Friday, July 25, 2014

The Cinque Terre--Bonassola

This is a photographic journey of our day in Bonossola, the beach town recommended to us by our Italian landlords in Vernazza.  The nice thing about this beach, it was local--no tourists here.  Like all towns along the coast you have to wind your way down to the beach from the mountain road above.  There is a large paid parking lot (€1.50/hr) right in front of the beach, but get there early to ensure a spot!  

We are used to sandy beaches, so pebble beaches are new to us, but we love them!  No sand sticking to your feet or towels and no mess tracked back up into the car.  Eden did lament that she couldn't build sand castles.

I watched as the boy in the water jumped off the boulders, but his buddies chickened out.  The area is great for climbing rocks and exploring with a kayak.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Vernazza, Cinque Terre

Aww, summer vacation at last!  We've been thinking about you since April and finally you are here.  In the expat community most families go to their home countries for the summer, but as this is our last summer in Germany we wanted to stay in Europe to cross off a few more places on our ever growing bucket list.  Bob was really keen on the idea of a driving vacation, so we decided to do a beach marathon starting in the Cinque Terre of Italy and ending in the Costa Brava of Spain. 
If you been on pinterest, you've seen pictures of the Cinque Terre--gorgeous mountain landscapes plunging down to the sea with colorful villages hugging the hillside.  It seems so romantic and it is--the views are fantastic, but eventually you have to leave the scenic road and get to your destination which in our case proved to be somewhat difficult.  The road into Vernazza was horrendous and by that I mean it is a one lane road laden with crater sized potholes and blind corners, intended to handle two way traffic. When we reached the bottom of the road we were turned back because there was no parking and attendant wouldn't let us pass.  I argued with him saying I didn't want to park, but simply wanted to get to my hotel.  He kept saying "up, up" and finally exasperated he said, "lady, you are blocking the road!"  

Of course I was blocking the road--there was only room for one car and yet cars were still coming down the mountain stacking up behind me and others wanted to leave.  All of us needed to turn around and head back up.  After a seemingly 18 point turn we headed back up the mountain, but not sure where or how to get to our apartment house. 
The apartment owner didn't speak English and we don't speak Italian, but with Bob's Spanish we understood two things--"no down" and "forward, forward".  So, we traveled along for a few more miles and found someone standing on the side of the road waiting for us.  
Yeah, no kidding--street deformed!  Every 3 kms we saw this sign!

This is where we stayed. Scenery--absolutely gorgeous; Location--snug up against the hillside and a 30 minute hike DOWN into the village of Vernazza. Down means eventually you have to come back up and let me just say it was not an easy up. The pale blue in the horizon is actually the sea.  We found our apartment on VRBO.  Most accommodations say they only rent for the week, but we found many willing to rent for 3 days, especially if you are booking last minute.  
You are going to see a lot of same looking pictures, I couldn't help myself--it is just so picturesque. And given we walked into the village more than once I took photos at different times of day.

It was actually quite fun to watch the waves come in--sometimes crashing against the seawall catching onlookers by surprise.
The Cinque Terre is known for its vista's, not its beaches. The beach at Vernazza isn't very nice; it's littered with sea trash and a lot of metal piping.  I would not recommend the beach here.

There are hiking trails between the 5 villages (cinque terre).  I would have liked to have hiked the entire trail, but alas we had to content ourselves with the route from Vernazza to Monterosso.  It's a 2 hour hike traversing the mountain.  The views are incredible and the trail while challenging, is totally manageable for children (even if they complain a bit). There was a toll booth at the trail head, but no one was manning it, so we hiked for free.  Not sure if this is a new policy or if we just got lucky.  
Coming upon this cat was a tender mercy--it was just the distraction we all needed.  He was totally sweet and contrary to the claim on the bin, he is clearly loved.

We are finally at the end of our hike and I can't believe I didn't take one picture of Monterosso!  I liked this village a lot. It had a real beach front, it was a little bigger and cleaner than Vernazza.  Given we still had a 45 minute hike waiting for us back to our house in Vernazza, I made the executive decision to ride the train back, much to the delight of my children.  If it were up to Bob, he would have had us hike both ways.  Two thumbs way up for the Cinque Terre!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Munich Monday--Romantic Road, Dinkelsbühl

My travel bff, Ricky (Rick Steves), only gives Dinkelsbühl 2 stars, but I found the city absolutely charming!  Truth be told, it's more of the same if you've been following my blog the last week where I've been covering sites along the Romantic Road.  Dinklesbühl is less touristy than it's big sister Rothenburg, but just as delightful, as a matter of fact, I preferred the colorful architecture here better. A medieval wall surrounds the old town and several of the towers still exist.  I bought a ceramic village from a gift shop and each piece represents a building in town, I love it! 

Getting into the town is very easy--there is a large parking lot just outside the old wall and even better, a clean public toilet as well. Only about 2 hours north of Munich, it's another easy day trip, but small enough you could combine a couple of towns along the Romantic Road into the same day.  Enjoy our photographic walk through Dinkelsbühl.