The Best Pesto, Focaccia and Nutella Mousse in the World
Genoa was our first port of call, well, the first intended stop at least. After changing trains at the Italian/ French border we started seeing French station signs again: we were lost and had ended up back in France. Eventually we did get to Genoa, a town famous as the home of Pesto, and old people. At least that's what we thought as every person we saw climbing the steep cobbled stairs through the labyrinth of a town was a pint sized stereotypical Italian grandmother. It wasn't until after dark that the youth swamped the city, gathering around unmiced performers and traditional dancers inside quaint squares and down dimly lit alleys where girls flicker into the darkness.
Cinque Terra can be best described as the most spastically beautiful place on earth. Superlatives just don't give it justice. Five little traditional villages hug the rugged coastline 100kms south of Genova in the Italian Riviera. Focaccia is the local delicacy so Ash Koek and myself munched down on one as we started our trek along the small coastal pathway that links the "Five Lands". It was so good that by the time we reached the next village we promptly bought another one. The path keeps winding through the narrow carless streets until it pops out the other end of the town and the amazing coastline once again comes into view. The next terra was a good place to pick up another Focaccia and some more amazingness. By the time we hit the 4th terra our legs had grown so tired, my shoes had died so we thought we had better fill up with more amazing Focaccia. We were too stuffed to walk to the last Focaccia, um, terra, so we just caught the train home.
Dana, Ash and myself hired a car, our destination: Bussana Vecchia, a little town destroyed by an earthquake in the late 19th century, left decayed, and re-birthed by a bunch of hippies and artists in the 60's. They decided to leave the crumbling appearance intact and set up studios and workshops and brought lots of lap dogs. We talked, we walked, I bought a chess set and Ash wasn't even dignified enough to let me win my first game on my new board… or my second.
As I'm sure you're all well aware, I collect national football jerseys from all the countries I travel to. One of the reasons is that it's something EVERY country in the world has. From South Africa to Scotland, Australia to American Samoa and of course Italy and Monaco. Monaco has a very famous club team that plays in the French league, but it was the more elusive Monaco National team jersey I was after. They're not FIFA recognised, so they play against other non recognised teams like Tibet, Zanzibar and Somaland. Most people I asked didn't even know that there was a national team, but the gentleman at the AC Monaco Pro shop told me his friend was the coach and he would call him for me. I returned later and he gave me the coach's number and told me "when he doesn't drink too much, he can to speak English language". I called him and he passed me onto another gentleman who lives in Nice, possibly a player, or someone involved with the team. He drove across to Monaco and dropped off the jersey at the place I was working, chucked in two free tee shirts and told me to come along to the next national game. So it took a while to get it, but with the help from some very lovely Monegasque people, I was able to get the jersey!
Contrary to popular belief, most Monegasque don't deserve the reputation they have, nor does the Principality. It might have a few more tools than a workshop, but it's a beautiful city and there are times you catch yourself just staring at the wonderful buildings, the numerous sculptures in the city and across the beach, to all the beautiful people, and there are quite a few. It's like all of the rich men married all the beautiful women, had gorgeous kids and dressed them in the most spectacular way. Ash and I went for a walk one morning and stepping two streets up from the main road ended up back in France; this country never seems to escape us. But it's literally that small, 1,95km squared to be exact. From the Prince's castle on the hill you can look out at an amazing view, see over the million dollar yachts, the formula one barriers, and there is France. The other direction is the football stadium, the heliport and then France. Width ways it's even shorter. Beach, Casino, France! The one thing burnt into my tastebuds, even now, weeks after I was there, was the dreamy Nutella Mousse I ate every night at the restaurant on the beach next to the beach volleyball court. It was like pure Nutella pumped with air bubbles. The icing on the cake was in the form of a helicopter transfer to Nice airport - whatever, it's Monaco.