Tuesday, September 12, 2006


I'm back from my first trip. In the next few days, I'll post a bit about each place I visited.

The cast for this trip consisted of me and two U of I undergrads, Jill and Joe, I met during a study abroad orientation at the end of last semester in April. The first leg took us by air from Brussels to Pisa.

Unwilling to go bankrupt before classes begin, we flew RyanAir, a low cost carrier. RyanAir, like Southwest, flies out of ghetto airports to reduce expenses. Our flight departed from Charleroi, which dubs itself "Brussels South" despite begin an hour a half south of the Belgian capital. Oddly, the shuttle from Leuven to the airport cost more than the flight itself (E30 compared to E25).

Despite RyanAir's low fare status, there was fortunately no duct tape on the propellers or landing gear (don't worry, that's not our actual plane to the right!). In fact, we actually had a shiny new 737, but the freaking seats didn't recline and there was a fat ass baby next to me that cried like it was in boiling water the entire flight. Awesome. We also bounced on our landing, which was interesting.

Once in Pisa, we took a quick bus ride to the Tower. The route took us through a good part of the city, and I have nothing good to say about it. The city is remarkable only insofar as it is entirely unremarkable. In fact, it's kinda run down. We made no plans to see anything else.

The Tower sits in a complex along with both a cathedral and a basillica, all of which compliment each other well. Among these gleaming white, centuries-old stuctures, street venders hawk every type of touristy crap imaginable. Luckily for us, we arrived so early (8:30 AM), that many of the venders hadn't opened.

All three structures. From left to right; the basillica, the cathedral, and the tower.

When I first entered the complex, my first reaction was, "holy shit that thing really leans!" Pictures don't capture how startling it is to see such a large building tilted so much. It's bizzare. But my second reaction was to forbid Jill and Joe from taking any pictures of each other "holding up" the Tower. That's just obnoxious. I agreed, however, to permit pictures of them pushing the Tower over instead, because that's kinda funny. Thankfully, we took neither.

Lean back.

The Tower is open to enterprising tourists who want to climb the stairs to the top, but as Pisa isn't much to see, we chose to forego the wasted time and money. After snapping a few photos and walking the grounds, we hopped a bus to the city center and quickly caught a train to Cinque Terre. Our entire stay in Pisa lasted about two hours - just long enough to see the Tower, snap some pics, and bug out. I definitely recommend seeing it, but don't spend more than a couple hours there. Up next, Cinque Terre.

No comments: