Joined December 2018 Message
  • Apr20

    Lucca and opera - day 9

    April 20, 2019 in Italy ⋅ ☁️ 14 °C

    Fine and 23 degrees

    Well I kind of prefer a clean towel, but…. so we washed all the towels yesterday except for Jody’s. Last night she kindly handed me a new towel. When I showered this morning I thought it smelt a bit off, and then when Jody was searching for her towel realised that yes, she had given me her manky old one that she had been using for days. Good times! Not a great morning for her in the cognitive stakes. She boiled the kettle, so I made her a cup of tea. Then she got a bit confused at the number of cups on the table – yep, she had already made herself one! Am hoping the day gets better…..

    After handwashing some clothes and doing our dishes and mucking around a bit, we didn’t head off on our bikes until around 10.30am. First stop was riding around the walls of Lucca – 5km circle. Lots of people walking, running and riding around the walls. On the outside of the walls was a huge area of grass with walking/biking tracks. Lots of people were walking their dogs there. We spied a market from the top of the walls, and thought we would head for there. But sort of got distracted by realising that we were by the entrance that we took Nico through last night. So we retraced our steps on the bikes – by golly we were lucky not to meet cars coming the other way with Nico. We found another market and had a look around there. And then were a bit hungry, so found somewhere to eat. Roz keeps telling me I have to try fresh pasta, so thought this place might be good. Hmmm, no-one else came in there to eat while we were there, and the pasta took forever and something went in the micorwave. Well it was edible, and not too bad, but won’t be going there again!

    One of Jody’s friends had suggested a Puccini opera that was on every night in Lucca. Puccini was born here, but it was only 80 years after his death that he was being celebrated here. We asked a number of places where this place was for the opera, and got sent all around the place. A couple of people said there are a hundred churches in Lucca, so we can’t know where they all are. In the end, we just had enough and decided to go and find the first markets that we saw from the wall. Lo and behold, the markets were beside the info centre that sold tickets to the opera – phew! So we bought them, and then went back to Nico – about a 3km bike ride.

    Jody retreated to her bed for a wee rest, but I thought I should go and investigate around the area on my bike seeing as we will be leaving tomorrow. About 400m down there road there was a stopbank, and a river on the other side. I rode the wrong way down the one way street by the river (bikes just go anywhere here!), and then round various tracks. I found a gorgeous spot by a bridge with the river going over a wee dam. Lots of people were walking and swimming dogs here. Then I went further and found the enormous carpark that we had been warned against. There were quite a few motorhomes parked in here.

    Then back to Nico where I made a yummy salad with bacon and egg in it. Then back on the bikes and off to town for the Opera. It isn’t something that I would normally do, but was rather interesting. There were a male and female singer with just 1 pianist who was amazing. It was held in a church, and it was rather cool in there but with great acoustics. It was just over an hour long which was good. And when we came out at 8.20pm it was only just getting dark, so we hightailed it back to Nico as we only had 1 bike light between us.

    So tomorrow we are intending to leave Italy – it has only taken us 5 days, we thought it might take a lot longer. We both love Italy, the shopping and scenery is amazing. But I am looking forward to going places that I haven’t been before. We have about a 5 hour drive, and will be going through lots of tolls, but Jody seems to have that pretty sussed now – as long as we use cash anyway!

    Ciao ciao ciao!
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  • Apr19

    Firenze and Lucca - day 8

    April 19, 2019 in Italy ⋅ 🌙 11 °C

    What a fun day today. We had tomatoes, avocado and basil on toast for breakfast, washed our towels (5 euros in the machine, and I had to ask for a bit of help, towels were very well washed as I put some washing liquid in, and it also added some automatically). Then we biked into Firenze on a lovely path by the river. I might have suggested we walk up the hill at some stage where it was really steep, but we managed it. We biked into the main centre, had to visit a pharmacy where I replaced the items I left in the shower in San Gimignano (though I have found my missing sunglasses). Then we headed for the Uffizi gallery to have a look at the David. Jody had stayed near this Piazza before, so knew there was a leather bag market around the corner, so of course we went to visit it. We did laugh a bit when we realised it was the same market that we had visited last night. And it was a sucessful trip – 2 bags and 2 glasses cases. Then it was off to raid a restaurant so we could use their toilets. So pleased to be travelling with a like minded person who is just fine with using the mens toilets – tho the man waiting for her didn’t seem to be so impressed.

    Then we went back to our bikes and realised we had chained them right next to a chocolate shop that I hadn’t been in before – Venchi. There was flowing chocolate running down one wall, and the chocolate was possibly even better than Lindt. We might have had an icecream as well as purchasing just a couple of chocolates (who am I kidding, who could get just a couple?). Then it was back on our bikes to get back to the camping ground. After getting ourselves organised packing away washing, having chicken wraps for lunch etc, it was 3pm – close to the required checkout of 2pm. I introduced Jody to the fun of filling water, emptying grey water, and the toilet cassette which went off without a hitch.

    Then it was on the road to Lucca, but we had to make a stop at IKEA first. I hadn’t been to that store before, and am thinking it is worth another visit. We bought some chairs, and a duvet for me. Oh and a stool, key holder, and could have bought so many other useful things. We intended to stop at a store like a mitre 10 on the way out of that shopping area, but only had a right hand turn, so couldn’t go back. I just stopped on the side of the road waiting for a decision point between 2 motorways while Jody got googlemaps. organised for where we were supposed to be going – that should have made me wary for the future! Then at the 2 toll stations we went through, Jody handled like a pro. Not sure that she is going to choose the card option any time soon tho.

    So about that future,….. Jody initially put in Lucca has the destination, and then when we were on the motorway she put in the actual address for the camping ground. Googlemaps sent us through the city walls of Lucca, and I stopped there for a few minutes cos it looked like only vehicles under 3m should go through, and Nico is 3.2m high. After a fair bit of car tooting behind us, we folded in the wing mirrors, and went through. Oh my golly, was that a bad decision. There wasn’t really anywhere to turn around, so we just kept on going, narrow streets, loads of tourists, gesticulating italians, and tight corners. I was just hoping that we weren’t going to find a height restricted exit, and that we were going to have to reverse the whole way back! Jody was watching the people around, and saying we were lost. I didn’t want to make eye contact with anyone, and just kept driving – though pretty slowly, why wouldn’t the tourists just get out of the way? We ended up in the main Piazza, so stopped in the middle and checked googlemaps. It seemed that it was still directing us to the middle of Lucca. So we set it for the campground address, and finally found out way out of the city centre – that was just such a relief! It took a while to get to the campground through some more narrow streets, but at least there were other vehicles around so we thought we were allowed there. I have googled ZLTs since then – Zone Limited areas, and will be expecting some sort of ticket in the mail in the future.

    The campsite is pretty basic, but there are lots of motorhomes here. There are 6 mhs owned by Danish people, and they have set up tables in a line. They invited us to join them, but really after that experience, we were heading for the wine, limoncello and chocolate! Jody cooked some sausages for dinner which were nice with salad. Then we reviewed the videos that she had taken, and after a bit of alcohol they just kept getting funnier. We really should have taken the most of the opportunity with lots of pics, but at the time we just wanted to get out.

    While I am typing this, Jody is reading people’s comments on her fb posts, and I am a bit worried that she will be wetting her pants – lucky we have a mine and her side of the table… she can do what she likes over there!

    We have booked 2 nights here – need to get over the trauma of today before I drive again. And with it being Easter, we knew there might be a bit of an issue finding places to camp. Lucca is supposed to be wonderful, but another Just Go camper had theirs broken into in a public carpark here which is why we have chosen to stay in a camp ground instead of just passing through and using the public carpark for the day.
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  • Apr18

    San Gimignano and Firenze - day 7

    April 18, 2019 in Italy ⋅ ⛅ 16 °C

    Our day started with focaccia from the campsite restaurant with scrumptious tomatoes – why do they always taste better in Italy? - and doing our washing (I was down to my last pair of sox and knickers (just in case anyone wanted to know!). Then we got on our bikes, and headed back to San Gimignano. We went the long way up the hill, and managed to bike all the way. This time we remembered our bike locks, so chained them to a tree, and walked into the town. Jodie found a stunning wine glass in a ceramic shop – they had the most beautiful ceramic table tops. Then we found the markets, and got a wee bit carried away – who could go past pure linen tops for 10 euros? Not us, that’s for sure. We had to check out by midday, so didn’t spend quite as long in the markets as we would have liked, but that was probably a good thing. The ride back to the campsite was lovely again – biking around here certainly perks me up. Then it was up to Nico to carry us away again.

    Next stop was Pams supermarket again in Poggibonsi. We wanted to get some levelling blocks for Nico, but the shop next to Pams had lunch from 1 to 3.30 and was closed, so we lost our enthusiasm and went on our way after getting a clothes drying rack, washing bucket and some still water. We have a really good garage in Nico, the 2 bikes fit in easily if we want, and found today that we could leave an entire drying rack up. That will make drying clothes a bit easier. Then we set off for Lucca which is meant to be amazing.

    The drive went quite smoothly until we met our first toll station. I had warned Jody that these weren’t always plain sailing, but I don’t think she was mentally prepared for the trauma. We elected to choose the lane to pay by card, and that’s when the fun started. It wasn’t really that clear where to put the ticket, so Jody put in her credit card first. Then a man’s voice came over the intercom basically saying ‘what are you doing!’. Jody asked him if he spoke English, and the answer was no. But he managed to give a bit of help, and she managed to get the ticket in a place that just looked like a box to me, and then put credit card in the same box and then the gate opened. Needless to say at the next toll gate we chose the cash option, and there was a person sitting in the booth who could have helped us if we had problems. We did notice the wind a bit – Nico is pretty high and large in front with the luton, so hopefully we won’t be driving on any really windy days.

    While we were driving both of us lost our sense of direction, and wondered where the GPS was taking us – it felt like we were going closer to Florence than Lucca. So we stopped to check the GPS, and it was taking us on main highways, but yes we were going close to Florence. Never one to look a gift horse in the mouth, we both decided that we loved Florence, and as we were so close then maybe we should stay there for the night, so we did!

    We got to our pitch about 3.45, and there was a shuttle into the city at 4.30. That was about the time I realised that I must have left my sunglasses somewhere, as they were nowhere to be found. But we put the washing in the sun for a while, got our bags ready, and were on time for the shuttle. It was fun walking around Firenze, and I got to see my favourite places. The lindt shop beside the Duomo is always easy to find, and we had a gelato there as well just taking in the lovely view. Just such an amazing structure. We had looked in a few shops for bags and jackets on the way, but I had in mind the road full of shops where they make their own jackets. When we found that road, I went into 1 shop and found a really nice jacket there for 150 euros. I asked him to keep hold of it and I might be back. Then I went to the next shop, and found the perfect jacket – similar to the style of my red one at home. The listed price was 445 euros. But by the time he had convinced Jody to get one as well, we paid 320 euros for 2 jackets. We were both very pleased with our purchases, and put them on straight away as it had got a bit cooler.

    Then it was off to Mercato for dinner. That is a bit like the Stables in Auckland, but much bigger, and much noisier. I have figured out why I like Italians so much. It is because they are never reserved, and larger than life. Earlier today we were in a shop, and the older man and woman were having an argument very loudly across the shop. A middleage man then asked them to ssssh, which they totally ignored. Then he started saying something like customers in the shop, but they still ignored that. I think it was their son, and found it hilarious. There is always something loud going on. We had a lovely meal of Tuscan stew with roasted potatoes and grilled veges. We shared the 3 plates which was plenty for both of us. After dinner we tried to catch a taxi, but ended up walking to the train station where there was a long line of people waiting. I then googled it cos there was something in my memory banks – and yes, you can’t flag down taxis in Italy, good to know.

    So now back in Nico at 10pm preparing for bed. We don’t have to check out tomorrow until 2pm, so plan to bike the 5kms into Firenze for breakfast. I mentioned biking up to Fiesole, and Jody thought she could be quite good support crew, ie waiting at the bottom for me to come back down and to take a video. After that we hope to get to Lucca! Being Easter weekend we are a bit concerned about finding a campground with a vacancy.
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  • Apr17

    Nico and San Gimignano - day 6

    April 17, 2019 in Italy ⋅ 🌙 12 °C

    Today was a very big and exciting day. We were picked up from our hotel (after a mediocre breakfast) at around 9am and got introduced to our motorhome for the next 30 days which we have called Nico. Nico is supposed to be a 6 berth, but Jody and I will be very happy that there is only 2 of us as we can’t quite work out how everyone could get past each other if there were 6 people staying. Nico is quite a bit bigger than my last motorhome hire, and I have to be careful when going around corners.

    First stop was PAMS where we loaded up with some shopping. Italian supermarkets are quite interesting, and it took us a while and a couple of extra trips back for things we had forgotten. We loaded up with water – around 20 litres, and got 1 pack of fizzy water for Jody. Of course later on we realised I had made a mistake and it was all fizzy, bummer! Lunch was strawberries and focaccia. Then we went to Decathlon in Sienna where we found a very helpful young man man who sold us bikes, and got them all set up. I love the colour of them – fluoro green, so easy to find. We might have both bought a few additional things in Decathlon, my jacket purchasing must be contagious as Jody bought 2.

    We had a bit of trouble trying to find the campsite that we wanted to stay at, but posted a message on the Justgo facebook page, and had several replies very quickly with links to the campsite. This campsite is near San Gimignano, and is quite nice tho it was a tight squeeze to get into the pitch – I think Nico is higher than Bob was as well with a luton at the front. We had a vague tidy up, and then went off biking into San Gimignano which is about 2kms away. Oh my golly what a lovely wee town this is. It is a UNESCO site, and I have wanted to visit it before, so pleased that I have now. It was good that we had the bikes with us, as it made it a bit harder to go into each shop and spend some money. We hadn’t taken our bike locks, so just watched the bikes for each other when we went investigating.

    The views over the valley are amazing. It is up on a hill, so we walked part of the way there with the bikes, specially where there were lots of people. But the bike back again was lots of fun with big downhills. Before we went out we were feeling a bit tired – quite hard work mentally navigating Nico on quite narrow roads – but by the time we came back we were both feeling invigorated.

    Jody cooked up scrummy chicken for dinner which we had with a salad. It is our intention to try and prepare most of our food, and the cooking facilities in Nico are pretty good.

    We haven’t quite decided what we are doing tomorrow. Jody has the map out which is a start. I am tempted to buy a leather jacket in Florence, and Jody wants a bag. We both love Florence, so may well get there. But, conscious of all the other places that we want to visit.
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  • Apr16

    Dubai/Rome/Poggibonsi - day 5

    April 16, 2019 in Italy ⋅ ☁️ 11 °C

    We seem to both be a bit paranoid about being late for flights, so checked how long the taxi would take – possibly up to an hour. So we got up at 5.30, ready for the taxi on time at 6.15, and were at the airport by……..6.30! What time did we need to be there? 7.40. But, both of us were happy with that.

    Once on the plane we did have our 2 aisle seats next to each other. But when I went to sit down, the lady next to me asked if I would swap with her husband who had an aisle seat on the other side of the plane. I agreed to that (she got me on a nice Fiona day!), but then when I went to my new seat there was a kerfuffle about a double booking. So I said I am not interested in swapping a seat which is double booked. The cabin crew then got a bit confused as to who actually was booked in the seat, but finally solved it, and then I stayed nice Fiona and sat in the new seat. It was a 6 hour flight which went smoothly, and we arrived at Roma.

    Again because we don’t like missing flights or trains, we had factored in a possible flight delay, so we then had a 2 hour wait at the airport before we could catch our first train into Rome, then 20 mins to find our train to Florence, and then it was a very short 10 mins to try and find the platform for our final train to Poggibonsi. We weren’t quite sure how we would work out when we needed to get off the train, but the helpful train guard spoke English, and had an ipad with the route on it that Jody took a picture of. It was a short walk from the train to a restaurant, and we had our first authentic Italian meal which was really nice. Jody ordered a glass of wine which came in a little jug, and was 250mls for $3 NZ. I had bruschetta, and beef cooked with red wine and pepper and peas. Oh yes, Jody did have some food with that wine – lasagne.

    After our meal we asked for a taxi. I had thought it might be a bit of an issue to get one, so was great for the restaurant owner to try for me. He rang 4 different individuals to try and get one, and we had a choice of 20 euros with a 40 min wait, or 30 euros for now. Of course we chose now! So off to Hotel Semifonte which was a bit average, but lovely and warm. Quite a bit chillier here than it was in Dubai.
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