Friday, August 25, 2006

Vacation 2006

Saturday, July 22

Upon arriving at London Heathrow I jumped on the Heathrow Express to Paddington Station to meet Lisa. She greeted me with open arms and we scurried cross the station to catch the tube to Alan's place in the East end. The tube was hot, London was in the midst of a heatwave. After transferring three times we finally arrived at our destination and I enthusiastically dropped my bags in the middle of the floor, only to find that the Italian bread crumbs I had brought for Lisa had exploded in my bag. Alan came home from the pub, it was 11 am, and announced that he had lost his wallet the night before and had to make some calls before we embarked to Frinton on Sea. We then packed for the weekend and caught the tube to the train station and headed to the sea. Joan's B&B was a lovely old place just outside the gate of Frinton.

We dropped our bags in the rooms and headed to the beach. Frinton is a beautiful classic English resort town retaining much of it's past glory and very muted tourism.

The beach was just a short walk down mainstreet, where we stopped in a shop and bought a Pinot Grigio that Lisa likes to drink on the beach as we casually walked down to Walden on the Naze for dinner at the Attic.

A bit longer walk to Walden, about 4 miles or so down the beach, plenty of time to finish the wine as we caught up on the events of the past year and the anticipated fun that was expected in Italy. Walden was a bit more touristy with a game pier for children and many beach/tourist shops.

We meandered through the streets and into an old pub for a pint before dinner.

Dinner at the Attic was a treat, fresh oysters to start and a freshly steamed lobster for the main course. It drew the attention of all the customers as they found it very unusual to eat lobster this way. Normally lobster is boiled and cooled before it is served. Lisa had befriended the owners weeks before and convinced them that lobster needed to be steamed and served hot. She also had me bring them some Old Bay for their crabs. After dinner we caught a cab back to Frinton and walked down to the beach again where Alan decided he wanted to skinny dip in the sea, so he stripped and ran out into the water. I slept heavily, exhausted from jetlag.

Sunday July 23
Woke up early and had a chat with Joan who was preparing a large and proper English breakfast. I noticed pictures of her and Doris Day on the wall. Apparently they had become friends ten years earlier. After eating we headed down to the beach. An interesting thing about this beach is that it is totally lined with these "beach shacks", they literally run for miles between the two towns.

Alan was a bit hungover and went walking. Lisa and I sat on the beach for a while until it became crowded and Alan returned with a sunburned neck. We headed to the pub in Walden for lunch and a beer to quench our thirst and Alan's DT's. After lunch we walked further north along the beach hoping it would be less crowded, but alas it wasn't. Lisa set about building here Tower of London sandcastle.

But it was not to be either and soon caved in. I napped a bit after donning the iPod earbuds and soon it was time for dinner. Once again at the Attic, but this time I wanted something uniquely indigenous. I ordered the jellied eel, cockles, winkles, and smoked Mackerel.

After dinner we rode a cab back to Frinton and strolled down to the beach with some wine to watch the sun set.

Monday July 24

Kippers and eggs for breakfast! Just a little too much and too early. After breakfast we strolled down mainstreet and Lisa bought some flowers for Joan as a thank you. She couldn't talk Alan into a haircut though. We packed our bags, said our goodbyes, and meandered over to the train station to catch the next train to London.

Once back in London Alan went to his barber and Lisa and I went shopping for a garden hose. Lisa is very proud of her garden and although there is a ban on using a hose, she wanted it watered. A neighbor had obliged and she wanted to make it as easy as possible for him.

We stopped at the Theatre Pub for a pint after picking up a hose and groceries and as Lisa went to the bar to get the beers a guy across the patio began to lecture me about the hose ban. I retorted "the ban will not last forever and hoses are on sale!" Alan soon came round the corner with a fresh haircut and joined us. After a couple of pints we caught a bus back to the house and I prepared a nice dinner of barbequed chicken, fried zucchini, and fresh tomatoes. After dinner I laid on the couch, only to awaken at 2am and stumble to bed.

Tuesday July 25

Got up at 5 am and rushed off to the tube, even this early it had to be at least 95 degrees Fahrenheit, caught a train to Paddington Center and then the Stansted Express to Stansted airport. The que for RyanAir was a nightmare, there had to be at least 75 people in line and once we got to the counter Lisa went into shock that they had no computer monitor, only a printed sheet of passengers that the woman ticked next to our names. We had just enough time to have a quick bloody mary at the bar before rushing to the gate and stand in another que from hell. We finally boarded the plane and took off. We never seemed to level off and soon the captain announced we had to turn around and land back at Stansted, bloody hell! It seems the autopilot was not functioning correctly and it took another two hours to fix after we returned. Two hours spent on the plane waiting. We arrived in Genoa a little over two hours late and met up with Chris, our driver, who had the patience of a saint. Chris is a big man, i would guess 5 foot 10 inches and 300 pounds, and he owned a big van which he used in his business of driving around punk bands touring Europe. Just 45 minutes south of Genoa traffic came to a halt as we sat at the gape of a tunnel.

After an hour traffic began to crawl forward, but we never saw the wreckage or accident scene. At least we were moving again, now we are really late and Guiseppe was waiting at the Sarzana exit. Guiseppe did not speak english, but I think Alan was able to explain our predicament. As we exited the highway we were greeted by a smiling man with snow white hair and a sign around his neck reading "Guiseppe".

Following Guiseppe on his red scooter was akin to being in an Italian film as he wound his way to Lerici, stopping at an information booth to get a permit allowing us to drive through the town for the next hour. He took us past the port

and stopping at the main piazza for q quick picture of the castle on the hill.

Then Guiseppe took us up the road to the villa, through the small town of Pitelli and beyond, up the mountain on a very narrow winding road with switchbacks from hell. Somehow Chris manages to steer this van which is 21 feet long and 9 feet wide through the streets around traffic and perilously hold the edge of the road.

At last, just a hundred feet from the top we arrive at the villa

At first glance I thought the place was way too small, but the large part of the place was underground overlooking Sarzana. What a view of Carrerra! Alan pulled Guisseppe aside and asked about helping us get a rental car tomorrow and he said he would come by at 4 pm tomorrow to help us. Guisseppe was quite a character.

We unpacked the van and then went back to Pitelli to get some staple foods, beer , and wine. Had a light meal and decided to go for a quick swim, so we headed back down the mountain and parked at the non local lot where we caught the shuttle to the beach. It was still prety crowded, but Lisa, Alan, and I went for a nice evening swim as Chris watched our things on the beach. We then returned to the villa, cursing the size of the van as we went back. The sun was setting as we drank some wine on the patio and made plans for getting a car rental the next day. Exhausted, everyone went to bed a little early.

Wednesday July 26

Wednesday, August 16, 2006


The post as you go idea did not work as I found very few internet points in the area that we were staying and none of them had flash card readers, oh well.... I did have a great time and will begin transcribing my notes as soon as I get a little more caught up in daily affairs, give me a week or so and come back.


Wednesday, July 12, 2006

From here to Italy!!

I will be posting soon!