Catch up on our visit to Italy’s Cinque Terre before checking out the latest installment in my European road trip series where we take in the Leaning Tower of Pisa. For those of you who have been following my adventure over the last few years, my next few posts may not be as detailed! Unfortunately, I have not been able to finish my travel journal so I am piecing my adventures together based on rogue memory and a few video clips I uploaded to Facebook.
Pit Stop at the Leaning Tower of Pisa
Nonetheless, our pit stop at the Leaning Tower of Pisa will stay with me for the rest of my life. Not because it was a gorgeous piece of Italy’s architectural history, but because it is one moment that I really can take pride in myself.
Picture this: our shoes still drying from the rains at Cinque Terre, we stop at the parking lot of the Piazza del Duomo. It is full-blown Florida monsooning outside the bus. Despite being in the early afternoon, it looks near dusk, and the wind is whipping up. It is by far the worst weather we had experienced the whole trip. We waited for about a half-hour to see if it let up. When rains failed to relent, Nikos gave us the option to either stay on the bus or brave the enormous, fat drops pelting the side of the bus.
Lessons from the Past
Almost everyone elected to stay on the bus. I was almost part of that party. But as I sat in my seat looking across the puddles towards the piazza, I remembered something my mom had told me before I left. She recalled her own experiences backpacking in Europe as a young adult. She had somehow wound up on an overnight ferry. My mom hadn’t bathed in three days and she didn’t know a single person. She asked two French girls (who didn’t know English) to watch her stuff. Meanwhile, she tried to wash up in a hidden employee bathroom the size of a small closet. Her travel journal was full of swearing and how miserable she was. To this day, she says the trip was the best of her life and she’d do it again in a heartbeat.
This was going to be my ONLY chance — maybe for my entire life — to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa. As incredible as travel is, it’s not without its uncomfortable moments. Compared to stealing away into an employee bathroom on an overnight ferry with no access to indoor seating, this was a walk in the park. I’d be damned if I let a little bit (well, a lot) of rain stop me.
A Soggy Reality
In the end, only me, Yennifer, and Dounia followed Nikos out into the storm. With nothing but my thin and not-waterproof raincoat on, we darted between crowds huddled under the few awnings leading up to the square before we were spat out in front of the soggy greenway. We took the obligatory pictures and took it in for all of 10 minutes before scrambling back towards the bus.
Was it worth it? Absolutely. Sure, the view definitely would have been better in the sun. We probably would have had a picnic with an incredible backdrop. I probably could have spent a little more time lining up my classic Leaning Tower of Pisa shot. But I didn’t back down, and that’s what makes this one of my favorite memories from the trip. My gut instinct was to give up. I actively decided that that wasn’t going to be the kind of traveler I was. It was incredibly liberating, and I still got the reward of seeing the tower.
Towards the French Riviera
Once back on the bus, I shrugged off my sopping wet raincoat. I tried to dry off with my hoodie as best I could (which wasn’t much). We finished out the bus ride and I felt elated the whole time. I did it. Once we finally arrived at the hotel in Antibes, I finally got to shower. I quickly changed into some drier clothes, appreciating the step up from a ferry’s employee bathroom (sorry Mom). Although I can’t remember the name, I know that we were sandwiched somewhere near the coast between le Fort Carré and the Grande Roue d’Antibes near the Promenade de l’Amiral de Grasse. That night, we explored the downtown area and had dinner at an outdoor café. Ambling along the coast, I knew great adventures were to come the next day as we explored Antibes and its azure coastline.