A two-part post…A unique church in Chennai…Photos from Ideal Beach Resort in Mahabalipuram…

St. Thomas Cathedral Basilica in Chennai, India.

Today’s post will be our last from tours in Chennai. In the second part of this post, we’re sharing photos of the Ideal Beach Resort located in Mahabalipuram. Yesterday’s tour in this village will be posted tomorrow when once again, we’ll be on the move to our next location, the French colony of Pondicherry.


Visiting this church was of particular interest to Tom, whose patron Saint is St. Thomas, aka “Doubting Thomas.” Humm, that’s so true.


From this site: “San Thome Church, also known as St. Thomas Cathedral Basilica and National Shrine of Saint Thomas is a Roman Catholic minor basilica in Santhome, in the city of Chennai (Madras), India. It was built in the 16th century by Portuguese explorers, over the tomb of Saint Thomas, one of the twelve apostles of Jesus. 


In 1893, it was rebuilt as a church with the status of a cathedral by the British. The British version still stands today. It was designed in Neo-Gothic style, favored by British architects in the late 19th century. This church is one of the only three known churches in the world built over the tomb of an apostle of Jesus, the other two being St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City and Santiago de Compostela Cathedral in Galicia, Spain.
Image result for tomb of St. Thomas Chennai India
No photos were allowed inside the church. This is a photo of the crypt of St. Thomas found online.
According to legend, Saint Thomas, one of the twelve disciples of Jesus, arrived at Muziris in present-day Kerala state in India from the Roman province of Judea in A.D. 52 and preached between A.D. 52 and A.D 72, when he was martyred on St. Thomas Mount.
It is claimed that St Thomas’ apostolic ministry in India took place specifically at Cranganore along the Malabar coast from 52 A.D to 68 A.D. His journey through Kerala is said to have resulted in numerous conversions. After spending 10 years on the Malabar coast. He is said to have traveled Eastwards across the Deccan Plateau, arriving in Mylapore in 68 A.D. 
The cave at little mount is claimed to be his favorite preaching spot. A 2000 year old never drying, a miraculous stream of water on a rock face are said to be examples of the apostle’s divine exploits. A church atop St. Thomas mount was built by the Portuguese in 1547 to mark the spot. It was on this St. Thomas Mount that the apostle was said to be killed by a lance which pierced through his back.
It was tricky getting good photos of the exterior with the traffic and crowds on the street.
His mortal remains were believed to be buried in the location over which the present day Santhomes Cathedral Basilica stands. Sometime in the 10th century A.D a group of Nestorian Christians from Persia founded the Christian village of San Thomes and proceeded to build a church over the burial site of St. Thomas. This structure fell to ruins between 14th and 15th century. In 1522 the Portuguese moved the apostle’s remains to a new tomb and church which attained the status of Cathedral in 1606.

Pope Pius XII honored the Cathedral Church of the Archdiocese of Madras – Mylapore raising it to the rank of Minor Basilica by apostolic brief dated 16 March 1956. Massive followings and the immense devotion of people to a very ancient image of the Blessed Virgin also known as “Our Lady of Mylapore” was among the motives that prompted the Pope to bestow this honor.”

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Sundowners on the beach last night.

Gosh, this is fun and it’s a bit easier to say after a few great meals and for Tom, with bacon with his eggs the past two mornings. My guy sure is a picky eater and is much more content where there is something on the menu he can tolerate. 


Let’s face it, for many travelers, including Tom, good food is a part of the experience. For me, it’s of little importance as long as I comply with my special diet and am not starving, although I do especially enjoy meals when we’re cooking for ourselves.

The pretty beach scene at Ideal Beach Resort.

Once we arrive in the UK, we’ll be cooking again, which is almost two months from now. In the interim, we’re managing better in India, figuring out what works for both of us, with our expectations in check.


This hotel, the Ideal Beach Resort, a four-star facility, is quite nice. Although its not a luxury hotel, it has everything we need. Since Indian people don’t necessarily consume alcohol (some do) the bars are seriously lacking in many hotels in India as is the case here, a closed room with a few bar stools.


Last night, we sat at a table on the beach at a tiny outdoor beach hut. It was still very hot and windy, but it was good to be outdoors, watching tourists play ball on the sand.
Swimming in the Bay of Bengal is not recommended due to severe undercurrent.

The moon was full and we were able to take a few photos. After an hour, we headed to the dining room, ordering the exact same meals from the prior night, knowing they worked well for each of us.


This hotel has not been a very social experience when there’s no particular spot where guests go to mingle. We had some wonderful interactions with other tourists in hotels along the way. But, soon enough, we’ll be on a ship where socializing is the name of the game.


Some of our readers have inquired about how we’re feeling, in light of the coronavirus about going on a cruise on April 3rd, only 25 days from today. Of course, we have concerns. 

Last night’s full moon.

The cruise line contacted all passengers, offering us a full price voucher if we choose to cancel but not a cash refund. If we canceled, we’d have to find a place to stay for 30 days, paying for hotel/holiday home and flight, most likely to the UK, leaving us with an expensive Viking Cruise Line voucher which could eventually be worthless if the cruise industry crashes.


The Viking Sun is a small ship carrying only 900 passengers. This particular cruise line has yet to have a single case of the virus on any of their ocean-going or river cruises. Our temperature will be taken before boarding and passports will be checked for recent countries visited.  Many countries are being excluded and passengers will be refused to board.


We have military-grade face masks we purchased months ago and if a single case is found on the ship, I assure you, we’ll be wearing them. I don’t know. It’s everywhere, including our own USA. Nowhere except Antarctica is free of the virus. Besides, we’re already traveled there. 

Tom’s dinner for three nights, a form of chicken Cordon Bleu with pasta and bread. He says it’s good.

Sure, we are more at risk traveling internationally than those staying housebound wherever they may live. But, if people so much as go to a market, a pharmacy, a school, a restaurant, or any public place in any part of the world, risks exist.


In the interim, we watch for and check for more information from Viking, should they decide to cancel the cruise. There’s nothing more we can do at this point. If we had to pick a place to “hide” from the virus, we don’t know where that would be. Does anyone know?


Instead, we continue with our India tour exercising good hygiene and considerable caution as much as possible. We may consider canceling any tours where there are vast numbers of tourists at any given time. We’ll research and make decisions as we go along.
That’s it for today, folks. Stay tuned.  Lots more is coming, as mentioned above, including yesterday’s interesting tours.

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Photo from one year ago today, March 9, 2019:

The Nyala seems to be following a small forkl of kudus consisting of two boys and their mom.  It appears he’s taking a liking to the mom. For more photos, please click here.

Planning and booking next USA visit…Late posting today…Tom

An artist’s rendition on a wall on a side street as we made our way back to Palermo Soho, an hour-long walk.

It was a late start to the day.  We didn’t awaken until 8:00 am after a fitful night’s sleep.  Tom showered and dressed first and then headed down to the lobby for coffee and a light breakfast of ham, cheese, and eggs while I stayed behind getting showered and dressed for the day.

By the time I sat down at my laptop in the lobby, my tea drink in hand, it was 9:00 am.  Loading my laptop, (I’m still using the old one) I discovered I had three updates that required I wait patiently while they loaded.

As we walked along Santa Fe Avenue in Palermo, we entered this church, Holy Eucharist Parish, taking some photos, saying some prayers and thanking God for our health, well-being and never-ending adventures.

The Internet is slow here especially when there are several guests as there are now.  The updates took a good 25 minutes to complete.  Finally, close to 10:00 am, I was able to begin today’s post, two hours later than usual.

With no big plans for today, I have plenty of time to get done but I’m always thinking about our readers out there in cyberspace who may be waiting to read with their cup of coffee or tea in hand. 

Not unlike other visits to churches, we often see parishioner also in prayer.

Over these years, we’ve had many readers write to us explaining they have a ritual of reading our daily posts at home, at work, while on public transportation or sitting in the park with their phone, iPad, or Kindle in hand.  We’re very aware of this fact and make every effort to get done at a consistent time each day.

Unfortunately, circumstances prevail and as consistent as we’d like to be sometimes it doesn’t come to fruition as readily as we’d prefer.  I suppose that’s how life is, not always as we’d prefer it to be and certainly, not always on time.

A little-lopsided view of the altar at Holy Eucharist Church.

But, we’re here now and anxious to “get the show on the road” and share some details of our upcoming plans to see family in Minnesota in 15 months.  Last time we visited the USA to see family, we started in Minnesota and ended in Nevada.

This time, we plan to visit each location at two entirely different time slots based on dates of cruises we’ve booked during these two periods as indicated in our most recently published itinerary, which may be found here at this link.

Stained glass windows are culturally interesting in each country we visit.

We plan to visit Minnesota from 4/8/2019 to 4/25/2019 for 17 nights and Nevada, California, and Arizona from 11/8/2019 to 12/3/2019 for a combined total of 25 nights.  We’ll spend a few days in California visiting my sister Julie in Los Angeles and a week visiting Tom’s sisters at their winter homes in Apache Junction, Arizona.  

This schedule will leave us two weeks in Nevada during which we’ll stay with son Richard in Henderson, visit sister Susan in Las Vegas and renew our driver’s licenses which require an in-person visit this time, as opposed to the online renewal we did while in Bali in 2016.

Statues and lit candles along a wall.

In between these two USA visits, we have three cruises, a three-month stay in Ireland as shown in yesterday’s post, a three-night stay in Amsterdam and a 62-night stay in a home in England, hopefully in the countryside.  

All of the above are booked except for the three-night stay in Amsterdam as we await the Baltic cruise and the 62-night stay in England, where we’ll wait for another cruise from Southampton, UK back to the US.  

Nativity scene still on display after the holidays ended.

Once we’re settled in Africa we’ll book the house in England hopefully, close to the Cornwall area and also, the hotel in Amsterdam. We have no doubt this will all work out well after doing some preliminary research online these past few days.

As for Minnesota, yesterday we booked the same hotel where we stayed for six weeks during our last visit in summer of 2017. I contacted the corporate rep who worked with us last time and we were able to negotiate the same rate we paid in 2017 at US $107 (ARS 2,002) per night.

Tom noticed this artistic wall art in an obscure location as we walked along the boulevard.

The cost of staying in hotels and generally staying in the Minneapolis area is very expensive for travelers, often as much as US $200 (ARS 3,741) to the US $300 (ARS 5,612) a night for a hotel and well over US $100 (ARS 1,868) a day for meals.  

Rental cars are also more expensive in Minneapolis than we’ve paid in most countries. We’ve budgeted over US $5,000 (ARS 93,423) for the 17-nights in Minnesota, even with the great hotel rates.

A colorful historic building, most likely with apartments.

In Las Vegas, since we’ll stay with Richard for two weeks of the 25 days, cooking most of our meals, our overall cost will be considerably less.  In Los Angeles, we’ll bite the bullet and pay outrageous rates for a hotel in Los Angeles near Julie. I’m allergic to cats and she has two making it impossible to stay with her.

In Arizona, most likely we’ll stay in a vacation condo or hotel for a week in Scottsdale or Apache Junction while we visit Tom’s sisters, preferring not to impose on any of them other than Richard.  As we’ve mentioned in the past, we prefer not to stay with family or friends.  We have our own routine, spend lots of time online, and have this way of eating, not easy for a host to accommodate.

The Argentine people love color and design.

When staying with Richard, he’s at work all day and we cook dinner most nights. We stay in a separate area of the house with its own bath.  This avoids stumbling over each other and its relatively easy, especially when we don’t screw up the alarm system!

That’s it for today, folks. After a while, we’ll head out for a walk through this diverse and interesting town of Palermo Soho, Buenos Aires, enjoying every moment.

A bright green corner shop.

May you have a happy and fulfilling day!
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Photo from one year ago today, January 10, 2018:

This scene made us “squeal” with delight at the Gnomon Pig Farm in Penguin. Tasmania especially when we heard the pigs squealing over their individual right to occupy the mud hole.  Check our link here for the video above to see and hear! 

A historic church comes to an end…

Memorial to Taranaki Troopers who fell in the South African War located at St. Mary’s Cathedral.

Fortunately, we heard about the closing of the Taranaki Cathedral Church of St. Mary from our new friend June whom we met at Pak n Save last Wednesday. If we hadn’t heard about it, we would have missed an opportunity to see inside the church when Sunday was its last day open to the public. It was safari luck! Tomorrow, we’ll be visiting June’s registered historical home in New Plymouth with many photos to share soon.

The edge of the cemetery at the church.

Sunday was the last day the historic church’s doors would be open for public viewing. See detail below on the reasons for closing the beloved church:

The church’s paths and walkways are beautiful.

“Taranaki Daily News

NZ’s oldest stone church shutting its doors to the public                           

New Plymouth’s St Mary’s Cathedral is an earthquake-prone building and will be closing its doors to the public from Monday From left, St Mary’s Dean Jamie Allen and Bishop of Taranaki Archbishop Philip Richardson. New Zealand’s oldest standing stone church will be closed for earthquake strengthening from early next year.  

Sculptures on the grounds.

Following a decision from the Taranaki Anglican Trust Board this week, the Taranaki Cathedral Church of St Mary will be gradually closed by January 2016.  The church would be closed to the public and parishioners for several years. However, Trustees could not yet determine quite how many years it would be shut. St Mary’s Cathedral was first opened in September 1846 and is now the oldest standing stone church in New Zealand. The church meets only 15 percent of the current New Building Standard (NBS). A building is considered earthquake-prone if it does not meet 34 percent of the NBS.  Archbishop Philip Richardson, Bishop of Taranaki, said the news was expected, but it still brought a sense of sadness. 

Many residents and tourists visited the church on its last day.

Richardson presided of the Anglican Diocese of Waikato and Taranaki and said while the repair process would be lengthy and expensive, it was a better outcome than some parishes which have had to be closed completely. There are 15 buildings within the Diocese that have to be looked for seismic strengthening, he said.  Engineering reports were still being completed and until that information was available the Trustees could not work out the total cost or time it would take until the church doors could be opened again, Richardson said. 

The church had ample room for many parishioners.

The Trustees have agreed to a gradual closure, with the cathedral being closed to the general public from next Monday, and specified services being phased out by the end of January 2016.  Church dean Jamie Allen said it was hoped a final farewell service would be organized to allow the church community to give the space a proper send-off. 

The church was appointed with many artifacts.

Only the cathedral would be closed, so the church’s foyer and upstairs area would still be in use, he said. The church’s work in the community would continue but they would have to be more creative about how and where it would get done, he said.   There are 39 Anglican communities in Taranaki and other denominations in the region had also been forthcoming with offers for St Mary’s parishioners to use their space for larger events, like weddings and funerals, Allen said.”

It appears that each country we visit has a particular style of churches.

After our visit to the Farmers Market Taranaki, we headed to the church, hoping we’d be able to enter and take photos on its final day. As it turned out, the first of two final services were ending with another service commencing shortly afterward. 

A side alter.

Luckily, we were able to enter the church between the two services to see the interior and take a few photos.  As the oldest stone church in all of New Zealand, we were thrilled it worked out the way it did enable us to see the beautiful interior.

The priests/pastors were preparing for the second service.

The church was packed with sad parishioners many of whose families had worshipped in this historic building for generations. Mainly, senior citizens, we could easily detect the sorrow in their faces for the end of an era. 

Unique organ pipes.

Another building across the street will provide services for the displaced parishioners while multiple churches have offered to provide their facilities for funerals and weddings.

We always pay special attention to stained glass windows.

As we wandered the grounds, it was easy to sense the presence of its rich history, especially as we wandered about the cemetery. Although the church wasn’t of our faith, we didn’t stay for the next service but had ample time between services to see everything we wanted to see.

Massive oak tree on the church’s grounds.

A variety of interesting and unusual trees caught our attention inspiring us to share photos. Curious as to the variety of trees, with our pricey wifi at the moment, we can’t spend time searching for their names.

Support posts used to hold up the branches of the protected tree.

After we left the church, we drove to a new area of the countryside for a while, knowing we had to return home with the fresh fish in our insulated bag. New Zealand never disappoints. By following any road, we discover breathtaking scenery and treasures abundant in this land of plenty.

A giant knothole in the trunk of the protected tree.

Interesting tidbit for those in the northern hemisphere: Yesterday, kids went back to school after their summer break.

Street view of Taranaki Cathedral Church of St. Mary’s.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, February 2, 2015:

Even in beautiful known-for-sunny-days Hawaii, we experienced plenty of cloudy days, especially living on the Garden Island of Kauai, known for its almost daily rain. This didn’t keep us from continuing to explore the beaches.  For more details, please click here.

Part 2, Stonehenge…The village of Salisbury…Another historical Cathedral…The world’s first clock! The Magna Carta!

As we made our way up the walkway to the Salisbury Cathedral.

After leaving Stonehenge, our driver Steven suggested we continue our day long tour to the historic village of Salisbury, England where he was excited for the eight of us to see the Salisbury Cathedral.

The oldest licensed inn is Salisbury.  Steven explained this is purported to be the oldest pub in England.
Typical home in the village of Salisbury.

Having seen many churches in our travels, never seeming to have our fill, our own enthusiasm escalated when Steven explained we were in for a big surprise. The drive from Stonehenge to Salisbury was approximately an hour. 

A college in the village.
Exterior of the Cathedral.
This is the world’s oldest clock. See below for the full description.
The description of the world’s oldest clock from the year 1386.
With the lively chatter as us girls sat together in the front of the van, while the boys sat in the back, none of us paid much attention to the length of the drive. We certainly were all enjoying each other’s conversation and companionship. 
More interesting architecture for the 13th century.

For Tom and I, having spent almost six months without interacting with English speaking companions, we were both in our glory. There’s no doubt we both hogged the conversations, making up for the lost time. 

What an exquisite building!

For this, we apologize to our new friends. It’s such fun talking to someone other than each other after spending the past six months in non-English speaking countries. Of course, we thoroughly enjoyed talking to one another but, a new face, a new voice, a varied opinion, and experience, is always refreshing.

Steven, our knowledgeable tour guide.
It was a pleasure to walk through the Cathedral.
This is a decorative pool. Steven explained that a tourist set her handbag atop the water when she thought it was a glass top as opposed to water and the handbag sunk to the bottom.
As we approached the beautiful village of Salisbury we knew that Steven had our best interests in mind, as we oohed and ahh’d over the scenery in the village. After parking on a side street, Steven walked toward the church with us, explaining that once we entered, a donation was “expected.”
Battle flags from centuries ago.
Tribute to Normandy located in the Cathedral.

Luckily, as we entered the church, the two receptionists explained they’d take pounds or credit cards. We were quickly getting down to our last British Pounds Sterling.  

The detail in the design in the Cathedral was some of the most impressive we’ve seen.

In every direction, there was a feast for the eyes in design and color.

Since this was to be our last foray in the UK for who-knows-how-long, we were thrilled we’d succeeded in ridding ourselves of any remaining pounds before leaving the country. 

Tourists gathered to appreciate the stained glass.

With all of our travels, we tried to use up any remaining currency by the time we leave the country since many countries have currency we may never use again. Have numerous forms of currency in one’s wallet, never to be used is annoying and wasteful. Thus far, all has gone well.

A side altar or memorial.

The Salisbury Cathedral was well worth the US $9.78, six pounds we paid upon entry. With the steady flow of tourists entering the church, we anticipated they’d be able to continue their ongoing renovation, not unlike the Sagrada Familia we’d seen in Barcelona, Spain over a year ago.

We’ve visited dozens of churches in our travels finding each one unique and appealing in its own way. It was no different from the Salisbury Cathedral, eliciting a gasp when we entered with raging curiosity to see as much as we could in the time allotted until once again we’d be on the road, anxious to return to the ship on time. 

A memorial.  We were unable to read who was buried here. With our WiFi issues at this time, we’re unable to research online to identify each photo.

Again, this was a private tour for the eight of us with the ship not waiting one moment beyond scheduled departure for such. We kept a watchful eye on the time, eventually returning well within the mandatory boarding time frame.

The Salisbury Cathedral originally was two miles to the north of Old Sarum, where the foundations of the great Norman Cathedral can still be seen. Old Sarum was a garrison town and squabbles with the military-led Bishop Richard Poore to decide to rebuild in the valley below

Building commenced in the year 1220 at about the same time the checkered street plan of Salisbury was also laid out. The Cathedral was built under the supervision of one of the canons, Elias de Dereham, assisted by a famous master mason Nicholas of Ely.

By 1258 the choir, transept, and naves were completed and consecration occurred on September 30th.

The spire, 404 feet high, and the highest in England and the third highest in Europe was added 100 years later between 1334 and 1365. Salisbury Cathedral is acknowledged as the most attractive in English Cathedrals in both settings and appearances.

Outside the Cathedral, our group met for beverages from the café.

Rather than stay in the group of eight, Tom and I wandered off on our own with a set time, we’d meet for the walk to the awaiting van.

During our enthusiastic perusing, we were delighted to see one of the three worldwide originals of the Magna Carta on display. Unfortunately, it was one of the few items in the massive church prohibited from photo taking. 

Although disappointed we couldn’t take a photo, it was enriching to see it in any case. Its lengthy translation was posted on a wall.

Tom graciously posed for a photo.  Thanks, Honey!

Finally, it was time to be on our way and after another great day of touring both Stonehenge and Salisbury, we were content to be back to the ship for yet another enjoyable dinner, sharing a table with a new group of six.  The socialization on cruises is always a stupendous source of pleasure for us, thanks to the many fine people we meet.

Tomorrow, we’ll be back sharing some of the events in which we’ve participated on the ship and details of how we spend each day both out to sea and on tour days.

Have a happy day!

                                           Photo from one year ago today, September 6, 2013:

Two of the goat that lived in the backyard of the property jumped on the fence to entertain us while we lived in Diani Beach, Kenya for three months. For details, please click here.

Continuation of photos from Ribeira Brava…

Due to Internet connectivity issues today, we’re having spacing issues.  We apologize for the gaps between verbiage and photos.

Please click on the video in order to hear the mass reverberating through the mountains this morning.
A pretty walkway into a municipal building area.

We awoke this morning to the church bells ringing reminding us that today is the Catholic observance of Ascension, which used to be celebrated on Thursdays now changed to Sunday. 

These tall muffins are popular on the island.

With 81% of the population of Portugal members of the Catholic faith, today is another big day in Madeira. Gina told us to be prepared for a huge procession coming down the road today with parishioners stopping by our house to sing and pray, seeking donations for the church which we’ll gladly offer.

Doughy things.

Of course, we don’t want to miss potential visitors, nor do we want to miss the procession, comparable to the procession we experienced when living in Boveglio, Italy last summer for which we took a few videos posting them online. Here’s the link to that day in Boveglio.

Locally made merchandise is for sale in the shops along the boulevard.

During church services here in Campanario, loudspeakers blast out the service for those who aren’t able to attend. Last night, the service started at 6:00 pm and was still going when I went to bed at 11:00 pm. 

The charming boulevard along the ocean in Ribeira Brava.

 
Many little shops were to be found on the side streets as well.

We’d contemplated going to the services last night at 6:00 pm and returning home to dinner. Little did we realize, the service would continue for five hours. We’d have never made it home for dinner. 

Then, of course, there are popular and familiar items offered everywhere.
Embroidery is a centuries-old tradition in Portugal.

This morning, completely out of meat for today’s dinner, we’re heading to the Continente Supermarket in Ribeira Brava, hoping to return in time for the day’s activities which we expect will commence later in the day and we won’t miss it.

Some of the narrow streets weren’t populated with shops and tourists.
It’s interesting to note that each country has its own unique merchandise.

Today’s post is short with more photos from the quaint oceanside village of Ribera Brava. Hopefully, tomorrow we’ll have photos and videos to share of the day’s activities, provided they come our way.

Many vendors stand outside welcoming visitors to the area.
Beautiful flowers grow freely everywhere we go.

Have a warm and wonderful Sunday. Check back tomorrow for more.
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Photo from one year ago today, June 1, 2013:
We didn’t take any photos for the post on June 1, 2013.  As a result, we’ve included another photo from the prior day, May 31, 2013, as we drove past the largest roller coaster in the world, located n Dubai, UAE.

World’s largest roller coaster is located in Ferrari World in Dubai, UAE, Formula Rossa. Here’s the link to watch the seven minute video. For details of the story we posted on June 1, 2013, please click here.

A night on the town of Benabbio…A visit to an old church…This is why we travel…

As we began the drive to Benabbio…

As thoughts run through our minds that echo “this is why we are traveling the world” we sat on the outdoor cafe of Il Cavallino Bianco Restaurant, (the small white horse, a memory of one of the two owners, Alessandro) in Benabbio, Lucca, Toscana, Italy, waiting for the church bells to ring at 7:30 pm, when the restaurant upstairs opens for dinner.

The café and entrance to the only restaurant within a 1/2 hour drive from Boveglio, Il Cavallino Bianco, quaint and charming, to say the least.

We’ve discovered that Europeans eat dinner later than most of us, stay up later than most of us, nap during the day during a break time enjoyed by many individuals and businesses and awaken later in the morning.

Houses we encountered on our walk.

Clocking the winding hairpin drive from Boveglio to Benabbio takes exactly 11 minutes.  Last night, for the first time making this drive, as Tom maneuvered the Fiat Clio six-speed,  I was actually playing with the settings in our camera (still learning) with no “eyes peeled on the road” and no “white knuckles” hanging onto the dashboard. 

Mustard painted house across from the restaurant.

Perhaps the two of us, like the residents here, are becoming more at ease with the treacherous drive, giving it nary a thought, by rote making their way through the maze of guardrail-free twists and turns.

Arriving in Benabbio too early to dine, we busied ourselves walking around the tiny village, avoiding a few of the steepest hills difficult to manage in our casual dress shoes. 

With Vivienne’s minuscule grocery store still open on Saturday evening, we were anxious to pay our bill from last Monday when we had yet to acquire any Euros (she doesn’t take credit cards). Plus, we were running low on Prosciutto, our new bacon substitute. 

Vivienne’s grocery store, across the street from the restaurant.

Should we buy it before eating dinner and run the risk of it spoiling? Alas, as we stood at the counter, feebly trying to explain how much Prosciutto we wanted, we noticed that the deli meats were in a barely chilled case.  The salty processing most likely preserves it for a period of time, I suppose.  When we arrived at the restaurant, we fumbled in Italian, asking Alessandro for a bowl of ice, keeping it cold as we dined.

A sign in the town square describing the village’s history.

Vivienne had forgotten that we owed her Euro $23.60 for our last order.  Explaining this in Italian was quite the challenge.  When we handed her the cash for the meat, including the extra Euros, she finally shook her head in acknowledgment, gratefully accepting the money.  

We had yet to pay our bill to Alessandro for last Sunday night’s dinner, which we planned to settle at dinner.

Perusing the historic church across from the restaurant, which we’ll now frequent,  occupied a good portion of our waiting time. Although, we’re trying to figure out times for mass which wasn’t posted anywhere, not in the bulletin, not on a sign inside the church and not posted outside the church.

The interior of the church was austere and dark. 

Back at the café to the restaurant we were easily entertained even with the earsplitting chimes of the church bells, again ringing, helter-skelter, the cheering farmers waving as they passed by while riding their noisy tractors, the teenagers hanging outside Vivienne’s store and the locals on a leisurely walk before dinner. 

Above the doorway was the balcony for the organ.

At 7:30, we meandered upstairs to the main dining room, empty at that point. There were little slips of neon pink papers on each table, indicating a reservation. During the week, we’d made a reservation request online which I’d translated into Italian, hoping it would be read. As we wandered to each of the dozen or so tables, we began to worry we wouldn’t have a table.  None contained our name.

The old stone staircase leading to the organ.

A moment later, Alessandro appeared, excitedly pointing us to a well-placed table for two that was specifically ours. The neon pink note didn’t have our name but instead had some type of code. Fine with us.

The baptismal.

Within 10 minutes the remaining tables filled with patrons, leaving walk-ins to be turned away as the decibel level rapidly escalated to the loud Italian chatter among the guests. Again, the three-course dinner was grand, Alessandro remembers my food restrictions bringing salad, meats and vegetables, the finest balsamic vinegar, and olive oil.

The confessional.

Tom enjoyed beef ravioli with Bolognese sauce, Parmesan cheese, fresh-baked bread, and later, unbeknownst to him a huge platter of the finest freshly cooked thin-sliced roast beef (which we shared) and a plate of homemade fries.

Engraved in stone on the historic church. A literal translation from Google Translate: “For Antonio Michelini upright pious priest of this church for years XLV (45) Cappellano,  first parish priest lived industrious and zealous, born in MDCCXCIII (1793) died on October XXVI MDCCCLXIV (1864), the grandson saint with sad desire.  Here is where sleeps the sleep of the righteous conquest memory.”

Toward the end of the meal, Alessandro brought what appeared to be a one-pound chunk of homemade ricotta cheese to the table, mumbling in Italian to take it home, as a gift from him.  Wrapping it in a napkin, we placed it in the bag with the “bacon” all the while smiling so much our faces hurt. 

The church bells rang loudly as we relaxed at the café.

After Tom finished his 23-ounce Italian beer knowing I wasn’t willing to be designated driver on the mountain road in the six-speed Fiat, we asked for the bill, “Il conto, per favore.” 

Moments later, Vivienne, who also doubles as a waitress at the restaurant, appeared with our bill for Euro $33. Where was the bill for last Sunday night?  She summoned Alessandro.

Waving his hands in the air, he said, “Lisa, Luca, Boveglio, no no no!”  He was “comping” last Sunday’s meal due to our connection with Lisa and Luca, the owners of our house. Trying to insist otherwise was pointless. His mind was set. We decided to leave extra each week over and above the tip to cover the cost. 

The last time we had a “comped” meal when we were in Las Vegas with resident son Richard, who seems to get “comped” wherever he goes. And, I don’t recall any restaurant anywhere, ever giving us “free food” to take home.

Hoping to drive back before it was fully dark, we headed out the door at 9:20 walking through the bar on the main floor. The moment Alessandro saw us, he excitedly stopped us instructing us to wait as he ran behind the bar to extract a bottle of Limoncello, a favorite among Italians. 

Tom was wise only to drink this one 23 oz. Italian beer with lots of water on the side.

Tom graciously shook his head while wiggling his hand to illustrate the winding road, all the while saying “Boveglio.” Alessandro and another couple both nodded in understanding, as we all laughed. 

 
The ride home was uneventful, the almost full moon lighting the way. Tucked in our comfy bed by 10:00 pm, our smartphones in hand to read our books, we languished until after midnight, full from a great meal, content, and on one more occasion, knowing why.