I knew my cousin's a bit of a celeb around these parts, but I didn't know to what extent.
He couldn't magically make our train arrive on time, but our ocean-view digs at Rapallo on the coast by Portofino more than make up for it. And the magnificent sunshine and summery temperatures? Somehow I don't think he's got connections with God or Mother Nature or whomever you believe is in charge of such things, but it's certainly an antidote to the miserable weather in Milan.
He also arranged a fabulous lunch at Rêve, the ultra-posh, shabby chic, French-inspired restaurant-cum-antique-shop. I'm not sure what I loved more: The squid ink ravioli, the gnocchi in octopus sauce, the Asian-inspired pasta in langoustine tails (and some whole ones for good measure), the warm octopus salad, the fresh porcini mushrooms with potatoes, the stunningly crisp local white wine... Or the tear-jerkingly sweet part, the lovely owner giving my aunt (i.e. my cousin's mom) a gigantic bouquet of white roses to welcome her.
I suppose it pays to be the best (and possibly only real Japanese) sushi chef in the region. Considering his restaurant is the upstairs of a funky, cool, but nowhere-near-fancy bar in Santa Margherita, it's gotta be all about his skill with the knife and his penchant for fresh fish (he goes marketing at the docks early in the morning, just like the guys do at Tsukiji in Tokyo). That and he's a genuinely cool guy, and it was awesome to see how everyone in town really likes him.
He used to work his magic at a chic, glamorous Japanese restaurant in central Milan (which we went and checked out - very schwanky!) but to me, it's obvious he made the right move to the coast. I may be a big city dweller, but there's no way to resist the charm and beauty of the Ligurian coast. The colorful houses with their trompe l'oeil facades, the gorgeous blue sea, the windy roads, the sheer cliffs and green mountains... and a near absence of English-speaking tourists. At least, in the off-season.
While the Portofino area is a playground for the international jetset in the summer, early November seemed to be blissfully... blissful. After four days, it finally felt as though I was on vacation, able to totally relax, and kick back as it was time for someone else (my cousin!) to lead the way.
Unfortunately, it was only to be for a day.
Last night was my last night in Italy. Which in and of itself is bad enough. I always hate the end of a good trip - even one involving getting soaked to the bone in rain and losing a bag of expensive goodies. But it's far worse knowing that I'm on this train alone.
By now, Alannah's with the rest of my family in Cinque Terre for the day - our trains left Rapallo at roughly the same time - and I'm on my way to Torino, where I'll hang out for a bit before catching the high-speed train to Paris in the evening.
If I were a daredevil, I'd have headed down to Cinque Terre for a bit to squeeze out the last bit of time with my wife and family before hopping a train to Torino, but I want a big cushion. Not only do I have to get across Torino to catch the Paris train, but this current train is already half an hour behind schedule.
My sense of utter non-surprise is outweighed only by a silly, juvenile sadness. My wife (and my mom and aunts) will be back in Paris in just a week, but I have this nasty, queasy feeling gnawing at my stomach.
Of course, it could just be all the goddamn food I've been eating.