2:13pm We are currently in a Hertz rental car on the way to the villa. Gary's driving and Marcia's his second pair of eyes. judiang's propped her swollen feet up on my lap and is reading one of my Tuscany books.
The scenery is beautiful. We're in the 5th car in the convoy. Weave's ahead of us, then Mike, then Dave, and John S (with Sheila excellently navigating) in the lead.
Despite a wrong turning at one point, Sheila got us on the A1 and we've been going now for about an hour. We stopped at a rest stop and I bought a cheapo watch (€12.90), some chocolate cookies, and a chocolate candy with toy - hoping for an Asterix toy. Got a cute little knight on a horse instead. Total was €18.
It's neat to see the mountains around us. And vineyards. And just now, a huge field of sunflowers.
We're about to get off the A1 and onto our next road. We're making progress!
9:40pm "Travel with Tammy! Nothing but the best!" Lordy, lordy, guess what we had for dinner? Well, I'll tell you about it later. La Grande Mela will remain one of the most memorable experiences of this trip.
[The next day, I wrote more about our day traveling to the Villa. I shall nab some of that for the next bit.]
Our original plan was to take the bus to the Hertz rental place, but they don't like big luggage on the bus. So then it was taxi hailing time. While we stood across the street waiting for taxis, a groups of children came over and started crowing over Judi and touching her face. She felt one of the girls as she was unzipping her (mine, actually) fanny pack. She pulled back, said "No!" in a loud voice, and reluctantly, the children moved on to find a new mark. Sure enough, the fanny pack was open, but they hadn't taken anything yet.
A cab was going by the other way and we hailed it, so it U-turned and took me, Judi, and Weave to a street just a couple blocks from the car rental. (To be fair, he was following another cab with some of our folks.) €13 for the ride and tip [which we later discovered to be a ripoff compared to what the others paid for the same journey], and we headed offf with our bags to Hertz.
Next to the car rental was an underwear store with some boxes of Calvin Klein undies. The photos of some of the young men in shorts were quite, um, bold. One guy looked like he had a apir of socks stuffed in his shorts. The store owner kept getting pissy at us if we covered his window, so we stood to the side while folks got the paperwork going.
The garage for Hertz was another block, so we had to roll our luggage around again. It took awhile to get all the paperwork sorted and slowly, one by one, we got our cars. Judi and I ride with Gary and Marcia.
We had walkie talkies set to channel 9 and Sheila kept us appraised of our progress. We missed a major turning, but with a single pullover, they figured out how to get back on track. We were soon on the highway and heading for the Autostrada.
We made it to Foiana della Chiana in good time, but missed the villa. We stopped at a restaurant and John & Gary talked with a local who insisted we turned wrong and had to go back.
The old gentleman was right. Once we got back onto the road, we drove past the place. By the time we did (we were no longer last), others behind us drove onto the lane. A quick turn aound and we, too, had gone up the lane.
Now, we've already had a great vacation so far. So what does the place look like? Is it a dump? Or is it as pretty as the photos online? Well, it was neither - it was prettier! Bootiful!
Judi and I have a room on the 3rd floor and we share a bathroom with Jo & Jacki. There are many antiques in the building, including a suit of armor I have named Guido.
They had some pastries out for us and three bottles of wine and showed us where everything was. The pool is lovely. The guest house is awfully nice too. A lovely place to stay.
We sat around eating and drinking (and killing ants) after unloading the cars. Then Mike, Ruth, Beth & I headed to the nearby Penny Market for supplies for the weekend cuz they're closed on Sundays.
Shopping in a grocery in a country where you don't know the language is certainly interesting. We found most of what we needed and my little translation book did a nice job helping. The place reminded us of Aldi's and we even boxed our stuff up, even though they had bags. Whoops!
The total bill for 18 people's worth of breakfasts, wines and so on? €44! The wine was €1,50-4,00! Other items were similarly priced. And the food and wine has been decent, too. (There was even wine for less, but we were afraid to try it. We might get some now!)
My goal, when we were done, was to go swimming! Mother Nature, OTOH, had other ideas. For the first time on our trip, it rained lots! Folks were out of the pool and under the tent. And poor Trina sat with them, all dressed up and no place to swim!
Thankfully, the rain finally cleared and I got to swim in the lovely pool. And realized that it had been so long since I last swam that my confidence was lower and swimming in the deep end was a little panic inducing. So I stuck to the shallow end and swam back and forth a few times.
After the swim, I got ready for supper and we drove into town. We stopped at the first eatery - La Grande Mela (The Big Apple).
The waitress spoke English very well - turned out she was from Finland. She actually didn't know much Italian and had some trouble getting our orders.
Now, before we entered, the place was deserted. Getting 18 seats outside was easy. When she passed out our forks and napkins, they were plastic blue forks and paper blue napkins in plastic bags. These were simple clues noticed only in retrospect.
A couple of folks ordered pizza, but most of us ordered pasta. I ordered spaghetti alla carbonara. We chatted and laughed while we waited for food. Judi and I were sitting by Amy, Kathie, Dave, and Mary.
When the waitress brought out the first meals, I did a double-take. Surely not! Must be a joke!
But no, she had 3 microwave lasagnas on her tray and was passing them out. The entire table erupted with laughter. And the laughter continued as more meals were brought out. Judi sent hers back to be reheated (and it wasn't what she ordered, but they didn't have a TV dinner for spaghetti bolognese).
The TV dinner wasn't too bad, and the laughter was precious. For desert, we had gelato - that was actually homemade and very good. (I had chocolate.)
[Tammy ordered an Americano when we were ordering drinks - before the TV dinners ever arrived - and it was apparently the foulest mixed drink she'd ever tried. We decided (Judi and I) that it was the post-George W Bush Americano. Heh. Oh, and Judi and I ordered Bacardi Breezers - peach flavored. Pretty good for alcohol.]
OK, enough from the journal, now onto photos!
If only Judi had been pointing to this sign in the first place, we wouldn't have missed the villa!
This is the lane leading to the villa. It's at the top of a steep hill, so not only is it beautiful to look at, but you're just so pleased to be on nearly level land when you get to this point.
They had a huge photograph of the aerial view of the house, so I took a photo of the photo.
Ah, the most wonderful pool in all of Italy! The one I got to swim in!
Grigio Gatto - gray cat. S/he was very friendly and loved to hang out with us at the villa.
PS: Happy Birthday rustyverse!