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Day 8: Pescara

One week after our arrival the Bologna leg of our holiday comes to an end as we move nearly 400 kilometres to the east on a trip to the seaside resort of Pescara. Only we nearly didn't make it.

We plan our holidays in detail at home, doing the research into travel and associated costs and devising a little plan. We therefore knew that we'd be travelling to Pescara by train and that it would be a relatively expensive trip. We never pre-order tickets, preferring to turn up at the station on the day and purchase them from a machine. So it was to be with this trip to Pescara.

Radio visited the awful Trenitalia website a couple of nights ago to confirm the possible departure times to Pescara whilst I worked on something else. Before long she spoke to me in a quiet, worried delivery: "Babel, I think all the train tickets to Pescara are sold out. What are we going to do?" I popped over to look at the screen and, sure enough, the website did indeed indicate that we were out of luck. It seems that the Italians had similar ideas about a weekend break at the seaside.

Radio and I are like chalk and cheese when it comes to things like this. She immediately twigs that if we can't get to Pescara, then we can't get to our hotel and WE'LL DIE. I prefer to get on with things, so I said the best thing to do was for me to pop along to the station and see what I could find. I picked up my phone (all the better to confer with Radio once I got there), heaved the ridiculously heavy set of keys from the table and headed to the door ready to solve the problems.

It wasn't long before Radio received a text confirming that the awful Trenitalia website wasn't lying. All of the options were coming up as sold out in first class, and sold out for seating in second class except for standing. We had no intention of standing, given that the journey times were between three and five hours and we'd have our suitcases with us. There was the option of a regional train, for which there aren't any limitations on seating but there was no way we could risk that - we'd done that on our trip to San Marino and had to stand for most of the way whilst resisting the striking urge to slap the yellow off the teeth of the world's most ignorant woman. No way we'd try that again with two suitcases to accommodate.

Back and forth the texts went, Radio's stress almost palpable in spite of the long distance. And then I put her out of her misery - I'd found an option in which we could be relatively close (in the same carriage, at least) for a bit more of a price than I would usually pay. We'd just have to get up earlier than usual. And wake up bright and early we indeed did, having packed our suitcases the night before. Breakfast was of the usual poor standard at the hotel, but at least we had the novelty of a polite and helpful member of staff on duty today, after having spent the week periodically having to do without cutlery because one particular member of staff was too busy helping herself to the pastries to bother with the laborious job of placing a knife and serviette on all the tables that didn't have one. Since we didn't lose several minutes hopping from table to table trying to find knives and lugging around the world's heftiest set of keys we actually ended up at the train station well in advance and joined the horde on the platform under the blistering morning sun.

Although the train tickets were more than I would normally pay (which doesn't actually mean that they're particularly expensive - especially compared to British prices - considering I'm tighter than a gnat's behind) I was perfectly satisfied with the journey, excepting the usual nonsense at the start because the hard-of-thinking seem to struggle with the concept of sitting down in the seat that is marked on their ticket, causing those of us with above-room-temperature IQs to have to stand with our luggage in the hallway whilst the mouth-breathers eventually work out that the fact they're in row 16 means they have to walk past rows 14 and 15 in that order, not the other way around. Stupidity is, alas, international and my tolerance of it lessens when I'm in 33-degree heat.

The train itself, though, was great. Plenty of storage room, an abundance of leg and belly room, tables that could be kept narrow or unfolded to double their width, and a quiet engine. Splendid stuff. The sight of the Adriatic and yellow sand on one side for much of the journey and sunflowers out the other was the cherry on the cake, and we arrived in Pescara having read for three solid hours with no unruly passengers to irk us and looking forward to starting the second phase of the holiday.

We had some time to kill because we had arrived earlier than anticipated at the point when Clare had arranged with the proprietor to meet us at the hotel so we left our luggage in storage and strode to the hotel. Within what seemed like five minutes we'd passed down an avenue lined with palm trees and pointing the way to a beautiful blue horizon.


We've never been to exotic islands but the golden sands and blue sea and sky looked the same to me as those images conjured up about Barbados, Tahiti and all those more expensive places.


Plenty of shade for people too:


One of several groups of youngsters playing on the beach:


A sculpture on the beach with palm trees in the background:


Before too long we'd found a nice pizzeria where the wares were a lot smaller than usual and so sold for 1€ or so each, allowing a guilt-free request for multiple varieties. Lovely - we got our beer, five mini pizzas, two bottles of water and some chocolate-to-go for 13.50€, around half of what we'd had to pay for our awful first meal back in Bologna.

Still having some spare time we went on a walk of the town before tracking down our hotel. Since we arrived a few minutes early (and Italians have an even more relaxed attitude to punctuality than I do) we thought we'd wait outside the main doors to catch our host's attention at the point that he arrived. Arrive he did, but with a subtle difference from what we were expecting - he came from within the building, since he'd been waiting for us to make our way up. Well, how were we supposed to know that, considering he'd not mentioned that to us?! When he said it for the umpteenth time I made a curt reply asking how we were supposed to have entered without a key? He introduced us to the intercom, explaining that it was some clever technology that they have in Italy. I'm still not sure whether he was joking, sarcastic or serious, and he made the same point on several occasions over the next twenty minutes.

Mind you, as impatient as I am I quite like this fellow, who insisted on talking in English all the time, with me perodically having to interject some Italian to make sure we'd understood correctly what he was saying. And I like how he patted me on the arm in a "c'mon, big guy" sort of way when my stoical face had no-selled one of his jokes again. Nice chap - his name's Stefano. He took us on a tour of the room (using a hundred words where ten might do) and then led us back to the landing where he demonstrated how to use a water cooler (another futuristic thing in Italy?) and the coffee machine, and telling us to help ourselves free of charge. And then he said the one thing guaranteed to make me overlook the inadvertent annoyance he'd been, pointing to a fridge that was bursting with all sorts of liquid goodies, including cans of beer - 'elp yourself. What a hero. I think I love him. Here's a picture of him:


Somehow we ended up stuck on the landing with him for a further ten minutes as he wanted to discuss cultural and linguistic things. I thought I'd feed him something to ponder in the form of phrasal verbs as a difficulty for learners of English and stating that quite often the sense of the finished good once the particle has added has nothing in common with the root verb and addition. He agreed, citing check in and check out, though I countered that there was at least logic with in and out. I threw him look after to play with instead and, after explaining to him what it means and using it in several example sentences, expected that to the end of the conversation. But no, my talkative new friend didn't want the conversation to come to an end so swiftly and declared that he could indeed see the logic in that. I rebutted but he reaffirmed, on the basis that you want to be able to look at your children after you return and see that they're OK. Well, it doesn't work that way but if it helps him remember it ... Determined to find an example that he couldn't possibly claim as logical I explained the meaning of put up with and before the conversation had had too much of an opportunity to split into further tangents mercifully the phone rang and Clare and I seized the opportunity to escape and collect our baggage, risking a broken neck along the way because of the surfeit of rugs covering the polished floors.

See these rugs? They're everywhere. There are several on the landing and over most of the floor space in our room. We've skidded and slipped a few times. I think there could be an injury resulting if I take too much advantage of his offer to help myself from his beer fridge.

You can't move in this place for rugs ...


Not even in the bedroom! It's safer walking on ice ...


After a short break we decided to take a proper walk in our new home town and headed out on the landing. There was Stefano, holding some more people hostage whilst he talked away! As we made our way to the lift he interrupted his conversation to say "God shave the King! But not 'God shame the King'." I really didn't know what to say to that, his clever little wordplay. Nice fella. I wonder whether he knows that he's using the subjunctive. On second thoughts, I won't ask him - who knows where the conversation might meander?

Pescara itself is lovely. Unlike the other places we've visited there's little in the way of statues and glamorous buildings, not least because Pescara was bombed. But it's vibrant. There's a long beach which is filled with several volleyball courts, all of which were in use, and all of the beach-side restaurants know how to make eye-catching displays from the bright flowers that grow in this heat. People were milling about, primarily younger folk, and we even noticed orange trees - laden with fruit but too high for me to reach - that had been planted in the pedestrianised streets.

One of the many spectacular flower displays outside the beach-front restaurants:


One street even had orange trees planted in it ...

20-orange-tree-in-street.jpg... which were full of ripe fruit but unfortunately high out of reach:


There weren't really any conventional sites in Pescara ...


... though the tower on this one was a useful landmark for orientating ourselves:


One of the few stylish buildings in Pescara:


Radio and I walked around the whole time before settling on a restaurant which overlooked the beach for our evening meal, which presented a wonderful, memorable panorama featuring a bottle of wine and my customary 66cl Moretti beer for 30€. I wouldn't normally dream of spending so much but it was a beautiful scene and I'm glad I captured it with a couple of photos.


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