Back in Rome
We arrived back into Rome on Wednesday evening (29th July) in reasonable time after having left San Lupo in the early afternoon - immediately after the main mass and precession of the statue of San Lupo through the streets.
It was good to have made it back to San Lupo again, although not a lot looks to have changed since our last visit in 2008 - but its beautiful during the festival with all the lights lining the streets at night.
The drive from San Lupo back to Rome was fairly straightforward and un-eventful - exactly how I like my drives in Italy to be. The autostrade makes for fairly good driving - especially on the tolled sections. It’s always the last 25-30min of navigation into your final destination that becomes stressful.
Once we got back to Rome, we unpacked and checked into our hotel. We decided it was best to return the rental cars that night instead of hanging onto them for the night and risking damage in the car park - or worse a 2.5hr wait to return the car like it took to pick it up.
The rental car return was as you would expect, and as we had hoped - simple and straightforward - and in under 20min we had returned both cars and were headed for the Fumancino taxi rank. We are now well acquainted with where the correct taxi rank is after our late and frustrating entry into Rome about a week and a bit ago.
After a brief walk we find the taxi rank with 2 taxi's sitting waiting for us - what could be better? Well it could be better if one of the taxi drivers was actually interested in doing their job - but rather we find one taxi with 3 young people in it, 2 young ladies in the front and a young gentlemen in the back. The other taxi was empty.
Apparently the two young (and somewhat attractive) ladies in the front of the occupied taxi had gained the intrigue of the young male driver - and none of them were interested in us.
So we wait... We lean against the empty taxi making it very obvious that we would like to go somewhere... still nothing. Eventually a third taxi turns up with an older gentlemen who is willing to help us - however when he see's two other taxi's he decides to enquire why we didn't get one of them. The problem became quickly obvious to him. A few rushed words of Italian and one of the girls jumps out of the front of her taxi and asks where we want to go.
The young guy in the back seat jumps out and we pile into the girls taxi and we are off - one of the young ladies at the wheel and her friend in the front passenger seat - apparently coming along for the ride.
The banter in the front seats was endless - and obviously very interesting based on the facial expressions of the friend. Her attention was fixated on what the driver had to say - and thanks to some interpretation from Albert (Laura's dad) we were able to follow the general gist of the conversation.
Well... apparently the driver had just broken up with her boyfriend Francesco... and it went on... and on... and on...
We eventually got to the hotel and 20 Euro later we parted ways with the young ladies and left them to their less than interesting conversation about Francesco.
The rest of the evening was fairly laid back - and after dinner we all turned in for an early night as we wanted to check out of the hotel as early as possible to maximise our time in Rome in the morning.
Whirlwind tour of Rome
After an early breakfast the next morning we met our arranged shuttle van that was taking us, and our many bags, into Rome Termini train station. It was a long drive into Rome in the traffic, but we eventually made it. As it was still early we decided to check our bags in at the train station baggage holding area and head out for some brief sight seeing.
Given the limited time we had, we thought our whirlwind tour should hit some of the major attritions - St. Peters Basilica and the Spanish Steps - conveniently both located on train line 'A'.
We got out to St. Peters Basilica in no time at all - and the air-conditioning in the Metro trains was a nice escape from the heat and humidity of the Roman streets.
Walking up and into St. Peter's Basilica was quite a sight. It was only us, and 10,000 other people - quite tranquil really...
The line to get into the basilica wound its way right around the main piazza. We didn't join the queue and were satisfied to observe from the outside and snap a few pics.
We then started to head back to the train and popped out at the Spanish Steps for a few pics before heading back to Rome Termini to pick up our bags and catch our train onto Genoa.
Train to Genoa
The train trip was great - although we managed to score the carriage with only partially working air conditioning - still it was better than none at all.
The train journey was relaxing. Put the mind in neutral for a while and enjoy the scenery passing by. A welcome change to being behind the steering wheel - and to be able to walk up to the bar carriage and have a few quite beers made it even better.
The train line follows the west coast of Italy - so there were a lot of brilliant views of the Mediterranean and the towns and cities along the way.
We arrived into Genoa in the early evening, and checked into our hotel, which was just a short walk across the piazza from the station. On this trip, Genoa is simply a stop over for us - so after a quick dinner (which was absolutely beautiful) we all headed off to bed to get up at 4:30am to catch our next train at 6am.
The early train to Aix-en-Provence
Friday morning we were all up early and met down stairs at 5:15am packed and ready to leave. We had arranged to check out the night before so just needed to drop our door keys with reception and leave. A short walk across the piazza got us back to the train station.
Today we had three trains to catch. The first was a regional train from Genoa (Italy) to Ventimiglia (Italy). The second was also a regional train from Ventimiglia (Italy) to Nice (France). The last was a fast TGV from Nice to our final destination Aix-en-Provence (France).
The challenges we had ahead were related to management of our baggage on and off the trains. Our bags at this point are quite heavy, and numerous. Getting on the first train was reasonably straight forward given the early hour - but as our journey moved on, more and more people joined the train making it more complicated to manage the placement of the bags.
The regional trains don't stop for long at each station either - so we needed to be prepared - with out bags - ahead of time so we could quickly get everyone (and their bags) off before the train needed to move on.
The first stop was to be the most challenging with only 11 min to change trains - including locating the next train, its platform, and lugging all our bags down and back up the platform steps. Luckily we arrived in about 5 min ahead of schedule that gave us some more time. In the end, the change over was quite straightforward and we had plenty of time.
The next two legs of the journey were also straightforward - however we did notice an increased level of chaos at the French train stations as opposed to the Italian stations. Both Nice and the TGV station in Aix-en-Provence were packed and totally chaotic.
After arriving into the TGV station in Aix-en-Provence (about 20km out of the main city), we started looking for a taxi. Simply you would think - and in reality it was - unless you had two 30kg bags in tow plus a 10kg backpack, 4 other travellers and your 18-month-old son. Apparently we had arrived into platform 1. Taxis were at platform 3. This meant lugging bags up two flights of stairs onto the mezzanine level that allowed you to walk over the train line to platform 3. Most of the stations lifts were out of order. We found one that got us half way up, and reduced the stair climb by 50% - but we had to carry the bags the rest of the way.
The taxi was very easy - we needed two and in about 20min we arrived safely into Aix-en-Provence and at our accommodation - all very tired after the long day, and many stairs we had to carry bags up and down.
We did notice the much more comfortable temperature in Aix-en-Provence. Closer to 28c, and much cooler in the later evening when we ventured out for a walk up the nearby Cours Mir Abeau - a long and grand street which has night markets, cafes and restaurants all the way up. It made for a very nice and relaxed evening walk.