Friday, October 20

Book: The Churn, James S. A. Corey Click for more info

It's becoming pretty clear that the novellas available in The Expanse universe are not essential reading. They almost seem incidental and experimental, serving to keep fans ticking along between mainline books, while giving some superfluous background detail to the solar system in which the saga is set.

That's not to say that's a bad thing; for me at least they make for nice breaks between the larger slogs. The Churn, for example, brings us back to Earth, telling us about conditions for those who chose not to leave their home planet.

It's okay, and like I said it made for a nice timepass. I don't feel like I have extra tools or context with which to enjoy the fuller story, but given the lengths of the novellas so far that not quite something to complain about yet.

Cinque Terre, Day Seven: Genoa

Our last day and stop was to Genoa - this time an early start to get there in good time for Jummah prayers (which was actually the reason we were flying back from here instead of Pisa).

Getting there for 11am or so, we had a good few hours for quick sightseeing, pesto snacks and our final meal in Italy of some (again) wonderful pasta.

Jummah was interesting enough, and a bit of a throwback to the minority congregations we had in London in the 80s - a sermon not in Italian or Arabic but in Bengali, to serve the bulk of the audience.

After prayers we were pretty much done. Grabbing a cheeky kebab for the ride to the airport (which I have to say was super cheap to get to), we arrived in good time to catch our flight home.

Our trip to Cinque Terre and the wider region proved to be as easy, accessible, relaxed and engaging as any of my previous trips to Italy, cementing the reasons why I really don't mind returning to this country. And yet it was different enough to make the trip feel novel - in terms of breadth, Italy appears to have it in spades.

Thursday, October 19

Cinque Terre, Day Six: Chiavari

We had another easy start into Chiavera, a pretty little town famous for its porticoes - which turned out to be handy given how the weather had finally turned. 

Despite this, the agenda had already been set before we had even arrived and invovled the now standard walking, lunching, and then back home by mid-afternoon for a movie, dinner and then more films.

Wednesday, October 18

Cinque Terre, Day Five: Camogli

An easy start took us into a neighbouring sea town called Camogli.

I have to say the place was pretty dead apart from a street market, and yet it wasn't a waste given how we were now in full relax and loiter mode.

In fact, once we had lunch and some excellent Camogliesi dessert from Revello, we headed home before the sun had set for an afternoon Predator movie screening - which we then followed up with another in the series after dinner.

Tuesday, October 17

Cinque Terre, Day Four: Santa Margherita Ligure and Portofino

Our original plan was to spend the entire week in Cinque Terre, giving each village a full day with some spares for the hikes. Call it a hunch (or maybe experience) but we pivoted a week before travelling and committed to leaving Cinque Terre for Santa Margherita a short train ride north of Monterosso half way through our trip. This turned out to be a great decision, as we were pretty much done with Cinque Terre by this point

Santa Margherita is a cute seaside town, larger and so better served than any of the villages in Cinque Terre. It serves as a good base to explore some of the places to see in the area - obviously including the five villages. We were looking forward to having restaurants still open past 6pm.


Since we arrived early we decided to make use of the day and take the ferry to San Fruttuoso and Portofino. The first was an abbey located on a relatively remote and intimate bay. Planning a few hours there we actually spent the one exploring what little it had - perhaps with a good book it could have been somewhere to spend more time just chilling out, but as that wasn't the mood of the day we decided to head on to Portofino.

Like San Fruttuoso, Portofino was more about vibe and food than anything in particular to see or do, although it was far larger. After lunch we we did a few local hikes up to the church and lighthouse, and then walked the 6km or so back to our accommodation in Santa Margherita for a pizza dinner.

Monday, October 16

Cinque Terre, Day Three: Vernazza and Monterosso

Today promised to be more straightforward than yesterday, with the plan being to start our hiking at Corniglia and head north to Vernazza and then further to the fifth (and largest) village of Monterosso.

Although the hikes promised to be more developed (and charged for), they weren't as engaging as the previous ones on this trip. This might have just been second day blues or the weather - as a way to pass the time I can't think of anything we would rather have done.

After a somewhat excellent swordfish pasta lunch we headed on to Monterosso, which despite being the largest of the villages (much by virtue of being split into both old and new towns), we found we managed to cover as quickly as the others. Still as always food was available to keep us busy, including some wonderful Monterossina cake.


Still hungry, we made our way back to Vernazza to grab a second dinner from the place we had lunch... only to find that the place was dead by 6pm, confirming what we had already guessed: that Cinque Terre seems open for passing trade rather than staying guests.

Sunday, October 15

Cinque Terre, Day Two: Corniglia and Riomaggiore

The main highlight of this trip were to be the hikes. The five villages that make up Cinque Terre have at least two hikes, sometimes more, coming out of them, making a total of eight trails to explore. Although we had ambitions to check them all out, between closures and logistics our minimum aim was to at least walk between each village once. This morning we were walking the high route between Manarola and Corniglia to the North.

The hike itself was of medium difficulty and was a brisk walk with a little climbing. Compared to some of the previous hikes we've been on it was actually quite leisurely with views of the Mediterranean abound - although we didn't have the clear skies and sunshine we would have wanted, there was no rain and visibility was still decent.


Corniglia itself was a small village, and finally made us realise the scale of Cinque Terre and its five villages - these weren't going to take too long to cover and explore. That said, it was a nice place to visit and our first introduction this trip to the food we would come to enjoy over the next few days.


Our original plan was to take the train back south, past Manarola and to Riomaggiore, from where we would hike back home. Due to a mishap we actually disembarked at Manarola and so took the opportunity to rest a bit at home first. This was probably for the best, as the hike between Manarola and Riomaggiore did seem more interesting heading south.

We explored the town, which included the castle and marina, had a delightful fried fish dinner (where we were served by a brummie of all people) and then after catching sunset took the train home for some more chilling and boardgames.

Today pretty much set the tone for the trip - an early start with a lot of walking, while ending the day relatively early for some hanging out. I'm left wondering: is this how old people travel?

Saturday, October 14

Cinque Terre, Day One: Manarola

I can't claim that Cinque Terre was ever on my list of places to visit. In those terms this is nothing new; most of my travel has been initiated by someone else, and I'm happy to accept how lucky I am to have those around me to drag me to places. That said, Italy has long been my favourite place to visit in Europe, so I'm not entirely surprised to find myself back here.

Flying into Pisa early, we were able to take a noonish train to the first of the five villages we were to explore over the next few days. Manarola is the second village from the South, and as we would find out later, one of the larger places to stay - not that we could tell at the time as we managed to cover the breadth of it in a short time.


After a wander, dinner and orientation we headed back to our apartment to relax... and get a head start on the next day which promised to be quite active.

Saturday, October 7

Book: Abaddon's Gate, James S. A. Corey Click for more info

Book three and I'm starting to wonder James S. A. Corey actually exists[1]. Abaddon's Gate is so full of tropes, so Saturday night TV that if it had been written in 2023 I'd have seriously asked whether or not it had been output by generative AI.

Most jarring was the pivot from the previous book - I often wonder whether series of this type requires long term planning or not, and The Expanse shows what might happen if you're willing to bin the stuff that came before. It's not as clever and maybe a bit blunt.

I didn't hate this book, and in many ways I enjoy how much of a breeze it is to read. This book was not a memorable read, it was kind of like the YA of science fiction, but it made for a decent time pass and I'm not surprised that, just like a TV show, I find myself eager to carry on with it.

[1] Yes, I know that Corey is actually a pen name for not one, but a pair of authors behind The Expanse. That's not the point (or perhaps it is).

Tuesday, October 3

Film: The Creator Click for more info

I guess sometimes films (or anything) just fall victim to the promises that they make. The Creator had a great trailer, a potentially thrilling plot and some grandstanding action. But unfortunately the film fell so short of expectations that it wasn't just an average film but an awful one.

I could give a list of why this film was so bad, but the main cause for me was how... convenient the the plot was. People were stupid when they needed to be, developments relied on some extraordinary coincidences, and the whole thing just played out like a cheap videogame cutscene.

I'd avoid this one.