Today’s triumphal tour of Siena: “The Cathedral? You have to love the beautiful colors of the paintings. They didn’t look like they were 500 years old.” – Nancy “I loved the museum and the wild taxi rides through Siena, hearts in our mouths, he wind in our hair, scattering pedestrians and motor scooters everywhere. An Italian Disney World.” – Joyce. Jim James says, “Wine’s good. The villa is an ideal piece of property. We are so lucky to be here.” “As I climbed the tower to the top I met people from Germany, Park City, Toronto, and a lot more, and I talked to them all. I took pictures of people I don’t even know.” – Bonell. “I loved the incredible taxi ride”; you couldn’t find a carney ride that was more breathtaking. And then to my delight, I found a shop that smelled so good – real leather and great prices!. I’m looking forward to returning to Siena to shop before we return home.” – Sally “Siena is my favorite city. The palio; the districts with mascots like snails, mollusks, fish, and unicorns; the big central square actually shaped like a D. The gelato.” -Robin
The good news: We can get to and from parking outside the Siena train station; we can buy groceries (and wine!); we have a game plan for getting into Siena tomorrow; we now have a car that seats seven – so no more getting separated in traffic; AND, our Internet is back, at least for now. The bad news: We have done a lot of driving around, looking unsuccessfully for parking in Siena. What did we learn? Park at the train station and take a taxi or a bus. Do this in the morning. As Joyce put it, “Less pissing around, more sightseeing time for us.”
Tonight we cook pasta funghi with chicken broccoletti and zucchini Toscana. We drink wine. We sit outside. Life is good.
A great adventure indeed. Margaret, sitting opposite me on our patio just now, suggests “The voyage from Hell” as an appropriate title. It seems I, for one, can never arrive in Tuscany without a bit of drama and at least one car breaking down. This time it was nearly backing off a cliff (one wheel half off) which made the car give up, something it was obviously ready to do from the time we left the rental agency. But this is not the only adventure. We lost our second car and its passengers completely, right outside the Florence airport. They showed up at the villa hours after us, thankfully, having toured Central Italy clear over to the coast, after dark. But we are not stupid. We asked our landlady for four more bottles of wine to go with her sumptuous dinner. It helped.
If you are planning to drive out of Florence, even if you have a Garmin, allow 2 hours just to thrash your way out of the city. Plan on getting sidetracked into an Italian carney or two, doing multiple loop-di-loops while the Garmin lady says “recalculating . . .”. Then of course it’s an hour to Siena. And had it not been for our car giving up (well, starting to stink and smoke actually) we never would have found our villa. We called our landlady, who came and got us.
This morning Hertz sent a tow truck to pick up their rental car. Margaret and I have stayed at the villa to send off the car, while the others went to Siena to pick up Joyce at the train station. Frankly, Margaret and I are glad to be here. As the rental car glided away on the back of the tow truck, Margaret rolled her eyes toward heaven and said, “No more drama, please.” And there has been none. Just the dry Tuscan air fragrant with rosemary, the sunshine, the bees, the wild cyclamen, the wine.
We are here. A good night’s sleep and a bottle of wine, roast pork, pasta and grape-apple cake. It is heaven.
A little rain and gloom today but still good deck walking–so far too lazy for the gym–walk twice a day. Wind up to 30 knots yesterday, closed the outside decks for a while. Last night the sky cleared for a little bit and the stars were beautiful then it closed up again. Now reading in the winter garden–snug. Love to all.
Sounds wonderful Joyce – lazy is a great vacation word, right?
Do you know we can follow your progress across the Atlantic on Cunard’s website? There is a little tiny ship in the middle of the ocean, actually more on the GB side now, heading toward Southampton. David is following you and so am I.
Our travel time is getting close – we leave TOMORROW! I’m sure we’re all online trying to check in already, but of course we won’t be able to do that until 8:40 tonight.
Thanks for your email, and for sending pictures!!
Now is a good time to exchange dollars for euros, apparently, and it will get even better. Last year we paid about $1.80 for every euro; this year the rate fell to $1.27 on Friday, and this morning it’s $1.268. Some banks are predicting parity, something we haven’t seen in quite a few years. On Saturday we got a pretty good rate from a money-changer in downtown Miami – $1.28 – with no extra fees. The place is seriously scuffed up and seedy, but we escaped with our lives and a bundle of euros at at a rate we liked.
I didn’t notice until yesterday: In addition to being slightly different sizes, each euro denomination is a different color. Sally pointed this out to me in the back seat as Bonell’s truck careened homeward. The 5-euro note is grey, the 10 is red, the 20 is blue, the 50 is orange, the 100 is green, the 200 is yellow and the 500 is purple (not that we have a lot of those). Also, there is a different architectural period illustrated on the back of each denomination. The 10-euro note pictures the Romanesque period, the 20-euro represents the Gothic era, the 50 pictures Renaissance architecture, and the 100-euro represents Baroque and Roccoco architecture. It’s pretty money.
There is no 1-euro bill.
Went into Manhattan this afternoon, walked around Times Square and over to Bryant Park (They have the neatest carrousel, with a wooden cat figure–so of course, I rode it –thus encouraged,other adults also rode–I’m a troublemaker).Met an English couple ( his wife rode), they are also going on the QM. Dinner was Indian food delivered to my room–good chicken korma–too tired to go out. Tomorrow, the ship.J
Joyce,Wonderful – sounds like fun! I’m glad you’re meeting others on your ship. It’ll make your voyage more interesting. Keep us posted, and keep on having a good time. Bonell, Sally, Nancy, Jim and I went out to Villa Italia for pizza (except I had veal parm). Tomorrow we’re going to get euros for ourselves, and to pay Giada the rest of the money for the villa when we arrive. Sally and I stripped our bank account yesterday, and we believe we’ll have some money left over for Tuscan groceries after paying Giada.