Thursday, August 7, 2014

Elba Island

It’s funny how taking a giant shit can really change your perspective on life. When I arrived at my hotel on Elba Island, I finally was able to go to the bathroom. I guess that's what happens when you combine Italian laxatives, activia yogurt, and finish off with chugging an entire over-sized bottle of prune juice in desperation. Apologizes for this brief moment of TMI (again) but when you don’t go for almost three weeks, shit starts to get really real…

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I was excited to be leaving Lucca and setting off on the rest of my adventures. I was even more excited that Elba Island would be the starting point for my “after camp” travels. Elba Island is a big island, off of Tuscany, that Napoleon, way back when, was exiled to. Let me tell you, if you have to be exiled somewhere, this isn’t a bad place to be stuck.  The only thing I was not excited about? Lugging my bitch of a suitcase to each destination. Stupid, stupid me.

Two trains, a ferry, an americana coffee, and a bus later…

Quick side note about the bus: When I got off the ferry, I thought, perhaps I should take a cab seeing as I’m carrying a suitcase for a family of four. I approached the taxi driver, and told him that I needed to go to pretty much the next town over and asked how much. He guessed 28 Euros. My reply, “I think I need to take the bus.”

I arrived in the small town of Procchio, where I was setting up camp for two nights at a small, cheap hotel steps from the beach. Exactly what I wanted, some sun, relaxation, and maybe a bit of adventure.

When I checked into my hotel, Albergo 10 colori (the hotel of 10 colors), the staff, a family, treated me as one of their own. No really. They were so nice and helpful, apologizing for their lack of English when really it was much better than my weak attempt at Italian.  I loved them already.

view from my window
The room wasn't much to write home about, but it would be good enough for two nights. With my newly (almost) flattened stomach (ha!), I set out for the Procchio beach. Me, and about a thousand others, a mix between Italian and French people since France was so close. It had been a while since my kindle was covered with sand, and it felt good. I read and relaxed on the beach as the sun sank lower, and between that and my earlier moment in the bathroom, I felt like a new woman.

For dinner that night, the director, A, from school had invited me over to their rental house on the island. She said it was no problem to pick me up, so this was my second “get invited and go to Sunday dinner at someone’s house” that I was checking off. We drove to the South Eastern part of the Island, just above Porto Azurro, and it was a gorgeous view from their cottage.

The kids ran out to greet me as if I was some sort of celebrity, and the table was all set.  We had a great dinner, chatting, laughing, and drinking wine on the terrace. When A and I started talking about teaching, and her vision for the school that she had opened just a year ago, I felt like for the first time maybe ever, that someone strongly valued my professional opinion. She told me how much she loved having me work there, and that I had made a real difference. She felt strongly that I helped the children, especially hers to be more comfortable speaking English. Isn’t that what every teacher wants to hear? That they’ve made a difference..even a small one? It felt pretty good.

We took pictures with the kids, and one of A and I. After we took the first picture of the two of us, and checked to make sure it came out, A’s husband was laughing, and said we could use it as the new ad for school..and playboy. Upon closer inspection, I understood why. A had forgotten to wear a bra, and quickly ran inside to put one on. She laughed, I erased it, and we took another.

We were sad, and hugged goodbye, saying we hoped to work together again in the near future. 

The next morning I woke bright and early, knowing there was a beach I wanted to find, and I had not the slightest clue how to get there. If Lucca had no English speaking people, well then Elba really didn’t.

I had found this beach online, and since I like to go to places off the beaten path- this was it. It was Spaggia di Sansone, a white pebble beach with supposedly the clearest water around. Having no car, I knew this was going to be difficult.

First, I consulted my new sisters and brother at reception. They tried very hard to figure this one out for me.  “I use the google translate,” they said. After some time, consulting the café guy across the street, and a phone call, we came to the conclusion that I had to take the island bus to Porteferraio, where I had come in on the ferry, and then another “small blue bus” to get off at the trail that would lead to Sansone beach. Ok, I had this.

I somehow magically took both correct buses, not without the bus almost getting in an accident though. All of a sudden the whole bus was yelling in Italian and I wanted to at least wave my hands around in the air to join in, but I thought better not. Anyways, I ended up at the trail for Sansone. 

It helped that some other people were going there too from the bus. We all walked along the trail, dripping hot. 

I couldn’t wait to take a dip in that clear water. We got to the first beach, but I knew to keep going. This beach was more crowded because the next part of the trail to Sansone was definitely more steep…

They weren’t kidding when they said it was tricky in flip-flops, or “stupid shoes” as my dad calls them. But, I made it. And the views on the way down were incredible.

Spaggia di Sansone

The beach was uncomfortable to walk on without shoes, but amazingly beautiful. It might be the clearest water I have ever seen. I chilled with the fish swimming around me, and even took the guy up on his offer selling fresh pineapple and coconut. It was a glorious beach day.

I hiked back up the trail in the heat to wait for the small blue bus once again. I was famished and out of water and the sun wasn’t giving up for the day just yet. I waited. Then I waited some more. About an hour later, the bus still was a no-show and I was crispier. Oh, and also the only one waiting for a bus, since everyone else drove there. About twenty minutes later, after watching an older woman who had been waiting in her car have some sort of key exchange with an extremely hot man (he had a ring on), she pulled out to leave. She turned around and pulled up next to me, saying she was going to Porteferraio and asking if I needed a ride. I wanted to scream YES PLEASE! But surely she wouldn't give a ride to a lunatic, so I calmly explained I had been waiting for the bus for over an hour, but it hadn’t come. So I kind of hitchhiked for a second time and gladly jumped in her car. Turns out she had just driven all the way from Milan, took the ferry to the island to find that her kids (one of them the hot married guy) had the keys to the house at the beach. She dropped me at the bus stop for my next bus and I was so grateful.

Since I was at the beach, I had to have some seafood, so I went to a local restaurant on the beach with a great view of the sunset. They didn’t seem too pleased with seating one, but somehow I snagged a table, a free drink, and a wink from the younger waiter. When it was time to order, I tried asking the waitress a question about a few of the items, but because she didn’t really speak English, she took it as I wanted to order all three things. She said with an attitude, “Oh, that is too much. You have two will be enough.” If I had the money I would’ve ordered and ate it all, just to show her.

fresh mussels
caprese salad

The next day it was time for me to head to the next stop. I checked out and the hotel staff family was sad to see me go. They all hugged me and said that if I come back they will give me a discount. I hope someday I can!

I had failed at checking off take a picture with something of Napoleon on Elba Island. Frankly, none of the statues were just sitting around, and I chose find Sansone beach instead of Napoleon's lair. Oh well, there were bigger fish to fry..

It was time to board another bus, ferry, and two trains to my next destination. Twas going to be a long day…

Farewell Elba Island, 

Onward to Cinque Terre…

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