Sunday, December 25, 2011

Italy 3 - Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Our first week in Italy has gone by all too quickly, but we've had a wonderful time so far. It's not been without it's mishaps, though, and I'm about to dub this the "trip of getting lost". For instance, yesterday we set out to do a nice Christmas Eve walk along an old Roman road that traverses the coastline past numerous points of historical interest. We started the walk in the correct location, but made a hasty decision to turn right and follow some trail markers. To make a long story short, we missed the historic trail by a mile and ended up following rough roads up a steep, brushy ridge line for likely 1,000 vertical feet before turning back. Our "walk" turned into an uphill grind of serious proportions with NO points of historical interest, unless you count speeding mountain bikes and hunting dogs. The day was salvaged with some of the best gelato we've ever had and a nice beach walk at sunset.

Christmas morning has arrived! Elise woke with a huge grin on her face and eagerly broke into the kitchen to see if Santa had visited. He had (of course) and she opened her presents with glee. We finished with a nice pancake breakfast and are now planning our day outside. The pictures...

Our "Charlie Brown Christmas bush", which we harvested from the top of an old Roman bridge over the small river in our valley. It was a serious endeavour, and we inspected multiple trees before choosing this deciduous sapling. Elise helped me saw it and we carried it back to the car and set it up in the corner of the kitchen. Elise did some good work on the decorations.

The traditional Christmas horse head, courtesy of Elise. How she comes up with some of this ideas, I do not know.

With her loot from Santa. She got an amethyst arrow-head necklace and a small pewter dolphin leaping out of a piece of amethyst, which is her birthstone and an area of great interest right now. In fact, all objects of geologic nature are of interest. She's now leaning toward paleontology or geology as a career choice. So much for marine biology!

Elise watching the dolphins at the Genova aquarium. This tank was likely worth flying across the Atlantic for.

Using the new camera that Uncle Eric gave her for Christmas. It's been a big hit and she uses it in creative ways (like taking pictures of various cats' rear ends - more of that on another blog). Here she is trying to get a picture of a dolphin surfacing in the tank.

The result. Note the dorsal fin in the back, left-hand portion of the photo. Success!

There was a very large "touch pool" with stingrays, believe it or not. Both Elsie and I had the delight of stroking the slippery back of a small specimen, along with some fish, which we are reaching for in this picture. "Don't touch the stingray's tails", said the guards.

Having fun at the aquarium. This isn't the first time she's kissed a fish (remember Turkey?).

"Look at my picture, Dad."

Merry Christmas from the Cayman tank.

Wandering the streets of Genova at night.

We toured the cathedral, which had a very Gothic motif.

Sweets! We bought some for dessert!

Kiwis! We discovered an abandoned orchard while hunting for a Christmas tree and harvested some fruit for breakfast.

The villages in the hills around our valley are beautiful.

A local cemetery. All the coffins were above ground.

Note the small pictures on each casket.

These are the cliffs we've been climbing at. It's typical European limestone, much to our delight. This crag is called Terminal,a personal favourite. It's about a 10-minute uphill hike and gets sun from 10:30 am to 1:00 pm.

One nice aspect to these cliffs is there are routes for all abilities, which is not always the case. Here, Elise enjoys a limestone route that's perfect for her level.

Colosseo, another good cliff.

It's typically warm enough for shorts and T-shirts in the sun in the morning. Afternoon shade is cool, perfect for trying harder routes. Here, Pam gears up for a sunny climb at Terminal.

Limestone drip formations at the crag, Basura.

Local fauna. A small red mite and a tiny lizard.

Elise climbing at Terminal and Colosseo.

She made a swing on a tree using the slings in my pack. She is very good at finding inventive ways of entertaining herself.

We've had a couple of cloudy days, and they've been cold. A small fire at the base warms us up. Elise loves the process of collecting the wood and building the fire, but then doesn't like to sit too close.

A local playground just down the road from our house. We can walk here after dark in about 20 minutes.

Hiking in the valley of Finale Ligure. We spent a day exploring the cliffs, village and coastline. It's a very pretty area.

The central section of Monte Sordo, a popular climbing area at Finale.

Relaxing at the base while on our hike.

We hiked to a cave that tunneled through to a climbing sector. The cave was deep and dark - perfect for an underground adventure. We wished we'd brought our headlamps, but managed to get through without.

Once through the tunnels, a hole allowed access to this round "room", complete with climbing routes and two windows through the ceiling. It was a super interesting feature. Elise enjoyed bouldering around the base.

Elise found a small bird's nest outside the cave (she has an incredible eye for small details). She showed it to an Italian child who was with his family at this sector. He seemed hesitent to interact with the white, North-American girl.

Inside the historic centre of Finale at night.

We had pizza (too much as you can see from the photo)! We each ordered one and they turned out to be huge. Elise's only cost 4 Euro.

Gelato! It's true, it really is the best ice cream I've ever tasted.

On the beach east of Finale at sunset. We enjoyed strolling along looking for shells and drift glass.

We hope you all have a nice day and are enjoying the time with family and friends.

Marc, Pam and Elise

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