Sunday, June 05, 2005

Day 20: Lerici

A lazy morning.....after a large Doria Park breakfast, we sit on the terrace and relax--reading, writing and watching the Gulf of La Spezia. At around noon, we walk to the castle along the "high" road above the harbor. We then head down into the small bay on the other side of the point where boats are moored and people are swimming--both off the boats and on the small sand beach. As we walk along, I smell something cooking and we discover a beach club below us with a restaurant that has a terrace overlooking the bay. This is too serendipitous to pass up, so we decide to have lunch.

That the food was good is a bonus.....our table is right on the partial shade...and we have a great vantage point to watch all the goings on while we eat. There are several large groups eating at the of them having been ferried in on a small rowboat from one of the sailboats moored in the harbor. My mussels are terrific, served in a wine broth with a heavy lemony accent (there are small pieces of lemon floating in the broth). Diana has a good pasta with pesto and a very nice traditional local cake....torta della nonna (grandmother's cake)...which it frequently very good in Liguria. After a half liter of wine, we walk back to the hotel the easier way--through the tunnel that leads to the fishing port.

More rest in the afternoon--after all, this is our "vacation from our vacation".

We go back down the hill around 6:30 pm for a pre-dinner gelato and to watch the last of the late Sunday afternoon "passeggiata" along the waterfront. We look on with amusement as one member of a family group of more than twenty people tries to organize them for dinner and meets resistance from all fronts. They finally head off to a restaurant that serves both pizza and gelato...which seems to satisfy most of the party.

We have dinner at En Tragia, one of the few restaurants without outside tables; it was recommended to us by a local American who lives in a town near Lerici, where she organizes private tours for small groups The place is very crowded and there are several large English speaking family groups, who appear to be regulars at the restaurant. We enjoy our dinner although the noise from the large parties is a bit disconcerting. Diana has marinated alici (anchovies) and a big heap of fried shrimp which are good. My spaghetti alle vongole is excellent, lots of very (non-traditionally) meaty clams, and my fritto misto is okay. We drink a very nice local whiite wine made from a grape called Vermentino--light, fresh and it goes down easy. The waiter is very pleasant...he keeps telling us (in English) that he doesn't speak English. He does explain to us that the name of the restaurant come from the word in the local dialect for "pebbles". He tells us that in the old days the beach came right up to the door of the restaurant and there was a pebbly beach right in front--therefore the name.

After dinner, we sit in the new piazza and listen to some street musicians entertain the people eating in the outdoor restaurants and then we climb the hill to the hotel. Tomorrow we will visit the Hotel Europa, a nearby hotel that the Doria Park has purchased and plans to renovate. After that, we may do some shopping.

P.S. from Diana: On this trip, during the mini-vacation in Lerici, and while Jim works, writes these reports, and sleeps I have read and enjoyed The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Hadden; Mr. Paradise by Elmore Leonard; The Life of Pi by Yann Martel; The Known World by Edward P. Jones; Pretty Birds by Scott Simon; From Liguria With Love: Capture, Imprisonment and Escape in Wartime Italy by Michael Ross; Iris Origo: Marchesa of Val D'Orcia by Caroline Moorehead; Omaha Blues: A Memory Loop by Joseph Lelyveld; Pagan Holiday: On the Trail of Ancient Roman Tourists by Tony Perrottet; The Liberated Bride by A. B. Yehoshua. Not a dud in the lot and a few, like the Jones and Yehoshua novels, truly outstanding. I'm writing this in Rome, with 3 days and a plane trip and two books left. I should be OK. Jim is now taking a nap - an uncommon occurance - and so although I do proof-read and edit his reports, I'm now getting some prolonged computer time myself. This has been a wonderful trip, as usual. What a life- to be able to get away for so long, have such a loving, knowledgable and enthusiatic companion and guide, and be in this endlessly fascinating, beautiful country. Is there any place so varied, so rich in history and art and so physically beautiful -and in such a relatively small space? Not to mention the people, food and wine. There is an attitude toward life that seems well worth emulating. Easier to do on vacation and without one's daily responsibilities. Poor Jim had too much work to do on this trip - but that also makes these trips possible. I hope all is going well with all of you, back in the "real world" and thanks for following along on our journey.


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