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Monterosso

Oceanside views on the hike to Vernazza

On our first sunny morning in Monterosso, the hiking trails of the Cinque Terre beckoned to us. (By beckoned, I mean that the adults woke, bleary-eyed, at sunrise, sought out coffee, and waited impatiently for the children to arise. When that didn’t occur naturally, they were rousted unceremoniously out of bed.)


We set off for the trails at 10:00 in the morning. The “ideal” hike in this region would start earlier than that…..the weather would be cooler and the trails less crowded but compromise is part of every family vacation. Also, sleep is important. Well-rested tweens are more agreeable tweens.

The trail heads steeply out of old town Monterosso, hugging the seaside cliffs and affording glorious oceanfront views. This trail is 3.5 km (2.2 miles) with 804 feet of elevation gain. We completed this in an hour and 15 minutes. There are multiple sets of stairs, some decent climbs, treks through lemon groves and vineyards, and a final, steep descent into the town of Vernazza. The views along the way are stunning with vast ocean panoramas, glimpses of daily life in the orchards and vineyards, and a bird’s eye view of Vernazza at the crest of the final hill. The trail is quite manageable but occasionally is narrow. There are some uphill portions but it is well balanced with long stretches of flat trail. Take your time on this one, the beauty is definitely in the journey here.
As an aside, you will see many notices in the Cinque Terre regarding the dangers of hiking on the trails. We are from Montana and are quite accustomed to narrow, steep, rocky hikes. The trails of the Cinque Terre are no more challenging than what we routinely climb at home. That being said, be smart. Wear appropriate footwear (no sandals, flip flops, open-toed shoes), bring sunscreen, snacks, and water, and know your abilities. If you are in poor health or significantly out of shape, this might not be the adventure for you.


But I digress.


Upon arriving in Vernazza we climbed up, up, up again through the narrow village streets to Al Casello, a restaurant perched seemingly on the edge of the cliff. The absolute best feature of this restaurant is the view. Stunning 360-degree oceanfront vistas are a lovely backdrop to lunch. Some of the food was really great, some just good. The mussels were quite delicious. Service was quite hit or miss. After paying the bill in a backroom (cash only), the owner allowed us a shot of her very delicious homemade limoncello.


We set off from there along the continuation of the trail to the next village, Corniglia. This trail is much more open and therefore, much less shaded. It gets hot in the middle of the day. This is a 4 km (2.5 miles) trail with an elevation gain of 765 feet which we covered in an hour and a half. We shopped here for some small souvenirs and had gelato at Albergo’s. This is some of the best gelato in the region and worth the hike to find it. From Corniglia, we descended a long staircase to the train station where we hopped the train back to Monterosso.

Vernazza
Big lemons in Corniglia

The afternoon was spent beachside again. While the adults lounged in shaded chaise lounges, the girls took a paddle boat out into the bay and spent many happy hours in the water.

Endless hours of entertainment!

We wrapped up the evening with dinner at Ciak where we ate on the outdoor patio. This place is simply stunning. Delicious, authentic, Ligurian cuisine served in large crockery dishes. The mussels were quite amazing and squid ink risotto was delicious. Service was generally good although lagged a bit once our food was served. The flavors here are exceptional and it’s well worth a stop. Reservations recommended.

The cost of doing business (4 people):

Groceries: €6.10

Snack: €17

Focaccia: €5.70

Cinque Terre Card: €20

Lunch: €67.50

T-shirt: €28

Gelato: €12

Dinner (for 8 people): €150

Beach: €35

Train tickets: €32

Breakfast: €7

An Interlude in the Interlude

There hasn’t been much travel lately, for obvious reasons. We have largely settled into our new lives at home but we yearn for the days of carefree travel and adventure. Months before the advent of coronavirus in our country I had requested a few days off in October. My plan was to attend a professional conference that was scheduled for that weekend. We can all surmise what happened with said conference. But I still had those days off work and they beckoned to me with possibility. Obviously, they would afford me some extra time to spend with my girls. I had to wonder, though, if there were other opportunities hidden in this situation that I just hadn’t recognized yet.

For over a decade now, we have traveled with our dear friends at least a few times a year. We have a summer camping trip with them every August and a girls only Nutcracker weekend with them every December. Many years we also take a winter vacation with them to either Mexico or Hawaii. A handful of times they have visited at our home or at our cabin. The last time we were at their house, though, was when I was newly pregnant with my second child (she is now 11 years old). They live far away and it just didn’t work to get back there.

It had been on my mind for some time, this lack of a visit. People used to go visiting all the time. Now it seems that we go places and do things but we rarely visit. It seemed that my fortuitous few days off in October might be used for a visit.

Our friends live in the far northeast corner of Washington state, in a rural area where they garden and run a small vineyard. It seemed an idyllic place to escape from reality for awhile.

Given the current state of affairs we determined that the safest way to travel was to book a vacation rental so we weren’t sharing a living space with anyone else. In a small town it is not always easy to find a vacation rental but we totally lucked out. We found this newly built, absolutely adorable rental located just minutes from the river. If you’re in the area, check it out.

We arrived and settled in, stocking the kitchen with the groceries we procured along the way. We pulled out some board games and spent the afternoon snacking, sipping and playing. We met our friends in town and saw the places they frequent. We enjoyed a dinner together. The following day we met at their house and walked through the gardens, vineyards and flower beds. We walked up the road to a cemetery to find a geocache. We traipsed along the railroad bed. The girls decorated pumpkins and sat in the hot tub. We enjoyed a delicious bowl of potato leek soup.

Jenga, snacks and wine.
Beautiful trees on our friends’ property.
Vineyards
Traipsing on the railroad tracks.

After a good night’s sleep and a morning run through the countryside we met at a corn maze which the girls enjoyed immensely. Then we headed to a campground where we picnicked and hiked. After that there was a stop for ice cream then back to our place to make caramel apples and play games. The following morning we had to pack up and leave. We met our friends at the local bakery, snagged drinks and pastries and hit the road.

Corn maze!

This trip wasn’t anything like our former vacations. There were no fancy condos, no pools with water slides and swim up bars, no whale watching cruises or sunsets from balconies. But there were things even more important than that. There were good friends, authentic conversations, new adventures in a new place, relaxation and restoration. It was the best interlude in this strangest of interludes.

Below are some links to the places we visited.

This is the cutest coffee shop. Variety of espresso beverages, smoothies, and baked goods. Service is not very fast but that’s not really the point here. Attached to a collection of antique shops if browsing is your thing.

http://www.crandallcoffee.com/

Meyers Falls Market is a well stocked natural grocery store located in the same building as the coffee shop. They feature fresh produce, a nice bulk section, a wide variety of local products, and a cafe serving ice cream crepes, smoothies, wraps and more.

http://www.meyersfallsmarket.com/

If you are in the area in the fall, this is a great corn maze! Just challenging enough for our tweens and teens to feel really great about completing it all by themselves.

https://www.colvillecornmaze.com/

Douglas Falls Grange Park is a peaceful and scenic spot for picnics, relaxing and hiking. There is a nice waterfall if you hike the Nature Trail.

https://www.wta.org/go-hiking/trip-reports/trip_report.2016-04-17.8207587361

And finally, ice cream! They have inside dining plus a walk up outside window (perfect for COVID times).

https://www.facebook.com/sandysdrivein/

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