Old friends, new friends

Yesterday we said goodbye to our wonderful VBT companions. As with our last VBT trip, we were fortunate to travel with a delightful group, who made a great trip even more enjoyable.

As you can see from the photo, we were quite thrilled with our biscotti success. Best part was we got to keep both our glorious creations AND the aprons.

And now for the close ups. Deb, Bud and Ruth

Mike and I travel with our dear friend, Augusta frequently enough for him to be dubbed “the man who travels with two wives”. Well, on this trip, Eric and Dean could have been known as the men who traveled with THREE wives!
Becky,Nisa, Debbie and Dale

Nina, Nancy, Barbara and Eric

We didn’t want David to feel bad about traveling with only one woman, so we created an honorary harem, just for him.
Diane, Becky, David, Janet and Beth

During the early part of the trip, Susan rode with us but then moved on up to pedal with the REAL bikers.
Susan, Beth, Sally and Shelley

Our terrific tour guides kept us entertained, well fed and safe.

Angelo and Franco

Here are two versions of our farewell shot:one with Nina running to join the group, and the other with Nina in place.

I love this shot of Sally and Becky.

After the fond farewells, Sally, Karen, Diane and I made our way to Lucca. We briefly stopped in the city before making our way to our home for the next two weeks. Diane and Karen were in Lucca ten years ago. They are clearly delighted to be back!

Goodbye Orvieto, hello Tuscany

Orvieto was wonderful; its wi-fi connection was not. So we will save the narrative and photos for that leg of our journey until uploading is not so arduous.

Those on the tour that were not doing the Orvieto pretrip arrived on Saturday night. Becky, who came from California, arrived minus her luggage. She and the thunder storms hit the east coast around the same time, so her journey was by far the most exciting, although Bud and Ruth also had a story to tell about their flight from Philadelphia. Seasoned travelers all, they took their adventures in stride. I, on the other hand, was quite glad to have been spared the experience.

We stopped on our way out of Orvieto for a photo-op.

Lunch was in the little fortress town of Pitigliano, and offered yet another departure photo-op.

Next stop, our beautiful 4 star resort, Antica Fattoria La Parrina. This “farm” produces its own wine, cheese, yogurt, vegetables, oil, balsamic vinegar, organic pasta, jams and sauces which we would soon be sampling.

We were greeted by Astrid, who served us wine and cheese while our luggage was being deposited in our rooms. I’m not normally a white wine fan, but their’s is delicious. So is their red, so I drank both.

Check out my gorgeous room.

I’m a little mystified by the table and chairs in the bathroom. Am I supposed to invite my two best friends in for tea while I take a bubble bath?

We met our team leaders, Franco and Angelo for a safety briefing. After they finished telling us about the fast moving traffic, I looked at Beth to see if she was as terrified as I was. When they said fast moving traffic, I visualized NYC, but fortunately their definition of traffic is quite different from ours.

There are 20 of us bikers, and as with our last VBT trip, it didn’t take long for us to feel like we had been friends for years. Getting lost is a particularly bonding experience. Plus the wine helps.

We had a short introductory ride to get used to our bikes. Well, short for some, longer for those that are directionally challenged. Can you guess which group I fit in?

Dinner was a typical Italian event that lasted for hours with glorious food, lots of wine, great company. This could be habit forming!

Today’s ride took us through the Tuscan countryside. This is postcard worthy scenery.

Those hills are beautiful, but they are a bit of a challenge for some of us.

Orvieto- Day 1

I don’t know whether it was yesterday’s back to back yoga sessions or the glasses of red wine, maybe both, but all of the normal air travel irritants fazed me not one bit. I would just “breathe into it, take another sip” and contemplate how mellow I was feeling as I floated across the Atlantic Ocean. Maybe I’m finally getting the hang of this traveling thing.

It took us a while to reach our hotel today and a bit longer to get into our rooms. I was definitely “runnin’ on empty” by the time I collapsed onto my bed for a one hour nap.

My room is lovely, on the first floor, which, by the way, us Yankees would consider the 2nd floor. It’s in an old building with all of the conveniences: air conditioning, little refrigerator, or as I like to think of it “wine cooler”, a bidet, located within spitting distance of the cathedral (the hotel, not the bidet–although technically, i suppose it is both). Not that I would ever spit. But if I did, I could probably score a bull’s eye.

W

Okay. It is official. My connection with the Internet is a lot like my high school dating experiences–on, again, off again. So, I will quickly get some photos up before the Internet breaks up with me.

The Duomo


No, that was not the interior of the Duomo. You can’t take pictures inside. Well, you aren’t supposed to, but i noticed some tourists boldly ignoring the rules. Didn’t they see that fresco of Jesus passing judgement? Didn’t they see what happens to the rule breakers? I did. And let me tell you, I wasn’t taking any chances.

The second photo is actually the staircase in one of Orvieto’s little shops. If I had 120 euros that I didn’t know what do do with, I would definitely have bought one of their Miss Piggy tee shirts. I may return, just to take a photo of one of those suckers–they are quite unique! Something to anticipate in future posts.

I wandered around town by myself, then later with Sally, while we waited for our fellow companions to awaken and for the restaurants to start serving dinner. 7:30 is the earliest, and is an accommodation to those of us from across the pond. Italians dine later.

This is such a lovely little town, full of interesting alleys, with shops, restaurants, wine stores, museums. Sally and I ducked into a wine store and had our own private tasting. We determined that white was the way to go, after tasting three reds, en chose our favorite from among four whites. Time to weave our way back to join the others for a fantastic dinner and a good night’s sleep.

 

 

Tuscany by the Sea with VBT

Us “biker chicks” are off for another VBT adventure, this time in Italy.  Yep, five of last year’s group will soon be mounting up.  We’ll be minus Marilyn this time, which is a disappointment, because when she’s along, the fun quotient increases.  I hope she’ll be keeping up with us electronically.

My least favorite part of traveling is the overnight plane ride. Although I’ve packed my “comfort” items: Noise cancelling headset, iPod, sleeping pill,  I still don’t make a smooth transition across time zones.

My flight leaves at 5 PM today, arriving in Rome at 7 AM.  Orvieto, the starting point for our trip is a 2 hour ride away.   Fortunately, all I have to do is get my luggage, get through customs and find the VBT rep who will transport me to our hotel.   That’s probably all I’ll be able to handle.  Did I mention that I’m not good at crossing time zones?

We have a few days in Orvieto to get acclimated and see the sights before we climb on our bikes. We will be riding to places that I had never heard of before signing on for the trip, so click on the blue print for the Map of the Tuscany Bike Tour if you want to know where we’ll be going, because odds are I’ll have forgotten the names by the time we get home.  So, don’t even bother asking.  (I”m taking to you, Sue).

We will finish the VBT portion of our adventure on June 30th, and will then head north for two weeks in Lucca.  I’ll be flying home on July 15th.

Why all of the details?  Well, I just got off the phone with my mother who accused me of not telling her that I’m leaving today.  Of course, I had told her multiple times,  but her response was that she can’t keep track of my travels.

Additionally, I’ve learned to anticipate internet complications. On my last trip, I fell far behind in my blog, confusing friends and family who thought that because my blog was still out west,so was I.  So.  Onward and upward.

Venice

Karen, Diane, Victoria, Kathleen, Jim and I all opted for the additional two day post trip in Venice.  What a perfect ending for a perfect trip!

Here are Beth and Victoria living large in the back of our water taxi, as we make our way to the Hotel Giorgione.

Meanwhile,  I’m up front, keeping my eyes on the back of our driver, who seems to be making quite a few waves.  He could teach the NYC cabbies a thing or two…

The Venetians sure know how to live.  The traffic doesn’t stress THIS guy out!  I will confess, though, I’m glad he wasn’t driving OUR taxi.  Something about steering with his foot just didn’t feel reassuring.

Quick turn down a side canal and we’re almost there.  Hope Victoria and Beth duck before we get to that low bridge.

Are you ready for some Venice sights?  Here goes:

San Marco as seen from a vaporetto

San Marco seen from the ground

Okay, so I’ve done land and sea.  How about air?  Well, this is about as close as I could get to an aerial view.

That’s all for today’s post.  More Venice shots tomorrow.