Just Genoa. In by train, out by boat!

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October 13th 2011
Published: June 26th 2017
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We managed to negotiate the Gare de Monaco with only the slightest of huffing and puffing and Roisin and I struggled with the luggage down 2 escalators and one glass lift. For the latter part of that journey, Chris accompanied the 2 suitcases down in the glass lift while Roisin played it safe with a few flights of stairs!!!

We decided to take the earlier train to Genoa at 13:47. We had to change at Ventimeglia. The later train gave us only 15 minutes to make our connection whereas by taking the earlier train, we would have an extra ½ hour should we find that Ventimeglia station was designed by the same engineers who designed the Monaco station!!

They don't make it any easier with the trains. You needed a small stepladder to climb aboard the Trenitalia train already stationary at platform D. We had reservations so after finding coach 7 seats 55 and 56, we found ourselves in a small 6-berth compartment that when accommodating Roisin, me, 2 large suitcases and 3 pieces of hand luggage, there wasn't room for much else.

No such luck. A portly Greek looking Italian, a French speaking North African and two Chinese students helped me lift our suitcases in to the luggage rack. We were off.

The 2-hour journey took us up around the Ligurian Coast. The train hugged the coastline with the low autumn sun glistering in the sea whilst rows and rows of low-rise apartments sped past. Most looking worse for wear but still prime real estate with sea views from the living room but mountain shots from the back bedroom!!

We had so far survived stairs, escalators, what seemed miles of underpasses and now the hotel Vittoria was in sight. We managed to emerge from the station at the correct exit and even the final few hundred yards of pavement wasn't user friendly but we'd made it. We turned the corner to face the entrance of the Hotel Vittoria and fƱ€k me!! The largest pile of steps I'd seen since we came face to face with the Big Buddha on Lantau Island. However, my heart attack was short lived when Roisin pointed to a doorway on ground level indicating 'this way to the Hotel Vittoria.

Genoa's most famous son is Christopher Columbus. I understand that he was a bit of a traveller although he couldn't be bothered to write a blog so he couldn't have been that serious a traveller!!! He'd go missing for years at a time the come back and tell everyone of all the good stuff he'd found and seen. It's amazing he managed to get the time off work!!

At the time of Genoa's peak in the 16th century, the city attracted many atists, including Rubens, Caravaggio and Van Dyck. I like Van Dyck's work best, especialy Mary Poppins and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang but Diagnosis Murder was a bit of a let down!!

It was from Genoa that Garibaldi started his ‘Expedition of the Thousand', which would eventually lead to the constitution of the Kingdom of Italy…and revolutionised the biscuit!!!!

Our first (and only!) evening in Genoa was spent wandering through the old town. We headed for Via Garibaldi (see above!!). The brochure said that a leisurely stroll down this street would take your breath away. This was nothing to do with the facades of the historical palazzi with their light effects and profiles. It certainly did take our breath away but because it was so far away from our hotel we were knackered!!!. We also tried to box clever hoping we would double back on ourselves as we headed deeper into the old quarter. There seem to be no logic to the intertwining alleys and piazzas. Were we doomed to roam these streets with wall-to-wall boutiques for eternity?? There is only so much Gucci, Louis Vuitton and Prada a man can take!! Allelulyah for Roisin's adept skill in map reading that finally navigated us out of this maze and straight in to a pizzeria.

I didn't care that my Diavola Pizza took 20 minutes longer than Roisin's Penne Salmone. I had a well-deserved Birra Grande to keep me company!

The day of embarkation was upon us. Check in was at 2pm so time for a leisurely breakfast consisting of various meats; ham, salami etc; cheese, yoghurt, fruit juice and an assortment of pastries. A continental breakfast by all accounts. Although here on the continent it is simple known as ‘breakfast'!!!

As luck would have it, our hotel was next to an elevator that takes you through the rock face up to Castel d'Albertis high on the hilltop where I was reliably informed you can get excellent views of the city of Genoa below.

This was the weirdest elevator I had ever encountered. It was like something out of Thunderbirds! It was a small glass compartment that sat approximately 10 persons. The elevator was on a track that moved horizontal through a tunnel for a few hundred yards before stopping. After more mechanical clicking as the elevator was secured, it then proceeded to rise. I was 8 again. I was Virgil Tracey in Thunderbird 2!! I was silently humming the theme tune in my head!! I was being watched by an eldery lady who seemed to know exactly what was going through my head!!!

I crossed the road on exiting the elevator and checked the tariff for entrance to the Castle. It was 6 euros. A bit steep just to take a panoramic photo of the city. So, in true Scouse style I decided to enter the grounds to see how far I could get before being stopped!! The path weaved through a short tunnel and around to a terrace. So far so good. Through the trees I spotted the most welcoming sight yet…our ship was berthed awaiting the arrival of 1200 passengers. It's amazing how efficiently all are processed through check in.

The admission seemed to be for the museum of world culture that was housed inside the castle. I had no time to explore this tempting offer; I had a cruise to catch!

We still had some time so Roisin and I decided to walk down to the cruise terminal to see if walking with our luggage was a viable option. 7 minutes later we were stood outside the passenger terminal. However, the pavements leading to Ponte dei Mille, where the MSC Lirica was waiting to take us to the United Arab Emirates, were not wheelie luggage friendly so when the time was right, we would take a taxi. The time was now 11:00; still a few hours before check in and a few guests had already started to arrive. We were convinced that they must be German, wanting to get an early speck, unpack their towel and place it on a sun bed!!!

Well, after having been mugged last year in Lisbon, I have taken precautions since but once again I was caught off-guard. However, this was more of a legal mugging as the bastard of a taxi driver charged us 15 euro for the 5-minute journey. Alarm bells should have rang when I didn't notice a meter in the car!

Check in was straightforward and our silver membership ensured we got express check-in.

Our cabin is snug (to put it politely!) but we knew already what to expect. However, we didn't expect the 2 ‘pull out' bunks hanging on the wall. We just hope that if the sea gets a bit choppy, they stay in the ‘up' position. I was going to pull the bed down to show Roisin how it works but she convinced me that we don't know what we'll find. For all we know, the previous passenger may well still be in there, stuck there due to one unfortunate night when, in rough weather, the bunk folded in on itself!!

The speedy boarding gave us more time to get our bearings before the sail-away party began. I'm not sure what the entertainment crew were supposed to be in their brightly coloured headwear. It looked to me like Dr Seuss's ‘Cat in the Hat'. I just hope they don't carry the theme in to dinnertime or we could find ourselves eating ‘green ham and peas'!!!

The ship set sail at 5pm prompt for our first port of call, Naples.

We are on late sitting for dinner; at 8:30pm. We were shown straight to our predetermined table number 106. A table for 4. The waiter came and provided us with the menus. Another waiter took our order. Then there was the drinks waiter, the cutlery waiter, and the waiter who scrapes the crumbs from the table after the meal. Not to be outdone the drinks waiter would not provide us with a carafe of tap water saying that the water is not drinkable. There is only bottled water available!!! It is well publicised that a 15% service charge is added to all drinks order. This is accepted and we have no problem with that. However, when we agreed to take a bottle of still mineral water, the waiter didn't even go away to fetch one to earn the service charge. He literally bent down and picked a bottle from a cooler that was about 6 inches from my shoulder. I could have turned and took the water myself but then I'm sure the service charge would still have been added to the bill!!

No body else joined us for our first dinner aboard but it's early days yet. Who knows what tomorrow will bring??!!

PS. During the night Roisin swore she heard a faint cry for help coming from the wall of our cabin!!!

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17th October 2011

Do you really watch the cat in the hat?? Not sure why I'm surprised ... :-)

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