Camogli, a town on the Mediterranean, was our first seaside place this trip, and our specific location wasn't exactly parking friendly. Earlier I had found a handy parking lot generally close by (please give the word "generally" a liberal interpretation). Since we didn't know the exact location of where we were staying, we opted to leave the luggage in the car and hunt down the address first. Rolling suitcases around unknown towns is dangerous sport.
Camogli has a main pedestrian area, a kind of Italian boardwalk, full of restaurants, shops, and all sorts of beach-going people carrying beach-going supplies. After scouring addresses and searching different doors, we finally found #94, our place, directly on this boardwalk. It was snuggled in between a gelato shop and the restaurant il Barcollo, which had "aperitivi, cocktails, mini, and birre." If you didn't know #94 was a door to some apartments, it would have looked just like a door to another shop.
We stood in front of the door and examined the list of doorbells next to it. They all had the same last name, and we weren't quite sure who to call. But just then a slight and energetic man bounced up to us. "Suzanne! Hello! I'm Gigi!"
Gigi owned the place (it's been in his family for 200 years), and he had been waiting for us. He pulled out a long brass key, the kind of key that should be dedicated exclusively to unlocking 300-year-old buried treasure chests, and opened the door for us. It was a narrow fit, but once we were in it was as if we had entered a Secret Italian Harry Potter hallway. It was much wider and longer on the inside than I had expected. At the far end a defunct fountain - the kind of fountain you see all over Rome dispensing fresh water - sat dry and mute. To its right, stairs.
We climbed the stairs. At one point they split into two, one ending in a long and mysterious hallway. Ours kept going up. And up. In all, we climbed 70 stairs to our door.
Gigi twisted the key in the lock three times, each time I could hear the deadbolts clunking loudly. Then, voila!, success and we entered the apartment.
What a view! The entire Mediterranean stretched out in front of us, visible through two large windows. Gigi gave us the quick tour of the place (mostly in Italian) and recommended we sleep in the main room with the windows because of the cool breeze at night - Cool Natural Sea Breeze was the name of the air conditioner Gigi had installed.
Gigi kept nodding and smiling and then he had to go, but right as he was leaving he pointed at me and said, "Simpatico!" It took me awhile to understand 'simpatico" means nice or friendly and not necessarily like-minded, as what you hear when someone is trying their best Spicoli impersonation.
We took the 70 stairs-trip down, walked out of the Tardis-like door onto the bustling pedestrian area, and hiked to our car for the luggage. Up the hill, up the elevator, cross at the crosswalk, up another hill, then back again. By the time we got to stair 36 the suitcases were getting pretty heavy.
But since this post is supposed to be about Day 8, I'd better get to it. The next morning we explored the beach. Suzanne wanted to swim and I just wanted to stay under a beach umbrella and read for a bit, mainly because of my vampiric fear of the direct sun.
It was a rocky beach, the kind where people demonstrate odd forms of balance by hobbling on their way back and forth from the water. There were plenty of people on the beach who had given up all forms of shyness as they fixed and stuffed different body parts into skimpy swim suits. Fortunately, I didn't see the retina-burning image of Men-Who-Should-Know-Better wearing speedos, although for my own sanity I kept my gaze both on my book and on the small collection of rocks I had gathered on my towel.
For lunch, we had a delightful meal Suzanne created back at our apartment, and then afterward we explored Camogli a little further. We wanted to climb the stairs into Castello Della Dragonara, the fortress of the town jutting into the sea, but we could only get so close, the majority of it being off limits to the curious.
We explored narrow streets and climbed stairs up and down, just to see where they went. After a bit it was time for dinner and Suzanne wanted fresh fish and a good view of the upcoming sunset. Our timing was slightly off, though, because we had not yet become acclimated to late dinners. Even though it was about 7:00 by now, some restaurants were just opening for the evening meal and we didn't want to be the only diners. We opted for a seat at a restaurant called Lo Spuntino and foolishly did not heed the reviews about this place too carefully. The fresh fish of the day was tuna, although Suzanne's should have been called sole because it was as tough and flat and nasty as the sole of my shoe. She tried to choke it down but stopped halfway through. It is very difficult to find a bad meal in Italy, but we succeeded!
We did have a great view of the sea and a floor show of a handful of kids playing soccer in a little area with a sign that had a soccer ball with a slash through it. And off in the distance, near the castle, was a group of yoga practitioners bending and stretching under the setting sun.
That evening, after we were back in our room, we could hear the sounds of eating and laughing come from the street below us. Around 11:00 all that died down and I stuck my head out the window, because apparently that is what you do in Italy, and watched all of Camogli begin to settle in for the night. There were a few stragglers in the outdoor restaurant below us, but after a bit even their conversation ended and they all drifted away. Soon, silence, massaged by the waves of the clear Mediterranean Sea as they tumbled in a few more rocks onto the shore, ready for tomorrow's bare feet and blankets.
Next: Where'd the road go? It disappeared!