October 21, 2012 – Castelnuovo di Garfagnana, Italy
About 20 miles due north of Lucca, for those of you using Google Maps.
Like Napoleon, we had to get off the island. Not really, but our time grows short so we were up bright and early and caught the 10:50 boat back to the mainland. Another 70+ degree day today with only a few high clouds. A week from now I will be missing this weather very much. The ride to Lucca was nothing special, other than being along the coast in Tuscany, of course.
In Lucca we stopped for a break near this huge raised fortress. We ate our leftover pizza from last night and had a gelato while we rested. On our way out, Debb got cut off by a car, braked hard and fell over. No harm, no foul, just a few scrapes on the brush guard.
Not long after as we followed the river north we passed a famous old stone bridge. I have no idea how old it is, but I have seen it in pictures many times. It is a narrow bridge, but strikingly high. It is good to get a little culture in on these trips. 🙂
On the road today were lots of bikes. Sunday seems to bring them out. When we parked in a square here in town there was a big truck going through with a load of KTM dirt bikes. Sitting here at our hotel/restaurant we have seen many more dirt bikes in the back of trucks. Must have been an event somewhere near. They are all really muddy.
A while ago I mentioned not seeing any full size pickups. I jinxed it, of course. I have seen dozens since, mostly Mitsus, Nissans and Toyotas. Today they all had dirt bikes in the back.
Tomorrow we will be back in Milan. Wednesday we fly home. Didn’t we just get here?
October 22, 2012 – Milan, Italy
What an interesting day. Some slow roads, some fast roads, some really bad roads and some really bad traffic.
Our dinner last night wasn’t really very good. Probably influenced somewhat by the fact that neither of us was in a particularly good mood. To top it off, breakfast this morning was the worst of any place we have stayed. That hotel goes to the bottom of our list.
From Castelnuovo di Garfagnana to Aulla is about 20 miles as the crow flies. About 45km as the road goes. Nearly two hours to ride it. Yes, that included a couple of wrong turns and double-backs. For a while, it is entertaining, then it is frustrating and finally you want to
slap somebody hard. I think I got into third gear twice.
We finally arrived in La Spezia and made our way toward Cinque Terre. More frustration. Neither Garmin nor by association do I have any idea how long it actually takes to get from La Spezia to Varnazza. For most of that section the estimated arrival time clicked up nearly as fast as my dashboard clock. Thirty minutes out of La Spezia and we were
still 25 minutes from our destination. Finally we gave up. We’ll save that for another trip and another day when we have all day. Or maybe two.
The brief views down to the coastline were quite breathtaking. It looks just like all those pictures and videos that Rick Steve’s has produced. Better than we saw, since it was rather hazy today.
So we made our way back to La Spezia and had lunch and caught our breath. We ate on the sidewalk and enjoyed the free-for-all parking that is so common to all of Italy.
For the most part, my gps has been pretty helpful. Today however was not one of its best days. Lots of ‘Lost Satellite Reception’, even with a clear view of a wide sky. And to top it off, this afternoon as we came back to Milan it routed me across town on city streets. Not a complete disaster but the freeway comes around to within about 3 blocks of our destination. Maybe the gps knows this is its last day of duty.
We are at the Hotel Adam, just a few blocks from where our bikes will be stored. Our room the last time we stayed here was 205. Not a great room., but the price was right. Tonight we have 206 and it couldn’t be further from the last one if it was across town. Beautifully remodeled room, completely new bath, new paint, new tiles, new everything. Same
We chatted with the night manager for awhile and he asked us a bunch of questions about us and our bikes and would like very much to be in the bike storage business if he could. The hotel has a nice secure storage area, but currently not covered, though they said they would make it covered as soon as they had a customer. Of course, we didn’t have the heart to tell them that ‘storage’ is only part of the service. At MotoTouring there are tools and two lifts, and baggage storage; and gear and clothing storage; and a place to wash bikes, and essentially everything a rider or bike might need. The night manager mentioned they have new owners and are working on lots of upgrades, like our room. Not long after, that a short, plump woman with her head covered walked by and greeted all of us. When she had gone, the night manager said that’s the new owner. Heh.
The desk clerk recommended a place just two minutes walk away for dinner. Most excellent. The place was about half full. When we arrived back at the lobby, nearly everyone that was seated in the restaurant has come through the lobby. Their recommendations seem to be working. Or maybe the same lady owns that place, too.
The only thing on the agenda for tomorrow is cleaning the bikes and sorting out what stays and what comes back home. This will be the last Greetings for this trip.
Thanks for tagging along!
October 23, 2012 – Milan, Italy
Too good a day to not have a greeting.
We got to MotoTouring just after 10 this morning and started the sort of what stays and what comes home. You would think two folks travelling light on two bikes would not have so much stuff. We have a plan for eliminating nearly half of what we brought this time. Rick Steves would approve!
Back to MotoTouring to wash the bikes, organize and tag all the bags (two side bags from the BMW, two top boxes – one each, two tank bags – one each, two gear bags – one each) and finally to disconnect the batteries. We finally are done riding. We said our goodbyes to the MotoTouring folks and grabbed a cab for the hotel. Hotel Agape, just half a block from Hotel Adam, but much nicer. And more expensive. Gary booked and paid for this room a couple months ago and the girl behind the desk had no info on it at all. Gary had forwarded the reservation info to me so I pulled out my laptop and showed her the email. Ten minutes later we had a room. We each had a nice salad at a cafe in the next building for a light lunch and then stood out on the street talking and people watching.
At 7 the adventure began. We took the metro into downtown and went to the Duomo. The largest cathedral in Italy and I think the fifth in Europe. Quite an amazing building. You have no idea what detail is until you have seen this building. Thanks for the recommendation, Jon.
We had a wonderful dinner at Di Gennaro including a trip through the seafood buffet for each of us and a grilled salmon for me that we all tasted. The host was a fun guy and owns a 80 something Honda 650 Nighthawk. He was amazed that us old folks were riding around on bikes in his country. After that exchange, the service and meal picked up noticeably. We got a plate of hot fucaccia bread, more water, an after dinner liquor called Mirta and a plate of mini chocolate bars. An excellent meal and dining experience. Our room was covered in Ferrari pictures, the next was all Porsche.
After dinner we walked all around the church and up and down the side streets just taking in the sights and sounds of urban Milan. We stopped into a bookstore with a huge Kobo display with a dozen on display and lots of covers and other accessories. Milan is a huge fashion hub and there were two or three big magazines slash books for sale all about the recent Spring/Summer 2013 shows. The biggest of them was 18 inches tall, 12 inches wide and and inch thick. It was 40 Euros and must have weighed 10 pounds. The others were smaller, but only just. They were a complete catalog of every designer and every garment. We navigated the metro back to our hotel without incident.
Wheels up in Milan at 7:50 AM local time. Wheels down in Seattle at 11:15 AM local time.
Hell of a birthday present.
October 28, 2012 – Seattle, WA USA
Home again, home again, jiggity jig.
Debb and I have been home for 4 days. Our checked luggage has been home for two. We were standing at the luggage carousel waiting for our green bag when we heard Debb’s name over the public address system. We knew instantly what it was about. Sure enough, the Lufthansa rep apologized for our bag not making the connection in Frankfurt. Promises were made for the same flight the next day. And it was, we just couldn’t go get it that day, so two days later our bag was back in our hands. No harm, no foul and points to the Lufthansa folks for taking care of it promptly.
We took the bus and the train to get home. It really is easy, and if you are a Sr Citizen, it is really inexpensive. 75 cents for Sound Transit and another 75 cents for the bus. It is pretty inexpensive even if you aren’t 65 and over. Recommended.
I have suffered from a bit of jet lag but not badly. Mostly I feel like I’m still on Europe time, going to bed and getting up out of sync with Seattle. Almost gone now, 4 days later.
Lots of Lessons Learned on this first trip. We have lists of things we forgot to take, things we didn’t need to take, and things we didn’t even think about. Next time will be much better. And we will certainly take less.
It is good to be home, bags and all.