Friday, September 30, 2005

The Tour....

First things first - I am writing this with my Gr 9 touch typing in an I/N cafe which has a French keyboard. The A, Q, M, W, Z and . qre qll in different plqces. I q, not typing in code; I q, typing in French!!!! And I only have about 5 min left.

There are 24 people on the tour: E and I the only Canadians in a swath of South of the Border types. We hqve seen a &éàtload of stuff and I finally broke down and bought a camera which appears to have only taken 8 of 27 pics and now tells me it is Empty. Next one will be a Kodak b/c I know how to get at those guys!!

Nice was nice; Grasse smelled good (and warmed up the credit card); the Gorges du Verdon was/were spectacular and Aiguine a village for another trip - small, clinging to the hillside with access to some spectacular roads; hiking, and hang-gliding.

I have 5 min to tell you Thanks for reading. Will try to get back here.

Au revoir

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Complaints have been noted...

OK: all of you who thought this was a joint blog of The Adventures of The Sr Boy et Moi - well, it's not!! It's mostly my mumbling about things seen, food eaten, wine drunk, and an almost 55 year old in Europe on her own for the very first time. As previously noted, I didn't do it when I was 20 so I'm doing it now.

The Sr Boy, on the other hand, had a family who did do the overseas travelling so HE is having an adventure riding a 1000cc Moto Guzzi from the UK to Egypt via France, Italia, Tunisia, Libya, and then back again through Jordan, Syria, Turkey, Greece, Italy, and France. For those of you who need the technical details: he has borrowed the bike from a friend in the UK (who also came up with this idea and is one of the three other riders on this journey). The Guzzi handles really nicely and is Himself's first experience with (a) electric start (my Honda Twinstar notwithstanding) and (b) kill switches. This lack of experience led to an "interesting" Chunnel trip and night in Calais. Suffice to say it's a good thing he is in excellent physical condition as he had to push the fully loaded bike off the train and then had to use his high school French to get assistance. His trip down to meet me in Italy was noteworthy by its appalling weather which is why he didn't notice when the *&^^$) left side pannier offed itself for the second time in one day on the autostrada between Genova and Empoli. That explains the lack of tools, spares, camera, guidebooks, and socks. Once he got dried out at our friends and acquired a few necessary spares, it was time to try The Roads on a few day trips.

The Roads in Italy are Godde's gift to motorcycle riders - especially the roads that look like a small squiggle from one place to another on the map. It also helps if one is part Italian and not all Canadian - we started out far too politely waiting our turns at things like traffic lights and roundabouts. This is NOT the Italian way as evidenced by every scooter driver around us. By day 3 we were (mostly) getting to the front of the lines at the level crossings (waited 20 minutes while 6 different trains roared by) and lane splitting (almost) as well as the scooters. Of course, one hasn't really lived until one has been passed (we were doing at least 110) on the super-strada by a woman on a scooter in high heels and skirt talking on her cell phone!

We took advantage of the missing pannier to try a bit of luggage arranging and, with the help of bungies, rope and tie-downs, managed to attach my pack to the side of the bike where the pannier used to be. This meant that we didn't have to inflict ourselves any longer upon our most generous hosts and we headed off for a few days of touring before bringing me to Nice to meet Elizabeth. We put on a lot of miles in 5 days and Guzzi was glad of a bit of a rest in the shade of the biggest aloe bush I've ever seen in the "real" (not as big as Dear Son's but big enough for me) while we spent a few days investigating the joys of Nice. We now know how to say "metric Allen keys" in French and the French word for hardware store (bricolage in case you wanted to know).

This morning, Himself left for Genova and the ferry to Tunisia. We will reconnect at Heathrow in 2 months. If I hear any good "vehicle" stuff from TSB, I will add it to here. In the meantime, you may have to make do with reports on the buses and trains I am using!!

For you Brit car types: LOTS of the old (proper) Minis in Nice and LOTS & LOTS of the new ones (I know they aren't "really" Brit but it's as close as I can get right now). And we saw a couple of legs of a vintage run of some sort in Tuscany: several MGBs, a couple of MGAs, a Rolls, an Austin, and a couple of Morgans all tootling about with signs on their door panels (in Italian) and grins on the drivers' faces. Fuel is ouch expensive: we got down to fumes last Sunday and put 25 Euros in the tank!

OK: That is the end of the vehicle reporting! As for the rest of you, stay tuned for further reports of the old market in Nice and the Matisse and Chagall museums. First, I need some wine and a shower....

Au revoir pour maintenant


Friday, September 23, 2005

More Nice ...

That is not bad grammar so cut it out! That is what would be the title of a series of photos if I had a camera instead of it being in the pannier that bounced off the back of the bike on The Sr Boy's ride in the filthy night to meet me in Italy. (skip ahead if you have already heard this....) Somewhere, someone in Italy is enjoying (I hope) a set of spares and tools for the bike, our elderly digital camera, my Italian guidebooks, and Himself's spare socks. Mostly replaced in markets and shops except for the Allen keys and guidebooks (hoping next Adventuress brings replacements). Could have bought the Allen keys in Antibes (some people go for the sun, I go for Allen keys) but was told "don't bother, I'll get them". He still doesn't have them.

So far in France: Vence by bus including a return trip during rush hour in the rain (NOT to be repeated ever ever ever!!) and Antibes by train including not knowing where to catch the bus back to this hostel and walking several unnecessary blocks at the end of an already long walking day (see above brackets). Vence is a hill town and among other things has a cathedral with stones dated from 239 (no, I did not miss a 1) and more walls and more stones. It also has a chapel designed by Henri Matisse which was the point of the pilgrimage. There will now be a brief pause for all you i/n junkies to google Matisse and the Chapel of the Rosary in Vence. For the rest of you, try to imagine a worship space (including the furnishings and the vestments) full of symbolism and light that took him two years to think through and design. Considering that it was completed in the early 1950s, it is still remarkably contemporary and lovely. I particularly liked the slab of stone altar set on an angle so the celebrant was facing east and could see both the nuns in the choir and the congregation. That the stone was the colour of the bread we eat for breakfast here was a bonus. Malhereusement, it was a cloudy day and the beautiful play of colour from the translucent and opaque stained glass was not apparent on the white of the rest of the space. It was a profoundly moving experience, even the German students who mostly filled the place were quietly attentive to the nun giving the explanations in heavily accented English. We walked back to the village as the rain started to sprinkle down and hid out under the plane trees while waiting for the bus. The trip home was not for the claustrophobic!

The computers here are not time limited but manner limited so I will stop here for the time being and head for the market in Cours Saleya: fresh flowers, fruit and vegetables for the pre-trip feast for TSB who leaves tomorrow.

Au revoir et a demain.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Rules for Old Farts and Others...

This post is dedicated to my dear Shannon-in-Brazil who will understand why as soon as she reads it!!

We are staying in a hostel. There are three of us and our average age is 62.25 years. We like to go to bed at 2300 and we like to sleep until about 0730 or so. Here are the rules for us:

Do not expect to be able to sleep after going to bed.
Do not expect to be able to sleep during the night.
Expect to be able to get up (no matter how tired) with something resembling a smile when the workers start running the tile cutters at 0815 because we are NOT (a) still drunk or (b) hung over.
Learn some really annoying songs (Trailer for Sale or Rent comes to mind) to sing LOUDLY in the shower which adjoins the next door bedroom.
Encourage the plasterer in the hall to "mais certainement" turn up his radio. A lot!!

Here are the rules for the others:

Drink yourself silly b/c after all there's no one here to tell on you to mamma and daddy.
Crash upstairs (after unloading part of your ?dinner? in the only common telephone area) and take 17 tries to get your key in the door of the room next to ours.
Begin barfing a la Niagara at 0218.
Repeat at 0233.
Whine loudly.
Repeat with moaning at 0300.
Send girlfriend out to complain to plasterer at 0825.

Having a waaaaaanderful time. Wish you were here!

And HEY!!! despite one lovely bottle of wine with fabulous pate, roasted peppers, olives and a salade mache followed by tartes petites varieuses, we aren't drunk and WE aren't hungover!!!!!!!

Maniacal laughter!!!!!

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Villa St Exupery

I am sitting at another wonderful i/n cafe: behind me but reflected in the computer screen is a full stained glass window for the chapel of this former Carmelite monastery. I am typing on rainbow colours! We have met Travelling Companion #2, the Most Excellent Elizabeth, had my first "true" salade nicoise (nobody told me about the anchovies... teach me to do this instead of reading cookbooks) and are planning some further adventures today in greater Nice on the bus. This is b/c the hostel guy said, (essentially) "do not take your moto into the town as the organized crime guys come along with closed vans, chain clippers and kaboom! your bike is gone!" So it's the bus for us. Lots of good there as they worry about the parking !!!

The run from Volterra was beautiful - more high ridge with twists and turns, NO RAIN, (this is b/c I have purchased the ultimate anti-rain device: a hot pink brollie to go with my DD's purple and pink goretex and my new purple leather gloves. hmmmmm, do we detect a theme here???) Anyway, some pay motorway including an exit with no humans and the challenge, therefore, of how to pay for a m/c instead of the car that the machinery assumes you are. Fortunately, no unmanned site in Italia is ever without its obligatory human somewhere and there were two eating lunch who waved magic wands and off we went down the most spectacular twisty road to THE SEA!!. Now, for those of you who know me, you know about my saltwater thing which is mainly mixed up with the Pacific Ocean and, although I have seen the Mediterranean from the air and from walkways ("no, mum, you can't go down there and wade b/c it's only men down there" DD, Lebanon, 2002), I wasn't prepared for the rhythm of the waves nor the tropicality of the blue. Nor the warmth. Yes, I got down to my skivs (which was more than most of the people on the beach were wearing) and waded. And then sunbathed. How can I find a purple (or hot pink) bikini at this time of year???

Now, my darlings, I know I promised you Florence but I think I will save it 'til I go back in a few weeks with another TC. In the meantime, I am off to eat breakfast in the light of those fantastic windows. Stay tuned for a rant on The Rules for Foreigners by yrs truly. I have to think about something on the back of the bike!!

Au revoir

Oh: note to the Wonderful Julie: your scarf is having a grand time. It really liked Volterra (so much so that it hid the key for our room in my pocket and only revealed that a day and 200km later) and said to tell you that they have a HUGE medieval fair there in the summertime and it thought you might like to start saving your glass and pop tin earnings.....

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Lucca, San Gimignano, Firenze and more!!!

Well, let's start with what I can get down: we (the Sr Boy e mi) are in Volterra in a combo I/N caffe, bar, and Roman and Etruscan dig!!! You might try googling Web & Wine Internet Cafe in Volterra to see if it shows you any pictures. There REALLY is a glass floor with a Roman and then below that, Etruscan excavation all nicely lit up for ones viewing pleasure. We rode over from Cortona this afternoon and are set up in a lovely room with the bike parked and locked outside despite this being a walled city and limited vehicle access. Cortona was also that overworked word "amazing". We went there (a) b-c there is a m-c race course near at hand and our friend was hoping to race today and (b) b-c of That Book (Under the Tuscan Sun) OK - the place is CRAWLing with tourists (we were there!) and mostly Damericans but if one gets up early enough in the morning, they aren't either there or up yet and one gets the Sat market to share with the locals and, later, the Etruscan museum almost to oneself!!! One gets to buy Parmiggiana in 250 gm chunks and eat it with perfectly ripe plums picked out by the frutta e verdura donne on the steps of the church on one of the piazzas and watch the world go by.

Truth: wherever there are children and pigeons, children will chase and pigeons will fly!! Even on steep stone steps!

A few magic moments from ieri, the maid had cleaned our room and noticed we were becoming Italian enough to hang our clean laundry out the window but not Italian enough to tie the hangers on so she did using a string from her mop! (We were 3 floors up and on an inside court with no apparent easy or clean access to the bottom - perhaps she had had experience of fishing other tourists' laundry out of there!!)

The next was later in the afternoon when I walked up one of the loooooonnnngg stairways which take the place of streets and met a nonna (grandmother) who wished me buona sera and, when I replied, launched into a great volley of Italian which I think was about the coming rain and that she needed some help to do something. When she got to the end with the rising inflection which means ??? in any language, I made the universal non capisco shrug. She looked at me and said, "non italiano??" "non italiano," says I. She laughed and laughed and said what I figured out later to be that I looked Italian and she thought I was!!

And the last was walking up to the trattoria in the pouring rain across rivers of water (washing the pigeonpoo away) running down the runnels built in the centre of the 10 foot wide streets to offer the share of our table to a lovely Irish-English couple from Cambridge who are scouting their wedding location for next spring. We had all seen the bride and groom on "my" steps just before the rain started and had all recognized the Englishness of the wedding by the hats on the women!!

And that was Cortona except the rain didn't stop until almost 11 this morning so The Sr Boy had time to look at the museum and I the Fra Angelico Annunciation in the diocesan museum (along with a lot of other beautiful things including Severini's Stations of the Cross set up a very long staircase) Of course, it would be typical that Yrs Truly noticed that there was only one bookmark left of Adam and Eve getting tossed out of the garden and several each of the angel and Mary. And a prize to the first person to correctly guess which I bought!!!

Which brings us back to Lucca, San Gimignano and Firenze..... All were day trips from our friends in Vitolini and all were (altogether now....) AMAZING!! The Sr Boy gets a 10/10 for his ability to deal with my navigating. Remember people, we are doing this at speed with hand gestures, smacks and yelling through earplugs! Probably why we are still married!!! He has RIDDEN into and OUT of Firenze. Sure "in" was guided but "out" he figured out and did - figure the rest of his trip will be a snap after that adventure and we aren't going to repeat it anytime soon! Lucca we managed to get to on its major festival day when they were going to illuminate the edges of buildings (up to 4 stories high) around the cathedral and main square with candles. Sfortumente, we had to get back for dinner and before dark (more important!!) so missed it but I am coming back for that some 13 settembre. Lucca is a completely walled city with a wide promenade across the top which is used for walking and bicycling. We rented bikes and spent a lovely hour doing 2 circuits looking over the edges into back gardens and patios and at the construction of the walls. We got home in the dark and exhausted.

San Gimignano is the town of towers. If you saw "Tea With Mussolini", the latter part was set there. We had a great ride on some very twisty Italian roads and parked (this is important - the parking I mean) right outside the gate in a m-c only parking space. Another walled town with a beautiful pair of squares and the sound of bells every half hour. The frescoes in the cathedral were eyepopping (we sinners had better clean up our acts although the damned looked like a better party crowd than the blessed!) The new testament in medieval dress was thought-provoking. A pizza and gelato on more cathedral steps and it was time to ride back for more fabulous food and another crash into our gracious hosts' bed.

Firenze will have to wait... There is vino rosso locale calling me. A bit pricy at 3 Euro a glass after last night's very good 1 litre bottle for 5 Euro (7.50 Cdn)!!!!!

Arrivederci, mi amici.

Monday, September 12, 2005


as in "Leonardo da" is a real village and today we walked there through the woods and (by the misfortune of too much chat - ? what, me?? - and not enough attention) down and up a lot of road. It was a lovely day although some of us have sore feet (pick me, pick me) and some of us got overtired.

The town is built along a ridge like Vitolini so the houses cling to the edge and have gardens 4 stories down. We ate lunch at a bar (sandwiches of various sorts all round) and then walked up to the Museum and gaped at models built using the drawings from Leonardo's notebooks: spinning wheels, loom, felting machines, gold-leaf maker, as well as many war-machines (cannons and a tank!) and a whole display on his optical drawings. Getting my head around these drawings being well over 500 years old was my biggest challenge b-c the models look very contemporary. Fortunately, gelato seemed to be just what was needed to ease the mind: limono e limata. Fantastico!

Rescued by our host with the van and, at home, by our hostess with a bucket of waaaanderful foot soak. The Gentlemen Motorists left on the bike&sidecar for town and The Ladies are getting the rest of dinner ready. Me? I had a lovely sit in the golden light at the end of the day and now I'm off to try and light some charcoal!!!


Saturday, September 10, 2005

In ITALIA!!!!!!!!!!!

I am here and have been since Monday! Was obviously supposed to make this trip because I still haven't had any jetlag and I don't intend to get it now.

This house is on a ridge of a hill to the north of the Arno but facing south over the Arno plain. The view is everything I ever imagined the most beautiful view in Italy to be: a long vista with a red-tiled roof village partway down the hill and folds of hills in the distance with a towered hill village at the edge. Geckos are everywhere; as quick as snakes but much nicer as they have legs and are therefore not slithery!! The weather has been typical for the season: sun and rain including a torrential downpour yesterday morning while one of the adults was at work in Firenze (came home with tales of lots of wet tourists slopping about in their shorts - hmmm, could have been us but it wasn't ;)))) and one on Thursday evening whilst the Sr Boy was riding from Genova to here in the pitch dark. He got here but one pannier didn't and there will needs also to be some welding repairs on the footpeg before we can travel together. Our generous hosts (thought they were only going to have to put up with us for a couple of days) are not yet obviously gritting their teeth which is very polite of them!!

There are three young ladies in this household and they are delightful. All are fluently bilingual and we don't go anywhere (even to the computer) without one of them as translator!! I have been doing some "organization" tutoring prior to their school starting next week.

Plans at the moment are to be out of their hair by Tuesday at the latest and TSB is considering riding me to Nice as we have extra room for my case now the pannier is gone!! We are less than ten minutes' drive from the village of Vinci (da Leonardo) and will go there for sure. We have hopes of Lucca and Pisa as well but that may be all for this trip although San Gimignano and Sien are also really close and good riding roads........ Meanwhile it's Chianti for less than 3 Euros, FABULOUS food from the household giardino, olive trees that turn silver in the rain, "buon giorno" from everyone, and tracks and tracks to walk upon.


Saturday, September 03, 2005


so, while I was waxing most eloquent, Mein Schatzen Dotteren appears and says, "Why are you posting on MY blog????" Much hilarity until the brilliant Mama blogging disappears into the ether.... badlanguagebadlanguagebadlanguage followed by sighsighsighsighsigh.

"Are you finished packing?" words to make a mother's heart almost stop... I used to use those same ones with Herself and have used them with Himself, Jr. They now apply a moi and the answer is (as always) "almost". I hear the washer starting. I guess I'm not finished.

In 12 hours, I will be cut loose at the airport.


It's 1900 GMT

and the Sr Boy has landed, had tea, and looks to be leaving on Monday with a trip to Rome now on the radar for some visa-ing. Guess I will have to retrieve those parts of the guide book that I had already ripped out in the interests of "keeping weight down".

In other news (and this is not a surprise to anyone from the Wet Coast): the forecast is for Rain through France and northern Italy.

Just thought you might like to know.

drunk packing

is what my darling daughter offered me - we all help in whatever ways we can, eh? Fortunately, it is earlyish and we are both more into tea right now so I should end up with a semi-practical wardrobe in my new wheeled-carry-on-backpack (thank you, Poppa).

The Sr Boy is s'sposed to be in the UK as I type - waiting for email/phone confirmation of that supposition. After his last two trips with only carry-on luggage, it was a bit of a shock to see him leave yesterday with a set of fold-up wheels and two enormous checked bags. Hope his pick-up in London is driving and not riding.

Inquiring Minds want to know: where are you going? I forgot that some of you might not live in this house and so might not be cognisant of our every thought and plan. It's a long story but the abridged version is: Himself, together with three other nutbars, is riding from the UK to Cairo and back again pausing on the way for a visit with Herself (that would be Moi) in northern Italy where I am headed tomorrow. (panicked breathing ensues) Whilst the m/c adventurers are adventuring, I am spending time in France, Italy, Switzerland, more France and the UK. We should be home by the end of November. Yes, it will probably cost us a fortune. (sorry about the inheritance, children) Yes, we are going in the fall when the weather DEteriorates rather than IMproves (we know that, we know that). Yes, we are acting like adolescents (we didn't when we were, so there!).


It has come to our attention that this life is not a rehearsal. We do not get do-overs - even the playground ones we thought identical were not given the turning of the earth. It is time for some new and broadening experiences (thank you, children!)

This time tomorrow, I will be packed and rtg (or at least close!) My Italian and French phrase books are in my (new) daybag (thank you, again, Poppa). Let the wild rumpus begin!!!!!!!