The Swiss Family Carlson Tans on the Beach!

Or at least tries to become slightly less pasty white.

We left Pisa in the morning after a weak hotel breakfast and made our way to the train station.  We accidentally ended up walking all the way there.  We intended to take a taxi, but we had a couple of postcards to mail so we took what was supposed to be a quick detour to a postbox and then we would jump into one of the ever-present taxis by the river.

But there were no taxis to be found. And then we looked at our Google Maps and saw we were halfway there already so we might as well just keep on walking. The children were completely baffled. Here they were, with a chance to ride in a car and we were messing it up for them. Parents are so cruel.

We got to the train station and tried to buy our tickets at the main counter, but, no, you don’t actually buy those kinds of tickets at a ticket counter. You go over to the magazine stand.  You take your kids, weave through the stack of toys and plastic kid-trap crap, and buy your tickets while you buy your copy of People Italia.

Our train was scheduled to leave 3 minutes after we bought the tickets, so we ran for it, pulling the kids behind us.  But when we got to the platform there was no train to be found and it looked like we had 15 minutes to wait.

The platform was full of people – mostly tour groups being led by someone waving a flag or fan above their heads; holding a clipboard in their other hand. And we found out there were pickpocket teams in operation.

Here’s how it went down. I got the kids, their backpacks, and one suitcase onto the train. Mark got his backpack and the Big Bertha suitcase on the train. Then this guy got in front of Mark and asked me if he could sit with us. To which I replied no. While our attention was focused on that seat, the guy behind Mark tried to get his hand into Mark’s pocket to get his wallet.  Thankfully, he failed due to Mark’s incredibly deep pockets and the fact that he was aware of his surroundings.  However, that attempt soured Pisa for me and I was in a bitter mood, clutching my purse and barking at the kids to keep their bags closed, for most of the train ride.

My mood was still pretty sour when we arrived in Viareggio, just an hour or so north of Pisa along the coast. In Viareggio we got into a taxi and went 10 minutes up along the coast to Lido di Camaiore, the beach town where we were staying.

Lido di Camaiore’s streets are lined with palm trees. It felt just a little SoCal.

Lido Beach 3Nice wide boardwalks. Kids riding bikes and skateboards. People hanging out on benches eating ice cream and gelato.  Off to the right are all the hotels. Off to the left are the entrances to the beach and the restaurants.

We got beach passes as part of our hotel stay. If you have a condo or you are just coming for the day you have to buy a pass from one of the many beach shops off the boardwalk. This isn’t unusual. In New Jersey you need to pay for a beach badge to stay on the beach. The money goes to pay for lifeguard and beach cleaner salaries. The same is probably true here.

However, in Lido you get assigned a “spot.” It’s kind of a cabana area complete with sun umbrella, chairs, and side table. And it’s your spot. No one else can sit there. It’s helps the kids know exactly where their stuff is when they need it and you don’t have to lug all your crap down from the hotel room, down the street, and across the sand.  It’s just right there.  That is really lovely.

And for my friends with OCD, it keeps everything in nice straight rows.

IMG_2613 IMG_2614Also, the other hotels and cabana shops have different colors of umbrellas. Also handy for finding your way around the forest of umbrellas after coming up out of the sea.

And it is the sea. It’s the Ligurian Sea, which is a little pocket in the north part of the larger Mediterranean Sea. It’s kind of surreal thrill as an American to put my toes into a sea. We don’t have seas in America. We have lakes. With a sea you still have saltwater and waves so it’s practically like being at the ocean.

Lido Beach 2I will say this about the food. It was not as good as in Pisa. It was good, don’t get me wrong, but several of the fish dishes noted that they were made with frozen fish and/or seafood and the gnocchi was certainly not housemade.

The one exception was the focaccia. There was a “topped focaccia” restaurant right around the corner from our beach entrance. Topped focaccia is sooooo goooood!  You take your basic focaccia, top it with something – pizza sauce and cheese or thinly slice potatoes, butter, and rosemary or zucchini and tomato slices – and bake it in the oven. It’s almost like a deep dish pizza. We ate lunch there both days we were at the beach and E couldn’t see why we wouldn’t just eat there for dinner, too.  Well, it was tempting…

The first day we were there the sea was full of great surfing waves. There was one spot in particular that had some really perfect waves and there were about 30 surfers hanging out there.  The next day there were hardly any waves at all, but that brought out the paddleboarders, the windsurfers, and the kitesurfers. IMG_1652

The 6 year old wanted to see if we could hook him up to a kite. I suggested we try paddleboarding instead. And learning how to swim.

There is a long pier that divides the beach area neatly in half.  It arcs out into the sea a good 30 meters and provides a great view back at the beach.

Lido Beach 1

IMG_1654It’s fun to see the flat expanse of beach suddenly give way to jutting mountains.  You can go hiking in the morning and then come on down to jump into the sea and have dinner on the boardwalk.

Here is another shot of the mountains – the view from our hotel room balcony where we dried our swimsuits and sipped glasses of wine after the kids went to bed.

There is also nice little bar/coffee shop at the end of pier. It lends itself to being a very romantic and quiet place to catch a drink with your significant other. Which explains some of the looks of panic and fear when we walk over with our kids.

IMG_1650It’s also windy.  Which makes it hard to have good hair.IMG_1649I do wish we had stayed a few more days, but since school was back in session already we couldn’t spend our accustomed week on the sand and in the surf. Even though it was such a short time I managed to feel that same level of peace and calm that I usually feel after a week at the beach in New Jersey.  I got a load of writing done in my notebook sitting on the beach, watching Mark and the boys play in the water. Seeing H really loving the water and seeing E perfecting his body surfing technique.

I can’t wait to go back.

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