Tuesday, June 29, 2010

From Sea Level to 2,000 ft.

I officially have a favorite place in Italy:  the island of Elba.  Yes, the place where Napoleon Bonaparte was exiled in 1814.

This place encompasses everything I could ask for in an island:  great beaches, breathtaking views, tasty food and challenging bike rides.

To get to Elba, Ged and I had to hop a ferry with his car at 5 a.m.  It took two hours to drive from Florence to Piombino, where the port was, and another hour to get to the island by boat.

Piombino is perhaps the ugliest part of Italy.  It's full of factories and pollution.

Here's a shot I took upon leaving:

Gross, right?

We set up camp at a site in the town Marina di Campo.  Our tent was only a few yards away from the beach.  Pure bliss.  I baked in the sun for a few hours before going on a bike ride with Ged.

Satuday's ride was 50 km (30 mi).  It took around two hours to complete.

This was definitely the most beautiful ride I've done so far.  I could see the coast the entire time and the rich foliage made it feel like I was riding through a jungle.  The road was undulating and pleasant for the first half.  There were small climbs sprinkled throughout but nothing too serious.  Nearer to the end, however, there was a constant, gradual climb.

Those always get me.  You know, the upward slopes that visually seem flat, so you start to get pissed because you have no idea why you're going so slow.  Yea, those.

Saturday night was a bit painful, however, as I watched the U.S. get beat by Ghana in the World Cup.  :(

I mostly laid out on the beach all day.  I really do miss going to the beach.

After Ged came back from his bike ride we went to the beach bar to watch the England v. Germany game.

Post-ride sandwiches at the tent:

Unfortunately, Ged's team didn't get a win either.  Sad weekend for football.

We checked out of the campsite at noon and then jumped on the bikes for a 35 km (~20 mi) ride.

This ride was seriously tough for me.

We started from sea level and ended up climbing 2,000 feet.  The climb was at a 14% gradient in some spots, which is like Tour-de-France-style riding.

I swear the ants on the ground were traveling faster than I was when I hit those steep parts.  At least I didn't stop.

Ged snapped some action shots.

After basking in the sunshine for a few more hours, the time came to snap back into reality and head back to the ferry.

Even though I was sad to leave Elba, I know I'll be back.  I just have to.

If you love the beach, friendly people, beautiful scenery and intense bike rides, you must go to Elba.

I took some more pictures when leaving:

Do you have a vacation spot that trumps all others?



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