Back & Feeling Refreshed

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It feels like ages ago since I last posted here. Well, I have been busy. I have also spent more times with friends and loved ones during the wonderful summer we had.

I haven’t had time to read a lot of food blogs that I frequent, I apologise. There is a lot of catching up to do! Honestly, it was tough to start. I struggled for a few minutes, thinking of what content to put and what title to give to this post. I don’t know if this ever happened to you when you don’t know where to start. Well, at least I make a start after almost a month of disappearance on my blog. I hope this post will get me back to my usual routine.

Now that I’ve typed a few sentences, I think I’m slowly getting back the flow. 🙂

We just came back from our vacation. It was great and relaxing – exactly like how we wanted. Probably the first part of the holiday wasn’t as relaxing as the second part but it was still lovely to do and see something different.

Finally, we touched down in Nice after 3 hours of  flight delay. We go to Nice at least once a year. It is a place that is warm and sunny most of the time (though it was raining for a day when we were there). September is still a very good month to visit Nice – it is when the high season is over, everyone is back to work and kids are back to school. So, it’s less hectic.

Since Nice is so strategically situated, it is less about 2.5 hours from an amazing place that I have always wanted to go – Portofino and Cinque Terre in the region of Liguria – a coastal region of north-western Italy. Those who are following me on my Facebook or Instagram or Twitter, you would have seen some snapshots that I took and uploaded.

Portofino, a beautiful idyllic port on the Italian Riviera, equivalent to St Tropez in France, is home to many Hollywood stars and famous for its upmarket resorts. It is about 2.5 hours drive from Nice. This little town is so beautiful, just like a canvas painted with some very colourful old Italian houses, surrounded by a mix of olive, cypress and umbrella pine trees and overlooking the clear blue sea. Portofino makes an easy day trip from Santa Margherita and Rapallo. Boat runs every 30 minutes to Portofino from Santa Margherita and Rapallo (these two towns are great as a base as they are less expensive than Portofino).

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We spent a few hours in Portofino before heading to Santa Margherita, spending the rest of our evening there. It’s a lovely small town to chill out, enjoying a few drinks.

I drove for about 30-40 minutes and reached Levanto – our starting point to explore the Cinque Terre (“The Five Lands”) – a remote chunk of the Italian Riviera and also part of the Cinque Terre National Park and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are 5 villages – Monterosso al Mare,VernazzaCornigliaManarola, and Riomaggiore, which is why it is called Cinque Terre. It is probably one of God’s greatest gifts to us!

The best thing to do is choose a base, from one of the villages and travel from one village to another by train that connects these five villages (each village is just a few minutes apart). Get a daily Cinque Terre Treno Park Card that costs € 12.00 that will let you access the national park and unlimited train travel between Levanto – Cinque Terre – La Spezia line. There is also another option to get to each village by boat, which provide a scenic way to get from one village to another.

As we both have agreed to base in Riomaggiore, the plan was to travel from north to south. We took the train from Levanto to Monterosso al Mare and decided to hike from here to the next village, Vernazza – the most touristy and dramatic.

Ok, we haven’t really done hiking before but on that beautiful morning, we were very confident. It is about 3.5km and took us 2 hours. I probably didn’t do my homework properly and found out later that this trail that we did is the most challenging! But we did it! I have to admit that at one point, I so wanted to give up when I had to climb flight of stairs! It was steep and narrow but easy to follow. After all, it was well worth the effort and sweat as we enjoyed the magnificent and dramatic scenery when we were approaching Vernazza.

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Vernazza was where we had our most yummy lunch and very very delicious gelato (at Il Porticciolo). (Well, I didn’t take photo of my lunch as I was too hungry!) We didn’t hesitate to take train to get us to the next village after a very good and challenging hike. (My legs ached for the next few days!)

Corniglia is in the middle of the Cinque Terre that is on a hilltop above 100 metres above the sea. It’s the smallest town amongst the five.

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Manarola, is by far, the most picturesque! It has the best deep-water swimming in the area. We spent quite some time in this village, sitting under the shades as it was really hot, enjoying the lovely view of the colourful houses on the cliff, contrasting by the blue sky and deep blue sea. The prettiest village! I wished I had chosen to stay here because of its beauty.

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Until we arrived in Riomaggiore, I was telling myself: “Not a bad choice at all! Thought Manarola is picturesque, Riomaggiore has its own charms!”

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Riomaggiore, a laid-back than its touristy neighbours. We stayed at Affittacamere Dune Blu, which is just in the centre of Riomaggiore. The room has been nicely renovated, clean and tidy. After some rest and most needed shower, we took a stroll around the village. Climbed up some stairs (again!) to get the highest view of this town before the sunset. We heard some nice music from a distance and decided to find out where it came from.

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But, on the way, I spotted a shop, called Il Pescato Cucinato that had some fried seafood displayed in front of it. I couldn’t resist but had to try – fried fresh anchovies, baby squids, prawns, mussels and white fish. Just so delicious and fresh! (Well, I know they are deep-fried but hey they were light and good!) We were savouring our snacks with a few glasses of Aperol Fritz while enjoying beautiful sunset, couldn’t have been better!

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Pesto is a specialty in Liguria region, I bought a jar from a local shop. Focaccia – the tasty pillowy bread is also another specialty. We have tried a one – olives and rosemary, just so delicious! There is a lot of fresh produce that I wish I could buy, they were inexpensive compared to London! For example, slightly more than 1kg of very good and sweet cherry tomatoes costs only €2.50 compared to £2.00 for 200g in the UK! Well, I have to admit in Italy, they get more sunshine!

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