Join us on our new journey to Monaco and Europe! We are so excited, and want to share with you all of our exciting adventures...and maybe some, not so exciting! Thanks for joining us...

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Cinque Terre...Italy!!!

On May 2, three great friends from Beech Mountain, came to Monaco for 10 days of great adventure. Judy Hilsmier, Billie Jean Steele and Rosetta Bagans flew into Nice Airport, and we spent the weekend touring Monoco, Biot - France, St. Paul de Vence - France & Eze, France.

On Saturday, while touring the the city, a motorcade came by the police stopped us, so they could pass through heading into a garden show behind the Grand Opera House...which sits behind the Grand Casino. Billie & Ro were at the head of the pack, and they got a first hand view of Princess Caroline...close up!!! It was amazing!

Biot, where they make hand blown glass, in colors that are just so "Provence"... with a flower show going on in the middle of the charming town...each shop selling the wares of local artisans, along with a large warehouse outside of the village, that sells a conglomeration of all the artists work along with artists performing the art of glass blowing.

St. Paul de Vence - the village made famous by artists that came to the area a 100 years ago and painted for their room and board. The inn keepers did not know the "value" of some of these masters...and now, the collections are unimaginable. Matisse, Renoir, Dufy, Modigliani, Picasso, Miro, even Chagall, who is buried there. They came because of the light...amazing light.
We ate in a charming old chapel, that has since been turned into a restaurant. Many come to eat at the Colombe d'Or, which is at the gate of this majestic city, and is frequented by actors, artists and aristocrats. This Inn has the most extensive collection of the master's paintings & sculptures in the South of France. When you walk the cobblestone paths inside the village, you are amazed by the architecture, stone, ancient wood doors, and archways along with fountains that were the mainstay of the locals water supply in years past. It is an amazing village, and is one of Art's and my favorites....we frequent it often.

On our way back to Monte Carlo, we stopped off at another medieval village just a few kilometers outside of Monaco, high above on the cliffs, majestically overlooking Cap Ferrat...EZE Village. After walking up the long steps to get to this ancient town, full of the finest restaurants and darling shops, we toured the stone paths and had a drink at the famous Chevre d'Or hotel and restaurant, with a fabulous terrace overlook the sea. Sitting here, you can only imagine...what it would be like to have lived years back, or better yet, what it would be like to be able to truly "afford" the lifestyle that this area requires to enjoy ALL of the amenities of the upper crust of Europe.

After Art's wonderful chauffeuring of his harem, we left him in Monaco and headed out into Italy. We spent four nights in Cinque Terre, a region of the Italian Riviera, that is Southeast of Genoa and Northwest of Pisa. This area has become a mecca for American tourists of late, and has thus been taken over by Italy's National Park System, preserving this area of working villages known for their wine making, hanging on cliffs aside the olive farms, and down towards the waters edge, with the small, quaint harbours and ramps with fishing boats galore. The food, wines, craftsmanship and logistics of these cliff side villages, you will understand the desire for the abundance of tourists flocking to this area. I will say, you must be capable of hiking these paths to truly understand the beauty, but, for the less able, there is a train between the villages as well as a ferry boat to jump you from village to village.

We stayed in Monterosso al Mare, the Northern most village, and visited them all, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manorola, & Riomaggiore. The group chose to follow their guide...ME...along with Rick Steve's...who has written a series of wonderful touring books, and after following HIS lead for places to stay, dining preferences along with wonderful history lessons and walking tours, I would greatly recommend them to anyone travelling through Europe...We had Rick Steve's Italy 2008....and it became our "bible" for this trip!

Food, now, this was the REASON for the hikes between towns...we had a lovely breakfast each morning at our lovely B & B, and then headed out for the next town, knowing that our wonderful treat would be a fabulous Ligurian meal, with Pestos sauces & cream sauces with walnuts and pine well as the freshest fish, and of course, local Ligurian Wines...WHAT A TREAT...Pasta, fish, bread...salad...amazing!!!! And of course, midday we were treated with some Italian ice creams, Gelato!!! Dinner became a ritual for a couple of nights at The Belvedere, which had one of the most amazing dishes we ever saw, a fish stew that was presented in hand made crockery, and poured, table side, into a large bowl for us to feast on. The photo shows the steam coming off as the waiter pours the stew! Can you smell it? Amazing!!!

On Thursday, after visiting ALL of the villages, we headed north to Santa Margherita and Portofino, by train...what an experience this was. Santa Margherita is the larger of the two seaside towns, very large, lots of cathedrals, and bustling with a large harbour, many hotels and beaches preparing for the summer season the the Italian Riviera ahead. After a GREAT lunch in a "locals" restaurant, with some of the finest pasta of the trip, we walked on to Portofino, and was amazed at the "Nantucket" style village that was nestled along the water...with the finest of shops, restaurants and galleries we had seen anywhere in the area. This is what we call in Florida the "Gold Coast"... you can just picture Liz Taylor and either of her husbands, Richard Burton or Eddie Fisher, Ava Gardner, Truman Capote or even Rex Harrison who dropped his Oscar in the bay (it was recovered) sitting along the sea in a cafe', reading the tabloids and being photographed by the paparazzi...just imagine!!!

Returning to Monterosso on the train, we enjoyed our last night of dining in this absolutely fabulous area...only to have to leave in the morning...after some haggling with a few shop keepers and finding our favorite souvenirs...we headed back towards Monaco. This weekend, we toured more of Monte Carlo, and the Rose Garden that was an inspiration of Princess Grace...and again, walked and walked as the locals do, enjoying Calamari on the beach in Cap d'Ail...and just showed off our wonderful city to our friends.

Sunday was the Vintage Grand Prix in Monaco...two weeks before the Formula One event. Antique Race Cars in all the classes with champion drivers from a different era, driving them around the track, to the liking of a modest crowd...but never the less, so impressive. The excitement was there, but the sound of those "Formula One Race Cars" was not...thank Goodness.

Our time together was fabulous, we talked, and laughed and got along so wonderfully's a trip that I hope none of them ever forget, and I know, I never will...But, I will say, Cinque Terre, I will be back!!!

1 comment:

Pat Aube Gray said...

Okay, I now know I must get my personal trainer and get in fantastic walking condition before even thinking of going to visit you! I would hate to miss all that because I couldn't make the walk! SOunds incredible. Your friends were lucky to have you as their vacation guide.