Ventimiglia and Family for the Win!
Grimaldi di Ventimiglia Proves a Perfect Choice for a Delightful Family Vacation
It’s been a quiet week in Lake Wobegon, as my old friend Garrison Keilor used to say in his wonderful Prairie Home Companion radio program, that was a part of Saturday night for a few decades in our house.
No, I’m not in the prairie, I’ve been enjoying one of the best vacations I have ever taken, with my daughter, Kate, my son-in-law Jon and granddaughter Sofie in Grimaldi di Ventimiglia, on the Italian riviera.
We have been able to take advantage of the place–we’ve gone off on day trips to the beach in nearby Menton France, experienced the rich and famous of Monaco, and journeyed to the east into the seaside town of Bordighera, where we had one of the epic lunches in a non-descript restaurant that blew all of our minds. You know those. Ventimiglia is an unheralded town, but one with a great market and some fun shops, definitely underrated. The river Roya flows right through it and I’m sure it’s just overlooked because of San Remo, down the coast, that gets more of the spotlight.
I can’t share it all but every day we had a well-organized outing, in our rented Lexus SUV, with Jon skillfully navigating the narrow streets and myriad roundabouts, as Kate sat shotgun doing the double nav with iPhone and the car’s somewhat frustrating own nav.
We didn’t go that far, but each time we did, it usually involved hills, tight squeezes, and a tiny bit of stress.
I never felt we had to rush, or that my hanging out on the laptop caused anyone stress, it was like many of the stateside vacations we have taken together, a good mix of letting everyone do their thing and then joining up for outings instead of spending the whole day at the casa.
But the casa was indeed a highlight…every window opened wide to the view of the Mediterranean, and even the bathroom view was extraordinary.
I loved looking down and seeing Menton, the French town where we went to the beach, and below our road, the small pebbly beach there and the small harbor dotted with pleasure boats and jet skis on the weekend.
One day we set out to taste wine at a vineyard called Terre Bianchi. And to say it was an uphill trip was understating it, it was pure switchbacks and slightly nerve-wracking blind corners. The wine turned out to be great and taking a walk among the vines gave us stunning views of the distant mountains and the sea.
This whole place is just perfect for those like us who like to take in views, sip great wines and then drive to a remote little restaurant for a long lunch.
Five Seafood Courses at Bussano Beach
One night we decided to splurge, well, sort of. The fun thing for us is that splurging here is not nearly the burden of a USA seafood splurge.
We visited Gente di Mare for their five-course seafood feast, with unlimited wine, and a view of the sea just 50 feet away 44 euros per person. Bussano Beach is part of the famous San Remo, about 15 km up the coast.
This restaurant has my name written all over it. No choice, just trust the chef, who sends out five seafood dishes in a row and each one is sparkling and fresh from the nearby sea. Octopus, giant prawns, seafood gnocchi, the best mussels we had ever had, plus dessert and coffee the aforementioned wine.
The staff was jolly and we watched the locals enjoying their own feast of pizza, still showing off their leatherback tans and hoisting cups of wine as we feasted. We arrived there at 7:15 and at around ten pm the carafes of sparkling white wine stopped, we sipped some espressos and enjoyed the final course panna cotta and creme brulee, all done in the local style.
Ahhh Europe, where dinners last for hours and the conversation flows so easily. It helps that I was traveling with my favorite people, Kate and Jon, and the easiest of their brood to travel with, Sofia Valerie Cosme.