The travel to meet up with Iain was basically the exact opposite of the last time I took a solo vacation in Europe, when I was running around like headless chicken trying to catch my trains. This time, I made it to the airport with time to spare (!), and then found out that my flight to Nice, France, was going to be delayed 2.5 hours due to a strike by the French Air Traffic Controllers Union, which also meant we had to fly around France and not over it. Plus, it was raining in Amsterdam, so we sat on the plane for 30 minutes before taking off because there was only one open runway...
Either way, it was nice to finally arrive in Nice and know that I had made it. Iain lives about 1 hour east of Nice, in Apricale, Italy, a small town in the mountains. And when I say he lives in Apricale, I really mean that it's the closest town to his house. He actually lives in a really cool house only accessible via very small, rocky roads, about 10 minutes past Apricale in the middle of the mountains. (As Iain jokingly points out, it's a perfect place for him to practice his bagpipes, because his closest neighbor is not close at all.)
|Blackberries outside Iain's house--the best I've eaten!|
|The view from Iain's bedroom.|
On the first day, Iain, his girlfriend Debora, and I mainly explored the area. We drove through the mountains to San Remo, the closest "large town" (which is still relatively small).
|Driving through the mountains.|
|At the top--Iain's house is somewhere down in the valley.|
For dinner, Iain's friend Pino invited us over. Pino, who is one of the most self-sustaining people I've met, lives even further in the woods on a relatively large plot of land covered with all sorts of crops. He served the best pasta dish I've ever eaten, complete with olive oil made from olives in his yard (which was indescribably amazing). Pino spends a few months each year collecting olives off his property, as well as from the yards of his friends. He told me all about the arduous process of collecting olives by shaking them off the tree (they're not ripe if you have to shake too hard), which actually resulted in a severe shoulder injury that knocked him out of commission for part of the olive collecting season. Just when I thought the food couldn't get any better, Pino whipped out a jar of fig marmalade made with--you guessed it--figs from his yard. I think if everyone had access to the food Pino makes, the world would be a better place. That's why I was shocked when he gave me a bottle of oil and a jar of marmalade just to be kind!
And when I thought there was no way to adequately thank Pino for his gift, I realized that Iain and I had brought our instruments with us to jam after dinner with Pino, who is a really great guitarist. So, appropriately enough, we were able to thank Pino with our music!
A special thank you to Pino, for providing such a wonderful night of food and fun!
|Me, Pino, Iain & Debora|