Gretchen's birthday in Bagni di Lucca

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April 24th 2013
Published: April 26th 2013
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The 24thApril is a day I always look forward to because once it comes around Gretchen becomes the same age in years as me, well at least for just over 2 months.

I think she would have rather been celebrating it in ‘almost heaven,Umbria’but we were too late to change the booking in Bagni di Lucca without incurring a cost.

Never mind with the shutters open the day is revealed as fine and sunny and the whole place, even the small room we have, looked quite different. It’s amazing what some sunshine can do for the spirit.

We have to pay for the internet here at €2 per hour so we needed to time our usage with care and with that in mind we connected and tried to make contact with family on Skype, just in case they wanted to send birthday greetings to the birthday girl. But there was no one there although we did have a Skype message from Leigh and Lachie to Nana and Poppa left of Skype to watch. There were emails from Erin & Brent and Chris and Marilyn and Ruth & Owen, just no one to chat to live. So with that we headed down to breakfast.

The breakfast room had a rather sombre atmosphere with half a dozen other people in having their breakfast and talking in ‘library ‘quiet tones as there was no background music or television going to create some background noise. It was a good breakfast which for once included toast albeit with crunchy ‘stale’ bread. They do seem to have a problem making bread in this country that is any good to toast, English style.

Back in our room we tried the internet and Skype again and this time got to talk to Leigh and Cormac although we had missed seeing Lachie as he had headed off to bed. Still it was good to see and talk to family live.

We did some administration including more washing to try and catch up so we have clothes and undies to wear in days ahead and with the sun shining it should be a boost to getting things dry despite having to be hung inside.

Before lunch we headed off walking up the other side of the river that runs down the centre of the narrow valley to get a different perspective on the way people live on the other side of the sheer hillsides as we had passed cars parked on the side of the road last night when we walked up to the main part of the town but couldn’t actually see the houses of where those people lived because those houses were straight up the hillside and not visible from where we were walking without at least crossing the road such is the steepness of the hillside.

A few minutes of walking up the road and we passed a recycling plant with great cubes of bound up paper sitting about waiting to be turned into something else, probably cardboard. And here we w ere after seeing all the rubbish in the streets in the south that there was no recycling in this country. Little did we know we would find a recycling plant here in what seems to be a fairly remote place.

Carrying on and shortly after we came across a large truck parked in a lay-by with a curtain pulled half way across the drivers’ cabin. The engine of the truck was ticking over presumably to keep the air conditioner working as the sun had heated the day up into the mid 20’s.........We couldn’t see anyone in the truck cabin but was this how those ‘girls of the road ‘got to do the business? We hadn’t seen any of those girls in the area so perhaps the driver was having a snooze to keep on the right side of his log book having driven enough hours already from wherever he had come from.

The walk was certainly revealing surprises our next stop a short way further on was at a cemetery devoted to English people who had either lived and died in the area or had lived elsewhere in Italy and at their wish had wanted to be buried in Bagni di Lucca. The cemetery was established in the mid 1800’s and it became clear from reading the tombstones and pamphlets on the history of the cemetery that the town had had a considerable number of English people reside here.

The cemetery was only about half full and it appears that money to upkeep it had run out and that for the lack of a sponsor no more burials were made after the mid 1950’s.

A wander around the graves revealed that the sister of President Cleveland of the USA died in the town in 1918 when she nursed people afflicted by an epidemic of the time. Like many old graveyards you can piece together history of a town and this was no exception. It truly was a surprising discovery and really unexpected.

We crossed the river over a suspension bridge and had a birthday lunch in a cafe sitting in the warm sunshine watching the townspeople go about their day. We could have stayed but it seemed like they were getting ready for the traditional close down of business from 1pm to 4.30pm so headed off to find the Anglican Church that we had seen a sign for.

Our walk took us through a lovely park where the lawn full of white daisies was getting its spring cut. Seemed such a shame to knock all those delightful daisies back but then again they will grow quickly in the spring sunshine..

Onwards and up past the school and we got diverted from looking for the Anglican Church to looking for ‘the Alpine Church’. We were soon walking through narrow lanes amid houses on the hillside and onto a country path through the trees taking us ever higher.

As you do with any walk in a strange place looking for something for which you are not quite of its location, we kept saying to each other ‘just check around the next corner ‘for the church.

We never did find the Alpine Church although we didn’t quite get to the end of the path it might have been on due to a dog that decided we should not be there.”Beware fangs and fur” advice from Gretchen’s doctor came to mind and we beat a hasty retreat.

While we were up the path we did come across a magnificent view over the valley to the hills beyond and also down to the town and the river. We spent time picking out spots we thought we had passed when walking through the town including the location of our hotel almost directly in front of us but about 500 feet below down a terraced hillside.

We gave brief thought to picking a way down the terraced hillside and through the three of four properties that appeared to be on the hillside down to the road. Then we remembered the ‘Cinque Terre ‘episode of 4 years ago and thought the better of it and retraced our steps back to where we started.

Before we got back to the hotel to have a rest we dropped into the bar on the other side of the bridge from the hotel for a cold beer to slate our thirst. It did the trick!

With an extra €20 being Gretchen’s birthday present from C&M in her pocket we added our €20 dinner budget and headed to the restaurant across the bridge from the hotel. We had checked out most of the restaurants in the area that appeared to be open at night and we thought dining locally might be an advantage and save us from driving, if we had a bottle of wine with our meal.

It was a family run restaurant with a homely atmosphere where Marco the chef and owner kept on coming out from the kitchen to greet and chat to his customers. It was fun to watch how the place was run with Marco calling the shots and keeping Angela the waitress on her toes. She even got told off, in a friendly way, for forgetting the Mediterranean vegetables to go with our orders of beef stew and veal and mushrooms. We did clean off a bottle of wine and finished off with a delicious, genuine tiramisu.

After Gretchen took Marco and Angela’s photo he produced a large slab of beef which he said was tomorrow night’s stew and invited us back to sample it. Little did he know about the BBA V2 food budget and we decided it might be too complicated to explain it to him. But we might come back for a wood fired pizza. We had done well by keeping within the budget at €36 for two mains and veges, desert and a bottle of wine.

It had been a full day with our walk up the valley followed by the hillside hike to try and locate the Alpine church and then our dinner out. We were ready for sleep and another full day tomorrow with a trip into Lucca about 20km away.


27th April 2013

Happy birthday Gretchen
What a way to remember your special birthday and we feel that we have celebrated it with you and so look forward to your adventures,great reading.stan says that with all the new members still joining the club our club room will be bursting at the seams lol. I am still alive still get a lot of pain but next Saturday morning go to the hospital to participate with young doctors who are learning about my complaint lets hope they have some solutions that may help me.I look forward to the next episode of your travels take care love meg.
27th April 2013

Thank you Meg,yes it was a lovely day so far from home. We do hope that the doctors can find a solution for you and get you back to your old self again.Take care and love to you both. G&G

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