Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Cinque Terre (ChEENqwa – Tehr-ah)

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When I hinted around we might go to the Tuscan region of Italy, everyone I knew recommended we visit Cinque TResized_DSC05208erre.    So, we Resized_DSC05210 headed there bright and early on Tuesday morning. We put our sunscreen on in the car – the photo of Callie and Griffin at left is completely candid.  So sweet!

Cinque Terre is a group of 5 small Italian tourist traps, I mean towns, that are connected by a path running along the edge of the Mediterranean.  It was crowded, and we had to park about a mile away from where the entrance to the path began.  This is such a popular tourist destination, you even have to PAY to walk on the path – it was about 15 Euros for our family.  Paying for hiking – that is so wrong…

Here is what we saw on the way to the beginning of the path… We had to walk down a steep hill and through the picturesque town of Riomaggiore – we were so happy to see the ocean and even peeked into the church.

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  Resized_DSC05222  Resized_DSC05225 Resized_DSC05229 Resized_DSC05232 Resized_DSC05224    We stopped to eat our picnic lunch near a local hotel.  It was a hot day and here (as it seems in most of Europe) nothing has air-conditioning.  The breeze was blowing and the windows were open to catch the fresh air as much as possible.  As we munched away on our ham and cheese sandwiches and oranges, we observed a passionate argument between what seemed to be the proprietors of the hotel and their son.  It also eventually dragged in the business owner across the street.  No blows were thrown and it seemed to resolve itself, but the yelling was so loud all could hear it up and down the street.  Of course, it was all in Italian, so I had no clue what was being said.  After it blew over, I was listening for a bit and realized that, with the hot weather and the windows open, we could hear everything anyone was saying, if it was much above a whisper.  We had already noticed how, in Italy, people were more open, more friendly than in Besancon.  André and I put forward a new theory about why this is so – and it all has to do with the weather and real estate.  You see, if you live in a hot coastal area, you can’t hide.  It is hot, the windows are open and let’s face it, everyone knows everyone else’s business, whether you like it or not.   Also, the houses are so close together, you have to learn to deal with your neighbors, get to know them. This combination, over time, results in people being more open and willing to share things.  If you live, however, in a colder climate, with neighbors that are few or far from your home, you can easily shut the windows and huddle down alone with only your family.  Over time, this results in a more taciturn nature.  What do you think?

Finally we got to the path, paid our fee and headed towards the next small village.  The views were mind-blowing; what a place.

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As we went along, we saw lots of locks stuck all over the place.  Turns out these are love padlocks and can be found in places around the world.  This particular location in Cinque Terre is the most famous in Italy.  Turns out we were walking along “the Via Del l'Amore, a path connecting the towns of Manarola and Riomaggiore in the Cinque Terre. The pathway's legend holds that it was a meeting place for lovers from the two towns, and is now a favorite site for tourists to place their locks and throw the keys into the sea.”  I can’t believe I didn’t research this ahead of time so André and I could have joined the tradition.

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We reached Manarola, consulted our watches, and decided we had enough time to walk to the next town. Then we’d need to take the train to the end of the 5 cities, where I had reserved a boat cruise for us.  The locals obviously use the sea as their swimming pool – jealous!

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The walk between Manarola and Corniglia was breathtaking.

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We hopped the train (sorry Vernazza) to make it to Monterosso al Mare by 5pm for our boat tour with Angelo.  It turns out that I had the dates mixed up and we weren’t supposed to show until tomorrow but, luckily for us, they had no other reservations and took us out anyway.  It was a traditional sardine boat and we went snorkeling.  Griffin was too scared to snorkel but the rest of us had fun.  The fish in the Mediterranean are not as colorful as the Carribean but it was still amazing to watch them swimming around.  We went back to the boat and then did some fishing off the side of it.  Griffin was the best fisherman of all, catching 4 while the rest of us caught one each – except for Callie, who refused to even try to catch one. (Zander says he caught 2, but I remember 1!)  Mr. G was so proud – and says he might grow up to be a fisherman.  Good luck bud – I just hope the ocean still is healthy enough for fish when you are grown.  We brought the fish home with us and I fried ‘em up for lunch the next day – delish!

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We headed back to shore, for a BIG pizza dinner and then the train back to Riomaggiore.

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We were all exhausted (except for superfit André) so he ran up the hill to get the car while I snapped shots of the glorious sunset…

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Ciao!

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