Monday, June 20, 2016

Lucca, Tuscany

The next morning, it took me a while for my eyes to adjust. Even though I had slept for a good 10 hours or so I felt way off and very sleepy! Soon we all woke up, fixed some breakfast with some dry goods I had packed and brewed coffee. We threw open the shutters and I noticed Mike was outside already. "Look at this view", he said, encouraging me to come outside. Through still-blurry eyes I gasped! What a view it was up in the hills of Lucca! I had a slightly different outlook this morning, vs. the night before, as I had rest and coffee since then. It seemed unreal how the hills just folded out in front of me, with peaceful olive groves leading the way down the hill. It was quiet and serene and I was now happy with my choice of location!

Our charming cottage in the hills of Lucca

Mike then informed me my sister and her family were on their way to Lucca! We had talked about meeting up and they opted to drive to us, as they were staying about two hours south of us. We started the shower process and unpacked. I packed some of the food up, my camera, and down the windy road to the inside of the wall of Lucca we went!

We arrived in Lucca within a few minutes of each other. She texted to tell us that they had found parking and were walking to a restaurant by a "big white church". I got the address from her, plugged it into the GPS, and away we went, how easy we remarked! Wellll, turns out one should park and then walk within the walls of Lucca. The little streets, aka alley-ways, are not really made for a large 8 passenger van like we were driving. We didn't know it at the time and during one very tight turn our van got stuck. Yep, Griswold-style. I actually got out and directed Mike out of the spot. Sure, we looked ridiculous and like total clueless American tourists! We also acquired a large dent on the side of the van so I was now very glad that Mike had opted to take out full-coverage at the rental counter! We continued on, still unaware that these little streets were for authorized vehicles only. We arrived at the cafe shortly thereafter and were thrilled to see my sister, her husband, and two little boys! Mike beeped and we all hung out of the van waving, excitedly! My brother-in-law, Scott, opted to drive with Mike to park the van and my mom, kids, and I got out and secured a few tables at the sidewalk cafe. After the guys came back and told us that they passed signs that said official vehicles only and then did we realize our mistake! It was a funny memory!

The kids had a great time hanging out, running in front of the church, and walking about. That is one thing I love about Europe so much - the sidewalk cafes are very conducive to families. Kids don't need to sit still until their food is ready. And after the food is ready and kids want to get up again, the adults can linger over coffee and dessert.

Our lunch spot within the walls of Lucca

Afterwards, we walked around Lucca a bit and came across a carousel. My little nephews were excited about it so my kids went on with them as well. While I was happily taking photos Mike whispered to me that he thought we were "pegged". I noticed the two men he was talking about walking many times around the piazza looking a bit suspicious. I made sure my cross-body purse was in the front and let all the adults in the party know. Now that we were on to them they seemed to move away, looking for a different victim. I had read a lot about the pick-pocketing in Italy but really only expected to come across it in the larger, more touristy areas. Funny enough during our entire time in Italy I never had a problem, even in Rome and Florence. Lucca was the only place we noticed a couple of suspicious folks. Thankfully, we were spared!

Carousel in Lucca

After the carousel we walked up to the Renaissance-era wall that surrounds Lucca. This wall is unique in that it is still very well maintained and has a tree-lined pedestrian promenade on the top due to it's width. Many people bike up there but jet lag was starting to set in for us. After a stroll my sister and her family had to head back to their place.

From there we went to a local grocery store, Esselunga. We always stop at grocery stores in foreign countries as we need to purchase some items due to the kids food allergies. I take along a lot of dry goods but we always need to fill in with meat, produce, and miscellaneous. It's so funny how long it takes to shop in a foreign grocery store! It takes a long time to sort through products, especially when there is a language barrier. I grabbed a lot of produce, happy for all the healthy options. We also got some pasta and marinara to make for dinner. My mom was looking for half-and-half so she stopped a few people but they just couldn't figure out what she wanted. Finally a mom with a small child said she thought she knew and she pointed her to it. She was grateful! Gotta have creamer with our coffee! I did have a question regarding the bread as it needed to be egg, dairy, and nut-free. Often times bread will have the "may-contain" label in regards to nuts and we just can't take chances. Before we left home I had printed out these awesome cards from FARE (Food Allergy Research and Education) that were in Italian, explaining the allergy situation and listing their own specific allergies. They ended up being a lifesaver! I also stopped an employee and showed her the card and she read the bread just to make sure and said it was good! Once we were checking out I realized I supposed to pre-weigh and then label all the produce. They didn't have a built-in scale at the check-out! The clerk grabbed by many bags and was going to call someone to do it but I didn't want to hold up the long line that had formed behind me. I handed them off to my husband to do. When I tried checking out my credit card wasn't going through as apparently my signature was not legible enough overseas. The cashier was trying to explain it but I didn't understand...finally the nice lady behind me said "do again legible". I carefully signed and it went through...phew! We finally had our food stash for the week and then headed back to the house!

We cooked our pasta dinner and dined al fresco on the patio of our little stone house. We had a nice evening with a view of the twinkling lights of Lucca below. Our first full day in Italy was done!

Lovely Lucca

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