Friday, February 28, 2014

Winter Camogli

Life has started to trickle back to the Cinque Terre on warmer days.  It's like the visitors are little seeds in the sand that sprout up in a flash as soon as a warm ray of sun touches them.  Rainy days, however, are a horse of a different color (funny side note: in Italian, you say "un'altro paio di maniche", which literally means "another pair of sleeves".  I love idioms).  Villages are quiet, streets empty, the yellow glow of street lamps illuminates a grey sky that hits a grey sea and touches a beach of grey stones and sand.  

Occasionally, the sun perks through, the clouds spread apart, and you have muted shades of pastel to break up all that grey.
We went to Camogli on one of these rainy days, and we arrived right as a few stubborn rays of sun hit my favorite town on the Riviera.  The last time I visited the town was the day before the flood that destroyed Monterosso in 2011.  I was happy to come back, and even happier to see that the empty fishing village was just as charming painted in muted shades of winter.
Camogli lies 45 minutes to an hour by train from Monterosso, and is quite close to Genoa.  Many say its name derives from "Casa delle moglie" or the "house of the wives", as they dutifully waited here for their Genoese fishermen and boat capitan husbands to return home from the sea.
 Once renowned for its fleet of tall ships, Camogli is also called the city of "a thousand white sails", and though it's painted seafront houses no longer help the fishermen find their way home, the town is still full of boats and in the winter, empty of tourists.
We walked to the ornate gold church, the  old castle, the harbor, and sat on the beach by ourselves while we snacked on the local rum-cream stuffed beignet aptly called camogliesi.  
Portofino hides to the right, but to the left, sprawling in the distance, lies Genoa, La Superba.  

When you look long enough, a rainy day becomes another opportunity to see things with a new palate of colors, especially on a deserted beach in the shadow of so much history.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

beach music

A sunny Sunday in Monterosso...small waves rippling over smooth stones...

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Another riviera

I've been gone for a while, but for a great reason.  Vacation!

It seems like not "working" for 4 months a year is fantastic.  I'm not complaining, but it's not as though we sit around all day napping and eating potato chips.  We have a bed and breakfast open all year, apartments we rent out, and two restaurants that require constant attention, even when closed.  I write, we organize the mountains of stuff that have accumulated between two restaurants and over 30 years running them.  I took a master's course in sustainable tourism.  I'm learning french (badly).

So, it was time for some well overdue beach fun.  Though I do work at the beach, it's much different then actually sitting on one all day with a fun coconut drink in hand, so we headed to another riviera - the mexican one.

We spent 3 weeks traveling around Isla Mujeres, Akumal, Tulum, Playa Del Carmen, Vallodolid and Cozumel.  After many margaritas, 45 avocados, 5 spanish verbs learned, approximately 30 bowls of pico de gallo, 2 bottles of citronella spray and 4 bottles of SPF 30 (reef safe!), we returned home happy and relaxed.  I conquered my fear of everything by literally just jumping in feet first and snorkling on a reef with starfish and sea turtles.  Dolphins joined our little boat as we were heading to the Sian Ka'an biosphere.  It doesn't get much better then that.

Mexico is really great.  One of my best friends is Mexican and I've always felt a warm, fuzzy feeling towards the country.  The people are easy to laugh and smile, and believe it or not, better then Italians at sitting silently for long periods of time in places like the piazza or a shady bench.  I love the food, I love the colors, I love the music, the fun painted skulls, and the beautiful, dark eyed kids with honey skin and silky black hair who whisper a shy hola.  I even love how they put their punctuation at the front of the sentence so you can figure out the point of the whole thing at the get-go.  I love how the language flows alongside Italian, I love scooping up rice in tortillas, I love carnitas and pacifico and clearly run-on sentences, but I think you've gotten the idea.

Here are some of my favorite pictures from one of my favorite countries...