Off to France, by boat!

When I got back to my parents' house in Sardinia from the UAE, I found my next trip already arranged. I could hardly imagine a more welcome surprise: I was about to head to France by boat. Well, from Porto Torres (Sardinia's northernmost port) to Genoa by boat (almost 12 hours, nonetheless, despite the ship was called "Big Fast Ship"), then from Liguria's coast, driving all the way up to Provence, southern France. The landscape was breathtaking, and it certainly made our long journey easier.

This trip brought me back in time. I was 19 years old when I first left home to go to study in Rome. Despite the distance, I used to go back to Sardinia even three times a years, for Christmas, Easter and the summer holidays. Back then (it seems ages ago!) flying was too pricey so I usually travelled by boat, or you can find cheap ferries to France too. Now, I've switched: flying is much cheaper.

Approaching the port in Sardinia, strongly reminded me of my early '20s. The parts of the trip I most hated were getting off the train and making my way to the port. Most of the times I travelled with friends or other students from Sardinia who went to college "in the Continent", as in Sardinia the Italian mainland is still called. The ships didn't have the escalator yet, so we had to drag our suitcases up the teetering stairs. Cabins were tiny, common halls were not very clean and certainly little comfortable. I was pleased to see how much things have changed since then.

I've often travelled "on the deck", which meant a cheap ticket and at night wandering about the room with the sofas in the lookout for a place to sleep. After the ship, we were to take the train from Civitavecchia port to the city, and then to Rome. Sometimes we walked from the port to Civitavecchia city, always dragging our heavy suitcases, full of delicatessen from home.

The whole trip was definitely exhausting, only thinking about it now makes me want to sleep. And last week, I've done it again: twelve hours cruising then five hours drive to Provence. At arrival we were wrecked.

Provence is as lovely as I left it last time I was here a couple of years ago: nicely warm, green, flowery, lavender-scented, relaxed. I like its cosmopolitan atmosphere and from my first outings I was pleased to be reminded that the cliché of the grumpy French doesn't fit in this part of the country: literally everywhere everybody greets me with a smiley "Bonjour Madame!", be it in the streets, in the shops, or even climbing the hill of Saint Jacques, my latest act of insanity.

Now I'm thoroughly enjoying the laid-back vibe of this cosy corner of France. Oh, and my journey back to Italy will be strictly by plane.


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