08 July, 2014

Day 5: South from Corniglia

We wandered into "town" and there were a few breakfast places along the main alley. On the way there, I tried to take out some cash, and was unsuccessful. The card was rejected. I tried several times, but it wouldn't work. I assumed that this must mean my card was blocked, though that didn't seem right because it worked in Germany. I tried to sort it out using their website via my phone, but it wasn't loading right, so I decided to call the bank. I am not sure why I felt the need to deal with it right then and there, but that's my OCD thing about not liking to have "problems" that are not being addressed. They tell me that they'll authorize my card for travel, and they ask me about 10 different personal questions to prove I am who I say I am. We pass all the identity validation, and he's finishing up the transaction, and the call drops. Ugh. I can't be bothered to call back now.

So, we decide to have breakfast at this little shop called Caffe Matteo, which has free Wi-Fi, and we have omelettes and coffee, and maybe toast? And it was decent, but not fantastic, but definitely a nice atmosphere, and friendly people. We particularly liked that they served large, strong (Americano) coffee. It's hard to find anything larger than a thimble of coffee in Europe, and I even had several days on this trip where I had headaches because I never got the amount of caffeine that I routinely ingest when home.

I tried withdrawing cash again, and the card was still rejected. And I saw other people take out cash, so now I am certain that my card has been blocked. I call the bank again, and this representative tells me that actually the problem is not due to "traveling" but that the network that these ATMs are part of probably isn't accepted by my bank. He said this must be the case because they don't even have a record of attempted transactions. So there was actually nothing I could do but wait until we come across a different kind of ATM (which we did). Another example of how, sometimes, trying to solve something immediately is futile, and it's better just not to worry. But, of course, I still worry. It's my nature. Always looking for the next thing to worry about.

Today, we decided we'd check out the two towns to the south of Corniglia: Manarola & Riomaggiore. The plan, which we executed, was to hike to Manarola and then take the train to Riomaggiore and back. To hike to Manarola, one might normally take that special Trail #2, which would be flat and easy, But that trail has been closed for quite a long time now due to a previous flood and landslide. That would have been the trail that requires a pass. Instead, we hiked on trails 7a, 6d and, I think, 6p. The "p" stands for "panorama" if I am not mistaken. Here's the basic description of this hike: 1) Go up, up, up, up, for 45-60 minutes; 2) Go across a high ridge through vineyards and a small town, over roughly flat terrain, albeit on a cliff-side; 3) Go down, down, down, down, for about 45-60 minutes into Manarola. The views all along the way are amazing. First, there are amazing views looking back down onto Corniglia. Then there are amazing views of the vineyards. Then there are amazing views of Manarola in the distance. Everything about this hike was fantastic, except that about two-thirds of the way through it began raining torrentially. Fortunately, we had our raincoats and were able to don them before getting too wet. But our shoes and shorts were not dry. It was a brief but heavy storm. The way down into Manarola seemed quite long, because we had slowed down, probably from being tired, but also being cautious on wet footing.

When we arrived in Manarola, we were slightly underwhelmed. It was much more touristy, and the things that there were to see and do were not all that compelling. Maybe there was a part of the town that we didn't notice, but I don't think so. But, then again, according to my previous assertion in my last entry about how a town doesn't seem great unless you spend enough time to discover its greatness... perhaps I am a victim of my own observation.

We checked out Manarola for maybe an hour, and then we were done with it. There were a lot of tourists there, and a couple of tour groups. Then we got out of there. If I remember correctly, there was a long tunnel to walk through to get to the train and back. Sadly, Manarola and Riomaggiore are probably blending together in my memory a bit. I have taken good notes about the trip on the day-of, but not with enough detail to remember some of the finer points, and it was now about a week ago. Exactly a week, in fact.

We took the train to Riomaggiore. My recollection of this town is that it was prettier than Manarola. It was still feeling more touristy (still liking Corniglia the best). But we liked it enough to want to spend a little time there. We had a coffee in the cafe of Hotel Larza, which was a small hotel that didn't look like it was even a hotel... just another of the typical buildings of Cinque Terre. The people who worked there were nice, and we were pretty much the only ones in there. It was a nice rest for our feet, and we needed the caffeine boost. Then we wandered around a bit, eventually finding a small market, and decided to purchase some mixed olives (Allie's were wrapped with sardines -- ick), and I got a donut peach. We walked down to the marina, which was kind of pretty, and sat there in the sun and ate our stuff. He had given us a lot of olives, due to the language barrier (mista = mix, but does not specify "a few" or "many" of each). After that, we didn't spend much longer in Riomaggiore. We were tired. A lot of these days with hikes in the sun made us just want to go vegetate. We took the train back to Corniglia. On one of these trains, just after boarding, a man started yelling in the aisle. It was not entirely clear what he was saying, because most of it was Italian, but the gist of it was "Stop those two girls! Pickpockets! Stop them! Get them off the train!" There were two girls, probably 10-11 years old, making their way up the aisle, ahead of his calls. Everyone was turning their heads, but nobody stopped them, and they managed to slip into the next car. It is unclear if they were ultimately stopped. It is also equally unclear if they were actually pickpockets. Who knows, right?

We arrived back at Corniglia, and took the bus up the hill, which arrived perfectly timed, if I remember correctly. On the way back to the apartment, we stopped in the small shop so that I could buy the wine that was "the wine of my father" -- who knows if it actually is? There's something weird that I don't understand with Cinque Terre, which is that most of the wine says Sassarini on the bottles, but I guess that's maybe the vineyards? I don't really understand the nomenclature. I learned subsequently that Sassarini is in Monterosso. I think that there are probably many people who make wines in Cinque Terre, and they get the grapes from these estates? That's my guess. This was one of those wines, and it was pretty good. The main grape in the Cinque Terre, if I recall correctly, is Vermentino. Not that you asked...

Then we rested. Then I did yoga.

Then we found our way down to a restaurant that was to be one of the highlights of our trip: Enoteca Il Pirun. The owner, Mario, who we met after dinner was quite a character (we actually briefly met him before dinner, but didn't have conversation with him at that point).The restaurant had the bar on the first floor, and then the dining was up some narrow stairs on a second floor. The cooks were upstairs on the third floor, and the servers would run up and down the stairs bringing plates to the diners. We had a bottle of wine, also Cinque Terre. It was good. Allie had mussels with spaghetti. I can't remember what I had, but it was very good. We also had some sort of appetizer, maybe, but I can't remember. Sigh. I wish I had all the details. I told you I take notes, but apparently not enough notes! Need better notes.

So we had the dinner, and we had a conversation with a really friendly Swiss couple sitting next to us. They were a bit older than us, but they seemed incredibly romantic for their age. I know that sounds funny. But it's nice to see people being romantic at 50-something. Hopefully that will be us in a few years. Interesting that we keep seeing Swiss people. We also noticed a young couple diagonally behind us who seemed to be speaking German as well (they turned out to be Swiss, too, as we found out subsequently). There was a pair of American girls sitting diagonally in front of us who appeared to be the kind of travel companions who might have been traveling together for so long that they were starting to get on each others' nerves? I don't know why I got that vibe. They both just seemed kind of like the backpacker types, but also a bit high-maintenance. They were both reading books at dinner. Not talking much. They shared a pasta with salmon and cream sauce dish for two persons. I know you needed to know this. It will, someday, be vital to everything you hold dear. And now you have the facts, just for that purpose.

After dinner, we found our way down the stairs, fully pleased, and we had to pay the bill at the bar, with Mario, the owner. He was a white-haired, friendly man of maybe late-50s? Apologies to Mario if he's younger! We somehow talked about wine a tiny bit, and he immediately offered us to try *his* wine, which was *not* Sassarini, but from his own grapes. It was good. He turned his nose up at Sassarini a bit, which we found amusing, even though we don't have the context. That type of thing is always entertaining, seeing the pride of the smaller craftsman versus the big fish in the sea. He gave us a taste of another wine, and then he also gave us a taste of a dessert wine. We talked a little tiny bit about music, since he was playing good music, and we talked about wine, and it made a perfect night.

After that, what was there to do but go to sleep, having had a perfect end to a long day?

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