Sep 262010

9/21/10 (Day 20)

Today our vacation is starting to wind down as we will leave Italy and head back towards France and the final destination of Marseille. In Marseille, Mark and I will part ways. =( But, today is still in Italy.

We woke up way too early this morning so that we could catch a 6:10am train to Pisa. The train ride was only about an hour and soon we were at our destination. We stored our luggage at the train station and then walked for 20 minutes towards the Piazza Duomo where the Leaning Tower of Pisa stands.

On the way we stopped for some breakfast and soon were in line for our 9:00am trip to the top of the tower. I’ve seen many pictures of the tower and I know that it really does lean. However, seeing it in person is a whole other story. It really does lean! I could sit outside that tower and just stare at the engineering marvel that it leans without falling down. I see the columns, only 18 of which are the originals, and can’t quite fathom how the columns on the long side can survive under tension. The columns on the short side are longer to try and counter-act the lean.

Anyway, the climb to the top was highly controlled. Only a limited amount of people are allowed up at a time and for only a 30 minutes interval. We were led up where we could stand and take photos, and then we were led back down again. On the climb up, I could tell when we spiraled around the tower as sometimes I felt the lean towards the outside wall, and sometimes the inside wall. The first 3 levels lean the most as those are the original levels that were built and then sunk into the ground. It is impressive to stand on the lower levels and look out the window at the much straighter landscape.

Towards the top, a couple levels were under restoration, however, we were able to view the bell level and then stand on the upper-most level. Here, on the top, we felt as if we were on a disc leaning towards the side. They had added some drainage grooves along the roof so the water had somewhere to go other than down the stairs.

The best part of the whole trip was when we heard an announcement in about 6 different languages warning us that the bells were about to sound. Then, they did, and the booming was impressive.

Back at the bottom, we took our required tourist photos both holding the tower up and knocking it down. It was fun to sit and watch all the tourists pose with the tower doing various things with it. At one point there was a whole line of people standing on columns posing in various leaning formations.

We also purchased tickets to the other 5 attractions in the piazza. We viewed the Monumental Cemetery first where we saw various tomb monuments in the walls and on the floor of a sort of cloister type building. Here we saw a statue of Fibonacci. We also saw some artists restoring the frescoes. We went inside the Duomo, or dome. Here we not only enjoyed the decor, but we were also treated to a demonstration of the amazing echo effect inside. When standing on the right spot, a note sung will echo for several moments allowing one person to sing a chord with themselves. That was worth coming for. The larger church next door was decorated more lavishly than the Duomo and we toured the various areas inside.

By now it was time for lunch, so we headed outside of the piazza and found a trattoria that we could sit down and eat a long lunch. Mark had a tuna fish pizza ordered by accident. It must have not been translated right on the menu, but it was still tasty. I had some amazing tortellini in a cream sauce. The Italians know how to make amazing cream sauce!

We had a little more time before our train, so we quickly strolled through the Museo that held most of the original sculptures and artwork copied in the church and duomo. Then we sat marveling at the tower again before leaving. We found our last Italian gelateria for this vacation and savored every minute of our treat. Eating 1-2 gelatos a day every day has been quite nice.

Our train left Pisa at 3p. We had a change of trains in Genoa, then in Ventimiglia on the border between Italy and France. Actually, the hardest trains to schedule were the ones today that would take us along the Italian and French coastlines from Pisa to Marseille. After Ventimiglia, we’ll change trains in Monaco and then finally arrive in Cannes for the night.

Cannes is a very high-end town. We arrived at 10:19pm and saw many fancy dressed people still out walking the streets. All the high-end shops were closed, but we certainly were not anywhere near a sketchy area of France.

Hotel Eden, our stop for the night, turned out to be a fairly fancy hotel, too, with a spa and everything. The reception was open and we soon found ourselves on the 7th floor looking out across the lights of Cannes. The room was nice with a large bed, bathroom, and free wifi. We dropped our stuff and headed out to find some food. After wandering around finding only bars open, we spotted a sandwich place that was still serving. I had a hard boiled egg sandwich that was not egg salad, but still good, and Mark had a ham sandwich.

Back at the hotel it was nearing midnight and we finally crashed into bed for the day. I think we woke up at 5a this morning. It’s been a long day.

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