Sunday, March 31, 2013

One more thing...

We don't want to leave our hotel in Montecatini without saying a word about the food.  We've been well taken care of here at the hotel.  Breakfast has been buffet style each morning, with a wide variety of meats and pastries, scrambled eggs, sliced tomatoes, cheese, yogurt, fruit, coffee and juice freely available to us every day. 

We all eat dinner together each evening in the same dining room, with a specific and unique menu each night.  It's been great!  In Rome, we'll still have breakfast each morning in the hotel, but our dinners will be at a different restaurant each evening.  We're all looking forward to that experience.


Lucca is an ancient walled city less than an hour from Pisa, and the next stop on our whirlwind tour.  Today, it's mostly famous simply because much of its wall, which dates back to the Renaissance, is still intact.  A lot of us started our tour thinking it was going to be a visit through ancient relics, but amazingly, once inside, we discovered a fully functional city built up within the walls, full of shops (though most were closed on Easter Sunday) and restaurants (which seem to always be open in tourist areas).

Not a lot of explanation here, just a bunch of pictures from Lucca:
By the end of the day, even though it was only about 4pm, we were wiped out from a full day yesterday and an early morning start today.  Mrs. Richardson, our accompanist, managed to snag a few shots of some exhausted travelers resting before the bus ride back to the hotel.

Finally, in the spirit of full disclosure, we've been told by several chaperones that we are required to admit that your faithful blogger and his wife got lost in Lucca.  Really, actually lost.  We're constantly bouncing between the three groups in order to get a greater variety of students in the pictures, and at one point, we zigged when we should have zagged on the city's narrow and winding roads, and suddenly we couldn't find ANY of the groups!  We also were unclear on where everyone was meeting after the tour, so even though we had a map and knew exactly where we were in the city, we didn't know where we were supposed to be.  Thank goodness Mrs. McDonough carries an emergency phone.  (And for that matter, thank goodness my wife made sure hers would work in Italy.)  In the end, we really only delayed our bus by about fifteen minutes, but it was an embarrassing and slightly frightening situation, and we're probably going to be hearing a lot about it the rest of the trip.

Tomorrow, we leave for Rome with a stop in Siena along the way.  We'll be staying in Rome for the rest of our visit, so cross your fingers that we'll be able to solve the WiFi issue there as well, so we can keep bringing you picture of the students in action.

More Pisa Pictures

We've got our pictures of Lucca coming up, but since it was an earlier day for us than usual, Mr. Potchen was able to deliver some of his pictures from today early, so you get them first.  The commentary comes from us, not him.
 Lots of street vendors offered souvenirs, mostly trinkets and handbags
 Yep, still leaning.
These two pictures are taken in the upper level of the Baptistry of St. John, the third major building in the square along with the Cathedral and the Leaning Tower.  It's a large round building that's said to be acoustically perfect.  It also took more than two hundred years to construct, and a lot of people believe that its amazing acoustics happened by accident.  Tourists are supposed to be silent inside, and every so often, someone comes in to sing a few notes straight up into the large open area so we can experience the astounding reverberating sound.  You'll be able to see an example on the video we're also putting together.
This is inside the Cathedral.  I said earlier we weren't supposed to take pictures, buy Mr. Potchen didn't know that.  So shh!  Don't tell anybody!


After that far-too-early wake-up call we told you about yesterday, we loaded the buses at 8am and headed off to Pisa.  You know, the one with the tower.  Many of us attended mass in the adjacent cathedral (no pictures allowed, sorry!) the rest of the morning was taken up with more sightseeing, shopping from streetside souvenir vendors, and lunch.
Happy campers.  Or busers anyway.
As in Florence, the buses weren't allowed too close to the area, so we had to walk a few blocks to get to our destination, passing street vendors and some aggressive in-your-face salesmen along the way.
Our tour guide Siriki is becoming quite popular.
Sure enough.  It leans!

Anybody can look like they're holding up the Leaning Tower.  DJ is holding up the tiny, tiny walls of the cathedral!  (Actually, he's doing the classic Leaning Tower pose for another camera.)
From the proper angle, it appears as though the tower is just about to topple down right on top of you.  Hasn't happened yet.
Dozens of cameras.  Millions of shots.
 Dedication to getting the right shot.
Some choir members are really happy to have a parent on the trip with them.
Even though there were dozens of available restaurants, a lot of us ended up at this same pizzeria.  I'm told there was a cute waiter.

Lucca next!