ever had the opportunity to travel in first
class couchettes. First class couchettes are ten times better than second
class couchettes. The compartment had only four nicely-padded bunks, and
no one else was put in with the two of us. We arrived at Carcassone at some
ungodly time in the morning (about 5:00), and we sat in the station until
we thought our hotel might let us stash the bags. We stayed at the Hotel
Donjon in the heart of the old walled city. When we arrived at the hotel
about 6:30, we were (unbelievably) allowed to put our bags in what would
be our room and were able to have the huge buffet breakfast. The sight of
the walls of Carcassone made all the trouble of getting there worth the effort.
|The old walled city itself
is pretty small and can be easily covered in about an hour. Like Mont St.
Michel, Rothenburg, and other stops on the tour bus circuit, Carcassone
is very crowded from about 9:00 to 5:00 every day, but late in the afternoon,
it becomes very pleasant. Carcassone's biggest weakness lies in its souvenir
shops; unlike other tourist stops that we have seen which have some tasteful
shops mixed in with the junk, Carcassone is dominated by the junk. I don't
believe I've ever seen so many plastic swords in all my life.
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