A Travellerspoint blog


Exploring the Walled City

sunny 26 °C

How lucky were we to have a two week Love Home Swap in Lucca, which is in Tuscany, Italy. We hadn't done any research on Lucca, just knew it was in Tuscany and who wouldn't want to spend time in this area. It was a nice surprise to find that Lucca was a completely walled city. We went off exploring this beautiful city. We found a good car parking place near the railway station that was easy to get into. Most parking in the city requires a permit. We enjoyed the walk in over the grassed area, check the stream for trout, yes they were there, then a walk up through the cobbled tunnel then through another tunnel before getting to the city. We soon found the main street that was full of small shops under apartments. Once we had our bearings it was off to explore. We found a cafe that was good for WiFi. You could spend ages here they didn't seem to mind. Lucky I couldn't take much more weight as had to stay under the 23ks as there was lots of tempting things in the shops. We soon found a central square with Duomo did San Martino (The large Cathedral). Here we found the orchestra playing so stopped for awhile to listen. Lucca was founded by the Etroscans and became a Roman colony in 180 BC. The rectangular grid of its historical Centre preserves the Roman street plan. Traces of the ampetheatrecan still be seen in the Piazza dell'Anfiteatro. Julius Caesar has attended a conference here in 56 BC. On Saturday we discovered the markets so spent some time wandering around these. We also discovered the ampetheatre area where we had dinner and met a nice couple from Australia, she was French and he was from Maritious. They were watching the Australian rugby team at the world cup on their ipad. A lot of restaurants in Lucca had WiFi. They were in the next restaurants so we were comparing who had the best meal. We loved this Amphitheater area with all the restaurans, you would watch the tourists walk in and go wow. In this city there was a surprise around every corner. We loved Lucca. Some of the drivers in Lucca were a bit crazy. Lots of honking of horns and people in such a hurry to go places. They tailgate and pass in crazy places. If you are going the legal limit they still pass. You also have to watch for motor bikes that appear from nowhere. Also in Italy the only people wearing bike helmets seem to be those more competitive cyclists in lycra. There are lots of cyclists on the roads even late at night, sometimes they had no lighting on their bikes. The road toll must be very high. We saw an article from a newspaper with photos of a young couple and their baby near a cross roads stuck on a sign. It looks like they had died there a month before. One evening heading for groceries we had to pause for traffic, while doing this we allowed 2 cars to come out of a siďe road, this was interesting when we stopped at lights a lady put her head out the window and started screaming at us, apparentry being kind to other motorists were against her rules. I must admit I gave her the fingers and swore back at her. Road rage around this place must happen often. day returning to the city saw a barrier we passed earlier all beaten in. A lot of the shops closed in the middle of the day for siesta, but these same shops opened quite late at night.

Posted by kiwiscanflyto 01:46 Archived in Italy Tagged exploring Comments (0)

London to Pisa, Pisa to Lucca, Italy

Off to Tuscany for Love Home Swap number eight

sunny 24 °C

It was up early to catch our very early taxi to Heathrow Airport. We got delivered to our terminal and soon found our check in counter. We flew British Airways. We were very impressed with this large airport. Lots of people dealing with checking in, no problems, then straight through to the scanners still no queue, just straight into the reception area. It was a good flight to Pisa, though a bit like a roller coaster in places. We landed in Pisa Airport, a smallish airport. We thought it would be a long way to take a taxi from Pisa to Lucca so decided to take the train instead. There was a well marked trail from the airport to the place to catch the shuttle to get to the station. After getting off the shuttle found we were on the other side of the rail lines as well as steps there was a lift to get across, then just a matter of working out where to get back up. We managed to get a ticket. It is amazing how helpful people can be when you are travelling. If you buy a train ticket at Lucca or Pisa be sure to validate it in the machine or you get fined apparently. Validating it meant putting it in a special machine that clipped it. The train was old, we managed to find a seat for us and one for our bags. We weren't worried about putting our bags on the seats with the train being so old. The train stopped at about three stops and took around 25 minutes. We had quite a long wait at Lucca Station, waiting for Christina to pick us up. Christina is a house manager and manages Roberta's villa in Lucca. She also does cooking lessons in her home for tourists. This day she had two lots of cooking classes in her home. We had to wait till 4.30 pm when she was going to leave one of her classes to pick us up and take us to the villa. She was not happy with us just catching a taxi there. I guess she was getting paid for this service. First we went to the station coffee shop and had something to eat and a coffee to pass the time. At least they had WiFi connection. Went to the toilet and it was there one and only toilette that's funny I just typed toilet in Italian. This was a squat toilet it always takes one by surprise when you are not used to them. After being here for quite some time we spotted another Cafe, Bar across the street so decided to go and have a wine. It is hard to overstay in these places as some people sitting at the tables playing cards. Finally Christina arrived in her little car, it was a tight squeeze to fit the suitcases and ourselves in the car. On our drive we were delighted to find that Lucca is a completely walled city. Christina took us past the supermarket then on to the villa. A tight squeeze in the car past some buildings to get to the back of the villa. This villa was large. Lots of bedrooms and dining areas. There was room for many but there were just the two of us. The walls of the villa which was built in 1600 were really thick so it was nice and cool inside. This villa along with the attached villas were a former nunnery. There is a passage underground under the villas which the priests would walk along. You realise that you are in a predominately catholic country when you see that a lot of the homes have a shrine and the area where we were had a major shrine as you drove in. Also when you pick up the paper there are photos of the pope. Soon it was back to driving on the right hand side of the road in Roberta's car, this car had lots of scratches down the sides and off to the super market for supplies. It takes forever the first time finding things and checking out things you have never seen before and getting tempted by the local delicacies.

Posted by kiwiscanflyto 01:36 Archived in Italy Tagged travelling Comments (0)

Visiting Buckingham Palace

Visiting the Palace of Queen Elizabeth II

sunny 20 °C

Buckingham Palace is only open for a short time every year while Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh take their annual holidays in Sandringham, Scotland. As we had visited many royal palaces on our long trip it was fitting to finish with the reigning Monachs Palace. We arrived at the allowed time of 11.30 am to be told we had to visit the Royal Mews and the Queen's Gallery first. We walked along the road to the Royal Mews not really knowing what we would see. First we got to see the royal state carriages. The ones that you see during royal weddings, Corinations etc. Also some cars on display. One of the Royal coaches quite modern designed by an Australian, as this is more roomy and comfortable it was the couch used for William and Kates wedding. We also got to walk through the emaculate stables, we saw some of the Queens horses being unloaded from a horse float. There were lots of horse paraphernalia on display from over the years all well polished. The best part of the Royal Mews was seeing the golden coach. This was so golden it glowed. It was well displayed with sculptured horses and riders. I could have stood there all day looking at it. After this we had some lunch in a restaurant we had already frequented. It was then off to the Queen's gallery. The gallery features art from the royal collections. This year the display theme was the Garden. The art works were chosen with this in mind. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were keen art collectors and often had art works commissioned. It was good to see some of these. Some of the Art work brought back memories of a trip to The Isle of White on a previous visit. There was some sculptures the one I liked the best was the boy with a prickle in his foot. There was a candelabra that came from Osborne House that looked like lillies. Getting into the Palace is like going through an airport. First you queau then your bag goes through a scanner. Geoff had to leave his backpack and collect it at the other side. We got a quided tour it felt a little unreal to be gliding up the stairs to the state rooms and actually being inside the palace. Buckingham Palace has served as the official London residence of British sovereigns since 1837. And today is the administrative headquarters of the monarch. The Palace has 775 rooms. They include 19 State rooms, 52 Royal and guest bedroos, 188 staff bedrooms, 92 offices and 78 bathroos. The Palace is the venue for Royal ceremonies, State Visits and Investitures all organised by the Royal Household. We got to see rooms only before seen in the media. The Royal state dining room was set up as for the Singapore Presidents visit, he had visited earlier in the year. The tables completely set along with name tags, flowers etc I got to stand right behind the Queens chair and see the room from her view point. On display was an interesting collection of gifts given to the Queen on State Visits, one was particularly colourful and amusing. I am sure it gave the Queen a good chuckle. They had various cabinets set up showing how the household runs, like the kitchen etc. I liked the dressmaker one showing materials still to be sewn and a frock that the Queen resently wore. There were also other dresses on display. A great experience for us to do this visit. No photos allowed as you would expect. Soon we popped out the back where the royal garden parties are held there were large posters showing former garden parties. Here there were large temporary seating areas and a cafe. We thought we had better partake of royal afternoon tea where we could look out on the lawn and Gardens where the Queen has more than likely walked her corgis. Grandma and Grandpa Wooderson were very excited to receive an invitation to a royal garden party in 1952. It would have been Elizabeth II first garden party after becoming Queen, she was crowned in 1953. Grandma writes in her dairy of going to buy her dress with one of the Aunts they stayed with in London. Grandma and Grandpa were on the boat to England when the news came of King Georges death. They lined up along the Mall to watch his funeral procession. After our afternoon tea we walked out through the gardens. Of course there was a shop you had to walk through. Then more gardens to walk through before popping out in a completely different place to the entrance. Managed to find an underground popped down and found our way to Kings Cross Station.

Posted by kiwiscanflyto 07:50 Archived in England Tagged palace buckingham Comments (0)

"They're Changing the Guards at Buckingham Palace"

Geoff went down with Joyce to the Palace

all seasons in one day 20 °C

Wherever I go in England I seem to get reminded of songs with the place names. When out and about in London feel like I am making progress around the monopoly board. This morning after a sleepless night managed to sleep in. Not good when we had plans to see the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace. We fast walked to Kings Cross Station to catch the underground. Had to figure out which train to catch. We realised we could catch the circular line. But which direction would be the fastest as our destination half way around. Our indecision at the beginning meant we had to wait another 10 precious minutes for the next train. It was frustrating watching the clock tick around as seemed to stop at endless stations. Soon we alighted near Hyde Park and had a fast walk through the park. It was a little wet but we had dressed for this. Managed to make it just in time. I managed to wriggle myself to the front though one man was taking up a mighty lot of room beside me. There are always crowds of people watching this. The last time we had seen this was almost 11 years ago. It was on our first trip over to the United Kingdom when our three daughters, their partners and two grandchildren lived and worked in England. We had arrived the evening before. All the family were camped out at Sharleen and Adam's home in New Malden. Katrina and family who lived out of London suddenly decided it was the changing of the guards and wanted to see it. We were out of the house in quick time and almost ran through Hyde Park to make it in time as well. Zara was barely 6 weeks old at the time. So back here we were. Just as they were to come into view wammo I had a selfie stick thrust right in my range of vision by a young girl standing behind. "EXCUUUUSSSEEE meeeeeee" said I with a glare. The offender disappeared. The man taking up a lot of room moved over a bit I think he thought I was talking to him. Well worth the effort of getting there to see the changing of the guards again. We then thought we would get tickets to see Buckingham Palace. You can only do this tour for a short time every year when the Queen is on her annual holiday to Sandringham and as we were in London thought it would be a good chance to do it. We queued for a good half hour for tickets even those who had bought tickets on line were in another shorter queue. We then found out that we couldn't do the tour till 1.30 pm. We decided to book for the next day. We headed down the road for lunch. Later on we headed back to our accommodation, had a rest, then glammed up to head to Prince Edward Theatre by the underground. We had left plenty of time to have a leisurely meal before seeing Miss Saigon. We found a Japanese Restaurant where the waitresses were dressed in saris. A short walk to the theatre another wine and soon the show began. We were able to shift seats when a tall person sat in front so ended up closer. We sat on the first tier. We never can work out the best place to sit. This was good as most of the action in the first half seem directly in front of us. The show was full of action and the sets were amazing, and the acting and singing were great. It was a very entertaining evening, we were pleased with our choice of show. Soon it was back out on the street on a pleasant evening into the underground and back to our accommodation. Another great day in London. We were enjoying London and as we had seen most of the main sites in London on previous visits so didn't feel pressured to be seeing everything. Sometimes it is nice just to wander around absorbing all the atmosphere.

Posted by kiwiscanflyto 12:49 Archived in England Tagged the palace at changing guards buckingham Comments (0)

Convent Garden, British Cycle Tour Finish, London

Street Entertainment on a sunny Sunday

sunny 20 °C

After a sleep in we decided to catch the underground to a subway near Prince Edward Theatre. Once we found the theatre where Miss Saigon was being held we headed off to find a booking office, several near here. We found one that was selling tickets at a good price. It is a bit different to years ago when you would have to queau for tickets. There were so many shows on in London. There were lots I would have liked to see but a decision had to be made and we hadn't seen Miss Saigon before. It was a sunny Sunday and I knew we were close to Convent Garden. With the help of my phone we soon found it. What a great way to spend a sunny Sunday. As well as the colourful interesting markets there were lots of street performers of a high standard. We spent a long time watching the street entertainers. We put a donation in the containers of those we spent time watching. There were the knife jugglers. One of these was on a ladder with only one rung it was a long way off the ground. He took off his shirt, not sure why he did that we had to watch his quivering flesh. There was a good Mr Bean Impersonator. He was charging for photos taken with him. We liked the dog in the kennel he was funny. I posted a video of that on my face book page. The Charlie Chaplin Impersonator was very good, he did a long stint and was funny. He certainly picked on people in the crowd so we were keeping our distance. There were various other acts as well. We watched a sculptor sculpting a young boy. I was very impressed with how still he sat. His mother dressed very fashionable and he looked very smartly dressed as well. We eventually headed off to find barriers everywhere and we were marooned. I am not sure how we missed this action earlier must have approached from a different angle. We stood by the fence and chatted to some nice young English people and found out it was the finish of the Cycle Tour of Britain. Fancy that, first we catch the end of the Tour de France in Paris accidently, now here is the finish of the British Tour. Events just seem to follow us around. We decided we might as well stay and watch. They certainly fly by and it didn't take long for each round. It was fun watching the support vehicles whizz past and the ambulance where the passenger seemed to be hanging on around the corner where we were. People realised that the finish was across the street but by then you couldn't get across, we wandered around and found net barriers on our side, someone had conveniently torn a big hole in one barrier. The interesting part here was watching an angry young man have an altercation with a security guard on the other side of the barrier. Obviously angry about the netting he tore a big hole in another screen. The security man was right in his face and was well out of order when he took a swing at the young man's nose. Luckily no blood. The security man about to take action but of course by then the young man had disappeared into the crowd. Why put the net up in the first place the barrier was enough. We finally walked to an underground station and found a train to take us back to Kings Cross Station. Six flights of stairs to negotiate to our room, at least we now weren't setting off the fire alarm.

Posted by kiwiscanflyto 13:27 Archived in England Tagged city siteseeing Comments (0)

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