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Saturday 07-10-23: On Tour with the Tuscan Wannabe’s……

As coach journeys go, the two and a half hour trip up to Gatwick Airport passed pretty quickly even though a) we encountered a detour which added an extra twenty minutes to the journey and b) much to the bemusement of the driver we asked him to stop off at Fleet services for a ‘comfort’ break….he obviously didn’t think it was a long enough journey to warrant a stop but hey, when you get to a certain age, needs must! The coach driver played his own music on the coach, and had it not been so early in the morning we probably would have had a sing-song and been up dancing in the aisles the music was that good…..all 70’s music although I don’t think Tracey was too impressed particularly when ‘chirpy-chirpy cheep-cheep’ sounded for the third time!

We arrived at the airport, some of us looking slightly worse for wear due to lack of sleep, dropped off our luggage, made our way through security and went our separate ways in search of a) Amanda and Paul who had made their way to the airport the day before and had stayed in a hotel and b) somewhere for breakfast. Feeling refreshed, we caught up with A&P, made our way through departures where a few of us had the pleasure of being frisked and soon found ourselves sat on the plane, not all together I might add, but dotted all over the place. To be fair we weren’t too worried about not sitting together due to the fact that we’d be spending the next five days or 120 hours in each other’s company, in a foreign country…..something we’d never done before. Ah well, we do love a challenge!

Having consumed the obligatory Prosecco on the plane we landed at Pisa airport at 9.15am, disembarked, collected our luggage and felt the heat on our faces as we set off on foot to pick up the two mini-buses. Whilst Richard had been allocated the posh mini-bus and was taking with him Julia, Malcolm, Tracey, Jaci, Kev and Kev it seemed Johnny drew the short straw as he ended up driving the ‘jalopy’ with its dents and scratches and things that didn’t quite work. Joining him in the passenger seats were David, Kate, Amanda, Paul, Ken, Claire and of course us, M&A. Maice immediately laid down the mini-bus ‘house’ rules which were a) everyone needed to change seats for each journey and b) everyone had to think ‘positive thoughts’.

We set off along the highway towards Grondola and stopped off at the supermarket in Pontremoli where we met Lucy, one of Johnny’s cousins, of which, apparently, he has many! She transferred a couple of demi-johns of wine into the boot of the mini-bus but not before we’d all invaded the supermarket to purchase provisions for our rooms. Water, wine, beers, cheese, bread, sweets….you name it, it was purchased and with that we headed up to Grondola to our accommodation, La Casa del Sorto. I don’t think we’d realised exactly how far up the mountain Grondola was but it took at least fifteen minutes for the mini-buses to negotiate the very steep and windey road complete with its numerous hair-pin bends and vertiginous drops to the valley below which, thankfully, we couldn’t see as it was totally shrouded by trees!!

Johnny had organised a ‘light’ lunch for us when we arrived so having dropped our luggage into our rooms, swatted a few wasps (thankfully I’d packed a fly swot which always comes in handy on a holiday), caught, and released about ten ‘stink bugs’ that we found clinging to the net curtains we walked down the hill to lunch. The ‘light’ lunch turned out to be a three course tapas style fiesta with wine and beers. We ate and drank as much as we dared in the knowledge that we were dining out that evening so needed to pace ourselves. Honestly, what is it with red wine? As soon as his wine glass was filled Kev managed to knock it over spilling red wine everywhere! Apparently the join in the table was to blame!!Not to worry, there was plenty more where that came from! After lunch Johnny was taking us for a stroll through the village to show us his house, and then we were going to meet his cousins, of which, apparently, he has many!

We were stuffed after our ‘light’ lunch so the walk down to the village was welcome in order to a) walk off the wine b) walk off the indulgence of sampling the local cuisine and c) we needed to get our steps in having been sat down for most of the day. Johnnys house was lovely with the most tremendous views looking out over the Tuscan hills. Lucky for Malcolm who was staying at Johnnys place and would wake up every morning to those fabulous views…..when we’ve not got an early start that is! We passed by all the houses where his cousins and relatives and friends lived, some came out to see us whilst others remained indoors……well it was siesta time after all!

Back at Johnnys place we drank Prosecco before heading back to our room. Thankfully we’d been given an hour to unpack and freshen up before meeting his cousins at the local co-op, a rather small bijou community room where the locals gather in order to enjoy a drink or two! After a quick change and the removal of even more stink bugs from the curtains and the walls we arrived at the aforementioned establishment and upon entering were greeted by Johnny’s ‘Cousin Crew’ aka a large number of his family. Yes, we can quite honestly attest to the fact that Johnny has a lot of cousins! With plates of very ‘more-ish’ snacks and nibbles on the tables enticing us to snack out even though we were still stuffed after lunch we interacted with the cousins and the locals, drank wine, drank beers, drank Aperol spritzes and gin and tonics and of course ate more food. We were made to feel so welcome and there was so much energy traversing around this tiny little co-op it was fabulous. What a lovely welcome from Johnnys cousins……..and of course, that’s not all of them! There are still some out there that we’ve yet to meet!

Before we knew it we were all ensconced within our respective mini buses and heading down the long and windey road to the San Georgio restaurant in Pontremoli. More food! More wine! How would our bodies cope with this further onslaught to our digestive system? Ah well, as they say, ‘when in Rome’ and even though we’re not actually in Rome it’s the same thing. Two of Johns cousins joined us for supper which was a very fine affair. Honestly, it’s amazing where one can find room for more food and drink when one purports to be stuffed! But eat and drink we did and a merry evening was had by all.

By now delirium through lack of sleep was beginning to set in. We left the restaurant at 9.30pm and by the time we’d reached the top of the hill David realised he’d left his jumper in the restaurant. Ah well, there was no way we were going to retrieve it this evening…….all we wanted now was our beds. Despite the number of stink-bugs congregating on the walls and the windows we left them to their own devices in the knowledge that they wont harm us, so to bed we went. Apparently we’re all meeting for breakfast at 6.30am for a 7am start! 🤣🤣🤣 let’s see how many make it for breakfast…..!

And on that note we’ll say ‘Buona Note’…….

M&A and the Tuscan Wannabe’s xxx

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