Archive for April 18th, 2010

Nice, France to Imperial, Italy (53.42 miles, 5 hours 29 minutes moving)

I slept poorly last night, with roommates drunkenly and loudly coming home at 3 a.m. and more at 5:45 a.m.  Back in my college days in the cold-air dorms, I would have slept right through the racket, but the last four years have robbed me of that ability, and this only added one more reason for me to hit the road for a nice campsite in Italy.  I’ve decided that I truly prefer sleeping in my tent to staying in hostels, which is a surprise, even to me.

Sure, the hostels usually have a free wifi internet connection and plenty of comfy seats near electrical sockets to recharge my bag of gadgets and the only young English-speaking people that I’ve met on the trip, but the price difference, the sleep interruptions, and the extra difficulty of lugging my collection of gear up flights of stairs makes it more of a hassle than biking into a campsite, setting up my tent and transferring gear directly inside. And I think both experiences (the hostel and campsite) would be more enjoyable if I had a traveling partner, but I guess we have to play the cards we’ve been dealt.

During breakfast, I got a facebook message to let me know that my medical school class had just won first place in the musical/variety show competition that takes place between classes every spring. The previous three years I had taken a large roll in the planning/writing/acting and my heart wished to be back in Iowa City to celebrate a job well done with my deeply talented classmates. The pull and allure of home has often been on my mind over the past few weeks, and I have been struggling to justify my needs, wants, and experiences to make this endeavor worth missing so much of the little time I have left in Iowa City with my friends.

Leaving the city was quite exciting, as they were holding the Nice half-marathon along the same street I had biked into town on the prior day. The chaos of loud music, French announcers, and thousands of fit (and not-so-fit) athletes was something to behold. After reaching the end of the race route, I began the climb out of the city towards Monaco.  It was a long and hard climb, jumping 1200 feet over the course of almost six miles, but the views of Nice and the coast as I ascended made it totally worth it. I climbed for an hour and fifteen minutes straight, before reaching the top.

Perfect cove
Perfect cove

There were more ascents and descents to come though and finally I passed into Monaco. I didn’t really have expectations, but the city looked nearly identical to so many other cities along the coast, although the yahts in the marina were clearly larger and more ostentatious.

I continued on without stopping at the Monte Carlo casino, and soon passed into Italy (which did have a sign at the border, but it was nothing special and I almost missed it). The countryside instantly had a more italian look to it as the rocks and cliffs of the French coast were replaced by more brush and vegetation, and I started to be able to understand more of the signs and advertisements along the side of the road, thanks to some similarities between Spanish and Italian.

These quick country changes have been playing a number on my brain though as I struggle to remember which language’s words to try and use. Five countries with as many languages has seen me responding in Spanish to questions posed in French, and I finally resorted to an amalgamation that uses them all in hopes that one will be right, this afternoon at the grocery store. To the cashier: “Hi, bom dia, buenos dias, bonjour, buon giorno.” Upon receiving my change: “Thanks, obrigado, gracias, merci, grazie.” How confusing!

Although all of the climbing today (7105 feet!) made it feel like one of the longest days of the trip, I somehow managed to reach the campsite by 6:00 p.m. and had my tent up shortly thereafter. I found a bar that filled my grocery bag with some ice for the Pepsi Light that I had bought earlier and enjoyed the usual staples for supper before retreating to the campsite’s bathroom (again) for some writing and battery recharging.  The campsite was quiet and not a single person disturbed me before it was time for bed!