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Ancona – Day 1

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Well it’s nearly ten o’clock now, and here I am sitting at the captain’s desk in the yacht after a long day flying and walking. Mainly the latter. I’ve been awake now (apart from some small snatches of sleep during the flight) for nearly thirty-six hours. Funnily enough, I don’t feel too tired right now, but on the other hand I’m looking forward to curling up in the small dormitory and dozing off till the morning!

I finished the last post when I was in the bar at Stansted waiting for some food. I stayed at the bar for around two and a half hours. It was moderately busy, but not too noisy. Well, apart from the overfriendly girl sitting at the bar and engaging everyone in conversation. πŸ™‚ Eventually, I decided I wanted to stretch my legs a bit and also sort out the liquids in my luggage. Ah yes, another problem with Ryanair is that you’re charged extra for checking in your luggage so, unless you don’t care about the cost (in which case why are you flying Ryanair?!), you have no choice but to take your bag into the cabin with you.

These days, there are all manner of regulations on what you are and aren’t allowed to take with you. I was a bit unsure if my Swiss Army knife and lighter would be accepted (By the by, I don’t smoke–just keep a lighter on me for various uses), or whether I’d have to give them up at the security desk.

After putting my shampoo, toothpaste and other items in the small plastic bag, I headed to the security gates, which had opened for the day almost while I was re-packing. Luckily, there was no problem with any of my items and I sailed through. It was around half past three (or maybe four–I can’t quite remember) when I arrived in the departures lounge of Stansted. Still several hours to wait. I went to Starbucks and had the usual coffee and croissant and decided to hang out there until it was time to head off to the departure gates.

The flight itself was a bit of a blur. I think I must have slept a little bit, but not very well. I wasn’t feeling all too well, probably due to my lack of sleep and late night dinner. Arriving at Ancona airport, the sun was already up and doing its business.

I was very curious to see lots of signs written not only in Italian and English, but also Russian. This was the same at the airport in Rimini, which is further up this coast. I later asked the boat owner, and he told me they had been getting an increasing number of Russian tourists. Apparently, it was once the Germans who were the main holidaymakers here. Funny how these travel fashions change.

After I went through passport control, I went to the exit gates from which you arrived into the arrivals area. A group of uniformed customs officials were randomly stopping people and asking questions. I’ve noticed this sort of thing happening from time to time. As I walked, I still had my passport in my hand (why didn’t I put it back in my coat pocket?), and one of the security guys noticed it and stopped me. He checked my passport and asked me questions in English about where I’ve come from and what I do for a living. I answered him in Italian, and then he asked if I had anything in my bag worth over €10,000. I didn’t, honest. πŸ™‚

The airport itself is actually in Falconara, a village near Ancona. Luckily, I didn’t have to wait too long to be on the move again, and I boarded a coach that took us to Ancona’s train station, where I’d arranged to meet the owner of the boat.

The owner texted to say that he would be there in around two hours, and suggested that I take the time and go to the centre rather than stay at the boring station. Oh, if only I hadn’t taken his advice and stayed put! I dropped off my bag in the left luggage desk (why, oh why, are these places so well hidden?!) and went off to find the historic centre.

I walked quite a bit and eventually got to Piazza Cavour. Needless to say, I lost track of time, and of space as well. It was almost half past twelve when I got a text from the boat owner asking where I was. He’d arrived at the railway station and was waiting for me. I resorted to getting out the GPS on my phone to find out exactly where I’d ended up. To my horror, I was almost an hour’s walk from the station. How embarrassing. I texted the owner to let him know I’d be a bit late, and hastened on my way, following the directions mapped out by the GPS app.

Bad, bad idea. The directions didn’t actually work, since some of the roads didn’t have pedestrian footpaths at all. Dead end. The walking was tough as well. Ancona seems to be very hilly, and there are lots of steep climbs in places. I do seem to have a knack of getting myself into these little fixes. How embarrassing. Making things worse, the smartphone battery was on its last legs, which meant not only would I not be able to use GPS but would also lose touch with the boat owner.

Sometimes, I think I deliberately put myself into these situations just to make life more interesting. (Yeah, it’s that boring, haha!) Who on earth is interested in just turning up on time? How dull. πŸ˜‰ Anyway, I decided to cut my losses and sent a quick text to the owner to let him know that I was lost and it was better if he came back later in the day.

With the pressure off, surprise surprise, I managed to get onto the right track and was soon heading straight for the train station. When I arrived, I texted the owner again on the off-chance that he was still waiting or in the area. As luck would have it, he was still around, and after apologising for wasting his time (oh how embarrassing), we got into his car and went off to the boat.

Now, it soon became clear that the marina (il Porto Turistico) is pretty much on the edge of Ancona and is not really the kind of distance you want to walk several times a day. According to the owner, bus connections aren’t all that great either, and he had already recommended hiring a car or at least a bicycle. (Seriously though, riding a bicycle on Italian roads sounds like a distinct kind of madness!)

It was really exciting to see the yacht for the first time, and to go inside the small staircase to the living areas. There are two set of sofa-like chairs, a table in between, a separate ‘work’ table that has the ship’s radio equipment around it, a small kitchen area, a sleeping area, and two toilets. It actually packs quite a lot for its size. Of course, being a boat moored at sea, it’s not going to stay quiet very much. As I write, the ship is grunting and clacking as the strong wind beats it outside.

The owner took me back to Ancona, where I spent a few hours trying to find places. I saw Piazza Plebiscito, Piazza Roma, the Arc of Trajan, Porta Pia, and the long road of Corso Garibaldi, where there are lots of expensive shops. For some reason, Ancona has been the hardest Italian town so far for me to get orientated! I also went to a supermarket to pick up a few things for later on. I love going to Itaian supermarkets! The range of food is so much wider than the ones in the UK. Take the breakfast biscuit/brioches for instance–the range seems to go on and on, what with Mulino Bianco and all the different Kinder varieties that aren’t seen in the UK, and varied other brands, not to mention the supermarket’s own ‘value’ brands. The same goes for bread, pasta, chocolate, coffee, cooked meats. It’s probably true for others as well, at least according to my judgement and food preferences.

Arriving at Ancona, I noticed there is a not unsubstantial number of immigrants from places like India and some African countries. There are the usual African men (always men, without exception) carrying small bundles of miscellaneous–usually useless–items and trying to sell them on the street. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen one of them make a sale. I have no idea how they make a living. What I don’t grasp is what all these semi-destitute people from completely different countries are doing in a small Italian town. Who let them in? For what purpose?

At around six o’clock, I decided to start heading off back home. I decided it would be best to get a taxi and see how much it costs. Unfortunately, there were no taxis at the taxi rank down the end of Corso Garibaldi. Of course, I should simply have waited a bit and one would have come along. Or, I could have called the number indicated on the taxi rank display.

Sure. But I didn’t. Feeling restless and also a bit curious, I decided to see if I could find a way to walk back. Why, oh why, do I get these notion?! πŸ™‚

I headed off in the right direction, but soon realised that the only way to reach the Porto Turistico by foot from Ancona is to follow the ill-defined pedestrian footpath that runs along the main roads. I diligently kept on going,, feeling reasonably sure I was in the right direction. As I walked, I passed the Mole Vanvitelliana, a large pentagonal shaped building that is used for concerts and exhibitions. I noticed a sign saying there is a flower show on there this weekend. I’ll come by tomorrow and have a look.

Eventually, I saw a sign pointing towards the Porto Turistico and knew that I couldn’t be far. Now the trouble started. The pedestrian path dissolved into a mess of badly built sidewalks, and I struggled to see where I was going. It was just as well that the traffic was very sparse. However, to make matters worse, my phone’s battery had run out, and the sun was beginning to set. The last thing I wanted was to be milling around the main roads at night.

From the car drive to the marina this morning (it’s called Marina Dorica), I remembered an entrance with three flags. I knew it must be somewhere along this main road. At one point, I actually ended up inside a large industrial shipyard of some kind. The funny thing was that I could see the main building of the marina (with a small shop, etc) not so far away, but there was no way of walking in that direction. All the footpaths were blocked.

What a mess. I walked all the way back (and these were really long walks, especially when you’ve been walking all day!), and kept on at the main road, hoping I’d eventually come across the right one. Can you believe I even walked past it at one point?! Eventually though, my persistence paid off and I arrived at the boat with practically minutes to spare before sundown.

Phew!

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