Mike's Genoa Diary

From the Colonel's Regiment

Table of contents

Friday, 23rd May

Got an e-mail from Rupert at 1.21p.m. It said:

> Apparently this all got sorted out last night, anyway.

Yep, my panic attempt to get myself ready for tonight failed and I spoke to David for a bit so I'll see you tomorrow.

> Have you printed out confirmation of flights and hotels? I've got a > copy so I'll bring it with me, but it would probably be wise if we > have more than one.

Yes, although I've only bothered with the '2ND NOTIFICATION OF CHANGE' mails rather than the lot.

Just remembered travel insurance! Shall I do the usual thing? Assume Linton'll have his own.

Fortunately for all of us, Rupert was on the ball and had remembered travel insurance. Could have been the first of many shafts had he not have done.

I was at work, getting bored. Helping out some random guy ftp a file from somewhere didn't help, so I decided to leave and go to David's for the first leg of the Genoa journey. It was about 4.30p.m. and therefore high time for me to get on the road anyway.

The drive was pleasant. I amused myself by listening to the sounds of Bon Jovi and imagining I was already in Genoa. Less than two hours later, I arrived in Thatcham and the Genoa experience had begun as I was reunited with David and the Little Lucky Leprechaun.

We chatted for some time about the prospects for the holiday, then decided to head to the Star Inn for the first of our pre-Genoa meals. David went the whole hog and chose the steak, whilst I went for the customary lemon chicken. The meal was good, but we were still a little down that Rupert had decided not to join us until the following day. David consoled himself with a chocolate brownie which I watched him eat.

After a brief relax with coffees, we left and headed back to David's house via Tesco's.

The remainder of the evening was spent watching the 12 new repulsive people who had just entered the Big Brother house. We were highly amused by a guy named Gos. He appeared to be the only cool guy in the house and we reckoned he was pretty pissed off about the company he was being forced to keep. Unable to watch the whole program due to boredom, we eventually gave up and punched the sack. Sleep was going to be vital, as we were sure we would not get very much in the coming days.

Saturday, 24th May

I woke up at around 9a.m., feeling very refreshed. After a shower, which provided further refreshment, I settled down with a bowl of choco crunchies. David was up too and we discussed plans for the day ahead. Eventually we decided that we should head into Reading and get a bit of shopping done. Both of us were determined to look our best in Genoa and that required the purchase of new clothes.

Once ready, we left the house and walked to Thatcham station. We were due to meet Rupert at around 2p.m., so we had plenty of time. The train to Reading took about 20 minutes and we soon found ourselves sat in the Oracle centre with coffee and muffins. We thought about how the others were getting on. Whilst the Genoa experience had already begun for us, it would be some time before everyone else would be joining us.

David and I spent the next couple of hours browsing around the shops, making a few purchases of budget videos and clothes along the way. After a further drinks stop at Cafe Giordino's, we decided it was time to head back to Thatcham and await the arrival of Rupert. At this very moment, he texted David, informing him that he was running a little late. It was about two o'clock and Rupert informed us that he may not arrive until some time after three. There wasn't a great deal we could do about that, so we made our way back to Reading station.

Back at the station, we discovered we'd been slightly shafted and would have to wait half an hour for a train to Thatcham. It was annoying, but not quite as much as when the woman sat next to us decided to light up her cigarette. We moved to a different platform, deliberately sitting in her line of sight so that she was aware that we'd moved because she'd started smoking. Soon afterwards we heard from Rupert that he was still at Paddington station, so he would be even later than he had at first thought. We were a little perturbed, because we were intending to go out running after picking up Rupert, but that was looking unlikely now.

Eventually we returned to the original platform, only to discover that the train wasn't going from there at all. It didn't matter too much, because we had plenty of time to find the platform and get on the train that took us back to Thatcham.

Back at David's house once again, we changed into our running gear and awaited news of Rupert. Eventually he did ring to say that his train was passing through Theale. We rushed to the station in my car and picked him up.

Since we would be leaving at the crack of dawn and it was our intention to attempt to get some sleep beforehand, I still wanted to go running, as did David. We therefore went out for half an hour or so and Rupert stood and watched whilst we worked our way around the mile long loop in the vicinity of David's house. As I finished my 5 lap circuit, David and Rupert pointed out a little sparrow on the pavement that didn't appear strong enough to fly away. I was a little concerned about the poor thing, as I didn't want it to get attacked by a cat, so I picked it up and moved it into the bushes nearby. Unfortunately the poor little thing didn't want to let go of my hand and it took some time for me to persuade it to do so.

After the run David and I were feeling quite tired. It was about 5.30p.m., so we both took showers to refresh ourselves. Once I was ready, I briefly phoned Amal to get directions to his house before we headed back to the Star Inn (feeling somewhat unadventurous) for the second of our pre-break meals. This time spirits were slightly higher as we were in company with Rupert and the Little Lucky Leprechaun.

We made the usual gags about Chris selecting the most expensive dish on the menu were he with us, before ordering food. David had scampi this time, with Rupert choosing an expensive steak and me ordering lemon chicken once again.

The meal was a relatively brief affair. We were all tired and wanted to get back to get some sleep before driving to Stansted in the early hours of the morning. After coffee, we walked back to the car and phoned Steve. As he would not be joining us we felt it would be good to have a talk with him before leaving. He seemed unhappy that he would not be joining us, but was in Newcastle enjoying the experience there and preparing to watch the Eurovision Song Contest, so he wasn't too downhearted.

After a petrol stop at Tesco's (and a quick dash by Rupert into the store to buy a toothbrush) we returned to David's house and prepared to get some sleep. It was only just after eight o'clock, so it was a little strange to be thinking about sleep at this point, but we were intending to get up at 12.45a.m. so we needed all the sleep we could get. The Eurovision Song Contest had just started, so we listened to the first few songs whilst David packed his clothes for the holiday.

Eventually, I settled down to get some sleep and about an hour after that I did manage to drift off. The Genoa experience was well underway for four of us and very soon we would find ourselves in Genoa itself.

Sunday, 25th May

My alarm went off at 12.45a.m. Scarcely able to believe that it was time to get up, I nevertheless roused myself and stumbled upstairs to get a quick shower. David and Rupert very shortly got up too and we settled down with coffee and watched the voting for the Eurovision Song Contest which David had seen fit to record from a few hours earlier. It seemed that the rest of Europe were still somehow bitter about the recent Iraq conflict (as pointed out by Terry Wogan during the voting procedure). Nobody saw fit to give us any points whatsoever. Thoroughly disgusted, we consoled ourselves with the fact that Italy were not in Eurovision that year so we couldn't feel bitter towards them whilst we were in their country.

Disappointed with the result, we loaded the car and set off. It was about 1.45a.m., so we were running a little late, but as we bombed down the M4 to the sounds of S-Club, it became apparent that we needn't have worried. The motorway was deserted, and we made good progress towards Amal's house.

The journey to Amal's house was somewhat quiet. We were all shattered. Rupert drowsed in the back whilst David and I attempted conversation—to keep me awake as much as anything else. As we hit the M25, I got a phone call on my mobile phone. Extracting it from my pocket, I handed it to David. It was Amal, concerned that we were running late. David told him we would ring him again when we arrived at the A1.

Half an hour later, we did just that. I took this exit and headed south towards Boreham Wood. Ten minutes later, we turned off Nicholas Road onto Clare Close and found ourselves outside number 21, otherwise known as Amal's house. We noticed Art Malik's house just up the road, but decided it was a little late to call on him. Amal was sat on the doorstep ready to go, so David and I quickly popped into the house to relieve ourselves (for some reason all of the doors in Amal's house are locked with some funny bolt thing so it took rather more time than it should have done for us to figure this out) before piling Amal and his bag into the car and setting off once again. Rupert ended up putting his case on his knee for the short drive to Stansted, as the boot in my car was not big enough.

We soon found ourselves bombing around the M25 again, this time to the sounds of Bon Jovi. About ten minutes later, Amal shouted, "Great song!" as the Busted classic "Year 3000" started up. We all sang along happily for the next few minutes.

At around 3.30a.m. we found ourselves in the Stansted area. The drive to the medium stay car park was somewhat complicated as a lot of roads appeared to be coned off, but we eventually found it. I slid David's credit card into the machine and the barrier opened to admit us. We were directed around to zone K, where we were supposed to park. As we drove towards the zone, we spotted a bus waiting by one of the bus stops. We assumed, in our innocence, that this bus would wait for us to take us to the terminal. However, after eventually finding a parking spot and unloading, we discovered that the bastard had driven off without us. Somewhat disgusted, we walked to bus stop 14 and pressed the buzzer to call the bus.

It rang for ages and no one answered. Eventually it stopped ringing and Amal said, "Hello?" into the intercom but no one replied. We tried again and the same thing happened. David and I persuaded Amal to speak into the intercom again and he did, but we still got no reply. A bus then came around the corner and drove straight past our bus stop without stopping. We couldn't believe it. Amal asked us how far it was to the terminal. I said it was about three miles and Amal swore quietly. We tried the buzzer another couple of times with no luck. On the fifth attempt, it even stopped ringing.

After some 15 minutes at the bus stop, another bus came around the corner and began to unload people at bus stop 13 a hundred yards or so away. Worried that it was going to go without us again, we all picked up our cases and charged towards it, making it just in time.

We settled down in our seats. A middle aged woman soon got on the bus and sat opposite myself and Amal. We were talking about what we were going to do when we landed in Genoa and she got interested in our conversation so decided to butt in. It turned out she had recently emigrated to Italy and loved it. She told us how the Italians all thought she was fantastic and that they were going to throw her a big party when she got back home that evening.

After an entertaining conversation with our new friend, the bus arrived at the terminal and we disembarked. Inside, Amal spent some time dicking around trying to work out how many Euros to get from the bureau-de-change. He eventually made his mind up and went to the desk. A couple of minutes later he returned asking us if he could borrow a few pence to make his transaction come to a whole amount of Euros. Rupert, as expected, obliged.

We went for coffee after this. Amal and I got shafted because we tried to order cappucinos from some stall and the owner just stood and watched us decide what to have for a couple of minutes before telling us his stall was closed. Waster. We went elsewhere and selected 4 cappucinos, a custard danish and an orange muffin to share between us.

After half an hour of chilling we wandered over to the check-in desk and queued to check in. About ten minutes later, we were delighted to see Christophe Moules walk around the corner, complete with rucksack. We all shook him warmly by the hand.

Once check-in was completed, we made the decision to head through passport control and sample some breakfast in Garfunkels. This we did. However, Rupert got stopped at the metal detector area for his bag to be searched. I instructed David and Chris to go ahead and get a table. Amal then instructed me to go ahead and get a table too. We decided one table was enough, but the waitress decided that one four person table was enough. Little did she know the argument she would cause.

We sat down and waited for Rupert and Amal. Some time later, I wandered back to see if I could find them. Amal greeted me halfway back to passport control and said, "Those bastards are taking absolutely everything out of Rupert's bag and it's taking ages!" We returned to Garfunkels and were eventually joined by Rupert.

Chris and David ordered breakfast burgers—David's with fries and Chris' with hash browns (they'd made the decision to share these between them). Amal and I ordered the continental, Amal's with two croissants and mine with a croissant and a danish. Rupert, meanwhile, plumped for an omelette.

After putting in the order, Rupert stood up, since he was crammed in next to me and not too comfortable. I told him to sit back down, but he totally flipped out and said he was off to buy something. He claimed I'd sworn at him which wasn't the case. Chris agreed, but told me that I was being unpleasant whilst I was only trying to tell Rupert that he didn't need to stand up.

An argument got underway. Probably due to the fact that we were totally shattered, but it was an argument nonetheless. Rupert departed to look for a book and came back to get in on the argument again. He did slide in next to me once more and Chris became further jammed into the corner.

The breakfast eventually arrived (though Amal's had to be sent back because they'd tried to shaft him with a danish and a croissant rather than two croissants) and we ate hurriedly. We weren't hugely blessed with time, so once everyone was finished we left and made our way to the departure gates.

We boarded the plane and sat down. David slid into a window seat, whilst I took the seat next to him and Amal sat next to me. Chris took up the window seat behind us and Rupert sat next to him.

As the plane took off we all get very excited, though everyone was knackered. We attempted to get some sleep, with varying degrees of success. Unfortunately for me, I was the only one that remained awake for the entirety of the flight. More unfortunately for me, there was a young kid sat in the seat in front of David who seemed to want to sit on backwards on his seat and stare at us for the whole flight. I buried myself in the guide book and attempted to ignore him.

A couple of hours later, our plane began the descent into Genoa. The landing was interesting, as we came in over water. Just when it seemed as if we were going to ditch into the sea, the runway appeared and we touched down. Declarations by all that Genoa was happening were made.

We rushed to passport control, eager to get to Genoa as quickly as possible. There appeared to be some separate queue at passport control for airline employees, but they kindly opened it for us as soon as we got there. Amal sat down whilst the rest of us waited for our bags. Once we'd collected them, we wandered outside to sample the Italian air. David and Amal were having a chat about their mobile phones. Apparently they'd both been connected to an Italian network called "TIM" which they thought was really funny. I had got some other network, but fortunately found a way to change it so we were all hooked up to TIM.

Our intention was to get a taxi to the hotel, but no one was willing to make the first move since our Italian was so poor. We lingered outside briefly, until an Italian came up to us and said, "five people?" We confirmed that we were, indeed, five people, and he ushered us towards his taxi which, coincidentally, seated 5 people. Nice one.

Amal, David and I got in the back leaving Rupert and Chris to sit up front. The taxi driver got in and put his foot down. The taxi accelerated rapidly. Clearly he was determined to get us to the hotel as fast as possible. Just around the corner we started bombing towards a set of barriers that led out of the airport. We assumed he was going to stop, but he didn't. He merely accelerated. We were all beginning to mildly shit ourselves as we thought we were going to have an accident. However, at the last moment the barrier went up and we passed through safely. Sighs of relief were audible all round.

The hotel was about 5 miles away and we got there in less than 5 minutes, which was impressive considering we were driving through a city. We all piled out and said "grazie" or "thank-you" or "thanks" or "cheers" depending on our current moods. Rupert paid the taxi driver handsomely, not out of choice, I hasten to add. It turned out that the taxi driver had shafted us—our trip to the hotel had cost us the princely sum of 28 Euros.

The Columbus Sea Hotel marketed itself as a 4 star palace, but we were unsure where its 4 stars came from. We checked in, handing our passports over so that the receptionist could fill in some stuff from them. David and I were a little unhappy about doing this but there you go.

We got into the elevator and made for the second floor (except for Chris and Rupert who decided to walk up). Rupert and David shortly piled into room 237 whilst Amal and I went into 236 and Chris went into 235. Inside, the room was basic but adequate. The presence of a Corby trouser press made us wonder whether that accounted for one of the stars (or maybe even two). Amal and I collapsed on our beds and relaxed briefly before both (separately) taking showers.

An hour or so later, we all decided it was time to trek into the centre of the town and check it out. It was about eleven in the morning, and we had been on the go for about ten hours already, so we were all knackered. We stopped at the reception and picked up our passports, before walking outside into the sunshine.

Rupert, David and Amal stopped briefly to look at a gecko that was sat outside the hotel. Chris and I ushered them on. The walk into the centre was a two mile trek by the side of some dirty, horrible road with some dirty horrible fly over above it, a dirty horrible railway track below it and a dirty horrible cargo port on the other side of this. We were amazed at how grim it was. We walked passed a building with a shopping mall (including a McDonalds) in it with "A Negro" written on the side of it. David commented that they were daft racists.

We were all knackered and eager to find somewhere to sit down. A mile or so into town we came to a big Volkswagen sign on top of a building at which point the road curved to the right. We assumed that we just walked around the corner and we were in the old town, but we were proved wrong. Around the corner the road continued and curved to the right again a little further down.

As we rounded the corner, we ended up behind a group of tourists walking at about one mile an hour. Unfortunately, there was a barrier on our left preventing us from passing them. We made comments about enforced dicking around. We couldn't believe it. Eventually we got past the first batch and came to a crossing. As the crossing flashed to green, Chris looked at me in surprise. "It sounds like a bird singing" he declared. I had to agree with him. After more enforced dicking around behind some tourists, we arrived at the marina area where all the yachts were. There was an old galleon just in front of us. However, we were desperately in need of sustenance so we veered off to the right down a little shopping parade next to the waterfront. We found a nice little place that served ice creams, with a coffee bar attached to it. We went inside and looked at the collection. Amal selected a chocolate ice cream and ordered. The guy serving us was really nice and decided to tell us what the names were in Italian. We were all really impressed with the politeness of these people. Once everyone except Rupert had ordered (since Rupert didn't want anything) we paid up and walked outside to the seating area. We moved to a table and sat down. However, at this point the other guy who worked in the shop charged out and said, "No, no sit down. No!" gesturing for us to leave his shop. We couldn't believe it. We'd been shafted big time! We left the shop and walked alongside the marina eating our ice creams. We were all somewhat downhearted.

Ice creams finished, we stopped briefly to look at the galleon (which Amal commented had featured in some Roman Polanski film) before heading further along the waterfront. I accused David of dicking around at one point, which did not go down well. Having walked the length of the marina, we decided it was time to check out the old town so we left the waterfront and made our way inland. Amal had got his hands dirty from the ice cream so wanted to stop and wash them. Turned out he would have to pay one Euro for the privelege, so he dragged me along for moral support (not to go inside with him, mind) and entered the nearest public toilets.

Once he had concluded his business, we crossed the busy road and entered the old town up some dark, smelly street. We were all somewhat shattered and bad tempered and things were not looking good. We quickly entered what was, apparently, a piazza. It was tiny and there was some crappy rubble in the middle of it, so we were none too impressed. Chris was navigating and he suggested we go and look at the two big piazzas in the old town, so we did. After some walking, we saw light in front of us and what appeared to be an old museum/palace. We hurried towards the light. As we did so, a huge dog charged out of a side street and nearly collided with myself and Chris. It then proceeded to run up to the nearest car and urinate on one of its wheels. We couldn't believe it. I also managed to take a photo of a mafia guy waiting on a street corner to gun someone down. Everyone was in need of a sit down and a drink, so we began to look for somewhere. However, it wasn't looking too good as there was nowhere suitable in sight.

There was another big piazza just around the corner so we made for that. Chris stopped briefly and posed for a photo, gesturing at a statue in the same way that the statue was gesturing at him. Amal spotted a girl selling some souvenirs whom he quite fancied. He pointed out that none of us would stand a chance with her.

I ushered everyone into the next piazza. This was a little nicer than the first one. It had a big fountain in the middle, which we hurried over to. There were carvings around it of demons with open mouths. David made some rude joke. We also saw another massive dog. Amal commented that this must be some sort of new species a bit like the great Dane. He suggested that they were, in fact, a species known as the great Genoan, a resident of these parts.

We briefly walked into the entrance to some museum, but decided we weren't willing to pay to go around it, so we left again and made for some grassy thing that Chris had seen on the map and wanted to check out. On route we passed two women police officers on the beat. David suggested we ask them to join us for lunch but this didn't go down too well.

A few minutes later we arrived at the first of the grassy areas. It didn't look very grassy. There was a statue in the middle of the road and a brasserie on the corner. There was, however, a rather beautiful waterfall some distance away in a park. We were all hungry so we decided we should have lunch. There was seating outside but no one was willing to make the first move this time. We weren't sure whether we should sit down or go inside and order or what. After walking inside and looking around, we eventually made the decision to sit down.

Amal summed up our feelings by saying, "Basically, they fucked us at that last place and now we don't know what to do. If it goes wrong here I'm just getting the next plane out of here and going home."

David agreed and the mood was significantly lighter courtesy of this burst of comedy. The waiter soon arrived to take our orders and we celebrated that we had done at least one thing right. David, Amal and I all ordered paninis, since we'd been looking forward to having a true Italian panini for ages. Amal asked for the panini without the ham, but he was informed that that was how it came, so he had to have it like that. Rupert and Chris, meanwhile, ordered the pizzetta which was supposedly some sort of mini pizza. To drink, David ordered coke, Rupert diet coke, Amal cappucino, myself orange juice and Chris ordered a tea with milk.

The waiter soon returned with my orange juice, Amal's cappucino and Chris' tea. Chris had been shafted, however, and had been given lemon tea rather than tea with milk. The waiter then dumped a plate with three sandwiches made with rather stale looking white bread onto the table. He then informed us that there was only one pizzetta left and would we like something else instead? Rupert said he would have a panini. The waiter then ran to the shop next door. We assumed he was going to buy a couple of cans of drink for Rupert and David and then charge us double for them, but he returned with another stale sandwich. We then realised that we'd been shafted once more. The so-called "paninis" were, in fact, stale sandwiches. Not only that, each one was a stale sandwich made out of 1 and a half slices of bread—a veritable feast. The waiter returned once again to deliver the coke, diet coke and the tiniest pizza you could possibly imagine. This caused mass hysteria. The very fact that this was Chris' lunch made it even more amusing. Amal picked up his panini in disgust and began to eat it. The beauty of this shaft was that the waiter had forced Amal to eat meat for the first time in about five years. Amal commented that he'd originally thought that the sandwiches were some freebies that they wanted rid of and our paninis were going to be delivered later. We had been well and truly shafted and we could only admire the way it was done.

Chris ate his pizzetta in one bite and looked around wanting more. We promised him that we would purchase more food a little later on, so he didn't need to worry too much.

After chilling for an hour or so (in the restaurant we dubbed "Shaftissimo", we decided it was time to move on so we left the brasserie. There was some debate as to whom we should pay, but Chris eventually worked it out and paid the cashier. We walked up the hill away from the centre of Genoa, through some sort of grassy park and into some park with a small concrete football pitch and a children's play area in it. At the back there was a fenced off area with gates in it and a picture of a dog. We eventually worked out that this was an area where you could let your dog run around in whilst you went off and did something else. David made a very funny joke about this which I cannot repeat.

We walked into the area for dogs and sat down. We were quite high up and had a great view over the eastern portion of Genoa. Amal spotted tennis game going on and got very excited when he realised that it was a women's game. I pointed out that the players were both about 15 but this did little to dampen his enthusiasm.

Amal and David chilled on a bench whilst Chris and I sat on the wall and studied the guide book. I suggested a restaurant for us to eat in that evening. We looked at the map to discover that it was quite close to where we were sitting, so we thought we should check it out.

We left the park and walked alongside a wide road. We soon came to a bridge and realised that the place we wanted to be was on the road running underneath the bridge. There was no obvious way down, but Chris spied a staircase on the other side of the road so suggested that we make for that.

Amal, David and I were unsure whether this would lead us to our destination. The staircase descended to some sort of balcony area around an ornate building, but it was unclear whether it went down to street level. We decided to send Chris to investigate so that he would be the only one shafted if it came to it.

Chris descended to the balcony and we soon decided to join him, as it looked quite pleasant. There was no visible staircase downwards, but we walked around the corner and found a slope down to street level, so we took this. After about five minutes, we found ourselves under the bridge. Amal and David commented on another beautiful shaft courtesy of the Genoa tourist board.

Chris was directing, so we walked under the bridge, turned left and found ourselves walking down some pedestrianised street. After a few hundred yards, Chris pointed out that I'd picked the wrong number from the map and we had been heading in the wrong direction for this restaurant for the previous half hour or so. We all found this hilarious, but whether this was due to it actually being funny or the fact that we were all shattered I don't know. Chris then pointed to the tiny little place that we had been walking towards—it was a tiny little shop that apparently sold paninis (we were sceptical about this) and was closed.

We decided the best plan from here was to return to the site of Shaftissimo and go and check out the waterfall we had seen. We therefore began to climb back up to the level of the bridge, via a narrow alleyway that I discovered. It eventually brought us out near to the tennis courts we had seen earlier. Amal wanted to stop to watch but we ushered him onwards.

At the next corner, I stopped to say "bibble" (as is the custom in Genoa) and then we made our way back to the region of Shaftissimo. Across the road from the restaurant there was a statue up a long flight of stairs. We spent some time debating whether to use the nearby underpass to get closer—David was worried it would be grim, but we then discovered there was actually works of art on the walls, so that brightened it up a little.

At the statue, Chris, David and Amal briefly posed for a photo (recreating the poses of the figure in the sculpture), before we entered the park with the waterfall in it. It was apparently the entrance to an Oriental museum.

Chris and I sped ahead and began the ascent to the waterfall. Amal, David and Rupert were lagging behind. We soon found out that this was because Amal had spotted a terrapin (which he referred to as a turtle) and was fascinated by it.

We eventually arrived at the waterfall, which proved to be quite impressive. For some reason, somebody had decided to chuck a balloon into it, which was very odd. There was a cave behind it which we walked in briefly (and another one underneath it which we didn't go in cos there were two dodgy looking guys sat at the entrance). Have satisfied our waterfall needs we continued the climb and arrived at the top of the hill. There was a pond in the middle with another terrapin by it. Amal commented that it looked as if it had been pinned to the side because it wasn't moving. There was also a very ornate archway and we posed for several photos by it.

After some debate as to which would be the quickest way down, we chose a route and began to walk downwards. Chris spotted a statue that had fallen over and he pointed out that even the statues got shafted in Genoa. We soon came to a viewpoint and we stopped to look out over Genoa.

Amal noticed a large building towering above all of the others with very few windows and wondered what it was. He commented that it looked like a prison. David said that it was probably the Ministry of Shafting and that was where all of the shafting for Genoa was coordinated from. This caused some hilarity and we paused to take a photo of it for posterity. The walk down continued, past some kids' drawings on billboards and a couple of geckos that were wandering around. The path began to curve back towards the way we came in and we began to wonder whether we had been shafted again. Eventually, a gate to the outside world was observed and we made for it. There was a visitors' book by the gate. David and I both wrote messages. David drew a picture of the Ministry of Shafting, but his pen ran out half way through and he had to find another one—he'd been shafted again.

Chris and I decided we should all return to the old town and find the restaurant that we'd been looking for for the last couple of hours. Unfortunately the route took us down a very steep cobbled street that was clearly designed to shaft people. The narrow steps by the side of the street were not much better as they all had holes in them. Chris and Rupert spet ahead, as the rest of us inched our way down the street and arrived at a set of stairs. Descending these, I was shocked to notice syringes scattered over them. I pointed this out to David and Amal and we hurriedly checked our shoes to make sure that we hadn't been stabbed by one.

Relieved that we hadn't, we descended the rest of the way and rejoined Chris and Rupert. We were now on a street between two tunnels. The crossing of this street was a little harrowing and we nearly got taken down by high speed mopeds, but we all made it across unscathed and returned to the old town. Chris then guided us into a piazza and from there into a narrow alleyway that he assured us would eventually take us to the restaurant.

By this time David, Amal and I were almost delirious and we spent most of the walk in hysterics. We nearly got taken out by a high speed moped going through the alleyway and then again by a battered car that was clearly too wide to be driving there. At this point we spotted a sign on the wall that said, "Amal". It was a sign for some international trading company. We thought this was hilarious and Amal posed next to it for a photo.

The first double shafting then occurred. We all arrived at a little piazza. There was a chained off area to the left. Chris, David, Rupert and myself stuck to the road, whilst Amal walked into the chained off area by accident. At this point, he realised that he may well have been shafted, because there was a wall in front of him. Wise to this, he turned round and retraced his steps. However, halfway across the piazza there was a hole in the chain to enable people to rejoin the road, so Amal would have been okay if he'd continued. Unable to believe that he was a victim of the double shafting, being made to walk further than was necessary, Amal descended into fits of laughter once again.

The next sizeable piazza had the cathedral in it. We stopped for a while and looked it at, before walking down a tiny alleyway and arriving at the restaurant. Chris and Amal went in to book a table for that evening whilst the rest of us sat outside and attempted to recover. David and I were reluctant to go a step further, but the prospect of finding a brasserie where we could purchase a drink was enough to force us to our feet.

We walked back through the piazza with the cathedral in it and past a beggar whom David pointed out probably used to be the mayor of Genoa before he had got shafted by the ministry. Eventually we arrived at a brasserie and Chris, David and I sat outside it whilst Amal and Rupert went in to order a round of cokes and diet cokes. Whilst we were sat there, the table next to us became occupied by two people who had a great Genoan with them. This one was absolutely massive and they seemed quite happy to let it wander round whilst they were enjoying their drinks.

Once everyone had had their fill of chilling, we got up again. We had decided that we would go on an outing the following day, since we felt that we'd already seen everything there was to see in Genoa. We therefore decided to head for the station to find times for trains to Monaco, Turin and Milan on the following day.

Chris led us through a twisting maze of alleyways before bringing us to the entrance to the station. Inside, we spent a good half hour trying to figure out how to get the electronic ticket machines to work before Amal plucked up the courage to ask the ticket guy about tickets to Monaco. He didn't speak English but instructed us to go to the information office. This we did and Chris and Amal did the negotiations once again. Armed with times and prices for tickets to Monaco, we left the station and made the slow way back to the hotel.

We were all thoroughly shattered and the walk back took some time. David and I both nearly gave up and sat down, but Amal and Chris managed to keep our spirits up, whilst Rupert seemed to have a new lease of life and was striding away from us.

Back at the Columbus Sea Hotel, we all returned to our rooms and prepared for dinner. There was a little concern as to what we would do if Dave didn't show up before we sent out, but fortunately he did turn up around 6.30p.m. (only an hour and a half after he had intended to be there, so that wasn't too bad). He was looking very tanned after his trip to Morocco and quite knackered after his shanty bus ride and walk to the hotel.

Once everyone had showered and changed, we exited the hotel and walked once more back into the centre of Genoa, in the direction of the hotel. Chris had decided that we would head through the old town this time, so he requisitioned the guidebook and began the task of directing us to the restaurant. The walk to the restaurant was uneventful, though we did walk past two dogs fighting and a bloke attempting to drive a car down one of the very narrow alleyways.

When we arrived at the restaurant the outside door was closed and there were no signs of life whatsoever. David cracked up, suggesting that the restaurant had shafted us, but Chris discovered that the door was, in fact, open.

We walked in and were directed through to the non-smoking area. David made for the head of the table, with Chris to his left and Amal to his right. I sat to Chris' left with Rupert opposite me and Dave positioned himself at the other end of the table from David, between myself and Rupert.

We all ordered primo piatti (some sort of pasta starter thing) and a main course, along with wine and water (since they didn't seem to have any coca cola for David, he had to make do with water). They shafted us on the water, bringing bottled water (one of which was aspirin flavoured) rather than tap water. They also delivered some bread to the table, and a couple of bottles, one of oil and the other of vinegar, which you could smear on your bread if you had the desire to do so, which some of us did.

The primo piatti arrived. David, not being a fan of pasta, was somewhat unimpressed. I had one with mussels in it. It was okay, but there weren't very many mussels. Everyone seemed relatively content, but this soon changed as the main courses were brought.

David and I had ordered roast beef, but this turned out to be a big mistake. Clearly Italians didn't believe in anything like vegetables. We were delivered a plate of almost raw roast beef, which was cold, with nothing else. We had to find it funny. Rupert had ordered steak, but clearly they had only carried it through a warm room, as it was bleeding something rotten. He let me try a little bit and I really struggled to keep it down. Amal had the stockfish. He thought it was okay. We wondered what Stock would have thought of it.

Main course out of the way, we moved rapidly onto the dessert course. Dave suggested Amal and I order some sort of lemon sorbet thing that had vodka in it and was a bit like the colonel. We ordered one between us whilst Chris went for one on his own. David went for a chocolate cake type thing. He felt that he'd been thoroughly shafted for the whole meal and was looking for a little pay back. Everyone except Dave and Chris also ordered coffees.

The waiter then brought me a small glass filled with a yellow liquid. Dave informed me that this was my pseudo-colonel dessert. Meanwhile, David celebrated the arrival of his first decent food that evening as he tucked into his chocolate cake. Amal couldn't believe that Dave had shafted us like this. He did inform us that he expected it to be a little more solid than it was. Amal and I shared our drink and found it hilarious.

Coffees were brought. We were expecting espressos, so the fact that they came in really small cups didn't surprise me. However, David began to crack up as soon as his coffee was put in front of him. I didn't get the joke until I received mine. We struggled to contain ourselves as the waiter delivered everyone else's. As the waiter left, David and I burst into hysterics. The fact that the espresso cup was only a quarter full was unbelievable (and we'd paid a Euro each for the privelege). David suggested that the waiter had perhaps filled them up and emptied them straight out, then delivered whatever was left back to the table.

We downed our coffees and then decided it was time to pay the bill and leave. We did just this, unable to believe that we were paying about 40 Euros each for our food.

Having paid and left, we wandered down to the marina area and walked around there for a bit. We investigated a bit further around the sea front, walking past a rather grotesque statue, an outdoor American bar (we decided to check that one out later on), several shops and through an arcade (Rupert wanted to stop here and play on some of the games but we ushered him on), before stopping to chill for a while near some rollerblading dudes. Rupert and David decided to vault over some metal barriers. David was slightly more successful than Rupert owing to the fact that Rupert was somewhat the worse for wear.

I suggested we return to the American bar and we did. We were directed to some seats down some stairs overlooking the yachts. It was very pleasant and we chilled there for some time. The drinks were somewhat expensive but we did get nuts, crisps and mini breadsticks delivered to our table along with the drinks so we didn't complain too much.

Eventually we decided it was time to return to the hotel to catch up on some sleep. We could see our hotel across the other side of the port. It seemed like such a long way away, but we had to get back there so we began the long trek.

When we reached the galleon, I commented on the smell of urine that seemed to be prevalent around the marina area. Chris pointed out that it wasn't piss, it was seaweed. I said it was piss. Chris said it was seaweed. I finally conceded that it may be seaweed that had been pissed on. David chipped in with, "Oh, seaweed that's been pissed on maybe. But not just seaweed, that's my point". This caused David and I to burst into fits of laughter.

The rest of walk back was somewhat uneventful, apart from the brief hesitation when we thought we'd wandered the wrong way to get around some roadworks and were in danger of being double shafted. We eventually stuck to the original route, realising that we would be triple shafted if we were wrong, but fortunately we did manage to get back onto the main road so that crisis was avoided.

Just around the corner from here, the pavement disappeared and we ended up walking on the road around a blind corner. The cars were coming at ridiculous speeds and Amal got very scared that we would get taken down, but we managed to overcome that obstacle as well and made it back to the hotel about 30 minutes later, completely unscathed.

Everyone returned to their rooms thoroughly knackered and eager to get some sleep. We would be having another early start in the morning, so we would need all of the sleep that we could possibly get.

Monday, 26th May

It was to be an early start on day two, as we were intending to catch the first train to Monte Carlo that day. With that in mind, my alarm went off at seven o'clock in the morning. I was shattered, but dragged myself out of bed anyway and hurried through the shower.

Once everyone had done the same, we hurried down to breakfast. We attempted to sit down at a table for six, but suffered from the age old problem of the waiter not wanting to open that particular end of the restaurant, for some strange reason. He ushered us to a circular table on the other side of the breakfast bar. We helped ourselves to a wide array of breakfast products, including coffee, orange juice, croissants with chocolate or custard in the middle and some sort of lemon cake. Chris, of course, made the most of his breakfast, starting with cereal and working all the way through the plethora of courses on offer before declaring himself to be full. There was some debate as to how the espresso machine worked, but Dave managed to figure it out eventually.

Once breakfast was concluded, we returned to our rooms and prepared ourselves for the day ahead. As we were going to Monte Carlo, it was important that we looked good. Amal, David, Rupert and I donned our best wares, but Chris elected to wear a Cambridge University Brass Band T-shirt. Amal declared his disgust at this and Chris changed into his Craig shirt.

We left the hotel and began the long walk to the station. Once again, we were perturbed about the walk in and couldn't believe that Genoa could shaft us in this manner. At the station, I went to check out which platform the train was departing from whilst the others queued for tickets. Chris and Amal eventually made the purchase and we rushed for the train. On route, we stopped to validate our tickets, but I blundered and accidentally validated the return journey on one of them.

Dave waved us off as we climbed into the train and looked for a seat (Dave was intending to spend the day dicking around Genoa). The train was an old fashioned affair with compartments in all of the carriages. We walked the entire length of the train looking for an empty compartment, but did not find any spare ones. Eventually we selected a compartment with only one woman in it. She seemed a little perturbed when five of us blundered in and took up all of the remaining seats.

The train journey to Monaco was long, but scenic. We travelled along the Mediterranean coast and the views were impressive. However, the journey took three hours and it was midday by the time we got to Monte Carlo.

Monte Carlo station was situated on the hillside above the city and the train had to go through a tunnel just outside the station to get there. We disembarked and went down several long escalators and a long tunnel before finding the exit to the station. David and I were delighted to find ourselves at the famous Sainte Devote corner. The Monaco Grand Prix was due to take place that weekend and so the town was absolutely crowded. Crash barriers had been erected around what was to be the circuit, and stands had been put up at all the appropriate places.

We decided to walk around the circuit, though this would prove slightly difficult owing to all of the barriers. We went through an underpass just outside the station and soon found ourselves near the pitlane. However, it wasn't obvious how we got on the road up to Casino square, as it was all barracaded off. We ended up being forced down what turned out to be a dead end, and we had to climb over some crash barriers and go up another slope before we found ourselves back onto the circuit.

From here we had few problems and we made the long walk up the hill before finding ourselves at Casino square. We passed a hotel on the left that had names of cities engraved on it. We commented that maybe the owners went on Colonel's breaks. When we saw London and Edinburgh listed, we commented that they must have been the choices of their equivalent of Moules.

At casino square, we paused for a few photos. I asked Rupert and Amal to stand on the casino steps whilst I took their photo. Rupert was not happy, but obliged nonetheless.

Lunchtime was rapidly approaching and so we began to look for somewhere to eat. We rejected the restaurant in Casino square as it looked too expensive. Just down the hill towards the Loews hairpin, we spotted a shopping mall and decided we would check this out for food.

Inside, there was an old 2001 Sauber formula one car (Heinz-Harald Frentzen's, we thought) and a couple of models of people—one of a driver and another of a member of the pit crew. People were gaping at this excitedly, but Chris was far more interested in food, so he hurried us up a set of escalators and guided us towards a sandwich shop.

Rupert and Amal got seats whilst David, Chris and I put in the order. We were all eager to speak—we were in a French speaking country now and we could all just about hold our own. We ordered paninis all around—tuna for myself, David and Amal and roast beef for Chris and Rupert. We were so confident with our French that we were even able to swap one of the cans of Coke that we had ordered for an orangina instead!

We made our way into the non-smoking seating area, complete with food and drink. There was a big TV screen in the background showing some of the French Open tennis. Amal commented that the food he had was what he expected to get when he ordered a panini—not the stuff he ended up with in Genoa on the previous day. We all agreed and tucked in greedily.

After a little more chilling, we decided it was time to leave and continue our walk around the circuit. Unfortunately the weather had taken a turn for the worse and it was raining when we went outside again. However, our spirits did not dampen and we excitedly walked around the Loews hairpin. Amal commented that it was the first time he'd seen a big Marlboro sign as we continued our descent towards the tunnel. Amal was very excited about this—he'd seen the tunnel feature on the television many times during the Monaco Grand Prix and was looking forward to seeing it in the flesh, as it were. We walked past an unusual sculpture of Mika Hakkinen—actually it turned out to be a model of his car, and not a very good one.

We paused for another photo and I asked Amal if this was the first time he'd seen a Vodafone sign and a Fosters sign next to each other. He agreed that it was. Walking through the tunnel gave us a little relief from the rain and we stopped in a souvenir shop to attempt to buy a mascot. Unfortunately there were no obvious mascots there, so we made our way around the marina area. I asked Amal how much he thought the biggest yachts would cost. He said about a hundred thousand pounds. Chris pointed out that some cars cost that much and we agreed that a few million pounds was a more likely figure.

We headed past a huge stand and Amal was delighted to see lots of Formula one trucks arriving at the circuit. He also noticed a silver yacht and insisted I take his photo in front of it. David and I pointed out the Ferrari motorhome to the others, and also lots of Ferrari mechanics sat in a restaurant. I suggested we went up to them and started giving them abuse about what a cheat Schumacher was but this fell on deaf ears.

We decided to walk up to Prince Renier's palace. It was a long walk up a hill. Halfway up, the route split into two. Amal and I took the stairs whilst the others went the long way up the slope. Eventually we made it to the top and we stared at the palace and the view across the bay in the opposite direction from Monte Carlo. It was quite impressive. We paused next to one of the cannons and discussed what to do next. We were all fairly knackered so we started to look for somewhere to drink. Amal wasted some time as he stopped to buy a waterproof thing to protect him from the rain. It was bright red, and the bilingual woman in the shop had to instruct him how to put it on properly.

Now properly kitted up, Amal joined us in a walk around the narrow shopping streets near the royal palace. David and I were eager to find a Tarte au Flan seller. We did find a couple of stalls that sold similar produce, but nothing of the same name, so we made for a cafe and vowed to continue our search later.

Chris and David put in a drinks order whilst Amal, Rupert and I crammed ourselves into a little booth table by the window. Meanwhile, I looked at the menu and was shocked to discover the Colonel on it, for eight Euros fifty. I hurried over to David and Chris to show them. They couldn't believe it. Nor could they believe the price of the drinks. Three cokes, a diet coke and a vanilla coke had cost them just over twenty Euros. David was flabbergasted, particularly as he had handed Chris a twenty Euro note convinced he would receive change.

Unimpressed by this, and by the uncomfortable seating—five people crammed onto a table meant for no more than three—we decided to pull a scam with the toilet. It cost one Euro to use the toilet, which we thought was ridiculous, so we decided to con them by not allowing the door to shut after the first person used it to allow all of us to go in on the same Euro. Whilst this helped to recoup a little of our losses, it wasn't enough, so David decided to take the menu too (since it had the Colonel on it).

We left the restaurant and spent a little longer wandering around the narrow shopping streets. Chris wanted to see the cathedral so we took him to see that, then wandered down to the maritime museum and into the botanical gardens. We walked around there for a while and listened to Chris tell us about all of the plants, whilst we looked at the statues. We paused for a photo on the cliff edge overlooking the sea before walking back up to the cathedral. At this point, David and I decided it was time for Tarte au Flan (or the next best thing) so we returned to the shop which sold the Tarte au Flan substitute and bought a slice each. We walked back to the royal palace and stood around there until we'd finished. Amal struggled to finish off and was about to throw his piece away, but Chris stopped him, informing him that he would eat whatever Amal couldn't. No surprises there.

Having satisfied our Tarte au Flan needs, we walked back down the hill and finished off our walk around the Grand Prix circuit. The walk took us through the pit lane, which was interesting as the team trucks where there, ready for the Grand Prix. I took a photo of Moules next to a Williams truck, but Amal refused to have his photo taken next to the Ferrari truck.

Having finished our walk around the circuit, we decided to wander into the shopping centre, so we crossed over the road by the Rascasse and walked up a hill beside the station. We soon realised we were going in the wrong direction, so we stopped for a discussion, whilst David and Chris bought themselves a can of drink from a shop. We eventually decided that we would wander back to the station and get back to Genoa. At this point, an American woman stopped us and asked us the way to Casino square. David and I directed her, before setting off back to the station.

We wandered into the station and discovered that there wasn't another train back to Genoa until about half past four, some hour and a half away. David and Amal were particularly knackered and after another brief discussion we decided to return to the shopping mall where we'd had lunch and chill there for a bit. This helped to kill the time before our train was due to depart and helped us notch up even more mileage with the walk to Casino Square and back.

An hour or so later we were back at the station. Chris and I were slightly ahead of the other three so we hurried to find out what was happening with our train. We were shocked to discover that all trains on the board just had "delayed" written by them (in French, obviously). We made for the platform and discovered that there was a train sat on the platform that had been there since the previous time we'd visited the station. At this point, there was an announcement to say that a train was departing from Nice imminently. The platform it was leaving from was across the tracks from the parked train. However, rather than leaving via the platform and going across the bridge to the new platform, everyone on the parked train left via the doors which opened onto the tracks, crossed the railway line and then climbed up onto the platform at the other side. Chris and I were amazed.

We hurried to the enquiries desk to find out what was going on. There were a fair few people waiting there so it took some time for us to get seen. Chris eventually managed to talk to someone and he discovered that there had been a rock fall in one of the tunnels so all trains were halted for the time being. We were assured that there would be a train leaving in the direction of Genoa in less than an hour's time. Outside the enquiries office, we bumped into Amal, David and Rupert, who had now arrived. At this point, an English family stopped us and the man asked us what was going on. It was apparent that he couldn't speak French as proficiently as our resident Frenchman, so Chris explained the score. They were attempting to travel west along the coast towards Nice. We gave them some useful advice before they left. We all stood around flabbergasted that the ministry of shafting was able to operate this far away from Genoa. This had to be the most spectacular shaft thus far on the break.

Before making for the platform, we stopped next to a stall and bought a mascot for the break. He was a little bear dressed in a fake Ferrari outfit, with "Formulino" written on it. We called him Shaft, in honour of the many shafts that had occurred on the break so far. For some reason he had a key ring attached to his head. Why anyone would want a bear that size to operate as a key ring was beyond us.

We made for the platform and waited patiently for the train to come. It only took about twenty minutes—apparently the rock fall wasn't too serious after all. We were all hugely relieved, as we had been facing the prospect of sleeping on the streets in Monte Carlo that evening, which we weren't looking forward to.

We climbed onto the train and looked for a compartment. Chris soon found one that had just one girl sat in it. He went in and asked in French if she was alone. She said yes, but we later discovered that Chris had, in fact, asked her whether she was single. Chris helped her put her bag on the overhead rack so we could all sit down. Nice guy.

We all went in and sat down. I took the seat next to the window, facing the direction of travel. Chris was opposite me, with David next to me and Amal next to him. The French girl was sat to Chris' right and Rupert to her right. During the journey we had an animated conversation about speaking in foreign languages which the French girl found highly amusing. She eventually left the train just across the border into Italy—she did wait for a station, rather than just leaping off it Great Escape style. Chris helped her retreive her bag and she said goodbye to us all. Rupert thought she was lovely. Amal commented that Chris had a real chance with her. Chris dropped his Russian girlfriend into conversation which sparked David and I into drawing Sonya parallels (somewhat subtlely). There was now a vacant seat in our compartment, but this was soon taken up by our new friend Shaft. He settled himself into his seat and tried to sleep. He wasn't too impressed as David tried to put his feet onto his seat, and then when Chris stroked his face. Shaft pointed out that none of the rest of us were stroking each other's faces and so Chris shouldn't presume to stroke his.

Three hours later the train arrived back in Genoa. It was after nine o'clock and we were all fairly shattered. At the entrance to the station we were reunited with Dave, who had spent a pleasant day dicking around in Genoa. He said he had visited the ministry of shafting and discovered that it was a theatre. We pointed out that this was an elaborate cover up and it was, in fact, the ministry of shafting.

We decided we didn't have time to go home and change before food so we wandered down to the waterfront to find somewhere to eat. We eventually settled for the pizza place that was near to the old Galleon. It was a huge outdoor place, and there were only about two other tables occupied, so it was quite strange, but we went in nontheless.

The meal was okay, but nothing special. We ordered pizzas all round. I ended up sharing two different pizzas with Moules, which was interesting. We discussed our plans for the next day. There was some debate as to what we should do. Dave was eager to visit the Cinque Terra—a collection of villages on the coast east of Genoa. Amal and David wanted to relax for most of the day, so weren't too keen on the train ride. Eventually we came to the conclusion that we would visit the villages, with the agreement that we would spend most of the time whilst we were there chilling. At the end of the meal, we relaxed with our espressos, which were slightly bigger than the ones we'd had previously. Amal and I shared two desserts—a tartuffo and a tiramisu. The others also had a mixture of tartuffos and tiramisus depending on their desires. As the billed arrived, we all threw in what we thought we owed. Some people didn't have the right money, so threw in more. Dave pointed out that he had thrown in five Euros too much. I counted up the money and worked out that we had slightly more in there than we needed. Dave then said, "Well I've got an extra five Euros in there!" The way he said it took me aback somewhat. I immediately turned to him and said, "Don't have a cow, mate!" This sent David into fits of laughter for a good five minutes. We eventually explained the office application to everyone else and they understood the joke. A new application was born.

As we left the restaurant there was a debate as to whether we should wander to a bar to chill for a while. David and I were quite up for it. However, the rest did not seem so keen so we began the long trek back to the hotel. It was a difficult walk as we were all fairly knackered, but half an hour or so later, we arrived at the Columbus Sea Hotel. We picked up our keys and retired to our hotel rooms in readiness for Day 3.

Tuesday, 27th May

I woke up. Fortunately we weren't having quite as early a start as the previous day. We were intending to catch a train just at around half past nine, so I slept in until about 7.30a.m. I was fairly knackered from the previous day's exploits but I managed to drag myself into the shower. This woke me up somewhat and once Amal had showered too, we went to rouse the others. David and Rupert had slept through their alarm and weren't quite ready to go down to breakfast. Dave and Chris were, however, so we made our way down and grabbed a nice circular table by the buffet. Unfortunately the standard of the buffet was not as good as the previous day—there was a relatively small selection of pastries and we were none too impressed. David and Rupert soon joined us and we discussed plans for the day ahead. Dave suggested we head out to the village of Vernazza, one of the Cinque Terra villages along the coast east of Genoa. This seemed like a fine plan so we returned to our rooms briefly before departing for the station.

It was a scorching day and the walk to the station proved painful. We had to put up with the usual shafting on route. Chris suggested we try a short cut to the platform and we ended up going down this sort of subway contraption. It seemed to work because we soon found ourselves on one of the platforms. We headed to the ticket office and bought six tickets to the Cinque Terra villages. Dave sorted us out with train tickets with minimal dicking around and we headed back down to the platform to wait for our train. When it arrived, it turned out to be a double decker affair. Delighted by this revelation, we made for the top deck and settled down for the journey. I ended up sat opposite David and Rupert, with Amal,Dave and Moules sat on a four person seat in the seat in front (though behind me because I was facing away from the direction of travel!). The windows were really dirty and we soon discovered why almost everyone else had sat on the ground floor of the train. The view was marred by all of the grime that had collected on the windows.

The journey to Vernazza took about two hours and was very boring. It didn't help that we were fairly knackered from the trip to Monaco the day before. When our train pulled into the station we all piled out and went down a set of stairs from the platform. We soon found ourselves in a very picturesque village. We walked past several shops on either side of the road and a shrine to the Virgin Mary. We decided to head for the waterfront to admire the view. Just around the corner, we found ourselves in a piazza overlooking the beach. There were several restaurants around the piazza with outdoor seating. The beach was really grim—the sand was muddy brown and there were lots of semi-destroyed boats in the bay. However, the weather was fantastic and the view across the bay was spectacular. To the left of us there was a walkway that led alongside some rocks and around the inlet to the harbour area. We walked out there, past several people sunbathing in varying amounts of clothes. We all climbed up onto the rocks and admired the view. We posed for a photo, taking great care not to fall down the massive gaps between the rocks into the water below. Dave took control of Shaft, holding him up for a photo before attaching him to his rucksack.

Once we'd finished looking at the ocean, we decided to grab some lunch. A debate began as to what we should do. Chris suggested that Vernazza was the sort of place where you could just find a bakery and then sit on the rocks with your sandwiches. David didn't like this idea. He pointed out that you would have to sit on the rocks which would be thoroughly uncomfortable. Eventually we made for one of the restaurants in the piazza. Amal and I took a sneaky look at a menu in one place, but that one didn't seem too good so we made for one of the other places instead. Here Chris took charge and asked to look at a menu. He was satisfied, so we sat down. I took a seat opposite Moules, with Amal to my left and Rupert to his left closest to the sea. David sat opposite Rupert, with Dave next to him and finally Moules next to Dave.

Dave didn't want to spend too much money, so decided to opt for half a pizza (maybe he would have ordered a pizzetta if one had been available). Chris didn't want to spend too much money either, so he had a starter and half a pizza. Chris' idea of not spending too much money on lunch clearly differed from Dave's. Amal ordered a pasta main course with seafood, whilst all the rest of us ordered pizzas—I had a seafood one and David had quattro formaggi. I don't know what Rupert had. We relaxed and soaked up the atmosphere, whilst discussing what to do next. Dave was keen on walking from Vernazza to the next village over. David, Amal and I were keen not to be too late back as we wanted to be fully prepared for the final meal that evening. We were all eager to take the three o'clock train back to Genoa so we would have time to do some chilling before the stammtisch that evening. Eventually we came to some sort of consensus. We would walk around Vernazza for a while then, once we'd finished with that, we would take a train to village one stop down the line in the direction of Genoa, which was called Monterosso.

Once we had all satisfied our desire for chilling we departed the restaurant and went for a walk back in the direction of walkway. To our left we discovered two sets of stairs. The sign appeared to indicate that they led to a restaurant and also a scenic view. Somewhat puzzled by this, we climbed up the set of stairs to the right and found ourselves on the edge of a rocky cliff looking out to sea. There were no signs of a restaurant here, though there was a steel barred door to our left. Unimpressed, we walked back down and decided to try the other set of stairs. David didn't want to go with us, so made the decision to wait at the bottom of the stairs. We assumed it would be a dead end, but once we got there we discovered a rather cool alleyway between some houses to our left, with a staircase to the right leading up to what looked to be the restaurant. We decided to pursue the snicket between the houses, so turned around to call David. However, it turned out that he'd disappeared. I said that we couldn't just leave him if we were walking elsewhere, so Chris decided to follow David whilst the rest of us waited. About five minutes later, neither of them had appeared so we decided to walk down the snicket and let them catch us up or wait for us at the bottom. It proved to be quite an exciting walk. We went past a huge drop on our left in between some houses, and found ourselves at a T-junction. We decided to turn right as this led uphill and we may find some exciting views. Further up, there was another fork in the path. We pursued the right branch and eventually found ourselves at the entrance to some sort of fort. The cost to get in was one Euro. Whilst I feared that it may be neolithic crap, I was willing to part with one Euro to check it out, so we paid up and walked in. At this point, Chris and David arrived. David was very unimpressed that we'd made the decision to go into the fort without waiting for them to arrive, though he paid up and walked in. We walked up the stairs and found ourselves in some sort of ruins. There was a big tower in the centre, which you could apparently walk up. David sat down and descended into a mild poop (probably due to exhaustion and the heat) whilst the rest of us walked around.

Amal, Dave, Chris, Rupert and I eventually decided to climb the tower. The view from the top was impressive to say the least as you could see over the whole bay area. We descended the tower and shortly Dave and I found the entrance to some sort of bunker. Dave noted that there was a sign on the entrance instructing people not to use the place as a toilet. We soon realised from the smell that people had. The bunker made us feel quite claustrophobic and we soon got fed up and left again. Before leaving, we checked out a mini art display at the other side of the ruins, in a room down a short stairway. Amal and I came to the conclusion that it was time to leave, so we did just that, with the others in tow. Dave suggested it was time to go back to the station and head to Monterosso. We therefore walked all the way down hill, following what we deemed to be the fastest way back to the village centre. We soon found ourselves back at the station and a train pulled in pretty much immediately.

Ten minutes later, we were in Monterosso. There was then some discussion as to what we should do. David was eager to go straight back to Genoa on the next train so we could have some time to chill. I agreed, but checked the timetable and found that there was a train leaving at twenty past four, which would give us an hour to do some chilling in Monterosso. David was unconvinced about this, as that train had not been suggested to us as one we could get back to Genoa when we bought the tickets. To end the debate, Chris made his way to the ticket office and asked. It turned out that we could get that train back, so David was happy. We all left the station and found ourselves very close to a rather pleasant looking seafront. The beach stretched out in both directions. To the left there appeared so be some sort of tunnel under the cliff, whilst to the right the centre of Monterosso was visible, with an abundance of cafes and houses. We turned right and wandered slowly towards the centre of the village. David, Amal and I wanted to find a cafe to chill. We soon found one very close to the beach. We grabbed a table outdoors right next to the beach and sat down. Chris didn't want to join us, saying that he was going to go and look around (or do some dicking around). We said all we wanted to do was chill, so Chris said, "Right, Dave and I will see you later." Dave then replied with, "Will we? I'm going to stay here." The fact that Chris automatically assumed that Dave would join him without asking him caused hilarity from myself and David, particularly when Dave told him where to go. Chris then said that he was going to go anyway. At this point Rupert clearly felt sorry for Chris that he was going on his own and decided to accompany him. This didn't go down too well with David—Rupert had not been willing to keep him company earlier on when we had decided to climb up to the viewpoint and David stayed put.

Amal, Dave, David and I spent a very pleasant half hour chilling. I ordered an iced coffee whilst Dave had an espresso, Amal had a cappuccino and David ordered a coke. Monterosso was pleasant, but we began to wonder what on earth Chris and Rupert had found to occupy their time. We eventually came to the conclusion that they had found out that there was nothing to do but were too embarrassed to come back and were hiding just around the corner. Eventually they turned up again, claiming that they'd had an enjoyable walk. As they arrived back, the rest of us decided it was time to leave the cafe. We paid up, waiting just long enough for Moules to get a can of fanta for himself and one for me. Dave also purchased a chocolate bar called Loaker for us to share around later. We walked briefly on the beach and David and I stopped to do a recreation of the Hercules and Hylas scene in Jason and the Argonauts. There was a rock some distance out to sea and David told me that no thrower had ever reached it. I asked him whether the contest was to hit it or pass it. David told me I'd be lucky if I got halfway. I told him that he should go first, as I'd never thrown a rock before and I'd like to see how it was done. David succeeded in hitting the rock with his first throw. I followed suit and also hit the rock. The others looked on impressed. We made our way back to the station. Unfortunately I slightly misjudged the tide and ended up with wet feet as I walked beside the sea. We left the beach up a ramp and, after some pause at a gate when Amal didn't think we could get through until Chris pushed it open for him, we arrived at the station. As we waited for the train, David had the realisation the the Little Lucky Leprechaun had not featured in any photos all day. I quickly held him up for a photo as the train pulled in.

The train was only a single decker this time and was somewhat busy. We ended up quite spread over the train. Dave and I were sat opposite a middle aged Italian couple. As the train pulled off, we cracked open the Loaker chocolate bar. It turned out to be made up of several waifer biscuits with chocolate in them. After giving one to everyone, it turned out that there were two left. The Italian couple opposite were watching with interest and Dave said, "Would you like some Loaker?" to them. They declined politely in Italian then proceeded to subtlely share some sweets without offering any to us. I thought this was a little rude.

Two hours later, we were back at Genoa station. We walked back to the hotel, all exhausted from another long day. We had decided that the evening would be operating on a stammtisch format, so that everyone could depart for the American bar whenever they were ready.

Amal and I relaxed for a while, then decided to go through the shower. We were fairly convinced that Dave and Chris would be the first to depart for the stammtisch, but were unsure whether we would end up leaving before Rupert and David. Once we'd both been through the shower, we got dressed in our finest stammtisch clothes and left the hotel. I made sure I had the necessary bits of paper for the draw that evening.

The walk to the American bar was long but very pleasant. Amal and I had a great chat along the way and the time seemed to pass quickly. Eventually we arrived at the American bar and espied Dave and Chris seated close to the bar. We hurried in and joined them. Dave commented that he thought we would be the next ones to arrive. Amal got a round in. We decided to get some cocktails—both Amal and I elected a cocktail called a Mai Tai, whilst Chris and Dave both had beers. Our drinks soon arrived. Amal commented that he and I looked a bit feminine with our cocktails. The waiter then arrived with an array of nibbles—crisps, nuts, mini pretzels and also some mini paninis. We couldn't believe our luck. We sat and soaked up the atmosphere and the gorgeous view over the marina area. The outdoor setting was fantastic, particularly as it was approaching sunset. Eventually we saw David and Rupert approach the bar. It was time for another round. David got a coke, whilst Rupert and Dave got beers. Chris, Amal and I went for cocktails again. This time I went for the Tequila slammer. Shaft and the Little Lucky Leprechaun had joined us for the evening also so we were all in high spirits.

We had one final drink before deciding it was time to head for the restaurant as it was past nine o'clock. We walked past the deformed statue again and Chris commented on how ugly it was. David said that Chris had had worse. This caused all of us, including Chris (who was somewhat trollied), to burst into mass hysteria. Chris then said that it was a bit harsh but true. We had decided to go to the rather nice looking pizza place with outdoor seating that we had discovered on the first day and it was quite close to the American bar so this was an added bonus.

We were greeted at the restaurant by a waitress who showed us to a table underneath the veranda. Amal took his place at the head of the table, with David to his right and me to his left. Chris was to my left, Rupert was opposite him and Dave was at the other end of the table. The Little Lucky Leprechaun and Shaft were placed in the centre. We discussed the forthcoming draw excitedly. As a waiter came to take our order, Dave was discussing something in an animated fashion. The waiter found this amusing and asked him to be quiet so he could take the order. Dave turned to him and said Don't have a cow, mate!, which caused great hilarity, not only for us but for the waiter as well. He then began a hugely comical discussion with Dave. It seemed to boil down to a debate about who could speak the most languages. The waiter tried his hand at a variety of languages and we were all impressed. Dave claimed that he had won the debate, however, because he could speak Tibetan.

After Dave and the waiter had succeeded in finishing their debate, we put our orders in. Everyone went for pizzas—Amal, David and I had the seafood one whilst the others had various other kinds. We also ordered two half litre carafes of white wine and two of red wine, with coke for David.

As we waited for the drinks to arrive, I wrote out numbers Steve and Little Lucky Leprechaun on two pieces of paper, folded them up and put them in a glass, then added four blank pieces of paper (folded up) to the same glass. The glass was then handed round to everyone in turn to see who would play the roles of Steve and the Little Lucky Leprechaun in the draw. I won the role of Steve whilst Amal won the role of the Little Lucky Leprechaun. He was unhappy with this and asked if someone else could do it, but we informed him that rules were rules and he should stick with it. I then wrote 1 to 7 on pieces of paper and everyone picked a number. The number we picked would be the position we revealed our destination and then we would eliminate destinations in the reverse order.

The wine arrived (and David's coke) and we delved in with the first destination. It was Rupert's choice.

He stated that he had had a very enjoyable skiing holiday in Switzerland a couple of months earlier, and he had flown into a very interesting looking city on the way to the ski resort. He would like to check that city out further, so his choice would be:

ZURICH.

David and I both pointed out that Rupert had, in fact, flown into Geneva on his holiday. Rupert, who was a little trollied by this stage in the evening, said that it didn't matter. He was happy with his choice.

Next to reveal was Steve, played by me. I had been sent an envelope by Steve a week or so before the break, with his list of destinations in. I opened it and read the letter. Steve's letter read thus:

Boyz,

My destinations in order of preference:

  1. Malmo (Southern Sweden. Can get to Copenhagen in 30 mins via bridge)
  1. Berlin—need I give reasons?
  1. Tampere (Finland) Near lakes—good for countryside. Nice city for culture/restaurants.

I feel I have selected destinations in keeping with the winter/Xmas break mood.

Steve.

Steve clearly thought the merits of going to Sweden and the possible line penetrations made it a real winner. Steve's choice was therefore

MALMO.

Dave was unhappy with this choice as he thought that Malmo would be a bit boring.

As the pizza arrived along with a second half litre of red wine, Amal made his choice. At this point the waiter inquired as to what the deal was with all the bits of paper. Dave engaged in some more banter and the waiter brought over the waitress who had also been serving our table and wouldn't have looked out of place in Stockholm to see what a comedic bunch of individuals we were. She had some chat with Dave and then left again.

Attention then turned to Amal again. The revealing of his destination was short and to the point. He merely said, "My choice is BERLIN. There's no explanation needed."

David and I were really pleased—at last Amal had succeeded in coming up with a decent destination. At this point a second half litre of white wine arrived at our table. Amal and I couldn't believe it. We felt we'd somewhat overestimated the amount of wine we would be able to drink. Chris, Rupert and Dave were not too perturbed, however, as they seemed to be drinking the wine as if there was no tomorrow.

Dave was eager to move along with revealing and since he was next, he began to speak. He said that he had enjoyed visiting a deigo country so much that he wished to visit another one. His attention had therefore turned to Spain and his choice was

SEVILLE.

David and I shared a glance—the first sub-standard destination had made it into the draw.

Since David was next, he followed on almost immediately. He said that he was holding true to his deal with Steve and so his choice was

COPENHAGEN.

There was a pause in revealing whilst we all finished off our main courses. We all agreed that the pizza had been top and everyone was eager to have some dessert. The waiter came over for yet more banter and we ordered dessert—a combination of tiramisus and tartuffos.

It was then my turn to reveal. I said that I had thought long and hard about my choice, but had picked the destination to be in the spirit of the winter break. It had a Christmas market, was surrounded by beautiful scenery and also had a popular Children's BBC television programme named after part of it. My choice was therefore

HEIDELBERG.

David seemed happy with the destinations in the draw so far. Finally all eyes turned to Chris. We were unsure which way things were going to go with him. He was brief and to the point. He had put little thought into his destination choice, but was going for one that had been in the draw before and sounded like it might be quite nice. Thus his choice was

LISBON.

Well, it could have been worse. The only downside was that it was another deigo destination.

Discussion turned towards the choice of the Little Lucky Leprechaun. We chatted between us and decided it was a straight choice between Holland and what we finally pumped for which was

NORWAY.

Dave was happy with this provided we didn't go to Oslo because he reckoned that that would be rubbish.

The desserts arrived. The waiter was chuckling as he handed Dave his tiramisu. He had put the bottom parts of two ice cream cones on top of his tiramisu so that they looked like a pair of comedy breasts. We all thought this was hilarious if a little bit strange. I settled down and ate my tiramisu as we prepared for Kurt's veto round. This was a new round which we had introduced to the draw. Everyone was allowed to veto one destination. If a destination received three votes or more, it was removed from the draw. Before we moved on to Kurt's veto round, we placed a quick call to Steve in Newcastle on Rupert's phone. The call was brief but I quickly listed the destinations and asked him if there was anywhere he wished to veto. He seemed quite happy with the choices and said he wasn't willing to use his veto. I then handed the phone over for David to have a quick chat with Steve before hanging up and proceeding to the veto round.

Everyone was handed a piece of paper and a pen and the vetos were written. The pieces of paper were then folded up and placed in a glass which I then took charge of. The veto round then proceeded in the fashion of the ITV show "Survivor" as I said, "I'll count the votes." I then revealed the pieces of paper to everyone, saying, "None", "Seville", "Seville". At this point David and I got excited. We had both voted for Seville and it needed only one more vote to be eliminated. I then continued with, "Malmo", "Nil" and a final pause before revealing, "Nil". I declared that all destinations would go into the draw this time around. David and I had vetoed Seville, Dave had vetoed Malmo whilst the others had all declined to use their veto.

We immediately sat down to do the rehearsal draw. Rupert requested that David remind him how to do a Barthez. Once Rupert was satisfied that he knew what was going on, I folded the pieces of paper for the rehearsal draw up and placed them in a glass. Amal drew first, on behalf of the Little Lucky Leprechaun. It was Zurich. Rupert made a pathetic attempt at a Barthez. Chris then eliminated Berlin, I eliminated Seville and David eliminated Lisbon. The rehearsal draw was going quite well and David was a little concerned that this luck would not be repeated in the main draw. Dave then eliminated Copenhagen, which we weren't too pleased about. Amal received the glass again and eliminated Heidelberg before I received the glass on behalf of Steve and ironically eliminated his very own Malmo. Rupert then revealed Norway as the winner and the Little Lucky Leprechaun celebrated with a Shearer.

Once the rehearsal draw had been concluded, our coffees arrived. The waiter arrived with a tray, but picked one espresso cup up first and carried it towards Dave. He said, "This is for you", before faking a stumble and spilling the cup over Dave. We soon realised that there was nothing in the cup and he was in fact making a gag. We all thought it was hilarious and couldn't believe we'd stumbled upon such a funny guy. He then served us all with real espressos and we settled down for the draw. You could almost literally cut the tension with a knife.

The glass was first passed to Amal who would take on the role of the Little Lucky Leprechaun. He eliminated

NORWAY.

The Little Lucky Leprechaun commiserated himself with a Barthez.

The glass was passed to Chris next. He did David and I a favour by eliminating one of the diego destinations as he pulled out

SEVILLE.

David was pleased. The draw was going well.

I took the glass and improved things again by eliminating

LISBON.

Both deigo destinations gone. My least favourite left was now Malmo.

David received the glass and eliminated

MALMO.

Four destinations to go. My least favourite was now Zurich. The glass was passed in turn to Dave and he eliminated

ZURICH.

Things were now looking very good. David began to get very exciting as he knew that the chances for Copenhagen at this point were pretty good. Amal received the glass next and eliminated his very own

BERLIN.

I couldn't believe it. Two destinations left and it was down to me. It was my own destination, Heidelberg, against the people's champion, Copenhagen. I really didn't know which one I wanted to win. I was picking on behalf of Steve, so at least that took the pressure off a little bit. I received the glass, selected a piece of paper and then revealed slowly. It was

COPENHAGEN.

David collapsed with huge disappointment. As Rupert revealed the winning destination of

HEIDELBERG

and I celebrated with a Shearer it was a somewhat subdued atmosphere. I didn't know whether to be delighted that I'd won the draw or devasted that Copenhagen had come so close. David too had mixed feelings. He said that he would have been rooting for Heidelberg against virtually any other destination. Whilst he thought it would be good, he couldn't help but be disappointed with the outcome.

We relaxed and soaked in the atmosphere with what remained of the wine and our espressos. We finally decided that it was time to leave the restaurant. We received the bill and paid up, leaving a generous tip for the waiter and waitress. In an amazing break from tradition, there was no debate whatsoever about the size of the tip. Our new friends bade us farewell and we left the restaurant.

Before beginning the long walk back to the hotel, we paused for a photo in the marina area. Dave used the time delay on his camera to take a photo of all of us. David and I were keen to go back to the American bar but the rest seemed tired so we walked back. I phoned Steve again on Rupert's phone and told him the result of the draw. He too was disappointed that Copenhagen hadn't won but seemed fairly satisfied with the result. I then handed the phone over to Chris, who was completely wasted. He had a very drunken conversation with Steve, before he handed the phone to Rupert for an almost as drunken conversation. Rupert mentioned to Steve about Chris' girlfriend Janice. This caused Chris lots of amusement as he pointed out that Janice was his sister and not his girlfriend. Clearly Rupert had unwittingly told a Moules gag. As we reached the point where we had nearly been victims of a double shafting on the first evening, I mentioned the fact that we had single-handedly failed to do any "stop telling me what to do!" tributes so far. Dave was eager that we should do this, so suggested we return to the old town and find some cones. We turned around and walked back towards the old town. One hundred yards behind us, we found a set of at least eight cones around a construction site that we had failed to spot earlier. We were delighted about this. As we had only managed one cone in Salzburg, David and I suggested that we should do two in Genoa. Dave was unconvinced—he said that we should just treat Salzburg as a blip and make the most of the fact that there were loads of cones available. Amal declared he wasn't willing to do any shouting through cones at all. Somehow, Dave won the debate, so myself, David, Dave, Rupert and Chris all picked up cones and shouted "stop telling me what to do!" whilst Amal took our photo.

Happy that we had succeeded with our mission, we continued on the walk back to the hotel. Around half way back, David said he was tired and asked Rupert for a piggy back. Rupert duly obliged, but was clearly slightly the worse for wear and blundered into some railings, nearly dropping David over the side onto the railway tracks some twenty feet beneath us. I got a bit perturbed about this and told Rupert to put David down.

Twenty minutes later, we found ourselves back at the hotel again. We were all shattered having had a thoroughly enjoyable evening. Unfortunately the break was almost over and all we had to look forward to was the journey home on the following day. Amal and I bade goodnight to the others before returning to our room and punching the sack.

Wednesday, 28th May

I woke up at around seven o'clock in the morning. Our flight home was at 10.40a.m. so we were intending to leave the hotel at about 8.30a.m. to give us time to get checked in at the airport. After showering, Amal and I packed up and then wandered down to breakfast with the others in tow. We selected the same table as we had on the first day. Unfortunately the standard of breakfast items had severely deteriorated since they first day and we were somewhat unimpressed with the options available. David was particularly disgusted and didn't help himself to much of what was provided.

About half an hour later, we returned to our rooms. Chris and Dave stopped via reception to book a taxi for the trip to the airport. They booked a beast taxi—we had been assured the day before that all we would need to do would be to book a taxi ten minutes before we needed one and it would be sure to arrive.

Having collected our cases and checked out, we sat down in the foyer and waited for the taxi. Ten minutes later, it still had not arrived. The receptionist woman rang the taxi firm and she assured us that it was on its way. Ten minutes later, it still had not arrived. We were begin to get a little perturbed as we could see the beginnings of a shafting in progress. Amal and I waited in the foyer whilst the others lingered outside waiting for the taxi to arrive. Eventually Rupert came running up to us to inform us that it had finally come. We all rushed outside and piled in. A few minutes later we found ourselves back at Genoa airport.

After we had checked in our bags, we wandered through to the departure lounge. It was some time before our plane was due to depart, but for some reason everyone was queueing in front of the gate ready to board. A little concerned that we would lose out, we joined the queue and waited for boarding to commence. People joined the queue behind us and very soon the queue wound its way around the departure lounge. David and I went for a toilet stop as we knew it would be some time before we would be taking another one. Eventually it was announced that our flight was commencing boarding. At this point, all efforts at queueing dissolved into mayhem and queue-shafting began. People behind us pushed past and what had been an orderly queue turned into a mass-on brawl. Chris, Dave and I were determined that we weren't going to be shuffled to the back of the queue, so we performed a queue-shafting on people in front of us and got a little closer to the front. Amal, David and Rupert were stuck a little further back, but we decided to board the plane and secure an area for them.

Once our tickets had been checked, Chris and I began to motor towards the plane, passing a couple with some kids that were slowing us down. We descended a staircase and came out onto the tarmac. It was briefly suggested by Dave that we board the back of the plane but we eventually elected to get on the front. Chris led the way and secured six seats, three in front of the other three, on the left hand side of the plane. Eventually the others joined us. David slid into the window seat, with Amal next to him and me in the aisle seat. Rupert, Dave and Chris took up station behind us. As the plane taxied to the runway we made the usual comments about how it was still Genoa but it was Heidelberg next time. When the plane finally took off, David and I declared that Genoa was over, but the Genoa experience continued for a little while longer. We also pointed out that it was Heidelberg next time.

The plane journey to Stansted was uneventful and about two hours later we found ourselves on the ground again. We got off the plane and made the customary walk to baggage reclaim and passport control. Our bags appeared on the carousel very quickly and all too soon we found ourselves bidding farewell to two of our number. Dave and Chris were taking the train back to Cambridge. We shook hands all around and promised to meet up soon. It would be the first time that I would not be journeying back to Cambridge after a Colonel's break and it felt somewhat strange.

Amal, David, Rupert and I got onto a bus that took us back to the medium stay car park. It was a beautiful day in Stansted and for some reason people were sat outside the terminal on the grass sunbathing. I thought this was a little strange. There was some debate between us as to which bus stop our car was near, but eventually we decided that it was number 14 and we requested a stop from the bus driver when he shouted the number out.

I was delighted to see that the car was still there. We loaded up and then all piled in—David got into the passenger seat whilst Rupert and Amal got in the back. We drove back to Amal's house, arriving about an hour and a half later, after a brief stop for petrol in the Boreham Wood area.

I suggested lunch before we all went our separate ways. Amal directed us to a rather nice pub near his old school (which Damon Hill went to, apparently). We all sat down and did some chilling for a couple of hours, chatting about the holiday. Once we'd finished, Amal picked up the tab, saying that he was going to treat us to the meal, which was really nice of him. I told him that this was too generous, but he replied by saying, "Get over it, man!"

We left the pub and drove to Boreham Wood station, where we bade a fond farewell to Rupert. He was going to get the Thameslink back into London and return home from there. For another of the Colonel's regiment, the Genoa experience was over.

Twenty minutes later, David and I were saying goodbye to Amal too. We dropped him off at his house, went in briefly and then got in my car to drive back to David's house. Amal said he was going to spend the rest of the day chilling. David was feeling a bit deflated that we'd said goodbye to everyone, but Amal tried to raise his spirits by saying that we would all see each other soon.

We waved goodbye to Amal and headed back to the M25 for the drive back to Thatcham. Eventually we got back to David's house. I stopped off for a half hour or so to relax for a bit, before saying goodbye to David and continuing on the road back to Kenilworth.

An hour and a half later, I found myself back in Kenilworth, where the Genoa journey had started for me five days earlier. It had been a classic break. All of us had agreed that Genoa was not the nicest city we'd visited, but the Genoa experience had been fantastic. And I had won my first draw, which was satisfying, even if I had beaten Copenhagen in the process.

Well, anyway, it's Heidelberg next time!