martedì 14 aprile 2009

Camping in Liguria

Mr A and I started planning our Easter holiday camping trip weeks ago, not long after we came back from skiing. We knew where we wanted to go, had decided what we needed and just needed to do one big shopping trip to buy some equipment before we left. Somehow, though, we still managed to leave in an incredible rush, with our departure punctuated by conversations like:

Me: “Do you have a towel?”
Him: “Yes. Did you remember a sleeping bag?”
Me: “Oooops! No!”

Despite the rush, though, we actually did manage to remember pretty much everything we needed and the only major problem was our bed. We had bought an inflatable mattress and a friend had lent us a battery operated pump to blow it up which had a mains adaptor and one to plug into the cigarette lighter in the car. After we had been driving for about an hour and a half, Mr A said, “Do you want to start charging the pump up now?” I reached for the box and read the instructions. “Charge the pump for eight hours before use.” Oh dear.

In our defence, I had never seen one of these pumps before and Mr A had only ever had one which could be used at the same time as it was charging, but ours was clearly marked with dire warnings about what would happen if we tried to do that. Luckily, the people at the campsite were really nice and let us use a pump of theirs. It was enormous and made a huge amount of noise but appeared to do the trick.

Unfortunately, it turned out that all our efforts were in vain because the mattress deflated in the middle of the night and we woke up at 4am lying on hard, stony ground with strange pockets of air remaining around our ears. On the second night, the same thing happened and on the third night we bought a new mattress and finally had a good night's sleep.

We stayed at the Acqua Dolce campsite in Lévanto. It was quiet, clean, had great showers and was almost entirely inhabited by Germans with camper vans and deluxe tents who obviously knew exactly how to live this kind of lifestyle and could be seen in the mornings doing housework in the camper vans and in the evenings sitting outside on folding chairs and tables with table cloths drinking wine and eating dinner. We felt a little bit out of place with our little tent and our failure to organise adequate bedding for ourselves.

Our main reason for staying in Lévanto was to visit the Cinque Terre, 5 little villages propped on the edges of towering cliffs and linked by a coastal path.

I'm a big fan of coastal paths and this was one of the best that I'd ever been on, even if they did charge us 5 euros each to walk along it. If you start at the first village, Monterosso, the walk takes about 5 hours and you can stop for ice cream, focaccia and a laze in the sun at the villages, which are no more than an hour and a half's walk away from each other. Being hardcore, however, we decided to start our walk at Lévanto, which added on an extra 2 ½ hours of walking over a very steep hill but was worth it just for the sense of achievement.

On the second day, we drove to Portovenere, which is near La Spezia, a big port, and at the tip of the Golfo dei Poeti, which gets its name from all the poets that it has inspired. Byron even has his own cave there.

We were totally lazy that day and just wandered around the village and stopped for lunch and ice cream. We ate testaroli, which is like a big pancake that you cut up and eat with sauce. Ours was with pesto, which is another Ligurian speciality.

On our last day, we went back to the Cinque Terre and took the boat between the five villages. The boat was nice, but we both agreed that we appreciated the villages more when we had to walk to get to them!

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