Mutters to Metz

Woke up to cold rain, although it had snowed a bit during the night. Had a lovely hot shower – the room itself is really nice but the bathroom is extra special. Colin had paid for breakfast so we went down to eat fairly early – it said ‘buffet’ so we didn’t know what to expect. Sometimes all you get is white bread and a cup of tea or something.
But part of this place is, after all, a spa, and we all got the same buffet to choose from – it was the best breakfast spread I’ve seen in a long long time. There was the fresh fruit area, cereals and granolas of all descriptions, cold cuts and cheeses, an entire prosciutto leg to cut from. But we both dug into the hot breakfast selections – I chose bacon, sausage, mushrooms, scrambled eggs, fried zucchini and tomatoes, whole grain bun and camembert cheese.

The waiter brought us each a pot of tea and we dug in – it was all very good, especially the mushrooms. I was tempted to go for another plateful but decided not to – I was already so full I could barely get up. Mo also thought the sausage was good, but didn’t get to sample the mushrooms.
We packed up the car and left just before nine, avoiding even going into Innsbruck but heading west to Telfs then up through the mountains to the northwest.
Every once in awhile we’d enter a nice little valley, and it was all very beautiful, although visibility at times was a bit limited and the rain didn’t really let up.
We cleared the Fernpass, then started down the other side.
About half an hour later we spotted a castle/fort on a hilltop across the river and there was a suspension bridge over to it way high up.
I realized we’d driven past it before on the way to Austria five weeks ago – I looked back at my photos and sure enough there it was. I wondered if we’d see the large monkey with the red glasses again too.

After we’d been driving for a couple of hours I had to ask Colin to pull over so I could get out and try to work a stabbing pain out of my lower right shoulder around the spine.
I did a bit of stretching while taking Mo for a little walkabout. It was beautiful spot but we didn’t stop for long. The stabbing abated enough for me to get back in the car and continue on.
We passed from Austria into Germany and ended up on a dual carriageway road going north, so we’re no longer on the same road we originally came over on – no big monkey this time. Turning west just before Stuttgart we crossed the Rhine back into France.
The rain got worse from time to time, then lessened. Miss GPS warned us of more roadwork ahead so we left the main road and took less busy roads to our destination of Metz.

When passing through the town of Saverne we noticed a large group of men in black congregating on the steps into a building, and through the windows of the building it looked like it was completely full of men wearing black. A mile or two up the road we noticed a bunch of police cars in a parking area off the road – many of them were out of their vehicles and had their reflective vests on and some of the cars had their lights flashing. We speculated if the two groups had something to do with each other, and what it might be – going for a night hunt? French mafia bust? Local drug house take-down? We’ll never know.

We arrived in Metz and checked in to the hotel, then almost immediately went out to get something to eat. After dinner and back at the hotel I read for a very short while then had an early night.

From Papiano to Mutters

Yesterday morning Colin took Mo to the vet in Marsciano to get the tablet she needs in order to update her doggie passport so she’ll be allowed back into England. While they were gone I took the opportunity to finally do yoga again. Black cat got another nice breakfast.
Before Colin and Mo got home I walked down into the village for a haircut, and I must say that Matteo did an excellent job. Luckily he spoke very good english so understood exactly what I wanted and I’m very happy with the result.
Afterwards I went across the road to Poppy’s and waited for Colin and Mo to join me. Back at the house we continued to organize, then when we were done we returned down the hill for a final drink.

The owner was very sad when we told him we were leaving in the morning, but cheered up a bit when we assured him Colin would be back in a few months. We said goodbye and walked back up the hill.
A little later in the evening I heard noises next door – Angelo must be back from his latest business trip. We’re sure the black cat belongs to him and are glad he’ll have his owner to take care of him when we won’t be here.

Got up nice and early this morning so we could do the final car loading – we saw Angelo on our last trip up to the house. And the cat was never really alone – the neighbour on the other side of Angelo was also feeding him so I’m surprised he’s not gotten fat. His name is Mao – the cat, not the neighbour.
We got on the road at a decent time – about 20 to 9. It was pretty nice out when we left Papiano, but as we got further north the weather got worse and worse. We stopped a couple of times for bathroom breaks and got coffee and paninis at the second one – last of the good cappuccinos for awhile, I guess.
By the time we neared the Austrian border it had been raining for quite a while, and the temperature outside had been steadily dropping. As we entered the tunnel at the Brenner pass – goodbye Italy! – it was raining, and when we exited – hello Austria! – it was snowing.
The snow turned to rain again as we descended towards Innsbruck, and the place we’re staying is a village called Mutters, with another small village right below called Natters – I thought that was kind of funny.
Our hotel is actually a health spa that has two parts and it’s a bit of a maze to get between them. There’s a nice looking restaurant but we chose to stay in the room and snack instead – fairly early night as the day was a bit tiring.

Walk Around Papiano

93672254-FB26-4C52-B928-8F042890935EDid some laundry and hung it outside – hopefully it will dry despite the fact that the terrace no longer gets any direct sun. It’s pretty warm and there’s a bit of a breeze so it should be ok.

Took a walk down to the village with Colin and Mo – got a few things from the store and popped into Poppy’s for a bit. Back at the house the big black cat came by for lunch – once again I avoided getting slashed or bitten.
After spending a couple of hours sorting out what I’m going to leave here and packing my two large panniers with what I’m taking with me we went for a nice long walk. We headed up past the bell tower and along the gravel road up the hill to the south.

We stopped at the large abandoned house partway up the hill and had a look around. It’s in an ideal place with a nice yard and beautiful views, but is quite a ‘fixer upper’.
At the top of the hill we turned left (east) instead of right, which would have taken us past the barking dog house. There are great views both north towards the village, and south along the valley.E0918FE7-77F4-4348-A2DD-A69C0D3F0EAA
Partway down the hill we came to a house where the schoolbus was turning around. At the same time a big dog from the house came to greet Mo. The bus driver told us that the dog’s name was Carlo – Mo and Carlo had a good sniff before Carlo’s owner came to bring him back into their yard.
Another house also had a big dog that barked a bit – Mo said hello through the fence. It’s a good thing the dog seemed fairly friendly as the gate to the place was open.
Mo doesn’t care how big a dog she meets – if it’s a male she is likely to be friendly with it, but if it’s a female it’s usually a whole different story.
We stopped at Poppy’s again on our way through the village then went home for dinner of ham, tomato and onion omelette with fries. At one point I went out to check if the moon was up yet – I walked down one of the small alleys that came to a dead-end. The curtains were open with the lights on in one place that you normally can’t see into and while it looked like nothing from the outside it looked really nice inside.
A little later I went back out to see if I could get a good shot of the full moon – well it was full yesterday, so close enough. I didn’t have a great view from where I was so didn’t get any pics but just as I was turning back the woman in the house came out to see who was walking around – I showed her my camera and said ‘photos – luna’ and she smiled at me and went back inside. I settled for a night-time shot of the stairs with the bell tower at the top instead.CE557B2B-7622-453E-87EC-6716CD109F3D

Day Tripping in Orvieto

C7A7D96F-B261-416E-9E38-2D253332FAC1Once again the day started off sunny but quite chilly. We decided to take a day-trip to Orvieto – it’s quite a spectacular town up on a high stone outcropping about 40 km south. We passed by it last year when Colin took me to Rome to catch my flight home but we didn’t have time to stop and explore at all. (The photo above is not Orvieto)
The drive there was really nice – a pretty good road with very little traffic. We stopped a couple of times along the way – once so I could take some photos, and once so Colin could take a phone call.
Once we reached Orvieto we drove most of the way up and found a good car-park, which is right across from the funicular that brings people up, and also the old castle/fort that overlooks the valley.

We were pretty hungry so we started walking into the old town right away. We walked up the main road, passing lots of shops and cafes. There’s very little traffic so mostly we walked in the middle of the cobble-stone road – which was convenient since there’s no room for sidewalks.

Then we could see the Duomo off to the left in the distance.

We made our way to the piazza where the Duomo is – it was built in the 13th and 14th centuries, and the front of it is quite impressive with carvings and guilt paintings, and the rest of it is in a striped pattern made from black and white marble.
We didn’t bother going in – no need to tempt fate and cause a fire or eruption of some sort. We chose a restaurant right nearby and sat down to get some lunch. There were many things on the menu that sounded delicious, but I had to try the ‘drunken sausage and beans’ just so I could see what it was.
It turned out to be a good choice, but for starters we got a plate of mixed bruschettas that were all very tasty, and Colin got the lasagna for his main course. My drunken sausages must have been marinated or cooked in red wine – they were purple/black and just delicious, and came with large flat beans in a lovely tomato sauce. When I went in to use the facilities I talked a bit with the owner – his grandfather used to own the place and he was very happy when I told him how we really enjoyed the meal. I think they make as much from selling wine as they do from the meals they serve – the whole inside is lined from floor to ceiling on all walls with bottles of wine. I would guess that most of them are local and hard to get anywhere else – the wine we had with lunch was very nice.
After our leisurely lunch we walked to a very small park just off the piazza – there were at least six cats there that must get fed a lot. There were great views across the valley to the east.
We then headed down back towards the car-park. Just before the castle/fort there’s a war memorial.
We took a walk around the castle – it’s now a public park and has even more spectacular views.
Orvieto is on the main way from Firenza in the north to Rome in the south so was built on a great vantage point to overlook the whole valley.
Once again when we got home neither of us was hungry enough for dinner. It had been a lovely day and we agreed that a return trip to Orvieto sometime in the future would be great.

Back on the Bikes, Another Lunch at Il Ristoro

80FBED70-4C77-4BF1-9949-09A8BED44487We went for a nice long ride on Sunday morning – it was sunny but not hot – perfect weather for riding. We rode east to the main road, then along it for a very short way until we came to the ‘train station’. There’s still a sign indicating that it’s the station, and I did in fact check the train schedule at one time – it’s still listed as if the train runs on the line but I don’t think it’s been used in a long time. The tracks are completely rusted and some of the weeds are almost as tall as I am.

Anyway we continued east to Casalina, then turned south to Ripabianca where we crossed over the highway and kept going south to Carcere, then on to Collepepe. We ended riding all the way to Marsciano, and both walked our bikes partway up the long hill out of town. We hopped back on and made our way to the small back road we were on the other day. Getting off the busier road was nice – I don’t think we passed a single car after we left it.
Stopped, of course, at Poppy’s for refreshment before going back to the house and little Mo – we’d covered about 24 km in all so it was a decent distance. The afternoon turned very windy, and in the evening there was a terrific rain storm for awhile. The wind was so fierce that it blew over the three little potted cedars that Colin had bought – it even blew one right out of its pot. They’re now tucked up next to the back wall just in case. It’s sure nice to be warm and cosy inside in that kind of weather despite the lack of the wood-burner.

Monday was quiet – waited around most of the afternoon for the house painter to come and have a look, but he didn’t show. Black cat got some more food – it’s pretty insistent about getting into the house but we don’t want it taking a round out of Mo.
Tuesday was again nice and sunny, although a bit on the cool side with the wind. We took a little drive to Monte Buono for lunch at Il Ristoro. This time I got the fish special, which was pasta with fish fresh from the lake, along with little beans and carrots. It was a bit salty and somewhat spicy, but very delicious.
The little cats were back, but since we were inside this time I couldn’t try to pet them. We got to the restaurant a little early so the place was just about empty, but as we ate more and more people arrived and by the time we left there must have been 40 or 50 folks there – the place was hopping and the parking lot was almost full.
Upon leaving we decided to go into the town of Castiglione del Lago to get some groceries and have a look around.
It’s a fair-sized place right on the water and has a small promontory jutting into the lake, with a castle/fort on the top.
We parked right at a park on the lake and walked out onto a little ferry wharf. The wind was blowing pretty hard and the water was choppy and colourful – it reminded me once again of home – nice large lake with small mountains all around – very pretty.
We were both still full from lunch so dinner for me was light – just some peanuts and a small bowl of the chicken soup I made yesterday.

Lunch in Perugia

A8D80A14-2E41-4EA6-B9C5-EF7546AE4BD5Left the house around 10:30 for Leroy Merlin so Colin could arrange installation of the wood-burner. Rather than going in I stayed outside with Mo – took her for several walks around the parking lot and gave her some water. It’s still beautiful weather – sunny and over 20.

After almost 90 minutes Colin finally came back out – he had good news and bad news. The bad news is that the necessary part had to be ordered and could take as long as December to arrive – typical for Italy. The good news is that Colin can’t wait that long to go to England so will be driving up there within the next couple of weeks – I get a ride instead of having to make my own way there. The wood-burner installation will be taken care of when Colin comes back to Italy in February.
We were both getting hungry and had already decided to check out Perugia a bit – we’ve been past it frequently, but never really explored it at all. We put the location of a parking area into the GPS and headed on into the city. As with most of the cities over here the older part is on the highest hill – luckily there’s a series of escalators to take you much of the way up, although we did still have to climb quite a few stairs.
We noticed that there were police and private guards all over the place, and when we reached the first piazza we saw a sea of covered stalls and masses of people – we thought there was a market on.
Then we realized that all of the stalls were selling chocolate products – it’s the annual chocolate festival.
In addition to the stalls there was entertainment – a brass band, balloons for the kids, folks dressed in bright costumes, etc.

We made our way to another piazza – this one had the Perugia Cathedral and the Fontana Maggiore.
The cathedral is kind of different – not what you might expect. It’s very plain on the outside, but apparently has some nice stained-glass windows and paintings inside, although we didn’t go in.
The fountain is even older than the cathedral – it was completed in 1278. A little more walking brought us to some government buildings with a statue of Vittorio Emanuele II on a horse in front, he was the first king of a united Italy in 1861.
There are some spectacular views – you can see for miles across the plain below and to the mountains in the distance – just beautiful.

We started back towards the car park, intending on choosing a restaurant along the way to have some lunch. One outside place had a single empty table, but it had a ‘reserved’ sign on it.
We went to the entrance of the place and asked if they had any available tables inside. He said yes and to follow him – he led us through a bit of a maze, down some dark stairs and around a couple more corners.

There was a fairly large restaurant in the basement and we were taken to the very back and sat beside a couple that also had a small dog – even smaller than Mo as it was a young chihuahua.
The place was decorated to the max – tons of photos and things all over the walls, the tables and chairs were all different and un-matched, as were the dishes. It was all very nice, though – not just junk – and we were sitting right next to a piano – don’t know if it worked, though, as I decided the other diners didn’t need to hear me play chopsticks – it wasn’t a chinese restaurant, after all.
Colin chose the lasagna while I got pappardelle (wide flat ribbon pasta) with wild boar ragout – a great choice. We washed it down with some house red – a local Merlot – that was also delicious. The WC was lovely – I almost returned with my camera to get a photo.
When leaving we exited by a different door – right out onto the street. The restaurant is on a hill, so the basement is also at street level – no having to make our way back up the dark stairs and through the maze.

We stopped at a bar along the way so Colin could get a cappuccino – it was at a bus station but was surprisingly nice, and the lady fussed over Mo, as so many folks do.

We managed to find the car park with no problem, and headed towards home, stopping to get some groceries along the way, then again at Poppy’s for a quick glass.

The black cat tried to get in the house when we arrived – we had to shoo her through the entrance and down to the terrace. I emptied a small can of soft food and some crunchies into a bowl and Colin put it down for her.

After she was done eating she still wanted in and rubbed against my leg purring like mad but I didn’t want to get slashed or bitten again so refrained from petting her. She seems so affectionate, right up until the claws and fangs come out.

Dogs, Cats, Olive Harvesting

0D01C932-509A-4AE1-B056-905211ACE58BDidn’t do much yesterday other than walk down to the bar and have cappuccino. While we were there we saw the little red dog that follows one of the local ladies everywhere. It’s the first time I’ve seen him since last May so I’m glad to see he’s still around.
On the way back we did see another old dog that lives part way up the hill. We had wondered for awhile if the old boy had died but there he was. Colin said he had seen him a day or two ago, but I hadn’t. He actually has a nice little yard to run around in, with shelter and shade, although the photo I got makes it looks like he’s in a prison.
Friday was slightly more productive – we left around 11:00 for a bike ride. We only made it just past the bar before Colin realized he had a flat tire. I got my pump out of my toolkit, but it didn’t help – the valve had detached from the tube so the air was coming straight back out.
Colin headed back to the house to change the tube, while I went for a short ride by myself. I rode to the main road that goes from Perugia to Marsciano – there’s a house on the corner that was harvesting olives the other day and I wanted to have a look, but they were finished and there was nothing happening.
I went back to Papiano, and up to the house – ok – I rode part of the way up the hill, and pushed the bike part of the way. I arrived just after Colin had finished replacing the inner tube and was getting ready to come back down.

We got going again, and rode through the village, turning right at the graveyard rather than going all the way to the main road. It was a lovely, quiet road, and we encountered some olive harvesting.
It was great – the man had a long motorized stick that shook or swatted the branches, and the lady had a short manual rake for the lower branches. Spread on the ground below was a large green net to catch the fruit. They thought it was quite funny that I wanted to take photos of them while they worked.

We followed the road south until it met the main road again, then turned back. I got a bit behind Colin and then had to wait behind two cars that had pulled beside each other to chat and pass some papers between them. I scooted my bike in the grass beside one of them – she unrolled her window and apologized – no problem. It turns out she was the postlady and was handing the fellow in the other car his mail.
Back in the village we stopped at the bar, then rode/pushed the bikes up the hill to the house. The large black cat – we think it belongs to the fellow next door, but I believe other folks also feed it – came for a visit. We gave her a dish of food and of course she wanted more.
She rubbed against my leg and was very purry – I patted her a bit, then she hissed and viciously bit me on the wrist. I think one of her fangs hit a bone and it immediately swelled, although didn’t draw blood.

Had a fairly quiet night – got caught up in a Robert Ludlum book, one of the few I’ve not read yet.