A Travellerspoint blog

July 2011

Cinque Terre and the Walk of Love

28 °C

We left Rome in the late afternoon, on the 19 July. Everything seems to take a lot longer than expected here in Italy, or maybe this is just what happens when you have a baby. In any case, everything takes forever.

We left for what will be our longest drive while in Italy. We made three stops and hit some unusually wet weather. We were heading north towards Cinque Terre, to a hilltop location up winding and dark mountains. Upon entering the tiny village of Dosso around 10:30 pm, we parked outside and took our bags down a paved, but very steep path towards our B&B, L’Antico Borgo. For this time of night, the B&B was buzzing. A group of 5 English women travelling together sat in the living room planning out their next day’s adventure. An Italian couple had just returned from their day out and there were a few people sippng wine on the terrace. You could hear something going on in the kitchen and the entire place had the most amazing smell of cakes baking for tomorrow’s breakfast. The warm and exuberant signora took us up to our room, which was spacious and they had made up a cute little bed for Zavian. We quickly settled in for the night.

The next morning was bright and sunny as we headed downstairs for breakfast. We took a table on the terrace and were treated to a fantastic view. The previous night’s arrival in the late evening had not revealed how high we were in the mountains and the perfect view of the town of Levanto below us. The B&B was adorable, but by far, it was the staff that made the stay superb. We enjoyed cappuccinos and the most delicious breakfast, far better than you can normally expect in Italy! There was an assortment of homemade cakes, cereals, cheeses, salamis, fruits, freshly squeezed juices, homemade yogurt, breads and more. This place was tucked away in the mountains, a complete gem! Here are a couple pics of L’Antico Borgo.

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Breakfast on the terrace every morning
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View from the terrace
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The signora helped plan our visit of the area. Cinque Terre is a UNESCO National Park site and protected marina of 5 small fishing villages, each with their own charm and tiny street and alleyways to explore. You can take a train to visit the towns (only about a 5 minute journey to each), walk or bike between them. From afar, each of the villages have a characteristic pastel coloring and are peppered along the coastline. You can visit a few in a day, so on our first full day, we took the train to Riomaggiore, walked from there along the Via dell’Amore to Manorola, and then took the train to Corniglia.

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The Via dell’Amore is a great walk, paved well, and hugs steep cliffs with gorgeous views of the sea and some of the other villages far ahead. Along the walk, you see lots of love-related signs, art, sculpture and graffiti. You also see along the walk thousands of padlocks affixed to fences, doorways, anything. The pathway's legend holds that it was a meeting place for lovers from the two towns, and is now a favorite site for tourists to place their locks and throw the keys into the sea.

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We ended the day at a little local restaurant, Zita, in the neighboring village of Lavaggiorosso. Zita was a family-run place, and the beauty of eating there is that they have no menus. You choose from the various pastas, meats and vegetables they have that day and drink the only wine they serve. You eat very well, pay very little, and meet lovely locals. We met a nice Italian couple about our age who gave us some tips about Lake Garda, our next stop in Italy, a nice family with their cute 9 month old boy, Gabrielle, and the restaurant owner’s father, who told us about his travels all over the world while in the Italian navy. We also met Frank and Ninita, a couple from Germany who were also visiting the area. It turns out Frank and Ninita were staying at L'Antico Borgo, too, but we only learned that upon returning home after dinner, and they gave us some great suggestions for our upcoming trip in Lake Garda.

Posted by jknazef 16:23 Archived in Italy Tagged terre cinque amore Comments (1)

Benvenuto in Italia!

After a slightly delayed flight from Santorini, we arrived in Rome, went to the wrong place to collect our rental car and waited for 40 minutes at the bus stop to be picked up by the rental agency with the hugest container of Nutella we had ever seen (no joke see below, and we have since found these everywhere in Italy). But we got a free upgrade with our car and our GPS got us to our hotel without problem in Rome, and there was one good restaurant near our hotel that was still serving food at almost 11 PM, so we were happy. We didn't have any cutlery back in our hotel, and the restaurant didn't have any plastic for us to take, so they gave us their real cutlery and told us we could just bring it back tomorrow. And once we sunk our teeth into that cheesy truffle-icious pasta as Zavian was asleep on the bed, all the hassle was worth it. Mmmm, Italy. Ti amo, Italia.

It may not look large, but it is next to a 2 liter bottle for scale!
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Staying in Rome wasn't part of the original itinerary. We changed our plans to stay for just one night to be able to go to the Indian Embassy in Rome so that Naim could get his visa. We many reasons, but mostly because we forgot, we weren't able to get his Indian visa for our last stop. We found out it could be done in Rome, so the plan was to drop it off at the start of our time in Italy, and pick it up before we flew out of Rome two weeks later, as they don't process foreign passports quickly.

Yet we couldn't go to the consulate until 2 pm, so we had some time to kill. Naim got a hair cut, "Italian style," as the stylist said. We stocked up on some Italian baby food and then took the bus into the center. We walked a lot, saw St. Peter's from afar and spent some time at the Trevi Fountain. Zavian and I even threw a coin into the fountain together. A legend holds that if visitors throw a coin into the fountain, they are ensured a return to Rome. It worked for me before some hopefully Zavian will return one day soon!

St. Peter's from a distance
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Trevi fountain
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Z taking delight in throwing a coin into the fountain
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We then headed to the consulate that was pretty nice on the outside, but actually looked and felt like we were in India on the inside. However, the drop off process seemed to go without a hitch. I guess we will know soon enough!

Posted by jknazef 15:01 Comments (0)

Picture Perfect Santorini

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Santorini is one of those places they say you must visit if you go to the Greek islands. Now that I have visited, I can see why. It looks exactly like the postcards and pictures you see. It's characteristic blue domed churches and white homes built into the hilly landscape are breathtaking (not to mention the steep walks along the stone steps, which are not very stroller friendly! :)) Around 1500 BC, the volcano of Santorini Island in Greece exploded and the eruption was so strong that the centre of the island sank and took the shape with the caldera that can be seen today. Santorini, and specifically the town of Oia, where we stayed, is perched on the side of one of the extinct volcanoes, but one of the other volcanoes is still active. The whole place is just so dramatic and stunning. Oia has cute town, with lots of shops and restaurants. Lots of jewelry and art. There were families there, but Abha and I both felt Santorini might be a nicer place to come without the kids!

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We enjoyed three nights in Santorini, two with the Mooneys. We stayed at the Danai House, a caldera cave apartment, a traditional cavernous home built inside the rocks, with a dome-like roof. They are very famous in Oia and all have amazing views of the Aegean Sea. Many caves have been transformed into apartments and hotels. Here is a pic of ours:

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Danai House had a nice outdoor seating area, but it was pretty cozy for two families and two baby cots, with one bathroom (which left a lot of be desired for) and Santorini was boiling! Naxos had a strong breeze and felt a lot cooler than here. We had an A/C, but it would shut off after every 5 minutes and so we were all a little sweaty at night. This is when Zavian began to get a very mild heat rash on his chest and shoulders. Night time was cooler, though, and Abha and I sent the boys off in search of cakes to bring back and share outside on our patio, while the children slept. Mmmm!

We all took a day trip to the capital, Fira, one day. Well, Naim, Zavian and I almost didn't make it as there was a mad rush for the jam-packed bus. We were slowed down by trying to sort out the stroller, but didn't worry too much as Abha said she would save some seats for us. But then the driver said no more, there was still loads of people ahead of us, and Abha and family couldn't get off at this stage. It was to be a 20-30 minute journey, and as we saw Abha wave and mouth "don't worry, we'll wait for you," we wondered how the heck we were going to get to Fira and find them without mobile phones. Luckily we got a cab and it was only 15 euros to Fira, so we sat back, Zavian had a little nap and by some miracle we all met up in perfect time in Fira. It was a nice day in the end and we enjoyed a cable car down the side of the cliffs and Cara and Adrian took a donkey ride back up to the top!

That last night with the Mooneys in Santorini we had delicious Greek pizza with a sea view...
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...and we were able to enjoy a gorgeous full moon in Santorini, too!
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We'll miss you Mooneys!

Posted by jknazef 14:42 Archived in Greece Tagged greece caves oia fira Comments (1)

The Race for Apollo's Arch

Chasing the sun

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On our last night with the Mooneys in Naxos, we wanted to visit one of the most popular spots, Apollo's Arch, and we wanted to do it at sunset. We drive into town and ate a great dinner not far from the waterfront, and started to walk toward the arch, which is close the main port where all the ferries come in. But we were literally chasing the sun as it was setting quickly. The whole day was planned around going to the arch in time for sunset, and now we were late! We were pushing the stroller at high speed, poor pregnant Abha was huffing and puffing as fast as she could (she was fantastic and so energetic for 6 months pregnant!), and Cara was starting to tire, too. I finally decided to grab the camera and race ahead to capture some pics. I literally ran (although I am sure I heard the others laughing that I wasn't running fast enough and wouldn't make it, whatever, slow pokes!). But I did make it and it was stunning!

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We spent some time enjoying the view. You can great an amazing view of Naxos island from the arch, too.

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A great way to end our fantastic time in Naxos. But it wasn't really over yet.

We walked along the boardwalk, got some ice cream, checked out the many tabepnas (greek taverns/restaurants) which hang their daily catch of octopus from their entrance ways and enjoyed our wee stroll.

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We enjoyed it, until we got back to the car. We had parked along the boardwalk, where we had parked the day before without issue. Interestingly, we were now the only car parked there. Even more interestingly, there were only people walking everywhere- on the sidewalk, along the boardwalk and in the street where we were parked. I did say it seemed fishy to park there at the time, and did suggest we quickly hop in and drive to the arch when we raced by our car after dinner (lazy, I know, but we were late!).

Yet of course we were all surprised to see the big, fat, 80 EURO ticket stuck to the windshield. And the whole thing was in Greek except for the info about how and where to make the payment. Ooops! To only add to the embarrassment of the situation, everyone was starring at the six of us squeeze like a bunch of clowns into a clown car, and then as we slowly tried to drive out into the sea of pedestrians, old Greek ladies sitting along the boardwalk shook their fingers at us and said, what we can only assume is, "you can't park here!" Then, a ship officer in a white uniform came to the drivers window and told us we can't park there (thanks, man), told us to put on our hazard lights and then he cleared the road and we followed him down the entire way until the end (which was Apollo's arch, may I add, and there was ample free parking). People stopped and parted to either side of the road, all eyes were on us. I think they thought we were famous, as who else would be personally escorted down the boardwalk by an officer. Then we decided to joke back and began to wave at everyone and unknowing tourists waved back in hopes of a glimpse of some Greek royalty or pop star.

To pay or not pay... their systems surely aren't as sophisticated as those in the US or UK...they are just a small island...no one will ever know...no, we should pay it...it is not that much if we split it...after much debate, the guys decided not to mention the ticket to the car rental agency and we have our fingers crossed it won't catch up with us later! Opa!!!!!

Posted by jknazef 14:08 Archived in Greece Tagged greece arch naxos Comments (0)

Naxos Continued

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We hired a car to get around as the villa was pretty removed from it all. It gave us the chance to explore different beaches and see lots more of Naxos. We even spent one day driving almost 6 hours around the northern side and rest of the island (by accident), as Naim and Adrian were told it would only take a couple hours to see the whole island, and to expect the north to be much more quiet. Yes, I think we would all agree that the north was in fact desolate, spread out, and not worth it! :) We would also suggest skipping the Kouros and the village of Apollon. However, for all those insect-lovers, you can see some interesting stuff, including huge cicadas if you've never seen one before! Cara was amazed!

However, the beaches were gorgeous. We spent time at two in particular, Agia Anna and Agios Prokopios. Agia Anna's new claim to fame is that our son took his first steps on their sand and splashed in their water!

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The next evening, we came upon Agios Prokopios, had a lovely dinner and then enjoyed the sunset.
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We spent the following day at their beach for a few hours, had lunch on the beach. Zavian hung out in his sun tent.
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Naxos beaches are great for families, have lots of facilities and easy parking. Be sure to rent a beach chair with an umbrella though! Naim is still peeling almost 2 weeks later!

Cara, Zavian and Baby Mooney (in progress) with Abha
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Posted by jknazef 13:26 Archived in Greece Tagged greece naxos Comments (0)

The Nazefs and Mooneys take on Greece

Belogna Ikons Villas in Naxos

sunny 32 °C

Ahhhh, can I say heaven? That's what I thought when we arrived at the stunning Belogna Ikons Villas in Naxos. Greeted by our good friends, Abha, Adrian and Cara, we spent five nights in a secluded, luxurious villa. It was perfect for our two families, with a kitchen, 2 large bedrooms and 2 bathrooms, living room, and outdoor porch, where we ate all our meals. Zavian had his own crib, and took his very first swim in their pool! There were lots of nice little touches, complimentary local wine (although we did find a caterpillar or insect of some sort in it after we had drank most of it and poured the last glass), amazing coffee machine, and everything from the sheets to the dishware had the Belogna Ikons insignia. Here are some pics of the villa:

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The villa

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Dining al fresco every meal! Including one night when Naim and Adrian made octopus!

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Our room

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The pool

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Zavian chilling out

Zavian's first swim was such a delight! We weren't sure if he would like the cool water or not. After a couple whimpers, he began to really enjoy it and kicked and jumped around. Cara was sweet to share her ball which he also loved!

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Zavian was so appreciative of Cara's kind gesture with the ball, he let her feed him, too! Cara was great at it, not to mention all things when it came to Zavian. She played with him, help change nappies, sang Baa Baa Black Sheep (purple, pink, green, red, orange and yellow sheep, too). Great practice for the big sister-to-be! In this photo Zavian is also modelling the Snazzy Baby Travel Seat in red, a super-compact, soft high chair which attaches to any seat, shopping cart/trolley, etc. Great for babies who can't sit up yet!
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All in all the villa itself was a great place. Everything was new and gorgeous. The staff were very helpful. It was removed from the hectic beachfront area, so we had a lot of privacy, amazing views of Naxos as we were up on a hill (which Adrian actually ran up and down almost every day in the heat in preparation for a half marathon! Okay, Naim went twice, too.) And best of all, we were enjoying time with the Mooneys!

Posted by jknazef 13:04 Archived in Greece Tagged greece naxos belogna ikons Comments (0)

Everything's Betta with Feta

Arrival in Greece!

sunny 36 °C

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We survived the looong journey with Zavian to Athens. Boy, it was long. And the Heathrow staff made me taste 50% of Zavian's baby food and milk. We had far too much luggage (my fault) which Naim lugged around while I managed Z. As a welcome to Greece gift, Naim's bag didn't make it with the luggage and our taxi driver tried to rip us off. But we were only in Athens for less than a day, so we were going to enjoy it!

We crammed in as much as we could into our short stay. Our home for the night, The Acropolis Ami Boutique Hotel, had a cool rooftop terrace with an amazing view of the Acropolis at night. They upgraded us to a larger room, and a deathtrap of a baby cot that none of their staff could sort out, so Z ended up in our bed. :) For dinner we picked up some souvlakis and beer (for free as Naim paid with 50 euros and got the same in change- opa!!!). We think the confusion was a direct result of Zavian's distracting tactics by smiling at the staff.) We enjoyed the meal in a nearby park and by the time we returned, Naim's bag had been dropped off and all was good again in the world.

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The next day were strolled through the area of Plaka, which was filled with cute cafes and shops, walked up the amazing Acropolis, and toured the market areas. The Acropolis was a trek, especially with Zavian and not being allowed to use the stroller, and conveniently leaving the baby carrier back in the hotel for the morning. And it was HOT. It was scorching, and I felt really bad for Zavian, but he held up very well all things considered. We had a great lunch with lots of Greek mezze and FETA mmmmh, and learned how much the Greeks love babies, as the staff did everything they could to make Z comfortable, including bringing him some delicious greek yogurt and a wee spoon.

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We unfortunately took the long way home and literally just made our ferry to Naxos late that afternoon. The 4 hour ferry ride allowed for some bonding with our seat neighbor, a 30-something Greek woman from Paros who tried to be our personal DJ from her laptop, despite the fact Zavian was sleeping. Arriving in Naxos at about 9 pm, the sun had only set a short while ago and the sky was still pink. Our driver was thankfully awaiting us, helped with our brick-loaded baggage and whisked us off into the hills our Naxos where we were eager to meet our friends, the Mooney family at our shared villa.

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Posted by jknazef 15:52 Archived in Greece Tagged athens acropolis Comments (0)

Back in Beantown, for a bit

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We arrived in Boston on 12 July, with a great homecoming that included a fantastic party hosted by my parents with lots of family friends. Zavian showed his Scottish pride decked out in his kilt.
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We were only home for a few weeks before the big trip, and Naim was back in Edinburgh for some days in between for his thesis viva. I had a whirlwind trip to NYC for Zavian's Indian visa (thanks mom and dad!), which included a stop in New Haven, CT to our favorite pizza place from my childhood, Clark's.
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Alongside my parents and Dr. Naim Nazef, Zavian celebrated his first July 4th in Rockport, Mass. We didn't let the rain (or the parade for that matter) dampen our spirits and had a great time together.
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Mom and dad enjoyed every moment with Zavian it seemed, and I also relished a the break and extra sleep they afforded us!

A very short, but sweet time home in Boston.

Posted by jknazef 17:15 Archived in USA Tagged boston Comments (0)

Prepping for the voyage to the New World

a sad farewell to the UK

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We officially became a family of three on 22 December 2010. Gorgeous Zavian Kalghatgi Nazef (a 6 lbs, 1 oz bundle of delight) joined us and kick started the planning of our new life, and our new adventure.

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Once Zavian came, we set ourselves a deadline of mid June to return from Edinburgh, our home for the last four years, to Boston. If we came later, we could possibly encounter some issues with Naim's greencard. So, Naim worked hard to finish up his PhD in Organic Synthesis in the Greaney Group at The University of Edinburgh. I worked hard at learning to become a mum, and we packed up our wee flat and headed to Lancashire to spend a month with Naim's family before going stateside.

Lancashire was great, and rainy. :) Lots of time with Naim's dad, mum, sister Sulin, Marc and little Zenou. There were many days spent getting ready for the move and trip, including the amazing help of Naim's dad, Ahcene, with our shipment, helping us sell the car, amongst other things! We had a lovely family getaway to the Cotswolds, went to a gorgeous sangeet and wedding of the Gupta family and had a few Scrabble matches (no wins from our end unfortunately). Naim's mum helped us a lot, and there were a few firsts in her house for Zavian...highlights include his first taste of food and first cold! Achoo!

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We celebrated our first wedding anniversary in Edinburgh, got to know an amazing city, enjoyed many Edinburgh Fringe festivals, made new friends and gave birth to our baby boy in this fabulous place. It was very hard to say goodbye to our family and friends in the UK!

Posted by jknazef 04:30 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged edinburgh moving Comments (0)

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