Saturday, May 20, 2006

Day 17: Lerici-Bordighera

It is overcast again this morning but I am still out on our room terrace early, writing and enjoying the view. After another delicious Doria Park breakfast and a last session on the wireless internet, we pack and wrestle the bags up the 70 + stairs to the parking lot. The trip from Lerici to Bordighera is a straight shot on the autostrada but this section of the autostrada has many tunnels which tends to slow up the trip and also makes it--for me--more tiring than usual. In fact, even though the route parallels the Mediterranean, there are not all that many glimpses of the sea from the autostrada.

As we approach San Remo, the hills are covered with glass greenhouses. This area--known as the Riviera dei Fiori (Riveria of Flowers)--is the center of the commercial flower growing business; the climate is very mild throughout the winter so most of Italy's florists are supplied from here. The road from the autostrada to Bordighera descends sharply to the town, past a number of large villas and the old city, which is perched just above the beach and the modern town. There is a very beautiful park along this road, with pine trees, picnic tables, fountains, benches and wonderful views over the Mediterranean.

Our hotel, Il Piccolo Lido , is located on the the lungomare Argentina--mostly a pedestrian street--that runs along the beach. Our third floor room has a balcony that overlooks the beach and the Mediterranean with views down the coast towards San Remo and up the other way towards Nice. We hear the sounds of the waves breaking on the shore and have a birds-eye view of all the activity below. The day has turned sunny--this part of Liguria was a resort area for the British during the 19th century because of its climate--but the sea is pretty rough. There are a lot of people lying on the rocky beach but only a couple seem to be actually getting near the water.

Lungomare Argentina-- the beach is right in front of our hotel

We eat lunch in the hotel dining room (we get in just before it closes at 1:30 pm) and the food is quite good. I have very light gnocchi with a good pesto sauce and perfectly fried calamari. Diana has ravioli and baked fish--also very good. But there is something about the hotel dining room atmosphere--one is that they keep all the windows closed up tight--that is not comfortable for us so it is unlikely that we will be eating there during our stay.

After lunch, we take a stroll on the busy lungomare crowded with families and weekend visitors.....there are beach club/bar/restaurants lining the waterfront side and other restaurants, parks, benches, bars and playgrounds on the other side. We see that we could have had lunch at any number of places with water views but we will do that another day. The train tracks are just on the other side of the lungomare and every so often, there are tunnels that allow access under the tracks. The lungomare (which actually goes on for a mile and has no through traffic or parking) is beautifully planted and maintained and very clean--it seems like our hotel has an excellent location.

The hotel has a high speed internet connection with wireless access but only in the lobby, so I go down there to do some work. Later in the afternoon, the wind picks up significantly, the sea gets very rough and the beach empties out completely. We have to close our windows because of the wind but you can hear it howling inside the closed up room. I take this opportunity to do some exploring--it is much less windy as soon as you get away from the beach. There is an old church on the point just to the left of our hotel and I walk past there down to the small but crowded port area. The centro storico of Bordighera is located on the hill immediately on top of the hotel and in order to get there, you climb the hill through the pretty park that we had passed on the way into town.

The centro storico is small but has a surprising number of small lanes and alleys that curl around the central piazza. There is a church on the main square and probably ten restaurants packed into the small area. After I have walked around for a while, I climb down the hill to the commercial area of the modern city. The business district runs parallel to the beach and the railroad tracks and it is essentially one long street perhaps 1.5 miles long. It is a busy Saturday afternoon and I walk up and down scouting out places where we might eat or shop during our six days in Bordighera. I also find the tourist office and pick up some maps and brochures. It isn't a particularly stylish or fashionable main street (one of the cross streets is more elegant) but it looks like a busy, pleasant town. I find one of the tunnels under the tracks and make my way down the lungomare (with some difficulty due to the wind) back to the hotel.

We decide to do some exploring by car and drive around the town, up to the old city where we park in the large public lot and take a stroll around the historic center, checking out some places for dinner. Then we drive along the Via Romana where the British built some of their large vacation mansions...the ones that are left are now hotels or apartments. One of the largest was occupied by the Nazis during World War II and is still in ruins today. There are beautiful trees and flowers everywhere.....bougainvilleas climb the walls all over town. We head back driving down the long main street which takes some time due to the car and foot traffic on this late Saturday afternoon.

Back at the hotel, we call the two places that are listed in the Slow Food Guide to Osterie but they are both booked for the evening. We decide to walk down to the closest restaurants on the beach front but the three that we try all have private parties and have no room for us. Who knew that we would have so much trouble finding a place to eat in Bordighera on a Saturday night? We then get back in the car (it is in the hotel garage) and drive into town to find a restaurant that can seat us.

I drop Diana off at one that we had passed earlier--Barba Giulan--and she comes out to say we can eat there. The restaurant is very dark and decorated with lots of strange "stuff"....we are seated next to a terrarium with some cactus. There are four tables occupied and for the first ten minutes we are there, the staff seems to disappear. A couple comes in and waits and waits and waits until they are greeted and seated. But all turns out well...the waiter is friendly and anxious to practice his English as he recites the menu to us. In fact, the dinner--typical old Ligurian cuisine--is both fun and tasty. Everything is cooked to order and all the dishes (both pasta and second courses) are served in metal skillets. The waiter is very attentive to the bell that signals that an order is ready to come out of the kitchen and frequently will stop in mid-sentence to run into the kitchen to get the food. Diana has the gnocchi with pesto...a cheesier version than the dish I had for lunch, but very tasty and shrimp with spinach...the shrimp, as usual, are awkward to eat but are good and the spinach cooked in the same pan is teriffic. I have tagliatelle with a very rich rabbit ragu--also cheesy--and a stew (spezzatino) of mixed meats--rabbit, beef, sausage, pork, etc.--which is also delicious. We also have dessert--hazelnut semi-freddo for me and lemon tart for Diana--which were superfluous but good. The wine--a local white called Pignato--was light, crisp and refreshing. So in the end, we don't t starve on this Saturday night in Bordighera and end up having a good experience and a good meal.

Back at the hotel, the sea is still roiling and the wind is still stiff, so we have to close our windows and shutters tight. Tomorrow, we will head to into the Ligurian hills--weather permitting.


Post a Comment

<< Home