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Sunday 08-10-23: all at sea with the Tuscan Wannabe’s……

We woke at 3.49am both wide awake and scoured the bedroom walls to see how many stink bugs we’d slept with last night. Seems one had landed on Maice’s bed and although it wasn’t doing much except just sitting there I set about extricating said stink bug whilst Maice lay dormant, absolutely horrified! With the bug safely despatched to its outside living quarters we decided it was too early to get up so we held a post-mortem about the previous days events. We deduced that John would most definitely have to ‘get a grip’ when we encounter the next set of motorway toll booths. One would think it a simple task to press the button and wait for the ticket to emerge from the slot, but no, Johnny made a right pigs-ear out of this ritual to such an extent that at one point all we could see was his rear end and legs dangling through the window whilst he stretched himself out towards the machine. In Johns defence even Richard had a few issues trying to extract the ticket but in Richards defence, this was his first experience with an Italian motorway toll whereas John has had many years of experience, so there was no absolutely no excuse. After a few choice words emanated from Johns mouth the ticket was plucked from the machine and handed back to myself, the holder of the mini-bus kitty purse.

Even though we’ve only been here for one day we reminisced about our stroll through the sleepy village of Grondola. It would have been sleepy had John not gone banging on all his cousins doors, his dulcet tones emanating into the calm atmosphere, shouting for them to come out and meet all his customers.… was a real case of ‘here’s Johnny’! Ah well, to those who didn’t answer their doors….watch out, he’ll be back!

It was such a lovely day yesterday but now we had to contend with the day ahead. Breakfast was at 6.30am so once showered and dressed we soon found ourselves walking down the middle of the road to breakfast at La Baruccia, which is part of the complex….in the dark! We arrived at 6.20am and guess what? We were the first to arrive. We sat down to croissants and cafe (espresso) and waited for the rest of the Wannabe’s to arrive. Johnny seemed most surprised to see us sat at the table when he eventually turned up after 6.30am. Apparently he’d said to the others that we’d be the last to arrive’. Ha, how little he knows us!

We set off in the two mini buses, driving along the motorway to La Spezia where John still couldn’t get the hang of the motorway toll booths! Then all the way to the coast he was fretting about not being able to find a parking space in La Spezia, particularly with two mini buses. Honestly, he was all doom and gloom. ‘If we can’t get a space we’ll have to drive all the way along the coast and that will take an hour and a half’ he said. ‘And we might not get a ticket for the ferry as it’ll be so busy and then there’s the weather it might be choppy and the boats might not be running’ he continued on. Right, enough was enough. It was time to pull out our trump card…….the positive vibes card. So Maice told everyone, including John to think positive thoughts and if we all thought positively we’d find a space. An lo-and-behold guess what. We drove into La Spezia and found two large spaces on the road just opposite the ferry boat. How convenient was that, and due to everyone thinking positively, it was also free parking on a Sunday. What a bonus! We poured out of the mini-buses with poor Richard still reeling from the illegal manoeuvre he’d had to make following Johnny out of a carpark five minutes earlier. John had pulled into a car park which wasn’t really a car park for tourists and instead of driving out the correct way he drove down the short ‘no-entry’ road and quickly whizzed out onto the main road with Richard in hot pursuit!!

With ferry tickets purchased we boarded the boat and headed to the top deck where we managed to get seats together. It was turning out to be a lovely sunny morning. The early mist was rising and it was starting to heat up. It was going to be a lovely day. We were off to Cinque Terra, a string of centuries-old seaside villages hugging the rugged Italian Riviera coastline and John had worked out the itinerary of the day. Unfortunately he was getting himself into a right muddle with the timetable and even though it was there in black and white he kept getting the timings wrong. Luckily, Malcom, Johns ‘wing man’ stepped in to save the day and calm was restored. All we had to do now was get off when John and Malcolm got off, it was that simple!

A number of us ladies needed to use the ‘facilities’ on board the boat which was literally a two woman process. You see, the toilet door had an opaque see-through window so everyone who was sat in front of the toilet could see what has happening within. To protect our modesty Maice and I went to the toilet together with one of us standing guard in front of the door, thereby blocking the view to what was going on inside. Hi-five to us for such good team work!

Our first stop on the high-seas was at the village of Porto Venere, Johnnys favourite place, which isn’t actually part of Cinque Terra but is seen as the gateway to Cinque Terra. Everyone split up and went their separate ways to explore this lovely village. Some went for coffee, some went for ice-cream, some went to the castle, some went to the church. Maice and I dawdled along the promenade and headed towards the church where we bumped into Johnny. The views from the church were amazing and the rugged coastline looked stunning beneath the blue skies. On the way back to the boat we found a lovely little cafe along the waters edge and stopped for drinks where we found Tracey and Kev, Amanda and Paul and Malcolm all whom had the same idea. There’s nothing better than enjoying a nice glass of crisp white wine or a negroni chatting with friends, under a blue sky, in the heat of the day and when the sun is shining. Marvellous!

We were back on the boat at 11am and headed off to our next port-of-call which was Manarola. We had to be sure footed when navigating our way from the boat to the village as the terrain was rocky and very narrow with people coming and going, all trying to get past each other. We made it into the little village but it was so busy and claustrophobic we had no option…..we found a lovely little cafe, sat down and ordered an espresso. It was delicious. We don’t know who’s following who but moments later Tracey and Kev walked in who obviously felt the same as we did. Of course, there being no public toilets the only way to ‘relieve’ oneself was to find a cafe, purchase a drink and use the facilities which obviously works out more expensive than just ‘spending a penny’! We headed back to the boat and whilst stood in the queue along the narrow jetty we got talking to Bob and his wife who were from Pennsylvania. She spoke Italian but was Spanish and they were both here on holiday. We had a lovely chat with them and a good laugh…..what a lovely couple they were.

Back on board the boat, our next and final stop was the village of Vernassa where Johnny had organised a seafood risotto at one of the restaurants which we were all looking forward to. We split up again, wandered around and met up for lunch. The restaurant, Trattoria il Baretto, was situated in the middle of the main street so not only did we enjoy good food we could also partake in a spot of people watching. We laughed our way through a very delicious and tasty lunch but all too soon it was time to leave and head back to the boat. Whilst waiting on the jetty, Johnny regaled David of the time ten years ago when he and seven of his cousins jumped off the jetty into the waters below. ‘Shall we do it’ said David. And with that, Johnny took off his hat, took off his watch, took off his shirt and jumper and handed them to Claire. ‘What are you doing’ she asked. ‘I’m going in’ was the reply, and with that both David and Johnny jumped into the crystal clear waters of the Mediterranean Sea……..still wearing their knickers and shorts. Not a pair of speedos was in sight. They emerged, dripping wet and with no-one thinking to pack a towel for any such impromptu occasion they had to drip-dry on the top deck of the boat. Let’s hope they dry off completely as neither of them want to be sitting in the mini-bus for ninety minutes with soggy bottoms!

We were busy chatting to Amanda and Paul on the top deck when all of a sudden an elderly french couple sat in front of us and started taking photos. Well, when they took a selfie the four of us couldn‘t help but photo-bomb their photo. It was hilarious and even though they looked at the photo they obviously didn’t see us in the background, that is until they sent it to someone who did see us and must have told the couple. Oh my, if looks could kill……we certainly got a really dirty look from the lady!! Ah well, you can’t win em’ all! We were then joined by another two couples on the end of our benches and as Maice and I always like to challenge ourselves by making conversation with total strangers, like we did earlier with Anita and Maureen we started a conversation. They too were french and didn’t speak an ounce of English so we thought we‘d failed but then one of the guys started showing us photos of himself that were on his phone. Apparently he used to be in a band and played the saxophone. What two lovely couples they were.

We had a table booked at Pizzeria il Principe in Pontremoli for 7.30pm so the plan was to drive back to Grondola, have a quick change and then drive down the hill to supper. We were looking forward to our Pizza’s which had come highly recommended by one of Johnnys cousins! Of course, the best laid plans can change, and change they did as we all too soon found ourselves in a queue on the motorway. Amanda and Paul were in charge of any updates to the traffic situation and also our ETA back to Grondola. Of course, for those who don’t know Johnny, he has little patience and being in a queue was not helpful so we had no option but to bring out the ‘positive thoughts’ again. As we told him, there was absolutely nothing he could do….we were well and truly stuck in traffic. We decided to change the time of our restaurant booking from 7.30pm to 8pm then as we were getting nowhere fast on the motorway the plan changed again. We decided to forgo driving everyone back to Grondola and head straight to the restaurant with Johnny and David going back to change. Of course Johnny starts fretting again about leaving us alone in the restaurant thinking we couldn’t possibly cope without him especially as none of us could speak Italian! As it was, we got dropped off at 8.30pm with Johnny and David finally joining us at 9.15pm. We sat at a long table laden with wines, beers and pizzas and there was much laughter, merriment and frivolity…….yes, we all needed that first drink! Maice and I being at one end of the table couldn’t hear what was going on at the other end so we FaceTimed Johnny who didn’t answer his phone. When we enquired ‘is that your phone ringing’ he realised he didn’t have it and rushed out to the mini-bus to fetch it stating that ‘one of you might need to get hold of me’. Work that one out if you can! We FaceTime’d him again at which point he realised he’d been pranked…..ah, we did laugh! In fact we laughed and laughed that whole evening. It was such a good vibe. Despite sitting in a queue for two hours it’s been such a lovely day……you see what happens when you have positive thoughts!

And with that, we bid you Buona Note…..

M&A and the Tuscan Wannabe’s xxx

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