August 20, 2015





What are the odds?


And soon it was time to get up again and get ready for the next leg of our journey. So we took showers and at around 8am we headed down to have breakfast. Today there was a bit more going on, but we found a table, got some coffee, tea and orange juice and then headed to the buffet.

There were a few other items there today and we started filling our plates. Tom had picked some ham and cheese, cucumber and tomato slices and some yellow peppers, a slice of Frittata, a boiled egg that had been seasoned with Balsamic, some Russian Salad and of course some panini. I had picked ham and cheese as well, Russian Salad, tomato slices, another piece of Frittata and some cherry tomatoes and mozzarella balls that had been marinated. Everything was really good and needless to say we had to go back for seconds. Tom felt like something sweet, so he had a slice of water melon, a Panini and some butter and cherry jam, while I went and got myself a chocolate croissant and a jam filled one.

We sat there for quite some time enjoying our breakfast and just wasting time. Well, we just had to. We knew that we could not move into our apartment in Vernazza before 2pm and it would only be a short drive there. So once we had finished breakfast, we headed to the front desk and asked if it was a problem if we only checked out shortly before check out time, which was noon. They had no problem with us leaving our stuff in the room and after a short visit to the room we handed in our key (they don’t like you to take the key with you) and went out again to have another stroll through town. First off we headed along the beach promenade going towards where the boats to Portofino leave.

There was a boat sitting there waiting to leave and it was already full of happy people. We walked further on towards the far end of the city, enjoying the view of the sea. We took our time strolling along, stopping ever so often to take in the beautiful views. After we finally turned around and walked back we decided to walk along the little shops on the other side of the road. Soon enough we found ourselves in front of a small hill with a church on top. Well, why not walk up there. The church was dedicated to the fishermen and it was small, but with the light colours and many windows it felt so well lit and airy. Needless to say, since they had candles to light, that’s what we did.

Once we left we headed along the uphill climbing pathway to another church that was right above the one we had just visited. It was beautiful, but really different to the one we had been in a few minutes ago. Again we took a few minutes to look around before heading back out into the heat again.

A few steps on there was an old  tower, guess it used to be a watchtower a very long time ago and it was sad to see that it had been  closed because of safety reasons. I am sure you would have had an absolutely amazing view from there. We still had a little time left before we had to leave, so why not have another ice-cream before it would finally be time to say goodbye. Most of the gelaterias were not open yet, but we finally found one that was open and had outdoor seating. There was no menu on the table, so we asked for one and what the server brought out, was a HUGE binder with about 50 pages of pictures of giant sundaes, coffees, drinks and everything else. Finally I ended up with just picking three flavours inside the shop.

One was hazelnut, one was pistachio and one was cinnamon, which he didn’t know to explain to me, when I ordered and I got a spoonful to taste. After that I was sold. I also ordered some Diet Coke and Tom had a cappuccino. And while we sat there enjoying our ice-cream we pitied the server, as he had to sell ice-cream by the cone inside the shop as well as server the customers at the tables. He was quite stressed by it. And it showed, as when we had finished our drinks and ice-cream and we asked for the bill it took about 10 minutes until he had actually time to come and bring our bill and be paid. We now only had about half an hour left, so we walked right over to the little garage where our car was parked.

 If you park it there, you need to hand in your key as space is VERY limited and they juggle the cars around to get in as many as possible. It was just a 3 minute walk there and it still amazed me how narrow that little street actually was. Once we were at the garage we pointed out our car, which was at the very back, to the attendant and he started shuffling cars around. He actually had to move 6 cars to be able to drive ours out, but finally it was done and we got in and drove back to the hotel. There is a pretty small loading area for guests in front of the hotel and we parked there, let the front deck know we were just bringing down our luggage and went back to the room to retrieve it.

Once we had it all in the car it was now time to bid our farewell to Santa Margherita and get on our way to Vernazza. We had rented a small apartment there and we needed to meet someone at a restaurant around the corner of the apartment building to get the keys and drive our car into their garage as you are not allowed to drive into Vernazza without a permit. So with that in mind we didn’t want to be there too early, so the host would be there when we arrived. Therefore we had decided to just enjoy the drive and take our time. First off we needed to drive back to Santa Margherita and it was a really beautiful drive all the way back to Rapallo, which was jammed with traffic again.

But it gave us a chance to find a gas station to fill up the car, as there are no gas stations in the Cinque Terre. Car filled up we soon found ourselves on a country road going towards Vernazza. We were chatting and enjoying the countryside and we thought of the man who had inspired us to go on this trip, Umberto, our tour guide from the year before, who had just captured us with his love and knowledge for the area. And we joked how funny it would be if we ran into him and one of his tour groups in Vernazza. We had three days to spend in this tiny village, but what would be the odds to run into him? And while we were still having fun talking about it we could see the road ahead of us getting narrower and narrower.

And picture this narrow road on the side of the mountain and the steep way going down. It was quite frightening, but none the less we would still be early, so driving extra slow was not a problem. There was just one more thing we needed to get done before we finally headed into Vernazza, we needed to do some grocery shopping. I had done research if Vernazza had a grocery store, and while I was pretty sure there had to be one, I did not find any information if there was or not, so we had decided to just pick up some provisions on the way. Now, we had been driving for a while and even crossed some villages, but there were no grocery stores in any of them, which had us, kind of worried.

But when we finally drove through a little larger village, like 5 crossing roads large, we noticed a grocery store advertisement. At the store there was even a parking spot and we pulled right in without even looking around too much, but we soon found an employee waving us toward the back, where the real parking space was. It was even quite big for the circumstances and we soon had our car parked. Now picture this, you are in this tiny village in Cinque Terre and you visit a supermarket and the car in the opposite row was from Austria as well. Small world, indeed. Well, we headed inside and picked up some fruit, veggies, bread, butter, cold cuts and some drinks and after loading them into the car we were on our way again.

And right as we got in, we got a text from the person we were going to meet, that he might be late, as the trains were not running on time and to give him a call once we arrived. Okay, we still had a bit of road ahead of us, so we were not too worried. I got really worried though, just a few minutes later when we finally got to the road that led down to Vernazza. It was narrow, and I mean really narrow and winding. Sometimes so narrow, there was only one lane. We found ourselves behind some bikers for a while and were not able to overtake, as the road was so narrow. I was so scared that someone might drive in the opposite direction and one of us would have to drive in reverse, with the steep slope right beneath you.

But finally we made it to the public parking outside of Vernazza. From there it is still a 20 minute walk downhill into the town, so we were happy we had parking reserved in town and we kind of let the car roll down the street pretty slowly as it was very narrow again and people were walking up and down there. We had checked out the area on google earth before and soon we saw the parking area outside the apartment complex where we had booked our small flat. There was no parking outside available, so Tom parked in “second row” and stayed in the car. It was so hot there, so I got out and tried to call the “key – guy”. Yikes, there was no mobile reception.So I walked around a lit trying to pick one up, and finally found a spot where I could try. It would ring, and you could hear someone picking up, but that was it. So I sent him a text. No answer. I had a contact address in Vernazza, so Tom stayed put in the car and I headed into town. I had walked all the way down to the train station, when I got a call from our “key – guy”. He was on his way, but he would be late and should police arrive and tell us to leave, we should just call him and he would clear things up. Yikes, that didn’t sound well. I headed back up to Tom, well, I wasn’t all that fast, as it was hot and all the way uphill. When I arrived where I could see our car I was a bit shocked, as there was a white car parked behind ours and I was afraid that would be the police. But on second look there were no emergency lights on the roof, so I was kind of relieved.

I got back to the car and told Tom that we would have to wait for the “key – guy” to arrive. I stayed outside the car and we talked through the open window. And while we were waiting I kept looking at the house we would be staying at for the next three nights and I caught a glimpse of the white van behind us as well. Well, I had a second closer look, then turned to Tom and asked if he could see the white van behind him in his back mirror and if he could see the driver. He could, but the driver did not look familiar to him. Funnily enough he looked very familiar to me. He looked just like Umberto, the very Umberto we had talked about that morning and thought how fun it would be to run into him while in Vernazza. I took another look and then another and finally mustered up the force to walk to the van and up to the open window and ask if the driver WAS Umberto. He looked at me and answered that, yes, indeed he was Umberto the tour-guide and had we not been on a tour with him the year before. I was shocked he would remember us, but he did and he got out of his car and so did Tom and hugs were in order and we stood there, chatting. Umberto was very happy to hear that we had been so impressed by his tour that we had now returned to stay here for three nights. All too soon his guests, who he had taken to the village to explore on their own, returned and we sadly had to say our goodbyes.

A short while after Umberto had driven off we got another phone call from our “key – guy”. I could understand that he had arrived and where were we? Well, we were the only car sitting in second lane. I walked over to the house and finally we were able to say hello to the “key – guy”, while Tom drove around to the entrance to the garage, where we had rented a spot. Boy, was it hard getting into the garage. First off, Tom had to back up again to finally be able to turn into the drive and then it was very steep, with a slippery road surface and it was winding very narrowly as well. You could see where cars had hit the sides of the drive and with a lot of car, Tom made it up to the first floor (second US floor) where the parking was. The spot was tiny and our car just fit into it.

Then it was up to see the apartment. We used an elevator to go up and then headed into a fenced off garden with a nice outdoor sitting area with a table and four chairs and a porch swing. And while we were taking a look we learned that these belonged to our property only, so we were free to use it whenever we wanted to. Great! Then he opened the door and the flat was really cute. The door opened into a dining/living room area, with the kitchen to the right, then a few steps up and a bathroom/shower on the right and a few more steps up into a bedroom. It was cute. We were told that since it was so hot the AC was working, but only on low to conserve energy. That was okay with us and we paid for the room and parking, which was a bit nerve wrecking as the internet connection was less than brilliant and it took a few attempts for my credit card to go through, but after a few minutes the “key – guy” left the keys in our hands and said his goodbye. We then went to carry up all our belongings and unpack. When we were back in the apartment, Tom discovered that the AC was not on low, it was not on at all and it would not work either. All there was, was a fan, so we took that to the bedroom to cool it down a bit and just opened the door to the balcony in the dining room. And then we discovered something missing. And while it was in the apartment description there was definitely no TV in the flat. Thankfully we travel with computers and Tom brings loads of stuff to view, so at least we were set there.

We needed a little rest and a drink, so Tom had one of the beers we had purchased earlier after it had been in the freezer for a while and I had some Diet Coke and a peach. And after about an hour and a half of enjoying our new home, we headed out and into the town again to refresh our memory of it and explore. The town of Vernazza is tiny as are all the Cinque Terre towns, so it did not take long to walk all the way down to the ocean. When we walked down, there were still a lot of tourists around, but many of them were heading to the train station already. We explored the shops on the way down and guess what, there was a small grocery store and even a butcher there, as well as several bakeries, so we knew we would not be starving those three days.

Soon we stood at the harbour and enjoyed to look around as it brought back so many beautiful memories of that day in Vernazza with Umberto a year ago. We strolled around the area for a bit and then went to the very bar, where we had had a great break last year. There are only three tables inside and we were lucky enough that one was empty, and we ordered some of the Cinque Terre wine and sat and enjoyed it. Once we had paid the bill we decided to head back to our apartment and have an early and relaxing night. But not without picking up a few more items on the way back. We stopped at a few places to get some more treats. It took a bit longer getting back to the apartment as all the way it is uphill, but thankfully, as I mentioned before, the town is pretty small.

Once back we refreshed, then washed the plates we needed for dinner and laid the table to have dinner. There was some fried fish and calamari from the fry shop, some olives and Russian salad from the butcher, the prosciutto and salami that we had bought earlier in the day and several pieces of Focaccia to share. It was a really delicious dinner and when we were done we thought that since we had a dishwasher, why not put all the dishes in the dishwasher and while they are washed we could sit outside and enjoy the early evening. So we emptied out the cupboards and put whatever fit into the dishwasher, tab into compartment, close door and ……. nothing. Okay, let’s try that again. Same result. So we looked if the dishwasher was plugged in and no it was not. We tried to plug it in but the actual plug would not fit in the socket.

Hm, the dishwasher has a German plug and the socket is an Italian one. Well, we do travel with an assortment of plugs and quickly found a German one. Plugged in the dishwasher and pushed the start button and …………. it blows the fuse!

Thankfully Tom was able to find the emergency button for the electricity and everything went back to normal again, just the dishwasher was sitting there, not working. So, we knew what we would have to do later that evening, yikes, but there was no way around washing all the dishes by hand, but for now we poured ourselves a glass of wine, grabbed some of the sweet treats we had purchased as well and went out into our garden, where we saw one of the vineyard workers using his “transport”. We sat on the garden swing for quite some time until it got completely dark, then went back inside, cleaned up and had an early night, which meant watching “computer TV” in bed.