Italy. Day 3. Friday in Cinque Terre

So on Friday I slept in a little bit, after a long Thursday. Then after a quick breakfast Tommaso and I bought Cinque Terre cards for the day of travel, and jumped on a train to Riomaggiore, the southernmost of the 5 towns in Cinque Terre.

The Cinque Terre cards are nice – for 16 Euros you can hike as many paths as you want and ride as many trains inside the Cinque Terre network as you want for a whole day.

Riomaggiore is beautiful. When you arrive off the train, you have to walk through a long tunnel to get to the center of town, where the main piazza is. I know just enough Italian to get excited when I see a sign I recognize, and “Centro” with an arrow was always fun to discover. This one pointed to the big tunnel walkway, so away we went.

Like all of the Cinque Terre towns, Riomaggiore is all about the steps and the vertical climb. These towns are built right into the big hills on the steep shores and cliffs of the sea, and space is not wasted! Buildings stack up and up, little terraces are carved into the mountain everywhere, and the alleys, stairways, ramps and streets are an amazing mixture of nice open spaces for public gathering and little narrow walkways that are maze like back into little neighborhoods of homes, shops and apartments.

We had lunch in town, lasagna that was SO good. I had a limoncello for an after-lunch drink. Strong and lemony, it was delicious and potent! Lemons and basil are two of the locally grown things Cinque Terre is famous for, and Riomaggiore had a lot of lemon groves in town, and on the narrow terraced farms carved into the hills above and around the city.

After a couple hours of exploring Riomaggiore, we jumped back on the train and headed to the next town north, Manarola. (The 5 towns that make up Cinque Terre are, North to South along the Ligurian seaside: Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore.)

Manarola has a big beautiful marina/bay area for fishing, swimming, boating and sunbathing on giant boulders, similar to Riomaggiore. There’s a little section enclosed by rocky outcropping also, and wonderful paths winding around and up the cliff to take you very high above the city itself. Once you get up to the top, there is a big flat(ish) space with a small park for kids, an outdoor restaurant/bar and a small public green space for sitting and gathering. Since you’re on top of a mountain looking out, the views are stunning.

You can even see, far down the coastline, Monterosso!

After enjoying some limone gelato, another local specialty made from home-grown lemons (SO GOOD), and spending a couple hours wandering the streets and stairways of Manarola, we headed back for the train station, and our next ride north, to Corniglia. I have to say also, with all the walking in the sun, I was really grateful that all of the cities had several small water fountains labeled “acqua potabile” for people to know they could refill water bottles with clean, cold, sanitary water!

Arriving in Corniglia was different than the other towns, because Corniglia is the only town not on the water. It’s located much higher on the mountain, and has no direct access to the sea. To this end, the city runs free busses for the short (7 or 8 minute) ride from the train station, which IS at sea-level) to the town itself. Some people do choose to walk the path up, but it’s a very steep climb high up the cliff, and I was quite happy to wait my turn for the bus! After Thursday’s hike to Monterosso, and climbing the stairs and ramps of the two towns we’d already explored that day, my legs would not have been happy to try that climb! Tommaso would’ve had to drag me.

Corniglia, like the other towns, was beautiful. Being so much higher than the others, the view of the sea, as well as the surrounding countryside, was quite beautiful. We found a cool little trattoria tucked into a little terrace a few steps below street level, and sat down to have a snack while looking over the city. The weirdest snack on the menu was a bruschetta with lard and honey on grilled bread, so I had to try it, and it was AMAZING. That and a cappuccino made a perfect combo to keep me going for the rest of our trekking around Corniglia, which was gorgeous.

We also visited, as we did in every town, a couple of the historic churches they have. Amazing architecture, and such history!

After Corniglia, we returned to Vernazza, relaxed and had dinner, and even saw a lovely Good Friday ceremony as the church members marched through the piazza singing, and celebrating the holiday. Then I was exhausted, and slept like a rock!!

It’s Saturday now! Tommaso has boarded his train to head home to Cerignola and I am returning to Milan, and checking into my hotel, for a couple days of exploring the city on my own! It’s been an absolute joy to see him again, and travel around with him. I’m looking forward to bringing Jeanne with me next time, and getting to meet his family! I will miss him, and I’m so glad we got to visit.

Such a fabulous experience, being here. The cities, the culture… I’m practicing my Italian, but most of the folks who live here probably wish I wasn’t, because it’s not good! We’ll see how I do for the next few days, without Tommaso to translate for me!

Italy. Day Two. Vernazza, Cinque Terre

The Cinque Terre region of Italy is incredibly beautiful. The five towns are all close, located all along the coast of the Ligurian Sea. You can take a train or a boat to get back and forth between them, or you can hike along through the mountainside, along the cliffs and retaining walls, on very rustic, very old paths. After exploring Vernazza in the morning, we were excited to hike to Monterrosso. A beautiful trip, not for the chubby and out of shape – but I did it anyway!! Tommaso, my exchange-student-son from a couple years ago, was a great companion who was patient and helpful when I so often threw myself to the ground panting “HOW CAN WE KEEP GOING UP?! DOES THIS MOUNTAIN NOT HAVE A TOP?! When do we go DOWN?!”, trying to catch my breath and drink my water. ūüôā It took about two hours, I lost track of time because I kept passing out and Tommaso would have to revive me. Actually, even though it was challenging, we had a blast, walking from Vernazza north to Monterrosso, and collapsed into a bar the minute we got there for a well earned beer. We then spent the day exploring that beautiful city, and I put my feet in the Ligurian Sea, just because. Then, in the evening, we took the train back to Vernazza and enjoyed a relaxing dinner, and got to see how beautiful that place is at night!

Friday, we’re taking the train to Riomaggiore, the southernmost of the “5 Lands”, to explore that city, as well as Manarola and Corniglia as we take our time and make our way north back to Vernazza by evening! I’ll post about that Friday night or Saturday.

Amazing Anniversaries and Other Awesome Things

The last couple of weeks have been full of positive things.  Not everything, of course, but right now I feel like focusing on the things that are making life wonderful.

My son came home from Germany! ¬†After 7 months, it’s great to have him back. ¬†Now he’s prepping for Western Michigan University in the Fall.

Jeanne and I celebrated 25 years of marriage. ¬†Can’t believe it’s already been that long!

This week is my 5 Year Anniversary of coming home from the hospital after my meningitis coma “vacation”, as my wife calls it. ¬†So many memories popping up on Facebook, and nice comments from people. ¬†It was 5 years ago yesterday that I came home after being gone for two and a half months in St. Joe’s of Ann Arbor. ¬†So, as I do every year, I celebrated by taking them fruit and chocolate gifts, and “Thanks for keeping me alive” cards! ¬†If you see a doctor, or a nurse – thank them. ¬†They’re heroes. ¬†Without those amazing people I would’ve missed my kids graduating high school, my 25th wedding anniversary, the pride of seeing my kids go to other countries and become independent amazing human beings… and so many other things.

Other great things: ¬†Opened¬†The Gin Game, the 76th production at Williamston Theatre, to great reviews and thrilled audiences. ¬†Held general auditions for our upcoming 14th Season, which I am IN LOVE WITH. ¬†Our summer show, which is a co-production with Tipping Point Theatre, opened at their space and is terrific, and I am excited to get it to Williamston. ¬†The new season of Major League Baseball is upon us – and even though the Tigers are going to have a challenging rebuilding year, it’s going to be fun to watch.

Jeanne and I have had a fun time looking at houses lately. ¬†We love the house we’re in, but with us entering the “Empty Nest” phase of life, we’re looking to downsize a little bit. ¬†It’s been 17 years – I’m done raking so many leaves! ¬†ūüôā ¬† So, big changes coming there, which are exciting!

So much happening.  I hope things are going well for you, too.  Spring is finally here, and with the new warm weather and sunshine we can enjoy looking forward to what comes next.

Happy Opening Day, Everybody!

It’s Opening Day!! ¬†Today starts the 2019 Major League Baseball Season!

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As my friend Aaron texted me this morning, “HAPPY NEW YEAR!”

This is one of my favorite holidays of the year. ¬†The first pitch of the season is scheduled for 1:05pm, and there are a couple of games starting then: The Mets -vs- The Nationals, and Baltimore -vs- The Yankees. ¬†Our home town team (and my favorite) The Tigers have first pitch scheduled for 3:37 today, playing in Toronto. ¬†They’ll play 4 games there, then go to New York to play the Yankees for 3 games, and then the Tigers have their Home Opener on April 4th, at 1:10pm.

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Here’s a link to a fun OPENING DAY GUIDE from MLB.

And, because this is great, here’s a very fun announcement from the Tigers about their Opening Day Lineup. ¬†Turn up your volume for this, it’s a terrific homage to all the video baseball games we played back in the day!

Happy Opening Day, y’all! ¬†The Tigers are in a rebuilding mode this season, so most folks think it’s a long shot for them to contend for a spot in the playoffs, but there’s always a chance! ¬†AND – it should be a fun team to watch, no matter what!

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*note – none of these images are mine, they’re all borrowed from the internet!
**Go watch some baseball today.  Or turn on the radio and listen to Dan Dickerson announce the Tigers game!

Quick update

This last month has been such a whirlwind! So many things to be grateful for, exciting challenges at work and at home.

After my birthday my sister-in-law Jackie, my brother Dominic and my daughter Maggie threw a surprise birthday party for Jeanne and me (my beautiful wife’s birthday is a few days after mine!) So many wonderful people came, it was enough to get me all choked up. Maggie played her “get them to the restaurant” role perfectly, too – I never saw it coming! Jeanne and I are so lucky to have so many wonderful people in our lives, it’s just such a blessing.

To Quiet The Quiet has been going well at the theatre. It’s a powerful, dark piece that makes people uncomfortable. I’m okay with that, sometimes that’s what theatre should do. The cast, director and production team really produced beautiful work and the way audiences are responding, it’s paid off. We close it tomorrow!

Speaking of the theatre, we are getting close to being able to announce next season, and I love it. More to come on that soon – but first we still have to get through more of THIS season! I love the season selection part of my job, and have been reading so many plays lately. There just isn’t a lot better than a curling up on the couch with couple cups of coffee and a good play in the morning, y’know?

Other positive things:

My daughter turned 21! I made her take a picture of the server carding her at HopCat. ūüôā

In less than 60 days I will be in Germany visiting my son Max! He’s going to introduce me to his wonderful host family, who kindly offered to house me for my stay! I’m excited to have him show me around his part of Germany, and to meet his friends. Then we’re going to Italy for a couple of days to visit our former exchange student Tommaso, who is at university in Milan now. I’m really looking forward to this trip, and time with Max. I can’t speak of German, but I’ve been working on my Italian again. Il mio italiano non est buono, but I’m enjoying it!

Hug the people you love today, folks. I say that a lot, but with good reason. Take a minute from the craziness of life, and count a few blessings. Really: take a second and breathe, and think on a few things, and a few people, that are wonderful in your life. Then go and make sure the people you listed know they’re on your list.