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Posts tagged ‘Women Travelers’

Some Things Are Never Easy!

The Dreaded Airport!

The Dreaded Airport!

I’m back from vacation!

As one gets older things are not so easy! I put this post under the Travel Tips category, but maybe it would be better under Travel Warning!

My observations:

The long term parking lot gets farther and farther away from the airport. At our airport the only solution was to walk from the new LONG TERM lot to the departure Terminal!  A good 30 minutes and pulling/carrying luggage to boot! Are you kidding me?

There is a great deal of distance to walk in the airports now to get on or get off a plane! You know you are in trouble when the signs are posted to let you know how much time is needed to get from A to B! 20 minutes? Are you kidding me?

At the Departure Gate, a good hour is spent notifying passengers to MAKE SURE their wheeled carry-on luggage fits in the bin used to measure said luggage. No one pays any attention to said notifications, but the passengers begin to eye up everyone’s carry-on luggage. When the announcement to board plane is made the boarding attendant personally asks, as she takes your boarding pass, that each passenger place their carry-on luggage in measuring bin to see that indeed your carry-on is the proper size. Most fail, and passengers get to leave their luggage, to be properly stored in the baggage section on the plane. Results: Over 1 1/2hours to board plane and plane is an hour late taking off!  Check YOUR Baggage in the first place!

The seats on airplanes are getting smaller and smaller and I sit in business class!

After arrival at destination, to get to the Car Rental Station, one does the required 20 minutes from Landing station to terminal, including 3 sets of escalators, and more walking to wait in line at Passport Control. Following Passport Control, you are off to claim baggage in another section of the terminal. From there you exit the terminal, walk over the sky bridge to another building and take a set of elevators to the ground floor and a large bus terminal. Now you wait in the proper bus line that it took you 20 minutes to figure out, because there are lots of buses going everywhere and you must wait on a particular brand of Car Rental Bus that finally picks you up and takes you to the hinterland where the said Car Rental Station is. At the Car Rental facility there is another line and although you have pre-booked everything there still is a line and finally after a thorough car examination, by the attendant, you can escape the airport. Now the fun begins because you are driving on the opposite side of the road and on the opposite side of the car than you are used to! There is always an adjustment period, and lots of driving reminders from your better half!  There, now didn’t I make that sound more civil than it actually was?  But, who cares you are out of the Airport!

Moving on…………………now to return home.

On final arrival at destination, at the end of the trip, new adventures await. There are now new computer kiosks to check your passport, take your picture, and get your fingerprints. This all has been added since you departed the same airport three weeks prior. You still get to talk to the agent, who asks if you have any food with you, or plants before he welcomes you back to the US.

Waiting at the baggage claim, you wait and wait and wait, because this time your plane arrived early and it seems every other plane has arrived at the same time too. TWO hours later you have your luggage, (this is the reason no one wants to check their bags) as you watch the Customs Line get longer and longer and six lines deep. Once in line with the throng of other people, the beagle sniffing drug dog is the only thing one finds remotely amusing! Who knew they used little beagles for this job? When you finally get to Customs (after another 1 1/2 hour wait) I am again asked about any food or plants and after 2 seconds of questioning I am allowed to pass. I want to Run out of that airport Screaming, but I don’t. There is probably another line for that!

Believe me when I say ONE NEEDS a Vacation from the Vacation upon return! My front porch may be my next vacation spot!

PS OK, My ranting is over! I did have a lovely time in England doing my annual garden tour. As always, there were some setbacks and some new unplanned adventures. Read all about it in future posts, now that I have re-couped from the air travel! Have you had similar experiences? I have traveled to Europe at least once a year for over 15 years and I have never experienced “Airport Situations” as this years! And I get to experience it again in September!

PSS…….If one is looking for gainful, steady employment I think the drivers of the small shuttles that Beep, Beep, Beep along while taking passengers from one spot to another, may be a good prospect with job security to boot! I can’t see the “Airport Situation” getting any better any time soon! There, all is off my chest!

 

Before you Go on Vacation You Might Want to TEP!

Let's TEP!

Let’s TEP!

Where are my emails? What info did I have in my Itinerary? How can I send a post and a picture to my family? How do I see all the maps I downloaded? How do I call my vacation host? What’s the weather for today? I need my Wi-Fi!!!

Does this sound like you when on vacation?

It’s that time of year again when I’m off for a vacation and absolutely DREAD turning on my International Service on my phone! The roaming rates are sky high to begin with and I am at the mercy of internet service at my place of lodging! We do not EVER use the free Wi-Fi services offered at coffee shops or other places. They are not SECURE!

So this year we are using TEP, a portable Wi-Fi, for Smartphones, tablets and laptops.

Why are we going this route?

Here are the benefits:

  1. It is a small hand held device that provides internet access with your own Wi-Fi network and your own personal password. It will fit in my husband’s pocket or my small purse!
  2. It will connect up to 5 devices at the same time, in every country that I would ever think of going to! Even on a cruise ship!
  3. It has 8 hours of battery life with a 20 hour standby time. It comes with a battery charger too.
  4. There are no set up or cables required.
  5. There is no Data limits or caps.
  6. You can rent the device or buy it. (We travel a lot so we bought one, the fees are lower per day and you are only charged for the days you use it. If you rent one it is mailed to you and then you are charged a flat fee for every day it is in your possession, whether you use it or not and we didn’t want to have the hassle of sending it back every time)
  7. There are no ROAMING FEES!
  8. 24/7 customer support. Get in touch via phone, email, chat, or social media!
  9. 100% No BS money-back guarantee, guaranteed.
  10. The reviews were fabulous!

This is going to be one less headache when traveling! And with the money saved I can buy another plane ticket for a vacation! Yipee!

PS I am posting this under my Tuesday Travel Tips even though it is not Tuesday. I have too many tips to post and not enough Tuesdays right now.

 

 

Color Your World: 120 Days of Color; Scarlet

 

My Scarlet Shoes

My Scarlet Shoes

It’s Spring and time to think about new shoes!

I think every woman should own at least one pair of Scarlet shoes, don’t you? Nothing perks you up and makes you feel sexy than Scarlet shoes! Scarlet shoes can make even the plainest/dullest outfits come alive! I love my Scarlet shoes! I love all these shoes, especially, because they are good for traveling!

Multi Colored Dress Up Shoe

Multi Colored Dress Up Shoe

 

Go With Everything Casual Shoe

Go With Everything Casual Shoe

They are stylish, lightweight, versatile, and support your foot with those elastic, stretchy bands. If they get dirty (no way), but if they do, you throw them in the washing machine! Voila good as new!  Who knew they could make such a practical and stylish shoe? As you see I have different styles and colors for every adventure. There are oodles to select from! I buy them at the Charleston Shoe Company, in Charleston, South Carolina. You can order them online too, take a peek!

PS I don’t have nail fungus! It looks like I do, if you look close up at my feet in these pictures! I painted my toes a funky green for Easter! SB told me to Never use that color again! OK, OK, an experiment that did not work!

Scarlet was the name given to Torch Red in the 1998 Crayola Collection. It is also known as Shag Carpet Orange in the “Retro Colors” set. It is Chili Pepper Red, and the color for New Mexico in the “State Crayon Collection.”

This post is just one of many in the Color Your World: 120 Days of Crayola Challenge! 

Check out some of the other 150+ challenge participants, it’s amazing what we have done with the Crayola colors!

 

 

Cady Luck Leedy’s Tuesday Travel Tips: #3

Do Not Travel Like a Hobo

You Do Not Have to Travel Like a Hobo

Tip #3: You Have to Know How to Hold ‘Em and Know How to Fold ‘Em!

Traveling in the summer months is easier to pack for. Clothes weigh less and are not bulky. I make outfits that mix and match. For any trip over two weeks;  seven tops and five slacks. Interchangeable. Period. This combo makes thirty five different outfits! For trips under two weeks; five tops and four slacks. Add a lightweight sweater that goes with anything, or a light-weight wrap.  Remember you can’t enter most religious sites wearing shorts, or having  bare shoulders. You’ll need a cover-up and appropriate clothing. I always have just two main color schemes, light and dark.  My choice is black and tan.  I choose tops than can go with all the slacks.  My slacks are capri length or long. This makes a very big wardrobe and believe me it so much easier to deal with.  To dress something up add a scarf! If I have a washer and dryer available on an extended trip I go with the 7/4 rule. Don’t be bogged down taking tons of clothes! You will tire of lugging them around, and will not wear most of them!

Sacs from Eagle Creek

Sacs from Eagle Creek

The next best thing to soap is  Compression Sacs from Eagle Creek, the kind that don’t need a vacuum to suck out the air. Put your clothes  in it, and then roll the sack like you are rolling out a pie. The air escapes and it is flat as a pancake. A miracle!  You will be amazed how much you can get into these sacs! The sacs come in three sizes.  Small, medium and large.  I take one large Compression Sac empty, to use for dirty laundry. I can  separate the dirty from the clean stuff so I always know what is what. They are extremely durable and I have been known to mail home my dirty laundry in these sacs, when I bought too many goodies on vacation. (You’ ll still need to find a box to mail them in, but it will be a small one!)  Also, if you go to a laundromat in Europe it is easier and less noticeable to carry your laundry to and fro in these sacs. Mark one for clean and one for dirty, so you can bring back clean clothes in a clean sac.  Put dirty clothes in marked dirty sac, roll it up, squeeze out the air and place  sacs in Veggie Borsa and off you go to wash!   Scented laundry sheets are a real winner. Place them in the dirty clothes sac and in your suitcase and everything will smell heavenly!

Smart-Compression Sac

Smart-Compression Sac

Evelopes

Envelopes

The other must have is the Eagle Creek Envelopes and it’s matching bags.  These come in different shapes and sizes, the items shown here are the ones I use.  One for pants, one for tops, one for underwear and one for toiletries.  I love it because it keeps my clothes sorted and I don’t have to pull  everything out of my suitcase to find something.  Also, if I am staying in one spot for a long time I take the envelopes out and put them in the dresser drawers. Easy! It is amazing how your clothes stay freshly pressed in these envelopes too.

How to do the Shoes

How to do the Shoes

For shoes, your new best friend, will be the plastic sleeves that the newspaper comes in.  Perfect for shoes, slide the shoe in and pack them. Keeps everything clean. I wear my heaviest shoes on the airplane and pack another pair in Papa Borsa’s front pouch, which is easy to get to. I take three pair of shoes total. One pair of black sandals, for dressier occasions without extensive walking. Also, two pair of walking shoes. We tend to walk a lot, so comfortable shoes is a must. One tan pair, one black. Again they will go with all my outfits. Do not take white tennis shoes! You will stand out in the crowd as the loud, touristy American! They make all sorts of colored, fancy or not, walking shoes and they are stylish anywhere, so you will blend in. I also bring a small roll of duct tape in a bright color to make a fashion statement. Ha Ha! Place a strip on the back of your ankles before you leave home and you will never get a blister, no matter how far you walk!

Small plastic bags in assorted sizes come in most handy for makeup, lotions or hairspray that may leak.  Place all toiletries in a plastic bag before it is put in the toiletry bag.  Bring only what is necessary and in small plastic travel containers. A small bar of soap and detergent is handy to wash out underclothes in my room. I also bring a small nylon stretchy clothes line.

I never take a hair dryer, too bulky, no matter the size. Most hotels, and B&B’s offer one to use. If not, I go with my “whatever” hairdo! I am on vacation!

Stuff to carry in your purse at all times:

A Tide to Go pen. You want to get at a possible stain before it has time to set. Ever been to a bathroom to discover no toilet paper?  Carry Handywipes  and a No Rinse Hand Sanitizer.  Carry a very small umbrella. If you have it with you, you will never need it.  Enjoy your next vacation!

 

Cady Luck Leedy’s Tuesday Travel Tips: #2

Tip # 2. It is very important to carry the right bag! This is a little story about bags, one of the most important parts of traveling!

The Borse Family

The Borse Family, Papa, Mama and Baby Borsa

There once were several Borse (Italian word for bags) that lived in  “The End” cottage. They were very excited to be going on vacation! Papa Borsa was big, blue, and handsome, with lots of pockets.  His favorite feature was a big pouch for an extra pair of shoes right on his front that was easily accessible. He could carry a newspaper, an umbrella, and all kinds of goodies in his side pouch. He also had a heart sleeve, a place he held dear, that carried the Mrs’s  lipstick and chapstick and anything small that would make the Mrs look good at all times. All the small items are easy to get to without opening the main bag.

How to do the Shoes

How to Do the Shoes

That’s why Mama Borsa fell in love with him at first sight. She knew he was the brains of the family and carried the computer, the Ipad, and IPhone and all their connectors, so he was always ready to compute. His big belly was ready for anything! Be sure to wrap the shoes in the plastic bags the newspaper comes in! You can never have enough plastic bags and newspaper bags are some of my favorites! Those bags are so handy! Papa Borsa was so thoughtful, with a plastic sturdy bottom on the outside, so he wouldn’t bring dirt into the cottage. He came from Lug and had lots of brothers and sisters in bright cheerful colors!

Mama Borsa was an organizer, she wasn’t too big or too small, but just right. She had lots of pockets and zips and came with several straps, so was very adjustable to all kinds of situations.  Since she was in charge of the purse strings she had a small change purse for credit cards, money and identity cards that clipped to her innards and could never be dropped or left on tables to be lost. She came from the family of Baggallini’s.  They were a family of zippy, deep pockets, and closures known for their endurance and strength.  She was called Odessy by her family, but just Mama at home.

Papa and Mama Borsa, had many children, but they decided for every trip,  that Veggie Borsa, should be one of the children to go. He was adopted from the check-out aisle at the market and was the baby and liked to carry lots of things with him all the time, because he was very stretchy.  Mama had to keep an eye on him when shopping, if he left her side.  He would be found with all kinds of gifts and goodies, and since he was so flexible he would stretch and stretch until he filled up. Mama and Papa were always surprised that he could carry so much and still not be too heavy to carry home.  Papa Borsa was so proud of him! Especially when they went to market.   With Baby Veggie Borsa along you didn’t need to pay for Papersacks Borsa to carry the groceries home.  Baby Borsa was glad to help and never dropped or broke one thing! Even wet he never let the family down. He was a real bagger!  After a big day when he was ready for his nap, he would fold up so tiny and could be tucked in almost anywhere! And he slept!

This year, the cousins Pacsafe and Secrid, were going on vacation too. Pacsafe was always so secretive!

One of the Pacsafe Cousins With Sacrid

One of the Pacsafe Cousins With Secrid

He had a very strong, wire-coiled exterior and strap that could not be cut through and tough locking straps so you could lock him to a chair or a post! Nothing was going to phase Pacsafe! No one would get away with him! Secrid was a small little fellow that always traveled with Pacsafe. When you saw one, you saw the other! He carried the credit cards and his strong aluminum shell prevented the theft of credit card numbers when no one was paying attention. But Secrid always paid attention! They were very happy to be joining the trip this year!

The Borse Family looked forward to the big plane ride. There was a big overhead bin where they all could cuddle.  Papa hoped he would meet a briefcase to discuss the world in general.  Mama hoped to delve into all the fashion and food of the world, with her new bag friends.  And Baby Veggie thought he might be the only one along for the ride. Pacsafe hoped someone would try to steal him on vacation, so he could show his muscles, and Secrid was itching to go shopping and zip his cards through the machines! After meeting up with all their friends, they finished their snacks and settled in for a nice long flight! See you on vacation! Enjoy!

PS  The Papa Borsa Bag sits easily on my small luggage and over the pull-out handle. Nothing to carry. My Mama Borsa Bag is a cross-over bag so it frees up my hands. Nothing to worry about leaving somewhere. I take Baby Borsa whenever I am out shopping or just going to the corner for baguettes!

 

Cady Luck Leedy’s Tuesday Travel Tips

Tip # 1 

The Knee Bone is Connected to the Thigh Bone. The Thigh Bone is Connected to a Headache.

Bellagio,Italy

Bellagio, Italy

I really want to talk about luggage here. See all the steps?  What if you had to go from a) the bottom of that tiny stoned stairway to  b) the top where your lodging is? Would you want  to drag a large overgrown bear with you? Or better yet, could you carry that bear over your shoulders?  Now let’s also throw in, it’s hot outside, you are tired and you are not even sure if this is the right stairway to heaven.  Get the picture?  Less is more. You can’t take it all with you. Italy, France, Turkey, Germany, (you fill in the blank) like any other place has stores.  AND carrying too much will give you a headache to  boot.

So you say you will rent a car?  Well you still have to get from the airline terminal to the rental car agency.  Sometimes in order to get there this will include stairs, tiny narrow escalators, long tunnels with more stairs at the end, or a combination of all of them.  How much does that suitcase weigh?  What about the Borse, how heavy are they?  (See the next post about the Borse family)  Some of the most beautiful villages in Italy are all uphill.  Even downhill feels uphill to me.  Be prepared to pull or carry. Light.

Varenna, Italy

Varenna, Italy

Once after landing at the Florence, Italy airport I made my way to the car rental area and found myself in line behind a group of two men and three women, who were traveling together.  Now I could sense this was going to be trouble from the get-go because the women were telling the men, in detail, what to do.   One gentleman filled out all the paperwork, as instructed by the ladies and when the agent thought they were through and handing over the papers, the women decided the other gent should be added as a driver as well. Back to the beginning. I stood in line for over an hour and the line behind me got longer and longer.
“Hellooooo, my knee was saying. Why are we standing still for such a long time?”   When it was my turn it took ten minutes and out the door I went.  Note:  Make all your car reservations at home and it will save you time and trouble.  When I got outside I found my car parked right behind The Group and watched in awe as they tried to get fifteen pieces of luggage into a mid-sized sedan.  Big luggage. They tried every which way under the sun, again at the direction of the ladies, and finally decided that the two large cases would have to go in the back seat of the car and the three women would sit on top of them.  Bent over.  Noses touching the seat in front of them.  Those poor men!  I hoped they didn’t have to go very far!  How would they be when they arrived at their destination?  I did not want to know.

I like to take the train most of the time.  The trains that are “Mind the Gap” are easily accessible, just step from a platform over a small open space and you are easily on. Prince Charming is never around when you need him.  Some trains in Italy are small.  The trains in Italy may look like this:  1. Narrow entrance to get on and off .  2.  Three or more giant steps that you must be prepared to hoist your luggage to and then yourself.  For me it is luggage first than me.  3. Trains are on time (well Italian time) so you have to get a move on when the train comes to a halt. 4.  Be prepared for the entrance to be crammed with people who do not want to move to a seat.  Picture this. I was taking a train from the Zurich Airport by way of the local train. I had to take a train to get to another train. The train stopped, the door opened and all I saw were faces and piled high luggage.  I quickly assessed the situation. The train was ready to depart  so up went my case and I scrambled on behind it. Nobody moved. We were eyeball to eyeball with my suitcase squeezed between us. I couldn’t even turn around to face the door and just hoped my fanny would not get caught in it when it closed.  I looked up and read the sign. Do not lean on the door.  Luckily, I only had one stop to go before we all poured out.

Menaggio, Italy

Menaggio, Italy

Sometimes after you reach your destination in paradise there are stairs just waiting to greet you.  So you have a room booked on the first floor?  Well that will be the second floor in Europe. Most hotels do not have an elevator or if they do it is tiny,  not room enough for you AND a large suitcase.   You must be able to carry your luggage up the stairs. By the time you get there heavy luggage will make your knees weak, your legs screaming, your back aching, and give you a killer headache.  You will need a drink!  Or two, but won’t want to walk back down those stairs!

So what kind of luggage do I travel with? One on wheels, durable, but light weight.  It measures 16X23 inches and has an easy to recognize name tag

My new best friend

My new best friend

and strong pull out handle to slip on Papa Borsa because he doesn’t like to be carried.  Remember that your luggage does not like cobblestones, so it must have a durable handle that can lift it to carry and will not break easily.  My favorite accessory is the luggage scale.  Don’t leave home without it. You don’t want to get to the airport upon departure to have the smiling attendant say your ticket is now @$$%%^^^%#$$$$ because it is overweight.  You will be directed to another line to take stuff out or re-arrange it. Re-arrange it to what?  Use that scale beforehand and know how much the suitcase weighs.  Practice walking with your suitcase full. Go up and down your stairs at home carrying it.  Can you do it?  Remember the knee bone is connected to the thigh bone and the thigh bone is connected to the back bone.  All the way to your head.  Save yourself a headache.  Travel light. Now let’s get down the stairs!  How about these?

Stairs in B&B, Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Stairs in B&B, Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Next….. what do I pack and how do I pack it?

The Boat Tour of the Bosphorus and the Golden Horn, Istanbul, Turkey

On the Boat Tour, Istanbul, Turkey

On the Boat Tour, Istanbul, Turkey

We are out on the boat tour on the third part of the Bosphorus and Golden Horn Tours! It is a beautiful day to sit in the sun and enjoy the ride!  Take your sun lotion! I named the spots that I knew and the rest of the time I was gabbing with my new Australian friends! It is a good way to see all the old and new in Istanbul, eyeing the beautiful homes and palaces along the shore. They certainly love their yachts! Enjoy!

The Start of the Tour at the Docks, Istanbul, Turkey

The Start of the Tour at the Docks, Istanbul, Turkey

Istanbul, Turkey

Istanbul, Turkey

Istanbul, Turkey

Istanbul, Turkey

Restaurant Lined The Galata Bridge, Isanbul, Turkey

Restaurant Lined Galata Bridge, Istanbul, Turkey

Galata Tower, Istanbul, Turkey

Galata Tower, Istanbul, Turkey

The Cruise Ships Have Landed!, Istanbul, Turkey

The Cruise Ships Have Landed!, Istanbul, Turkey

Istanbul, Turkey

Istanbul, Turkey

Dolmabahce Palace, Istanbul, Turkey

Dolmabahce Palace, Istanbul, Turkey

Ciragan Palace, Istanbul, Turkey

Ciragan Palace, Istanbul, Turkey

Istanbul, Turkey

Istanbul, Turkey

Istanbul, Turkey

Istanbul, Turkey

Beautiful Homes Along the Shore, Istanbul, Turkey

Beautiful Homes Along the Shore, Istanbul, Turkey

More Yachts, Istanbul, Turkey

More Yachts, Istanbul, Turkey

The Yachts Along the Shore, Istanbul, Turkey

The Yachts Along the Shore, Istanbul, Turkey

The Ducks, Istanbul, Turkey

The Ducks, Istanbul, Turkey

Private Yachts are All Along the Shore, Istanbul, Turkey

More Boats are All Along the Shore, Istanbul, Turkey

Rumeli Castles (1452), Istanbul, Turkey

Rumeli Castles (1452), Istanbul, Turkey

Baylerbeyi Palace, Istanbul, Turkey

Baylerbeyi Palace, Istanbul, Turkey

Kuleli Military School, Istanbul, Turkey

Kuleli Military School, Istanbul, Turkey

Istanbul, Turkey

Istanbul, Turkey

Ciragan Palace, Istanbul, Turkey

 Istanbul, Turkey

Kiz Kulesi, Istanbul, Turkey

Kiz Kulesi, Istanbul, Turkey

Can I Really Leave Venice Without Getting in a Gondola?

My Ride is Here!

My Ride is Here!

Everyday SB and I  walked along the sidewalk to the large area of gondolas moored in front of the Hard Rock Cafe. There was always a snaking line of excited tourists waiting for the black shiny boats, cameras ready, clicking away, while the gondolier decided who would ride in what boat. I studied the approach to the gondola like an eagle. Walk down the wide, but short, steps to the gondola. Safe. Take the hand of the sidewalk gondolier. Safe. Place one foot in the gondola and take a little leap. Scary. Release hand of sidewalk gondolier. Scary. Walk carefully to the spot you want to sit in. Most scary. Sit. Next person!

I am not good in rowboats or kayaks. I tip them over. I fall out. I can’t get back in when I do fall out. I have been known to get my feet stuck in the mud and not be able to move after falling out of a kayak in shallow water.  An eighty something woman came to assist me for God’s sake! But, I want to ride in one of those gondolas! I have studied them daily for over a week. I can do this! But, let’s do it at night after 6pm when the crowds are gone and no one can see my anxiety or if I actually fall into the canal!

My evening arrives.

I walk down the steps. Good so far! I take the hand of the gondolier as SB tells him how long a ride we want. Good so far! I clutch the camera and leap. Oh, I didn’t fall!!!!!! Terrific! I walk gingerly to my seat and take a deep breath. I am over joyed! I settle in to enjoy and experience the view from the gondola! Won’t you join me at gondola level?

On Our Way!

On Our Way!

Smooth Ride Past the Eateries!

Smooth Ride Past the Eateries!

Swoosh, Swoosh, Slide

Swoosh, Swoosh, Slide

Oh, how I loved riding in that gondola! At the corners of buildings there was shouting from other gondoliers so we wouldn’t all get to the same spot at once. I could look up at the windows of the casa and imagine mama in her black crepe dress and rolled down stockings, sitting down in the candlelit dining room to a dinner of pasta de mer, wine, and bread.  Of course, she was waiting on and fussing over her son, because he still lived with her at 40.

The Softest of Color Everywhere!

Is Mama up There?

How About Here?

How About Here?

We rounded the bend and made the pass through the Grande Canal and I marveled at the muted, soft colors that kissed the buildings goodnight and tucked them in as the sun began to sink. I was relaxed and thought this possibly one of the most romantic trysts.

Out into the Grand Canal!

Out into the Grand Canal!

Duck Tails in a Row

Duck Tails in a Row

So Much Color!

So Much Color!

The Fancy Gardens at Canal Level!

The Fancy Gardens at Canal Level!

The Courthouse!

The Courthouse!

The Vaporatto Bringing Tourists to Venice

The Vaporatto Taking Tourists to Venice

And then it was time to get out of the boat. The gondolier pulled up to a different set of stairs. Why weren’t we at the place we started from; the nice easy low steps? I looked at the sidewalk gondolier and he looked at me. Oh dear, he didn’t look very sturdy! I stood up and walked to the end of the gondola. Good. I placed one foot on the steep step and one hand in the gondolier’s outstretched one. Good. The gondola slipped away from the docking area and I was doing the splits, one leg on land, the other in the boat! Oh, Oh, Oooooooh!!!!!!  The boat gondolier was frantically trying to get the boat back to the dock. Oh, Ooooooh, Oh! SB was trying to shove my fanny up to the landing.  Ooooooh, Oh, Oh! The sidewalk gondolier was holding on to me for dear life! Oooooooooh! Suddenly, another body grabbed my free arm and whipped me to the pavement! Oh, I could have cried!  I tried not to get hysterical! I laughed trying not to cause more of a scene than I already had.  Another gondolier saw my predicament and had rushed to rescue me. I had no idea where he came from. He wasn’t there when we docked. “You can swim right? No problem!” he laughed.  “Yes, no problem,” I repeated.

So ended my adventure on the canals of Venice, I thought.

On the last evening of our stay the concierge, at Locanda Orseolo, asked if we would mind sharing a boat taxi with another couple, who were leaving the next morning as we were. We didn’t have any problem with that and the next morning there was the couple we had seen several times in the breakfast room. I had watched them in disbelief, when  they checked in with eight suitcases, the bigs ones overstuffed and held together with packing tape, and wondered just where they were traveling to and for how long. Now I watched as their luggage was hoisted down into a speed boat docked at the tiny half door, at the back of the hotel. Did we have to get in the boat that way too? Oh my God! Can I duck down, bend, AND step into the boat? All at the same time? Without falling in the drink? Could the other couple do this? They looked eighty five and frail! Oh my God! Rose looked at me and I knew she was thinking the same thing. “We can do this Rose, I’ll go first,” I tried to look confident. I bent down with one hand holding the top of the door frame and took the hand of the captain and just at that time a wave came along and the boat practically leveled out with the base of that door! Oh my God, I did it! I’m in the boat! “You can do it, Rose, come on!” She too made it. The men jumped on like sailors. The women were relieved to be sitting down.

The Last Door! OH MY GOD!

The Last Door! OH MY GOD!

As we approached the airport dock, my stomach began to do little flips. I just kept talking. Ok, this is going to be Ok, I kept telling myself. And it was. When I stepped to put my foot on the dock, again the wave leveled off the boat with the dock and voila I was on terra firma! No Problem! Thank you and Hail Mary!  We’re off to Istanbul!

PS, For a look into the world of Venice in the past, In the Company of the Courtesan by Sarah Dunant, is a great read. You’ll glimpse the life of a prostitute and her midget pimp. Now that will make you look at these canals in a new light!

Montepulciano Revisited

Our Apartment, San't Antonio

Our Apartment, San’t Antonio

We are back in Montepulciano, making it our base camp for exploring the surrounding hill towns of Tuscany. After renting a car in Florence and driving to San Gimignano, now here we are on Saturday evening getting settled in at Sant’ Antonio, the restored apartments on the grounds of an old monastery, in the hills around the village of Montepulciano. Late afternoon is spent meeting other guests from all over the world, who will also be spending a week here in Tuscany exploring. After our brief introduction to each other, the local maps were passed out, and we all decided to head out to the grocery store in Montepulciano before the store closes at 6pm.  The store is not open on Sundays, so we must get in and get out if we want anything to eat or cook while we are at Sant’ Antonio.  It was a mad dash to the grocery store! Parking is limited, and the store very busy, so we parked in the church parking lot and walked down to the store. A hint in the grocery store; we had to put one euro in the grocery cart to use it in the store and when we brought it back in we got the euro back. Also, do not touch the fruit or vegetables without putting on the plastic gloves that are provided! We were warned by our hosts about this!  Although, when I shopped in the smaller shops up the hill in Montepulcinao, this did not seem to be the case. In the smaller shops the attendant was quick to help me with my selections.

We explored the hill towns during the day, all the guests going in different directions in their cars.  It was fun to sit on the veranda in the evenings and over a glass of wine and nibbles find out where everyone went during the day and what they liked about the places they went to. Our neighbors to the left of us were German and Spanish.  Our neighbors to the right Canadian, and in the family apartment a group, who came here every year from Hawaii.  There were other guests in apartments here as well, so we were a large group of 25 or so. On one evening, during the week, we all came together to share an evening meal, prepared and served by our hosts, in the large meeting room on the premises.  There was also a pool here in case you didn’t want to do a thing but relax. The other option is staying in the village of Montepulciano itself. Sant’ Antonio now offers apartments in town as well.

Another time I stayed in the Politian Apartments, when I came to Montepulciano to study Italian at the Il Sasso Language School.  At that time, I didn’t have a car.  The Politian Apartment was in the village.  It was a huge two bedroom apartment with all the amenities, (washer, dryer, microwave, big stove and oven) and tastefully decorated with antiques. There was a beautiful walled garden that I enjoyed sitting in to do my homework. The owners were on the premises and more than helpful.  There were other guests staying in other apartments, but I was up early and off to school so didn’t get to know them. We all seemed to have different agendas as they only stayed a few days and then were gone and replaced by new guests. The shops and restaurants are plentiful and the locals very friendly. Parking is LIMITED and outside of the village.  The streets are pedestrian-only, but a tiny, tiny bus goes through town from the bottom of the hill to the tippy top. It only stops at the bottom of the village, (the entrance), a designated place in the middle, and the very top of the village. If you stay in the village be prepared to haul your luggage up, up, up the hill at some point!  Pack light! For more highlights of Montipulciano see past blog posts about the Politian Apartments and the Il Sasso Language School. These are some reflections if you want to make Montepulciano your home base for visiting Tuscany.

Next we are off to the hill towns!

For More information about Sant’ Antonio Apartments see: http://www.santantonio.it

For more information about Politian Apartments see: http://www.politian.com

Romancing the Pizza Stone III: The Cooking Class

The Wharf at Varenna

The Wharf at Varenna

I have a pasta maker/roller/flatener (my made-up word) that has been stashed under one of my cabinets and as yet, has never been used.  Making pasta looked so easy when I saw it demonstrated at the local Saturday market in my hometown!  I thought if I took an Italian cooking class that I would finally get the hang of pasta making. On this beautiful Italian day we (SB is manly enough for this) are headed to Varenna, (population 800) to a cooking class with Chef Moreno at Ristorante Il Caminetto in Perledo. He teaches the basics of Italian cooking including pasta and regional specialties. The ferry has become our friend.  Every morning we are up and out the door to the bus, chatting with the Italian nannies as we all head down to Menaggio.  Then at the dock we sip more latte, espresso or Coke (for SB) and watch the world go by as we wait for the ferry to arrive.  I could really get used to this lifestyle!

Varenna is even more laid back then Menaggio. I love the grand yellow hotel at this dock location too.  It seems very large, but when you look at it from the side, how narrow it is!  Check out the video I made! There are several groups of people mulling about the dock and soon we see a man in a chef’s apron, who has come to reign us all in. His son’s have arrived in various vehicles from the mountain village to retrieve us and take us to the restaurant. I can see why on the trip up.  I thought the drive to Menaggio was twists and turns, but this road comes in first place.

At the Restaurant Caminetto we are greeted with wine and home made cookies as we wait for everyone to make it up the mountain. Chef Moreno washes up (his hands and arms) and washes down the wooden table ( a good 20 minute scrub) while chatting along the entire time about his life in the village and life as a chef here. Then he begins to prepare the dough: flour, scant water, eggs, flour, knead, eggs, flour, knead, roooooooooll! Repeat! And repeat! Rooooooooooooll every which way with the longest, skiniest rolling pin I have ever seen! What no pasta maker?  He would never consider it!  We started at 10 am in the morning. We laughed, we roooooolled, we pinched, we patted, we made sauce with tomatoes from his garden, and we ate several servings of our makings and drank a lot of wine in between! We had the best time and then finished up with a stroll through the petite mountain village.  It was 4pm! Taxis have been dispatched to return us to Varenna. We have a woman cab driver. She  looks like a housewife who got the call to come fetch us. I can’t believe they have cab service here!

Back in Varenna, we stroll to the left of the dock, into the neighborhoods, to find the local train station.  How about that tree? Then we back track and go to the right of the dock into the village shopping and main restaurant areas. Eventually on another day in Varenna we would go to the tippy top of town and visit the local church and eat pizza under giant smooth barked trees. This is HEAVEN!

For information about Chef Moreno and Ristorante il Caminetto visit: http://www.ilcaminettoonline.com  Price includes transportation to and from the Varenna dock landing, the lesson, and lunch including wine, cookies and coffee. A must do!

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