Monday, February 22, 2010

Saturday, February 20, 2010: Opportunities Disguised as Inconveniences

February 20, 2010 (Dieter). Just after the crack of dawn, I headed to the harbour, to the low booming sounds of huge waves exploding over the water breaker. Armed with a camera in one hand, gloves, and my rain jacket, I cautiously made my way up along the forbidden castle steps leading around the tower facing the breaker. Coming within 10 feet of my desired goal, the corner facing the open fierce sea, I heard a loud rumbling sound. I quickly pressed myself into the hollow of the wall as a torrent of what seemed an endless mass of sea spray screamed over and beside my body. Wow, was that ever amazing and powerful! I caught my breath, carefully studied the pattern of the next set of approaching mounting waves, and made my way successfully to the precipice of the castle wall. Feeling a sense of safety, I began taking picture-after-picture of cascading walls of water shot over every inch of the water breaker. After spending 1.5 hours of experiencing the power of the sea, I head up to meet the rest of the family who were just waking up. Last night we quickly discovered we could not access funds through the automated bank machine to pay for our rental here in Vernazza. This morning, we were only able to pay Maximo (owner’s husband) for 2/3s of it with our remaining funds with the promise of personally visiting them in their home in Monterosso, the next sea town just a 5-minute train west of here. He was not at all worried and in fact, surprised us minutes later with a bag of 24 delicious pastries’ (egg white cookies). What turned out as a major inconvenience resulted into a set wonderful opportunities. First, while Sandra went to the local bar to resolve our financial challenges through their Internet services (and a proposal from the bar owner), the children and I found discovered a clothing shop and Karannina purchased an Italian hoodie. We made our way to the harbour, enjoying the crashing waves while we awaited Sandra’s return. With new cash in hand, we set out on our trip to Monterroso. However, the waves thundering over the breaker drew were too alluring. As a family, we carefully made our way up the castle wall and then spent the next hour watching the water-show of our life. Wave after wave came exploding around the castle tower and over the breaker. The thunderous sounds, the movement of air, and the taste of seawater from the spray were amazing. Dragging ourselves away from this unending thrilling experience, we headed to the train station. The five-minute train ride was a dark experience of 2.5 kms of tunnels. Upon our arrival, the children begged us to find the quickest route to the seashore for their highly anticipated desire to do some beachcombing. However, a promise is a promise and our second opportunity. We found the home of Monica and her family - a matriarchal family, with more than three generations of women lived on two floors of an apartment. We experienced the incredible Italian hospitality. Served with cake and chocolates, we heard the history of the honeymoon apartment (our rental penthouse suite) and the restaurant, with its family secret recipes of pastas, anchovies, and artichokes dishes known to be among the best in Vernazza. We received a personal tour of their home, with the brightly coloured walls, ornate framed oil paintings, and the plush drapes all coordinated in inviting bright colours. We finished with the wine cellar, where formerly the wine of the area would have been fermented in ancient oak barrels. Then off to the beach, were we all enjoyed the treasures that the storm driven waves provided. Racing against the approaching waves, getting soaked feet, building our own wave breaker with a large log and tree roots, we thoroughly enjoyed the passing of two hours. Hungry, we made our way to a local Monteressian Resitorante “Da Ely”. Here a family consisting of three generations, uncles, aunts, and father-in-laws, combined their artistic skills of pasta making, bread baking, liqueur fermenting, pastry specialist into a wonderful meal. We quickly became friends with the waiter and his family (see picture), as Sandra connected our Manitoba grown Durum wheat as being the most important ingredient in their recipes, from the pastas to the baked breads. And sure enough, every meal was amazingly delicious and fresh: I had the swordfish ravioli, with a tomato seafood sauce of small lobster, shrimp, and spices; Alexander enjoyed black spaghetti (from squid ink) with orange, prawns, and zucchini; Sandra enjoyed spinach filled ravioli with freshly made pesto; and Karannina had square spaghetti with swordfish sauce. The meal was completed with Monterroso tort infused with hot layers of chocolate between white cake with cherry filling and an almond top all drizzled in chocolate and a chocolate pudding with dark chocolate flakes and a fresh vanilla base with a coffee liquor. As a special treat Sandra and I ended our experience with lemon juice and lemon leaf liquors – wow! Back to the train station, we found our way back to Vernazza and collapsed in our beds with sweet dreams of Italian food, crashing waves, and treasures found on the Mediterranean beaches.

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