Monday, 29 June 2015

Italy - A Birthday in Cinque Terre

The day we arrived in Cinque Terre Ellie turned 10.  We were met at the train station by a man named Sergio.  He owned the guest cottage we were renting for the next four nights and didn’t mind taking time out of his day to pick us up at the station, bring us to the grocery store and help us select what we needed to eat for the next few days, and then drive us the 25 minutes it would take to get to the guest cottage on some pretty crazy hilly and windy roads that offered some spectacular views of the Mediterranean.  But before we jumped into his car, he said he had something for Ellie – a birthday cake!  A huge smile spread across her face as he reached into the back seat of his car and pulled out a round package wrapped in green paper and tied with ribbons.  She smiled from ear to ear all the way to the cottage with the birthday cake on her lap. 

Along the drive, Sergio stopped the car now and then and we would all pile out to take photos of the views.  This was our first glimpse of Vernazza, the little village we would be staying near.  It looked as if it was spilling out of the lush green valley into the crystal blue waters of the Mediterranean.

And about the drive – you’ve heard of expression “white knuckled” before, right?  Well this was a classic white knuckled drive – hilly, curvy, made you dizzy when you looked out the right window because of the precarious drop off type of drive.  The Mediterranean was below us to our right the entire way.  On the curves (and there were many), the valley wall would rise straight up on one side, and drop straight down on the other side of the road, leaving no room for error.  The road was so narrow in places that Sergio would beep the car horn as he neared a curve just in case another vehicle was coming from the other direction.  I hoped they were listening.  

After what seemed like much longer than 25 minutes, Sergio turned off the main road by a wine barrel and headed up a driveway lined with these beautiful discarded green jugs.   

For olive oil maybe?  Or wine?  I never found out but I sure wanted to take one home with me.  

Sergio brought us right up to the front of the cottage and parked the car before showing us around.  He didn’t have far to go to get home because he lives in the house on the terrace directly below this lovely little cottage.  In fact, he built the cottage himself, board by board and stone by stone.   

What an amazing job he did.  Besides being cozy 

and ridiculous adorable,  

it had everything we needed for our four night stay,

including a lovely olive tree right out front that was the perfect size for two little girls to play under and climb in.

It was perfect!  And out in front was a patio area with a grill, outdoor sink, a huge table, and a spectacular view.  

Which brings me back to Ellie’s birthday.  We arrived at the guest cottage midafternoon.  We put all our luggage away and were itching to make the 40 minute walk down the valley to the village of Vernazza, but first we had to see Ellie’s birthday cake… and maybe try some too.  It had come from a local bakery and the flaky crust held creamy layers of custard and chocolate.  And on top – “Happy Birthday Ellie!”

We sat in front of our wonderful little cottage looking down at the sparkling blue Mediterranean and savored every bite of that delicious cake, or tart, or whatever it was called.  

After a late lunch, the cake and a couple of glasses of wine, it was hard to pull ourselves away from that table and the view, but we wanted to venture down the steep hill to visit the little village of Vernazza before the sun set.  

Cute, colorful with the Mediterranean Sea lapping at it's feet - I think that is a fair description of this little town.  The walkway that juts out into the water forms a quiet little bay right next to the village where the girls spent time scrambling on the rocks and peering into the crystal clear water searching for sea creatures.   

We could have sat there for hours peering out at the sparkling waters of the Sea.  Even the camera man was lulled by the charm and beauty of this place.  

This wasn’t exactly the typical birthday celebration for Ellie, in fact this really wasn’t anything like any birthday she’s had before.  She was celebrating her tenth birthday in Italy.  She got a surprise birthday cake.  She played in the Sea.  There were lots of smiles.  I hope she remembers it well.


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