Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Bon Giorno Bicicletta

The bicycle rental opened at 9am, so we were first in line this morning.  The air was cool and breezy.  The sounds of the city had begun hours before and we had already consumed due cappucini and some frutta.  We were off to ride the circle around the city, on top of the wall around Lucca.

So about halfway around, I bravely take my phone and begin to video.......

We check out of Lucca in just a half hour and take a taxi to the train station.  About an hour or less on el treno, we will be in Vernazza, calling Giuliano to check in at the beautiful place we will reside for the next week.

No internet there, so blogging will be sparse, unless we can figure out something - likely we will, if we have to find an internet cafe.
But for now, arivaderci, a domani a presto. (Goodbye, see you soon:)

Say it with a SMILE and a handmade TILE!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Day One in Lucca Italia

Today was a one in  a million days.  A dream of a day.  Due cappucini in a local bar with Kim and Don, 3.20 euros, a bit of fruita at the apartamente (79 steps up) and then we rent a bicycle built for four and begin to pedal around the top of the wall.

 I check my phone.  It is a God thing no doubt, because Raluca has called - she is at  our apartment we turn the contraption around and run back to meet her.  This is the first time she and I have seen each other in two years, since we met at the Eurhotel in Firenze.  That is another story for another day:)  She and I were instant friends.  A very brave girl, to come meet strangers in Lucca for the day.  SHE IS a darling.  Our Raluca.  We all decided we want to take her home with us.

While we spent the next 40 minutes bicycling, Raluca went to find just the perfect photo op....And Kim was at the wheel of this bicycle thing, complete with a BELL (she rang it at every SINGLE PERSON that we passed) Kimy Ringy Dingy. We pumped our glutes into shape and it was up hill both ways, as everything in Italy IS.

So, then.  Off to lunch.  You gotta think like this in Italia.  Because if you wait too long, the Italians close everything down and go take a nap somewhere.  And we aren't into naps on this day.  We want FOOD - Italian FOOD and Italian WINE and Italian BEER.

So about two hours later, we walk.  Searching for a garden that Linda saw when we were bicycling on the wall.  Always, a quest is SO much fun.  We went the same circle around and around, each time seeing something different, wonderful having Raluca ask for directions when we got sort of lost.  And finale, we find the palace and the garden and we walk into another sort of paradise.

Later, we return to the apartment to freshen up a little.  Drink a toast of Prosecco to our friendship and to the day, and await a call from Kims friend Anna, who has invited us to dinner in her home with her fiance Fiorenzo.  He is a photographer, like Raluca, and I am so happy for them to meet, for Anna to meet our Raluca, for Raluca to meet our Anna, to celebrate their coming wedding, to have a REAL italian dining experience in a REAL italian kitchen.

  And OH my, we weren't disappointed.  I knew it would be good, but I had no idea it would be CRAVEABLE.  What Fiorenzo called a lasagna, like no lasagna I've ever tasted.  I mean, NOTHING like I've ever tasted.....And he told us how he made it.....I don't know if we can even come close to matching it.  Amazing, thin as paper pasta sheets, light, beautiful cheese, lightest meat sauce, italian cheese, the real thing.  Then a nice rare beef roast, sliced so thin and lovely, with oven roasted potatoes, then a beautiful clean and fresh, crisp green salad.  Grappa. Finito.  Fiorenzo says the only thing that would have made it better was if he could speak english, he would have made us laugh.  Because, in his own words -  he is very funny:)

Say it with a SMILE and a handmade TILE!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Planes trains and automobiles

Finally after two years of plans and a long day of traveling,  we're here!  In Italia!  Mangia! (Let's EAT!)
One car, three planes, a bus, then another bus, a train, and a taxi, and 79 steps.  UP. We are finally here.

And the best part of it all, besides the fact that we are in the heart of Italy, in Lucca, is that our friends, Kim and Don have been here long enough to get settled into our apartment, buy some food and wine, and greet us with all of the above, on the rooftop terrace overlooking the mountains of Tuscany.

  After a few minutes of freshening up - a quick shower, plug in the phone and computer, we sit in the Tuscan sunshine and laugh about the adventures of travelling such a distance.  Our only snafu in the entire day and night was the train trip.  We purchased our train tickets to Lucca from Florence.  And with minutes to spare, found the exact train, (miraculously) and hopped aboard.  After making sure we were on the right train with some kind Italians, we settled in for the short trip.   About a half hour into our trip, the ticket puncher dude came by to punch our ticket.  Well, Linda and I are pie eyed after so many hours travelling and we look at him like he is from Mars.  I dig through my papers and stubs and tickets from the day and keep handing him items -  finally finding just what he is looking for.  He looks at me and ticks, like only an Italian can.  Not good, he says, shaking his head and looking in my direction.  We look at each other and panic.  We think we might be headed in the wrong direction.

But no.  Nothing so terrible.  He ticks again.  And shakes his head.  Like we've done some horrendous wrong.  WHAT?  I'm tired and ready to just be there, and need some grace  and kindness right then.
He says we FORGOT to validate our ticket.  And we look at each other like he just spoke in Martian.  Forgot?  Evidently there is some machine that you have to put your ticket into before you board.  He says, "It a says a it a right a here a in a english a".

But he is going to give us a break.  Instead of taking us to jail, he will only charge us a fine of five euros, but don't a let it a happen again a.   Not to worry.  We've learned our lesson.

Say it with a SMILE and a handmade TILE!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Travel Dreams and Nightmares

My travel companion Linda has nice digs.  I decided to stay at her place last night so we could travel to the aeroporto together today.  As comfy cozy and beautiful the guest room is here, I still had those weird travel dreams, or what I would call nightmares.  You know they ones where you run as fast as you can and don't get anywhere, and you really need to get where you are going.  In my dream, at the last minute before the plane boarded, we go to the bathroom, and upon return to the gate, I find that I have left my backpack in the stall.  So I RUN back, and of course it takes me for EVER to get there, and when I do, the bathroom isn't there anymore.  After some searching, I find that it wasn't a bathroom at all, but an employee lounge.  I find my backpack, but upon return to the gate again, I realize my glasses aren't anywhere on my head, so I RUN again, which takes forever again, all the while, realizing we never checked in at the gate, so when I finally DO make it back to the gate, with my glasses, they have given our seats to a couple of stand by travelers, and we miss our flight.  UG-G-G-H-H!

But, it's only a dream.  I'm sure all will go well today, without a hitch.  We'll check our bags, breeze through security, find a place to buy a few euros, and a good place for lunch, and we'll walk on the plane and find our seats have been upgraded to first class......

OK, well, maybe not, but it's a good dream anyway:)......

Say it with a SMILE and a handmade TILE!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Almost Italy!

Getting ready for a trip of such magnitude is a feat within itself.  Especially with animals to care for.  It is SUCH a relief to know that my critters will be well cared for while I am away.  Gracie is staying with her aunt Lean, who will spoil her rotten.  No doubt. I am grateful that I have no worries but that one:)  We have a marvelous house sitter that will care for the chickens and the barn cats, as well as my rose bushes.  She'll reap the bounty from the garden and the hen house each day.  And we will have peace of mind knowing everything is watched over while we are gone. 
Making lists, checking them twice, crossing all items off, last minute things squashed into the suitcase.  It is a great relief not to be rushing all over finishing up on things. 
So, tomorrow!  I'm off on an adventure in Italy!  Stay tuned for two weeks of fun!
And follow  one of my travel buddies blogs too.....ciaotexas.....It's a beautiful blog - they've already started the journey and are in London now!

Say it with a SMILE and a handmade TILE!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Italia Vincolato!

Just 7 days.  I'll be setting foot in Italy again.  The sounds. The colors.  The trains.  The history.  The art. The people.  The language.  The gelato.  The markets.  The wine.  OH! And the food!   There isn't another place like it anywhere. 

Say it with a SMILE and a handmade TILE!