3rd Week Living the Dream- Viavinaria Montecarlo

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wine tasting

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Sunday, May 22, 2011

16/05/11 Monday

Very layback day to compensate for the full-on weekend we just finished.

Started of fine with Mary getting up on time for our Morning wall walk…but it was soon evident that there was no way that I would be waking up at any time earlier than 9.00. Mary was great and as it turned out I didn't get out of bed until 11.00…..Glorious sleeping in… I will never understand people who tell me that sleeping in just means that you have wasted half the day… Mary quite often used this on me back in Perth when I would use a Sunday Morning to sleep in as long as I could…. Gratefully she said nothing this time and actually gave me my morning, the beautiful person she is…

I woke up a few times through the morning but the feeling of giving yourself a good stretch before curling back under your blankets is priceless….in fact I feel sorry for those that don’t experience what I do whenever I sleep in!!!

My sleeping in obviously affected Mary for the day and she took the day as one of doing as little as possible…in fact she didn’t even get out of Brunella…good on her!!

I ended up walking to the supermarket and getting a whole heap of things…mainly alcohol… and getting back about 3.oo … just in time for Mary to advise me that Alycia was finally on Skype and ready to connect…fantastic… it has been a while and couldn’t wait to see her….

Sure enough we connected and had a great old talk about everything… she is going really well and by all accounts Tristan is looking after her as well and she is very happy and like us, cannot wait for her holidays….bring it on!

After a little while we could see that Maryce was online for Skype so we got her into the mix as well ….unfortunately even though you can hear 3 or more people at the same time you cannot see them unless you upgrade…didn’t know this at the time but we still all had a very funny time talking to each other…. Very funny. After a little while we hung up and let the girls talk to each other...15 minutes later Maryce called us back and we finished our conversation. Phew!!!

And that was basically our day today…very very laid back with not much happening. We had another scrumptious dinner ….I went and got a well-deserved ice-cream at about 10.00pm and we both ended the night at about 11.00….quiet day….still special…

Oh yeh…I still had my run this arvo after the girls conversations….24 minutes for 4.5 km… getting there.

17/05/11 Tuesday (Marie-Chantals birthday)

Happy Birthday Marie-Chantal…Carmel…Jane…and everyone else who happens to have today as their birthday!!

I have been trying to find a way to go and see the 'Torre Guinigi’ (the tower with the trees growing on the top) since we arrived….we mentioned it earlier but Mary thinks she would have a hard time climbing up all those stairs…and numerous steps there are…. So we have avoided them. I know Mary will eventually make her way up those steps before the year is done and wonder what all the fuss was about!!

Today I decided to go and see them… Mary woke up very much under the weather and staying curled up in her PJ’s with a good book on the lounge was just the day she was looking forward to…good on her… especially when you don’t feel the best and especially when there is no reason not to !!! Besides, as I said yesterday about sleeping in and the priceless experience it gives you …and if I want to sleep in …so be it and damn anyone who doesn’t agree!!!

Anyway, this left me wondering what I would be doing today and apart from some incidentals at Brunella …I only had my book to read. (Note: I have read more books in 4 weeks than I have read over the last 20 years – cool!) Talking about the book Michael J. Fox ‘Lucky Man’…. All I can say really is that everyone should read this book… Biographies – but especially Auto biographies are definitely my favourite read – and when the person involved has a life so entertaining and with so many pitfalls and crevices then it makes the read so powerful. When it feels like they are writing just to you then you know it’s a good book – that’s what I think !!!

That’s another reason why I’m always on my dad’s back to get his life and times on paper… as it is every time I’m with him he has another story to tell me about and I wonder how many more there are in that memory of his that will never be told again – it would be such an interesting read with all the things he has done and people that he has met – I’ll have to keep pushing him (and mum) to get it down.

Where was I … oh yes! In the afternoon Brunella (the actual owner of the apartment) and a maintenance man were coming to check out the water boiler so, not to be in their way, Mary and I decided to walk to the wall (with a little protesting from Mary) and we sat down at the first bench under the glorious trees surrounding the wall walk … there were birds in abundance, Lucchese locals walking their dogs along while chatting about the day’s activities and the usual horde of tourists and joggers. I left Mary in that bliss …gave her a kiss…and walked back down to Brunella to pick up my sunglasses (that I had forgotten) and walk through to the centre on Lucca and the ‘Torre Guinigi’.

Once there the camera and the Camcorder went on overload – I never came here (2 years ago) but I remember Brendan and Tracey saying that the steps were relatively steep but the view was incredible. They were absolutely correct!

The walk up was pretty full on but nothing that couldn’t be done at your own pace…all the way up through the circular rotation of the steps you continually had glimpses of the view tantalising the prospect of the view that would be thrust upon you when you eventually got over the last step to the top…

Unexpectantly, the first thing to greet you when you reach the top is a mini forest of trees – you can see these trees from all over Lucca and beyond so you know they are there but it still surprises you when you make that last step onto the top of the tower. The view on top overlooking Lucca is absolutely made for a postcard – especially on a perfect spring day like today with the sun just beginning to touch the tops of the mountains in the background sending these long, drawn out shadows across the whole country side and a beautiful, strong fresh breeze letting you know that it’s not quite summer yet. From up there it seems all the tops of the buildings are all made of terra cotta and hundreds (if not thousands) of years old. It’s exciting looking around at all the familiar sites and exactly how they are positioned to each other. I could see our apartment now and the one we had in 2009 as well as all the main land marks. At one stage an American couple were gazing over the city and she was exclaiming loudly as only Americans can ‘ The amphitheatre should be right there but I can’t see it’… they both kept on looking for it until I showed them were it was… directly in front of them…of course. With that she said ‘oh!!!...is that all…I thought it was a big beautiful amphitheatre with a stage and chairs … that’s a bit of a pity isn’t it!!!’. I smiled and said ‘No… I think that’s magnificent the way it is’ and left them there….

After taking so many photos and video (I also tried to use the ‘photo-stitching’ to create a panoramic view) I walked back to the wall and picked up Mary who was soaking in the afternoon rays and we made our way back to Brunella

The rest of the night we ate and made plans on the web for apartment in Paris next month and plane trips. Again..plane fares are all very frustrating…the cheapest usually starting at 3.95 EURO but by the time you add luggage, tax, checkin,etc etc - the total cost was 65.00 EURO… still not to bad from Paris to Milan. We also sent a request for an apartment that we should get back tomorrow.

Until then….

Happy Birthday again…

18/05/11 Wednesday

Mary still feeling quite under the weather so it was decided to do the same thing again…not that I went to the Torre Guinigi again but Mary did spend the day inside. She accomplished heaps though doing lots of ‘Italian’ language homework and on the websites for accommodation and things to do.

I was slack again and used Mary being unwell for an excuse to sleep in a little more than I should…

After a very late breakfast (come brunch) we settled to a good book – the weather …again … was perfect outside…not too cold …not too hot. We could hear that the markets were in full swing and I was beginning to shift and move on my armchair…Mary suggested I go for a walk in the markets and town and while I’m out to get some lunch and dinner. Great idea… got ready and grabbed my shopping slouch bag… gave Mary a kiss …and off I went.

It was just pass 12.00 so Lucca ( especially via Fillungo) was in its full glory…every nationality seemed to be present and every age group … it was pumping with mainly tourists but its fair share of locals as well. I still love seeing the locals up and about the place with complete indifference for the tourists that they must know our helping them (indirectly) to keep Lucca as pretty and loved as it is. The men and women from 8 to 88 riding their bicycles in and out of human traffic while either eating a gelato or talking on their mobiles always brings a smile to my face.

For some reason I always get an image of Rottnest Island (of all places) when I walk around this beautiful place…and I think I’ve figure it out why I do!! There are a few similarities that seem to ring true ….

Firstly… and obviously…so many bikes and so many people walking, there may be cars in Lucca but the bikes are definitely the preferred mode of transport.The noise that the tyres makes on the white pebbles also reminds me on Rotto.

Secondly… so many tourists and ‘day’ people … you know what I mean?… at Rotto the time between when you wake up and until those first ferries start arriving there is a sense that the island is waking up as well, that all the ‘locals’ are living a different, peaceful life…and then the hordes come onto the island and it stays full on until the last ferry leaves late in the afternoon and then the Island goes back to that serendipitous world.

Thirdly… and more importantly… if you are staying overnight for any length of time in either place you feel you are automatically an honorary local and that all these people that come for the day only are some kind of vermin and off course, once you consider yourself a local you start walking slower taking more time to do the ordinary things like eating and shopping and breathing!!!

All this and we have only been here a month…what will we be like in 11 months time.

I bought some beautiful things for lunch and dinner (which we froze because we were to full from lunch) and went for my usual wall run at 6.00 – (22 minutes tonight)…

When I got home I tested Mary with all her Italian learnings – she’s getting good…. I laugh cause she asks me for the correct answer and as anyone who knows my Italian will tell you – ‘Grammar isn’t my forte’’…

We had yet another peaceful, restful night in and went to bed relatively early… I must start waking early again…maybe!

19/05/11 Thursday Our Anniversary (27 years)

Well…well…well ….27 years married today…another milestone in anyone’s language. Every year that flies by reminds me how lucky I am to have Mary in my life and I can only guess what type of man I would be without her in my life. I know it sounds soppy and heard a hundred times before but it is so true. We have had our ups and downs (and no doubt we will have them again) but I’m truly so blessed to have met her when I did and to have had her there my whole life. We are different people in so many ways but at the end of the day I think we complement each other… who else can get me out of my ‘name forgetting’ jams that I always fall into without missing a beat… or who has an uncanny way of knowing how I really feel. I wish I was as reliable to her as she is to me and that I would learn when to keep my big mouth shut even though every cell in my body wants to know

 ‘Is there anything wrong?’ or ‘Have I done something to upset you?’

Today we woke up fairly early and Mary let me sleep in a little…yet again… but being our anniversary I had bought Mary’s favourite breakfast I made it up for her. She was pleased as punch … that always makes me feel special. During breakfast we talked about life 27 years ago and that we would have never guessed, back then, that we would have been celebrating out 27th anniversary here in Lucca for year…. and just as importantly discussing were to go for our anniversary dinner. I told her I had it all in the bag…a restaurant that we had seen a few times during our walks that looked very interesting…I wasn’t too sure were back I was sure we would find it.

This brings me on to something that Mary has been bringing up lately in regard to my sense of direction. Now I have always been pretty proud about being able to find my way around any new town, village, city or suburb… Just because…a couple of times… I have managed to get us not exactly were we should be at that time… Mary now has the audacity to say that I always get lost!!!! This is totally untrue and I don’t bare any resemblance to this downright LIE!!!!

I hope I have made myself understood!!!

Back to the Anniversary dinner…. After getting lost looking for the restaurant that was in my mind we settled for a lovely one in Piazza Porci called Ristorante Francesco …. Out in the night air and not too many people at the tables…. It wasn’t were I had in mind …but it was getting late-ish and the meal ended up to be ‘delisiosa’ … we even found room for a ‘White Tartufo encrusted with white Meringue crumbs’ …perfetto…

On our way back home I tried to explain the restaurant that was my first choice…sure enough …Mary gave a little smirk and asked me if we walk pass it would I own up to it…. ‘Off course’ I truthfully replied…

Half way home we passed it!!!


We arrived at Brunella at about 10.45 …had a lovely glass of nearly frozen Limoncello followed by a hot café ‘Americano’ from our perculator…. Then a sound nights sleep.

Just like to mention the little perk I get listening to people walk pass our windows at night… I have yet to hear drunken parties or ‘yobbos’ at any time of the day or night (if fact I don’t think we have seen anyone that totally drunk since we’ve been here – weird!) but we do always here people chatting about their night out or groups of students laughing and screaming like a pack of hyenas or looking out and watching couples wrapped around each other as if they are joined at the hip … its beautiful. Trying to understand what they are saying is always a challenge but I suppose a little rude….

Oh …and we both went for a run/walk around the walls again in the afternoon before dinner…

20/05/11 Friday

Got up feeling like ‘shiite’ ….(great Irish word that!!)… didn’t really want to do anything but Mary was up and atom and ready to start our day…again thank God she is around or I would probably be sleeping in until 12.00 every day.

We ‘wall walked’ as usual and half way around the thunderous claps of a helicopter came from nowhere and the ‘Carabinieri’ (Police) helicopter landing right in front of us on the other side of the wall in the redundant moat… how exciting!!! It’s funny …nearly everyone has seen a helicopter fly and buzz around but every time it gets so close and personal then everyone seems to revert back to their childhood with a ‘glaring’ fascination on this powerful flying object. We really both felt quite privileged to have been at that point of the wall just as it was landing. We thought it may have been for someone famous but …nothing…it landed and turned off and the pilots/crew walked out to talk to some other Carabinieri next to their car. I mentioned to Mary ‘that’s why we should always carry the camera for photo opportunities like this’… she just laughed saying under her breath…What  photo opportunity!! (Boys and their Big Toys…)

After quickly eating breakfast I grabbed the two cameras and rushed by Mary excitedly telling her I might catch them taking off… She wanted to know why I would think it would still be there when I got there or that it wasn’t there for the whole day… I just replied with ‘Well we were lucky to be there when it landed – I might have some Good Luck.

You guessed it … as I got there the pilot got into his copter and started her up and took off… as if he was waiting for me to get there…. So I got all my photos!!!

We returned home and did our usual ‘home’ things and Mary organised her letter and photos for her parents …and I organised a shopping list. (The days are so full of chores…hee hee). Mary is also right into her Italian classes at home and is getting very frustrated with all the different ‘rules’ and ‘no rules’ … again I just laugh as there is absolutely nothing I can help her with… I just talk…wrongly or rightly… and what is said is what is understood and therefore correct…. That’s my theory anyway.

In the arvo I took off with the mail and also the shopping list and returned with dinner for the night…I went pass the Puccini Apartments hoping to see Graeme McClean (as I’ve been trying to catch up) but that was pushing ‘Luck’ a little too far.

We went for another run/walk and came back both totally exhausted!!! We both showered and sat down for dinner after our next door (or should I say our downstairs) neighbour knocked on our door to give back our sock that had fallen off the clothes line. Francesca…very nice…we all introduced each other and she left. Maybe we will end up having a meal together some time.

We also made plans for tomorrow.

Montecarlo…. No not the one in Monaco but the Lucca version about 13 kms out of the Centro… they are having their ’Viavinnaria Festival’ over the weekend…plenty of free wine and olive oil tasting on mini bus tours…. Train leaves at 8.40 in the morning…will let you know all about it!

21/05/11 Saturday Montecarlo

Just stumbled through Brunella’s door at just after 9.00pm after a thoroughly eventful day…. No that’s sounds a little boring… much better than that ….

We quickly got ourselves ready and packed up our backpack (which we are getting pretty good at now) grabbed our cameras and took off for the train station to catch our 8.40 train to San Salvatore station (Montecarlo). Even our walk to the station is now pretty organised even though buying a ticket always seems to be an event…. Each time there is only one booth open seeming to be moving oh so slowly, and a long queue of impatient travellers worried sick that they will miss their train. Train trip was a scenic, comfortable 20 minute trip, 4 stops after Lucca, going towards Firenze. (I loovvee train travel).

We arrived at the station at about 9.00am and we were the only two travellers to disembark – from yesterday’s communications with the Montecarlo organisers we were given a phone number to call once we arrived to have someone pick us up… this we did and 10minutes later a smiling couple of Montecarloese (just made that up) were at the station to take us up the hill to the town centre.

Once at the temporary central tent we were bombarded by a lovely girl with a slight Spanish accent, giving us the total lowdown on everything that was happening and everything we needed to do. Whether we were staying the night or if we needed a lift back to the station. The weekend is a huge wine tasting event of the local region as well as highlighting the region’s best cheeses, salame and breads etc …. There are 4 buses on 4 different routes stopping at no less than 17 wineries who ae all prepared for us with all their fanfare. The buses will drop you off and pick you up every 20 minutes and you can hop on and off any time you want. All for free!!! If you want to you can buy a wine glass and holder (around your neck) for 7 EURO and that’s it… Fantastic…!!! We bought our glasses and took off on the first bus…we were busy wine tasting before it hit 10.00am.

The other great thing about Italians… we are such a very civilised lot …even though it is a weekend festival that only happens once a year…. The whole event is organised making sure that between 12.00 and 2.00 everything closes down or stops for pranzo and rest…love it!! Not only that they give you a booklet with all participating café’s and ristorante who will also give you a discount or special menu.

We were the first of the rank so the first couple were barely ready to see us…and there was only the two of us… but they were all so accommodating and helpful…poor Mary …Italian (off course) all the way but she was lapping it up…the Italian as well as the wine.

First winery we started tasting and sampling these great wines and they weren’t skimping on the amounts they were pouring either…and Mary and I being…well Mary and I …. We weren’t going to be uncouth and start spitting any out….we drank everything (as well as some bread dipped in olive oil)…. We bought ourselves a bottle of white … and left already feeling a little shaky. We looked at each other in the ‘pullman’ (bus) and we both basically had the same thought…. ‘o-ohh!! We better be careful here or else we will have bought 20 bottles and sleeping at the back of the bus before 12.00.

So we continued through to the next couple of wineries then we hit ‘Frattoria Cercatoia Alta’ and immediately fell in love with the vineyard and with the owners. Angelo and Sao Fornaciari. We hit it off just about from the get go. Angelo was from the region but had left to find fame and glory, in England,as a chef when he was about 20 years old… he met his wife to be (Sao) in there and 30 years later (7 years ago) he was back on holidays….saw that the property was for sale and immediately put an offer in and bought it. He then proceeded to start making wine and slowly develop his property to be more of a holiday B&B with pool, spa… tastings etc…. and they are both loving it. Great for us too is that after spending 30 years in England they both, obviously, spoke English. We were all getting along so well that we didn’t really want to leave but they gave us their email address and told us to contact them and they would organise a dinner and invite all their Australian friends to come along. Can’t wait!!! Either way they also invited us back any time …even to stay at their place whenever we want to….Regrettably we left Angelo and Sao and made our way back to the ‘Centro Storico’ just in time for lunch.

From the tent we had a beautiful walk through the town which really isn’t much more than a fortress and about 100 metres of  ‘Lucca’ type homes on two or three streets. All is old and 2 or 3 stories high …it has your pre requisite magnificent church… your old men playing cards at the local café…. Etc etc etc. Difference today was that the main piazza was a hive of activity with setting up for all the activities that were going to start from 3.00 and go through until 11.00 that night. We had agreed on which ristorante we were going to eat at and starting making our way there… we got onto the right street and we started walking and walking…up and down and down…where the hell was this restaurant?? We decided to turn around and eat at on we had seen at the top of the hill just next to the main gateway. ( as it turned out the street was correct but no where near the town…about 2 kliometres down the road…Blah!!)

After a typical delicious meal… (still waiting for a mediocre one) we sat down on a bench in the main piazza, where they were setting up… I left Mary to relax and I checked out the fortress that was immaculately maintained. The very proud elderly man that showed me around and gave me a little history seemed to be bursting at the seams to show it all to me. Selfishly,  I thought he was being like that just for me but after he had finished with me and left me off to explore by myself I looked over my shoulder and he was just as spritely with the next group. I took some glorious photos form all over the area… love em!

Afternoon siesta was just that… Mary sat on the bench in the piazza and I sat next to her drooling and snoozing way pass 3 oclock. By then we got a second wind…which siestas seem to do…. And took off for another 3 wineries met up with a large group of young 20 y/olds who had also been there since first thing this morning but had obviously tasted MUCH more than we had…they were very funny and full of life…singing songs about (roughly translated)‘we love drinking – we love drinking - even if we’re going to vomit’….hee hee sounds much better in Italian

We were having a  great time and then time started running out…we made our way back to the ‘tent’ and just had enough time to check out the activities in the main piazza before we were chauffeured back to the station at just before 8.00pm for our 8.05 train back home to Lucca.

Back in Brunella by 9.00pm and I had just enough energy to go out for a run in the last hints of dusk in the sky….even lucky enough to hear some fireworks as I was running….

Once showered and changed Mary and I savoured and talked about another beautiful excursion away from Lucca over some ‘biscotatti’ and jam and the mandatory fresh cup of coffee.

Tomorrow…who knows??? But we do have to organise next month’s trips…\

22/05/11 Sunday

Sleep in day… all the way until nearly 10.30….bring it on!!

From then on Mary played around with the computer and I read a book.(Eat ..pray…love)oh yea!!

We spent a relaxing day doing nothing or barely something after the fullon day we had the day before.

We ate a beautiful salad and of all things ‘yoghurt’….then I went for my run…. Very warm (probably 25 degrees ) and there were so many people on the wall…mostly walking of course not many running at all. Love to see so many people out there… mainly all walking arm in arm with glints in their eyes but a few red faced and panting away like it was the last day of their lives…me included.

I returned to Brunella just in time for a shower and to get ready…Mary was already showered and in her clothes ready far mass when I got home. We left at 5.50 and made it to San Frediano just in time for mass… We then had a lovely passegiatta through the centre on Lucca mainly of via fillungo watching all the beautiful people and managed to visit a couple of the stores to check out clothes for Mary…very encouraging to know Mary has somewhere to go for her clothes.

We then made our way to a little restaurant just outside the walls of the Anfitheatre and ae at a beautiful restaurant,,, not too expansive…I had a scrumptious pizza marinara for 3.90 EURO and Mary had a lovely roast beef dish…beautiful again even though it wouldn’t rate in our top 5. Made it home before 11.00 in time for a couple of limoncellos and a fresh cup of coffee.

All good!!Reminisced about the good days in Collie and the first years of the Perth Azzurri Soccer Club and all the good times we had…. We made a pack to make sure we contact all our good friends when we get back. Lots of water under the bridge but I’m sure we can take off from were we left off. It will happen!!!

Another great month in Lucca (Italia)
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maura brophy on

Sounds like you are having a great time. Check out Cutigliano a small village on the way to Abetone,they have food festival in Summer. Wish I was there miss the sunshine, love to you both.

Alfio on

Hi Mary & Michael,
that photo of Frattoria Cercation with all the salame made me hungry. The wine tasting looks good i hope Michael did not make a spectacle of himself LOL.looking forward to the next instalment. God bless you both.

ashley neves on

hi michael and mary.
well it sounds like you 2 are having the time of your lives..im sooo jealous, mainly of all the delish food you have been eating. makes me hungry each time i read about these superb meals.
looking forward to the next reading
love ashley

fernando on

congrats on what sounds like 27 wonderful years(i'm sure every minute of this time has been great!!!!)people say oppisites attract,Mary being a warm wonderful person,and then theres Michael.............?Only joking,keep enjoying yourselves and be happy.speak soon

Ali & Michael on

Happy 27th
You both know how special you are to us and we are so very happy to have been part of your lives.
Would have been nice if you had taken us with you but thats OK,
You can make up for it when you get back.
Huge hugs to you both' we love you

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