A Travellerspoint blog

Day 26, Cinque Terre

sunny 28 °C

We tried our best to sleep in this morning. We walked down to the village and had our morning cappuccino and pastry outside on a patio. We took our towels and swimsuits and headed to the train station, aiming for Montorosso. This town, I’d say, is the most touristy of them all. It has extensive rocky beaches and a boardwalk to compliment it. Most of the beaches are pay beaches, they import sand and set up chairs. One chair, 10 euros. We weren’t down with paying that much for a few hours of sun, so in the weak 1100 rays we set down our things as far from everyone as possible on a public beach. By 1200 we were two of many sunbathers on the small pebble beach. It was actually much more enjoyable than it sounds, sandy beaches get sand everywhere and these pebbles were very small. They didn’t really stick to you and they also didn’t hurt to lie on.
We flipped our bodies like pancakes after half an hour in the extremely hot sun. After laying there an hour we dipped our burning behinds in the frigid Ligurian Sea. You could have probably seen steam rise. We spend a few minutes in the very clear light blue water with the little fish pooling around our legs. We gave ourselves 15 minutes on each side to dry off. At 1230 we left, but we could feel the burn already.
We bought a few postcards and got some stamps. (1.60 euro each!!!!) (They cost .80 euro in the last 3 countries we’ve been to. WTF Italy!) Our train was due to arrive at 1325, so we grabbed two bowls of gelato to curb our hunger.
When we got back to Riomaggiore we hiked up to our room. The stairs here are each, without exaggerating, at least 9 inches tall. I put my foot vertically on one of the stairs and the step was taller than it, by at least an inch. We grabbed all our laundry and some laundry soap. We did the laundry down in the village, where thankfully the dryer worked. We had some focaccia for lunch and I bought some limonccino to put in the fridge at our b&b in Rome. We walked back up to our room and took showers to wash off the salt that had dried white on our skin. We chilled out in our room for a few hours before I got bored.
I took a wander down to the marina and watched boys jump off rocks into the ocean and the men pull their boats from the water. I walked back up the slow way grabbing a bottle of coca cola along the way. We cracked open the bottle and enjoyed it on our shaded patio with a warm summer’s breeze.
At 1945 Shane and I left with our bottle of local white wine that had been chilling in the back of the toilet, for the bench at the top of the hill. Shane commandeered the bench and I walked down for some pizza. I bought a 5-person margarita for 10.50 euros and walked it back up. We ate the pizza and drank our wine while the sun set on the ocean before us. After we felt it was adequately dark we left our post and walked to a very rocky beach. We watched the moon rise and saw our first fire-flies. We were both captured by their blinking bums. I tried to catch one, forgetting that they were bugs and when I felt it in my hands I freaked out, because I am actually very scared of anything that flies or crawls. That same bug sat on Shane’s pants for a while blinking slowly. After some gelato our wonderful night was over.

Posted by s-a 13:39 Archived in Italy Tagged terre cinque Comments (5)

Day 25, Cinque Terre

overcast 21 °C

We started the day with cappuccinos and pastry. One thing we’ve decided we absolutely love about Europe, at least the countries we’ve been to, is their unashamed use of nutella in absolutely everything. We’ve never seen a breakfast spread without nutella. It’s in doughnuts, in pastries, on bread, on waffles and crepes, it’s even on focaccia! Along with anything carb-y you will find nutella, and we are only happy to indulge. Of the places we’ve visited in Italy thus far, we have been treated the best at this coffee shop. When we arrived we were greeted with a “bonjourno” and a smile, not a scowl.
After breakfast we walked on down to the train station looking for the wireless going for the rate of 5 euros an hour. The shop was still closed at 0900 so we walked back up the treacherous 9 flights of stairs to our room. We got our stuff together and hurried back down. We hurried because the train left at 1019 and for some reason, even though I knew it was 0900 I though the train was coming in 20 minutes. When we got there we realized, of course, we had an hour to wait for the train. Darn! We walked Via Delle Amore, which was much less busy early in the morning, to the next village Manarola and waited 45 minutes at that station.
The train brought us to Montorosso, the farthest town of the five. It also happens to be the largest town with rocky beaches and beach chairs renting for 10 euros a piece. We scoped out a free beach and logged it in our minds. We hiked and I mean actually hiked the 2 hours between Montorosso and Vernazza. The hike was amazing. We travelled through terraced vineyards and gardens covering the mountian. Everywhere we saw was full of vibrant flowers in purples, yellows and reds, it smelled sweet and floral and the views were to die for. The paths were treacherous and sketchy at times and there were a lot of people hiking the narrow paths in both directions.
In Vernazza we picked up some focaccia for lunch and took it to the pier where we sat in front of the water. After our delicious lunch we ate some sorbet (lemon and raspberry!) and started the very steep uphill climb to Corniglia. It took us around 1.25 hours for this hike and we were absolutely drenched in sweat by the end of it. When we arrived we walked straight to the train station eager to be home for a shower. On our descent down the staircase with 365 steps the train we needed came and went. It took 1 hour for the next train.
Eventually we got home and enjoyed a glass of coke with Shane’s fresh lemon in it. Best coke I’ve ever had for sure. The lemon (and citrus) here are sweeter and have a more floral scent than any I’ve had. We showered and I headed back down the hill with the computer to use the wireless internet. Shane and I had been going back and forth as to wether we should just stay off the internet until we got to Rome. It is rather nice to be completely unconnected for a while. Ultimately decided that if we hadn’t heard from our families while they were on vacation for a few days that we would be concerned. So we bucked up the 5 euros and answered some emails. Thank you to all for wanting to read what we write and being concerned for us in our absence!
We spent 1.5 hours (yes!) computer-ing it up. We brought the computer back up the stairs of doom and came back down yet again. We took the train to Vernazza for dinner and, after being treated like dirt at one establishment we settled on another a few minutes down the road. We enjoyed our meal and bottle of house wine, but the winner was the tiramisu at the end, delicious! We checked the train schedule and noticed our 40 minute wait. We bought some gelato, (our favourite to date) mine was caffe and mascarpone with nutella, and Shane’s...you guessed it lemon and strawberry. Once we got home we watched another episode of the Tudors and fell asleep.

Posted by s-a 13:31 Archived in Italy Tagged terre cinque Comments (3)

Day 24, Cinque Terre

sunny 24 °C

An Intro By Shane

“I wonder how,
I wonder why,
Yesterday you told me ‘bout the blue, blue sky
But all that I can see is just a yellow lemon tree...”
-Lemon Tree by Fool’s Garden

And another one, and another, and yes, some more. This is the Cinque Terre for me. A place filled with wondrous beauty, yet at the same time, a constant taunting. As far as the eye can see, and in every direction astounding beauty...and lemon trees. LEMON TREES! FILLED WITH LEMONS!!!! Anyone who really knows me, knows my love for the king of citrus. As far as back as I can remember I have been eating lemons, often to the surprise of those around me. I love anything tart or sour and lemons are the end all for me. Every house, apartment, or condo in every village here in the beautiful Cinque Terre, comes fully equipped with a garden in the yard complete with at least one olive tree, and a minimum of one lemon tree. And these lemon trees are currently PACKED full of the biggest, tastiest looking lemons I have ever seen in my entire life. And through all the winding paths and staircases these lemons are always behind fences, just slightly out of reach of my tiny, T-rex like arms. I feel like I am constantly being taunted by fences and locked gates. I mean even if every one of the lemons throughout all of the Cinque Terre was used to make lemonade, limoncino, lemon sorbetto, or some other lemony flavored goodie, surely there would still be enough for me to take just one...:(? I broke down and bought one. We put half of it in a bottle of Coke (euro-style). I will eat the other half. I still want to steal one. Stealing is wrong, I know. But so is taunting a lemon-lover...
And now to the real story: We awoke at a reasonable hour ignoring the church’s chiming bells at 0700, favoring a later start time closer to 0900. We woke up very at ease in our surroundings, feeling more content than we had at any other point in the whole trip. The sun was streaming in through our window and the little dove-like birds were cooing in the trees. We dressed and made our way down the ‘stairs of doom’, finding a short cut to the village side of things. The coffee place I had scoped out yesterday was without power this morning so we opted for the place across the street. We elbowed our way to the counter, despite being shoved back a few times(which is apparently how people roll in Italy). We asked for two macchiatos and bought a delicious pastry stuffed with lemon curd(presumably made with the afformentioned local lemons). The service was indifferent at best and a curt “ciao” was all the thanks we received for our business.
We walked back through a long cold tunnel towards the train station and the storefront selling passes for the trails. We paid our 18 euros for two, two day passes. We then proceeded onto what turned out to be the trail packed full of tourists, tour groups and fat slow old people (also tourists) and the easiest walk of the four trails. It’s called ‘via delle amore’ , in english, lover’s lane. It’s an easy cliffside, beauty of a walk along the ocean. This was clearly the reason for the endless waves of tourists, which detracted (only very slightly) from the stunning ocean views. Thirty minutes later we escaped into the refuge of Manarola, the next awaiting town.
We grabbed some lunch, our first of what would be inevitably be many, focaccias. Although they were all great, our favourite was the onion focaccia, because of it’s beautiful simplicity and deliciousness. We knew, after we finished lunch, that the trail between Manrola and Corniglia was closed (due to a land slide) but decided to walk the trail a bit to see how far we could go. It ended up being a very short walk, but just before the gates closed the trail off there was a path leading to a large collection of rocks with the waves smashing all around. We, of course, found this very inviting. We spent the next 30 minutes sitting on the rocks being sprayed with the occasional salty mist blown our way by a rouge wave. We made our way back to Manarola and waited for the train to come. We took the train after a 30 minute wait, to La Spezia, the town just outside of Cinque Terre. We booked our tickets to Rome (direct, I might add) for Sunday. We waited an hour (!!!) on the platform at La Spezia for the next train to take us the 3 minute ride to Riomaggiore (where we are staying.) I was quite annoyed at this point for spending so much of my day waiting for trains.
When we got back to Riomaggiore we got a bottle of local wine (4 euros) and a whole whack of fruit from a little store. We also proceeded to get one piece of pizza and another slice of focaccia (we got a little carried away!) We slipped back up to our room for a shower and a bit of rest. We drank a few glasses of wine on our patio enjoying the warm air and the smell of roses.
We decided to go to Corniglia for dinner. While we were waiting for the train Shane helped a few hopeless travelers decipher the somewhat confusing train schedules (he seems to have a knack for making sense of these things). When we got off the train we took the wrong route, doubled back and then noticed the numerous flights of stairs we were required to take. By the time we got to the top we had done 365 (long) steps (not regular steps, the length of each step is closer to two feet.) Corniglia, to our surprise, was a very quiet town. The only town of the five without a harbour the town is perched atop a cliff overlooking over the ocean. It had about 5 restaurants to choose from and we went with the busiest. We enjoyed a bottle of house wine and the best pasta to date. Mine was a seafood spaghetti (maybe with a wine sauce?) and Shane’s a plate of spaghetti with tomato sauce and mussels. Both were amazing!
We waited for the train for 45 minutes (notice a pattern?) on the platform. In all fairness, we did know what time the train was coming before we got there, but had negected to check the time as we left our restaurant. House wine can have this affect on you. Luckily, this train station had a distinct feature; there are two bells that ring constantly. One bell will ring (it sounds like a fire alarm) for a few minutes, then the other will join in (though not on the same beat) then the first one will stop a while the second one continues. And so it goes, on and on, never giving your head a break. We thought this might be to deter people from trying to sleep there overnight, but we decided the following day that it was probably not the case, as even midday with a platform full of tourists, the bells still rang incessantly. We wondered if people who work at this station get some sort of hazard pay due to the increased chance of INSANITY!
As soon as we reached our home town we grabbed two bowls of gelato (lemon and raspberry sorbet!!) for dessert. The gelato here in Italy is everything we ever thought it would be, better than we’ve ever tasted and cheap. We fell asleep soundly only 15 minutes after we arrived home.

Posted by s-a 13:19 Archived in Italy Tagged terre cinque Comments (4)

Day 23, Cinque Terre

sunny 23 °C

Our plane met the ground (rather bumpily) at 0320. A shuttle met us on the tarmac and we raced towards the baggage terminal. We gathered our things, put on our coats, brushed out teeth and waited (this time without any batteries in the computer) in the terminal. Our bus was to arrive at 0510. We drank some espresso and did a little bit of dancing to keep ourselves awake. The janitor was spinning around fast on the ride-on floor cleaner so we entertained ourselves with that as well.
The bus showed on time and I struggled to stay awake (I’m paranoid of missing stops!) while we sped though the narrow streets of Milan. 50km later we reached the central train station in Milan. It was 0550 and we knew the train we were supposed to catch was at 0610. We stood in line for 10 minutes before we got to the counter, we asked “Which train to Riomaggiore?” and the man just stared and said, in perfect English, “I don’t speak english” We stared back, not believing our luck. He pointed to his tag with a little italian flag “no english” he said. He needed a british flag to speak english, we were out of time, we couldn’t wait again, so we ran off in a huff for the railway terminal. We saw only one train left at 0610, so we jumped on it. The empty train brought us Bergamo, a small town outside Milan exactly an hour later. We asked at the ticket desk how to get to Riomaggiore and he told us to go back to Milan. He printed out a schedule with a few connecting trains.
The train was very full this time. It took another hour to get back, which left us with 8 minutes to find the next train to Genoa. We found this one just on time and slipped into an empty compartment. We flipped up the arm rests, set the alarm on the clock for 1030 and slept for an hour and twenty minutes. We got into Genoa with 10 minutes to spare. We raced down to the subway trying to figure out wether our passes covered regional trains. We hopped on and tried very hard to stay awake for the next hour and fifty-five minutes. Each stop we looked around trying to see if it was ours. While we were on this train we realized that the Canadian flags we had so dilligently sown on our packs were both missing. We knew they had been on there before our flight and now they were gone. we are going to go ahead and blame the cranky Italians for this one. Eventually, at 1255, we got there. We took our packs (they felt more like 50kgs than 15kgs by now) and started uphill. We made a few wrong turns but eventually we found our room on top of it all, with views from our patio over the village and to the ocean. For 50 euros we are thrilled with what we got.
Shane slept immediately, I tried to but couldn’t. I got up and showered (my, my did that ever feel nice) and slipped into town, acquired a map and tried to find some food. We hadn’t eaten since the night before, save for a granola bar we found in Shane’s pack and a small bag of chocolate covered nuts, all our connections were to close to find food! I had only my visa (because Shane hid the money somewhere) and nowhere could I use it for purchases under 15 euros. I walked back up the stairs (made for giants!!!) and fell into bed.
I awoke at 1830 (6:30pm.) I dragged Shane from his slumber and sent him to the shower. We walked down into the village and ate an amazing dinner of stuffed anchovies, gnocchi with the local pesto, seafood pasta (with octopus, mussels and clams) and lemon sorbet, complete with a bottle of white wine from here in the Cinque Terre. It felt so nice to have a great dinner (especially after not eating all day) with beautiful weather and great company!
After dinner, we bought some fruit for the following day and we walked back up the stairs (eeeek!). We paused on a bench at the top of it all and watched the night grow darker, listening to the birds chirping and the waves crashing on the rocks far below us, a perfect end to the two days that never were.

Posted by s-a 13:13 Archived in Italy Tagged terre cinque Comments (1)

Day 21, Lisbon/Sintra

sunny 26 °C

We tried to get going early on our 21st (!) day of travel (that is 3 weeks folks!), but the stress of not having accommodations booked for our stay in Cinque Terre made our departure later than it needed to be, while we were frantically sending off emails. We took the train to Sintra today, 40 minutes from our location in Lisbon. Once we got off the train we found a map and started walking towards town. It’s one of the most beautiful places we’ve been so far. The walk took us along roads with beautiful views of Sintra and the towns farther down, if you strain your eyes in the 10am sun the ocean is only a few kilometers away. We followed the signs through Sintra’s little town center to the Castle of the Moors. It ended up being quite the strenuous climb, but we were very agreeable to it, we could always use the exercise. We paid the 14 euros each (!!!) for a ticket to this castle and the Pena Palace, which we would see later.
The castle was built during the 9th and 10th centuries by the Moorish people. It has a very rich history and a strategic position in the land around it. We really enjoyed the grounds and climbing the walls. The walls had been rebuilt in the 1830’s by King Ferdinand II. The views were spectacular. We wondered all morning what it would have been like to look out over the same lands 200 years ago when most of the development wouldn’t have been there. Signs told us that there had been artifacts found dating back to 5000BC in the area. That was hard to even comprehend!
After the castle we hiked a bit further until we got to Pena Palace. The first thing you notice is it’s bright colours standing out against the blue, blue sky. This palace was built in the first half of the 1800’s, by King Ferdinand II, when he acquired the land and the monastery that was already established. The castle has many architectural elements in play that we found very interesting. Many rooms in the castle have wonderful vaulted ceilings and the styles are both medieval and Islamic. We really enjoyed touring the rooms of the castle, with all the old furniture and stylings. The views from the castle were amazing, we were on top of our part of the world. You could see for kilometers all around, as far as Lisbon . We could even see huge waves crashing on the distant beaches.
Before we left the hill entirely we explored a tiny part of the grounds. The entire grounds measure more than 200 hectares, with an eclectic collection of plants and trees from around the world (even Sequoia Red Woods). We didn’t have much time to explore so we poked around in the valley of ferns which is, as the name implies, a valley filled with a wide variety of ferns which were planted 150 years ago. They are enormous now, looking more like trees than plants! There are also 5 small man-made lakes all connected by little waterfalls and loaded with fish. And one black swan!
After our adventures on top of the mountain we walked back down to town. By the time we arrived, we were starving. We ordered the requisite pastries the town demands, queijadas and travesseiros both of which were nothing special and dined on quiche and salad for lunch. We bought a few postcards and took the train back to Lisbon. Desperately in need of clothes and not able to do laundry until tomorrow we stopped in at H&M. Shane bought a few shirts and some underwear and I got a new shirt from Springfield.
We ate dinner at the hostel. Eight euros each bought us soup, bread, 3 drinks and dessert as well as an amazing Portuguese bean stew that really knocked our socks off. And a major bonus, we could eat until we were full, the pot was on the table awaiting refills. During dinner we chatted with a German fellow, Philip, who also happened to share our three weeks of travel anniversary. We chatted about our travels, he just came from Porto too, and about Germany and the state of our food systems worldwide. Towards the end of the night he wrote us out a list of things we need to check out in Berlin and in Munich. We keep getting lucky with personal recommendations from awesome people from the places we are visiting.
And to top off the wonderful day we FINALLY got a reservation in Cinque Terre for a private room. The kicker is that were so desperate to get a room we were willing to pay up to 90 euros a night and this one comes in at 50 euros a night and it’s private! Our perseverance worked out and the universe lined up a room right on budget!

Posted by s-a 13:02 Archived in Portugal Tagged lisbon Comments (4)

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