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I'm a 21-year-old journalism student. I spent last semester living in Florence, Italy. These are my adventures.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Un Viaggio a Viareggio

I know I have a good weekend when each day warrants its own blog post. I just started each one separately last night and decided it's easiest to keep it that way.
So here's Saturday.

I slid my surprisingly dusty sandals out from under our wardrobe and washed them in the shower. I pulled my capris out from the bottom of my stack of jeans and rifled through my hangers to find a spaghetti strap tank top. I was ready for the beach. I didn't even care if it was ready for me.
Caitlin and I walked to the train station in the morning expecting to meet four other girls at 8:45 a.m. We were almost 10 minutes late, but no one was there. We looked around, bought our tickets for the 9:10 train and then waited by the entrance where we would have met them. With three minutes until our train departed, we gave up and boarded. It was a double decker train! I've been wanting to ride one ever since I first saw it. We of course rode on the top.
We later found out that Michelle was the only one who showed up. She got to the station at 8:50 a.m., walked around the whole place three times, bought a hash brown and went home after our train left. I have no idea how we missed her, but I still feel bad she didn't get to go. She and the other three who didn't come missed out on a great day.

We got to Viareggio around 11 a.m. and started walking toward what we assumed was the sea. As Caitlin put it, "I don't see buildings way down at the end. That means water." Sure enough, we reached the end of the road, and I could smell the beach. But in front of us loomed a giant carnival complete with multiple ferris wheels. The entrance was heavily guarded with no less than 10 police officers, and the ticket booth was open for business. €15 to enter. We were appalled. There must be another way to get to a beach without paying for a carnival. We turned right and started walking. Every street we crossed ended with a gate and the carnival. Over and over again we saw this:

We were discouraged but not defeated. There was still the opposite side of the ticket booth to scope out. We crossed the street to a park and headed back to the entrance of the carnival. We meandered through more green nature than we've seen in months.

We looped back to where we started and kept walking. Eventually the road took us to a dock where fishermen milled about bringing in nets and buckets and tubs of creatures. Several people stood further down selling the fresh food at a table.

We walked to the right and found a small bridge that connected two long boardwalks. The blue river below us repeated the colors of the buildings and boats above in ripples. 

From the bridge, we could see the beach! And there were no gates or fees. I took a minute to look at where I was. Everything was perfect. I was so happy I had to contain myself from jumping and squealing. I was genuinely giddy. We practically skipped along the boardwalk to our left.

When we reached the end of the concrete path, we turned around and gasped simultaneously at the view. A row of sailboats bobbed in the water. People strolled along the facing boardwalk. On the horizon, a small line of colorful houses divided the beach and the distant mountains. We laughed at our twin vocal reaction and headed back to the bridge.

We wanted to go right to the beach, but our stomachs were growling in protest. So we walked back through town to a small restaurant we had made a mental note of before. The buildings were all so colorful.

We sat in the patio of the restaurant watching people and cars pass through surprisingly clear glass. We scarfed down a plate of bruschetta — the best I've had yet. Caitlin said it was the second best. She now has to show me the place in Florence that supposedly makes it better.
I had Pizza Fresca — fresh tomatoes, oil, basil and cheese. Also the best pizza I've had. It even beat Gusta Pizza, which I didn't think was possible.

After our incredible meal, we walked back to the beach and finally stepped onto the sand.

A bamboo stick randomly washed up next to us.

After taking a few pictures, we sprawled out on the sand and pulled out our iPods. I rested my headphones behind my head and turned up the volume so I could listen to the waves over my soundtrack for the day: Fleetwood Mac's "Rumours" and some Cat Stevens.
We fell asleep for an hour or so before the wind got the best of us. It was a little colder than the above picture may indicate — and a little colder than I wanted to admit.
Yet our solution to being too cold on the beach was to go find gelato and walk along the boardwalk. I regret nothing.

"Blue" isn't nearly a strong enough color for this sky and water. I needed the beach more than I realized. I wish I hadn't taken Grand Haven and its beach for granted for so long.

We walked through the town again. We window shopped for a little bit and flipped through some Italian books in a book store. When it was nearing sunset, we headed back to the beach.

We sat in the sand for a while before walking along the boardwalk one last time.

The sky was brilliant. After the sun sunk behind the clouds and below the line of the sea, we headed to the train station. I figured we'd pass a souvenir shop of some sort on the way but no such luck. The train station didn't even sell postcards. No keychain. No postcard. I was a little disappointed and on the verge of being sincerely sad about it, but I stopped myself.
How dare I even think about letting a postcard ruin a glorious day.
(Besides, it's not like I didn't take enough pictures.)

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