Diane and Ernest left for the airport promptly on Monday morning, leaving me to turn the apartment around for our next arrivals who were due later the same day, It wasn't much of a turnaround though as the apartment had been left so clean that not a lot was needed from me and within an hour or so I was shutting the door and starting up the lawn mower.
That took me up until lunch time, after which I spent a couple of hours strimming to finish tidying the place up and improving the curb appeal, then headed for a much needed shower.
By the time I was clean and presentable it was almost four o'clock - when our friends the Richardsons were due to arrive. Bang on time (in fact slightly ahead of time), Ben, Virigina, Isabel and Erin rolled down the drive in their car, ready to stay with us for a couple of nights after having spent the best part of a week down near Arezzo for a family gathering.
It was really great to see them all - just over a year ago, they were kind enough to give us a roof over our heads and a bed to sleep in (not to mention feeding us delicious food) while we were homeless in between selling our house and driving over to Italy, and after having built up a fairly regular Friday evening get-together routine over the previous 12 months, we have missed their company over the last year. We were both struck by the changes we could see in the girls - when we left the UK, Erin wasn't even speaking, but now she's a confident little chatterbox like her older sister and a real delight (again, like her older sister).
We chatted for an hour or so over a beer before I headed into Pescia with the Richardsons to get pizza and ice cream for the girls while Helen stayed at the house with Reggie to welcome our new apartment guests. The Richardsons and I made a quick stop at Esselunga before heading home to put the girls to bed, and while Helen and I chatted with our new guests Sian and Simon (another really nice couple), Virginia cooked a delicious and uber-healthy dinner (the benefits of which were somewhat outweighed by the alcohol consumed over the course of the evening - after a year apart it was always bound to be a little enthusiastic this evening).
We all arose with Isabel's body clock the next day, so Helen and I speedily dressed and headed downstairs to deal with the animals before they could disturb Sian and Simon's peaceful sleep in the apartment below.
We coped well and slowly all arose and had breakfast out on the patio. Thankfully the weather was looking dry for the immediate future - which, sadly, was more than could be said for the Richardson family holiday that preceded it.
After breakfast, we all headed into Pescia to walk Reggie by the river. We parked at the bins near to Sue and Chris's and gradually made our way along the river until we crossed over to Lucky bar where we made a pit stop for toilets, ice cream, hot chocolates and so many cappuccinos that I wished I could have photographed the server's face each time he asked if we needed anything else.
With the time romping on for midday, and with small wet feet in the group courtesy of some enthusiastic paddling in the river, we headed back to the cars for a change of footwear before moving both cars to the Piazza near Franco's bar. Reggie once again refused to leave the car, so we left him in the safety of his crate with the rear door open where we could keep an eye on him(and vice versa) from the seating area outside Franco's.
|We were relieved to find that Ben still loves his coffee - no change there.|
We feasted on a superb lunch of breads, meats and cheeses (which included a three-milk cheese - goat's, sheep's and cow's - covered in fig jam and a delicious strong blue infused with fruits of the forest) before clambering back into the cars and heading for Lucca with a view to renting one of the ubiquitous four-wheeled bikes.
Once in Lucca, we managed to coax Reggie out of his crate without much effort, and all headed up to the wall. We walked around to the bike rental shop and it wasn't long before I'd handed over my ID card in exchange for a four wheeler into which the Richardsons climber before and heading up onto the wall for a couple of laps while Helen and I walked with Reggie.
|A bicycle made for four.|
Half an hour later the cycling family caught us up and we switched seating so that Ben and I could cycle the girls down to a large play park below, Helen and Virginia following closely behind with Reggie.
One thing I noticed today about Lucca, courtesy of operating a car-sized bike, is that there are a LOT of one-way streets combined with a general inclination to want you to circle around the inner city in an anti-clockwise direction. Needless to say, we arrived at the park quite some time after Helen, V and Reggie after having fought through crowds in narrow cobbled streets - all in the name of fun though, and soon enough Isabel and Erin were clambering over various climbing frames.
We finally called time on the day and headed back to the car to wend our way home - which we did, but not before Ben had helped me push our car around the underground car park so that Helen could bump start it. (Well, it wouldn't be the full experience if the car hadn't refused to start, would it?). When we did get home, Ben and V set to cooking dinner for the girls before their bath (yes, BATH - apparently our poor excuse for a water heater, which gave us nothing but tepid water over the winter can happily produce a bath in May as well as two showers?!!) while Helen and I nipped out for supplies for dinner. We then enjoyed a leisurely and somewhat alcohol fuelled evening safe in the knowledge that our guests downstairs had gone out for dinner at Da Carla near Sorana.
Tiredness got the better of all of us well before midnight, and we headed for bed. Everyone seemed to sleep well overnight - so well, in fact, that Helen and I lay in bed this morning not daring to get up for fear of waking the slumbering children - it was gone 7am before Isabel stirred, which seems to be something of a record. Once up, we all managed a breakfast together on the patio before the Richardsons sadly had to leave for the airport, shortly followed by me leaving for a day's strimming at Lanciole with Chris (extra labour for the day), and finally Sian and Simon checked out, heading to Pisa for a bit of sightseeing before their flight home, leaving Helen, Reggie and the cats all of a sudden alone.
We wish both the Richardsons and our guests Sian and Simon could have stayed longer but that's the way this particular cookie crumbled and it was weird to come home this evening (having yet again returned the car to the dealer) to find only Helen and the animals here.