Monday, August 3, 2009


August 3rd, 2004 Cinque Terra

Out the door before 9 am, we walked to the bus stop in Nice, about a block from the hotel, pulling our luggage and wearing backpacks. The bus dropped us off right in front of the train station, just a little over a mile away. We located the track number for our train. We already had our tickets and reservations. We had to go down and back up a set of stairs to get to the track; Jim wanted me to wait for him to come back and help me with my luggage. But I started down on my own letting the suitcase bump down each step and sure enough a strong, young man took over before I was half way. Then he walked over with me and helped me up the other set of stairs. When we changed trains in Genoa and also when we arrived in Cinque Terre we had sets of stairs and sure enough each time when I started on my own someone helped me almost immediately. Must be the gray hair!

Immediately discovered one of the differences between first and second class trains…on first class they have a luggage rack for your large pieces…second class you’re on your own. As we were one of the first ones on the train, we were lucky enough to be seated near the end of the car and locked our two big suitcases together near the door. A little bit in the way, but no one complained and they stayed there for the longest part of our trip. Seventy five percent of the people on the train were under the age of thirty. They all had backpacks; sleeping bags and were very well behaved. A group of five Italian boys, all under the age of eighteen, had the seats next to us and across the aisle. Their pants were dropped as low as possible and we held our breath; but they were very well behaved for the entire trip. They ate and ate and ate…bottomless pits at that age. As the trip progressed they played cards and listened to their CD players.

The train left Nice at 10 am. We crossed the border into Italy after about an hour and the Italian police were very much in evidence; they even walked a dog through the cars sniffing for explosives per Jim. We each had to identify our bags for them. The train runs like a ribbon along the coast at the base of mountains. Lots of tunnels and in between there were homes with hues of red and yellow dotting the hillsides. One of the negative sides of traveling by train is the backyard vistas that you see beside the train. One needs to train the eye to look beyond that and to the vistas in the distance for a wonderful experience and an easy way to enjoy Europe.

We arrived in Genoa right on time at 1:00 pm; pulled our luggage over to the track for the train to La Spezia that was scheduled to leave at 1:36 pm. Suddenly, we realized that we were standing with lots of Americans. They were discussing the walking trails between the five towns of Cinque Terre and I could tell they needed some help…some thought that you could only take a boat to each town. We had two college girls from Michigan; a mother and daughter from New York, an Australian couple, a couple from L.A., a college girl from UC Davis and a college girl from Canada. We were the only ones that had been to Cinque Terre before and also had a book and details of the train trip. Some thought that they had to go all the way to La Spezia and then go back to the towns on a different train. I explained to them about the slow milk run that we were waiting for would stop at each town. We had lots of time to chat; the train was forty-five minutes late! Someone had a newspaper and we discussed the threat to Italy and also New York. We all agreed that one needs to be aware but no one talked about cutting their trip short because of the threats. By 2:30 pm we were all loaded aboard and headed south. It was another two-hour trip so we didn’t arrive at Manarola until about 4:30 in the afternoon.

Then we had a half-mile walk to the hotel…not far but all up a very steep hill. We were both panting hard and stopping every few feet but we did make it to the hotel under our own power! The weather was very hot and also humid; sweat from pouring off of both of us. Once we arrived we took showers and rested. Walked down to town…it’s either up or down any way you go in this town; level doesn’t exist…about seven for a delicious dinner of fresh swordfish steaks and grilled vegetables. Did I mention that these are fishing villages; the town is loaded with dory fishing boats all along the street. This particular town doesn’t have a beach so the boats are put in and taken out of the water with a huge winch. It definitely has lots of character and we will enjoy our three nights by mostly doing nothing; this is our third time here so we’ve done the hiking and touristy things already.

We’ve always stayed at Da Baranin when we come to Manarola; it’s a small B&B at the top end of the village. Very clean and friendly; they helped me replace my digital camera when it broke in 2002 by setting us up with a photo shop in La Spezia. We went with the “view” room this time. Much larger room with a queen sized bed, red tile floors and a balcony. The view is of the entire village and the Ligurian Sea. No air conditioning but we are going to leave the windows open all night and put our Downey Softener Sheets out around our bed just incase there are mosquitoes. (An Internet tip that works well we hope.) We also dug out the Mosquito tabs that plug into an outlet; we’d purchased them in 2002 when the Mosquitoes were really bad in the north of France. It works like the air freshener things that you plug in. We’re expecting some rain tomorrow according to the weather report on television….we do have CNN tonight. We’ve really been fortunate on the weather issues; even when it’s been hot and humid there is usually a breeze. And, best of all we seem to have missed most of the rainstorms this summer.

August 4th: Our first Italian breakfast was on the patio overlooking our village in Manarola. We were hearing some thunder but never had any raindrops. Met a very nice young couple from Houston, Texas at the next table; any problems that we “thought” we had vanished when we heard their tale of woe. They missed their flight to Rome on Air Italia and ended up flying to Milan and then taking a train to their first scheduled reservation in Pisa. First, their luggage did not arrive with them. No problem, they figured it had gone to Rome and they requested that it be sent on to their hotel in Pisa. Then they got on a second-class train without reservations and had to stand for the two-hour trip, as it was jammed with young kids with backpacks. Try that on top of jet lag! Only one piece of luggage was delivered to Pisa. That was four days ago; they are still trying to find the missing piece. They’ve wasted hours on the telephone with Air Italia and also time trying to shop economically for some clothes for the wife as all her clothes were in the still missing suitcase. The airline has promised to reimburse them for expenses but has not told them how much. The saving grace in this story is that had the husband’s clothes been missing; he’d had more problems than she has right now if he had to wear her clothes! And unlike us, they only have two weeks to enjoy their first trip to Italy.

Spent the early afternoon reading and working on the computer. About 1 pm we put on our swimsuits and headed towards the beach by way of the vineyard paths high on the hill across from our hotel. Provided some great photo opportunities and was somewhat level most of the way. But, what goes up must come down and we found a series of very steep, uneven stone never-ending steps down to the main path. We survived and found the launch ramps for boats on the bay side of the village. It was very crowded with people but we found space to roll out our bamboo mats and gather about an hour and a half of sunrays on the concrete ramps; just enough to add to our tan but not burn our skin. I even used my rubber shoes that I brought with me from home and carefully worked my way down the ramp for a nice swim in the water; didn’t stay in long but did go back in for a second time during our stay on the concrete beach. There is no actual beach, neither sand nor rock, in this village; only ramps and boulders. Even so nearly everyone is in a bathing suit most of the day.

Ended our day by going back down into the village for a light dinner at one of the restaurants, Jim had scampi and linguini; and I enjoyed roasted chicken. Back up the hill for a nightcap of Pastis on the balcony of our room as we watched the lights come on in the village below. The Nativity Scene on the hillside across from us in the vineyards just lit up so it’s about time to go inside for the evening. Did I mention the church bells? The bells have a pleasant tone and are practically next door to us; fortunately, they stop after 9:30 pm and don’t ring again until 7 am. At 7 am they ring seven times; pause, and then they give the wake-up you sleepy heads ring and ring and ring and ring and ring….

August 5th: Rained during the night. It was interesting after we went to bed about 10:30 pm we could hear the movie down in the village until nearly 11 pm. There is a restaurant across from the entrance to the train tunnel that has a large screen above the tunnel entry. During the summer they show old movies every night for free. Usually American made movies that have been dubbed into Italian. The echo caused by the steep incline seems to increase in volume as it nears our hotel at the top. They finally finished just before I went to sleep; Jim uses earplugs and had no problem. During the night I woke to the much-needed rain. We also had rain again this morning followed by a rainbow. Breakfast was outside but under the foldout awnings as it was still dripping slightly.

Spent the morning reading, working on my computer; A “do nothing” day for us; we both have books that we want to finish and tomorrow is a busy day with the train trip to Rome. About 2 pm we put on swimsuits and headed down the hill to our boat ramp concrete “beach” for some time in the sun; stayed for an hour before walking back up the hill to our home. We picked up cash at the ATM machine on the way home, as this is definitely an “all cash” town including the hotel. None of the restaurants will accept credit cards. Probably some of the shops might if you spent enough money on their merchandise. We are filled to the brim luggage-wise so that is not a concern of ours at this point in the trip.

About 5 pm the sky became almost black and the thunder with lightening filled the air; wind whipped up through the canyons and we could see whitecaps on the water below. Lost power at one point for a few minutes and then the rain arrived. Really heavy rain for a short time and then it has continued to drizzle for the rest of the evening. We used our umbrellas about 7 pm and walked down to the village center for dinner. Jim ordered fish soup; he was thrilled, it was chocked full of all types of fish; many still in their shells. It took him at least half an hour to work his way to the bottom of the bowl where he found the “soup” ready to be soaked up with bread. A quick walk back up the hill with umbrellas and we were tucked in for the evening!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

We have the internet tonight so have enjoyed reading your blogs. Fun to catch up. Will call you later.
Hugs, Mary