Luxembourg, Milano & MARYCE!!!

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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

15/03/12 Thursday

We woke up at a reasonable hour and took our times getting ready for our trip to Milano. The train was due to leave at 10:30 and we had nothing left to do at this end. Mary had worked very hard yesterday with all the things that she needed to bring with her…as usual she wasn't sure what she would need and what she could leave here. We are only bringing the medium size case (our new one) but I'm sure it will all fit in. (You would think with all this travelling, i would be used to what and what not to pack!!! We were going to be away for 4 nights only...why was it always so difficult try to decide :) )

After breakfast, with a very tight suitcase, we took off for the station. Mary took off ahead, as i still had a couple of things to do, thinking I would catch up…but she is walking quickly these days and I also had the case to wheel …so we only got together just before the station exit off La Mura.

At the station we still had time for a cup of coffee before we boarded …nice and relaxed… for our 30minute trip to Viareggio station. After an uneventful, but comfortable ride to Viareggio we disembarked and had to wait about 35 minutes for the Frecciabianca to Milano…(but that ended up being an hour, as the train was late) this gave me a little time to walk around the station and sing away where no one could hear me. Mary sat down at the end of the line and calmly waited for the train. She was looking lovely in her new blue top, scarf and jacket.

The ride on Frecciabianca was very comfortable …unfortunately, unlike the Frecciarossa, we didn’t receive any complimentary drinks or nibblies…and you know how we love that. The train was also relatively empty so we had empty seats next to us which always gives you an added sense of privacy…again…something we love to have when travelling.

We weren’t getting into Milano until 14.50 so we needed to have some kind of lunch on board. When the food trolley came to us we selected two prepacked sandwiches(mmm…not!!) and a beer…. They actually weren’t too bad but not something I want to eat again. Anyway, after a very relaxing trip we arrived right on time and casually disembarked in Milano Centrale…this station always gives us a buzz…so grand and old…and so busy…people rushing everywhere…different people with different places to go …or people to meet…it’s all 'full-on’ and we love it!!! Everytime we come back here we look forward to this station.

We caught the 'Metro’ to Loreto and walked to our Hotel Aspromonte…on the way Tatiane had called to say , settle ourselves at the hotel and come to their apartment by 18:00 as we then needed to get to the ristorante by 19:00… so we did just that.

We left for Tatiane and Zio Enricos apartment  stopping at the corner ‘bar’ for a campari and prosecco before going any further. Nice little bar with a nice man serving and helping us. We then continued down Viale Gran Sasso and as we approached the apartment …there was Tatiane on the balcony waving at us…so nice. She let us in and we after hugs and kisses, the four of us sat, talked and caught up.

We had a nice long chat about our family…all my Uncles and Aunties, cousins, everyone… and especially about her immediate family and what they were all up to. She is, obviously, very proud of them all.  She also has had to go back and get more tests…but on the whole, she is looking great and feeling well.

We took off for the ‘Metro’ and a few stops later we got off and walked to the restaurant…same one that we normally go to with Gianandrea… we were the first ones there but eventually they all arrived. We weren’t sure who would be there but everyone showed up…all wives, husbands and kids…we had such a lovely time talking about everything and getting to know the children again…especially Gabrielles children who have all grown so much in the last 3 years. (Gabrielle and his family have been in Brazil for the last 3 years, so we havent seen them since we first travelled to Milan in 2008) Michele is now nearly 6, I think, and has changed the most…not a chubby little boy but slimmed down and still very cute. New edition, baby Enrico, sat on our end of the table on a high chair and was absolutely adorable. With Gabrielle playing with him and making him laugh……at one stage Gabbi was pretending that he was eating the paper placemat and loving the tatse, which was making Enrico laugh and giggle but then when Gabbi stopped and got up to leave …Enrico took a mouthful of paper and stuck it in his mouth at which Gabbi told him ‘No!!!’ …you can’t eat that…it’s not good for you…Yuck!!’ …this, off course confused Enrico terribly and he wanted to try some more…he didn’t want the pizza …he wanted yummy paper. Very funny…even Gabbi said that as he was pretending to eat that it was a silly thing to do…hee hee!!!! (i think this story might be a 'you needed to be there' story)

All the kids are adorable…each in their own way… It will be exciting to see what happens over the next years and how they will all grow up.

We had a lovely meal…everyone had a good time and we finished up very early …about 20:45… with hugs and kisses as this will be the last we see of the cousins…

Gianandrea dropped us off at his parents apartment, hugs & kisses to Tatiane & Zio...(we will be seeing them on Monday, with Maryce) and we walked back to the hotel…had a couple of corettos in the lobby before going up to our room. Early night for an early wakeup call and a 9:10 train tomorrow to Luxembourg.

The hotel was good…clean and tidy (but a little 'tired')…only complaint was the bathroom door didn’t close and there were wires where a light should have been at the entrance… sleep was peaceful although it was very warm. The next morning we realized the heater had been on all night…oh well!!! (Luckily we had slept with the window open, otherwise, i think we would have roasted) We booked a two roomer for Sunday night when Maryce will be with us…fantastic day!

16/03/12 Friday

We woke up early all excited about our trip to Luxembourg and quickly got ready and headed down for our continental breakfast.

After confirming our Sunday night late check-in we walked to the Metro for the train to Milano Centrale … we had a very calm and relaxing time watching the world go by in the station until our train 'binari' platform,  came up on the departure board and we hopped on board carriage one and, after putting the luggage away, we settled down for the 4 hour trip to Zurich.

Almost immediately the sights and views going through Milan, Lago di Como, the Swiss alps and beyond were magnificent and the camera was going on overload… we were both laughing trying to capture snaps and then getting caught in a tunnel or have a pole in the way just as we had taken a photo…it was very funny but we have some great photos to bring back. (well, we did have some beautiful we have some beautiful memories)

We were able to use the internet until we arrived at the border and we could also use the power from the train to use the laptop but most of the ride we either read or played Sudoku or just sat mesmerized with the passing views. Truly beautiful all over.

We arrived in Zurich, half way to our destination, in time to pick up some lunch. We walked around for a while around the station and through a couple of the entrances taking a few more snaps and then settled at an old restaurant in the station that prides itself as being a bit of an ‘icon’ of the station. We asked to see the menu and we were well looked after…I also had to exchange some money as we didnt think we could use Euro. The exchange rate was pretty close to that of the Euro but what really is different is how pretty the notes are…

(We really wanted to try something 'local' and authentic)…sausages and beans for me and a very rich dumpling meal for Mary…both very filling…and some wine and beer. We paid, said our goodbyes and made our way to the Zurich – Luxembourg train.

Again, the trip to Luxembourg going through until nearly 8.00pm was calm, comfortable and very relaxing…it really is the way to travel. As soon as we got off the train and walked down the platform we saw a smiling Mark waiting for us at the top of the steps and a ‘Welcome to Luxembourg’ for the two of us.

Mark took us to his beautiful sports 2-door Mercedes that looked as if it had just come out of the showroom and drove us through a darkening Luxembourg to his home. Maria had stayed home to finish getting dinner ready. When we arrived we were shown to our room for the next couple of nights and we were just taken away with their generosity…they had set up their own room to stay in while they jumped into their spare room (the plan had been for us to stay downstairs in the guest room with the connecting bathroom but, they had noticed through the week that the tiles had started falling off the wall so they felt that they couldnt leave us there so had given us their room instead xx it was a beautiful apartment they lived in, large but cosy and you really felt very much at home)  Maria & Mark then left us to unpack, if we wanted, freshen up and we then, met them downstairs for a drink and then dinner.

We sat down to a beautiful dinner and straight away we took off from where we finished when they were in Lucca, at the end of September…conversation was very easy and very interesting. It was always bright, from work talk to what the family was doing to sports and everyone enjoyed each other’s company.  We enjoyed it so much that time seemed to vanish and all of a sudden it was 1.00am and time to go to sleep…a perfect day…

17/03/12 Saturday

Today has all been planned by the 'Mark Doherty walking tours' (we were allowed to say yes we wanted or no we didnt... but we were up for anything)… we started with a magnificent breakfast of cereals, fresh fruits, breads and croissants (which Mark had walked to buy from his local bakery, first thing this morning)…and as much coffee as was wanted. We then  took off, on a warm morning, for our first destination…Belgium!!! (well, why not, it was only 12 mins away...!!! and we can always say we have been to Belgium now too...) He was also going to drive us to Germany as it was only an hour away but we cancelled on that and took his word for it. The whole time he was describing some facts and figures about Luxembourg and the people and business. We then drove back to their home to pick up Maria and in the short time that we had been away the weather had taken a definite turn, it had gone from sunny to windy and overcast.

Anyway, nothing was going to deter us and we made our way to the city centre and started the official tour. For the next few hours Mark and Maria took us walking all over Luxembourg…around the old parts showing us the streets and valleys…the royal home…the ruins …the river…the infamous red bridge …the business district and just gave us a feel of the place. It was totally different to what I had in mind…I just expected a fairly modern city geared up to the International Money markets but even though it is a very important Financial city it still has retained it’s quaint beauty & charm. We were both really surprised and in the best way possible. (we really had no idea what to expect of Lux but it is such a beautiful charming...we just loved it. Where Maria & Mark live, which is about 10 mins drive from the city centre is just a gorgeous estate too)

We stopped at an Irish Pub for a quick drink (well, after all, is was St Patricks Day and i was with my Irish cousin...where else would we go :) ) and lunch right down in the middle of the Luxembourg City valley. Then after seeing a couple of museums and churches we walked back to the car. Mark then drove us to the American War Cemetery with the thousands of white crosses as well as General Patons gravesite overlooking his men (boys really …all around 22) and then drove to the German War Cemetery…more graves but definitely not as glamorous…(so many young very, very sad!!!)

The day was stretching along and we decided to make our way home to watch the Ireland/England 6 Nations last game. We enjoyed a drink while we all watched the game. Unfortunately Ireland ended up losing...!!! (well this was well after 5pm, i think we were entitled to have a bit of down time...i actually found it quite interesting once Mark explained a couple of the rules and the reasons behind different parts of the game)

We all then got ourselves ready and  walked to one of their favourite restaurants for dinner. It was a lovely restaurant with a good selection to choose from and very attentive, fun staff. We all ordered mains and desserts and enjoyed nice wine and beer…and again enjoyable conversation. (we spent most of the night laughing)

What a lovely day & night it had been…!!!!

18/03/12 Sunday

This morning  we had another lovely breakfast,  …I think the four of us could just sit around and chat all day, ( i also had a chance to have some time with Maria, just the two of us, which was very special.

We eventually had to get ourselves organised, as we were leaving this morning for Milano...
Mark insis
ted they drive us to the train station, as he wants to make sure we board the train :):) hee hee, he says, he doesnt want to take any chances that we might not leave...he just kept making me laugh with his dry sense of humour) After a tearful farewell we left them until next time. (Thank you so much M & M for having us and for making us feel so welcome. Another wonderful memory, shared with two special people)

(Well, for the first couple of hours on the train, everything went smoothly as usual. We were sitting on the same carriage as a group of English tourists who were about to tour Switzerland, they were all is high spirits and having a great time. We did notice from time to time the train would travel very slowly but didnt think much of it, until the word got around that we were 40 mins late...we still had plenty of time, as we had a couple of hours between trains at Zurich for our connecting train to Milano, so we didnt pay much attention...)  There were announcements every so often, but the PA system was full of static and it was in French at 100 miles an hour and you could hardly hear what they were saying. At one stage, I did go and check with the conductor  to make sure we would get our connecting train in Zurich and he said that would not be a problem..what he failed to tell us, was, in fact we needed to get off the train at Basel, it was no longer a direct train to Zurich!!!

Once we realized, we had to quickly get everything together and make a mad dash to the connecting train...running all the time as we had no idea what time the connecting train to Zurich was leaving. (and it was the only one that day!) It was not our best moment....luckily they didnt stop us at customs and we were able to just keep moving, finally finding the Zurich train, hopping on a carriage with minutes to spare!!! 

I’m now sitting here on the train from Zurich to Milano – we are about 20
minutes from departing Zurich and should be feeling very excited at the prospect of meeting up with Maryce in Milano – but
I feel sick. We left the camera on the train in Basel and, only with a
lot of luck, are we going to get it back.

(When we had to rush and get everything together, we both had looked back to make sure we hadnt left anything but we were so rushed and stressed, we obviously didnt see the camera!!). I thought Mary had it …she thought I did. We both remember it on the computer case but I must have missed it when I picked up the case…. So upset!!!! We had some great photos.

Mary suggested I talk to the conductor and see if there was anything we could do…after telling him what happened he called on his mobile and after speaking to someone he suggested that I talk to the ticket office in Zurich.

As you can imagine we were both pretty despondent –(James Taylor photos, the family photos taken on Thursday night,  the photos from the train of the scenery on the way to Luxembourg, Luxembourg)  We went to the ticketing office and then to the ‘lost and found’ who were very sympathetic and gave us an internet site to email what had happened. With a bit of luck the camera would have been handed in.  Fingers crossed and lots of prayers… we should get it back or at least know something over the next couple of days. That now leaves us with no camera with Maryce coming in tonight…damn!!!

We were both a bit quiet for awhile but the scenery was just so beautiful, we couldnt stay sad for even snowed at one stage, near the Swiss/Italian border...(just beautiful) and by the time we reached Milan we both had the loss of the camera in perspective. (it could have been worse...) I guess we both just felt so silly at not having picked it up...

We arrived on time and Mary msged Maryce who replied that she was still on the bus from the airport…perfect …. We walked to the drop off area for Malpensa and 10 minutes later Maryce’s bus pulled up…perfect timing!

It was so lovely seeing her…she looked fresh and excited and so pretty walking towards us with her pink suitcases. (it was just so exciting to see her...we realized we hadnt seen her for over 15 months!!) We walked back into Centrale  to have some food as Maryce was starving. After some pizza and a drink we took off for the Metro and made our way back to the hotel…talking and looking around the whole time.

We were greeted by the same girl that was at the desk at Hotel Aspromonte when we left 2 days ago;  she showed us up to the family suite which had two rooms…what a surprise…it was magnificent …really modern and nice. As it turned out the owners are slowly renovating the rooms one by one and this was superb… we unloaded then went back downstairs for a couple of corettos (for us) and a hot chocolate for Maryce. Then back to our room, more research on what we are doing tomorrow and then bed.  An early start planned for tomorrow to check out Milan on the hop on hop off tour bus.

19/03/12 Monday

Early start and after our showers we went downstairs for breakfast…again so nice ….we spent about an hour taking our time and talking before going back upstairs and packing up.

The hotel were nice enough to hold all our baggage for the day. They also didnt charge us for our corretti and chocolate the night before or the water we took from the fridge. Breakfast was included and all for a 'huge' 105EU…superb value…wow!!!

We then took off back onto the Metro and to the ‘Castello’ to start our Bus tour. The weather was quite cool but not too cold that we needed jackets…mind you Maryce was feeling the cold straight away…we must have gotten used to it…we had a few minutes to burn before the tour started so we stopped at a nice modern coffee shop opposite the Castello for a coffee first.

The Hop on Hop off Milan tour bus was very good…similar to all the other ‘Hop on Hop off tours’ we have been on through the year. You get a simple tour around all the main areas…the commentary gives you a snapshot history of the areas the bus is travelling through… you are high above the streets with a pretty clear view and relatively comfortable. Highly recommended!!!!

We finished the tour back at the Castello and walked up the main street back to the Duomo…still always manages to take my breath away when I look at this magnificent building…unfortunately, only once have we seen her clean and without any scaffolding around her…but that has to be expected…today was no different with the main tower that holds the golden Madonna scaffolded all the way up…still always impressive. We walked around the piazza and down to the La Scala …through the main glass covered shopping precinct (where, of course, Maryce wanted to look) and then decided to sit in a ristorante directly to the side of the Duomo and partake in some very tasty lunch…simple but very tasty. Even though it was outside the buildings it was undercover which came in very handy as half way through lunch the heavens opened and the sight of thousands of people scattering and sprinting for cover from the Piazza Duomo was very funny to see… at first we thought something disastrous may have happened because we hadn’t heard the rain…but then we realised what it was…very funny.

The rain stopped and we finished our lunch…we said goodbye to the Duomo for the last time this trip and walk down to the Metro for a quick trip to Piazza Loreto exit and a walk to our hotel. The lovely staff at the Hotel Aspromonte had our luggage waiting …we bid them farewell and walked the couple of blocks to say hello and good bye to Tatiane and Zio Enrico…

They were so happy to see Maryce again...(they very generously had her stay with them for a few days when she was travelling 6 years ago, so they relived some memories of that time)...We had a little time before our train left so we sat and talked for a  while…Zio even managed to Skype Mum and Dad and Zio Mario in that time…It was lovely.  We also gave them a book about Lucca and they were quite amazed about it all and didn’t realize just how beautiful it was…

We bid our tearful it will the last time we see them, this holiday ….we walked away from their apartment towards the Metro tunnel with both of them waving at us from their balcony…it will be a fond memory which will remain forever!!!

Our trip back to Lucca from Milano Centrale went off without a hitch…I think the architecture of this station is so impressive and between the Duomo and Centrale they are my favourite buildings in Milano.

The train pulled into Lucca Centrale, right on time, at about 20:30 …Maryce insisted that we stop for a corretto, she said, we say in the blog, we do each time we are at the station!! (We were all so tired, its not really what we felt like doing but of course, we did it could we not...i think the photos tell the story of what Maryce thought of her first and almost last corretto :):) ) We then walked to La Mura and proceeded to show off Lucca to Maryce on our walk around La Mura to Balluardo Salvatore. In fact Maryce recognised our street and knew when we had to leave La Mura.…very cool.

We unpacked our things and had showers…freshened up and then took off for dinner …all the way through that first walk in town, it was very quiet and hardly a breath of air…Maryce kept on feeling like she was walking through a haunted town…not feeling alone at all even though we were the only ones on the streets. We eventually decided to have dinner at Baralla Ristorante …next to the Anfiteatro… we had a lovely meal.

We talked, ate, drank all night and made our way back to Brunella. We ended up staying up late, very tired but very happy...(we also 'presented' Maryce with her very own Sudoku book, pencil and eraser...well, if she was staying here for awhile, she needed to be well equipped for the kinda lifestyle we live!!)

(At last we have our big baby here to share our experience of Lucca, too!!!)

20/03/12 Tuesday

Mary and Maryce went for a walk around La Mura (i thought Maryce might want a bit of a lie in, but, no, she was not wasting a moment...she was up and at it!!)

(The plan for today was a 'quiet, relaxed' kind of day...) We had breakfast, then went for our customary walk to Carre four to buy some things for today (plus to show Maryce the Carrefour an ex Deli manager, we knew she would be interested) …including some sliced salami, cheeses,  alcohol as we had none at home. This…again…was the highlight of the shopping and watching Maryces face when she was checking out the prices of all the bottles…we ended up buying some Absolut Vodka for 10EURO which blew her mind…(well over $40 back in Australia)… after shopping we stopped and had our coretti at the bar in the shopping centre, (Maryce trying something else in hers but still not liking them...i think this was her 2nd and last corretto!!) We divided the shopping bags, walked to the bus stop and caught the 'pullman' home. Maryce was quite chuffed at the small ‘Pullman’ that are everywhere around Lucca…nice time.

By the time we returned to Brunella it was well after 2.00pm and Maryce suggested that we should go out on La Mura for lunch and have a picnic…Great idea!!!   We have often thought about doing this but never got around to it…so it was a perfect suggestion…(We left Mikes to set up the picnic while we went shopping around Lucca for a couple of things that were needed, then we met him back at Brunella). I made up a basket (bag) for the picnic and we took off to find somewhere nice for our lunch. We didn’t have to go too far and settled down in Baluardo La Liberta (not far from Porta Elisa) at one of the wooden picnic benches that was free…we opened a large blanket onto the table and placed all the tit-bits we had brought and settled down to a lovely lunch in the fresh air and warm sun…perfect!!!

We had nearly finished when Mary noticed Michelle, Paul and Atticus walking on La Mura, so I called out at Atticus (because I knew he would hear me) and he turned around and bounded towards us dragging poor Paul (and Michelle) over to us…!! They then joined us for the rest of the picnic, we sat for awhile and chatted then wandered back on La Mura for home, when we bumped into Libby...and chatted with her for awhile before saying our goodbyes and heading back to Brunella.

We rested for what was left of the afternoon…then eventually got ourselves ready, having a martini before we left for dinner at Leo's…another lovely day and night...

21/03/12 Wednesday

Woke up this morning feeling like we have squeezed a week into three days…so full on…but loving it. Maryce is great to have around…she is always 100 mph….the girls took off for their walk and when they returned we had breakfast but all pumped up for another walk.

It is market day so we went for a leisurely walk up and down the markets and bought some fried olives and cheeseballs from one of the stalls, as Maryce wanted to try them while she was walking around the markets. The weather is beautiful and warm and it feels like months ago rather than only a couple of weeks, that we were rugging up every day for the cold weather. We walked around for a long while through the streets and around the Wall stopping to buy something for lunch and have a coffee break.

We had to get Brunella ready for Kev and Dots who are coming in tomorrow morning…which meant we needed to pick up the air mattress from the Sullivans…we needed to buy the train tickets for Pisa Airport … I also had my final Dentist appointment at 5.30 tonight….and I had to go and pick up my suit as well. So with all this in mind we decided to split up at about two and while the girls went off shopping and checking out the town, I grabbed my bags and took off to Carre four to buy things that we needed for our today and tomorrow and ….again …caught the Pullman back home. I then walked down to the train station and bought the required tickets for Pisa tomorrow.

When I returned we all  took off for the ‘Guinigi’ tower…Maryce really wanted to walk up it and it was one of Mary's 'things to do' before she leaves.  (It wasnt as bad as i thought. and i can now say, i have done it!!! so i am really pleased with myself!!)…the view up there is as spectacular as I remembered…a definite must for anyone who plans on being in Lucca. We sat (and walked) around up on top of the tower, amongst the olive trees, for awhile …thinking (again) how lucky we are and how much we will miss this place…Maryce was loving it all….and then made our way down and walked back home. On the way we bought yet another gelato…Maryce is determined to get at least one gelato a day in…Good Luck!

When we returned to Brunella I quickly changed…brushed my teeth …(gotta have clean teeth when going to the dentist) and went for my 5 km walk to the dentist on the other side of the river.  I arrived and settled down for my last visit.  All three were there today and, in between pulling my caps out and permanently recementing them in, we spoke about Lucca, Italy, Australia and all our dreams and ambitions for the future. It was all very casual and easy ... at the end I told them what a pleasure it had been to meet them all and that I would miss them all very much…they all said the same thing and after paying the bill (Ouch!!!!) we bid each other farewell.  On the walk home I received a text message from Cesare with his email address…

I walked back into Lucca Centro and was on my way up Via Fillungo towards the ‘Suit’ store when I bumped into Mary and Maryce still walking around and shopping…it’s a hard life …really. (Maryce and I had done a lot of window shopping, she was popping in and out of different shops, trying things on etc...we would stop every so often and have a coffee, or she would have an icecream. We just enjoyed being together and watching the world go by) I left them to walk back to Brunella while I walked down to my suit store and picked up my very stylish black suit and shirt….again Nicola (the shop owner) was full of talk and wanted me to stay and chat a while…

Back home we had showers and got ready again for dinner. This time we took Maryce to Ristorante San Francesco as ‘Toscas’, where we intended going,  was closed…. We had walked in, quite late, at about nine and it looked as if they were ready to close, that would have been fine, we just would have gone somewhere else…and they had their television on in the main room looking like they were settleing down to watch a football game… but they were more than happy to serve us and even turned down the TV so we wouldn’t be disturbed. I made sure my back was towards the screen as we all know what would have grabbed my attention for the rest of the night if I had been facing the TV.

Dinner was very tasty and we talked all night until it was time to go….another casual walk back to Brunella through the quiet streets…love it. Back home we went through our usual routines of coffee, computer and books before going to bed.
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Chris Callus on

What a beautiful family you are. Chris

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