Saturday, July 9, 2011

We Made It (Barely) to the Italian Riviera

This morning we gave the kids some time off for good behavior before getting back on the road to head to our final destination, Rapallo, Italy.  They were so excited that the hotel had a pool so we gave them some time to cool off and have some fun before the next 4 1/2 hour stretch of driving.

Loving the pool

In just a year Aidan has become a total fish

Liam...has not

The kids once again were great in the car - no complaints there at all! As we drove thru the countryside, which was beyond stunning (sorry no pictures, too hard at 130km/hr) we saw signs for Monaco. Being that it's Monaco, we had to stop of course!

View just before we reached Monaco

And wow, that's all I can say... just wow! It didn't feel as overly pretentious as I thought it would be but at the same time, it was oozing money and the views were some of the most amzing I've ever seen. Surrounded by some of the tallest mountains I've seen as well, it was nestled right into the Mediterranean coast.

We saw a sign for exotic gardens and it looked like it would have a great view of the city so we stopped to park the car for a bit. Not only were the gardens and the view beautiful, but there was a fantastic playground for all the kids to enjoy. A great way to mark our halfway point for the day.

A cranky (recently woken up) Liam checks out a huge hole in a tree

The entrance to the, we're not in Kansas any more... talk about a NICE city park!

View from just below the park

Liam sized swing

This does not even come close to the perspective of how the mountains actually looked - they were soooo tall and amazing!

Casino - picture 1

Casino - picture 2 - would have loved to have gone in just to check it out but somehow thought the 4 kids might be a not so great idea...

 Once again we got back on the road and now these roads have become more like stretch after stretch of incredibly high, narrow bridges (Mom, I can see you having an issue with this when I can't even get you to cross the Bourne Bridge without a panic attack). They went on for just about the rest of our trip and though I may have played the backseat driver a time or two (or ten, sorry Michelle) about how to drive on them, the views were once again spectacular. So far the French Riviera and the Italian Riviera are some of the most beautiful places I've seen. I thought it was Provence and it's up there, but man, these were gorgeous. And no, I didn't get pictures because once again we were driving too fast (it was the highway after all).

My only highway picture from Monaco to Rapallo

We finally made it to the town border of Rapallo around 7:30ish. Our GPS, named now Sofia Conchita (Sophia our Italian name and Conchita our Spanish one), had been leading us on pretty well to this point. That is, til we were maybe 800 meters from our apartment. The road took a 90 degree turn to the left even though technically it was the same street but the GPS map showed us going straight. Hmmm...what to do. I voted go straight... Michelle apparently agreed with me and she probably is still damning me right now.

The road straight ahead was definitely the road less travelled... for sure. Within about 50 feet we came across a family walking towards us. By this time we'd already pulled in the side view mirrors so they wouldn't hit the high walls that were next to us. Our only options since it was so narrow was to continue forward or back up. They pressed themselves against a wall for us to pass but said nothing.

We continued on...but now Sofia Conchita has told us to make a U turn. Ummmm... where? I have to give kudos to Michelle, because at this point I would have been panicking and hyperventilating about what to do. I think we all just hoped the road would end soon. But no, suddenly this narrow street that BARELY fit our car now took a 90 degree left turn with the water well below us on the other side. Again, people are looking at us funny but no one is saying anything. I wish I'd been taking pics or vidoes in hindsight so you can truly get the picture of how tight this space was. Don't forget, we are in a Europe...where cars are the size of a tin can! At this point I suggested to Michelle that perhaps we should try to turn around - she yelled at me and I deserved it... where was she supposed to turn when we were completely enclosed on both sides????

Shortly thereafter we saw more people. This time there was a woman who had a look on her face of pure horror. She had her pocketbook in front of her and pressed against the building by her as we went by. We may have run over her toes we were that close. And still, no one has said anything to us. We've probably travelled at least a mile and a half at this point on this tiny road.  And Michelle has expressed several times about her fear of the police arresting us for driving somewhere we probably shouldn't!

Thankfully the road continued on (we were worried eventually we'd hit a dead end) and we just hoped once again it would end soon at a bigger road. But we came up to yet another roadblock... this time a stone wall on our right side and motorcycles on the left. How to get by them. At this point there are many people gathering and looking at us. One man made what looked like the "I squish you" with his fingers (Monte Python for those who don't know) and said "your car is tooooo little for here - this is a pedestrian walkway". Are you f*ing kidding us? This isn't even a real road???? And why have none of the people we passed so far said something??

Kelly and I jumped out of the car but unfortunately Michelle had already scraped a little bit of the side of the car. Kelly and I jumped up on the stone wall and pushed against the car (and yes, it did work - we are uber strong!!!) in the hopes of at least getting it to not press against the rocks as Michelle went by. One guy kept telling us to turn right but hello, if you turn right we'll move tighter to the rocks. 

The car bumping right against the rocks

Michelle really took this so well - I would probably have freaked out

Car pressed against the rocks and yes you can see the scratch

Finally we had an angel sent from above. A guy who spoke English who helped get the motorcycles out of the way so Michelle could straighten out. For a moment the road was wide enough for people to stand next to the car and not be squished against any walls. The man told us his father would take us the rest of the way, leading us with his moped. Kelly and I were still out of the car and will admit that we jumped ship. We couldn't stop laughing about the situtation - at this same time apparently Michelle was telling all 4 kids we'd abandoned her in her time of need and there fore she should leave without us... only then she realized she'd be on vacation with all 4 kids alone. She obviously reconsidered that thought.

We went by a small group of kids whom we think were swearing at the stupid Americans in the big car on the pedestrian walkway. Again, Kelly and I are laughing uncontrollably and started taking video (which should have been done wayyyyy sooner).

A picture I took as Kelly and I were walking to catch up with the car - I'm sure Michelle appreciated that I stopped to take it since it's so pretty :)

And this one too...

Finally we made it out of there and found the building - thank you to our moto guy for guiding us out of there! We unpacked our stuff and by now it's getting late and no one has eaten decently since breakfast. We took a walk in the search of some pizza. It's about 9PM now.

Aidan and Liam posing by the beach

We went to a place that Michelle and Kelly found on the way back from finding parking for the car (yet a whole other adventure that actually took Michelle to ANOTHER town and then back to the street next to ours, ironically). It was a little pizza/restaurant place that looked cute.

When we entered, the owner told us in Italian (which none of us speak) that there was no room in the outdoor dining for us. We could tell instantly that he didn't really like us for some reason. So we went inside where we were the only people and asked if we could sit. The woman gave us a bit of a dirty look and pointed to the table. We sat... and we sat for more than 20 minutes before anyone even brought us a menu. They obviously didn't want us there.

Finally after more than 20 minutes the owner comes by and asks if we speak Italian or anything else. I offer up Spanish but apparently that is not good enough and he gives me a very dirty look. Honestly this has been the first time I've come across a rude European. Yes they have the reputation but in my year and a half of living here I've never actually dined in a restaurant where someone is so rude. But we're STARVING and beggars can't be choosers. He tells us the woman speaks English and will be with us soon.

A few minutes later we have a tablecloth and menus. It's now after 9:30 and everyone is on meltdown, including the adults but I have to say we all held it together pretty good overall. It could have been much much worse since we had 4 kids (3 of which are pretty young) with us. We give them our order and Michelle attempted to get an actual drink...the nerve!! She tells Michelle that the kitchen is too busy and can't make her one. We ordered milk for all 4 kids. Turns out she only could give us milk for 3 and the cold milk we ordered came out warm instead. And yes I know I need to specifically ask for cold in Europe and that is what I had done.

Thankfully our food was fantastic and we left on full and happy bellies. Michelle said during the dinner that she thinks they actually told us the restaurant was full for the evening and not that they couldn't seat 7. We can't be sure but if that's the case then I feel badly for forcing ourselves upon them. But perhaps they could have explained that a little better... oh wait, we don't speak Italian. For a moment I think back to Spain and how far I have apparently come in my Spanish because I pretty much can always communicate my needs. It makes me a feel a little helpless not being able to communicate in their native tongue, though we know the woman speaks English and probably could have said something to us nicely instead of them treating us like dirt. We obviously won't be going back.

I took the kids back to the apartment as Kelly and Michelle settled the bill. Only I couldn't remember which one on the first floor was ours. Shit!!! So I've got all 4 kids and it's now 11 and they aren't the quietest bunch. I try the door I think it is and my key won't fit. I try the next door and it won't fit there either and I don't want to knock on either because it's late and how can I explain in my non-Italian that I just don't know where we live because I wasn't paying attention to which of the 4 doors it was on our floor? So I take the kids back outside and we sit on the steps to wait and tell Michelle and Kelly that embarrassingly, I don't know where to go.

Aidan wanted another shot by the beach on the way back to our apartment

But he insisted on posing alone and not with the group

We finally get everyone settled down and here I am writing away.  Despite the bumps in the road today it was a fantastic day - the scenery stunning and this town is beyond gorgeous - I can't wait to explore it.  The view from my room is of the Mediterranean a matter of meters away from us and come on, we're in Italy, we can't beat that can we???  Our apartment is amazing (pictures to follow tomorrow).  So the trip can only get better from here and I can't wait to see what adventures we have coming up over the next week.  Stay tuned!!


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