My latest mode of transport on this great adventure of mine has been a boat – a ferry to be precise, but not any ferry I recognise. This is really quite plush – although if you look closely, I think you'll find it is still just, after all, a ferry. It's just one that people have to spend an extended period of time on, so the facilities are a little more luxurious than the greasy spoon cafés you'll find on most CalMac Hebridean ferries.
I realised, as I was waiting to board last night – feeling a little bit lost and lonely next to this huge boat and without much sign of what you were supposed to do – that it's been about 23 years since I last travelled as a foot passenger on a ferry. In fact, it may well be about 23 years since I last travelled on a ferry full stop. It's certainly a long time since I travelled any distance on one. 23 years ago, it would have been a short hop Channel one to get me and my travelling companion to Paris for onward connections to the Rhone valley and Provence. That was a fantastic trip – lots of lazy sunny days, a very companionable companion and some fabulous experiences and sights.
But back to this boat. When I booked, I took the added extravagance of a suite rather than just a cabin. I say extravagance, but it was actually on 10 Euros more. And I can tell you, they were 10 Euros well spent – I had a sumptious space to spend the night – full size double, nay king size, bed, a proper bathroom and, luxury of luxuries, a window. My suite was right at the front of the boat, so my window pointed exactly where we were going. I left my curtains open and was treated during the night to most dazzling stars I've seen in a long time, and then this morning by the rosy pink light of dawn.
We left Palermo at around 11 pm. When I got up this morning at around 9 am we had already reached Rome. Thinking that couldn't be right, I looked again at the map and realised we were only really half way there. It's 700km from Palermo to Genova – that's one heck of a long way!!
According to the announcement, the sea conditions were 'wavy' today, which I think might mean slightly choppy – but you would barely know we were on water. The boat is so big that it just takes it all in its stride. However, I suppose it is the Mediterranean after all – which is really just a big lake with an opening at one end – and it's never going to be particularly rough. Mind you, when you look out the window and all you can see is, well, sea, it doesn't feel that small.
We are due to arrive in Genoa at around 7pm. My onward train to Ventimiglia is at around 9pm. So just enough time to get to the station, find something to eat and prepare to leave Italy altogether. Tomorrow is TGV to Paris for an evening and a day there. I've already picked out what I want to do – Notre Dame and the Ile de la Cite generally, supper on the Left Bank and then Saturday at Musee d'Orsay and a Batobus trip up and down the Seine, with perhaps a visit to la Tour Eiffel if there's time before I board my evening Eurostar back to London – and reality.
Has that really been 2 weeks already? I must start planning my next adventure – any suggestions, anyone?