Sunday, April 26, 2009

Spring Break - 2nd stop - Cinque Terre, Italy

Well. At the rate I'm going, it will take me 'til Summer Break to get Spring Break on this Blog. However, it is raining today which is why I'm sitting at the computer. I think this will be a long one to make up for my absence. Get your coffee.

I run on 4 seasons apparently: 1) Ski season, 2) planting season, 3) hiking/Stateside season and 4) cleaning up before Ski season. Makes sense to me but some things suffer along the way. It has been absolutely beautiful this past week and I find it hard to sit indoors when I could be outdoors. It's planting season.

As I need something to do when I'm outside, I garden. This year, it's more laboring than gardening although I have divided some Rudibeckia and some creepy stuff that will hopefully spread. My labor comes in taming the wild jungle of the backyard that's required each year. We always hire someone to have it done because it's a mess and there's a LOT of it and the ticks and the disposal...

But as we need 4 new tires on our vehicle, I don't feel like doling out extra money for something that I could do. If I just get out and do it. So - I have done about 2,000 chf worth of labor (you're welcome dear) and found one tick for my efforts. Which wouldn't be so bad as long as we don't spend the money I saved on treating me for Lyme disease. AND, the ticks here can cause a form of "brain disease" as they call it - a form of encephalitis. There is a vaccination here for it and the girls and I got the shots our first year here. Bart didn't. I noticed since I found and removed the tick (they are tiny - small as a pinhead, not like IA/MN ticks), he has not really volunteered to help me at all.

So far - I'm fine. I just have the sensation of bugs crawling on me most of the time - normal for me after removing a nasty critter off my person. And various, weird contact allergy reactions to plants. But what's new?

The girls are doing great and helped me plant our veggie garden. We had a little family meeting about what should be in there. 3 (them) against 1 (me) on how much zuccini should go in. Apparently, it was a little much last year. Kendra had a fit when she saw the cucumber seeds "we don't like that!" I told her not to worry, they're for mommy and I wouldn't force her to each it - sheesh! It's MY garden. So we will hopefully have sweet corn, green beans, a cucumber vine, a zuccini plant and some cantaloupe (for Rachel). I put the tomatoes in the terrasse garden with the herbs.

So that's what I've been doing since we came back. Enough of that - let's go back on vacation:

We arrived at our next destination, Monterosso, after another travel day. It is one of 5 villages that make up the Cinque Terre (terraced cities) region of the Italian Riviera south of Genoa. These villages came to be sometime in the 13th Century and the inhabitants were quite self-sufficient with the ocean for fish and their terraced landscape on which they grew everything they needed. This region functions under the equivalent of a Goverment Park in Italy. The government makes sure they have what they need to continue living in this manner and manage tourism.

Since Rick Steve's (and others) highlighted Cinque Terre to the Americans via his travel show/books, the region is a huge US tourist destination. We heard more American English than we had since leaving the States last summer. Weird. But nice to talk to other people here and there traveling through. Many people stay in other locations and take the train into Cinque Terre. I booked last August so we were able to get 2, yes 2!, family rooms at a lovely hotel, Hotel villa Steno, in Monterosso.

You never know quite what you're going to get but this place was GREAT. Comfortable rooms with views of the village/ocean, surrounded by lemon/orange/olive trees and a wonderful breakfast buffet. My favorite was the coffee. Or cappucino. We have experience with these Euro breakfast buffets now and this one ranked in my top 3. Started each morning with a smile on our faces and coffee in my bloodstream. Big happy sigh just thinking about it.

Here are the girls and I on the terrasse outside our room after we checked in. (who is Kendra pretending to be? the girl is drama!) Looking across the terraced landscape/gardens.

And down to the clear blue Mediterranean with a few spring pots.
Bart and girls with Monterosso in the background.
Busy day in Vernazza - their ocean-front piazza is new (still under some construction) and this was the most touristy of the 3 towns we visited. We caught a small ferry boat from here to go back to Monterosso vs catching the train back.
A view along the coast to the end of the Cinque Terre. The city on the hillside is Corniglia - we loved it. It was so quiet and peaceful with not many tourists. There are trails that connect these villages so many people hike from one to another. We didn't plan to do that this trip although the weather was perfect for it - not too hot. The train system between the cities is a good alternative and they're all 3 to 5 minutes away from each other by train. Not a bad commute?It did get warm one afternoon and as kids will, they couldn't resist getting in the water. Our guests got their first experience with Euro vacationers at the beach. If one doesn't have the "proper" swimming gear, just lay out in your underwear/improvise. Our girls improvised - Rachel's undies/undershirt actually looked like a bathing suit and Kendra wore her undershirt/leggings. The bigger kids found suits at the train station shop. But most of the Italian kids just stripped to underwear and kids under 5/6 are just running around nude.
We are used to that now. It takes about 5 minutes and you realize, it just doesn't matter.
We had a lovely dinner at a seaside restaurant and then a bonfire afterward on the beach. Actually, it was a bonfire left burning from the beach debris clean-up but we claimed it for ours for about 10 minutes.
And then strolled back to our Hotel (had another breakfast waiting in the morning!!!) in the quiet night. See - most of the tourists had gone back from whence they came. These are small villages and don't have large quantities of accomodations. I highly recommend visiting and if doing so, making reservations with plenty of advance notice.
Next stop - Villefranche sur Mer - we return and share with our friends, the French Riviera.


Jolyn said...

Beautiful photos! All three of our years in Italy, Cinque Terre was one place we never got to. Hmph.

I still haven't blogged about our spring break -- hey, it's our blog and we can write when we want to!

Hello! This is Julie. said...

Beautiful! Love the picture of the night stroll...reminds me of Austria and the night stroll back to the hotel! And our night stroll around Zurich! I'm a fan of the night strolls! Love you, Susie!

Susan May said...

I love your photos - this post is making me very excited for our vacation to the Cinque Terre next month!