Under the Tuscan sun

Four days in Tuscany without any internet connection can feel like a long time. But it also feels immensely liberating not to look constantly at the phone.
This year we got lucky with four days without rain; sunshine and perfect pool weather almost all the time. But while lounging at the pool is preferable, Tuscany invites you to go and look at the scenery, the beautiful cities, villages and shops. And that’s what we did.

It took us all of Wednesday night to drive down to Florence. Around 6:30 we met up with friends for some coffee. Still looking fresh, don’t you think?005Finally at 9am we made it to Monika, the little café two long-winded curves above our Bed&Breakfast. After a round of coffee and dolci (tasty croissants) the day was spent at the pool, sleeping, reading or in Fanny’s case getting entertained by her mother.006A real lazy first day, drinks in the evening before dinner and an early night for me.014 016 017 018 029For three days I went running every morning with Eva, her dog Momo and Lilly. The two dogs were leading the way and knew exactly when to stop on the way back. Monika’s was the place to be in the morning, and if it wasn’t open when we arrived, we would take a walk around the church and the cemetery. Eventually almost all of our group made it up there for coffee before breakfast.037 038 040 041 048 050 052 054Friday was spent in Florence shopping, lots and lots of shopping. We had a walking tour planned around the duomo, in the end decided against it and went for ice cream. After an excessive shopping tour, one has only so much energy left. The rest of the day was again spent by the pool, with a good book and lots of water. Dinner was as usual a tasty affair as the lack of pictures indicates.

On Saturday my brother and I made a trip to Volterra. The village is now better know for its part in Twilight. At least the Volturi are supposed to live here. Which is not true, the movie was actually filmed in Montepulciano. Once I knew that it was clear why I couldn’t find the fountain that was shown in the movie. It’s just not there at the Piazza dei Priori.096
While shopping again, this time for an alabaster lamp, we went to see the Teatro Romano from the 1 century BC.077 079 081 083

A last afternoon by the pool, we decided against San Gimignano on the way back. 30 degrees and a lack of AC can do that to you. The scenery and Volterra from below were breathtaking though.105 107

Here some more impressions from four great days. We headed back to Vienna on Sunday, this time during the day since I had a plane to catch. Yours, Pollybert065 070 071 074 076 082 091 093 115

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Football Fever

No matter where on this planet you live, I am sure you are aware that it’s football/soccer season in Brazil. The biggest and most important tournament in this sport is happening now. And what is happening in my home? My tv-box from my provider crashed last night and I can’t watch anything on my tv. So what’s a girl to do?

Call first, complain later. That’s what I did. Urgh, they are not coming today and I am leaving for Italy tonight. Next possible appointment for me is July 1st. It doesn’t really matter so much because I won’t be home most of the time, but… and here it comes… I will be spending two evenings at home without tv. What a hardship! Can’t tell you how grateful I am for online streaming. Not the same but better than nothing.

Up until now I have tried to watch every game or at least part of it when I was unable to see all. Ok, the one game that was shown in Europe at 3am I didn’t watch. Couldn’t be bothered to get up. So sorry Ivory Coast and Japan, but you were just not important enough to get up in the middle of the night. I will try to do better for your second game.

I love the excitement surrounding the game, the good vibes in all the public viewing places. People are in a good mood, no matter who wins or loses. Excellent start for a great summer!

In other matters, I am leaving for Italy tonight. Yeah, vacation, vacation, vacation!!! It’s summer and it’s the season to go away. Tuscany is calling, beckoning with dreamy villages, excellent food and a bit of shopping. Can’t wait to have my first cappuccino along the way. I don’t understand why the coffee across the non-existing border tastes so much better, but it does. Actually quite a lot of stuff tastes a lot better across the border.

A couple of lazy days ahead of me, what more can I want? Quite a lot more lazy days right after this trip. But more on that later!
Yours, Pollybert

BBQ with a twist

Every year I am going to Tuscany with the same group of friends! During the rest of the year we meet regularly, explore news restaurant or get invited to each other’s home for dinner. This month we got invited for BBQ and it could not have been more perfect for this kind of sweltering heat.

This BBQ turned out to be something special. I love BBQ in all its forms, and this one was truly remarkable. Therefore I have decided to give it its own post.

We started with a tomato and leek quiche, a gift for our hostess Claudia from one of the guests which everyone sampled.

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Then it was time for the hostess to dazzle us with her creations and she did. We were told that the theme of the BBQ was Thai! As you all know by now, I love Thai food and was intrigued by this announcement. We started with a soup, a fragrant, spicy broth with shrimps, scallops and some vegetables. Delicious, I had to take seconds.

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The main course consisted of three kinds of meat: beef satay with a home-made peanut sauce, spare ribs, ground chicken kebab on lemongrass skewers and a salad with lettuce, cucumber and coriander. The flavors and colors of all dishes were so well-balanced, it was a feast for the palate and the eyes!

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Claudia was supported at the grill by her man (BBQ chef and my brother) Andy.

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To top the feast off we had a Pavlova with berries for dessert! What a treat!

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We stayed until after midnight, really long for a weeknight when everybody has to work the next day. It was just one of these evening where everything clicked: company, food, weather.

20130724-141931.jpgOur hostess Claudia with yours truly.

I have been invited to a couple BBQs already this summer and all of them were good! The Thai BBQ stands out because it was so unexpected different and so well executed in all its little culinary details. You know what I use as a measure if something was really outstanding or not? It’s when I am hungry the next day and I still think about the food from the day before. When I start to fantasize about the leftovers and berate myself why I didn’t have this one piece more. I admit, I am a glutton!
Yours, Pollybert

Under the Tuscan rain

We left Vienna Thursday morning around 0:20 and arrived in Porciano/Tuscany a bit over 8 hours later to have a little colazione (breakfast) at Monica’s.
The moment we passed Bologna it started to rain and all the way over the Apennines mountains to Firenze it continued. We arrived at Monica’s with a lot of rain and no sun in view. What a start of our vacation in Italy.
Monica is the owner of a small shop which sells everything from fruits to bread to diapers and toothpaste. There is one table inside and three in front where you can enjoy a cappuccino and a warm cornetto (croissant). On a cold morning nothing warms better than fresh coffee.

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We left Monica and drove down to Lia to check in at Il Lampaggio. This small restaurant/agriturismo was discovered by my brother in 1995 and since then he comes here every year for a couple of days. Lia has 6 rooms for rent and a wonderful restaurant.

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Due to the unforeseen enlargement of our group

20130601-104347.jpg(welcome Fanny and Fritz, here with Lia) we only ordered 5 rooms the year before. Since I didn’t want to spend the next three nights with my brother and his gf, I got a room 2 minutes from Lia’s place at the Casa Italia. It’s an apartment residence, rooms are larger and the shower actually has hot water and enough water pressure. Still, it’s double price and all my friends were in the other building.

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After a restoring nap and since it stopped raining, we decided to drive to Firenze. My friend Ali left Fanny and Fritz to themselves and we went shopping like in old times.

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We also had to take a look at the Palazzo Vecchio. Firenze is so beautiful no matter the weather!

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We finished our city tour with a Campari spritz and then went back up the mountain to Il Lampaggio for two rainbows

20130601-111127.jpg and a delicious dinner (sorry, no pictures available. Just too good to wait).
Yours, Pollybert

PS: I finished the ‘Game of Thrones’ series of George R. R. Martin with book no. 5 ‘A dance with dragons’ and started again with Ken Follet ‘A fall of giants’. I really, really liked the GoT series, although I have now spent the better part of the last three months reading it. Just starting with the Ken Follet book made me realize what a gifted writer Mr. Martin is. His style is superior and so vivid, the characters are well drawn and coming to life from his descriptions. The Ken Follet book is a bit lacking in this department and falls all in all quite flat. Hopefully it will pick up later, because I know that Follet can write wonderfully. Do you remember ‘The pillars of the earth’?

Back to the start

Another travel day, this time back to Rio which also means the end of my trip. Therefore I tried to make the most of it and enjoy it.

I had a long breakfast while reading a new book called ‘Sarah’s Key’ from Tatiana de Rosnay. I was glad that I could even see enough, my eyes were still a bit swollen from all the crying yesterday.

The packing started to be a nightmare, yesterday in Gramado I bought another bottle of Cachaça and a local chocolate liquor. All of this had to go now into my pack bag. Don’t ask me how I did it, but it really all fit. But it looked tight, ready to rip and tear somewhere. Still it must be sturdy material, no? It went around half the world already (thanks Wolfi), so it is field tested.

I took a cab to the airport cause I was too lazy to walk to the metro and the pack bag started to feel like carrying one of Obelix’s standing stone. This turned almost in a problem, cause we got in a traffic jam and arrived at the airport with only 45 minutes left.

But I made it on the plane, my back bag as well, no worse for the trip except one minor zipper on the side. Then upstairs to the departure hall to wait for the cab that Rod had ordered for
me.

When I finally arrived at his home, his mother opening me the door, I was more than happy. It had been a long day. I needed to relax after all the wait and excitement.

I went to the beach although it looked cloudy and overcast. Still it must have been 28 degrees minimum. Rod’s mother didn’t allow me to bring a bag to the beach, just a towel, water and my book. She meant everything will be stolen.

I had brought one book with me on this trip which was ‘Game of Thrones’ from George R. R. Martin. So I took this with me to the beach, I was sure she would not have allowed the Kindle either.

I went back to the apartment around 6pm from the beach. It was already darkish, but the beach was illuminated. Every couple of meters there were huge lamp posts, so reading was fine.

Rod had arrived from work in the meantime, he fixed me the wlan connection and then all three of us went out for dinner to celebrate his birthday!
We had pizza which was super delicious and tasted like in Tuscany.

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Tomorrow is my last day, let’s hope for better weather to enjoy it.
Yours, Pollybert