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 NapoleoneDecorated 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 be 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 in the future for many to enjoy. Mission accomplished.

We weren’t able to get close enough to see the inscription on this statue with a sudden rush 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 cutouts 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 altar. We were content to look from afar.
An awaiting horse and buggy for romantic or weary tourists.
After exiting the walled 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 items 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 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 piqued 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 the 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 were 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 photos taking were 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 too 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 with a 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 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 a while. 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 a 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 are 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.  hen 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 the running distance of an opened restaurant coupled with the 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 -ree 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 a 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 long 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…

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 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 of the overhanging vines creates a pleasant patio area in our yard.

If their online system is 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, very early arrival at the gate in Venice is our best option. 

However, when we were departing on 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 a technology kiosk where we’ll be able to recharge our laptops and smartphones prior to departure.  At this point, we’re unable to determine if any of the three planes we’ll be flying have “plugins” 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 disposed 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 it’s 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 pick up 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 previous 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 occurs, forcing us to 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 and the story of our expedition.

Oh, it’s the simple things…

A European Hornet’s nest was being built by a slew of giant hornets in a crack in the small opening at the top of this photo. These old stone houses are a breeding ground for nests for all types of critters.

While hanging the laundry this week, I heard the loudest buzzing of a hornet that I’ve ever heard,  which apparently was a European Hornet. Following the sound, I looked up to find a nest of giant wasps being built into the high stone wall on the patio. Knowing they were busy building the nest with little time to bother me, I finished hanging the wet laundry, hoping that they were just “looking” to build a nest.  Not the case.

Yesterday, again hanging laundry, their numbers had increased and we knew we had to contact Luca, the owner, and ask for his assistance. If we both weren’t allergic to bees, hornets, and wasps, we’d have taken care of it ourselves. It wasn’t worth the risk.

Contacting Luca by email, within hours we had a response translated to English. “No worry. We come to fix it tomorrow.”

At 10:00 am this morning, Lisa and Luca appeared at the door, with bags of “goodies” to help us, including laundry soap (we’ve supplied our own), cleaning supplies for Santina, items necessary to rid us of the hornet’s nest and “mosquito netting” for covering the windows in the kitchen, living room and master bedroom.  I jumped for joy! 

This en suite bathroom window will now provide a good breeze coming off the mountains at night when the temperature usually drops into the 60’s.

The thought of being able to chop, dice, and cook in the kitchen without bugs biting me made me squeal with delight. Being able to have a window open at night was beyond belief with it cooling down into the 60’s most nights. Having the window open in the living room while playing gin or watching a movie was more than thrilling. Oh, it’s the little things.

Lisa stapled most of the edges of this “mosquito” netting as screens for the windows.  This kitchen window attracted many flies and bees with frequent cooking going on each day.  We’ll keep an eye on it to ensure no gaps leave an opening for insects to enter.  We removed the Ziplock bag to keep flies at bay, moving it to another screen-less window we often keep open.

Lisa and Luca…amazing! As soon as they saw the email stating we needed their assistance with the hornet’s nest due to our allergies, they went to work on a solution making it possible for us to have windows open in this warm weather.

The netting wasn’t quite large enough to use a single piece.  Lisa and I agreed that two well-placed pieces would work on the living room window, close to where we frequently sit on the sofa to play Gin and watch movies.

Now as I write this, the nest is either dead or dying, the windows are covered and we couldn’t be happier.  On top of it all, while they were here working, Santina had placed a large bag of green beans and zucchini on the doorknob when we didn’t hear the doorbell.   Lisa had seen her drop them off, telling me when I questioned who had brought them.

I wish I’d heard her knock on the door when she dropped them off so I could’ve said, “grazie mille” (thank you very much) as I’d said over and again to Lisa and Luca, almost making a fool of myself with gratitude. 

Also, I wanted to thank Santina for the three pieces of “torte” which Tom tried this morning, finding them unusual but delicious. Due to the crusts made with flour, he only ate the insides, to find they were all “‘sweet” pies that one may eat for dessert, although they were made with vegetables. 

It killed me not to taste these. In my old life, those three different pies would have been right up my alley.  I won’t tell her that I couldn’t eat them and possibly hurt her feelings. (She doesn’t go online). But I will rave about the flavor of the pies enjoyed by Tom and the generous bag of the green beans and zucchini some of which we’ll have tonight with dinner.

The flowers are still on the ends of the zucchini, which we’d never see at a grocery store or farmers market.

How I long to bake many of my favorite recipes to share with these wonderful people!  Unfortunately, I can’t find the ingredients to make most American favorites. Maybe I’ll figure out an alternative soon, using the local ingredients. 

It’s the simple things in life that mean so much, isn’t it?

My razor broke a few weeks ago. There are no less than 20 blades in our luggage that fit my old razor, now useless.  I can’t find a similar razor.  I shave every day. Foolishly, in the US before we left, I purchased a nifty women’s razor from Walgreens, their own brand.  They no longer carry it. 

While in Pescia at the larger grocery store, Esselunga, they were only a few options, mostly disposable razors.  The only non-disposable types were two that had a battery to enable it to “act” as an electric razor. (Had I purchased a larger brand name, I still wouldn’t have been able to find a replacement razor).

I’d be OK with the battery-operated type but they are heavy, not suitable for our luggage plus. Anything with batteries is an issue other than the most pressing items, such as a camera. Every ounce counts!

With no other options, I had no alternative but to purchase the disposable razors. Do I throw away the expensive blades? I guess so. 

During the week-long period when I had no razor, I used Tom’s razor, swapping out a separate blade each day, then putting his blade back. Cumbersome. Glad that’s over.

It’s the simple things. 

Its been over two weeks since I gave up Crystal Light Ice Tea, suffering no withdrawal. I’ve thought about it a few times each day as I sipped on the bubbly bottled water, tiring of it in a few days.  Plain water bores me.

Letting Tom use the remaining Crystal Light until gone allowing me to go “cold turkey,” he guiltily suggested that I make “real” ice tea. You know, tea bags and water.

Unable to remember the last time I made “real” iced tea, we looked online as to how many tea bags to use as opposed to how much water after we’d purchased a box of 50 Lipton teabags for US $2.25 (not a bad price).  It wasn’t easy to find the plain ice tea recipe. 

Who makes ice tea these days with many options available in the grocery stores?  I don’t drink regular soda with its tons of sugar not suitable for my way of eating.  If I did, there are no sugar-free options here, other than Diet 7-Up  and Coke Zero, neither of which I care to drink.

After a frustrating search online including at the Lipton site, I decided to try the suggested one teabag in one liter of water.  Horrible.  Too weak.  Later I added another teabag settling on this recipe:

  • Make 1/2 liter plain water in the coffee pot or teapot for hot water 
  • Drop two teabags in the hot water 
  • Let sit for 1/2 hour at room temperature
  • Remove and toss teabags
  • Add other 1/2 liter cold water
  • Add to taste, Stevia or liquid Splenda
  • Chill until cold, adding ice and lemon to an insulated mug

It’s palatable, although not as good as the Crystal Light.  There’s a little caffeine from the two teabags which is fine.  One could use decaffeinated teabags if caffeine is upsetting.

The 50 teabag box is enough to last for the remaining time we’ll be in Boveglio.  This one-liter container has been lasting for almost two days.

Wherever we may travel we’ll be able to find teabags, water, and ice.  As for the lemon; a cut lemon without preservatives only keeps a day or two in the refrigerator. I said goodbye to the lemon. It’s not worth tossing halves of lemons every few days although I appreciate the fact that the food here has no preservatives. The freezer is our friend, although it already needs to be defrosted again before our next grocery shopping.

Yes, it’s the simple things, the comforts in which we surround ourselves whether living on the road such as we do, packing for a weekend camping trip, or planning for a stay in a hotel.  We tend to gather the familiar items that help us feel “at home” and “at ease” adding to the pleasure of the time away.

Letting go of many of the comfort-related items from our past, embracing new items we’ve incorporated into our lives as replacements while adopting new comforts we’d never noticed or appreciated, is all part of the process of simplifying our lives. 

Ironically, all of this may change when we arrive at a new location.  Ironically, this is also OK with us.

Prescriptions are on the way…Best pricing ever!…Gift from Santina, with photo…

Santina cleaned our house this morning, bringing this fabulous plate of “torte” she’d made. How thoughtful she is! With the pie crusts made with flour,  I won’t be able to take a taste, but Tom will definitely try all three of these.  There’s no doubt they are delicious.  I will savor them via my eyes, otherwise known as being a “food voyeur.”

It’s hard to believe that almost a year ago that we purchased a year’s supply of prescriptions, the few we take, to get us through the first year of our travels. By the end of this month, we’ll have been gone for nine months.

Realizing months ago that getting mail in Kenya was going to be sketchy at best, we knew we’d have no choice but to order our prescriptions while still in Italy. 

Keeping in mind that the only way we’ve received mail thus far has been through our mailing service in Nevada (with similar such mailing services all over the US).

Luckily, we were able to make arrangements with the owners of our house here in Boveglio, Italy as to how we’d receive the multiple packages being sent to us from the mail-order pharmacy.  By using our address in Boveglio and the owner’s name on the packages, we were assured the package will arrive at our door.

While posting when still living in the US, we made many references as to how we’d receive a year’s worth of prescriptions.  Our doctor wrote the prescriptions for one year, leaving it up to us to pay for the upcoming full year out of our pockets without using insurance.  The insurance company wouldn’t approve more than three months at a time.

Ironically, the cost of the full year’s of medications was actually less than a full year of co-pays we’d paid for the same prescriptions, each of the prior two years. Hum…

As we priced, our prescriptions using this “new to us” online pharmacy, we were shocked that their prices were $200 a year less than the amazing deal we received from our local pharmacy in the US almost a year ago.  Our local pharmacy had agreed to beat any of the local prices we found at the time, including Walmart. Now, at less yet, we’re thrilled.

For those of you wanting to use this online pharmacy, you need only produce copies of your prescriptions that you may either snail mail or email to the company.  You can do it for one month to three months.  They allowed the 12 months of prescriptions for us, due to our travel schedule which we provided.  They ship free anywhere in the world with a $20 extra fee for the expedited per package. Their customer service is excellent with them quick to respond to email inquiries. I never had to speak to them on Skype.

If one is paying too much for prescriptions, it is certainly worth a few minutes to check their online pricing. Also, this company made the process so easy.  If one doesn’t have the actual prescriptions, they will accept photos of the prescription bottles. This company is approved by the Better Business Bureau and others.

The only hitch for us, we need to be here when they arrive since they’ll be left outside the door.  The anticipated arrival time for us in our remote location could be up to 21 days, which we’re counting off on the calendar.  If ordered in the US, the package(s) will arrive in a few days. Outside the US, it may be a few weeks, requiring one to order well in advance of running out. 

Their website allows for automatic refills which we didn’t do since we’ll need to figure out a new mailing address next summer while in Madeira, Portugal, or Marrakesh, Morocco. 

So often, I’ve talked to seniors frustrated over the cost of their medications. We don’t have to sit back, a captive audience for the prescription plans we are familiar with. It’s imperative in these tough economic times that we reach out for other options to save as much as possible along with convenience.

If you have any further questions, please feel free to post comments or email me directly at I’m happy to help. Their website is user friendly, so easy to use, even if you aren’t an avid online shopper.

Another consideration at this time is the fact that we’ve yet to hear about what happens with the rental car that we’ve been informed has been sold. We’ve been told to “stand by” for instructions as to when and where the car will be swapped out. 

This definitely limits our previously arranged and later canceled plans to travel for a few days. If they say they are coming to Boveglio on a certain day and we’re staying in a hotel in another remote location, this creates undue stress for us.  The language barrier further adds to the complexity of this situation.

Plus, the six prescriptions we’ve ordered (including more Malaria pills and antibiotics after I’d used a Z-Pak in Dubai needing to replace it) will arrive in six separate packages, possibly on separate days beginning in two weeks. At the moment we feel we must stay put.

Actually, we don’t mind staying put for now. We have much travel ahead of us. The pleasant and fulfilling routine, we’ve established in Boveglio, is all we could ask for at the moment.

We spend most of each day outdoors on the shaded veranda with expansive views in front of us.  Our evenings are full and rewarding. Sleep is comfortable in our bug-free bedroom with the fan quietly cooling us as we languish in the comfortable bed and covers. Our meals are fabulous, mostly easy to prepare. Plus, Tom does the dishes.

Tonight at 9:00 pm, we’ll walk to the “square’ for the weekly gathering at Bar Ferrari making our way back home a few hours later, uphill all the way. The locals, used to the climb, don’t seem to huff and puff as they maneuver the hills. I hope before we leave here in less than six weeks, that we’ve built enough stamina to do the same.

A procession, live music… A ripe zucchini… An odd solution to drive away the flies…

Sandwich sized Ziplock bag clipped to the railing of the veranda with clothespins with the intent of keeping houseflies from bothering us, biting us and from coming inside the house.

Last night, as darkness befell Boveglio, a procession of parishioners commenced originating in the old church with the loud bell tower that we’d videotaped a few weeks ago. (Please see archives for June 30, 2013).

Here are our videos of the procession. Bear with us, it was dark:
Video #1 – As the procession left the church and entered the road
Video #2 – As the procession was maneuvered up the road
Video #3 – The procession as it made its way passed our house
Locals walking on the steep roads during the procession last night.  The woman on the far left in navy blue is our own, Santina, our precious cleaning lady.

Much to our surprise the marching band and followers walked the long, steep roads traversing past the door to our house as they continued on to the square near the Bar Ferrari.  

As we stood outside on the road, outside of our house, as the procession stopped for a few minutes for prayer. There’s Santina again in navy blue. Notice the heels on her shoes!

Making the video in the dark was difficult when we wanted to avoid blinding them using flash and thus our video is hard to see. Their safety on the dark winding roads superseded our desire to make an easy to see the videos.

The shrine, across the street from our house, was well lit with candles and the focus of the prayer led by the priest as we stood outside of our house.

Many of the parishioners carried candles, illuminating the way for the marching band.  Need I say, it was a delight to behold.  Our vantage point made the festivities all the more exciting, being able to watch the beginnings from our veranda and later from the road outside our front door.

The locals were dressed in their finery with many of the older women walking the long steep trek in 2″ high heels.  Oh, I’d better stop whining about climbing these steep hills, casually dressed while wearing tennis shoes!  They were a sight to see, quite an inspiration.

Zucchini from our garden???

Our solitary zucchini which grew in the garden on the patio.

Years ago, I had a garden in the overly wet soil in the only sunny spot near the lake at our home in Minnesota.  Amazingly, much of the produce we’d planted actually ended up in the kitchen while I feverishly made salsa, a plethora of zucchini recipes, and myriad dishes made with a variety of peppers. 

The tomatoes didn’t do as well in the soil or in the pots we’d placed around the yard. As a result, I made a determination that my thumb wasn’t green enough to be a garden enthusiast and I stuck to small herb gardens. 

Eventually, I converted to an Aerogarden, a lighted indoor garden given to me by my dear friend and business partner Theresa which ultimately kept us in herbs year-round.

Arriving in Boveglio on June 16th, two large planters were prepared for us to tend, literally jammed with herbs, tomato, and pepper plants in their infancy. Unfortunately, flowers had been planted as well, attracting many bees of which we’re allergic. 

As a result, we used the herbs regularly but didn’t spend much time tending to the care of the planters, other than an occasional watering with the hose provided. 

For some reason, yesterday, I decided to get rid of some of the weeds and dead leaves spending a little time to hopefully giving the garden a chance to grow. Wouldn’t you know? I stumbled across this 8″ zucchini with what appears to be more on the horizon.

With renewed interest in the garden, Tom immediately began watering again taking special care.  This one zucchini gave us hope.  Ironically, we had purchased a basket of 8 zucchini when grocery shopping on Monday some of which I’d used the prior two nights to make a stir fry of zucchini, eggplant, and tomatoes seasoned with fresh garlic, basil, and rosemary from the garden.

This patio is where we suntan a few times a week.  These impatiens seem to attract the bees as do most flowering plants requiring us to pay special attention during our hour in the sun, quite close to the planters.
The second of the two planters.  As you can see, the giant leaves on the are those belonging to the zucchini.  It appears we’ll see more zucchini over the remaining summer along with the abundant herbs we’ve been using.

Why in the world do we have hanging Ziplock bags half-filled with water and a few coins in select areas of the house?

Tom and his retired railroad guys, friends, and family member send hundreds of emails between one another each week in addition to frequently posting on Facebook. Many are silly jokes and a wide array of goofy entertainment.

On occasion, a post or email may contain “how to’s” that work (or not) to ease one’s life in one manner or another. Over a year ago, Tom’s sister Rita and most recently a railroad friend, posted this information on how to get rid of annoying flies.

Recently, I’ve resorted to wearing my Exofficio Bugs Away pants at dinner each night to keep the flies from biting my legs which are intended for use on our upcoming almost year-long travels to Africa. 

It’s comforting to know that these pants and other such clothing we’d purchased online while still in the US, embedded with Permethrin, actually do keep the bugs from biting.  The product remains in the clothing after 70 washings. We have 69 washings left, having worn them on several of our excursions in the desert while aboard ship. 

The main purpose of this type of clothing is in the prevention of mosquitoes carrying Malaria from biting, as well as other insect-borne diseases (Of course, we’ll be taking anti-Malaria pills and, had numerous immunizations while in the US, many lasting up to 10 years).  However, some insect bearing diseases have no prophylactic medication or appropriate vaccination).

In any case, when this “home remedy” with Ziplock bags came down the pike several days ago, we began our own research.  The efficacy of this remedy is disputed and confirmed by many reliable and less reliable resources.  Studies had been done, not under ideal conditions which are often the case in certain studies.  The most substantial validation of this simple process was the general public in 1000’s of comments and reviews all over the web.

Here’s a Ziplock bag half-filled with water and a few Euros to ward off house flies. See the story for the results of using these well-placed bags over the past 48 hours.

At times, when a household remedy is used, naysayers say the results are “psychological” or “the placebo effect.”  Keeping flies at bay is hardly either of these. Are they less intrusive after two full days of use?

Ziplock bags are not sold in Italy.  Luckily, we have many with us that we’d used in our luggage to contain small items and bottles that could potentially spill. Dumping the contents of several of the sandwich-sized bags (the only size we have with us), we tested them for holding water.

Here are the instructions for this housefly deterring remedy. There are dozens of websites debunking this supposed Internet legend. What did we have to lose to put a few Euros (no pennies with us) in plastic bags in a few choice spots around the house:  the kitchen, the patio where we keep the door open for air during the day, and the veranda where we sit outdoors most days?  We could reuse the bags after drying them and put the Euros back in Tom’s pocket if it didn’t work.

The definitive answer is “YES!”  It works! Without wearing the Bugs Away pants since we clipped up the three bags, I don’t have one new bite, not during the day, not during dinner. 
We’ve actually watched the flies attempt to fly in, immediately heading back outdoors. Now, we can sit on the veranda with only an occasional crawling insect.  With the kitchen windows opened from the time we awaken until bedtime, we’ve only killed or chased off a total of three houseflies, as opposed to the dozens we were dealing with only days ago.
Why does it work? From what we read, flies have a powerful vision, including peripheral vision.  When they see the bag with the water’s reflective light, they perceive it as some life-threatening creature, heading the other way.
It works for us. With the hottest period of Italy’s summer fast approaching, we no longer have to keep the windows shut in these three areas, where we spend most of our time.  The bedroom door and windows continue to stay closed around the clock, considering the fan we use at night. 
Thanks, local residents for the procession of last night.  Hello, zucchini. We’ll dine on you tonight. And most of all, goodbye houseflies!
At the end of today’s post, there is an explanation as to why we have a Ziplock bag of water hanging near to the door to the patio where the planters are growing herbs and vegetables for our use over the summer.

Thinking, worrying, dreaming about traveling to Africa in less than 6 weeks…

Borrowed Diani Beach photo.  Soon we’ll be able to post our own photos.

In a short time, we’ll be living in Diani Beach, Kenya for three months. It’s hard to believe. All of my life, I’ve dreamed of going to Africa. Tom, not so much. He’s coming around.

As we’ve traveled, anticipating the next location brings many questions to mind, some nagging at us from time to time. I’ve hesitated to do the research again until now, as I did a year and a half ago while planning our travels before leaving the US. At that point, we didn’t necessarily know all of the points of consideration, as we do now.

This could be any of the many photos we took on the beach in Belize.  As we’ve traveled, we’ve found that each beach has its own breathtaking beauty, memorable in its own way.

As soon as my laptop fired up this morning, my fingers flew across the keyboard looking for answers to questions that popped into my head during the night last night when I awoke t 3:00 am, finally able to fall back asleep an hour later with a list embedded into my brain in which to address this morning.

All of the answers to our questions were answered via many websites I found this morning, many more than available when researching 18 months ago.

1.  How is taxi service in the area? The cost? We’ve heard that tourists should avoid driving around Kenya, using taxis and drivers for safety reasons.
2.  Is there a reasonably good sized grocery store nearby?
3.  What is the currency exchange? Is there a nearby bank in order to exchange currency?
4.  Are there restaurants nearby? With it so far to restaurant while in Boveglio, it would be ideal to dine out a few times a week. 
5.  Is there a nearby barbershop for Tom? Although I didn’t find a specific barber, there were references to a few local barbers near the three shopping malls.
6.  Review the facts about our rental property laundry, kitchen facilities, amenities. Now that we have a better handle on what we do and don’t need, its interesting to be reminded of what will be available.

Reviewing these and other links put our minds at ease for the time being. Trying hard not to project or anticipate in excess, in order to live in “the moment.” 

Although I do have a little angst about the 24 hour time period that it will take to travel to Mombasa, Kenya, arriving at 3:00 am, taking a cab for the one hour drive to the house. 

Staying up all night isn’t as easy as it was when we were younger nor is sleeping on a plane. Perhaps, if I “reframe” the scenario in my mind that it is “only one full day” out of a life full of many other pleasurable days with many more to come.

The best bread-free sandwich in the world…It’s low carb, grain-free, starch-free and sugar-free..Easy to make…Photos instructions…

It’s important to wash the dirt off of lettuce. If it’s not organic, carefully repeat rinsing in cold water, which may remove some of the pesticides.  If it is organic, carefully rinsing the lettuce removes dirt and little green worms which we’ve found on organic produce here in Italy. Usually, we dry it with a clean white kitchen towel or paper towels, wrapping the leftover lettuce in the white towel, and placing it in the fridge will keep it fresh for days. For the recipe, wash and dry 8 large romaine lettuce leaves, usually the leaves closest to the outside.

Two years ago when we began this restrictive way of eating, I was desperate for ideas. I’d heard that Jimmy Johns made a bread-less low carb sandwich called the Unwich. Cute name, eh?

Slice fresh tomatoes, purple (or yellow) onions as you prep for making the sandwich.
Off I went to the store closest to our then home in Minnesota to give it a trial run, purchasing “The Club Unwich” for two. Taking it home for dinner that night was unusual. We never and I mean never, ordered fast food for dinner. The only carry-out we had once a month or so was Chinese food, now forbidden on our way of eating, due to soy, MSG, sugar, noodles, etc.
This sliced Emmental cheese or sliced Provolone cheese seems to add more flavor to the sandwich. Try to avoid using overly processed American or cheddar cheese. There is no cheddar cheese in Italy due to the dyes used to color it. That’s impressive!

Making a large salad on the side, Tom and I sat at the bar in our kitchen and munched away. Halfway through, I jumped up and decided to “open” my sandwich to see how it was put together. Doing so would enable us to make these at home. 

Place the meats on a plate in preparation for assembling the sandwich. This mayonnaise is the best mayo we’ve ever used, no chemicals, few ingredients.
On the days we make the sandwich we usually have bacon and eggs for breakfast making extra bacon for the sandwiches, refrigerating it until we assemble the sandwich.

Of course, we could have continued to purchase them at Jimmy Johns. At less than US $6 each, they were a good buy, easy and fast.  But, for several reasons we decided to make our own:
1.  Our local Costco sold quality sliced nitrate-free meat and bacon.
2.  We could make the sandwich any size to fit our appetites.
3.  We’d be certain that no bread products had touched the food.  With a gluten-free sensitivity such as mine, even a bread crumb could become an issue.
4.  Use of higher quality, more flavorful real cheese, as opposed to highly processed cheese.
5.  Use of organic lettuce, tomatoes, and onions.  Why eat pesticides when one has a choice.
6.  Use of high-quality mayonnaise as opposed to the highly processed product.

Parchment paper is readily available at any grocery store. We used it almost every day to cover the bottom of any pan going into the oven (don’t use it on top of the stove) to reduce the cleanup and ease in getting the food, such as pizza out of the pan. It’s great for baking but one must not use it in excess of 375 degrees or it may burn. Do not use it when broiling. If you eat potatoes or sweet potatoes, parchment is ideal for making oven fries. Toss pre-cut potatoes with olive oil and salt and place in a preheated oven to (190C), 375F, baking for 30 minutes or until brown, tossing every so often. Best fries ever. For this sandwich recipe, we cut two pieces of about (75 cm) 30 inches each to use to wrap the ingredients as one would wrap a tortilla.

For us, these were great reasons to make it at home. For others, it may be easier and befitting a busy lifestyle to head to Jimmy Johns and purchased them made to order.

To begin making the sandwich, lay two large romaine lettuce leaves, overlapping, end to end, centered on the parchment paper, the long way. Be certain the lettuce is dry to avoid a soggy mess later.

After mentioning these sandwiches a few times in our posts, a number of our readers have written to us requesting instructions on how to make our “to die for” bread-less low carb sandwich. With that delectable morsel on the menu tonight for dinner, today is the perfect day to take photos to show you the easy step by step instructions.

Place the turkey or chicken slices atop the lettuce, cover with tomatoes. It’s OK to add more if you’d like.  We prefer this smaller amount.

(An item you’ll need to purchase at the grocery store along with these food items, is parchment paper or freezer paper which is used to wrap the sandwich. For kids or messy adults, use two rubber bands to hold the paper on the wrapped sandwich). 

Place the cheese atop the tomatoes, adding the mayonnaise using the spatula or wide knife.

Once familiar with the process, one can put two of these sandwiches together in a matter of minutes with the ingredients at your disposal. Below are all of the ingredients you’ll need to make two large bread less Club sandwiches.

Ham slices in Italy are different than deli ham slices in other countries, fattier, no nitrates, and less flavorful than the ham slices in the US.  In our sandwiches, we don’t use Italian salami. It was too fatty for our taste buds, greasy on the tongue.  One can add or delete any items in this sandwich.  But, the most important for maximum flavor is bacon, cheese, and mayonnaise.  Sliced roast beef also works well when available.  We would have purchased it yesterday, but it was US $42 a pound so we were content with the ham and sliced chicken.

1 large ripe tomato, sliced medium thickness
1 large purple onion, sliced thin
8 large washed and dried romaine lettuce leaves
4 slices Provolone cheese (or other preferred sliced cheese)
6 ounces sliced deli ham
6 ounces sliced deli turkey or chicken
6 ounces sliced salami, roast beef, or other preferred slice meat
6 slices cooked bacon
Mayonnaise (Tom doesn’t like mayo but in this sandwich, he does. Give it a try or use other sandwich spread that you or leave it out).
Parchment paper, cut into two 30′ long pieces

Layer the cooked bacon and the onions slices.

Adding these items to our grocery list is easy here in Italy. All of their meats are nitrate and chemical-free.  Thus, they spoil quickly.  As a result, when we purchase the above to make the sandwiches, we usually eat them for two nights in a row, freshly made each night, in order to use up all the meats we’ve purchased. 

After layering all the ingredients, lay two more dry pieces of the romaine lettuce atop, matching up the length of the sandwich to avoid a lot of overlap on the ends.

Yesterday, we shopped and tonight will be our second night of the sandwiches, which we anticipate with the same enthusiasm as last night. The sandwiches can be made earlier in the day and stay fresh in the refrigerator until dinner. 

Fold the paper over the sandwich on the edge closest to you, beginning to roll it tightly.

When Tom was still working I made these sandwiches for him almost every day for the next day’s lunch, staying fresh overnight. I prefer making them the day they are eaten. But when packing lunch for work, making them the prior day is unavoidable. 

Tuck one end over as if you were gift-wrapping a package.

The sandwich will keep in a lunch box the same amount of time any sliced meat sandwich will keep. Tom always used an insulated lunch box with a frozen freezer pack of some type. Keep refrigerated until ready to eat.

Continue to roll it tightly, tucking in both ends, leaving one end loose for unwrapping it as it is eaten.  Using a few well placed wide rubber bands helps for those who may have difficulty pulling the paper down neatly.  Tom is messier than I am and needs the rubber band which I lost yesterday.  It was the only one we had.  He’ll manage.
The final product, tightly wrapped, ready to chill, and enjoy with a side salad and steamed vegetables.

So there it is folks, our favorite sandwich. Actually, it’s our only sandwich. We have, on occasion, used this same concept using tuna salad, egg salad, and chicken salad, layered with cheese (or not), and preferred raw veggies.

A cold dinner is ideal on a hot day such as today at a humid 91 degrees!

Invasion of biting insects…Ouch!

Yesterday afternoon, while chopping and dicing for dinner, I felt two sharp stings only seconds apart on each of my calves.  Startled by the sharp pain, my eyes darted around the kitchen for the nasty culprit(s), dishtowel in hand, ready to snap the life out of the perpetrator. 

Actually, I’ve become quite good at this task since I’ve spent more time in the kitchen with a towel in hand than looking for a fly swatter which is rarely handy at the opportune moment.

With the temperature in the low 90’s with humidity to match, it was impossible to keep the kitchen window shut, hoping for the little breezes that swoop off of the mountains periodically.

Most often having the kitchen window open attracts bees and typical houseflies.  Conscientious about keeping the kitchen clean and free of food debris, we’ve managed to keep the indoor flying insect population at bay.

Not yesterday.  It must have been the barometric pressure.  The horseflies were on a mission to visit me and dine. For some odd reason they seem to be attracted to me, not Tom, who seldom is bitten by anything, other than the relentless no-see-ums in Belize and the mosquitoes in Minnesota, jokingly referred to as the State Bird, when in fact the loon is the State Bird.

Dining in the kitchen last night was not fun, although we had a delicious meal of homemade mozzarella cheese stuffed Italian meatballs, topped with savory marinara sauce with sautéed mushrooms, locally made Parmesano/Reggiano cheeses, a side of grilled eggplant, seasoned with herbs from our own garden and of course, our favorite giant bowl of coleslaw. The locally grown horseflies were in Heaven with the smells wafting through the air.

Not one to wear perfume and scented products (one learns this living in Minnesota) it must be my personal scent that flying and biting insects find appealing. I found this recent article that unfortunately, didn’t provide me with a clue as to why biting insects bite me.  It’s always the same old, same old, as I sit here on the veranda with flies buzzing my head as I write this, Tom within four feet of me, safe from the wrath.

Still waiting to hear back from Budget Car Rental about swapping out our “sold” rental car, having canceled our road trip plans, we decided we’d shop for groceries today. With careful meal planning every two weeks, we found ourselves running low on a number of staples. 

Our plan was to enjoy our morning coffee with a light breakfast with a plan to head down the mountains to our favorite market in Pescia, Esselunga, almost 30 minutes away. 

Routinely checking our email during coffee time, I sat at the kitchen table, showered and dressed for the day, thoroughly savoring every swallow of fine Italian coffee, topped off with equally fine real cream.

Aware of the possibility that last night’s horseflies may still be in the vicinity along with a few bees that had joined in the festivities, my trusty white dishtowel was on my lap ready to go into action.  Distracted by a noteworthy article that popped up in my Facebook account, I didn’t notice when a flying thing landed on my towel close to my right hand. (I later noticed a smidgen of red sauce on the towel from last night that most likely attracted the creature.

Ouch!  Something bit me so hard on the pad of my palm that I literally jumped out of the kitchen chair, swatting wildly with the towel. Immediately, my hand began to swell. Our concern; not the pain, the swelling, or the redness, but was it a wasp or hornet sting that, with the intensity of the pain, set us on a path of response?

Both Tom and I are dangerously allergic to bees (used as a catchall phrase for certain flying stinging things). Last time either of us had been stung, we ended us in an emergency room, receiving Epinephrine and Cortisone injections, antihistamines, and ice packs for days.

Based on the intensity of the sting, I had no alternative but to assume it was a bee sting and react accordingly.  Of course, as we’ve mentioned before, we have several EpiPen in our medical kit in the event of such an occurrence.

Overreacting is pointless but a solid plan in place that we had previously rehearsed immediately went into action. Here were the steps we took:

1.  Immediately, I put a Benedryl tablet under my tongue for rapid absorption.
2.  Grabbed the EpiPen, reread the instructions, and placed it in my jeans pocket in the provided case. Is breathing compromised?  If so, use the EpiPen before completing the following.
3.  Used a credit card to wipe off any excess venom and stinger.
4.  Washed my hand in warm soapy water,
5.  Checked the bathroom mirror for any redness around my throat, chest, and groin area, all of which, for both Tom and I, were the bodily areas to react within minutes, besides the site of the sting.
5.  Made an icepack, promptly placing it on the affected area of my hand.
6.  Put on shoes, grab wallet and ID, more Benedryl, EpiPen, ice pack, and towel and head out the door.

Please keep in mind, the above is what we will do. Please consult your physician for instructions appropriate for you and your family members. 

Our plan was simple.  We’d drive toward Pescia where the grocery store is located along with the closest hospital to Boveglio. Normally, if there is a reaction to a bee sting it is within minutes, not hours.  It would take us a half hour to arrive at the hospital. 

With the actual use of the EpiPen, it is highly recommended that the patient immediately receive medical care.  This is a life-threatening occurrence for many people such as us, with proper medical care subsequent to the injection vital to ensure against further possible consequences. 

If there was no swelling of my throat, no systemic rash, and no massive swelling at the site of the sting, most likely it wasn’t a bee sting but a horsefly.  As we traveled down the mountain with no further reaction, Tom driving quickly but safely on the multitude of hairpin turns, I became convinced that it wasn’t a bee sting.

By the time we drove into the Esselunga grocery store parking lot, one euro was in my hand to pay for our grocery cart, my smartphone was in the other hand with our grocery store app loaded with two week’s of grocery items, and I was feeling fine.  We’d made it in 27 minutes, a good trial run.

Although a little sleepy from the Benedryl, I was ready to shop, leaving Tom in the car to read a book on his smartphone while he’d wait for an hour and fifteen minutes to come to find me. With not a word in English in the entire store, my former one hour shopping time had turned into almost two when we came to Tuscany.

In the past, getting a horsefly bite would result in a badly swollen and inflamed appendage or body part. Not the case today.  Although the now three bites (the two calf bites and the hand bite) are itching like crazy, I’m happy as a clam to having been spared.

As I write this now, I’ve moved inside to our bedroom, the totally bug-free zone where we never open the windows, use a floor stand fan and keep the bedroom door shut around the clock.  Usually, we feel fairly “safe” on the veranda with no flowers or plants nearby but today, after they were “buzzing” around my head, I’d had enough and came indoors.

Soon, back to the kitchen to make dinner, clean dishtowel in hand, I’m ready to snap those flies into oblivion to be able to enjoy another blissful evening of fine food, playing a little Gin, watching a favorite show, and idle chatter with my hubby.

In any case, it was good practice. I doubt Africa will be a bug-free zone! After digging through my suitcase, I found my Permethrin anti-insect long khaki pants, deciding to wear them during dinner. Let’s see how that works!

What?…Rental car issues!…Classic European cars guessing game…Please help…

#1 Is this an MG?  Year?  Notice at a distance, the red Ferrari or Lamborghini.

This morning as we sat on the veranda Tom pointed out a procession of classic-type European cars coming up the winding road, fast approaching our area.  Were they on their way to a car show?  Running in my bare feet to take photos, I grabbed the camera and dashed down the stone steps, unlocked the front door (which is tricky), and headed outside, barely in time to take these shots as the cars buzzed by.

There is only one road leading in and out of Boveglio, one heading north, the other south, requiring anyone driving the general area, travel this option, directly passing our house.

Standing on rocky steps, I did my best shooting these photos as the cars whizzed by at surprisingly fast speeds for such a narrow village road. 

Tom’s expertise is in American cars, not foreign cars.  He’s identified these the best he can.

Can you identify any of these cars for us? The make.The model? The year? Correct us if we’re wrong! Please comment using the assigned #’s for each car, at the end of this post. We’ll make corrections based on your comments.

#2 Is this a Mercedes?  If so, which model, year?
#3 Is this a Porsche?  Model?  Year?
#4 Is this a Porsche?  Model?  Year?
#5 Is this an MG?  Model? Year?
#6 Is this a Mercedes?  Model?  Year?
#7 Is this a Triumph? Spider?  Year?

Please read below for the ongoing unbelievable rental car situation!

Without an actual phone number with us, with access to Skype, only my sister had offered that we use her cell phone number when a number was required such as for a car rental, airline reservation, etc. If she received a call for us, she’d only need to email us the name and number to return the call and we’d make the call via Skype.

On Thursday, she received such a call from Budget Car Rental at Marco Polo Airport in Venice. They called to inform us that our rental car was sold and to immediately return it to Venice, a five hour drive each way. 

Are you kidding me????

Prepaid until September 2, 2013, do they expect us to drive for 10 hours, stand in line for another two hours to get a different car, pay for gas at US $7.50 a gallon, tolls along the drive, meals, la la la???

Only a week ago, after an excruciating week of trying to reach someone who spoke English, they sent us a new extended contract, charged our credit card US $1356 to extend to our desired date when we’ll return the car to Marco Polo Airport in Venice when its time to fly to Kenya.

Trying to reach an English speaking person at Marco Polo by phone was fruitless. The thought of beginning that painstaking process again made my stomach hurt. Thus, I began an email campaign, sending no less than two messages a day requesting management respond to address this issue.

Finally today, Sunday, a manager returned the message saying they will either bring us another car to Boveglio in the next few days or they will require, we bring the car to a closer location such as Florence, which is still a two hour drive each way.  The manager said he will work on it and get back to us.

With a hotel reservation booked for our upcoming road trip on Tuesday, we had no alternative but to change our plans, leaving us and the car-free to respond to their decision. 

Immediately upon receiving this message this morning, with a 48-hour cancellation policy on our hotel reservation, I knew I’d better get to work to cancel the reservation. That in itself was not as painless as one may think.

Our reservation check-in time is 1:00 PM Tuesday, giving us more than 24 hours to cancel.  Ha!  Inexperienced traveler such as I in staying in hotels booked online (with little travel over the prior 15 years while living in the US) didn’t think that the 48-hour cutoff began at midnight last night, as opposed to check-in time on Tuesday.  Our 48-hour window no longer applied.

Having booked the reservation with I immediately logged into their website in a pointless attempt to cancel, leaving me no alternative but to call using Skype. After a half-hour on the call, our reservation was canceled at no charge, freeing us up to deal with the car. 

Now, we’ll wait to hear back from Budget as to how we’ll get the replacement car.  I can’t imagine how this is not going to cost us something, gas, expenses, or arbitrary charges. We had read reviews of potential issues when renting a car in Italy. 

Reminding myself to take a deep breath, I know this is a part of the experience, perhaps a price one pays, literally and figuratively, for having the opportunity to travel the world, as unencumbered as possible. So it goes. 

I settle myself down having vented here, realizing in the realm of things, its really a small inconvenience. We have our health, we have each other, the weather is beautiful, we have “our people” who love and miss us as we do them, and the future is open and bright for us two homeless wanderers.

With our road trip now on hold, pending the car situation, we settle back into our routine, playing a little Gin, lounging on our chaise lounges in the sun for an hour every other day, walking the hills in the neighborhood, taking a trip to Pescia for groceries tomorrow and enjoying a fabulous dinner we’re preparing for tonight.

Hope to hear back from you car aficionados!