Pour a glass of wine and travel to Italy with us! The top video covers Karen, Keith & Deb as they venture through Lipari, Sicily and Florence. Then Deb has some alone time. The second video covers a month with Britt and Deb from Sicily all the way to the top of Italy.
My body, confused as it may be, accepts the numbness caused by time travel and really needs sleep. The trip home was long starting at 6:00 am on the 9th in Mainz, Germany. After a rented car, two planes, golf cart, coach line bus, taxi, and then a personal shuttle, I am now home on the next day, petting cute little Tucker and Tyson on their heads. They were surprised, and happy to see me. Neither had a heart attack when they realized the person sneaking into the house in the sleepy morning hours, was me, their nomad mother. Today they are staying by my side.
The lower loft is layered with a three month dusting of time. A cobweb attached my guitar case to the wall. Once I brushed it away and opened the case, my fingers, surprisingly moved with delicate and soothing precision on the strings of my guitar making a sound I haven't heard for three months and a sound that I didn't know my fingers remembered how to make.
Bagged and padded with a Verona theatre seat cushion, cardboard, toilette paper, Canada socks, flip flops and Britt's summer clothes, aside from a series of scratches, Wilson fared well on the trip and arrived in one piece. I filled the tires with air this morning and took a quick spin around the block. Stoneybrook roads are sure a lot smoother than the roads in Italy and the ride was fast and breezy. It is nice to have the bike in Canada. Wilson expects to be invited for dinner too.
Those of you who have asked me over to see pictures from the trip, be careful what you ask for as there are 50,780 of them! I will be happy to show them to you but you might have to provide permanent residence for me and a lot of wine so you can see them all.
Thank you for following the blog. The stats show that over the three months the blog site had 12,900 hits. I don't know how that can be possible. Maybe you all went there a 1290 times each? Thank you for your comments, emails and participation with me during the trip. The discipline of writing the blog each night for you, helped me keep the three months in order so I can remember as much as possible when I am showing you the 50,780 photos.
I am taking it easy today; unpacking slowly and having sporadic naps. It's kind of weird being home.
My multitasking abilities in Germany: Driving the car, programming the GPS, taking photos out the car window, keeping the car on the road and I only was honked at once! We toured everywhere today starting in Mainz, cross-countrying to Wiesbaden, Nieder-Olm, Mommenheim, Russelshaim and ending in Frankfurt.
We are in the room early tonight getting mentally prepared for tomorrow's return trip. We will leave Mainz at 11:00 AM for a 2:25 PM flight to Amsterdam, then on to Toronto. Robert Q says I will be home by 11:45 PM London time, which will be 5:45 AM the next day my body time. Perhaps it is a good thing that two brave souls are picking me up at my mom's!
I won't write anything too profound tonight, as I know you all are expecting... Instead, I think I might look around for a bottle of red wine!
Your mission for the day should you choose to accept it: Find Cuckcoo clocks!
After no luck in two towns and hours of driving, I turned the car toward Rothenburg as I saw billions of cuckoos there the other day when I was with Britt and Christine. I have been to Germany twice and now Rothenburg three times! I don't need to go there anymore! ! Anyhow, the clocks were found and purchased and we were on our way. Now, don't be getting too excited all you folks reading this blog thinking that the clocks are for you!.. they are not! No room in my knapsack for cuckoos!
Rothenburg was jammed with folks as it was the annual festival of some sort. No one could really tell us what the festival was but there were loads of people dressed in olden day clothes happily singing and dancing through the streets. Some were drinking beer and some were carrying swords. We didn't stay long enough to get terribly involved.
The car that is rented, known lovingly as Opel, was great on the autobahn today; easily reaching 180 but averaging out at 160. Slowing to 100 km per hour seemed so slow. I will have trouble coming home to the 401!
Picture this, Maunchenheim 1690: Hans Bahl was born. He married, had children and lived and worked in Mauchenheim. Finally, some generation of the family left the country to escape religious persecution and headed to England. From England they emigrated to the US where they owned property that has now become "Wall Street". They participated in the Revolutionary war then emigrated to Canada becoming United Empire Loyalists. They served with General Brock in the War of 1812 at Niagara on the Lake. John Ball fired the first canon in the Battle of Niagara. They hung around with Laura Secord. They were given General Brock's uniform hat when he was killed. One section in the Niagara on the lake Museum is the Ball Wing. They owned the property that is now known as "Balls Falls" One of them was the father of my grandfather. My grandfather was the father of my mother. I am now in Mauchenheim picturing this, 1690 Hans Bahl was born.
The purpose of this part of the trip is to see the town where it all started. Mom and I have been talking about coming here for years. I wandered through the only graveyard in town and Bahl is not on any of the headstones; but the current cemetery was started in 1900. There is no sign of an old cemetery. No one in town that we can find, speaks English and we don't speak any German.
It is a cute little town; simple houses that appear to be mostly new and by that I mean post WWII. Maybe the town didn't fare well in the war? There is the odd building that looks significantly older and like it might have been around in 1690 but I can't tell as I can't recognize the style of anything except for two Lancet windows.
We drove on every street. I wandered and took some detail architectural photos. I spoke with a 10 year old girl who told me the correct pronunciation of Mow-en-hime. She had a big smile on her face when she told me as neither of us could speak the other's language. It was cute.
This whole trip has been one continuous, giant square dance with partners changing on every new song! Britt and Christine were successful catching the morning train to Berlin and my mom arrived at Frankfurt airport ready to sprint through Germany. ...Allemande left with the corner maid.. Meet your own and promenade.
PS - It's Friday morning as I write this PS - I received an email from Britt late last night - they made it to Berlin, found their hostel, visited the Jewish Museum and saw Check Point Charlie and parts of the Berlin Wall.
We fired up the GPS and looked for Rothenburg in the list of towns. There were at least 16 Rothenburgs listed in the GPS all in Germany. We chose the one that was 1 hour 36 minutes away even though we knew the one we wanted was 1 hour 48 minutes away. You would think that Britt and I would have learned our lesson by now and questioned timing. But no, we headed to Rothenburg.
We had a lovely drive down wonderfully paved roads, seeing beautiful valleys and we were sure that we saw Robin Hood in the Black Forest. We landed in a tiny town, that was a lovely little Rothenburg, but not the one we wanted. We reprogrammed the GPS but this time spelled it Rottenburg. Rottenburg ob der Tauber, the one we wanted, was listed. It was 1 hour 29 away from where we were. We turned the car around and headed for Rottenburg. In the meantime, I had to stop the car so Britt could steal apples off a tree at the side of the road.
Massive stone town walls with 42 towers, half-timbered houses and cobblestones streets welcomed us. We wandered through the town for the afternoon and of course we climbed the tower! The steps in this tower were pretty cool as they were made of wood that was extremely worn down and uneven. The final set of steps was more like a ladder than steps and when you finally burst through the door at the top you almost banged your face on the thin and wobbly iron rail that stopped you from falling to the pavement below. Okay, Christine says it wasn’t wobbly, but she is not afraid of heights or pending death. The platform at the top was one person wide and you were only allowed 5 minutes at the top. We squeezed our way through the others at the top and stayed about a half hour.
Tonight, we are drinking wine and celebrating Britt’s last night with me and the beginning of her trip with Christine and other friends. They catch the 9:13 AM train to Berlin in the morning. My mom arrives at 4:50
We dragged Christine around Frankfurt central for the afternoon. She did very well considering she just got off an airplane from Toronto and hasn't had any sleep for a day. We followed the Rhine river to get to the old town and started to look at buildings and churches. It sure is a different type of architecture in Frankfurt. Some of the buildings are just too "Alpine" for me, while others are beautifully detailed and interesting. The churches are mostly tall and simple in design. We have been noting the Gothic and Romanesque features that we can recognize, but then, all of a sudden the architect threw in some weird design in the ceiling that is completely foreign to us. The churches and the buildings in the main square were bombed during WWII and rebuilt or extensively renovated in the early 1950's. The modern buildings are beautiful especially the Hilton Hotel near the airport. Frankfurt is very big but not unreasonably busy or overrun with tourists.
Christine and Britt climbed 328 steps to get to the top of the St. Batholomaus tower. I waited on a bench at the bottom. My knees enjoyed the pleasant and restful wait.
Once again weinies adorned a dinner plate; this time addressing Christine's palate. It was all washed down with local beer that looked better than the weenies!
Christine arrived this morning bringing some sunshine into town! The airport arrival was slow but smooth. Both Christine and her luggage arrived each in one piece.
We are now at the room getting ready to walk around Frankfurt to see just what is in this town Check the blog later to see what we found!
Today was a long day. We weren’t sure how we were going to get to Frankfurt in the first place. We both were dreading the 6 hour train ride from Innsbruck as we didn't have seats reserved, which meant that we would be likely in separate train cars and possibly standing for a portion of the trip. Wilson is making light travel a little more difficult so train travel would also be a challenge to get Wilson through the train station and onto the train. Britt has a train pass so her costs are covered and my ticket would have been 248 Euros. It ended up that Hertz had a car, with German plates, (which seems to be an issue) that we could drive from Innsbruck to Frankfurt for $103 Euros and the cost of desiel fuel was 41E. So for less than the cost of a train ticket we drove a lovely Fiat 500L all day. We left Innsruck around 1:00 and arrived at 8:30.
We have no pictures from today as it rained the entire the way with the sun only peeking out for a bit. We hoped that when we crossed the border into Germany the sun would suddenly burst through the clouds for us. It did not. However, it did stop raining enough for us to enjoy driving on the Autobahn. No speed limit is fun!
We are now in downtown Frankfurt. Our hotel is across from the train station which is perfect for when Britt and her friend Christine, who arrives tomorrow morning, leave me to for Berlin, Prague, Amsterdam, Paris, London and Iceland (barring volcanoes)
I am drinking free german beer from the complimentary bar fridge and Britt is doing laundry. We are safely tucked in for the night.
NOTE: It is now Tuesday morning - the internet wouldn't connect last night - we are just on our way to the airport to pick up Christine.
Rain clouds and tonnes of rain seem to be what Innsbruck has to offer. We were told that there would be three hours of sunshine today but they weren't telling us the complete truth! We had to look for indoor activities and luckily found the Swarovski Crystal Museum. It was fascinating and very cool. The photos below show details of the displays. The Crystal Dome was most incredible; it is shown in the header photo. It has 595 mirrors and the acoustics at the centre of it are astounding. The displays and lighting of the displays were very well done.
Once we were finished at the crystal museum we programmed random Points of Interest into the GPS. All the sites were listed in German so everything was a surprise. And we were surprised when we ended up at ruins at someone’s house and then an empty field full of fenced-in muck. From there we looked for more recognizable words and headed to the Olympic Louge then chased clouds on the top of a mountain.
Everything in Innsbruck is closed on Sunday - EVERYTHING! We found one open caffe in a town called Vols for a coffee. The waitress laughed at us when we asked if anything was open.
It’s 6:30 PM and still pouring rain. We are heading out for dinner soon, then coming back to the barrel to surf the Internet and make plans for tomorrow as we head to Frankfurt.
Woody #3, the name of our barrel, was a warm welcome from our two-hour train ride out of Italy and into Austria. It is a fun, pine barrel with two soft beds in a loft, lovely red curtains and a matching shag-rug step. Just seeing it picked up our day and gave us each a huge smile.
Our day wasn’t bad, but we were feeling a little sad about leaving Italy and the train ride was squishy. It is raining in Innsbruck and rain and thunder are called for tomorrow.
We wandered through the old part of Innsbruck for a while and were happy to have eaten dinner in front of Mozart’s house.
It’s Britt’s birthday today so we have been noticing things to remember on this day, but we both know that neither of us will; like, playing musical chairs on the train, the gps, Wilson, the rain, the clouds blocking the mountain view, shopping in a german grocery store, trying to read german words and killing ourselves laughing at our ineptness but boasting about or german accent and ability to roll our R’s, cheap wine that tastes better the more you drink, Mars Bars and milk right out of the jug.
Happy Birthday to Kasey too! (They’re twins ya know!)
The cable car took us to the beginning of the top and then we hiked, yes, hiked, yes again, as high as we could go. It was a civilized hike; no rock cliffs or steep, yet compelling ancient, rugged, stairs. Instead we walked along dirt roads and paths similar to those owned by a goat. As you will notice in the pictures below, I surprised Britt with my Canadian hiking gear outfit which was luckily gifted to me as a birthday gift by Donna, Sally and Josie. ~ a really special thanks for that!~
It is a different type of countryside; the highest mountain meadow in Europe; so the marketing material reads. We walked through lush greens while looking at rugged, magnificent, highly reflective rock. It was a really pleasant and beautiful hike.
It is now 4:45 in the afternoon. Britt is napping. In a few minutes we will head into a different town in search of a sweater. It is not any warmer today in this town.
The transition from Italian to German hit us in Bolzano when Britt unknowingly ordered weiners for lunch. Yes, plain ol' Oscar Meyers! Everything was German on the menu and the waiter didn't speak much English. Two lowly weiners and a pile of fries! It was pretty funny!
We noticed Italy changing while we drove north as the mountains got larger and the Italian houses got smaller and smaller until they disappeared and turned into German-looking buildings with pointy rooflines edged with bad mansards; which in my opinion are bad in the first place! The houses all turned beige, trimmed with brown wood and lined with flower boxes of colour. This is a totally different look than we have seen anywhere else in Italy. We felt the loss of the Italian atmosphere that we have come to love so much and decided that we need to embrace the new atmosphere and give it a chance. Entering into the Dolomite area helped to change our minds quickly. Not because of the buildings but because of the massiveness and beauty of the mountains.
We are staying in Selva di val Gardenia and feel like we are in a different country. The population is 2,600 with the capacity for 8,100 tourists, who were all walking on the main street when we arrived. They speak 3 national languages here: Ladin, Italian, and German. Signage is in German and Italian.
The sun is shining and the sky is blue but it is freezing here; 16 degrees which makes us think we are at home in Canada! Inga, our B&B person, told us that it is warm at 16 degrees and that she was feeling rather hot, although we noticed that she was wearing a wool turtle-neck sweater!
I am posting this on Friday morning, as the internet connection was fighting with us last night. We are getting rolling for the day and the first thing on the activity list is to buy a sweater! We are then heading to the next town to take the cable car up as high as we can go, so get ready for more mountain pictures!
We both were exhausted when we woke this morning. It seems that last night at the opera was a little much for us! We didn't go to bed as soon as we arrived home and are paying for it this morning. We are staying at Agritourismo Porcellino. The owner made an incredible breakfast for us so we started our day with as much energy as two late-night, novice, opera goers could muster.
In town, we purchased tickets for admission into four churches. ~Funny how you have to pay to go to church~ Britt liked best Sant' Anastasia and I like San Zeno. - which is by far a more beautiful building, but I am not going to sway Britt to see the light just yet! You be the judge.
Since I am the person writing this blog I will tell you about San Zeno. Simple, romanesque, grounded, graceful, peaceful, earthy colours, large arches and the cloister was absolutely stunning. It would have been easy for me to spend the afternoon in there feeling the cool temperatures and letting the strength of the arches give me strength. But soon I was home and took a big nap in the afternoon and all my strength came back! On this trip, I have found it interesting, how the simple, earthy buildings, hang on to me, while the fancy buildings have me quickly zipping out a door to breathe.
We just finished dinner (It is 9:45) which was served by the owner of Porcellino and it was incredible: Fettucini noodles with wild boar sauce, suckling pig, zucchini and mushrooms. He had set a beautiful table for us and was delighted that we stayed here for dinner. He was a most gracious host.
Karen Huiberts left me with a handful of Canada pencils to hand along the way as Italy unfolded. Today I gave the remaining pencils to the kids that live here and they were so happy. Great big smiles and they divided them equally among them, It was cute.
We are high on a mountain top in a very peaceful and serene location. There is a pony, sheep, bunnies, and Tina, the most amusing little dog. She stares you in the eyes and barks at you until you throw a stone for her to chase. You throw the stone. She sniffs all the stones in the driveway until she finds the exact stone you threw, holds it in her mouth and will not drop it until you throw the next stone. We have been having fun with Tina.
The road to get to this peaceful location is actually quite stressful for me. It is a very skinny, single lane road that actually drops down the mountain side if you drive off the road. I have never driven off a road in my life, but this road makes me think that I will. I am happy that I only have one more time to drive it in the morning as we head to the Dolomites.
Verona is a lot larger than Giuletta’s balcony and there are more people in town than just Romeo! The main square is as busy as Rome. The streets radiating from the Verona Arena are packed with high end, pricey stores and are filled with a sea of shoppers.
Tonight we went to Aida, in the open air Verona Arena, which was built in 30AD. It has had a few updates since then including electricity and stage lighting. The acoustics were great and the singers voices carried fully and easily throughout the building. The sets were large and colourful. Storm clouds were hanging heavily in the sky causing the first act to be interrupted while we waited out the rain. The orchestra picked up their instruments and hurried inside. The rain eased enough for the first act to be completed and a little of the second to be started, but then the clouds let loose again and rain teemed down soaking everyone except us! Britt was sporting her neon blue jacket over her opera clothes while I slipped on my birthday Canadian Maple leaf Poncho! Our outfits were topped off with Britt's leopard umbrella. We looked pretty classy! Actually we got soaked.Our matching sandals are sopping wet straps of lifeless leather.
We enjoyed the part of the opera that we saw and were, like everyone else in the audience, disappointed by the rain. We made it home wet all the way through but safely.
This is a most beautiful town worthy of travelling a thousand miles to see it - Torquato Tasso, 1586
Mantua is a lovely town, calm, pretty, well laid out, beautiful buildings and it is FLAT! There are no hills and the only steps for us in this town are four, soft carpeted, that lead to our room! It is a pure delight to walk around an Italian town that doesn't have a stream of steep inclinations. Because it is so flat, it is full of people riding bicycles; hundreds of them. Part of the town is marked for only pedestrians and bicycles. The street lights signalling that it is okay to cross the road have people and bicycle symbols.
There are three people-made lakes here. Britt wanted to walk to Lago Superiore as it is said to have the most picturesque view. We walked a great distance through the town and a beautiful park to get there but I was sure that we were walking so far that we must have been heading to the Canadian Lake Superior! The park, that runs along the river and the lakes, was full of people walking, jogging, playing and fishing. I saw a number of water birds that I didn't recognize.
We walked from one end of town to the other and ended up at Palazzo Te. Every inch of the walls in the rooms in this villa / palace are filled with frescoes. It was amazing to see. This is a town that is worthy of seeing. It doesn't seem to market itself to tourists, but the tourist information packages available, which are freely and enthusiastically given, are beautifully and professionally done and the people in the industry are very friendly and helpful.
We are heading now, to Verona. We have tickets for the Opera in an ancient outdoor theatre. We received an email from the opera folks stating that it is a formal dress code. This will be fun to figure out; I wonder what I have scrunched up in a ball in my knapsack that will look the least bit formal?
If your god-daughter says “Let’s go to the Cinque Terre and hike the trails", question her judgement! If you answer “Yes”, question your own!
We knew that we would be tired by the end of the hike and that we wouldn't want to deal with a thousand people at the train station, so we decided to start the hike from Monterosso, which would mean that the end of our hike would be in Corniglia.
It all started out like a normal morning walking down 383 steps to catch the on-time and correct train to Monterosso. It wasn't so bad, the morning air was cool and the sun was gracefully reaching through the sky.
We started the trail at sea level, at 10:30 AM and immediately began to climb ancient, rugged, crooked, steep (did I already say “steep?”) steps straight up. Only one side of the steps and path dropped through trees, bushes and rocks to sea. Sometimes the path was railed for safety, other times it was open. Most times the path was stable and other times the rocks moved under your feet. At one point the path was less than 12 inches wide. A few times during the hike (well, maybe more than a few) we questioned our rationale for choosing to start at Monterosso as we were presented with constant, extreme and difficult climbs. Corniglia is the highest town of them all so “Up” was the only possible direction. It took us four and a half hours to walk the total linear hike of 7.5 km, but there had to be another 3 km of “Up” added on top of that!
It was a great hike. The views were incredible and the weather was perfect. We kept up to people that had started the trail at the same time we did; so that made us feel pretty good We are home now, and a little, well, maybe a lot exhausted. Both of our bodies are feeling the effects of the hike each from our own perspective of god daughter and god mother. Each of us has decided that if either of us comes up with this hiking idea again that some serious discussions must occur! The funny thing about this hiking business is that people PAY to go on the trails! The pain is paid for!
It is our last day in Corniglia so we are dining out tonight. First we will walk to the highest spot in town, because it is there, and we haven't been!
A cold, rainy morning caused us to adjust our activities for the day. Instead of hiking the trail to Monterosso we decided to take the train in the other direction to the towns Britt has not been to yet: Riomaggiore and Manarola. One of us bundled up with rain gear and the other one said her rain gear, which includes a fashionable Canadian Poncho recently imported to Italy, was in the car that is parked somewhere but we don't know where because we didn't park the car; but at least we know where the key is - I think!
The north to south order of the towns in this part of the Cinque Terre is: Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. We live in the middle in Corniglia. Tickets were purchased to take us south to Riomaggiore and back, with a stop in between at Manarola.
Riomaggiore is a typical, cute-and-all, small Italian hilltop town. We were leisurely and stopped for a capucci and egg in a muffin for breakfast. The bed and breakfast accommodations here don't serve eggs so it was a great treat.
Italian train stations are very noisy with overhead announcements scolding you to stand behind the yellow line and not to run back and forth across the railroad tracks. Sometimes they make announcements about the trains but they never, never tell you to never, never get on an Italian train that arrives early! We boarded the two minute early train at Riomaggiore with the intention of getting off at Manarola the next town. But the train didn't stop at Manarola, it didn't even slow down. We looked at each other with puzzled looks and thought we would just get off at Corniglia instead. But it didn’t stop at Corniglia either. The puzzled looks were on our faces again. The train was going too fast to stop at Vernazza and the puzzled looks morphed into horrified looks as we realized as we sped passed Vernazza, that we were on the “late” high-speed train to Genoa! Even though Britt decided it was a good idea to continue on to Genoa, we didn't have tickets to Genoa! The train stopped at Monterosso and we quickly scrambled off before a ticket-man found us.
We bought new tickets to take us to Manarola and hopped on the five minute early train with a few hundred other people. Britt said if it didn't stop in Manarola that she was going to do a tuck 'n roll out the window on the way by. Everything seemed normal with the train making the appropriate stops until we got to Manarola and it sped by the train station. It didn't stop until Riomaggiore. We were right back where we had started a few hours earlier! Even though I wanted to break the rules and leap across the yellow line to run across the railroad tracks to the other side, we went down, under and up and waited for the train to Manarola.
Manarola is a lovely town but it seems to take you longer to get there than it does to walk around the town!
The day unfolded as we sat in the early morning hours of the town square. The weekly convoy of travelling stores, trucks; each carrying something different strategically positioned themselves. Doors swung open to expose clothes, cheese, and fish, another with vegetables and another with dairy products. Local folks came streaming to each to buy the catch of the day or buffalo mozzarella or the latest plaid shorts. They lined up at each truck talking loudly with the vendors and other locals standing nearby. A man, who had just recently recovered from a stroke made his first appearance in the square since the stroke. As he was being walked, slowly and carefully with his cane at his side and his helper on his arm, to his usual bench in the square, people came running over to him holding on tightly with large hugs and rejoicing voices. He couldn’t talk, but he responded with the greatest smile and sounds of joy.
We piled ourselves onto the train to Monterosso with at least a thousand sweaty people who were jammed into the same passenger car going to the same beach. We tumbled off into a sea of beach umbrellas and African vendors selling beach towels to people already laying on beach towels. If you liked, you could also purchase a little outfit from a gypsy. The beach was packed. We managed to find a spot in the free section, as opposed to the 10 Euro per hour section, and planted ourselves in the salty sand. Britt swam and I watched the bag.
We left our sandy domain running to catch the next train to Vernazza. This train only had 500 people per square inch so I managed to find a seat for the three minute trip. Vernazza was fun. It too, was loaded with people; mostly at the restaurants and stores. We sat on the pier and watched three boys having a whale of a time on a paddle board. On and off, falling, diving, jumping and laughing their little heads off. It was most fun to watch. The atmosphere changed when a little ten-year-old voice to the right of the scene, yelled “Jelllleeeeeeeee Fishhhhhh!” Children all lined their toes up at the edge of the pier and peered into the water. Everyone who was in the water clamoured up the ladder as a little fellow ran to pickup a net. He swooshed the jelly fish out one by one and plopped them on the pier in a big slimy glob. Grandpa picked up the glittery little pieces one by one and bagged them.
We left the town centre at 4:15 to catch the 4:30 train from Vernazza to Corniglia. It was delayed. It was delayed some more. And then a little more. By 5:35 the 4:30 had finally arrived. At least a thousand people pushed their way onto the train. There were so many people the doors wouldn't close. Children were bumping their heads on the elbows of adults and a dog was licking a mans leg.
We finally made it to Corniglia and walked the road up to town because we didn't know how all the people getting off the train at Corniglia could possibly fit into the tiny bus that runs you up to town. The bus passed us during our walk with seats to spare. I guess everyone walked to town. We are now sitting on our second floor balcony, with cookies and wine while we are overlooking the sea and surfing - the net.
The sun was gracefully dancing with the peaks of Michelangelo’s marble so we steered the car where the two met and drove up. It was out of the way from our destination (Corniglia in the Cinque Terre) but holy moly! ha! Tiny, single lane, wildly curvy roads with no guard rails took us to the top. It was the neatest thing to see, giant vertical slabs of smooth marble glistening directly in our faces… it was so cool!
We left the partners behind us to start the the two hour drive to Corniglia. Once again, the roads were off-the-edge, hair-pin turns on single lanes. If we had driven off the edge we would have tumbled into the sea. We managed to arrive in one piece.
Once settled, we descended the 250 steps to the Ligurian sea thinking that we would have a quick swim. We decided against it when we saw the vicious, monstrous waves washing over the pier. One crazy man who was swooshing his hair and trying to impress the girls, was in the water. Seriously, he was nuts as he could have been dragged out to sea in an instant. A tourist woman in a drastically cut thong bikini decided she would join him. As she edged her way to the sea an old, grey, local man yelled at her from atop the cliff. He went down to the pier and dragged her from the edge yelling at her. At this point, Britt and I knew for sure we weren't going near the pier. Instead, the salt from the sea washed lightly over us from a safe distance.
Forty Hundred Sixty three stairs felt the bottoms of our sandalled feet all the way to the top of the dome. The climb was easier than other climbs we have done this trip as the layout of the stairs seem to give a person a little time to get their heart rate back within the top end of a normal limit. Britt’s legs only burned with pain twice on this climb and I didn't have to sit down to rest at all! The view from the top was magnificent; all of Florence was all around us. The doors to enter the Dome open at 8:30 so we got up early and went down to beat the crowd at 8:00, but we were fooled and there were already about 75 people in the line before we even arrived. We had to get up and back down the dome before 10:00 because we hadn't checked out of our delightful accommodations yet. We managed to get up and down quickly and the timing worked well for us.
Once we check out we packed up Little Blue and sped our way Pisa! The four hundred odd stairs must have worked us out a little more than we thought because by the time we arrived in Pisa we were very tired. We made a quick trek down to the tower square and then the beds called us each to have a big afternoon nap.
We spent the evening in the square going through the church, cemetery and baptistry. We watched the sun set on the tower and soon, we will be sleeping again!
This morning I told Britt we were going to see David; but I didn't tell her which one! We started at Accademia, with the real one. We circled him for over an hour studying each inch of the giant adolescent. He is magnificent and this time throughout the museum they allow pictures. It’s true! There was no obnoxious voice yelling “No foto” over the loud speaker! It was great; I managed to take a lot of detail shots. We also examined each of the unfinished Michelangelo’s including the back of each until we found his signature signature which claimed the chunk of marble as his.
We stopped into the Baptistry and marvelled at the mosaics then headed over to Santa Croce. On the way, we stopped at the Michelangelo self portrait carved into the side of Palazza Vecchio. The crowds of people are wild today; standing room only at the loggia. We were the only people looking at the scratched carving on the Palazzo. People looked as us like we were zoo animals trying to figure out what we were doing. We didn’t tell them!
Then on to Santa Croce where we visited the tombs of Galileo, Michelangelo and the fake Danté. By this time we were pretty exhausted. Neither of us slept well last night so we were dragging a little as the day started and all the walking was adding up for us. We stopped into the Bargello, where we saw three more Davids. By this time we had enough of daytime activities and were heading back to the main square but as we arrived we saw that the lineup to the Duomo was reasonable and we could actually get in to the building. After about 45 minutes of circling the main floor and the Santa Reparata church below (avoiding the corner filled with the bones of someone) we slowly made our way back to the room and threw ourselves on the bed for a rest!
It’s now about an hour later and I think ~just think - I haven't actually tried it yet~ that I could actually stand up, but not for any reasonable length of time! *S* We are taking it easy tonight, only heading over to Santa Maria Novella and then maybe sit down for a glass of wine or two!
Siena saw our dust this morning as we headed for rolling tuscany hills lathered with grape vines. It was a green, lush drive, with vineyards and olive groves everywhere. We were hunting down a wine-tour facility and stopped at Castello de Verrazzano. A wine tour that required reservations, which we didn't have, was to start in 20 minutes. They has two empty seats left and sold them to us. The tour was great as was the incredible 5 course meal they served, with cold meat, pasta, salad, beans, pork, cheese, bread, three dinner wines, a dessert wine, grappa, coffee and biscotti. It took the entire afternoon, we had pleasant conversations with people from San Francisco and London England. It was a great, wonderful, fun afternoon. Our tour guide was a wonderful woman with great jokes that she probably says with each tour group; but they worked and made us all laugh. She took us through all the romantic cellars, which are the cellars with wine in barrels. She did not take us through the stainless steel cellars. It is a massive wine operation; 220 hectares, mostly grapes but some olive trees as well.
We made it to Florence and are settled.