I remember this trip so well. We bought our tickets to Cinque Terre on the same day we bought our tickets to Venice so we didn’t have to make a second trip. We patted ourselves on the back for our bright idea. We packed our things, left the apartment, made it to the train station at a reasonable time…and then we noticed something. Our train wasn’t any of the ones listed on the screen departing on that day. So we took a good look at our tickets and realized we booked them on the wrong day. We rushed to the sales counter and bought tickets to the next train out which was leaving in 5 minutes. The ticket agent told us the platform we should go to and so we ran with all our luggage hoping to catch the train. We made it and laughed our 5 minute sprint off. I thought “Hey, the worst is over and we can relax now,” but then when we had our tickets checked and we were told that the train wasn’t headed towards our destination. Stressed and confused, we made our way towards the sales counter for the second time to buy tickets again. The next train was going to leave in 3 hours and that meant we were going to arrive at night and miss out on sightseeing. Feeling sad, we went to the McDonald’s in the station to have unhealthy but proper breakfast.
I guess the big guy up there wanted to cheer us up because when I went to the counter to order, I looked up and saw that EVERYTHING was being sold at 1 euro! Can you believe that? I was crazy full and happy. We spent the next hour catching up with our friends and family, courtesy of the free WiFi. We all caught up on sleep during the train ride despite the noise. Trains in Italy are pretty old (at least the ones we rode) so they’re not as nice as the ones in other European countries but I liked the the one we rode was a compartment-styled just like in the movie Eurotrip. I was actually waiting for a creepy, Italian guy to enter and start harassing us while saying, “Mi scusi! Mi scusi!” Just kidding. Haha.
We actually missed our stop in Levanto and ended up in La Spezia so we had to take another 30 minute train back. We quickly walked to our hostel, left our things and left immediately. After figuring out the tram system, we decided to go to Porto Venere to have dinner.
It was already dark when we arrived and it was pretty empty because it was raining. I would’ve wanted to see the same view in daylight but we were on a strict schedule which meant we couldn’t go back.
We found this really homey restaurant overlooking the sea. It was owned and managed by an old couple which I found super cute. I had seafood pasta with olive oil and king prawns.
Aside from the really amazing food, we were the only customers there. It was our own little shelter from the storm.
Soooo what we failed to do was to settle what time we were going back to our hostel. We didn’t realize the last bus trip going back to the station was at 9:20 pm and that the last one was at 11:38 pm. If we rode the last bus, we wouldn’t have made it in time for the last train back to Levanto. So we walked. We walked about 15 km in 2 hours under the nonstop rain in the mountain side full of dark areas and blind spots, trying to hitch a ride back down but unfortunately no one helped us. We caught one of the buses at 11:38 pm in one of the closer stops. During the ride, we thought of why these things were happening. It’s as if the universe was trying to tell us something. Or that we were being tested. Worst case scenario, we would’ve had to find another hostel to stay in. We still managed to laugh about the whole situation though. We were dropped at the plaza and walked some more, nearing the station.
The funniest thing was that we felt like we were in The Amazing Race, having to deal with terrible conditions yet hoping to pull through and finish the race in the end. We started running to the station, not knowing if there was still a train going back. We made it just 2 minutes before the last one at 11:56 pm. We couldn’t believe our luck! We were soaked, tired and exhausted yet we managed to keep our cool and just made the most of the entire situation.
This is a photo of us all happy and excited to finally reach our destination.
"Here’s to the mistakes that bring new experiences we will never forget. And 5 cool heads that got us through this unbelievable day! (Hihihi) Oh and prayer that never fails! God is good all the time. Today is also our second monthsary on JTA!!! Hahaha” - from my Facebook entry right after this happened
Lights guided us home as we made our way back to the hostel. Levanto looked nice and peaceful at night.
The next day, despite only a few hours of rest, we decided to go trekking up Lardarina in Corniglia.
The view was absolutely magnificent. The way the sunlight hit the sea was just so stunning.
I’m so in love with this photo because of how the horizon and its many shades of blue contrast with the pastel colored buildings on the edge of the cliff with the presence of serene, green plants and trees in the foreground. I remember standing there feeling at peace, just taking in the beauty of it all.
It was pretty hard to trek in boots so I struggled a lot. There were lots of rocks and uneven terrain. I also had to go back up multiple times to find this missing beanie that just kept mysteriously disappearing from my head. Also, I don’t know what it was about these steps but they sure made me (and everyone else) look waaaay taller than I am.
I felt a little accomplished having gone on a mini-trekking trip because it’s always been one of my goals to climb a mountain - which is admittedly, far from what actually happened but I consider it step towards the real thing. We were tired from only having 4 hours of sleep and walking around 15 km from the night before so we decided to head down early and not continue the route. *Edit - a week ago I climbed up an actual mountain (Mt. Pico De Loro) back in the Philippines and it was an exhilarating experience
We went to Manarola for late lunch. We were supposed to eat at the Marina Piccola restaurant since it was recommended by one of my friends named Bettina, who visited during her Junior Term Abroad a few months before - but it was closed. Jessie was able to return with her family though and was able to dine there. Lucky.
Instead we bought takeout from a lovely couple who owned a pizza shop by the cliffs called Il Discovolo.
They had a wide selection of pizzas. I remember getting one with seafood and one with different kinds of meat.
Here’s a photo of us with the owner, Enrique. He was very charming and friendly. He wished us luck with the rest of our cross-country trip.
Who doesn’t love pastel colored buildings on the edge of cliffs?
We spent our remaining time admiring the wonderful view. The waves were crashing hard on the rocks as the heavy clouds started to appear yet the place felt still and there was a sense of serenity.
I really wish I could’ve stayed longer. Cinque Terre was crazy beautiful and it’s the type of place I’d want to live in for a long, long time. I’d never get tired of being so close to all things nature. Definitely one of my favorite places in the world.
So one month after coming home from my Junior Term Abroad in France…
On the outside, nothing’s changed. I’m still the same old quirky, weird girl whose messy hair changes involuntarily (it’s quite blonde and ombré again despite no efforts to alter it) with a surprisingly strong personality and superhuman (not really) strength. When I came home, my room was in the same state as it was when I left it. My cherished blue lava lamp, my cute animal stuffed toys and my ever-growing, unused pile of art materials were right where I left them. I was reunited with my family, friends and boyfriend who made it seem like I never left because we picked up right where we left off. I still like the same things, listen to the same music and take lots (and lots) of photographs. It was like my life was on pause while I was away and when I came back, it was back to regular programming.
But on the inside, everything’s different. I feel like I’m a different person - although not entirely - and that the “new” me is someone I’m happy I’ve become. Being away made me realize so many things and I’ve since then aimed to become better. My newfound confidence has pushed me to aim higher and achieve more of my goals in life. I’m no longer afraid to do things on my own and I’ve learned to really, truly believe in myself. My JTA experience has left me constantly searching for new adventures, dreaming of returning to my favorite cities and feeling nostalgic for the past 5 months I spent abroad but the fresh thirst for living my life to the fullest and the nonstop pursuit for more out of everything are things I’ll forever keep with me. I’m forever grateful for being given the opportunity to study abroad, travel the world and learn about different cultures at 20 years old.
Reverting back to reality has been such a struggle. I find myself yearning for my life in Rennes, France and at the same time finding ways to keep things interesting and fun back here. Whenever people welcome me back and ask me how JTA was, I never know what to say. I can’t seem to tell my stories without thinking that this person might just think I’m boasting, that they’re just curious and don’t actually care or that they just won’t get it…because they weren’t there. All I can (and do) say is, “It was amazing! It was great!” because I can never seem to articulate my thoughts or feelings about what I believe was the best 5 months of my life.
But I do find comfort in knowing that somewhere in the future, I’ll have another shot at living away from home, seeing more of the world, backpacking to places I’ve only dreamed of and making new memories, amazing friends and discovering lifelong lessons. There’s still so much I’ve yet to see. For now, I’ll plan my own little trips around the Philippines. My home that I’ve missed dearly.