Day 11: Sunday August 1st, 2004 Read Short Version View Photos

Short Version Instructions: Only read every other paragraph.

Everybody left at 6 AM this morning when a bus came to take them to the airport in Milan... Everybody except us, that is. We slept in until 8 or so, packed, then went to breakfast. Jeremy and Daniella came to meet us so we could pay them the balance of the trip (they didn't have the exact amount at dinner the previous night). We paid and chatted with them for a bit, then went back to the hotel's annex to pack the car.

Thumbs Down: Too much luggage
in too tiny of a trunk
Even though Alan had reserved a station wagon, we ended up with a Jaguar, obviously the clear choice but severely lacking in cargo space. We spent 20 minutes trying to fit just our 4 big bags in the trunk, which we eventually did, using a little bit of brains and a little bit of brute force. We ended up with most of the smaller bags in the back seat with us, but it wasn't uncomfortable.

We then headed out to the autostrada and our journey first to Genoa, then to Portovenere. We made good time to Genoa, where the autostrada was absolutely infested with tunnels, making it difficult to read or play games. We first went to the airport, so I could be added as a driver for the rental car, but found out they were closed except from 1 to 4. It was just after noon at the time. So we headed toward the aquarium, which is the second largest in the world, only behind Osaka, Japan's. We turned into where it said aquarium parking was, found a full lot, and continued back to the road we were on. The aquarium turned out to be a full kilometer away from that parking lot, and instead we parked right in front without hassle.

Thumbs Up: Genoa Aquarium The aquarium lived up to the hype. All of the descriptions were in both Italian and English which was nice, and they had a wide variety of exhibits, including a luminescent blue room (which wasn't the exhibit itself, but was incredibly cool). They had a huge Madagascar area which was very well done, not too preachy and still informative. Dolphins, sharks, turtles, chameleons, rays, jellyfish, frogs, alligators, various whale parts, they had it all.

After finishing up at the aquarium, we got back into the car and made our way back to the airport. It was during this ride that I first felt I was in a car chase in the movie Ronin; we weren't going fast or driving erratically or anything, but a five speed Jaguar on the streets of Italy just makes you want to redline it. We made it back to the airport, and 20 minutes later I was a valid driver. We decided that we'd have a quick lunch instead of going back to downtown Genoa, which was a little sketchy. We got on the autostrada, and proceeded to go the wrong direction (damn Italian signs). We got turned around (without having to pay the toll) about 15 kilometers later, and eventually ended up at a gas station that had a chain convenience store and diner, Autogrill. I got a huge slice of pizza and Bekki got two paninis (half of the second one was for me) and drinks, Alan got a meal that came with a panini, a donut and a drink. Jessie got a panini, Twix and a drink. We chowed down, got gas, and were on our way again.

Thumbs Up: Portovenere We followed Bekki's directions from the Italian driving tours book, and ended up on curvy mountain roads where Alan pushed the Jag a little harder, which was fun for the most part. One huge scooter parade of green-clad teenagers and 25 minutes later, we arrived in the city of Portovenere. There is a single one-way street which is a loop, and it's absolutely packed with cars and even more scooters and motorcycles. We locate our hotel easily, and search for parking; nothing close. Bekki and I go ask in the hotel where to park, and they basically say "down there where you can't find parking." Alan brought the Jag back around and we unloaded most of the luggage then checked in. We got a room with a balcony, and Alan and Jessie each got rooms just down the hall with ocean views as well (and bathrooms inside their rooms, which apparently not all rooms have). The view was incredible, and one could sit and merely people-watch for hours and not be bored. As we were admiring the view, we spied the Jag pulling into a prime space just below the hotel.

We then proceeded to take a short nap. We then woke up, freshened up, and headed out into Portovenere. Half of the town you can only get to on foot, so we walked down there. The waterfront is beautiful and very Italian. There were cafés everywhere along with souvenir shops and other cute stores. We walked down to the very end of the town where there was a castle and Lord Byron's Grotto, where he was apparently inspired by the beautiful rocky alcove, in addition to swimming from that point to somewhere a few kilometers away once. I took a bunch of pictures, and also saw where they were setting up a stage for The Beatops, a Beatles cover band that would be playing there later.

Thumbs Up: Good dinners We made our way back down the stairs that led up to the castle, and decided to eat at this posh restaurant on the point, which was by far the last restaurant in town. We asked to be seated inside, and were greeted by great music which persisted throughout the entire meal. I only got a filet, which was good, especially since I've been craving a real steak (in addition to a burrito). Bekki got shrimp in yellow pepper puree and swordfish, Jessie got potato prawn cakes and lobster gratin, Alan got anchovies and shrimp scampi. We also had a bottle of a local white wine. I had what basically amounted to extra-frozen banana ice cream for dessert, Bekki and her dad had the fruit basket (berries inside a little shell) and Jessie had chocolate mousse. Overall, the first and second course portions weren't very big (although the steak was a good size) and it was pricey, but overall it was a good meal. The ambience and view were worth it though.

We ambled back to our rooms, and I found South Park in German on the TV, which obviously was highly amusing. Shortly thereafter we went to sleep.