New Year...let's Go

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Flag of Italy  , Tuscany,
Sunday, January 15, 2012

06/01/12 Friday

Well the week has flown past since the New Year and we have just had the day of the 'Befana'… the whole week has been spent having a good time and sleeping in and walking the wall. We started with a couple of DVDs on Monday Night and have been living ‘Dolcezza di fare niente’. (the sweetness of doing nothing)

Through the week, I did get up early to go with Paul and Michelle to check out their ‘Permesso di Soggiorno’…it was back in July when they were told that it would be ready and to keep an eye on an internet website to see when their names appeared.
It would then be ready to collect from Florence….but their names have never appeared.

On Wednesday we decided to get to the ‘Comune’ and see if they could do anything. After a nice cappuccino and pasti from the train station café we arrived at the ‘Comune’ at just after 9.15am…we then proceeded to wait an hour before someone saw us…We finally spoke to a woman in a smartly dressed uniform. Well!!!!
You would think I had asked her to give away her only child…she was furious
from the word go… I tried to explain that M & P were still waiting for the internet website to acknowledge that their 'Permesso' was ready to collect and, as they had to collect theirs from Florence, they didn’t want to travel there, for no reason.

The woman was getting very annoyed (I don’t know why! We were all being very pleasant)…the more I spoke the madder she was getting. Finally she waved her hands in the air and in Italian (of course) demanded  ..."Have they been back to Firenze…?” I tried to explain again but she interrupted me and said "YES or NO…have they been back to Firenze”…so I just said “No”…

She then proceeded to tell us that the letter M & P had received, meant that the card was ready for them in Florence and that they needed to go back there to pick it up. Risking death I tried to tell her that they were told to wait until they saw their names appear on the website to which she glared at me with a look that would melt butter and repeated again what she said previously. Then threw the letter back through the hole and pushed her chair back hoping that we would leave now and that it would be the end of it.

I asked if there was a possibility that they could get it sent here, to Lucca, again she looked at me as if saying “How dare you ask me another question….can’t you see how busy I am?”…Then she spoke for 5 minutes as fast as I’ve ever heard anyone speak, telling us what they needed to do…including going to the post office to fill out the appropriate form and bring it back to them.

I was about to ask why they didn’t keep the form here as it would save a lot of time…But I thought I better not push my luck.

Honestly…I think I’ve said this before but…why do people, that have no customer skills at all, get jobs that are all about customer service????

I explained to Paul and Michelle about all that had transpired, as they both looked a little shell shocked…they couldn’t believe how rude the woman had been…They decided they would just go back to Florence and hope for the best.  (which they did the following week and luckily, everything went smoothly, and they now have their Permessi di Soggiorni)

(I then met up with them and we went for a coffee followed by a drink at a little place that Paul frequents to have his Italian lesson. It is one of those tiny places that has a shop front that sells panini, biscotti, dolci, etc but you dont realize at the back there is a real restaurant. While sitting there, having our drinks, we saw the different types of food being brought out to other patrons so we all promised we would be back very soon to have lunch there.)

This week, I received my official letter from the ‘Comune’ to advise that I am now a ‘Lucchese Citizen’ and therefore I should be able to get my Euro Passport very easily….right??? We will see!!!

On the Thursday night is the night that the ‘Befana’ (the witch) arrives into the city…it is a pretty big thing here in Italy.  Going for my walk that night, I noticed in Piazza San Francesco, they had set up a stage with big signs proclaiming the arrival of ‘befana’. They also
have kid’s rides and candy floss etc etc in the piazza and everyone is getting into the spirit. Of course this means the end of Christmas so decorations etc will need to come down, hopefully that doesn’t happen too quickly as we have gotten quite used to it all.

The morning of the 6th was very eerie…the weather was perfect…cold but perfect… and I got up early again to go back to the ‘comune’ to get proceeding moving for my passport. Both Mary and I left together …Mary on her walk…me, through town and to the Comune.
I was also checking to see if the cafe/bar/restaurant where we had had drinks with M & P the other day, was open, as we planned to meet Michelle, Paul, Libby & Vincent there for lunch today.

The whole walk through town and to the station was like walking through a ghost town…nobody anywhere and nothing open…when I say it was early I mean it was after 9am so most places should have been open. Mary messaged me to say that she thought it may well be a Public Holiday as there was a heap of people walking the wall…(i soon realized that everyone was there for the 'Marcia della Befana' which literally means the March of the Epiphany ...some were dressed as witches too...there were different places set up along the wall, giving things away, such as calendars and also giving away caffe e panettone)

Anyway, I continued through town on the off chance that the comune was open…surprise surprise….it was closed. I stopped by at the train station for a cappuccino and then took off
for home.

As I walked up to the wall Mary saw me and called out…so we walked back to Brunella together.

Paul, Michelle, Atticus, Vincent, Libby, Mary and I then all met up at ‘Vis Pateresa’…at 1pm and sat down to a lovely meal …in fact we didn’t leave until well after 5pm…we had
a ball…Great food (again)…very cheap…two courses, wine, coretti and coffees &
dolci all for 20EU a head and they also gave us some free liquors….unreal!!! The company
was great…just what we all needed…we all talked easily to each other enjoying
the time and relishing the opportunity.

On the way home we all stopped at an ‘Old peoples Home’ …that Vincent had found in his travels… and we had a look at a beautiful Nativity (Presepe) that one of the residents, had made and, apparently, does so every year. The elderly gentleman was so passionate about it and so proud…we took a few photos …and he made sure we took one of him and we wrote something in the visitors book…’And don’t forget to write where you are from….!!!!’ was the last thing he yelled at us to do….very simpatico indeed. (After leaving there we continued home until it was time to part ways...we all promised to catch up again soon.)

Back home then and another restful night with Mary by my side…drinking…reading…coffeeing…panettoneing!!!!

08/01/12 Sunday

Beautiful Sunday and we have decided to finally take the 8 km walk down by the Fiume Serchio to the town of ‘Ponte a Moriano’. (The plan is to walk there and then catch the train back.)

‘Ponte a Moriano’ is a little town on the way to Aulla and it seems to be a semi-industrial town…paper products by the looks of it. There is an off- shoot off the river that dissects
the town and really adds to the general feeling of the town.

We arrived just after 1.00 which meant everything was closed…the walk along the banks of the river was very easy, flat and lots of things to see…the river itself was flowing quite fast for this time of the year and considering how much rain there (hasn’t) been. I’m sure as
we pass through winter and hit spring, the water will be much deeper and the
river much wider. On the walk we saw a few manufacturing and processing
buildings as well as a couple that have been closed down for many years as they
looked very derelict. We passed by the Lucchese Sports Club which
included…baseball field…soccer fields and training… bocce…tennis…and a model
car racetrack (which was being used at the time we passed…I’m sure the
neighbours love the sound of these cars whipping around the track all day…(very interesting watching these rather large remote cars racing around the track, the skill the operators must have just keeping them on the track...they had there own pit lane and a huge area where heaps of people were 'tinkering' with their cars).

Biggest surprise walking on the bike/pedestrian track was meeting up with Brunella and her husband. We were half way to ‘Ponte a Moriano’ (they were coming the other way, back from Ponte a Moriano)…we had a quick conversation and wished each other the best before continuing our walks.

When we arrived at our destination everything was very quiet…(as I’ve already written)… we had an idea where a good restaurant was located…(or rather Mary and her great memory remembered from a conversation we'd had with Stig and Charlotte). We walked a
while trying to find it but all we could see open, was a little café opposite the towns theatre…we continued our walk looking for anything else that might be open as well as to check where the train station was so we knew where to catch the train back to

Honestly, it was like walking through a very pretty ghost town…even the station was closed (permanently) with only a little room to the side of the original station with the timetable pinned on a board and a ticket validating machine…we couldn’t even buy a ticket as the shop/bar that sold them was also closed.

We walked back to the main piazza resigning ourselves to the fact that we would have to have something to eat at the little café that we had noticed earlier…we were about to enter when we saw two elderly people leaving another place across the road but we thought, well we are here now, we'll just get a panini or something..we walked inside the café and NOTHING looked very appetising at all (it looked like it had been sitting there for days, i turned to Mikes and just shook my head)… so we decided to walk across the piazza and check out this place that we had seen the couple walk out of.

Well… are we happy we did…as soon as we entered we knew that we were in the right place…there was the typical 'deli' scenario at the front, a big display of ready made meals, salami, formaggio, dolci etc...We then walked through to the rear of the shop which opened out to a huge eating area with a wood fired pizza oven and a beautiful view over the river and the bridge. We both walked through with big smiles on our faces and
were seated at one of the many tables. It is very much a ‘family’ restaurant…simple but inviting and there were quite a few families there, very obviously enjoying their meals.

We ordered some pasta and farro soup and then shared a pizza with a couple of glasses of wine…(it was perfect, exactly what we had been hoping to find)…we
sat and ate and talked for as long as we could as our train was picking us up
at quarter to four. We will definitely visit this place again…a really good end
to the walk and catching the train was just as simple and carefree…the conductor
on the train didn’t even want any money when we asked for a fare…hee hee.

We arrived back in time for our passeggiata home, around La Mura and for me to then have a more vigorous walk after. (as if we hadnt walked enough today!!) We then settled down to watching a couple of DVDs before going to bed (this week, it is Movie Sunday night)…lovely day.

Tomorrow the Camerons are arriving... can’t wait!

09/01/12 Monday

We woke up nice and early and got into all our jobs for the morning…by 11am Mary and I had packed away all the Christmas decorations …taken the stencils off the windows…done some washing and cleaned the apartment…Brunella was sparkling and ready for visitors.

I then took off for Esselunga with a list of shopping to do and Mary continued with her jobs at home. I knew it was going to be a bigger shop than normal but walking back with a huge bag was very tiring…good fun again…but tiring. I stopped for a coretto just before getting home and met up with Jenny (the American author i had met a few weeks earlier in Sidis) who introduced me to her husband …Ben. They both seem very nice and spoke for a while before I went inside for my coffee…5 minutes later Mary came through the door having just met Jenny while they were both filling their water bottles at the fountain. (i had tripped on the step and said something in English so Jenny recognised the Aussie accent and, as she had just been talking to Michael, who was just across the street, she asked if i was Michaels wife...i went with her then and met her husband Ben and then went in to surprise Mikes. We both walked back to Brunella, me with the filled water bottles and Mikes with the shopping...put it all away and then we took off for the station to greet the Camerons ..we arrived and they were already on the platform...for once the Italian trains were a little early)

It was so good to see them all…every time someone comes over from Perth it tugs at the emotions… Poor things though, they had either been sick with colds or had them now. …Jamie looking the worst (sorry buddy!!!).

After our ‘hellos’ we walked through the main Porta di S.Pietro and through Piazza Grande and to their hotel ‘Piccolo Puccini’…very close to Chiesa San Michele. We let them check in while we had ourselves a coffee at the bar next to the hotel and then we all walked through
Lucca back to Brunella for lunch.

We had extended the table for the first time and laid out a huge spread of salads…salumi…cheeses etc etc…wine, soft drinks and water…we were all very comfortable and happy and enjoying ourselves. Jamie, of course, asked me about a game of golf…he seemed pretty amazed that I didn’t even know if there was a course here let alone not having played at all.

As evening began, I took off with Jamie, Amy and David to return the DVD’s Mary & I had watched last night…and on the way back i showed them a little more of Lucca.

We continued our good times at Brunella. Jamie & I took off to get some pizzas which we had with salad for dinner before we we all walked back to their Hotel. Jamie and Carmel having planned to go to Pisa tomorrow.

(It is actually Jamie & Carmels 28th Wedding Anniversary today and it is also Fabs birthday so auguri a tutti...)

10/01/12 Tuesday

The Camerons took off for Pisa early and luckily the Hotel staff had told them that the trains were on strike today and they would have to catch the bus from Piazza Verdi… I took off
for some more provisions and Mary tidied up. The whole time we weren’t 100%
sure that the Camerons had actually made it to Pisa…as Paul and Michelle emailed to say the trains were on strike, but as we hadnt heard anything we figured they had taken the bus...

We eventually met up with the them, Carmel had phoned to say they were walking home along the Wall from the bus station.  So we went the opposite way and met up with them just next to San Columbana cafe. They had all stopped to have a breather and they weren’t sure if they were going the right way. Mary and I were walking to meet them when I had the same thought...what if, when Carmel had told me she was facing the ‘porta’ and I had told her to go to the left of the wall and keep walking…that maybe she was facing the
porta from the other side of the wall… if this was correct we would be forever
walking around the wall in the same direction and never meet…ever!! (you are such a wally!)

But she got it right!!!

We then all went for a walk through town passed San Martino and Jamie & I stopped for a ‘coretto’ at the nearest café…Amy, David & Elise having hot chocolate...(Carmel & I took the opportunity and were shopping for her little granddaughter, Laila)

Apparently, Jamie had not been feeling very well in Pisa, to the extent that he actually fell to the ground in pain while they were there. He thought he may have kidney stones so, of course, everyone is a little anxious. We spent the rest of the afternoon and early evening at Brunella and then made our way to ‘Bottega de cose buone’ for a nice full on meal. That’s when we all really knew that Jamie wasn’t too well…all that beautiful food and Jamie barely ate a few mouthfuls…poor guy. We walked them all home and gave Carmel a couple of phone numbers of doctors that spoke English, made sure she also had the emergency number and told her to call us if they need us, and left Jamie with some painkillers.

11/01/12 Wednesday

The next morning, Carmel called to say that Jamie had had a good nights sleep but he had woken up and suddenly been in pain again so she was going to make an appt with the doctor and she would let us know what happened. We didn’t hear anything back
so we decided to go for a walk around town (poor ole mikes was really fretting about his mate Jamie …so after wandering around town for awhile, then passing by their hotel, i suggested we stop at ‘Turandot’. It was such a beautiful day we could sit outside and watch the world go by but had the added advantage that we could see if the Camerons left their hotel as well...we were stalking them :) )

We ordered our coffees and lazed in the sun until we decided that we should now have a nice glass of wine…this turned into another nice glass of wine as we began to really relax in the sun. It wasnt long before Mary noticed David …then Amy…then Jamie…walking towards us… we hailed them down and Jamie came and joined us while
Amy and David went shopping. Carmel & Elise were at the hairdressers having Elises hair cut. Jamie then proceeded to let us know about the excellent service he (and Carmel) had received from the Doctor we had suggested…apparently he was amazing…they had phoned him up but only left a message. He called them back and made an appt for 4pm. Apparently they were half way to our place when the doctor called them back again and told them he could see them straight away so they turned around and made their way to the
surgery. From then on they were treated really well and after the Doctor had sorted Jamie out he then turned to Carmel asking about her cough and then gave her a script for herself as well. When they went to pay him …he said no…that is all sorted through the comune
…fantastic. (Jamie does have kidney stones!!! and the doctor has given him medication to make the 'passing' a little bit easier...we are all hoping they pass before they have to leave or at least before he has to board the plane home as that could be VERY uncomfortable...Update: Well, the Camerons have been back in Perth now for a couple of weeks and Jamie seems to be ok, thank goodness...everything went well for the rest of their holiday.. still no sign of the stones, though!.)

We soon saw Carmel & Elise with her pretty new hair cut and then wandered back to our place for lunch. This was made up of left overs from last nights meal. Bottega de cose buone always has large servings but with Jamie not eating much last night there was so much more left over so we had asked for 'doggy bags'.

(After lunch we all decided to wander back into town...Amy really wanted to buy some shoes and Carmel wanted to get some pressies for family, in particular, Laila. We hadnt gone long when Mikes picked up the lasagne that we had ordered for tonights dinner and decided that he should bring it home. Jamie & Elise jumped at the chance to go home there was only Carmel, David, Amy & myself left. We had a lovely time just wandering around...Amy found her shoes just when she had given up and Carmel found a few very cute things for Laila. We also bumped into Michelle & Paul. They had just introduced themselves to Charlotte & Stig who they had seen on Via Fillungo!!! Michelle had recognised them from the blog ...can you believe it...good for you Michelle xx)

We finally got home and had a lovely meal of lasagne with a fresh crisp salad….this time Jamies appetite seemed to have returned. We had a lovely time all night …Amy, David and Elise are all very special and Jamie and Carmel should be very proud. They were so well
behaved and just so…nice! It’s really the most time we’ve ever spent with them…especially David …and it was a pleasure to get to know them a little bit more.

Through our travels today we also decided to buy a nice cake and some candles to celebrate Elise’s 21st. It’s in a couple of weeks and since we couldn’t be  there we decided to have a mini celebration tonight. Went down a treat….Mary does have
great ideas ….such a big heart (that’s why I married her…)

We all walked back to the hotel and made plans to meet, in the morning, at the hotel at 7.50 to walk to the train station. It was very funny…everyone then looked at David and Jamie (being the spokesperson)
says “that means we are out of the hotel at 8am David….not getting out of bed
or brushing teeth etc etc…out on the road at 8”….(poor David!! he just smiled)

12/01/12 Thursday

The next morning we woke up early to a very cold morning…when we left it was -2 degrees ….Mary and I arrived at just on 7.50 nicely rugged up for the cold. As we walked in they had already brought  all the luggage down to the lobby and Jamie was tucking into a croissant and cappuccino – he was dressed in a t-shirt (which seemed a little odd as he had been complaining about the cold...but the hotel was lovely and warm) and
invited me to have a coffee with him…no problem with that.

By 8 o’clock everyone was downstairs …coats on and luggage outside when Carmel asked “Where’s David???”  (we did laugh) David finally showed up outside the hotel with looks of despair from all his family…

We quickly made our way to the station while taking a few snaps along the way…got there with about 5 minutes to spare and sat at the line waiting for the 8.39 to Florence to pull in.

It was all far too quick….only a few days, but it was lovely to see them and to be able to spend some of their holiday with them. We hugged and bid them farewell. (It has been great fun and we thank you, Jamie, Carmel, Elise, David & Amy for coming to share in our love of Lucca and to spend time with us)…they are now off to Venice then Paris and Euro Disney then home. I hope they have a great time and all get better asap.

When we left Brunella, earlier, I had grabbed my ‘Passport’ “stuff” so I could check on it after seeing the Cameron's off…Mary walked back to Brunella and I made my trip to the famous comune. They told me that I was at the wrong area and that around the corner was the Uffice di Passoporto and to go there. Of course when I got there the attendant behind
the desk told me that passports are only dealt with on Mondays – Wednesdays –
and Fridays….today is Thursday!!!! Tomorrow it is then.

The rest of the day we spent relaxing and thinking about the days we have had…good time.

13/01/12 Friday – 15/01/12 Sunday

(Happy 25th Birthday Alycia!!! for the 13th ...our little baby is a quarter of a century!!! we had emailed her the previous night because of the time difference and she had emailed back. She was having a lovely day and had been always...

and Happy Birthday to my dearest Mum, for the 15th...we hope you are spoit too!!!)

In the morning on Friday, I took off for the office of passports to get it all done but not until nearly 10.30am…unfortunately Mary had forgotten all about it and didn’t wake me up…(completely slipped my mind!!!) not her fault but she's usually the one that wakes me early. I arrived a little after 11 and didn’t see the attendant until nearly 11.30….by then I knew I was going to have stuff missing…it was not going to be smooth sailing…I was correct!

I needed to get another ‘tax’ stamp from the Tabacchi and pay a bill for the actual passport booklet … on top of all that it had to all be in cash and I had no money and needed to find and bankomat…which ended up being about 200 metres away. Needless to say…by the
time I got back to the office…it was past midday and they were closed until Monday.

We then met up with the Sullivans to celebrate them acquiring their ‘permesso di soggiorno’…Mary organised for us to go to ‘Vis Pateresa’ where we had all been the previous week. Again a perfect lunch…not too much food …I only had a Zuppa but oh so tasty. The four of us ended up back at Brunella to continue the festivities. We started to play Italian Monopoly, Mary had bought it for me for Christmas but we were only a quarter of the way through when we decided we needed Pizza...we had only had a primi (a soup) for lunch and it was now about 9.30  so we were all a wee bit hungry...Paul & I took off for the Pizza. Needless to say it was a fun filled night.

Saturday morning I woke up with the driest throat in Lucca and straight away thought I must have caught the Cameron bug….I tried to let it go and did everything as normal…including some shopping at Carrefour and walking around the Wall. We were supposed to be meeting Charlotte & Stig for dinner and Mary had already let them know that I wasn't feeling 100% and we may not make it…but I really wanted to go and willed myself to get better…

That morning we were also startled by the sound of trucks and cars horns blaring from the other side of the Wall…I quickly dressed to find out what it was and why? When I looked over all I could see (and hear) were trucks all the way around the ‘ring’ road blaring away…I asked a local who told me that they were having a 'formal complaint' to the
authorities because the council wants to let heavy traffic onto the ‘ring’ road
but everyone is (apparently) against it….so this was their way of protesting…(if being loud was going to help them win then it was going to work!!)

I had started to feel better so we met Stig and Charlotte at Toscas for another incredible meal…. We talked and talked again and had a really lovely time. They mentioned
Michelle & Paul introducing themselves on Via Fillungo and how nice that was.

We had finished dinner and we were just relaxing when we noticed that there were quite a few people waiting to be this was about 11 and we were amazed at how many different sets of people were out at this time of night to have a meal...and that the restaurant was still prepared to serve them. We thought we should leave and
made our way through the back streets of Lucca to C & S's apartment…(again never
ever feeling threatened walking around) and settled down for some more
conversation and a beautiful bottle of red. They are both really very nice
people. Then eventually wandered home...

I woke up Sunday morning with a throat on fire and not knowing if I was hot or cold…Mary informed me that I was to stay in bed all day…(i think everyone would know by now, that  that is not something Mikes finds very hard to do!!….poor ole mikes, though, had been looking forward to the local soccer this afternoon and the big European game tonight...i took off to the farmacia (chemist) to buy him something for his throat and then pottered around the shops, window shopping and then buying stuff for lunch...most enjoyable...)

All Sunday I lay in bed or slept or read while Mary looked after me …I felt very special…sick but special. She made me lunch and lemon/honey drinks and made me feel better…I ended up asleep for the night at about 10 even after all the sleep I had through the day…must have needed it.

Oh... by the way…Inter won 1-0 against Milan…a bit of an upset really…Dad will be letting Mum know all about it….Viva Nerrazzurri!!!
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