The shutters in Lucca caught my eye because there were unlike any I had ever seen, and they reminded me of eyelashes. There were so whimsical, as though the windows were fluttering their eyeslashes at me.
True love lasts a lifetime, Emma Thompson declares in Love Actually, (my second favorite movie) referring to her love of Joni Mitchell, a love I share.
My favorite movie, though, is Dirty Dancing, and I have loved it since it was first released in 1987. Dancing-in-the-basement was part of my teen years in my working-class neighborhood in Detroit, and, well, Patrick Swayze as a dancing, working-class hero hooked me.
Soon after the movie was released, a woman I knew through work wanted me to apply for a job in Atlanta, where she lived. Atlanta didn’t particularly attract me, but this woman had grown up in Houston, near Patrick Swayze, and had taken dance classes with Patrick’s mother. She actually knew Patrick Swayze!
I said that if she could arrange lunch with Patrick I would move to Atlanta (my decision-making criteria was fairly superficial). She could not pull that off, but a few months later, this picture arrived in the mail.
I was in heaven. A signed photo from Patrick Swayze. I have carried this picture with me through all my moves and placed it on my desk at every job. True love does last a lifetime.
All of this came back to me when I was in Lucca, Italy, buying a scarf at Zazzi Dalamano. Vladimir is one of the company’s owners, and he was in the store the day I bought my scarf. When Vladimir discovered I was from Michigan, he gasped and said his favorite singer is from Michigan.
“Who is that?” I asked.
“Madonna,” he said, with a sigh that reminded me of how I say Patrick Swayze’s name—somewhat dreamy and wistful.
The person I was travelling with, also from Michigan, actually lived near Madonna and went to the same high school although not at the same time. This information brought another gasp from Vladimir—his connection to Madonna had just gotten closer.
He then told us the story of how he has loved Madonna since he was eleven years old and how he took the train to Rome (about three hours away) to see Madonna in concert when he was eleven. He didn’t say he used his First Communion money, but where else would an eleven-year-old get money to buy a train ticket and a concert ticket?
Anyway, he told his mother he was going to Rome to see Madonna, and she didn’t believe him. I can imagine her rolling her eyes and saying, “Of course you are going to take the train to Rome to see Madonna,” her voice dripping with skepticism.
But he did it, and he has not missed a Madonna concert since then.
I offered to try to connect with Madonna and have her visit his store the next time she is in Italy.
“Oh, no, don’t do that,” he said. “I would have a heart attack and die if Madonna walked into my store.”
I was in Lucca, Italy, for six days and walked the twisting, turning streets (and often felt lost, although I was following Goodle maps). I enjoyed the sights along the streets and fell in love with the City.
After twelve days in France, I flew to Florence for an Overseas Adventure Travel (O.A.T.) tour of Tuscany and Umbria. The tour began in Lucca, a walled city about an hour west of Florence.
I arrived three days before the tour began, and I used those days to explore Lucca.
On my first day, I took a walk on the top of the walls and also visited the Palazzo Pfanner, a home and garden inside the walls. Even though it was November, there were plenty of flowers and lemons (I stopped counting the lemon trees at 25. I thought maybe they used all those lemons for limoncello, but I was told they just like lemons).
I stayed at the San Luca Palace Hotel inside the walls. It was a great location and a wonderful hotel. The staff was extremely welcoming and helpful. Since I was on my own those first few days, I appreciated their suggestions and directions. I highly recommend staying at this hotel because their attention to service was outstanding.
I arrived in early afternoon, and even though it was not meal time, one of the staff offered to make me something to eat (a delicious ham and cheese panini).
Then, I needed a manicure, and the Hotel receptionist recommended a nearby salon. Even though no one in the small salon spoke English, we were able to communicate through gestures, and I got the best manicure I have ever had!
Day one in Italy was the beginning of a wonderful adventure.
The last stop on our Amawaterways river cruise on the Rhone River was Avignon.
Our walking tour included the Popes’ Palace, which was built in the 14th century and was the home to Popes for more than 60 years.
The Palace is massive (160,000 square feet), and parts of it are now being used for art exhibits and as offices. An exhibit of the photographs of Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado, called Amazonia, was on display when I visited the Palace.
As I was looking for details about the Popes’ Palace, I came across this entry on a blog called Eurotravelogue which has wonderful pictures and much more information.
The most amazing excursion during the Amawaterways river cruise from Lyon to Avignon was to a limestone quarry in Provence which has been repurposed into an immersive art experience called CARRIÈRES DE LUMIÈRES.
When we stepped inside the quarry, we entered Venice and were immersed in images of art and architecture. Haunting music enhanced the experience, and I was mesmerized.
My photos cannot capture the magnificence of this exhibit, so I encourage you to visit the site–and visit the place.
From there, we went to Les Baux-de-Provence, a 12th century village on top of a mountain.
Last spring, I spent three weeks touring France, and Lyon was my favorite city (sorry, Paris). I decided to visit Lyon again in the fall and just spent another week there. The City still enchants me. Here are a few photos:
A fruit and veggie market next to the florist shop
Before visiting France, I probably would have said I had little or no interest in castles, but I would have been wrong. I found the castles of France fascinating. Some were mere ruins while others had been well maintained.