Author: sallymckenzieblog

November 2 – Thursday

Was awake and up by 6:00, and Colin and the doggies walked me to the metro/train station to get the bus to the airport before 7:00. They stayed and waited until the bus left – I’m sure going to miss them!

Got to the airport in plenty of time, to find out that the flight to Toronto was almost 1 1/2 hours late. While I was waiting I got a nice Italian cappuccino, which I managed to spill all over the table, floor and my camera case when the case got caught on the table as I was trying to put my cup down. A lady at the next table gave me a couple of wet-wipes, and the cleaning lady was right there with her clothe and mop – all cleaned up in no time, although no nice cappuccino for me.

2C06D44E-8822-45D9-B5DC-994ED8D142D0The flight seemed very long – around 9 1/2 hours. They fed us a meal – the lady next to me got the last of the chicken so I got pasta by default – not too bad, although the ‘salad’ of mixed veggies was questionable. After a few more hours they came by again with some heated panini-type things that weren’t too bad – she gave us a veggie one each, then said they had some chicken ones left also so we each got a second one.

Got to Toronto with lots of time to catch the flight to Vancouver. They didn’t give us anything at all on the 5 1/2 hour flight – I could have bot something at inflated prices but figured I’d already spent enough on the flight and they weren’t going to get any more from me.

Landed a few minutes late, but okay for catching the final flight home. A couple of earlier flights had been cancelled due to the weather in Kelowna and ours was completely full with several folks waiting on stand-by. I was in seat 13A, so followed the rows to the back only to see that the last row was 12 – was I sitting in the galley (maybe on top of the wine cooler?!?). Nooo – the 13th row is right at the front – facing row 1, which makes a lot of sense – right? A really tall fellow sat next to me, but I leaned against the wall on my left and tried to sleep.

The pilot’s little speech was not reassuring – he said that right now the visibility for landing was not good, but they were going to hope it cleared a bit as we flew – it didn’t. We must have been just about there when he came on again to inform us that it had gotten worse and we were turning back to Vancouver.

As soon as we re-entered the terminal we all headed to the information desk where we were given pamphlets with a number to call to re-book our flights – I scurried to a pay phone and the first flight I could get isn’t until Saturday morning so I booked it, then ran to get the bag I’d checked in Rome – at least it was there and hadn’t been left in Toronto or something.

Found another pay phone and called Dominic – he knew the flight had been cancelled as he was at the airport to pick me up but, of course, I wasn’t there. Realized that face-time hadn’t worked for me as I still had my ipad on ‘airplane mode’ so switched that off so I wouldn’t have to use the pay phone anymore.

Dominic checked the highway news – some of the roads had been closed because of the storm earlier in the day. The really nice guy at the arrivals information desk let me plug my ipad in to his power outlet, and got the highway map up on his computer also – it showed that the Connector was closed, but Hwy 3 should be ok, so Dominic was going to hop in the car to come get me.

My 21 hour trip home just got a lot longer, so I headed to Tim Horton’s on the upper floor for some coffee to keep me awake. Several other folks doing the same thing, only they have flights for Friday morning, not Saturday. I asked for a cappuccino, and told them I’d just come back from Italy (the land of great coffee) so they better make it extra good – they did what they could, but it’s just not the same.

I managed to stay awake until Dominic arrived just before 8:00 Friday morning. The highway had been hell to drive – black ice everywhere, and snow blowing sideways making visibility almost zero.

But – he made it and was it ever good to see him coming towards me in the airport. Headed back immediately – roads were much better now. Stopped at Starbucks in Chilliwack for coffee and a bite to eat – took the Coquihalla which was in much better shape than it had been in the night.

9E1091F2-6890-4BED-B4B9-D3A09E4F56D2My first glimpse of the Lake as we came around the bend on the Connector was beautiful, as usual, despite (or maybe partially because of) the snow. The cold here was almost shocking to me – two days ago I was wearing shorts while walking along the sea. I hope this isn’t what it’s going to be like for the next four months.

Arrived home after about 38 hours of traveling – just exhausted. The kitties both were wary of me when I first walked in and ended up scooting out the window, but that didn’t last long. By the time I had showered and unpacked a bit Sly was ready to cuddle, and Merlin was squeaking for combs – home sweet home!

My trip was, overall, a resounding success – I enjoyed (almost) every minute, and had many wonderful experiences. Meeting Colin in Italy in the first week or so was a great coincidence (if you believe in them!) and the whole six months would have been considerably different for me if he hadn’t been so kind and generous towards me and allowed me to travel with him and the doggies – a huge thank you to him, and hope to see them again next May!

THE END – or at least bye for now. Look for Sally’s European Adventure – take 3 coming to a blog near you next May.


November 1 – Wednesday

Got out of the hotel a little earlier today – went first to the metro/train station where the shuttle bus to the airport leaves from so I could check out the times, etc. It leaves every half-hour starting at 5:30, and is only a 10 minute or less walk from the hotel.

Tried to get some cash from a bank but it was closed – a very kind Italian man told us today is a holiday here – all Saints Day, I believe – he was going to lead us across the bridge and to an ATM as he lived close to it, but then remembered a closer one that was only a block or two away. After that we walked to the seashore – or at least as close as we could get because of all of the private beaches. At one point there was a pier that was actually public, and was it ever crowded – it seemed that every third person had a dog or two that Mo and Ben had to bark at, although they weren’t always the aggressors.

There were dozens of ‘sand tennis’ type of games going on – two people per side, with racquets similar to table tennis, although slightly larger. There was also a ball game of some sort happening in the water, and one guy was fishing.

Stopped across the street for a nice cappuccino, then headed towards ‘home’ – stopped at a really nice restaurant for lunch, that Colin (once again) treated me to. It was very delicious – we both had the special of the day, which was pasta with swordfish and egg-plant. The wine was also very good. They use wine corks here too – the bread basket was made out of them, and there were ‘cork boards’ on the wall above some of the windows.

0F41292F-9099-4E8C-994D-8EC9371602E0Back at the hotel we sat on the outside terrace in the sun, across from the large park. Lots of kids were playing, and I didn’t actually hear any whining or crying – it was all happy sounds.

I think the doggies know I’m leaving – little Mo spent almost all of last night snugged up against me, and Bennie sat and cuddled on my lap several times today. I’m going to miss them so much, and I think they will miss me too.



October 31 – Tuesday

Got up fairly early but didn’t leave to go out until mid-morning. Had a nice cup of tea first, followed by breakfast and a second cup of tea before heading out for a walk to the beach. Went thru the park across the street from the hotel, then down one short street to the seaside.

AA233E38-4CE6-4698-92F1-FBB59AA99635A lot of the beach is ‘private’ and there are only certain places you can actually access the water at ‘free’ beaches. Passed one cafe that had a bunch of flags on it – at least the maple leaf was right-side up this time as opposed to the one we saw yesterday on the way into town that was hung upside down.

F83B604B-1A2F-4E77-AD10-E9F8D75D1676Walked along a ways until we came to a nice little cafe that we chose to stop at for a drink. By now the sun was out and I wished I had put on my shorts. Sat for a bit in the sun, watched the waves hit the shore – couldn’t decide whether the tide was coming in or going out. Planes coming in to land at the airport nearby were basically lined up on the same path every few minutes for awhile, then just stopped – guess the wind direction changed, or else all of the aircraft controllers were gone for a 3 hour lunch like most of the shopkeepers here do (just kidding – maybe they were joining the police for a quick donut break).

An Italian man sat down at the table next to us and the doggies both went over to make friends – they think anyone that’s nice to them has sausages or treats in their pockets just waiting to hand them out to cuties like them. We started chatting with him and ended up talking for over an hour. His name is Roberto and usually he has his red Irish setter with him but today he was alone. He’s now retired but is the former CEO of the largest book/printing company in Italy and has travelled extensively, including living for a couple of years in different countries. He and his wife (his third) have adopted two Ugandan orphans and are going to visit them soon.


He’s going to go to Baja California in January to see the whales that give birth there, then is going to Vancouver Island in June to see the whales there, and maybe some bears as well.

We had seen a cute cat that was curled up in a planter below us – it was watching a gecko that was on some steps – running back and forth trying to crawl up to the next step but slipping back down every time. At one point we noticed that the cat was no longer in the planter, but was walking at the bottom of the steps with the gecko’s tail hanging out of his mouth.


Shortly after Roberto left Colin and the doggies and I continued our walk, and stopped at another cafe back the way we’d come. We were sitting outside and enjoying the sea and the sunshine when poor little Bennie got sick. The bus-boy wasn’t very helpful – he indicated that he wasn’t going to clean it up, but at least gave Colin some paper towels.

BFC551BD-D370-4B7A-BB99-95C6BB3C22C1Some of the older buildings must have been really something many years ago – I imagine this place was a great weekend getaway for rich folks from Rome.


Back near the hotel we went to a store at the next corner but it was closed – that pesky 4 hour lunch again. Read news a bit, then went back to the store after 5 and it was open. Read more news, did some puzzles – another quiet evening.



October 30 – Monday

After breakfast and then checking out we walked down the stairs to the cafe and a cup of cappuccino. For some reason the wi-fi wasn’t working for me so I took the doggies for a short walk around and took a couple of final photos of San Venanzo.

5845E3B7-DBD1-48D6-B86E-E62E7E746DBBThe route we followed when leaving was mostly on quiet back roads and the countryside was very beautiful – many olive groves in mid-harvest with large green nets at the base of the trees. The first larger place we went thru was Orvieto, where we took the wrong road out and had to back-track a bit. Much of the town is on a high rock cliff that you can see for miles.

We kept heading southwest to the town of Bolsena, on the shore of Lago de Bolsena. The lake was lovely and the town looked, even in October, to be quite touristy. We drove along the eastern shore, and stopped at one point so I could take some photos. There was a war cemetery and the memorial indicated it was for Commonwealth soldiers. During WWII the Allies landed at Anzio to the south of Rome and I guess this was where a big battle or something happened a while later. There was also a monument to Piero Taruffi, an Italian motorcycle and race-car driver.

After leaving the lake we passed thru Viterbo, then Vetralla, and eventually could see the Sea in the distance. The countryside wasn’t quite as nice – mostly very flat and with more industry, and the weather had changed from sunny to overcast.

01E26813-429F-4B69-B143-E95F7256B801 Passed several portions of old an Roman aqueduct along the way to the actual seaside at Civitavecchia, which has a harbour for large ferries, etc. We drove south along a secondary highway and eventually passed the airport en route to our destination of Lido di Ostia.

At one point only a few km from Ostia the traffic slowed to a crawl, and it wasn’t just regular rush-hour traffic, but an accident. One car was bashed in on the side and had swung so it was completely blocking an exit to another highway, and another car was further along our road right on its side. Police had just arrived and were trying to sort things out – didn’t see an ambulance but don’t know how it would have gotten thru anyway.

CCBB3E8C-F1FB-430D-9CF4-84E54855FF97We managed to find a parking space close to the hotel that Colin had booked online, but no one answered the buzzer. There was a phone number so he called it but got no answer, although a few moments later Daniele pulled up in his car. He let us in and showed us the room – one large bed, but it looked like it could be pulled apart into two small ones. We went back downstairs to retrieve the rest of our luggage and the dogs, and when we got back up Daniele said – ‘oh, you wanted two beds, didn’t you – here, take this room instead’. It’s really nice and large with a double bed and a single one, a table and chairs, lots of floor space and a nice tiled bathroom. Outside the room there’s a complete kitchen for our use – fridge, stove, everything.

We got settled a bit and used the wi-fi, which is pretty fast with a strong signal. After a bit we took the little ones out for a walk and to get them some more food. By now it was almost dark, and the streets were getting very busy with people all over the place.

F057E095-35C6-4D31-B77F-A6F34AA112B7The hotel is very well located – only a couple of blocks (thru a park) to the sea in one direction, and 3 or 4 blocks to the metro station in the other – it has a shuttle-bus every half hour to the airport which is great – it’ll save Colin having to drive me in for my flight.

Had a fairly early night – didn’t even turn the tv on.

October 29 – Sunday

Woke up a little early so heard the church bell alarm go off at about 6:49 – not sure how many worshippers needed to be woken at that time, even on a Sunday, but it chimed 104 times – not kidding, I counted. Not quite the warm, sunny day that we’ve become used to – went outside in my shorts, as I have the last several days, but quickly headed back upstairs to change into my long pants. Drove up to Papiano for the great cappuccino and wi-fi.

D44BC68D-FB56-4669-8A4C-B623E96604CFNext we went to Montefalco, which was the end of the ITT that we watched back in May. There are still a few reminders that the Giro was here. We were very surprised by the number of people on the streets, and after we picked a place for lunch it just filled up.

The restaurant was really cute – the first thing I noticed was all of the musical instruments hanging from the ceiling in every room, then noticed the currency notes displayed behind glass on all of the walls (saw a Cdn $5 note in a couple of spots), as well as miscellaneous photos and artwork. Another big thing was their incredibly inventive use of wine corks. There were curtains on the door, window ‘blinds’, candle holders, everything you could imagine made out of corks – I could have built a house if I’d thought to keep all of the ones I’ve gone through!

We had a nice corner table – with the doggies! – in a small room to the left of the door – it was hard to tell how crowded the rest of the place had become. A couple with a young boy sat down next to us, and another couple with two dogs came in shortly after – I motioned for them to not come in to our little room and the lady smiled in understanding, because of the growly doggies, and took a table in the next room.

Very shortly after we sat down we got a bowl of bread and a plate of large green olives – gratis. We ordered local red wine – and I mean really local – produced less than a km away, I believe. It was very good, and it wasn’t the 300 euros per bottle one that was listed on the menu. To eat I got risotto with mushrooms, and it was very delicious.

They brought us a blue iced drink – again gratis – Colin thought it had booze in it, but all I tasted was a light coconut flavour. We asked for a second glass of wine each, but the waitress only poured Colin one and then walked away. I took my empty glass up to the bar but the waitress had her hands full, although she indicated she understood what I wanted. A moment later the waiter appeared and apologized as he topped up Colin’s glass, and then gave me mine.

F0E51FC6-8223-4747-978D-1D8BA4E03452We walked around the town a bit more after leaving the restaurant, then made our way back to Marsciano – it was a little early yet to return to the hotel. The cafe/bar we’d been to before was closed, so I took the doggies for a short walk so I could take a better photo of the ‘reclining lady’ statue that we’ve passed every day on one of the small roundabouts. She was very beautiful, but was missing her hands.

Went back to San Venanzo and freshened up a bit, then walked with the little ones down to a cafe on the main road, just down some stairs from the hotel. When we arrived it was almost empty, although we sat outside. As time passed it became more and more crowded – seemed like the place to be on a Sunday afternoon/evening in the village.

5A3B0C45-BAAD-4464-8BBC-07D8CEEF6B8EFace-timed Dominic to confirm my flight time. Beautiful sunset. Had a nice light salad for dinner back in the room. The laundry I did yesterday morning still wasn’t dry – hopefully it will be ok to pack up by the morning.


October 28 – Saturday

After breakfast we headed up to Ospedalicchio so Colin could check out a home supply store – looked at paint, kitchen cabinets, windows and fencing for his house in Papiano. At least he’ll know where to take Neil if/when he comes in the spring to do a few repairs.

When we left we headed west past Perugia and through Magione to Lago Trasimeno, which was very beautiful.

Drove south then west along the lake, stopping at Monte Buono for lunch at ‘il Ristoro’, that advertised ‘cucina tipica’ and had several cars in the parking lot, all with Italian plates.

We ordered at the window before we entered the eating area inside – doggies were welcome. There was a large outdoor eating area for the summer, and the glass panels around us could all slide over to open up the whole place. Colin ordered the penne with tomato, which turned out to be spaghetti, while I ordered gnocchi al ragu that was actually more like fettuccine, but very tasty. The place filled up as we sat there – again all Italians, rather than tourists. Outside in the parking lot there was a really cool red motorbike with a side-car – we had a good look at it and it’s a classic from 1958.

F59881DF-7EDD-4BA0-B925-246C663E135CTook more small back roads and stopped at Poppy’s in Papiano for a drink and to use their good wi-fi. There was a football game about to come on tv and the bar was filling up so we moved outside for a bit before leaving to walk up the hill and have another look at the fence, etc of Colin’s new house.

815763B9-1405-4619-B946-DC143063C30FStopped in Marsciano and were very surprised by huge crowds and celebrations in front of the NKD store – they had e balloons in the air, a small carousel, and masses of people milling about – we think it was a grand opening as they had just finished a traffic circle right in front a few days ago, and were frantically planting small trees and bushes just yesterday.

On the road up to San Venanzo we stopped at the small chapel that we’ve passed every day since we got here. It is adorable, and has seats for far more people than I thought it would – maybe 20 or so. There’s a key in the open door, live plants and flowers, and soft electric lights. It seems to be more about Mary than anyone else, but was very nice and peaceful – despite being about 10 feet away from the road.

Had another picnic-type dinner in the room – still haven’t seen little gecko again (it was on a corner of the wall when we arrived – at first I thought it was a giant spider, then I put my glasses on and calmed down). The doggies never saw it so we assume it either got out somehow or is hiding in a corner waiting for us to leave.B2C8E86B-6F0D-4200-B40A-ECFBE8140D81

October 27 – Friday

Ate breakfast, then hit the road for Todi, where Colin was to meet Danila to sign some papers for the house. She had emailed him the name and address of the cafe she said to meet in, but he was unable to open the map she’d attached, and the GPS couldn’t find the address so we just drove into Todi and parked near the top of the hill.

We stopped and asked a young lady if she knew where the cafe was and she gave us directions, saying it was near a super market, and was about a 7 minute drive. We drove in what we thought was the right direction, but ended up turning around and going back to Todi, but not up the hill.

We got more directions, the cafe isn’t actually in Todi, but Ponteria, which is at the bottom of the hill and across the bridge. We found the super market, but couldn’t find any cafe with the name ‘Delicious’ so asked another lady – it was right across the road, but didn’t have that name anywhere in sight.

Colin went in and saw Danila right away – she had been looking up his phone number to find out where he was as we were by then about 20 minutes late for the meeting. We ended up following her back to Todi and right up the hill again. We parked and took a funicular up steepest part of the hill to the old town, and walked just a bit to get to the office where Colin could get an Italian tax number.

707265BB-D4FF-4A13-B759-1FC2753655B7I, meanwhile, took the doggies to the main square and parked it at a cafe where I had a delicious cappuccino while waiting. The chairs all had nice cozy blankets folded on the backs and they were perfect for sitting on or wrapping a shivering little dog in.

Colin and Danila appeared after a bit, and were then off again so he could open a bank account, so doggies and I stayed at the cafe and had a glass of wine (for me) and some water in my coffee saucer (for the doggies).

The wine arrived with a small plate of potato chips and tiny pizza bits and the doggies were trying everything in their power to get some – they did get a couple of bites each against my better judgement. They were very good for most of the time, except whenever another dog passed, then the barking would start – I did have a good grip on the leash this time, though, so no near disasters.

After about two hours little ones were getting restless so I paid up (not cheap wine!) and took them around the piazza a couple of times, always watching out for Colin in case he came to the cafe looking for us. When more and more time passed I began to worry that he’d come to get us while we were walking around and I’d missed seeing him. I had just asked the doggies if we should try to find the car (I had the keys) but they were non-committal about it, when Colin showed up. It had taken all that time just to open a bank account – I had read before that anything requiring paperwork in Italy could be very time consuming, and they weren’t kidding.

4694B77A-47E1-4A9B-BF85-A3AD390DD39AWe made our way back down to the car, and in the parking lot there was the friendliest little black and white cat – it came right up to me (after the dogs had gone on with Colin) and rubbed against my leg looking for pats – it didn’t look skinny and scruffy like most strays do, so I think it probably belonged to someone. We then went back to the Delicious cafe for a quick bite before Colin went into Danila’s office to sign more documents. Danila was already in the cafe having her own quick lunch and was just about ready to leave – we found out when we went to pay for ours that she had already done so for us. The pizzas we had (3 different pieces) were all really tasty.

Colin went into Danila’s office, which was just down the road, almost next to the bridge, while I stayed outside near the car. I wandered around a tiny bit – always within sight of the car – Colin came out after awhile to tell me it was taking longer than expected – although that is to be expected in Italy, after all.

Paperwork finally done we headed back to Marsciano to the store, then on to the hotel. Had another light dinner, flipped channels a bit – couldn’t find any more cheerleaders vs couch potatoes, or anything else in english. Ended up reading my travel journal entries right from the beginning, which I haven’t done before – got as far as July 14 – the day before my first Tour de France stage.E79866E1-FDB8-47A3-AF1B-F87E5A782CAD