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June 18th 2012
Published: June 22nd 2017
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Collioure to Pieve, near Genoa is approximately an 8 hour drive via motorway across the whole of the south of France passing Nice, Cannes and Monaco. I wish we had had time to call into these places but we didnt. The drive is straightforward but half the "Aires" ie picnic spots were closed for renovation and the other half were like building sites with varying facilities- not the best project management I have ever seen. However eventually we found a spot with a good table and had our picnic only to find the loo was closed and we had to drive to the next stop.
Eventually we arrived at Pieve Alta the other side of Genoa in Italy. Alex was there to direct us to where we could unload the car and then we had to find a car park space on the road. The coast is very green and steep down to the sea with houses dotted around the hillside and steep windy roads but very pretty. Every bit of space is used for parking and we could see why the Italians have small cars to squeeze into the most unlikely spots. Once we found a space for the Volvo we left it there for the duration. Alex and Moira gave us a warm welcome in their lovely apartment with large balcony overlooking the sea. On the first evening Alex drove us up the hill to a village called Sessarego, where we parked the car at the bottom of the village and then walked through tiny streets to the Paradiso restaurant. This is a local fish restaurant, which never sees tourists until Alex & Moira bring their friends as it would be a bit hard to find. However the fish was delicious and the prices very good.
The following day we heard a loud altercation outside and Alex was summoned to attend the local residents meeting which was held outside at the bottom of their stairs. Everyone was talking at once and waving their arms. It could have been a scene from Montalbano. However no murder had taken place and the issue was a leaking drain and how it was going to be fixed and who was going to pay for it. Eventually some sort of agreement was arrived at and we set off up the hill to the top of Paeve Alta where Alex,having missed his breakfast, could grab a coffee and cake in a local bar. Italians don't drink a lot so I was surprised to see a gathering of men standing round having a glass of white wine at 11am. Believe it or not we had a coffee! We popped into the local St.Michael's church to see the tomb of St.Romano with the strangest effigy over the tomb. He had been a Roman who was martyred for his Christian beliefs but the statue looked more like a recumbent Spanish armada man. After this we drove to Camogli a pretty seaside town, which Charles Dickens thought was the prettiest fishing village he had ever seen. The buildings are typical Ligurian which are painted in pastel colours with trompe d'oeil paintings on them of pilasters, brickwork and shutters- very pretty and sometimes difficult to spot that they are painted. There are also little shops such as the book binding shop- (now where would you find one of those in the UK?) It smelt of lovely leather and also sold hand bound notebooks- irresistible! Lunch was had at one of Alex & Moira's regular places, the Primula on the front promenade- a good place for people watching. Alex had brought his computer so he could check his email but it took him at least 20 mins to enter the password especially with the manager and Moira both giving advise on both sides- hilarious!
We drove back home to find the rubbish had not been collected yet again. The village is now heavily into recycling and so there are separate bins for food, glass, cardboard, small paper, large paper, plastics & cans and "other dry rubbish". All these are collected on different days and there is a calendar with complex symbols which is supposed to explain what to put out when. Needless to say even the most intelligent people have not got a clue and need a degree in "Rubbishology" to get it right which most of the villagers rarely do..
In the evening we walked all the way up the hill to the annual festival called the Grigliata. There are many festivals in many of the villages and people come down from Genoa for them. We arrived early and got a good table and ordered our wine and food before the rush. The order took a long time to take because a lot of chatting was involved with Annaliese, who was going to give us her life story at the same time! The music played, the sun shone, the insalata di mare and the grilled fish were surprisingly good and the wine was cheap. At least the walk home was all down hill.
On our last day Alex drove us to Santa Margharita, another seaside town with impressive church and nice bars for a beer on the front and the most fantastic food shop where we couldn't resist buying the ham, parmigiano cheese etc. Once again this took some time because the manager couldn't stop talking! On the way back we stopped at the elegant Hotel Portofino Kulm for a glass of wine- looks a lovely place to stay. Back home Moira did a typical lunch of cold hams and cheese.
In the evening we went into Recco to a restaurant called Vittorio's. This is run by twin brothers and also 2 of the sons and a daughter. Alex and Moira knew them well so we were sat at a lovely table ,after all the hand shaking and talking that we were getting used to. The food here was fabulous and we would highly recommend it.
On the day after which was a Sunday we left at 8am and drove up the motorway via the Mont Blanc tunnel. We had hoped to get to Calais and home but by 6pm we stopped to find a hotel. First we stopped at Matouges in the Marne area but the hotel in the guide was closed. The nearest big town is Chalons en Champagne. At the third try we finally stayed at the Hotel Pasteur which has its own locked car park. Being a Sunday nearly all the restaurants were closed but we found a Brasserie in the main square- Place due Marcel Foch which did a reasonable dinner.
Finally we made the decision to come via the Channel Tunnel as it is a bit quicker than the ferry. We hadn't booked so just pitched up and were charged an horrendous 206 euros for sitting in a cattle truck- never again.

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