Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Part 2

Saturday, July 9

Before going to bed last night, Marg washed out a couple of of things in the sink and hung them to dry on the line outside the window. So, "fresh" clothes and a shower helped improve my outlook on the world.

Unfortunately, it started with not-so-great news. Francesca, the wife of the fellow who had gotten us set up in the apartment we were in knocked on the door. Gemmy had been been contacted by the company consigned to deliver the luggage and was told that it would not be possible to get our bags to us in Vernazza by today ... and was there another address where the bags could be sent for Sunday. I dug out the "address" in Venice along with the contact phone number I had been provided. 

That done, we started walking up to meet Helen. But before we got very far, we saw her walking down towards us.The first thing we decided was to consolidate into one apartment. Helen's place was plenty big enough - with one queen and one twin bed. Helen was with her "landlord" so we told her okf our plan and paid for the upcoming night. With that taken care of, it was time to get something to eat.

The night before, I'd noticed a restaurant right at the base of the building that Helen was in - La Piratta de la Cinque Terre - was one that I had seen mentioned in a guide book as well as a recommendation for dining in Vernazza from the Internet. So we schlepped our way back up the hill and sat down for breakfast. While Marg had said that she wanted eggs, the owner convinced her and Helen to go for a ricotta-filled pastry. It was great! With that, and a couple of espresso in my stomach (cappuccino for Marg and Helen) we were ready to face the day.

We went down to the shop that our "landlord" runs; left word of our change in plans and paid for the previous night ... now, we were free to do as we pleased for the day.

We started in Vernazza looking in at all the shops. Since we had no luggage, we spent some time looking for some clothes for which United/Lufthansa would pick up the charge. We spent quite a bit of time poking in and out of the various little shops in Vernazza. Down at the waterfront, we watched the end of a local swimming race (a close finish between the first-place finishing man and the first-place finishing woman). We ate some pizza for lunch, browsed some more, explored the town, went up and down what seemed to be a million stairs (none of which seemed to hold to any of the regular rise/run standards) and basically turned the town inside-out.

Our original plan for the Cinque-Terre had been to hike the trail from one end to the other. In a way, I was glad that we hadn't received our luggage. Hiking the trail would have been a very hot and exhausting endeavour. Exploring the town and taking refuge in the shade was (IMHO) a much better - and smarter - thing to do.

We picked up our Cinque Terre cards and took the train to Monterosso al Mare. This had been the town we stayed near when we were here a couple of years ago. The biggest difference between then and now was the size of the crowd at the beach. Two years ago (in May) there were crowds in and around the towns, but not at the beach. Now (July) the town was packed, and so were the beaches. Funny, the beach in Vernazza was much nicer (sand) but much smaller; here in Monterosso, the pebble-rock beach was absolutely packed! We managed to snake our way through the crowds and get down to the water. Given the heat of the day, it would have been nice to get cooled off in the water. But I don't know if I would have wanted to fight my way through the crowd. We've started compiling a list of things to do on our next visit ... and I think "a day at the beach" is going to get quite a few votes.

I don't think I fully grasp this idea of "shopping". To me, "shopping" involves they act of money leaving my pocket (or bank account) in exchange for some sort of goods. Now ... what we did in Monterosso can technically qualify as "shopping" since there was an actual exchange of cash for goods. I only know that so much more of what we did that day is called "shopping" because that's what I was told that we were doing.

We took the ferry from Monterosso all the way to the other end of the Cinque Terre - Riomaggiore. As the gateway town, Riomaggiore seems to have positioned itself decidedly "down-market". The waterfront is not as nicely kept as the others and there seemed to be no shortage of vendors selling the "Hello Kitty 5-Terre" type of t-shirt. I think the town functions as some sort of "dive centre" ... but since that's not my thing, I'll withhold comment.

The Cinque-Terre area is a group of five seaside towns joined by a series of trails and paths, as well as by rail and ferry. From Riomaggiore, we walked the "via del Amore" back to Manarola. This is the most developed section of the trail system; and to refer to it as a "trail" is a bit of an understatement. The entire length of the via de Amore is paved, with rock and brick walls on either side. Along the way, lovers have pledged their eternal love by placing padlocks (some with their initials) on, or woven heart-shaped strips of cloth into, the chain link fencing.

It was getting pretty late in the afternoon, and we'd had a pretty action-packed day, so we hopped the train back to Vernazza. We weren't so tired though to pass up on one final burst of shopping (courtesy of Lufthansa Airline's Lost Luggage fund) before heading back to the apartment to have a cleanup before supper.

We strolled back down to the waterfront for supper.They were finishing the setup for some sort of concert (perhaps associated with the swimming contest?) and we managed to snag a table right close to the stage. But even though we dragged our supper out as long as we could, we were still finished well before any musicians took to the stage. We left the restaurant and walked off supper for a while ... and then got ourselves gelato before heading back down to the waterfront square. The band had started playing ... I think they said they were from Brazil. In any event, they played some Brazilian-style music; we listened for a while before trudging back up the hill to get some sleep. I think I was out before my head hit the pillow.

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