Hot! The Big Day






I decided to return to Finale, Italy to spend my birthday climbing with friends. I never imagined I would celebrate the big day with such a perfect combination of friends, food, and climbing.

Ales met me at the train station on Wednesday and within minutes we caught up with two other Americans and were on the trail to rock. To prove what a small world it can be, one American was from Phoenix but I did not know him. We got in four routes before Ales had to return to work. I checked into the hostel and spent some time with Ewa and Frederico before going down the hill for dinner. It was a beautiful spring night and the moon was almost full.

The weather changed the next day to gray with a chance of rain. Ales had to work and the Americans took a rest day. I caught up on writing and reading, then met Ales, his wife Samantha, and their friend Carlo for happy hour. After some good Italian wine, we went for pizza at a small house on a back road near a creek and trailhead to the valley we had climbed in the day before. Of course, the pizza was awesome.

The weather cleared on Friday and Carlo and I climbed the whole day – six routes made more challenging by the semi-wet rock.

My birthday on Saturday started well with sunny skies. I spent some good time at the beach collecting rocks and watching a woman feed pigeons on the boardwalk. One of the best things about Finale is that the women of the town will start conversations with me at the drop of a hat. I always feel bad when that moment comes for a response. I have to tell them I don’t understand a word they’re saying. They just smile, sometimes pat me on the hand and walk away.

The afternoon was rainy, but again I found refuge in a bar with a good glass of wine. The best was yet to come. Ales and Samantha invited me to their house for a dinner in my honor. Several other climbers came and Samantha and Carlo prepared a meal for 20. There were only 8 of us.

As most spoke no English, “manga” was the word for the night. Samantha loaded my plate with sardines, frittatas, pizza and focaccia for the first course. Then she piled the pasta high for the second plate. Oooh la la! They all joked I would have to eat because the food in France was no good. True. Finally after many carbs we finished with gelato and tiramisu.

I slept well and got on the train to Nice the next morning still full.

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