Bike, Sweat, and Drink a whole lot more…

I’m not sure why it is taking me so long to finish posting about our VBT bike trip.  I can’t use a bad wifi connection as an excuse, nor can I blame the tediousness of blogging via ipad.  It could just be those lazy, hazy days of summer have made me even lazier and hazier than usual.

This bike trip was far more than just peddling my bony butt through Italy.  It was far, FAR more–it was a trip of self discovery.  (Voyage of self discovery SOUNDS so much better, but alas–you don’t “voyage” on a bike.  At least not intentionally. )

Here’s the big insight:  I learned, much to my chagrin (an SAT word that I so rarely get to use) , that I am easy.  I THOUGHT I might have moved on up to easy/moderate, but one  very long trek up a very steep hill brought me to my senses.  In fact, I got brought to my senses a whole lot faster than I got to the top of that damn hill (which in my mind, and probably my mind alone, was more of a mini mountain).

The true beauty of  VBT however is that you are able to design the trip that YOU want to take.  So, in keeping with my new philosophy of “if it’s not fun, I ain’t doing it”, whenever I encountered a steep hill I shifted — not gears, but from 2 wheels to 4.  I was humming that Lionel Ritchie song “That’s why I’m easy, e-e-ZEEE like Sunday mo-oo-r-nING”, while waving to my sweating friends as we zipped on by them, en route to the pool.

So, the biking photos you will see are all of flat lands, yet still lovely in their own special way.

The pine forest
On our way to lunch


Yet another beautiful hilltop town

Here’s Angelo, on “granny” duty.  Okay, so technically, I’m NOT a grandmother–I just ride like one.  And yes, I am smiling, because of my recent self discovery, happy in the knowledge that I have nothing to prove and that the van will be there when I need it.

Yet another great feature of VBT trips was no matter what your skill level, there was always SOMEONE you could ride with.  For me, on THIS trip it was my BBBB (that’s my “Best Biking Buddy, Beth” in text talk). Last trip it was sweet Victoria.  Here we are, ready to toss down some wine before lunch, after biking all morning.

Beth’s daughter, Susan (the baby of the group) was a biking superstar, going the distance every day.  She and Diane paired up and truly earned those serious biker outfits!

In addition to the biking, there are always special events.  One day we visited an olive farm, where we had a tour, snorted extra virgin olive oil and then had a fantastic lunch, cooked by the owner.   Best pasta EVER, fresh vegetables, beans–delicious!

The tour was called “Tuscany by the Sea”, so of course, there were more beaches to visit. The last beach had the “school locker”  type changing rooms.  THIS one had bushes.  And driftwood.  But the water was great–and the beach was not rocky.

I’m not positive what the sign meant, but I wasn’t going to mess with “waters not sured for unsafety service”!  But hey, their English is far better than my Italian, or Spanish for that matter, so I’m not poking fun. I’m just reporting what I saw.

Our evening in Orbetello was great fun.  First,a stop for what Franco insisted was the best gelato anywhere.  And it was indeed quite amazing.  The best part is you can get three different flavors at no additional charge  So, of course I did.  The next time you are in Orbetello, stop in at Le Logde and see for yourself!

Next, we experienced what the brochure described as a “romantic” cruise…see for yourself…are we not what you envision when you think of  “romance”?

Finally, a whirl around the city then dinner at Tony’s on the waterfront, where we enjoyed great food and a beautiful sunset.

Orbetello Fortress
Orbetello’s square
Tony’s restaurant at sunset
Sun, slowly sinking over the water
One more sunset photo

Bike, Sweat, Drink…(with apologies to Elizabeth Gilbert)

The fantasy has ended. Sigh.  Although I am now back in the good ol USA,  my body still appears to be on Italy time, because I am awakening at a god awful hour.  And when I wake up,  at least for the first few seconds, I think I’m back in the villa.  Fortunately, the bathrooms both in the villa and my bedroom at home are in the same direction, and by the time I arrive at my destination I’ve got it all figured out.  (No bidet in the USA).

Anyway, my blogging, one again, has lagged way behind my travels. Here’s the thing. Blogging on an i-pad, especially when you have sporadic wi-fi connectivity, is not what one would describe as fun. At least not when the “one” in the preceding sentence happens to be me.  Indeed, it began to resemble work. And at this stage of my life, if it ain’t fun, I’m not doing it.  I think that might become one of the pillars of my current philosophy of life.  Does that make me a Hedonist?  I’ve been called worse.

But let’s get to that bike trip.  Here’s a map of the ground we covered.

We started in Parrina, staying at the Antica Fattoria for three nights, then moved to Magliano, where we stayed at another Fattoria (Farm).  The longest ride, according to the literature, was 35 miles, with options if a shorter ride was desired.  And, for one of the days, there was no biking at all–just a ferry ride To Giglio Island.  This was an “easy/moderate” ride.  No sweat.  Or so I thought.

On our first day of serious cycling, we headed to Talamone, a medieval fortress village on the coast, small enough not to make it to the map above, so you’ll have to trust me when I tell you that it is north of La Parrina.  The scenery along the way made you almost forget how hot it was.  (We, unfortunately, were there during record breaking high temperatures.)

It took tremendous self control to keep from stopping for a photo every 100 feet or so.  It is easy to understand how Frances Meyes fell in love with the area.

Here’s what we saw as we rolled down the “rolling hill” that we had just strained our way up.

Yep, that’s a fortress all right.  And those of you that know me well have probably guessed that I’d be planning to get up close and personal with that fortress real soon.  But first a stop at the renown beach.  At least, that’s how our guides described it.

What looks like school lockers are actually the changing rooms.  And they ARE about the size of school lockers, only slightly taller.  To add to the fun, only ONE is available for public use, so we all got to share.  Fortunately not at the same time.

The water was crystal clear, which was a good thing, because those big rocks that you see peeking out of the water had a bunch of little rock friends under the surface.

Next on the day’s agenda was a picnic lunch.  As usual, our group chose to take the more adventurous route to our destination, which just happened to be the way to the fortress.

Not only did we get to stretch our leg muscles, but we also got an even better view of the beach, which I am only too happy to share with all of you.

The picnic lunch was wonderful.

Angelo was a bit surprised when 16 female heads turned in his direction for a moment of silence, followed by peals of laughter.  He quickly learned that “sanitary napkins” was NOT the correct term for “wipes”.

We ended the day with a visit to the farm’s store, where we had a wine and cheese tasting event. Most of the products in the store come from the farm.  It was unfortunate that we were there so early in the trip.  Had we not had weeks more of travel time, I would have certainly purchased oil, vinegar, cheese and wine.

We ended this perfect day with the biscotti cooking lesson and an amazing dinner on the terrace.

Last look at Orvieto

There’s something about towers that I find irresistible. And Orvieto’s was no exception, so Diane and I decided late in the day was the perfect time to climb it.  Seen from this angle, it didn’t look all that high.

Inside had a bit of a different feel to it.

The view was well worth every one of those 250 steps.

I would have had to hang off the side to get a better shot of the front of the Duomo, but this gives you an idea of the size of that building.

We knew Torre del Moro was a clock tower, but we were not prepared for how loud the bell sounded when it is only a few feet away.  By the way, it doesn’t only BOINNNNG on the hour.  That sucker was sounding off every 15 minutes.  We didn’t linger more than a half an hour–two ear drum piercing tolls were enough for us!

And now for some random memories of Orvieto:
Sally and I found a little wine shop that gave us a private wine tasting. After trying three local reds and four whites, we decided that this label was our favorite.  Although, after all that wine, she could have poured us rat pee and we would have thought it was quite refreshing. (we don’t taste and spit…we are far too ladylike for that. Besides, why waste good wine?)

A favorite wine of ours

We managed to catch a couple of weddings on Saturday, and my favorite shot was this one.  Bad news, little girls. If you think the sandals are uncomfortable, wait till you graduate to big girl shoes–platform stilettos.

Sister, let’s get these shoes off. My doggies are KILLING me!

Wild boar is considered quite the delicacy here in Tuscany. And yes, I DID try cingale, twice. Even after I saw this guy’s head outside of the restaurant.

Cingale, anyone?

Saturday night a group from Michigan State performed a trumpet concerto in one of the squares, so we sat in a little cafe, drank wine and enjoyed the music. Sally figured that since she lives in Florida and they were from Michigan, these guys were practically neighbors she should introduce herself, so she did.

Trumpet concert

The courtyard of Hotel Duomo was our favorite gathering spot for our evening wine, cheese and fruit party.

Courtyard outside our hotel.
Susan, relaxing in the courtyard

Everywhere we looked we saw something beautiful.

Typical door in Orvieto

The city expanded beyond its walls and at the base of the hill.

Next post–the actual bike trip.