head colds in lucca

after settling into our beautiful flat, we discovered that our wifi was less than we had hoped. when we spoke with our rental lady, sonia, she said we had to speak with briana. we didn’t know who briana was, but apparently she held the key to not only our internet connection, but our television, cd and dvd player. we have a wide screen tv, about four hundred videos and an equal number of cds. we also have six remotes and a hand written guide on how to turn everything on. while the instructions are written in english, they might as well have been written in swahili. we have pushed every button one could push, but still nothing. so, we were basically stuck with no real communication abilities. then the head colds hit and soon after, the pouring rain. oward got sick first so it fell to the contessa to brave the storm and forage for supplies. fortunately, the little restaurant on our corner, noona clara, has a waitress christina, who has befriended us over the years. when i told her oward was sick, she sprang into action putting together a meal of pasta, salad and dessert, all packaged up to go. i was very grateful even more grateful that she gave us so much food, that it lasted for two days. kind of like the first menorah.

we slept on and off the rest of the next day and then, on the third day we ventured out. it was gray and overcast, but no rain, so we made our way to the market to stock up on supplies. as we were leaving, the heavens opened. we ducked into our favorite cafe. oward ordered a cappuccino and i a hot chocolate. it was the most amazing thing i have ever had. it was like a cup of hot pudding but not too sweet. the best. after we had killed as much time as possible in the tiny cafe, we left, stopping about ten steps later to buy yet another large umbrella. now we each had two arms full of groceries, plus each of us carrying an umbrella, walking home. we made it home, soaking wet and climbed the forty steps to our apartment. the building actually has an elevator, but it is a claustrophobic’s nightmare. it is the size of a small coffin and trust me you can walk the forty steps in far less time than the elevator can get you to the top. it was , however, handy, when we arrived to send our luggage up.

after we arrived home, there was a knock on the door and the mysterious briana , materialized. it turns out that she is the american daugher of the owner of our flat. adorable and very knowledgeable. in about twenty minutes she had us on line and was able to explaing the tv. we even have netflix. we may never leave home again. the only down side is that now that we have cnn, the awful trumpster is back in our lives. it was really pleasure to go almost a week without his orange presence.

yesterday, finally feeling better, with the sun shining, we ventured out and started to make the rounds of lucca, stopping in to say hi to so many of our friends. it never ceases to amaze me that, every year, year after year, as soon as we walk into our favorite restaurants, the dry cleaner or the barber shop or my manicurist, we are greeted by name and with much hugging and hand shaking.

last night we had dinner with our dear friend regula. she was one of the first people we met here, four years ago. regula has an incredible apartment in the wall, straight out of the pages of architectural digest. she is an interior designer with a great flair. two years ago, she insisted on giving us her apartment for four weeks. since that time, she has purchased a magnificent villa, just outside the walls of lucca and turned it into a beautiful five bedroom rental property, complete with gardens and a swimming pool. maid service and chefs available. it is a perfect getaway for a couple or for a group of friends. this month she is renting it to a man who is celebrating his fiftieth birthday. he has rented the villa for a month, and every week he has invited a different group of friends to join him. life is good.

today we went to scope out the venue for the rolling stones. it is unbelievable. they are expecting fifty-five thousand people. there are only about one thousand seats. the rest of the venue is standing room only. we paid a lot of money for a very special location only to discover, today, that while we are in a very special, and close to the stage, section, we will still be standing. i told oward i was too old to stand for a whole concert. he reminded me that mick jagger is older then i am and he is not going to be sitting down at all that evening. i reminded him that mick jagger was getting paid millions of dollars to do what he does and as far as i could tell, no one was paying me a red cent to stand, for hours, surrounded by screaming teen agers, but, the contessa, ever a good sport, is going to go along with this insane plan. at least it will make for a good story.

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We’ve Arrived!!!

After a long, sleepless (even with virgin atlantic’s finest flatbeds and an ambien) day, we arrived in london. took a four-hour nap, showered, dressed and made our way to the great, new london restaurant, spring. one of those places that is impossible to get in. Fortunately, (please try to follow along on this) my cousin ellen’s son willie’s girlfriend holly’s mother sky is the chef/owner, so strings were pulled and there we sat, in a magnificent five hundred-year-old building – somerset house- eating the most amazing food.

after dinner, we took a short walk around the strand and then back to our hotel, exhausted and sure we would sleep the night away until our 5:30 a.m. wake-up call. alas, sleep, once again, eluded us. at around four a.m., after trying in vain to sleep, we sat up in bed and ate a bag of raw cashews that i threw into my carry-on at the last minute, heeding my friend judy’s advice to always carry snacks – “just in case”. if ever there was a “just in case” moment, 4:00 a.m.in london was it.

we were dressed and ready to go long before our car arrived. “let’s get something to eat” i said. “No, we can eat at the airport. we will have plenty of time” the husband answered. Ha! he was right. we got to the airport in plenty of time. what we did not know, at the time, was that a bomb had gone off in london center and the security at the airport was unbelievable. we stood in line for over an hour and then, they went through our carry-ons with a fine tooth comb. i was willing to throw out my hand lotion and maybe my shampoo, but i was going to fight over my brand new, almost gel-like essy nail polish (three bottles two different colors and top coat) at this point, exhausted and starving howard said “give them the fucking nail polish” “no!” and then i appealed to the feminine nature of our security guard. she relented and i got to keep my polish, but the adventure continued. now, seriously late for our plane we proceeded to our gate. for those of you familiar with heathrow, you can walk a good mile before taking a few escalators, both up and down (still can’t figure out how that makes any sense) then a train and then a few more escalators, finally arriving at our gate only to be told that we would have to check our carry-on luggage. there was not enough room on board for it. why we were singled out is beyond me. everyone else was taking their’s but perhaps the gate agent had been notified about my previous nail polish meltdown and they were punishing me.

the flight to pisa was short and uneventful. i sat next to an eight-month-old named daisy and by the time we landed she and i had bonded. i taught her how to wave bye-bye and her mother, so grateful, convinced me to try a bacon budgey. at this point, seriously starving, i would have eaten daisy. we were only in the tenth row of the plane, but by the time the flight attendant got to us the only thing left to eat was a bacon budgey. what is a bacon budgey you ask? it is disgusting. it is half raw, fatty ham and a bun that is spread with what is called streaky. streaky is basically bacon fat. inedible. teaching daisy bye bye deserved better than a bacon budgey, but that is what i got. still starving, we landed safely in pisa, got to our flat and finally made it to one of our favorite hangouts for a pizza and salad. heaven!

now, a word about our flat. it is magnificent. hopefully, howard will figure out how to add his photos, but until then, let me just say that this is even too beautiful for a contessa. i think a pricipesa should be living here. i was embarrassed for the closets that they had to house my meager wardrobe of j. crew and banana. these are closets that deserved dior and dolce and gabbana.

after just a mere few minutes in lucca, we ran into our friend, and former landlord, dulce. not only did he help us in with our luggage, but hours later, when running into howard again in a cafe, struggling with his wifi (more on our gorgeous flat and how nothing, related to the twenty-first-century works)he enlisted his friend, the cafe owner to help. in four years of visiting lucca, we have never once met a single person who wasn’t kind and generous. it truly is a special place and every time we return, we are reminded, in just a few minutes, why we keep coming back.

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once again in packing hell

it’s that time again. we are off for our yearly trip to lucca in just three days and, as always, i am in packing hell. this year i was determined to pack only black pants, just a few tee-shirts, long and short sleeves, a couple of blouses and a couple of sweaters. alas, the best-laid plans. so, for the past hour i have stood in my closet and tried to make a decision. i am like a mother who is forced to chose her favorite child. each of my pants has it’s own personality, it’s own uses and requires it’s own heel height. and then there are the shoes. don’t get me started on shoes. i have a faint memory of a time, long ago, when i could throw in a pair of sandals, and a pair of tennies, and travel the world. that time is long gone. my feet now demand new and different shoes, all of them that hurt in their own special way. and when did i suddenly need so many products? hair products, and skin products, and creams and lotions and conditioners? and the drugs? where did all the drug needs come from? back in the day i could get by with a bottle of aspirin and call it a day. now i have so many bottles and vials and packets; not that i take all that medication, but i now have a whole plastic bag filled with “just in case”.

and so i am packing. howard would like me travel with carry on, for six weeks. the man is delusional. I wish i could be one of those women who throw two pairs of jeans and a scarf in a carry on and travel the world, but i am not. i like to think that i travel like the Queen. unfortunately, for the husband, we do not have servants to do the schlepping. so i am packing. i am only taking one suitcase and a carry on. i don’t think that is so terrible. i just hope the damn thing will zip, and hope even more fervently that when the time comes for the contessa to return home, all this stuff will fit back in the suitcase.

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living and laughing and loving in lucca!

living and laughing and loving in lucca!

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