Part 2, Rainy day road trip to the walled city of Lucca...



Venturing off away from the crowds, we found our way to this archway through which we entered Piazza Napoleone which is now used as local government buildings, also hundreds of years old, worthy of visiting but attracting less tourists.
The opposite side of the archway above as we entered the Piazza Napoleone square that housed government offices in these amazing structures.
As we continued on our rainy walk through the walled city of Lucca, we were reminded of all of the other villages, towns and cities we've visited in Italy.  They all were filled with rich history, centuries old buildings and a strong sense of pride in maintaining the integrity of its original design and intention.

Palazzo Ducale in Lucca is located in Piazza Napoleone.   Decorated in the center is the statue of the Criminal Lucca Francesco Carrara.



 Imagine a government worker taking a break during the day to sit outside in Piazza Napoleone, read a book and relax.  The Italians, as many European countries consider an afternoon break from their work as sacred.  That is why, we've surmised, that they engage in "happy hour" until after 9:00 pm after working later into the day.


Again the rain picked up so we scurried on our way in a feeble attempt to avoid getting soaked.
There is no doubt in our minds that the appreciation of a country in its heritage is indeed a treasure for its visitors and residents alike.  The care the Italian people have given to their expansive history is evidenced in the fine condition of these treasures, a gift they bestow upon the world for all to see.

Taking off in another direction from the government square, we walked on this road as the rain pelted us as we sought shelter in various doorways.


Here is the summer music festival schedule attracting visitors from all over the world.  Had it not been a rainy day, the streets would definitely been more crowded.


This statue was protected from the crowds that most certainly filled this area at night during the Summer Festival rock concerts.



The stage area for the evening rock concerts occurring almost every night during the Summer Festival attracting visitors from around the world.
Of course, we must give credit to the designers and architects who originated and built these historic monuments to ensure their works would live into the future for many to enjoy.  Mission accomplished. 

We weren't able to get close enough to see he inscription on this statue with a sudden rash of tourists in our way.

This is the above mentioned sudden rash of tourists we encountered, many dining under the umbrellas seeking shelter from the off and on rain.
Thank you Italy!  We're grateful for the experience!
There were numerous residential areas in the walled city, most with parking  exclusively for tenants, requiring a windshield sticker.
Working our way back to our car brought us to a few less historical spots and a number of dining venues.  Notice the cut-outs of Humphrey Bogart James Dean on the wall of this restaurant.
A few areas inside the walls of Lucca were worn and yet to be restored, such as this.

Everywhere we go in Italy we find bell towers.  We were unable to go inside this church to take
 photos which was prohibited.  Once inside a fee was imposed to get closer to the alter.  We were content to look from afar.

An awaiting horse and buggy for romantic or weary tourists.
 

After exiting the walked city by car, we were reminded of our earlier parking challenge (described in yesterday's post), grateful that we were able to see as much as we had.  On our return, we stopped at the grocery store for a few item in Pescia, before continuing on the winding hairpin turn drive to Boveglio, happy to be safely home once again.

Part 1, Rainy day road trip to the walled city of Lucca...


Lucca aerial view in the "borrowed" photo.  The remainder of the photos are all ours, some blurred due to the pouring rain.
After commenting in Sunday's post regarding the  recent lack of a soaking rain, we took off on Monday morning amid an ominous looking sky.  Would our long awaited road trip to Lucca be spoiled by rain?
We were driving around the walled city of Lucca in the pouring rain looking for a parking spot..
 
As we made our way around the exterior of the walled city of Lucca, we traveled under this canopy of trees.
Halfway down the mountains, we realized that we should have brought the umbrella in the stand by the front door.  Do we turn back calling it a day or forge ahead risking getting soaked?
As we waited our turn to enter the one way road to gain access inside the walled city. We'd waited long enough for the rain to stop and the sun came out.  We were anxious to get inside before it started again.

The walled city peaked our interest to the point that we were determined to find a decent parking spot close to the entrance.  The rain was pelting the windshield and we didn't want to walk any further than we had to without an umbrella. 


I took a photo of this street sign near where we first parked outside the walled city of Lucca in the event we had trouble finding the car later.  This is the general location that Tom perused looking for a place to get change for required parking sticker.
With the unpredictability of the weather changes in these hills, we hadn't bothered to check the weather report having found it be relatively inaccurate when doing so.  
Once inside the walled city we encountered several dead end one way roads requiring that we back up long distances.  Cars were only allowed in specific areas with no signs indicating dead end roads.  Patience prevailed.
Sunday was by far the hottest day and night we've experienced since arriving in Boveglio six weeks ago.   The night was steamy.  The fan and opened windows offered little relief as we tossed and turned most of the night.  Monday morning, as we prepared to take off on our road trip the heat and humidity was unbearable. 

Would the rain ever stop and would we find a place to park?



The more we drove around, the more the rain picked up.
Hoping to leave around 10:30 am, we decided to leave early if only to get into the air conditioned car.  I can honestly say I don't recall being that hot and uncomfortable since the day we visited the White Mosque in Abu Dhabi while I was sick with that awful virus and required to wear the long black abaya while the temperature was well over 100 degrees. 


Having poorly planned for the rainy day, our frustration level grew as we drove around looking for a place to stop.  Surprisingly, we both stayed calm and cheerful.  Gosh, that helps in these situations, doesn't it?
 
As we maneuvered our way down the mountains through the usual hairpin turns Tom was mindful of the numerous signs warning "roads slippery when wet."  As the rain began to fall on the windshield in giant drops, we looked at each other wondering if we should have postponed our trip after all.
It was raining too hard to open the door or the window of the car to take a photo. Instead, once we were parked in this free parking spot by this church, we were within running distance to the restaurant where we had lunch while waiting again for the rain to stop which eventually it did, although not entirely.
"Ah," Tom said, "we're already committed.  Let's continue on."

I agreed.  Less than an hour later we arrived in the walled city of Lucca, rain pelting so hard, my attempts at photo taking was considerably hindered. Then the fun began!

Many of the old buildings were homes for local residents.  We wondered where they were able to park their cars.  We never encountered any hotels within the walls of the city although they may have existed.  Outside the walls the remainder of the city was hustling and bustling with tourists, restaurants and lots of traffic.
Finding a parking spot in Lucca was an adventure in itself.  Keep in mind that Tom is not the most patient guy on the planet.  His frustration level exacerbates, minute by minute, when he can't find a spot causing him to drive to fast to be able to grab a suddenly available spot. 
As you can see, Tom was not thrilled with the Italian menu and lack of options befitting his picky taste buds.  Too many items included many vegetables and an abundance of squiggly seafood, none to his liking.  On the ships, he was more adventuresome eating escargot and Oysters Rockefeller.  What happened?  He cringed when he saw the octopus tentacles on my warmed seafood salad.

This restaurant had an extensive menu, most in Italian.  All Tom wanted was a pizza with sausage, mushrooms, onions and olives.  When his pizza arrived it was uncut witha crispy thin crust making it difficult to cut.  The sausages looked like rounds of hot dogs. To say the least, he wasn't thrilled with the pizza, only eating a small amount.  My meal was extraordinary, full of seafood, perfectly cooked and seasoned.
Desperately trying to bite my tongue and yet be of assistance as we drove around the walled city of Lucca in the pouring rain was challenging. 

Finally, after lunch, we began our three hour walk through the walled city of Lucca.  Apparently, this building is a name according to Google Translate.
Gaining access to the walled city can be tricky when attempting to park outside the massive two mile long wall surrounding the entire city of churches, historic buildings, restaurants and shops.  There were a limited number of access points requiring a substantial walk in most cases.
This is actually a stuffed pug in the window of a shop in the walled city. So cute!
Alas, we found a spot within a 15 minute walk.  With the pouring rain and no umbrella, no hoodies, no plastic bags nor any hats we were stranded for awhile.  As we sat in the car, again Tom suggested we go back home and reschedule for another day. 
The side view of the Church of San Michele in San Michele Square.

The front view of the Church of San Michele in San Michele Square.


This statue is of Francesco Burlamacchi.

 
A more detailed view of the steeple on the Church of San Michele.


Mutually agreeing to wait in the car for the rain to let up, we thought we'd give it an hour.  After all, we had come all this way.  We watched other more ambitious tourists walked toward the walled city with their umbrellas, wildly flapping in the lofty breeze while getting soaked from the sideways rain.
This restaurant and outdoor café look appealing but we'd already had lunch.
After waiting 30 minutes, the rain let up enough that we exited the car to begin the walk to the city.  Five minutes into the walk, Tom suddenly stopped at an ticketing type machine situated on a large post indicating (in Italian) that one must purchase a parking ticket before leaving their car unattended or they'd be towed.  Oh, good grief! 

This may have been Piazza San Giusto.
Could we even imagine the nightmare of coming back to find the "sold" rental car towed away?  I thought it was weird that no other passersby were purchasing parking tickets at the machine.  The cost was Euro $1 an hour.  Estimating that we'd be in the walled city at least three hours, the cost would be US $3.96, not too bad after all.

The bigger problem was that we didn't have a single Euro coin on us.  All the Euros coins we'd had were inside the plastic bags we'd hung on the windows and doors to scare off the flies. 

Tom handed me the car keys so I could go back to wait in the car to ensure we wouldn't be ticketed or towed while he'd find a place to get change.  I began imagining that a cop would come by instructing me to move the stick shift car.  I hadn't driven a stick shift vehicle in 25 years. 
This was my favorite statue in Lucca, Giacomo Puccini, famed composer of Madame Butterfly, La Boheme and more. In the background is his house and a now closed museum.  His statue seemed to attract the most tourists, especially us opera lovers.  Unfortunately, opera season is winter.  Otherwise,we would've seen a few, no matter how far we'd have had to drive.
And if I had to move the car after I made a fool of myself in Italian traffic, how would I tell Tom who was running around to find change?  This was one of those times, a working cell phone would have been handy.  But it was also the first time we'd be separated from each other in a public street.  (Next country, we'll be getting local SIM cards).
This mime painted white, as we've seen in other European cities attracted a considerable amount of attention, many tossing coins into his gold bucket on the ground.
I headed to the car.  Tom took off across the street to find a place for change for a $5 Euro bill.  While sitting in the car waiting I made a special point of watching to see if anyone, anyone at all, put money in the ticket machine to pull out a sticker to place on their parked car.  Not a one!  But that was the least of my problems.
The Pretorio Palace Clock.

When 20 minutes passed and Tom hadn't returned, I started watching the only clock in my possession which was on the camera.  When 30 minutes passed, I was looking at the Lucca map as to the closest police station.  What was taking so long????  What if something happened to him?  What if two hours passed and he still hadn't returned? A million possibilities ran through my mind.

We were in a busy commercial area of shops, bars and restaurants.  I'd noticed a bank as we approached the parking area.  Was he stuck in one of those "revolving bank tubes?"  Was he kidnapped?  Was he injured?
Matteo Civitali (1436-1502) was an Italian sculptor and architect.
 
The minutes dragged on.  I promised myself to do nothing other than wait until a full hour passed.  Then I'd get into action, calmly and resourcefully.   My fear was for his well being, not for me being stranded without him. 

Overreacting would not be helpful.  I'd made a plan that I'd leave a note on the inside of the windshield, stating that I'd gone to the police station a few blocks away and to look for me there.  The clock ticked away.  My heart thumped in my chest.

Finally, at 40 minutes, I saw Tom briskly walking in the returned rain down the long sidewalk, anxious to get into the shelter of the car.  Sighing a sigh of relief, explaining my worry about him, he proceeded to tell me his awful experience at the bank across and down the street, a long convoluted story of waiting in line. 

He was behind a customer in line who appeared to be purchasing a home while a solitary teller was busy copying page after page of documents, one at a time, with the printer in another room, having the customer sign one page at a time.  As time marched on and not wanting to give up, he waited impatiently, all the while waving his $5 bill, hoping someone would help him.  I get it.  I wasn't mad, just worried.

As we woefully looked at each other, the rain now furiously pelting passersby, having not yet put the money in the machine, we decided to take our chances and drive inside the walled city, unsure if this was even possible or if there would be a place to park.

Finally, we were inside in one of the limited interior peripheral free parking spots with the rain still pouring down as indicated in some of our photos.  Within running distance of an opened restaurant coupled with original plan on having lunch in Lucca, we ran for it. 

The restaurant, overflowing with customers coming in from the rain, was a quaint red checkered tablecloth kind of eatery.  Within 10 minutes we were seated at a table busily figuring out the Italian menu. 

I loved my gluten free warm seafood salad with mussels, clams, calamari and octopus on a bed of steamed vegetables.  Tom didn't enjoy his pizza, a medium thin crispy crust pizza arriving uncut with sparse toppings, a far cry from our homemade pizza.  With few menu items he was willing to eat, mostly seafood, he varied from our strict GF diet (with no ill effect for this single occasion).

US $35 later, we were out the door, as the rain gave us a welcomed reprieve to begin our lengthy walk through the walled city.  Our parking spot by the restaurant didn't require payment with us free to park for the entire period of our self imposed excursion. 

With an excellent map of Lucca in hand, kindly given to us by our new friend Michela, we were able to peruse the majority of the walled city visiting most of the highlighted areas of interest.  The rain was off and on, the heat and humidity consistent but we were content to explore, take photos and the time rushed by.

Three hours later, we'd seen everything we'd hoped and were anxious to get back into the air conditioned comfort of the tiny stick shift car. 

In Europe, taking a leak is an issue. One cannot walk into an establishment to use their "WC."  One must make a purchase and then may pee.  Tom and I have learned to plan accordingly, drinking only one cup of coffee this morning, peeing before we leave the house, drinking no hot or iced tea before leaving and bringing only one bottled water to share, taking small sips as necessary in the heat. 

If we weren't careful, we'd have had to put "pee" expenses into our budget.  No, thank you.  Pee should be free. We have a receptacle suitable for either of us, that we keep in the little car in the event of an emergency, which, I should mention, has been utilized.  Enough said.

Lucca was an interesting city.  The history of the walled city is here. Rain or no rain we had a good day experiencing yet another aspect of the rich Italian history.

Stop back tomorrow for Part 2 with the remaining photos and commentary.  Thanks as always, for stopping by!

No seat assignment available for us on Turkish air...a letter from Expedia.com...


With the midsummer heat few flowers remain in the gardens.
With our upcoming flight from Venice, Italy to Mombasa, Kenya on September 2nd, arriving 17 hours later on September 3rd, we'd expected to be able to sit together.

When booking the flight several weeks ago, trying to choose our seats for the three legs of the flight, a message popped up stating that seat assignment will be available at a later date, unknown at this point.
As I walked through the gardens, the bees swarmed around me.
The thought of the possibility of that long flight without being able to sit next to one another was frustrating for us both.  Playing Gin and dining together (yes, they serve meals) makes the time pass quickly, an excellent diversion.

Knowing little about Turkish Air other than reviews we read online, we have no idea what to expect.  The reviews varied from "hate them" to "loved the flight" more on the favorable side.  There were few flight options to Kenya.
The honey bees love the lavender still in its full glory.
Yesterday, concerned about the lack of seat assignments, I contacted Expedia.com from whom we purchased our tickets.  With the usual good customer service, I expected a response within 24 hours.  Within hours, they responded to our request with the following:

"Dear Expedia Customer, 
 
Thank you for contacting us about your seat requests for your flight reservation.
The airline has not made seats available for a pre-assigned seat request at 
this time. The airline will assign seats for you when you check in.
Meanwhile, your seat assignment requests have been sent to the airline. 
Please be advised, that the airline ultimately controls seat assignments and we 
cannot guarantee every request will be honored. Confirm your specific requests with the airline before departure. 
If this does not answer your question or solve your problem, feel free to reply to this message or 
call us at 1-800-EXPEDIA (1-800-397-3342) or 1-404-728-8787 (for callers outside United States and Canada) and reference case ID: ?????
Thank you for choosing Expedia. 
Dennise
Expedia Customer Service Team"

All we can determine from this message is that when checking in at the airport, we'll have to stand in line, hopefully early enough to get seats together, which may or may not be possible.  Why?  Why do it this way?
The shade from the overhanging vines creates the pleasant patio area in our yard.
If their online system not sophisticated enough to allow seat selection?  If that's the case, are their planes updated and maintained to meet modern standards?

Each time we encounter a possible stress inducing situation, we develop a back-up plan to ease us through the scenario.  In this case, a very early arrival at the gate in Venice is our best option. 

However, when we were departing our last ship, the Norwegian Spirit in Venice, we were warned not to arrive at the airport over three hours before a flight's departure.  One would not be allowed into the terminal if earlier.

We've noted our calendar:  arrive at Marco Polo airport in Venice at 7:30 am on September 2nd, considering our 10:30 am flight. 
A good soaking rain would bring all of the vegetation back to life.  It rains a little a few times a week but not enough during the summer heat in the 90's each of the past several days.
Also, checking online for information about that airport, we discovered that they have an technology kiosk where we'll be able to recharge our laptops and smart phones prior to departure.  At this point, we're unable to determine if any of the three planes we'll be flying have "plug ins" at our seats (what seats?) for recharging digital equipment. 

Having our equipment charged will enable us to read Kindle app books, play games and of course, write about our travel experience as it transpires, posting it on the blog in real time.  If the plane doesn't have plug-ins, we'll recharge our equipment at kiosks at the two other airports along the way, Istanbul, Turkey and Nairobi, Kenya, at each of which we'll have layovers and plane changes.

Plan in place.  Stress reduced. 

The next flight stress inducer is overweight luggage, especially since we don't want to pay the extra $700 in fees when we flew from Dubai, UAE to Barcelona, Spain.  The process of reducing our load has already begun as we've dispose of more and more items each week including making a pile of items we may ship to Kenya, after all. 

In checking with the owner of the house in Diani Beach, he's agreed to accept a box of items for us.  It will be insured.  If its stolen, we'll be covered.  We shall see how this rolls out.
More evidence of a need for rain.  This grass was lush green only a few weeks ago.
Tom has expressed his desire to drop off whatever rental car we have at the Venice airport the day before our departure.  With the two hours it took to  originally pickup the car, he feels more at ease doing it this way. 

At first, I disagreed with him.  Why bear the expense of transportation back to the hotel the prior day?  With the hotel offering a complimentary shuttle to the airport, we'd have to pay the one way.  As these other concerns have materialized, I agree with him.  

In any case, we would have done it "his way" whether I agreed or not.  To avoid arguing over any such item, we always acquiesce when one of us is adamant about a particular issue.  Thus, we don't argue, making the assumption that either of us is smart enough to make reasonable decisions.

The ongoing process of planning to reduce stress and surprises well in advance takes time and careful thought.  With that in mind, surprise often occur, forcing us too ditch our best laid plans to begin again.  I guess that is the way life is in general for all of us:  "Expect the unexpected."

Road trip tomorrow!  To heck with waiting for the rental car agency to let us know where and when to swap out the rental car.  Not a word from them.  Off we go, back later in the day with photos are story of our expedition.