Monday: Viareggio

It was bittersweet to leave Siena late this morning. Our hotel – Hotel Ravizza – was so comfortable and a great place to stay and Siena is a wonderful city. But we will be in Viareggio for the next few days and I’m sure we will live it there too.

We stopped for lunch in Pistoia, an old city about an hour from Viareggio. It is Monday, so many restaurants are closed but we found a good place for lunch and spent some time there since check-in for our Airbnb was at four o’clock.

We drove around Viareggio and checked out the marina. The largest and most expensive yachts in the world are made here by Benzetti boatyard. They are spectacular to see, but since it was pouring rain we couldn’t walk around at all. We will do that tomorrow.

We will also take the train one day to Cinque Terre to hike and see the five seaside villages and beautiful views. We are hoping for some nice days ahead after almost a week of rain but we will make it work regardless. For now we are settling in at Viareggio.

photos: seen along the way as we drove today – a farmer apparently has a sense of humor about hay bales; this evening’s view from our Viareggio home; little round eggplants for sale

Sunday: Siena

Our last day in beautiful (but still very rainy) Siena was mainly a lazy and relaxing one. We got laundry done, which took a few morning hours. The streets were pretty much empty – so different from yesterday evening.

We went back to the Boccon del Prete restaurant for lunch (we had been there a few days ago). With many places closed on Sunday, it seems lunch spots are at a premium so we felt happy to get a table and have a delicious spaghetti-with-meat- sauce lunch.

Tomorrow we leave Siena drive to the Viareggio area to enjoy a few days of exploring there. It is two hours from here and on the watee. It will be a nice change of scenery although the 7-day forecast doesn’t look great right now.

photos: Siena looking like a postcard; the book exchange – I love finding this in a place I’m staying; Siena – empty of people this morning

Tuesday: Around Tuscany

Today we set out to see the Villa Medici at Cafaggiolo near the Mugello region, about 45 minutes from where we are staying in Scandicci. The villa is notable because so many important events took place there during the Italian Renaissance, and its architecture is supposedly fabulous.

Although we found the huge villa, it is completely under renovation and closed to the public. We could not even get close enough to take a picture and there was nowhere around to park, but this summer home looked very impressive and perhaps we can revisit it in a decade or so when renovations are complete.

We still had a wine and olive oil tasting coupon for another wine producer not far from where we were yesterday, so that was our next stop. Their olive oil was so fresh – just made this week, and was the best ever. We got some to take home, if we can avoid opening it.

Next we went to San Gimignano, sometimes referred to as the “Manhattan of Italy.” The buildings there are tall and ancient, and there was a lot going on there. We encountered more people, mainly busloads of tourists, than we have seen in all of Italy. (Most of them were speaking English, which we hadn’t heard in a while.)

There were many small shops in the city, and we walked all over, not realizing we would have trouble finding our car. Every single time we have parked anywhere, we have taken a picture of where we are. Not this afternoon.

It took us 45 minutes through the maze of narrow streets, but we finally found it as the sun went down. Another five minutes figuring out the ticket payment machine and we were on our way back to Scandicci.

photos: our hosts set a beautiful table for us every morning and begin our day with a huge breakfast; the panoramic view from Mugello; an empty street in San Gimignano at the end of the day, after visitors left on their buses and we tried to figure out where our car was parked.

Friday: Alba

We continued to explore Alba on foot today and made plans to take a tour of the old underground city tomorrow. It should be interesting.

We had a lunch in an underground restaurant today, coincidentally. The storefront is on street level but once through the door, there are steps down.

The sand sculpture artist from yesterday was back today making an identical dog. I went for a run and passed his spot at 8am. He wasn’t there yet. An hour later when we walked by, he already had most of the dog sculpted. So it seems to be a sand art scam and he will do great with it this weekend, I’m sure.

photos: early morning in the city

pigeon on the back terrace

pigeon on the lunch menu

Sunday: Lyon

We left Clermont-Ferrand this morning and drove to Lyon. The city was just over two hours away, but we had to take our time because check-in for our Airbnb was not until 4pm.

We stopped a few times along the way, most notably about an hour outside the city of Roanne, which was described online as having some delicious restaurants. Not on Sunday though. We drove through the town and nothing at all was open on Dimanche.

I found an open restaurant in a town about twenty minutes away. Yes, it was open but no, they couldn’t serve us. They were packed. I asked the woman who turned us away if there was anything at all open. “Not on Sunday,” she told me in French. Okay, we would wait until Lyon.

So we drove into the big, busy city, located the parking garage suggested by our host, and found dozens of restaurants open along the river and beyond. We ate, then found our rental apartment, then went back to the car to get our luggage. All the walking helped us get our bearings.

The tiny apartment is great: centrally located so we can walk everywhere, and super-cute in a very old building.

We will have fun discovering Lyon this week.

photos: A small part of our pretty drive to Lyon

below: used books for sale along the Rhone

The River Rhone

Monday: Athlone


Today was partially a travel day. We left Galway in mid-morning to drive to Dublin airport and drop off our rental car.

(I haven’t mentioned how handy it is to have brought an older phone with us to which we added a EuroSIM card. We can easily figure out where we are going when we are walking around towns.)

We stopped in Athlone – a nice little city – and got some laundry done and (yippee) I got my hair cut a few doors away while we were waiting. Those bits of housekeeping accomplished, we continued on to the airport. We dropped off the car (We wouldn’t rent a car in the UK again. Driving is too stressful) walked to the hotel shuttle (no easy feat with bags of clean clothing to carry, until we rearrange suitcases) and made it to our hotel where we are now in its restaurant.

Tomorrow we fly to France.

photos: Athlone, a pretty city on the east bank of the River Shannon.

A busy Monday at the laundry. Still, we got squeezed in. ” I don’t want you leaving Ireland with dirty clothes,”  said the kind woman in Suds. 




Tuesday: London


[squirrel lady in the park]

What a nice day it was to be walking around the city. It rained in the morning when we first set out, but cleared and the sun came through.

We dropped husband at the Churchill War Room (I had been there once before) and my friend and I went for tea and talk. It was a relaxing few hours – what a treat.

We picked up husband at the appointed time and by now the line for the War Room/Bunker was quite long so we were glad we had gotten there early. The three of us walked around St. James Park before grabbing a snack at Oree bakery and going back to the apartment for some reading and relaxing.

Sushi later.



[protestors by the Cabinet Offices]