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A week in Lucca, Italy

Lucca was a great place to hang out for a week – walled city, quiet or as a quiet as an Italian city can be.  Very few cars have permits to drive within the walls so most of the “traffic” problems occur when walking in narrow streets with pedestrians, bicyclists, dog walkers with small and large dogs, baby strollers, delivery trucks and the occasional car.  We saw one Belgian car driving down the main shopping street.  The passenger looked terrified, chewing on her hands.  We’re not sure whether they were supposed to be on that street but the Italians just went with the flow, getting out of their way.

lucca city scene

One of the many bell towers in Lucca on churches

lucca truck squeezing thru narrow street

This truck did manage to squeeze through but he rubbed the scarves outside the shop along the way.

The weekend before we got to Lucca, the Rolling Stones performed outside of the walls in one of the open areas.  We were told the city was crazy with 60000 people and all the hotels and restaurants were completely sold out.  One lady told us that Lucca negotiated for 2 years to get the Rolling Stones to perform there.

The walls are not what we think of when we say walls. These are very wide – wide enough for cyclists, walkers, runners, a park or two, benches, picnic tables.  The Italian life in Lucca seems to swirl around and on the walls.

lucca susan on walls

Susan standing on the walls of Lucca while we were out walking.

Lucca city walls

Lucca city walls

Lucca Wall scene

People walked, ran and biked all along the 4 km. of walls.

Lucca Gate

This is one of the gates into the city. The walls are surrounded by parkland requiring regular mowing.

We rented an apartment via AirBnB in Lucca and it was on the ground floor. It is ALSO across the tiny little street from a Bicycle Rental shop that, unknown to us, rents tandem bikes as well as regular bikes.  This part of the city is pedestrian except for bicycles and cars and trucks with special stickers. You can imagine the chaos at times – people, baby carriages, bikes, tiny cars, delivery trucks, store displays, you get the idea.

I have the front window open while I work on the blog and we heard a crash of metal and 2 girls laughing.  They had American voices and talked to the bike store lady.  Turns out they’d rented a tandem bike and were trying to ride it.  The shop worker gave them a few pointers and off they went again only to return in about one minute and tell the shop owner “We give up on the tandem bike. We can’t ride with all these people around . There are too many lives at stake!”

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A day hike to Andechs Monastery

One day 14 of us took the S-bahn to Herrshing and then walked about 4 miles up to Andechs Monastery for lunch and an Andechs beer.  The monks make the beer – pils or dunkel – and they’ve added a schnapps-making business.

Andechs monastery church

We’ve been there a few times so we know there are 2 different paths to take up (about 1 hour walk) or you can take the city bus #951 that leaves from the train station in Herrsching 2 times an hour and take 10 minutes.  Eleven in the group walked while the other three with colds took the bus.  Naturally, Mark and I picked the hardest route up (We can never remember from year to year whether to go left or right at the sign!) but we had a nice walk up and then we came down the other path.  The walk up does involve 2 very long flights of steps – about 60 in each flight.  We missed the rain and had beer and good food as a reward for our hard work.

Steps to Andechs

The steps we walked up during our hike to Andechs. (Thanks to Stephanie for the picture.)

Monastery Group

Enjoying beer and apfel strudel after we went inside to warm up after lunch on the terrace.

Walking thru the meadow

Two routes to choose from Herrsching and one of them takes you through this meadow

Pork Knuckle and Pretzel

Pork Knuckle and Pretzel for lunch

Andechs beer

Dunkel beer from Andechs

August 13 – Panic time!

Only 18 days until we leave FC and the to-do list IS getting shorter!  We’ve met with all our important people like the doctor, dentist, and insurance agent; have ordered nice neat crisp U.S. bills to use in a variety of countries; stocked up on Pepto-Bismol and Kirkland brand of Immodium equivalent (MUCH cheaper at Costco) and put together contact information for our families and friends, including where we will NOT have wi-fi connections.  The piles of clothes are all over two bedrooms, the Tanzanian visa is attached to the passports, the Australian ETA (Electronic Travel Authority) has been approved, and the last party scheduled to drink the beer inventory in the house.

On top of all this, we’ve decided to drive up to Alliance, Nebraska to see the Total Solar Eclipse.  We’re soooo close that we couldn’t pass up the chance to sleep in a tent and huddle with the masses to see this event.  What’s one more to-do list?

Mark and I had some fun this summer in Germany and here are some pictures to enjoy.

Bad Wimpfen window box

Not bad for 3 Euros

Monastery outside of Heidelberg

We had a nice walk up the hill to the Stift Neuberg and ate delicious potato soup lunch with a beer. We bought this one at their organic grocery store.

Mark with Kulturerai beer

Matterhorn in a clear sky

December 2016 – A few days in Bruge, Belgium

Time to head off to Bruges, Belgium (one of our favorite places) before we head back to Amsterdam to fly home on New Year’s Eve.  Berlin Tegel is quite easy to get to from center city – hop on the TXL bus and in about 20 minutes you are at the old and dingy airport.  We can’t figure out when the check-in desks open but the U.S. idea of checking in 2 hours before departure doesn’t exist here! Security is right at the gate because the airport is so old it has no place to do a central security.  Everyone on the flight uses ONE security line and the line does not move quickly – take off coat, put phone, computer, Kindle, belt, in the bin.  New airplane rule on Brussels Air … exit row cannot have anything under the seat in front of it.

After landing, we took the train to Brussels Midi and then to Bruges where we stayed at the IBIS.  Standard IBIS – small room, clean bathroom, excellent breakfast.  The ongoing mystery for us is why European bathtubs with showers are so deep.  People with short legs have great difficulty getting out of the tub after a shower!

Belgium and Bruges are known for beer and chocolate and that’s what this stay was about – visit to Halve Moon Brewery for a beer and Bourgogne de Flandres brewery to do the tour – self-guided with a map to hunt down the moles in the brewery.  Mark had a lovely chat with the brewer who’s working on a degree in brewing even although he has a degree in microbiology already.  The Bourgogne de Flandres house beer is brown mixed with lambic and that makes a pretty nice sour beer for me.  We also stopped at Trappist Beer Cellar (great selection of Belgium beers and knowledgeable staff) and Bieratelier Bruges -on Wijngaardstraat 13.   Bieratelier is a tiny bar with 7 beers on tap, 6 of which are Christmas beers. We tried 4 of them.  It’s a fun bar and the bartender is always helpful.

Christmas beers at Bieratelier, Bruges

Christmas cupcakes in Bruge

Bruges canal in the fog

Bruges canal in the fog

We had to buy some Neuhaus chocolate for a variety of people and make a stop at our favorite little chocolate shop in Philipstraat. We found this one in 1990 on our first visit to Bruges and have returned ever since.

One night dinner was at Malesherbes on Stoofstraat and you’ll need a good map to find this.   Maleherbes was yummy and our splurge – champagne, pigeon pate with a side of duck foie gras, lamb filet that was rare and tender served with potatoes and ratatouille. Finally, we had chocolate mousse for dessert.  This was a typical French meal – 3 hours.  The manager told us they only do one seating at dinner so no one has to feel rushed.   (more…)