Alexis at Sparkanauts Baby Cadet Class

After trying Medley Toddler, I decided to give Sparkanauts next door a try. Sparkanaut has a more holistic approach. It is also a 60min, once a week program.

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Alexis tried the Baby Cadet, a program tailored for babies 5 to 12 months.  According to the school, Baby Cadet class builds the foundation for your child’s future learning.  It helps to stimulate visual and auditory senses to prepare for reading and writing. It also strengthens the body for confidence and train for nimble movements. The program is a combination of gym, flash cards, music & movement, play and story telling all in one.

The teachers will introduce a new theme every week. They will have flash cards where they will sing and flash the cards to the child individually. The child will also get to play with some instruments like tambourin or bells to expose them to sounds and coordination.

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Each week the teacher introduces an alphabet to the child. The alphabet is printed on a flash card in a textured material. The teacher will encourage the child to trace the alphabet and show the child an object related to the alphabet.

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In Sparkanauts Baby Cadet class, there is a trapeze session where the child will be asked to hold on to the handle bar of the trapeze for 30 sec.  The child would then be swung towards the parent. Alexis loves this part. This, according to the teacher, is to train the child’s arm and also to let them know when to hold and when to let go.

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Then comes the gym time; children are encouraged to crawl around through the obstacles to build their strength and awareness of the surroundings. I personally find that the baby gym had helped Alexis to develop her crawling skills better. Prior to that, she was always doing the leopard crawl. After the trial, Alexis went home crawling. 🙂 I think it is due to peer influence as she saw all the other babies crawling in class.

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One part of Sparkanauts Baby Cadet class is a mat time where the children are placed on their back and the parents would lift and drop the colourful parachute. Alexis enjoys this and always sits up at this time. Who would want to lie down when there are so many activities around.

 

I find this program very interactive for the child. Parent would need to be prepared that there will be a parent & child gym session during the class where you will have to swing, lift and hop with the child. It is pretty tiring but a good bonding session with your child.

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The school will email parents the class materials after every lesson. Parent are supposed to go back and reiterate the learning through revision of the materials.  Hard copy can be purchased at $60 for 10 sets or $10 per set.

 

The only part that would probably deter me from signing up again is the feeling I have that the school is not keeping to the standard of hygiene. I felt that they do not clean the toys or materials after the class. When asked, they told me they clean once a week which I find not acceptable.

 

The cost for Baby Cadet class is higher than Medley Toddler at $698 for 10 lessons. If you are a SAFRA member you get 1 additional lesson for free.

Appended is the class time table:

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Sparkanauts is located at:

SAFRA Toa Payoh
293 Toa Payoh Lorong 6, #02-01
Singapore 319387

+65 62590307

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Alexis trying out Medley Toddler class

Papa says we got to be fair. Lauren got to attend many fun classes when she was below 1 year old. Alexis, on the other hand has not attended any class.

Alexis was a preemie. I delivered her at 36weeks and I bed rested from 14 weeks all the way till I deliver. I took many medications and even had a cerclage surgery done at 14 weeks. Many times I asked myself if it is due to the fact that she was a preemie and also all the medications in the system, I find her slow in achieving the milestones. With social media nowadays, we can see what are kids around our child’s age progressing. I hate to admit but I do feel affected and stress certain times when I saw all the babies around Alexis’s age start to crawl and walk while Alexis is still trying very hard to sit on her own. I told myself as long as Alexis is healthy, I am fine to take things slow.

Alexis’s speech is better than her motor skills. She could call “Papa” at 6 months. Now she can say “Papa, Mama, Zei Zei, Apple”. I told myself her progress is different as her speech develops faster than her motor skills.

 

So for Alexis, I decided to let her try some classes. I know she is only 10 months old but like what Papa mentioned.  I need to be fair. Alexis also hardly gets to go out so to have a class will make it like a mandatory outing day for Alexis every week.

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As Lauren is having piano lesson at Medley Music School. I signed Alexis up for a trial class for Medley Toddlers. The class is meant for children aged 6 months to 2.5 years. A range of musical and social concepts are achieved in this programme using the Suzuki method.  Songs, spoken speech patterns and movement are combined with the playing of a variety of percussion instruments. Each activity is presented so that toddlers at various developmental stages can benefit.

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It was quite a full class and the children were all around 12 months to 18 months. Alexis was the youngest in class. 🙂 I felt so Kiasu.

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The class started with parents singing along with the teachers and walking around in circles. The teachers will also use different musical instruments when singing different songs. They will encourage the children to try the musical instruments by asking them to take turns to come to the front.

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Overall the class was alright, it feels like any class with music and movement. It does expose Alexis to music but I want to have a class with more activities.

 

For those who are keen to find out more. Medley is having 40% off for Medley Toddler class.

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Medley Music School is located at

SAFRA Toa Payoh

293 Toa Payoh Lorong 6

#02-02

Singapore 319387

Tel: 6353 4881

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Italy- Milan Aug 2015

Our last sector. Milan to me is very much like any cosmopolitan city. Modernized and busy. Architectures are also very similar to many big cites in the world. Probably we were also homesicked, we did not explore much in Milan.

Milan is more a place where we looked for the things we could not get earlier in other cities of Italy.

We stayed at M Gallery Milano Centrale. Newly opened and a very high tech hotel. There were buttons everywhere in the room till I did not even know what were each buttons for. Who bothers about buttons or switches in the room when you only have 2 nights in Milan. Ok, the room were truly 5 stars standard, if you are looking for clean and modern looking rooms, then you will love M Gallery. It is also very convenient as it is located 5min away from Centrale Metro station and the main railway station.

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Taking the metro is very easy in Milan. We bought the day ticket at €1.50 each. Do check that the ticket machine has change given for notes as most machine will indicate the maximum amount of change it can give. We took a train to Montenapoleone, the main shopping street. Every big brand you know are located here. It was a Saturday and most shops will be close on Sunday thus we quickly got whatever we needed and walked to Piazza Del Duomo.

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Piazza Del Duomo is the main city square of Milan. A place where you need to visit if you are in Milan. We went there to look for a decent place for dinner as I got lazy this sector and did not do any research on where to eat. Kel searched on his phone and it led us to Cracco. 10 Mins walked from Piazza Del Duomo.  We did not know it was a fine dinning place and we were very casually dressed.

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Cracco is a 2 stars Michelin celebrity chef restaurant. Obviously we were not dressed for such a place but we wanted to try since the reviews are all raves. We asked if we were able to make a reservation for the next day but unfortunately they are close on Sunday. The staffs were very welcoming and told us it was ok even we were in shorts and berms.

They arranged a table for us and everyone in the restaurant were very well dressed. Omg… We were so embarrassed that we tried to even minimized our visits to the restroom so to avoid others noticing that we were in shorts and bermudas.

There was a 12 courses tasting menu, we gave that a miss as there were quite a few dishes on the menu that we were not keen in, eg Raw Deer, Bone Marrow and Veal heart.

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We went for Ala Carte. We each ordred a starter and a Main. That was the best choice made as we ended up with a 7 courses dinner as the restaurant served us complimentary appetisers and desserts. Look at how many complimentary dishes were served.

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Complimentary fried veg

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Complimentary mini sandwiches

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Complimentary tomato puree

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Complimentary oyster

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Finally, our ordered starter. 🙂

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Kel’s roasted pork cheek

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My lightly seared purple prawns

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Kel’s Main course. Spit Roasted Lamb

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Ravioli with Baby calamari. My main. 🙂

Complimentary desserts…. So many of them..

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We saw a couple next to us having the tasting menu and overheard them complaining they were so full that they could not enjoy the dinner.

The dinner cost us less than €200. We were really happy that we had a lot of raved about food this trip.

Day 2.

We set off for Lake Como. Lake Como is about an hour by train from Milan. A return ticket cost around €13 per pax.  Please get the return ticket as the ticket office at Lake Como closes at 4pm. Worst scenario you can always buy the ticket from the conductor where they are going around checking tickets.

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We wanted to go to Bellagio. It is right in the middle of Lake Como. Take a train from Milan Centrale to Varenna. Follow the signage when you alight to get to the jetty. They do sell tickets for different towns in Lake Como but if you do not have much time, just go to Bellagio like what we did, it is a very attractive town. Get the return ferry tickets and do take note of the  ferry and train timing back to Milan. The train runs every hour so if you miss it, you will have to wait at a boring café for 1 hour for the next train.

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The ferry to & fro Varenna and Bellagio.

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Beautiful scenic view of Lake Como on ferry

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I sat indoor to avoid the sun. 😛

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Arriving at Bellagio

We spent 3 hours in Bellagio. Many tourists and souvenir stores. You can also get a decent meal at the Terrazza Metropole, located within Hotel Metropole. They served very nice pasta. I ordered a Seafood Linguine (not on the menu but I requested for it) and it turned out to be very yummy. Tasted like our Seafood Hokkien Noodle. Hahaha, maybe I missed Singapore food too much.

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You can visit the church and the villas, they are open to public and those were one of the attractions in Bellagio.

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We returned to Milan at almost 7pm. We had a drink at the rooftop bar of our hotel and watched sunset amid the tall buildings of Milan.  For dinner, the hotel staffs recommended a restaurant right next to our hotel. Decent meal, super huge portion. Please do not order a pizza and pasta at the same time unless you are a big eater as we struggled to finish.

We went back to pack our luggage as we need to leave early the next morning. I planned to reach airport 3 hours before flight as I have heard horror stories about the VAT refund queue.

Day 3

Going home!!!! After a long 16 days holiday, we are finally heading home to our babies!!!

Taking a taxi from Milan central to Malpensa airport cost around 100. We headed straight for the VAT refund office once we were at the airport. I have never seen a longer queue at any other airport. I have to admit that they have improved the overall system. You just have to ensure that the items you are claiming refund for are with you as the officer may require you to show them before they are agreeable to refund. You can choose to have credit card refund or cash. We opted for cash (in euros) refund. They will stamped the forms and mailed it back for you. For items that were already refunded like those we got at The Mall, the officer will stamped and you have to mail it back at the postbox right beside. You can politely check if they can help you to mail it back as I did that and my officer agreed but Kel’s officer rejected him and asked him to mail it himself.

 

There were 3 different offices. This was the headache part. Most of the items we had were under Global Blue but we also had items from Premier Tax (Chanel and Saint Laurent uses Premier Tax). We had to queue twice. We actually split up to queue at the 2 offices.  We also had refund forms from our UK purchases where we needed the custom officer to stamp and we had to mail back.  There were no clear instruction given. Finally when I reached the Premier Tax office, they told me I needed to go to another area to let the custom officer stamped those Non Italy refund forms before I can mail the UK refund forms. I was like “C’mon, I am not queuing again, my flight is departing in an hour.” The officer allowed to me return to her once I got the stamp from the other custom office.

So….. I went to the other side. The custom officer made me show him my purchases!!!! I was controlling myself not to lose it with the  custom officer. I got 3 full luggages and I had to look for my UK purchases. Lucky the night before I anticipated such a scenario and I packed my stuffed properly. The irritating part is when I returned, the officer did not even looked up. He just stamped my forms! Arrrghhhhh…

I then rushed back to Premier Tax counter and got the staff to help me to stamp and mail the forms back.

 

Kel was still in the line at Global Blue counter when I was done with Premier. Global Blue’s line was at least 5 times longer than Premier. When it was almost our turn, we saw the Singapore Airline ground staff coming to check if anyone was on our flight. He told us we needed to do our check in immediately. We were panicking like mad.  Then the irritating part came again. The Global Blue told us that we need to get custom stamp for the Hermes Clic Clack bangle. Only that item. I then rushed to the custom again….. I went to another officer this time because I remembered the unpleasant experience I had with the other officer earlier on. The other officer was nicer but the sad part was she told me she needed me to bring the bangle through the immigration as they needed to make sure I will be bringing that item out if I am going to claim a refund for that. I seriously do not know why only that item. It was not the most expensive item.  No choice, I dug out the bangle and quickly went to check in. The ground staff reminded us repeatedly to go straight to the aircraft. We had 40min to departure. We went past immigration and searched for the refund office inside. Kel requested me to get some stuffs at duty free for his friend while he is getting the refund.

For Kel, there was again a lonnnnngggg queue. After queuing for awhile, he realized he was really running out of time. he politely asked a Philippino couple infront of the queue if he could go first because of our flight time. The couple was very obliging and wanted to let him go first. The Chinese lady behind the couple then insisted Kel could not. He tried explaining to her but she insisted she was also rushing for flight. So Kel ended up queuing again.  For myself, the queue at the duty free was pretty long too. Once done with payment, I rushed to the gate.  At that point I thought I was at most 10 min away from my gate. I was shocked when I realized there was another immigration area that needed to be cleared. The queue was long and before it was my turn, I was 3 min away from my departure time. I called Kel and asked him if he had reached the gate and if so please get the staff to wait for me. I was really thankful because the ground staff came over to the counter and asked to let me be cleared first. Both the ground staff and myself were sprinting to the gate. Honestly at 1 point during the sprint, I wanted to give up but the ground staff kept turning around and pushed me “Ms Sim, just a little more in front.”

I reached the gate pale like a ghost. I was glad I took Singapore Airline where the service from air to ground was impeccable. I believed I would have been left behind if it was other Airlines. I know it was our fault to be not mindful of the time but Singapore Airlines definitely lives up to her standard of going the extra miles for passenger.

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Moral of the story: Go to the airport 4 hours before flight. Malpensa Airport tax refund has one of the craziest queues. Packed your luggages so you will know where to locate the item if you are unlucky enough to be asked to show the items.

 

 

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Lauren lost her 1st milk tooth!

It started a week ago when Lauren came to me and told me one of her tooth was really shaky and her adult tooth was coming out.

A closer look, I saw her adult tooth behind her milk tooth. Initially I was a little worried as I heard a mother who told me that if you allow the child to keep playing with the shaky tooth. The socket will become bigger and that will affect the growth of the adult tooth. I went to approach my neighbour who happen to be a dentist. She assured me that it would be fine. The adult tooth will push out the milk tooth. She also assured me that even though the adult tooth seems to be misaligned now, it will gradually move to the front.

I did some googling and found out that most children start to lose their teeth between the age of 5-6. They will generally replace all their milk teeth with adult teeth by the age of 14.

Fast forward to today. The day where my precious Lauren’s milk tooth finally dropped!!! Lauren was very worried prior to that as she saw that her tooth was almost dropping. I told her to just gave it a tuck and pull it out. She did. The next thing, she was jumping around the room telling everyone that her tooth dropped and she pulled it out herself.

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Shortly I asked her did she throw her tooth away?  She led me to her cupboard and told me she kept it there. Hahahaha, I told her why don’t you put in inside an Ang Pow. She chose a cute red packet and told me the tooth fairy will take it tonight.

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10th Oct 2015, the day Lauren dropped her first tooth. 🙂

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Italy- Cinque Terre Aug 2015

Cinque Terre which means Five Lands, comprise the 5 small villages of Romaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso located in the Italian region of Liguria. They are listed on the UNESCO World Heritage site.

All the towns slope down to sea-level except for Corniglia, which is perched on top of a tall cliff. Four of the towns possess an old-world charm (from north to south: Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, Riomaggiore). The northern-most town, Monterosso, is completely different. It is very beachy-resorty, with not much to see beyond the boardwalk apart from modern apartment blocks and hotels—nothing like the narrow, crooked streets of the other towns, lined with colourful old houses stacked haphazardly on top of each other.

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View of Manarola

We decided to stay in Manarola. Our hotel (more like a B&B), La Toretta, were booked 4 months in advance. We had a superb stay at La Toretta. The service was impeccable, our room was very cozy and the view was breathe-taking. La Toretta is located further up the slope so please do call the front desk when you arrive at  Manarola station so they will pick you up with a buggy. We were glad there was such service because we left Florence with 3 luggages. It was really no joke travelling with 3 sardines packed luggages. The train station had no lift and we had to carry the luggages down and up long flight of stairs. Poor hubby, he carried the 2 heavier luggages.

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View from our room

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Relaxing at the terrace and taking a breather after the hectic journey

 

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There are WiFi at the lobby but if you need connection from the room you can purchase the WiFi card from the front desk. We were very lucky to get the room directly above the front desk. Our WiFi connections were strong throughout our stay. The room had free minibar, it was stocked with a good selections of soft drinks for our consumption. We were also given a bottle of champagne in the room.P8270934pseP8270935pse

We settled down before heading for our hike. In Cinque Terre, it’s all about walking. Hiking to Romaggiore only takes 20min and the path was the easiest as it was paved and wide. It is also called Lover’s walk as along the way, passers-by have the opportunity to write their names on the walls of a gallery. Visitors should not scratch their names on trees or cactuses as this is damaging to the plants. Mid-way down the path, you will come across ‘The Lover’s Lock’ which is a place to seal your eternal love. This custom follows the italian fad that was started by the film Tre Metri Sopra il Cielo. At this point there is a ‘love seat’ in the shape of a male and female locked in a kiss, where many couples pose.love-walk-cinque-terre pse

You will only take about 20min to hike from Manarola to Romaggiore but we decided to leave the other villages for the next day as we wanted to keep Day 1 exploring the village we were staying in. You do need comfortable walking shoes. I went with a pair of slippers and tried to hike. It was hard as the grip of my footwear was not good and I had to put in more effort to walk up and down the slope. The sun was also not in my favour. 🙁 It was easily 34 degree Celsius. Piercing sun burning my skin.. We reached the middle part of the hill and I requested not to continue vertically but horizontally.

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Along the hike, the terrain were full of small vineyards and villagers planting their herbs and vegetables.

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We only conquered the Manarola portion as we do not want to miss the sunset at Nessun Dorma. We had been told that Nessun Dorma has the nicest view of Manarola and we wanted to go there as our 2nd night had been booked for Billy’s. (The highly raved restaurant in Manarola)

Coming down the hill was harder than going up as my slippers was very slippery. After a scary walk down hill, we arrived at the main arena of Manarola.

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Manarola was charming, I fell in love with the place even though I am the cosmopolitan girl. I felt that I was in some filming location as the place felt so surreal. Too beautiful to be true. We tried to find our way to Nessun Dorma, it was not that hard as Manarola was a small village. Along the way, we saw quite a few nice restaurants and we were debating which one we would try that night.

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You will passed the bay along the way to Nessun Dorma. As it was summer, we saw many people jumping into the bay for a swim. Honestly both of us were tempted to jump it.  We were like “if you want to swim then I will do it with you”… Obviously we gave up on the idea and continued to Nessun.

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The view at Nessun Dorma was truly stunning.  We were greeted with unblocked view of the Mediterranean Sea and the best view of Manarola. We spent a good 3 hours there chatting and laughing over silly jokes. We even discussed why we were each other’s best travelmate.

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We had dinner at Il Porticciolo. Seafood was their main highlight but we were disappointed with the freshness of the seafood. Taste wise was decent just that our shrimps were not very fresh.

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We walked back to our hotel and brought our bottle of welcome champagne down and sat at the terrace.  We drank and chatted again. This place brought both of us even closer.

 

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Day  2.

We woke up later than we needed to. Must be due to the champagne the previous night. The breakfast spread at the hotel was pretty decent. I had a hearty breakfast to make sure I had the energy to conquer the remaining 4 villages.

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We booked the ferry service as we read that although taking ferry was not the fastest way but it was probably the most scenic way. The ferry ticket cost €20 per person and we could take unlimited no of times through the villages.  The ferry only took us to Romaggiore, Vernazza, Monterosso and back to Manarola. It runs all villages except Coniglia which you need to reach there via train or by foot.

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We saw a  1 star Michelin restaurant near the pier, Marina Picola, and we had an early lunch before boarding the ferry. It was the most decent priced Michelin restaurant.

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We waited at the pier after lunch for the ferry.

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The ferry ride to Vernazza took only 20min. Vernazza was very much like Manarola except that it was much more crowded and a little rundown. Vernazza had 2 clock towers and a small beach where many holiday goers were seen sun tanning. If you do not plan to hike, you can easily conquer Vernazza in less than 1 hour.

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Going to Vernazza

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We took a train from Vernazza to Monterosso as the timing for the next ferry was too long.  The fastest way to get between the villages is by train. You can get a unlimited pass for €12 at the information centre at any of the 5 villages but since already bought the ferry ride, we just got the single ride ticket to Monterosso for €5.

 

Monterosso is built to accommodate many tourists in large, modern apartments and hotels. It doesn’t have quite the same charm as the other towns, but it does have a quite a large sandy beach with lots of colourful umbrellas, and of course, beach-side restaurants and cafes. The backstreets of Monterosso are not as interesting as in the other towns. Not to be missed at the end of the beach is a big statue holding a terrace. We spent the least time at Monterosso as we wanted to catch the 2nd last ferry to Romaggiore.

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Romaggiore is the southern most of the 5- Terre. Most of the action in Riomaggiore is on the main street, Via Colombo, where there is an assortment of cafes, bars, restaurants, and of course, gelaterie. There are also alimentari shops selling the typical yummy Italian fare: fresh fruit (strawberries, cherries, and nespole), an assortment of salumi (salami, mortadella and the like), cheeses, olives, etc. We walked around the main street and headed back to Manarola.

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Dinner reservation was made at Da Billy. We had probably the best seats in the restaurant. Food was very good and coupled with the extraordinary sunset view. It was a romantic night for us.

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I told Kel that Cinque Terre made our bonding stronger. It brought back the “pak tor” feeling for us.

 

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