Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Favorite Pic of the Trip

It was hard to get out of the NICE-WARM-bed! And rightfully so as we were about to freeze our derrieres off again. We did however get up and agree, after I had coffee, to go to San Gimignano today because it is only 14 Km away. That equals roughly 8-9 miles, but here that does not equal about a 15 minute drive! It took about 30 minutes and that is not including wrong turns, at which we are getting very good. It was obvious that this place was going to be lovely as we approacechd. Parking here is a challenge for me, as everyone parks so close to each other that sometimes they have to crawl in the other door to even get their car out. But park we did, and we took an elevator to the entrance walkway. We entered a relatively quiet little piazza, one souvenir shop, one restaurant, a church and misc. other buildings. It seemed all stone, no grass, very quiet. We discussed eating but decided to have a look at the church prior to eating. The church had a convent attached and we look at that too, it was very peaceful and there were people praying out loud as we passed a window. When we got out of the church we decided to walk a bit, and all of a sudden we were in a different place, shop after shop, after shop. BUt full of lovely things inside and out. We found dolls for the little girls as we had left Molly Dolly at home. Pippa (a purple bear in a ballerina dress) and Poppy ( a bunny with floral skirt and ears) were promptly adored and purchased, one for each girl, now we wait to see which one Ghianna gravitates to and leaves over for Samantha ( who just joined us May 5) . You can read the blog we do for them at:
After all that work we really needed lunch, so stopped at the first place that looked good. I had mushroom bruschetta and salad, and Jodi just had bruschetta. Mine was not a do over, but hers looked good. I wanted to see some of the towers for which San Gimignano is famous and we found a museum to see. So in we went and it included a opportunity to climb to the top! Which we did, and were very glad. The view, even in the rainy weather was incredible! We lingered, freezing, but reluctant to leave the view, but finally went back down because we had to have a 5 PM meeting at the cottage to lean how to do laundry (which was very easy once I was shown!). The car was parked in crazy, so Jodi offered to get us out while I paid the parking which ended up being 10 Euro, That is even worse that parking in a big city during the day! I had all kinds of trouble getting my ticket to give me a total, had to go from machine to machine, then talk to a guy on a speaker, and finally watch a lady at another machine empty the money ( wow what a racket, she pulled out at least a thousand Euro, if not more!), and finally she had to just tell me what to pay. We raced back, sort of, Jodi had to stop at take several photos, I was torn between wanting those pics and being late for the date with the washing machine.
The washing machine is very easy to learn to use, much easier than a French one! so we throw in a load of laundry and leave for the grocery store. We went to a big store called COOP. We bought a melon, some strawberries and cherries, which had to be weighed. It seemed a simple thing to weigh it and get the UPS tag, but who knew, that there is a special way to push a button. Again with the aid of helpful people we got our fruit weighed and were on our way. Bread was a conundrum, prepackages things, fresh but packaged in the store and then bread behind a counter, I opted ( to my later chagrin) for that and got a small loaf. The meat counter with my limited Italian, was beyond me, so we opted for prepackaged meats, a salami and ham. Milk was yet another issue, I like full milk for my coffee but what does that look like here? So I just picked out a cream ( for which I did know that word) to help it along. Water, we do not want gas, so had to make sure we were not buying fizzy water. The toilet paper was easy, I just bought what was at the cottage already! then we went to the bank for more Euros, and after to look for food. Which may seem easy, however, I had visions of one of the 2 local places that Sr Bardi had told us about, but one place led us into a ( we did get to see a lovely place) pickle, and the other was closed. The Pickle? Well JOdi had to drive the car out of it because I t was so steep a turn onto another road that I kept stalling the car. SO back into town, but one had to find a place to park, blue lines, not white or yellow, and to our chagrin, there was another do, which made parking extra hard. We traversed the area looking for a spot, over and over, and by the time we found a place to park, it was after nine. The pizza place was of course closed, so I said, let's try an Enoteca I saw, which was cfull and no one came and I began to feel like an idiot waiting, with everyone in the place ignoring us. So we left and found a Bar/Paticherria open and Jodi got two tiny pizzas and I got 2 biscotti for the Am, and would have breakfast for dinner. Bed after a hot shower, the shower does get good and hot!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Kissing the Pig Again! 5-23-13

5-23 Florence
This morning was an early morning, UP at 6:15 leaving the cottage at 7:15 and left Certaldo at 7:48, a train we barely caught! But we did. We arrived in Florence to the Maria VocellTrain Station and a new experience for me, so far the city is much filithier than I remembered, and some of the people have been down right rude. With my typical blondness we arrived at our appointment at to see the David an hour early, so we are spending time getting coffee and resting. Caffe Latte and a corenetto (with honey on top - not a happy moment for Jodi) , Capuccino and a goodie for me that the counter lady recommended and it was yummy. An Apple duumplingy thingy with almonds on top, definitely a do over.
THE David, in the accademia museum was this time surrounded by a glass barrier, because some idiot tried to tear him up with a hammer a few years ago. I got SO tickled, some little guy was sitting there beside me, and he said, "can you imagine that ass in a pair of levis?" He was right, it would look pretty good. We didn't dawdle as I wanted to go to the market, I had a purse agenda, and find it I did, as well as a pair of black sandals. We went to lunch at a place where this guy was standing out on the sidewalk and graciously seated us, and then the minute we were seated became surly. The whole expereince was rather surly, other than my food was good. Jodi had Bruschetta and grilled veges: eggplant, zucchini and red pepper. We ordered a appetizer and a second , and they brought both of Jodi's items together and then when I had the nerve to wonder where mine was, I was scolded and told I should have TOLD them that I wanted my appetizer first. LORD, nothing like getting it and then being scolded because I thought I understood the status quo. My Carpaccio and spinach and ricotta Ravioli in a Truffle sauce while cold was very good. The name of the restaurant is Da Pinocchio's near the old central market, try it at your own risk. Maybe your food will be warm, just make sure to tell them you want your appetizer before your entree!
Part of my frustration was that we had a 3PM reservation at the Uffizi. I had made reservations at both art museums while still in the states, and was pretty worried that the fact that I only had a reservation on my phone would be a problem, however, they just looked at my phone and at my ID, well at the Accedemia, they did, I tried to use my international drivers licsence at the Uffizi and the lady just laughed at me and handed it back Interesting thing the Uffizi, there is tow things going on, first a big chunk of the rooms were closed off, and there is a huge amount of work, so you have to walk through a about 10 galleries that are empty to get out of the place, seems that if you are being cheated out of a bunch of art, they should discount the tickets! I am always calling Ghianna a Botticelli angel and so it was fun to show Jodi what I meant by that. Old "Venus Rising" is still a sight for sore eyes, as well as many of his Marys. I think the Botticellis are my favorite there.
Then back to a little shop where I cold find some paper, JOdi sat and waited on a wall and listened to an accordion player while I was lured into a shop and bought a silver copy of a florin. There right infront of my eyes was a gelato shop that sang to me, so we had a tiny scoop, chocolate for her and pistachio for me. IT was my first go at pistachio, and to be honest after all these years, I get why Emily threw a tantrum when her scoop fell out of her cone and landed on the ground. It was delish! For sure it is a do over! Ponte Vecchio was right there in front of us, speaking to our cameras, so we took a bunch of pictures, had a walk on the bridge and then headed back towards the train station. Jodi's favorite thing was the bronze pig, which we both rubbed and kissed, just for good measure, because we would like to return!
The train trip back was uneventful, a nice rest, and then a quick trip back to the cottage and bed!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Fleeing the Regatta to Tuscany 5-19-13

Leaving Venice was bitter sweet, because I did not get go accomplish all I had wanted. We saw much evidence of the regatta as as we rose the crowded Vaporetto out of Venice. There were regular rowing boats with teams, there were kayaks, larger boats with teams of 10-12 people all rowing unison, the inevitable water taxis and the last of the Vaporettos , The Vaporetto was filled with tourists and Venitians escaping what was sure to be a mad day in their city. I would often note the head toss, the look or the sniff of an elderly Venetian that indicated their lack of appreciation at the Euros pouring in their city. I can't really say that I do not understand, however, I am not sure what Venice would do without the tourism. Needless to say I could not resist a few last minute photo opportunities!
Driving from Venice to Certaldo was not a difficult thing, however arriving in Certaldo and finding Via Cavour, was another. I thought Bloomington Indiana had the most one way streets EVER, but Certaldo has it beat, and their way of arranging them, has Bloomington beat too! Serendipitously we did find the street we needed, and walked up to ( for privacy sake I am changing the address) 19 I was dismayed as it was a obscure business. This man was so easy to work with that I have beena little uneasy the whole time, because in France I have to have a document signed and notarized (almost in blood), so to just arrive and pay, way a little worrisome to me. So I checked my e-mail again and I had the house number wrong it was 18, and there were their names on the door. We were an hour early, since we had had the chance to leave Venice early because of that dratted regatta.
We parked the car near out land lords house, and walked to a little coffee shop we had noticed on our way in to town. Poor Jodi, her eyes lit up at a croissant filled with cream, only to taste lemon, as she but into it. It was really a very nice mild lemon, but still not what she was hankering for. Anyway there were facilities and the people were nice. Jodi noticed that it was filled with a lot of old men. and so it was. The nice thing is that there are no smoking laws here now too, so it is not unpleasant to be in a coffee house full of old men! There was a town fair going on, a school or church selling pizza, of which we bought a couple of pieces. Onion and Sausage without sauce for me, and a margarita for Jodi, which was a disappointment for both of us later. Not enough cheese for her and I rather like sauce of some sort. FInally we met up with out landlord whom we followed out of the city at a breakneck pace to the cottage. It is a cute little place, actually had 2 bedrooms, and 2 bathrooms. What it does not have is heat and with 50 degree nights we are sort of peoplesicles. It is way out in the country, gravel roads, miles of grapes and olives, and incredible vistas. We jumped into bed trying not to freeze.

Not so Serene 5-18-13

Today was a challenge, I woke up later than I wold have liked, pretty sure that I had paid for a tour of the Doges palace back in the Sates ( another research project for me when I get home), but was not able to find the ticked, on line nor on my person, so the concierge here called and we were not on any list. So we had to schelp it. At least we did not have a time crunch and I was able to enjoy breakfast of coffee, juice, a coronetto, ham, cheese, salami and a peach, all in a cute little room where I chatter with two guys named John and Carl. JOdi was up when I got back, so we prepared to leave. But we were waylaid by the management here wanting to know what time we are going to leave tomorrow, I said at or before 11:00AM (check out time) and they kindly informed us that there is a regatta tomorrow and the only way out of town at 11:00 is a water taxi to the tune of $75 Euro. I don't think so. The bummer of it all is that a regatta wold have been pretty cool to see too. So now we get to be out of here by 8:00 AM, and no church. So off we went, me wondering how long we would have to wait in line. When we got to St. Marks Square, I noticed a ticket vendor and I purchased tickets, so no wait. And so we meandered through the Palace. I am continually amazed at the history here, and consider all the people who have passed these ways before. Part of the tour ticked price is a tour of the prisons, the bridge of sighs, romanticized by many is really a passage from your condemnation to the prison. So it was named the bridge of sighs because of the signs of the newly imprisoned as they left freedom. I LOVE how they ran their prisons, though, your family had to provide for you or you went pretty much hungry. I wonder if that would change our prisoner rate? I mean it does seem that if you do something wrong, we the people should not have to give you 3 hots and a cot. Hmmm.
Next a perilous trip to a restaurant near the Piazza again, which turned out to be o.k. I had a caprese and Jodi another pizza, wine of course and did not feel robbed!
On our arrival back to the hotel they offered us the opportunity to pay up, which I had really planned on doing tomorrow after another trip to the bank. But o.k. however it took about evey penny I had, especially after they added a city tax to the total. But cash was about $30.00 cheeper. So now to find a bank!
Jodi took a nap and I wrote for a while, it is good to just take a break from time to time, rather than race and try to see it all. But eventually we went to St. Marks to go to mass , which was interesting, funny how much more connected I am to the service in Norte Dame than in this place. Maybe I understand more, I don't know, I did get that is Pentecost and lots about the Holy Spirit. It was nice to have a change to sit, reflect on the spirit of the place, contemplate all those who had passed before both as worshipers and visitors. I also considered the relevance of the building, it's size and location near the Doges Palace, it was almost as if the church and the Venetian republic were trying that old "Keeping up with the Jones" thing.