Thursday 27 September 2012

Week 1 - Imperia

Ciao tutti!

How is everyone?

Ok I think it's time to send the first proper update from the other side of the world (from the point of view of most of you) and make you properly jealous.

So, I'm currently in Imperia, Italy, staying with my lovely aunt and uncle and cousin.

The Port of Imperia

Imperia is on the north/west coast of Italy, and it was closer to fly into Nice (France) than it was to fly to Milan and catch a train.

The flights were fine, long of course, but nothing too difficult to endure with the help of a few cheesy movies and free drinks.

Once I arrived on Thursday it was pretty much pampering from the word go. I was picked up and taxied back to Italy, fed delicious food, and then slept a little.

The next day my aunt and uncle took me for a walk around town and then treated me to an amazing seafood lunch. About 6 courses I think, and plenty of wine. Mama mia. Imagine the daze of being in a new country, surrounded by raucous conversation you barely understand, stuffed to the gills with the very finest food and wine. Most fantastically surreal.

Cousin Rusi and Porto Maurizio
On Saturday morning my cousin Rusi took me on a little tour of the village next door, and my other cousin Franz arrived from Hungary (where he is currently working) in the afternoon.

Franz then took me to yet another little village and we explored the long "intenstine" of the tourist mall and ate fresh baci, before returning home to get ready for another massive dinner with some of Franz and Rusi's friends. I think this one had about 6 courses too and it was similarly amazing.

The Russian Mafia
Franceso and I finished off the night with an enormous beer and discussion of martial arts. Perfect.

On Sunday my cousins were kind enough to take me to a little spot just down the road called "Monaco". It was a sort of tongue in cheek pilgramage for me; I don't take the Formula One particularly seriously but seeing as Mocaco was right there I figured it would be amusing to see.

3 cousins in Monaco
So, I can confirm that Monte Carlo has lots of tourists, obscenely large boats, ferraris, mazzeratis, and the occasional ripple strip. A significant percentage of the 1% has a presence there.

We had a nice little walk around and my cousins indulged me while I took some pics specifically designed to annoy my F1 fan friends.Perhaps they would be more annoying if there had been an actual RACE on at the time, but that's not the point.

Monaco actually lies just across the French border, and my cousins hatched a plan to go and have dinner in a little town called Menton just around the corner from it. The town was in complete contrast to the glitz of Moncaco, and after a walk along the seawall and through the main market drag (and obligatory beer) we had dinner at an amazing little crepe restaurant called Le Petit Cave, which means... oh you work it out.

Death by crepe
This dinner, like all the others, was simply amazing. After sharing a selection of savoury crepes involving several cheeses, egg, mushrooms, tomato and all manner of tastiness, we settled for a dessert crepe of chocolate, cream, hazelnut paste (from memory) and rum. It was simply fantastic. When we ordered 3 of them, the somewhat reserved lady who was our waitress laughed and basically gave us the French equivalent of two thumbs up.

All this was washed down with plenty of the best dry cider I've ever tasted.

We drove back along the edge of the sea for a time. The inverted Mediterranean moon and the little winking lights of the villages were magical. Or maybe it was the cider. The Hungarian spirit called
Palinka - which we finished the evening with - was also pretty damn good.

Typical vista - looking back from Monaco to Menton
Since then the week has continued to be a blur of good food, broken Italian and English (Google Translate has been invaluable), great coffee (I think have already developed a healthy caffeine addiction, but you need it after the lunch's vino), little walks, insane traffic, naps and sleeping in, visits to local shops and a museum (of Olives!) and visits of daily life (I made friends with a two-year-old, whose proto-italian is incredibly cute). In short, great.

And we even finished it off tonight with a visit to the local pizzeria, for some of the real stuff.

Tomorrow, things will get a lot tougher when I hop on a train with my aunt and her friend for Venice.

The whole family

Hope you're all well. Do feel free to write and abuse me.

P.S. Did I mention that the weather has been great too?

Edit: The full set of pictures from Imperia is now up on flicker at