August 12: From Pisa to Honfleur With Much In Between

Another beautiful sunny day greeted us this morning on the terrace of the hotel breakfast room overlooking the sea. Sailboats bobbed up and down in the waves and the cobblestone streets were alive with vendors selling fruits and vegetables.

Last night after dinner we discovered the entry way to the trail above Vernazza. A shorts steep hike lifts you to a marvelous bird's eye view of Vernazza and its harbor. It's reminiscent of the postcard one sees throughout the Cinque Terre park. Near the National Park sentry box beyond a few ramschakle homes, the trail moves skyward along a dusty rock strewn pathway that has no doubt been trod by countless camera toting tourists. At a lookout along the trail, we met a family of four from Seattle waiting for dusk to descend upon Vernazza to capture the perfect Kodak moment. This family was friendly, talkative, happily engaging in conversation with Rick Steves' fans. The Cinque Terre is a beautiful place and for us, a new favorite.

Our first adventure today was a trip to Pisa. I have always thought that the Leaning Tower stood in isolation, but it's not that way at all. The Baptistry, the Duomo, and the tower are all situated very gracefully in an area known as The Field of Miracles. Wlaking through the arched stone gateway and into the area, it was hard to believe I was actually seeing the tower in person. Around the tower is an immaculately manicured lawn where people posed for pictures with their arms held high as if they were holding up the tower. We learned that the tower was closed in 1990 for significant stabilization work. Today people can climb to the top of this 200 foot tower which is over 800 years old, but we opted not to pay the 15 Euro fee each.

We also visited the Duomo which was built in a Pisan Romanesque style. Construction began in 1063 and inside you can find an intricately carved marble pulpit. Surprisingly, the Duomo and Baptistry leans too.

Late this afternoon we took a Ryan Air flight from Pisa to Beauvais outside of Paris. Ryan Air is one of Europe's most popular and successful airlines with an impeccable safety record. The plane is clean and comfortable and looks brand new, but has a bright yellow and blue color scheme like a Dutch train. Ads for ING Bank line the overhead luggage bins. The onboard magazine has an amusing assortment of items for sale from ranging from cameras and watches to a high power paint sprayer, a mop, a snore stop watch, and Captain Green Foot Spray.

Seconds before landing the pilot suddenly soared back up. An unexpected shower caused what he called ghastly conditions. These are not words I like to hear on an airplane, but thankfully all was well and the pilot landed to a hearty round of applause and shouts of Bravo!

When we picked up our rental car we were thrilled to discover we had been upgraded to a Mercedes wagon with a GPS. Our 3 hour drive to Honfleur was through rolling farmland.

Tonight as I write in my journal, rain is falling gently outside. The Point Normandy Bridge is lit in the distance. The square below is charming and I can't wait until tomorrow to explore it.


David Zemens said…
I have been following your trip report with great interest and look forward to further details!

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