Monday, 28 February 2011

Italy - Tuscany Snow

I have been lucky enough to visit Italy a couple times before in my life.. Rome, Naples, Genoa, Pisa and Florence.  They are all amazing and worth seeing again and again!  But nobody has ever said to me, "Sherri, if you go to Italy, you must visit Assisi."  This is something I feel I need to say to you or anybody who wanted to know.. First, it's an absolute must to visit the amazing cities above and more, but if you can swing the extra time, please visit Assisi.. it truly is a little gem and has earned a spot on my "places to return to someday" list. Okay, I feel better now that I've got that off my chest.

SO.....Now I'm in Tuscany!

Sunset photo prior to snow arrival!

How did I get here? Well a reminder from posts prior, I was feeling the need to make a choice for my northern hemisphere winter.  There were 2 options for me. One, and most common solution is to head toward the equator. From my position, that meant riding down to Africa. Or two, stop for the winter.  I chose #2.  There seems to be a lot of distress in northern Africa that I wasn't real keen to ride into alone.  As my computer was still away for repairs in Austria, I did a lot of research via my iphone while in Croatia.. and I found an opportunity to stay at a home in Tuscany for the entire winter!!  It was the biggest blessing and solid answer to my question.. so here I am.

It has also been an ideal opportunity for me to have a bit of a rest after a very crazy full on year. The entire year 2010 was manic, with the first 6 months working crazily at preparing myself, my home, my work and bike..as well as visas, routes, total massive planning.. And then the second half of the year, has been a heck of a lot of traveling.  Hence, I truly needed a break. I can not tell you how pleased I am to have a kitchen to cook my own food!!  I can wash my clothes any time I want!! (still only 2 pairs of clothes, but at least they are clean!)  I am not in the city, so I enjoy the country lifestyle in the Tuscan hills, big long walks in the woods, birds, grape vines, fresh air, the best dog that came with the house and did I mention Chianti wine!??  And I should also mention only 20 minutes from Florence when I need a cultural fix.  But the biggest goal was to get my computer back after 8 weeks and start the long process of catching up on my photos and blog.. big job, but I'm getting there.. It's interesting that I have been using computers for years now and still haven't reached "whiz" status.. a rather slow process.

While staying here amongst the Italian winter season, I won't be riding the motorcycle much.. I have had some great days out and the next couple of blog posts will be mainly photos of my life here.. As I type this, there are only two weeks before I am back on my motorcycle full time to Bosnia, Montenegro, Albania, Greece, Turkey and beyond....  

Looks like my writing today has taken the long curvy road to get started ... sorry! 

Shortly after my arrival to Tuscany, I got to experience the biggest most beautiful winter snow!!  


My neighbor tells me that I am so lucky to see this, a very rare occurrence in this part of Italy.  It must be true, because the community was at a stand still, not able to deal with plowing the roads, ice, etc.  Everything shut down for 4 days!

But who's complaining, it's too darn pretty.




Out for a walk around, what a unique experience, this is so cool...

Color change.. photos below taken at different time of day..




Somebody loves the snow as much as I do!!  Very happy girl. She looks like my very own polar bear..




Day two.. some early morning fog and then comes the sun.. yay!

The driveway


Olives

So cold, but the bike starts right up every time!  

Such a beautiful Tuscan landscape.... classic.


Waiting patiently for another walk.. okay okay!!



Olive trees

Un altro giorno bello d'Italia, Buonasera...

Friday, 25 February 2011

Italian Adventure begins in Assisi

There's snow in 'them hills! 

Ahh, after the beautiful sunset leaving Croatia the night before, I arrived on the early morning ferry to Ancona Italy in.. you guessed it, the rain.  I didn't pull the camera out of the bag, no point and kept it dry.

So, this will be a non-motorcycley blog post, but I absolutely loved this town and wanted to share it anyway.  It rained hard all the way, which I grumbled about plenty as I was getting used to another countries road signs and language, but now that I am here and see snow, I better be quiet..

I had actually pre-booked a place to stay in between Ancona and Tuscany.. wasn't sure where but when I looked at the map, I saw 'Assisi'.  I remembered the story of St. Francis of Assisi and has been a long time favorite of mine due to his connection with the animals. So I decided to stop in this town, only because I liked the familiar name.  I had no idea what a little gem it would be!


But first I must find my house in the pouring rain.. I could not.. Mr. Zumo 550 couldn't find it either.. with the confirmed address, it was still just showing an olive grove.  I stopped in to a restaurant.. Both owners were making calls for me and they were so wonderful but couldn't work it out where exactly it is either!  The language was a real barrier.. lots of driving around in circles, and I finally found the right place tucked down a little steep lane and behind an old gate.  Was a bit scared to ride through, but it was fantastic once I got in.

Standing at their reception completely ruining their floors from all the water draining off of me, it got really loud outside.  We both stuck our heads out the door and that heavy rain had turned to a serious belting of ice. Amazing timing!  It's like the heavens were busting to let loose this ice, but they wanted to make sure the crazy lady on a motorcycle is safely in the building first... must be a sign from St. Francis already!

The owners had me quickly put the bike under a veranda behind the hotel.  Whew!!  Tough day, once I had a room, I just stood under a hot running shower until feeling came back in my hands and feet.. !

The next day was super cold, but no rain, so I headed out to walk and explore Assisi.


It's really beautiful here.. nice to see the green!  Just wish there was warm air to go with the great look!


The Basilica of San Francesco was truly an amazing place to visit.  It was actually built quickly for the time from 1228 to 1253! Compared to all the places I've seen that have taken 2-300 years to build, that is truly amazing! It's rumored to be built so fast because of the great love the people had for St. Francis.

Europe is full of beautiful churches and I hate to admit this, but I can get easily either bored or completely overwhelmed by all the detail art and architecture for my brain to take in.. But not this one!  It is truly captivating and magnificent inside! And it's full of what I just described above, so "shoulder shrug!"
This place felt really really special to me. As usual, we are not allowed to take photos inside to preserve the art, but I found a stock photo from travelitaly.com.. thanks!  As you probably know, the walls are painted with stories to follow for the large amount of illiterate people in that era.  And lucky for us, they did!  Similar to me in modern times with a magazine, I tend to turn each page just looking at pictures, before reading any articles.. shame on me and why do I admit these things out loud??




I just loved wandering around the Basilica.. there are lots of rooms and partly a museum which really helped me to step back and imagine what it was like during St. Francis' time. But I decided to head out and explore the town a bit more.. It's a very hilly town, with steep streets.. lots of great little shops.  Always wishing I could buy something, but never do as there is no way for me to carry it..



It's a comfortable and unique town to wander through.. I could stay here for days.

But for now, it appears a gorgeous sunset is coming on, and the thoughts come again.. "How in the heck did I get here?"  Didn't plan it, just liked the name of the town..and it's perfect!




I went back to the Basilica... just wanted to go in one more time.  Didn't expect the lights and to see it even more beautiful at night.  Interestingly, the color of dark blue sky matches the color of the blue ceilings inside.  hey! Magical place..







Goodnight Assisi.. next stop..  Tuscany!
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Thursday, 17 February 2011

Dubrovnik Croatia - Part 2


Welcome back to wild and wooly Dubrovnik and my last Croatia post!  As mentioned before, I stay here for a few days because of the crazy weather.. so in my wanderings I took plenty photos..  How cool is it to park the bike here? Even after a few days, it still feels surreal to live inside those walls, I'm just loving it!







Views from my window.


Doesn't look too bad, might head out for a walk around old town.


 I like the little soccer field in this one.. ingenuity. You gotta do what you gotta do...!

I wander outside the city walls to check on my bike.. again..can't help it! ;-)


I made my way around the outside perimeter.  Not long after, a storm front just blasted through seems like out of nowhere, but if I was paying attention I probably would have seen it coming..


First, I noticed the leaves blowing crazy across the road and then the wind front hit me too.. everybody was running.


I ran as well through the fierceness, as I don't travel with an umbrella so I'm getting a bit extra blasted..

Back in my little 2nd floor homelette soaking wet, I make a hot cup of tea and continue to watch people squander from my window.  Really dark clouds rolled in and lighting got crazy.


Then came the Big Bang.. felt and sounded like lightning hit the building.. I screamed.. and lights out!


Easy to see which buildings have emergency back up.. a few! Completely dark in my place, I am manicaly ruffling around in my gear blindly with my hands trying to find my flashlight.  I get ticked off when I should have known better and had it out already.

 

 To compare with normal street lighting.. which resumed about 10 minutes later..
The 2nd story window with the shutters open on the far left of photo is my place.

Okay, another day, try this again..











More wandering at night.. First a quick check of my little bike tucked away under cover.







Traditional Christmas window decoration..




And back to my little green door...

It's finally time to get back on the bike to Split to catch my ferry to Ancona Italy.. I've enjoyed my Dubrovnik rain season hideaway.. and big special thanks to Dino for allowing me to stay in his property. It was a real treat..!

I don't mind that it's not summer or tourist season. Dealing with the rain is all part of the fun for me, and I go with the flow.. I love to experience nice weather like anyone else, but I also like the variety and challenges that come along with winter weather.  I think I got to know Croatia even more because of the rain, as I got to spend more time than I intended with the people and the culture.  I love that!

So long for now, Dubronvik!

On the way out, I see the effects of flooding in the growing fields..


Yes, this is the highway out of town, hopefully a better choice this time! But not the sort of highway I expected..

Aha, now I see, it's a work in progress..


Now, this looks more like it!  Even better, I get the road to myself.. nice!!  I think I've covered it in Croatia.. coastal roads, mountain roads and now the highway..




Croatian weather Gods treated me well on my last day in the country. Here is the last bit of sun (I'll take every little bit I can get!) before I pull in to Split.. where I meet Rakela and Dino for a farewell tea, and board the ferry.

Ogroman hvala moj novi hrvatski prijatelji! Imao sam najbolje iskustvo u svojoj zemlji zbog vas! Vi otišli tako daleko šire se podržavaju. Ne bih nikada očekuje toliko gostoprimstvo i ja sam tako sretan da su se susreli sve vas.

Next stop... Italy!!

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