Humphrey Goes to Europe – Part 3


Well the hotel manager laughed at me when I told him I went to Tom and Jerry’s, turns out all the locals think of it as a Mickey Mouse type establishment. The next night wasn’t much better, take away pannini’s (and gelato) from the bar next door. I just don’t think Amelia likes hotel rooms. She threw a fit every evening we were in Lake Como, but as soon as you get her out and about she’s happy as a lark. Now that we arrived in Cinque Terre, it’s the same thing, only mornings and evenings. It seems crazy, but it’s honestly like she knows she’s on vacation and doesn’t want to waste any time, she wants to be out exploring all day long.

So, let’s see, where did we leave off…Lake Como. The following day we had planned to take the ferry around the lake and stop off in a couple of the little towns along the way. Not knowing if we’d be toting along a little devil or an little angel, we decided it might be a better idea to drive just in case things took a turn for the worse. After somehow managing to get lost in Como again, we made our way along a long twisty road along the shore of the lake to Bellagio…only to find that it’s impossible to park there. After 3 laps around the entire town, we settled for a spot just up the mountain, over the river and through the woods. Bellagio is a really neat town with lots of little tucked away streets and alleys. On the way back, we wanted to stop for lunch in one of the quaint little villages along the lake, but Amelia slept the whole time. Not wanting to wake her, we just kept driving, right past our hotel and up the other side of the lake until she awoke and we found our quaint little restaurant. The pizza we had was great, but we got the distinct feeling that they didn’t want us eating there. It’s been a common theme here in Italy, it’s almost as if the restaurateurs are afraid that having a baby in the restaurant will diminish the ambiance.
Later that afternoon, the sun finally poked out. Beth had been wanting to get some time in by the pool, so I volunteered to take Amelia and go explore an old castle in the next town up. Again, not five minutes into the car ride, she was out like a light. No problem, I’m flexible, change of plans, we’ll go on a little drive and scout out a place for dinner. We’d seen signs for the “panoramic trattoria” earlier, so I figured I’d try to track it down. I found it easily and it looks like a great place to spend a relaxing evening, enjoying the panoramic view, some wine, good company, and great Italian food…the evening looked promising! Having only killed about 10 minutes of my planned hour and a half excursion, I kept driving…there was another sign for a restaurant further up the hill, why not check that out as well. The road kept winding, up and up and up the hill until there was barely a road at all. We were out in a nature preserve along with hikers and adventurous bikers. The road kept going and there were other cars, so why not keep exploring? It got to the point where the road was narrow, even for the euro-skittle. One side was sheer rock, the other side, certain death….and there were cars coming the other way. I got to be a master of backing up, folding in the rearview and squeezing past the other euro-skittles (and even some euro-suvs). We finally made it to the summit of a 1000 meter mountain that had views half way into Switzerland. Amelia woke just in time to enjoy the view and take a couple pictures. We were going to be a little late, but I didn’t think Beth would mind the extra time to herself. I didn’t want to linger too long though, lest Beth start to worry. When I put Amelia back into the Fiat to head down she started to fuss a little bit…no worries, the car ride should settle her down…not this time….blood curling screams….the whole way down….45 minutes down narrow, impossible to drive mountain roads. I stopped 5 times to try to sooth her, change her, feed her, the works…nothing worked, she just wanted to scream (to be fair, I was petrified of those roads too). You’d be amazing how hard you can push a rental Fiat on those roads. By the time we got to the bottom, there was something burning, clutch, brakes, I don’t know, but something isn’t the way it was when I picked up the car. The good news is that with the skills I picked up in the Fiat, I’ll be ready for the Indy Circuit next year.

The next day we made our way over to the town of Riomaggiore in Cinque Terre. The area is just as beautiful as I remember it. Five little fishing villages dotted along the sea, all connected by hiking trails through the wilderness. Gorgeous, peaceful little towns where the locals hang their clothes out to dry in the sea breeze and spend the evenings gathered on the street. Since I was last here in 1999, things seem to have gotten a bit more touristy with large groups of senior citizens and their walking sticks competing for space with the 13 year olds on a field trip…but the charm remains.

One of the charms of Cinque Terre is the hillside views and another is the colorful old buildings. Of course, colorful old buildings with hillside views don’t have elevators, and the best room for tourists seeking a view with 700 pounds of luggage is up on the third floor (that’s European 3rd floor, which is the American 4th floor). A little exercise never hurt anybody and at least there wasn’t any agent confusion at this hotel…well, maybe a little confusion. You see, most people who come to Cinque Terre simply find accommodations when they arrive. Lots of the villagers have extra rooms for rent and half the fun is finding a neat little place to stay and maybe getting to know one of the locals. Traveling with an infant, we thought it would be a better idea to line up all of our accommodations ahead of time to be sure we had a crib for Amelia. Well, the request for a crib definitely made it through, but I think something was lost in translation. Their idea of a crib, is a pullout bed because it “is lower to the (tile) floor”….I guess that means Amelia would only have a concussion rather than coma should she roll out. Not ideal, but we’ll find a way to make things work. The first night we decided to let Amelia sleep in bed with us. You never know just how much you like to roll in your sleep until you risk suffocating an infant with each turn. We also never knew how much Amelia likes to roll in her sleep. So basically, Beth and I lay stiff as a board all night while Amelia bounced back and forth between us….not a good night’s sleep for any. The next night, we had to do something different. Enter the suitcase crib. That’s right, the 750 pounds of luggage paid off!!!!!!! Beth’s suitcase was just big enough to make a little crib out of. Pad it up with some extra towels and blankets, drop her in, shut the lid and get some rest! (We didn’t really shut the lid.) In addition to sleeping in the suitcase, there’s no bathtub here…but…there is….a bidet! A perfectly sized little butt-washer / baby bather!

Tip #6 – The suitcase crib and bidet bath should be in the arsenal of any traveling parents.

Amelia isn’t the only one to have had a unique experience on this trip. We spent the first evening we were here meandering around town, just exploring and soaking it all in. For dinner, we found this little hole in the wall selling pizza by the slice. A couple other Americans had just finished their pizza and said it was great, so we gave it a shot. We each grabbed a couple slices, I bought some fruit and drinks from the market next door and we settled in for a nice little picnic. Of course the neighbors were all about and we had a great time chatting and showing off Amelia….

Tip #7 – If you want to get to know people wherever you’re traveling, bring a baby.

…About half way through my first slice the owner of the restaurant walked past and I thought tapped my on the shoulder…but he didn’t make any kind of social indication…then if felt suspiciously like Amelia had spit up on my shoulder…but, no, she was with Beth…bird poop?…nope…wait, what is that lying next to me, but a wet sock from above. Yes, my unique Italian experience was being pelting with a wet sock from three stories above.

Tip #8 – Don’t sit under the clothesline

And, right on to

Tip #9 – Italian baby food isn’t always readymade

To keep down the amount of luggage, we decided we would just buy diapers and baby food on the trip. We could have probably just gone by the pictures, but we found a nice lady to translate the baby food labels for us. “Verdure miste” means vegetable mix…sounds good, she needs her veggies, so we stocked up. But, somewhere on the label, there must be another word that roughly translates to “thick, pasty glob”. We think we’re supposed to add water… at least, that’s what we’ve been doing and Amelia is eating it…but her stomach has also been bothering her too???

The poor thing has had a bit of a rough go of it lately. First of all, she’s teething like crazy, she’ll probably have a full set of teeth by the time we get back. She’s still getting over her head cold. Something she’s eating is bothering her stomach, we have no idea if it’s the new baby food, or all the new foods (and gelato) that Beth is eating. Speaking of which, Amelia has started to wean herself making our plan of a relying on the most convenient food source a bit more difficult. She’s at the stage were she wants to start exploring everything, but she’s frustrated that she can’t quite crawl yet. On top of all that, she’s seven time zones away and being dragged around all over the place. The last few days have been rough with her, and who can blame her. The odd thing is that when we’re out and about, she’s great! Seems she loves to explore, meet new people, see new things. But, as soon as we get back to the hotel room, she just throws a fit. There’s a fine line between bravery and stupidity. Overall this trip as been great, but there’s been a couple times lately where we’ve felt like we’re on the wrong side of the line.

Speaking of crossing the line, the big thing to do in Cinque Terre is hike between the five villages. Yesterday was a beautiful day. Amelia had a great morning nap. We decided to try a hike. We picked the hike so we could see the two remaining villages we had yet to visit. On the way there, we heard from two people that it was the most difficult of the four segments. Not being ones to admit stupidity, we pressed on. It was a great hike, amazing scenery, fresh air, good weather, and friendly people all along the trail. Amelia even had a blast…for the first half. About half way through, she had a bit of a meltdown on the side of the mountain. There was a while where we definitely thought we were on the wrong side of the line. But then it ended and Amelia actually fell asleep in her front pack (don’t ask me how she doesn’t have a kink in her neck). We finished the hike and were glad we did (we need to burn off all that gelato somehow). We spent the afternoon on the pier in Vernazza, having lunch, shopping and taking it all in.

This morning, we’re off to Sienna for the final part of our trip in Tuscany. I think we’re just about ready to come home. Overall, this trip has been great. The places we’ve visited have been spectacular and having Amelia along made it feel complete. But, it’s also been hard and anything but relaxing. We’ve talked some about whether or not we would do it again and the answer is definitely yes. But traveling with a 7 month old is not for the faint of heart. The one thing we knew going in was that this trip would be an adventure, for better or worse. It has definitely been an adventure, for both better and worse.

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