Tuesday, July 17, 2012

European Extravaganza - Part III a - Genoa

Let's jump back to Europe, shall we?

After my UK adventures in May, it was time to jump south to Italy.  British Airways had a direct flight to Genoa, and Becca and I decided that'd be as good a place as any to see a new part of Italy and later get ourselves into the south of France.  I didn't know much about Genoa, but I was excited to get to the land of gelato.

It was going to be quite a harrowing morning, however.  We had a 1030am flight out of Gatwick, and it was going to take 2 or 2.5 hours to get there from Oxford.  We checked bus schedules and decided that the 620am bus would give us plenty of time.  Not exactly.

As soon as we boarded, the driver mentioned something about being ordered to take a detour that morning.  We drove along local city roads, instead of getting on a highway, for a good portion of the time.  I wasn't concerned just yet, as I figured the highway was probably jammed with morning traffic.  Just at the point we were out of the small towns and about to jump on a moving freeway (I had checked Google maps and the traffic looked fairly clear), we noticed that there were police cars everywhere and the road was completely blocked.  Uh oh.  Time for a major detour.

The bus driver kinda started to freak out a bit, and was asking the other bus employee which way to go.  We drove through more small towns and eventually got on the M25 towards Gatwick.  Right about 915, they announced it'd be about half an hour more to Gatwick.

We had bags to check. We needed to be in there by 945 at the latest.  Eeek.  Becca and I started coming up with Plans B, C, and D.  There's only one flight a day to Genoa - should we just try the next day and find a pricey London hotel that night?  Should we buy a new flight into Milan or something and take the train? Should we forget Italy altogether and take the cheapest flight south?  I was worried.

Of course Gatwick has two terminals, and of course ours was the second stop.  And our terminal had major construction going on, so the bus stop wasn't near the entrance, it was far down.  At about 950am, we jumped off the bus, grabbed our bags and SPRINTED for a solid five minutes.  We ran to a kiosk, blurted out to the BA employees that we were running late, and by some miracle, they just took our passports, checked our bags, and told us to have a nice flight.  I was fully expecting the - you're beyond the 45 minute check in rule like in America - and tough luck.  We gave many, many thanks to the BA staff who played it off like she wasn't doing us any favors, just doing us her job, and we ran to security.

Fairly quick security line, but once we got beyond that, there was a big sign that said 20 minutes to all gates.  Time to run again!  The plane was already boarding by the time we got there, and we felt lucky, lucky, lucky.  No expensive plans, B, C and D.  We were bound for Italy!

Genoa was looking pretty cool from the air!

Smaller airport, breezy customs, and soon enough we found our bus to the center of town.  Becca and I hopped off at De Ferrari and set off to find our hotel.

Tiny Euro elevators at Hotel Soana.  Great location, good price, it gets the job done.  Except the free wi-fi they advertise never actually worked for me.  Otherwise, totally recommended.

Our room's ceiling.  Old, but charming.

View from our balcony.

This town has lots of bridges and tunnels.

All the shopping is on Via 20 Spttembre.

Time to explore the city and figure out what there is to see and how to spend our next couple days.



The first of many walks down Via Garibaldi.  It's a beautiful street.


Over near the port.


One of many palace interior courtyards that we would see.

Finally it was time for dinner.  Guidebooks and TripAdvisor both suggested Trattoria da Maria, so we went off to find it.  It definitely seemed to be closed up, and though we tried again over the next couple days, each time it was closed.  No idea what was going on, but we made a valiant effort.  We had some meats and cheese at another little bar, somewhat reminiscent of our beloved Postino in Phoenix.



Gelato for dessert (of course).  We stumbled upon the house of Christopher Columbus on our night walk, but we didn't know it at the time.

Other photos from our first day - totally not in any order.









Day two of Genoa.  As much as I sometimes dislike things that scream tourist, these buses are a good way to get your bearings and decide where to spend your time.  This one made eight stops.  We got a bus ticket good for 2 days, plus a city metro ticket that allowed us access for 24 hours, and a handy little guidebook.  We didn't actually ever take the subway, but we did get to take the first of our crazy elevator rides.  

From the bus!



Okay - we decided to go up to D'Albertis Castle, on top of a big hill and built by some sea captain.  We got into this elevator with a lot of locals.  Have I mentioned that there were no other tourists in Genoa?  Because there weren't.  

This elevator took off horizontally for awhile. Have you ever been in a horizontal elevator?  And then it snapped into this chamber thing and we went up like normal.  Weird.

To the castle!




We decided not to actually pay to go in, so we looked for some views over the city.  The trees blocked most of it.

Back down.  To the Christopher Columbus statue.

Back on the bus, towards the port area.


This Basilica della Santissima Annunziata del Vastato was pretty great.  




We were getting hungry.  

We found a little outdoor place for lunch and had some pasta.  The restaurant guy brought us free liquor at the end!  We had to turn him down.

 Off to the palaces on Garibaldi for the afternoon.  One ticket gets you into Palazzo Rosso, Palazzo Bianco, and Palazzo Duria Tursi.  Formerly owned by the wealthy of Genoa (the Brignoles, the Grimaldis), they are now open at art galleries.

Becca lost her camera somewhere in this maze.  No one spoke English.  We couldn't explain what we needed!









Via Garibaldi really is a beautiful street.

Soon it was dinner time.  The girl from the gelato shop earlier in the day gave us some recommendations.  We decided to go for the good gnocchi and pesto place.

I had some fishy prawns.

I loved this door.


I spotted these flamingos in many places around the city.

Cathedral of San Lorenzo


This was a happening spot.  Everyone was out and about, eating the gelato on the cathedral steps.  We did the same.



One more half day in Genoa, then it's on to Imperia!


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