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Report 1043: Luggage, Lattes and Lunacy

By Palma from California, Spring 2006

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Page 2 of 17: May 20: Are we in Italy Yet?

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Ida's House in Vico

I awoke at 2:30 a.m. (ahead of my scheduled 4 a.m. wake-up call), showered, read and wrote in my journal. I checked out at 4:20, and by 5 a.m. my luggage was checked with BA to Pisa. I had breakfast, then greeted Ida as she came off her flight from Orlando at 6:30 a.m. You might ask why I got to London a whole day early. So let me tell you a little about my traveling companions…

My friend Ida and I met 14 years ago at my Maui condo. Her son, Chris, then six, was splashing around in the pool. She told him to, “Stop bothering those ladies.” I told her it was fine, we liked kids, and the cool water felt good. We began a conversation and that was the beginning of our vacationing together in Maui for the next 12 years. We also visited each other in the California Bay Area when I lived in Redwood Shores, at her home on the Jersey shore, and a few years later when her family moved to Melbourne Beach, Florida. Ida was in my wedding six years ago in La Quinta, CA, and our first visitor to our new home in Palm Desert in 2004.

Ida inherited a house in Vico Pancellorum, a tiny mountain town north of Bagni di Lucca (population estimated around 90). She spent summers as a child and teenager in Vico, and still has a number of cousins, aunts, and uncles in the area, and in nearby Lucca (45 minutes away). The third person on this trip is Gail, a pharmacist and Ida’s old neighbor from New Jersey. I met Gail for the first time at the Pisa airport.

When the trip was initially planned, the three of us were to meet in London in time to take the 8 a.m. flight from London to Pisa. There is no way a flight from the west coast can connect with that time. Ida said I needed to be on that same flight as she and Gail, so we could pick up the rental car and drive up to Vico. The next flight wouldn’t arrive in Pisa until 3 p.m., and they would not drive all the way back to Pisa (over an hour) to come back for me. I left Thursday to meet them Saturday morning, and spent an extra 192 British pounds to overnight at Gatwick.

We looked for Gail at the appointed meeting place at Gatwick, but she wasn’t there. We went to the gate, the flight began boarding, and still no Gail. We left London for Pisa, and assumed Gail’s flight from Newark was late and she missed the Pisa connection. As it turns out, she did, by 10 minutes. We arrived in Pisa at 11 a.m., got our rental car, crammed all our luggage in (wondering already where the heck we were going to put Gail and her bags), did some grocery shopping at the COOP in Pisa, and had a pizza for lunch. At 3, we returned to the Pisa airport and learned the flight would be in at 4.

Ida was illegally parked and napping in the car. I had a sign to greet Gail, since we had never met, and I had no idea what she looked like. As the 4 o’clock flight passengers began to come in, I greeted at least 20 women traveling alone without a baby by smiling and asking, “Gail? Gail? Gail???” Finally, one responded with, “Are you Palma?” We got Gail’s luggage, returned to the car, woke Ida, and drove up the hills into the mountains of northern Tuscany.

We stopped in Bagni di Lucca at the gelato store to stock up on provisions. I thought I liked gelato, but Ida gives it a whole different perspective. She buys it by the KILO, not scoop. We each chose half a kilo of flavors. Mine were stracchiatella, panna cotta and crema. (This lasted me a week and a half, but Ida’s kilo of ciocolata was gone in two sittings.)

We climbed the hills on a tiny road to Vico Pancellorum (from here on I will call it Vico, like the locals). We found a parking spot down the road about three blocks from Ida’s house, as the street is too narrow to get anything but a Smart car or its equivalent all the way to the house. We then dragged luggage, groceries and gelato in two trips up, up, up the steep road. When we reached Ida’s house, I shuddered, as there were an additional 25 very steep stone steps to the front door. My large piece of luggage weighed in at 69 lbs., and the smaller one at 40. If I was EVER going to pack light for Italy, this should have been the time to try it. I swore my way up to the front door, wondering if I thank Brad enough every time he handles all the luggage on our trips. When my legs stopped shaking, I realized my room was on the third floor (five more flippin’ flights up!)

Ida, the self-admitted compulsive cleaner, announced, “We need to get the house DONE first, and then you can unpack!” This entailed cleaning, making up the beds, taking a TV and DVD player out of storage, dusting, sweeping, vacuuming the floors, rolling out rugs, and putting away groceries. (And the cleaning lady had just been there!) Ida had asked me to bring a box of Bounce fabric softener sheets, but I had no idea why. She coats the place with them when she leaves each year. We found Bounce in every cupboard, drawer, armoire, between the sheets, towels, blankets, under beds, in the kitchen and under the cushions. Everywhere you looked or breathed, there was a Bounce sheet multiplying and procreating Baby Bounces!

We finally finished cleaning and polishing at 9 p.m. Did I mention there was no wine or a coffee pot? We took a gelato break, and I ransacked the kitchen and found a one-cup espresso pot. We unpacked as Ida continued to find things to clean and vacuum until midnight. I had been up again for 22 hours. When I hit the pillow at 12:30, within five minutes I developed a horrible toothache. It lasted about half an hour, ended as abruptly as it started, and I fell asleep around 1 a.m.

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