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Archive for June, 2007

Saturday June 16th, Day 7 of our Italian Adventures 2007!

Once again we were up early enjoying the anticipation of the day ahead of us. Sort of like like Christmas morning! We showered had a quick bite to eat and hiked over across the Ponte Vecchio to exchange some money before we headed out to Fusi/Ravenna. After exchanging money we jumped on Bus B and rode over to where we parked the “Jag” once more. Don was anxious about driving his new found pleasure…and using “Scanducci” for directions, it was apparent that I was no longer the map reading co-pilot! My job had been replaced! We were so excited we were going to meet up with Cyndi and Danilo.

We headed out of city and got on the Autostrada headed towards Bologna. Then we turned on the A22 and headed towards Ravenna. As soon we were on this road it became apparent that we were caught up in some horrendous traffic headed to the sea and construction…… oh my goodness! We sat int he traffic of over 1.5 hours until we were able to come up on our exist. We finally arrived at Cyndi and Danilo’s a bit late, but without getting lost…”Scanducci” found us there home without any errors at all! He took us right to their front door! I rang the doorbell with great anticipation, when Cyndi appeared. We hugged and greeted each other and she invited us in. We were treated like royalty. Danilo soon appeared and I us greeted the Italian way with a kiss on both cheeks! We sat and chatted for a while and then were invited in to the kitchen to prepare a feast for us. Cyndi made a terrific antipasti with assorted meats, salami, pancetta, proscuitto, and cheeses. Along with bread, breadsticks and a local Trebbiano white wine. It was delicious. Next we enjoyed homemade tortellini with ragu a la Cyndi….delish! Next to my surprise, a birthday cake appeared for me! My new friends had managed to surprise us, especially me. The cake was absolutely out of this world. A sponge like bottom, with zabaglione and cream with a layer of fruit topping. OH my, I’m still drooling over it.

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After lunch we decided to head out in the countryside in Danilo’s convertible. We headed out in the beautiful country between Fusi, Bagnacavallo and Lugo and then another hilltop village (Brisighella). The sun was bright, we had full bellies and open minds….all was right with the world! The ride was beautiful and before we knew it we visiting a new location. We also went to a WWII Cemetery in Lugo that was very touching.

head.jpg We left the cemetery after a silent stroll through it and noticed the age of these young men that had perished during the war. Very sad. Then we drove to a small hilltop town of Berchismi (sp) and went to a local bar and enjoyed and snack of traditional roman flat bread and bianco frizzante. We strolled in to a local store to purchase some olive oil and to taste some chocolate made with olive oil and local salt, it was delicious. On the way back to their home we stopped at a Roman church built in the 400’s AD, how incredible just to be standing. There had been a wedding there earlier in the day. Then we made our way back into town for a gelato and to visit the town square which marks the Facist community from that was ruled during Mussolini’s time.

We retreated back to there home and around 9pm we realized how fast the day had flown by, and it was time to say our goodbyes. We both found it very difficult to leave our new friends, for they had welcomed us into their home and shared their lives with us. They had feed us traditional food and told us the history of their town. We soon realized we had made new friends that would not be forgotten. Theymade sure weknew that we were invited back to visit again. What a wonderful day new we had with them. The ride back was long and we made it back to Florence to find our usual parking place was filled for the night, so we had to park in a more expensive spot and take a taxi back to the hotel, because we had missed the last bus. The taxi ride was worth every penny we paid because we were exhausted from our day! Until the next time we see them, I will surely miss our friends Cyndi and Danilo and their gatti Roscoe (pictured) and Opus. Thank you so much for everything and your kindness!

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Friday June 15th, Day 6 of our 2007 Italian Adventure!

Another early day, up and at it by 6 am for a ride to the mighty Dolomites in Bolzano. I had already printed Google Maps directions and we new we had our trusty “Scanducci” along with us for the ride. We headed out of Florence and on the Autostrada. Soon we came upon many tunnels that winded their way through the mountainous terrain from Toscana to the Emilia-Romanga region. We arrived in Bolzano a few hours later and then headed of to the Orteisi – Val Gardena exit. The views were absolutely incredible. Mountains covered in a hazy mist seemed to appear out of no where. As we drove along we looked for a place to divulge ourselves in our daily lunch. Shorty after we exited the highway we found a Gusthof with a dining room, so we stopped and it started to rain while we entered the beautiful building. The location reminded us the Swiss Alps. Of course we were very close to the Austrian border. So the local spoke no English at all. We found the restrooms and the were seated to order our lunch. When out of no where a St. Bernard puppy appeared and fell on to my feet fast asleep. Don chuckled as he knows my fondness of animals. I soon made friends with the big guy and he kept making his way further under the table. The restaurant owner tried to communicate with me no to feed the dog. So instead we just enjoyed his company. Our lunch consisted of a basket of assorted local homemade breads. A very heavy-nutty bread was soon our favorite. I ordered tortellini with crema rosa and proscuitto, an Don had bolongese with spaghetti. We watched as it pourred for a while and dark clouds descended upon us. We left the Gusthof and got back into the Jag to drive further into the mountains. We found a mountainous drive that connected Orteisi with Cortina d’Aprezzo.

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Driving through these mountains is absolutely breathtaking! The views are 360 degrees around. The “Jag” performed great and Don enjoyed hugging the white-knuckled curves around the mountains.

mts.jpg Wow! No words can describe these mountains that surrounded us.As we made our way through the windy roads we stopped for photos and filming, we both agreed that this spot was one of the most beautiful place we have ever seen.

church.jpg We came upon this little mountain church, to cute to pass up. So we stopped at a local gift shop and took some photos. The weather at this location was 9 C. but we were a bit relieved by the hot temperatures we had encountered previously bella.jpg

during the week. Our travels took us through fields, mountains, alpine villages, and meadows. Plenty of cows were potted and hikers as well. Beautiful alpine flowers including Edelweiss was all around us. Do even picked some for me! On the way down into the valley we encountered many cow crossing signs along the road. I watched intently waiting for a cow to appear like a moose does on my local roads. We did stop for a cow that caught my attention. Cow bells could be heard up and down the mountain sides around us.

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Well our day was slowly descending and time to return to Florence was approaching. I left as though I had entered a “fairy tale” world, filled with images of Heidi and her grandfather went through my mind. Indeed, this was a special place and we hated to leave it. So we told ourselves we would someday return to stay in one of these mountain cabins that arrounded us with beauty!

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The drive back to Florence was long and the traffic was horrendous. We were caught in a construction delay for well over an hour. Trucks were backed up for miles.After several hours we finally made it back to Florence rather exhausted. We parked the Jag and thanked “Scanducci” for his performance and guidance today, then hopped on the #12 Bus back to the train station then back to the local bus stop near our hotel.

It was after 11 pm, so I decided to call Mom and check in with her. I was anxious to tell her about the beautiful place we went today, when she told me about the loss of her brother, my Uncle Larry at 4:30pm ET time today. While we were sitting in traffic I had a strange and unsettling feeling in the pit of my stomach that something was wrong. Our wonderful day had a very sad ending to it, I cried myself to sleep thinking of how selfish I was to be in Italy enjoying myself and he had passed away, and I could not be with my mother to grieve. I’ll never forget how helpless I felt at that moment. To be continued…… 😦

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Thursday June 14….day 5 of our 2007 Italian Adventure!

We were both up early today (6:30am), showered and breakfast. Out of Florence’s street to catch Bus D over to the Borgo Oggnasanti to pick up the rental car at Thrifty. We were a few minutes late for our reservation so they told us that they had only held our car for a short while……Oh no I thought! Don was busy filling out all the paper work and presenting the prepaid voucher for the car. When all of a sudden the customer service representative said that they gave our car away, so we would be receiving a Jaguar, and she wanted to know if this was “ok”. As we tried to constrain ourselves, we both agreed that it would be fine. So off to the garage to pick it up. After a brief lesson on all the features we drove away in the sporty new 2007 Jag. We soon realized the luxury that we had stumbled upon. The GPS unit that we found in the car was quickly named “Scanducci”. For Scanducci became our friend and confidante for the remaining time we spent in Italy.

So off we went and soon disappeared into the nearby hills and off to the medieval village of the San Gimignano, one of our favorite spots in Tuscany. We found a spot to park the “Jag” and soon entered into our peaceful retreat for the day. Strolling around visiting some shops for wine and other Tuscan treat soon made us hungry for lunch. We found the Trattoria Boboli and were soon seated as we ordered our fare. I enjoyed the local caprese and spaghetti pomodoro, while Don had a grande tagliatella con bolognese. Then I was so wanting to try the famous 4 euro “hot chocolate”, much to our dismay, it did not met our expectations at all! But we forged on to the famous gelateria for our daily fix. Mine included limoncello, coconut, and arancia rosa; while Don’s included menta and straciatella. This local gelateria won the 2006 World Gelato Championship. Geeee, I wonder why!

famous.jpg All of Italy has great tasting gelato, in fact I’ve never tried one I didn’t like πŸ™‚ We also stopped at a local pastry shop and purchased some chocolate cornetti….yum oh!

We drove back to Firenze after a day in the hot sun and returned to our hotel around 6:30pm for an evening break. Went over to the cambio to exchange some money only to find they were closed. So much for leaving early for Bolzano tomorrow, we’d have to wait to exchange some money.

Soon after around 7:30ish we headed back out to the Il Ghibellini for dinner. We sat outside on our usual spot enjoying the sights and sounds of those around us. Our waiter soon brought us out our water and my 1/4 liter of house bianco frizzante. exceptional vino! I ordered a caprese and my favorite carbonara, while Don ordered pappadelle chinghiale and pizza atomica. We sat beside a nice young man form Alberta Canada, who was on a European Tour and on the other side of us were two older local Florentine women. They could not speak and English at all, but soon offered some fritto misto to me and we sort of chatted in a combo of broken English, Italian and sign language…..as well as the universal language of laughter.

pasta.jpg As we strolled back and enjoyed the evening passiagetta in Florence we could not confine ourselves from staying away from the Festivale di Gelato for another treat. Don had his usual, while I tried the Nutella and extra dark chocolate meringue….oh my gosh! As chocolate as can be.

Finally we reached our hotel exhausted from the beautiful Tuscan countryside, the heat, and the parking in Florence….a whole other story! We were settled in out room and I phoned our new friends Cyndi and Danilo in Fusi to talk about the details of our visit on Saturday. Off to bed we went! Whiel dreams of the tuscan countryside filled my mind, I laid there wondering how I could find a way to move to Italy and work here!

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Do you dream in color? to be continued……..

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Day 4 Wednesday June 13th! Off to Venice for the day!

We were up early, showered and ready to hit the train station for our early morning departure to Venice.We had purchased the tickets in advance for today’s travel so we anxiously waited for the train to arrive and depart with us on it to Venice. When we left our hotel we hopped on the D bus from right outside, which brought us directly to the station.

murano.jpg dsc00532.jpg We stopped at a cafe and grabbed a couple of delicious chocolate brioches and some water for the journey. After a 3 hour train ride we arrived at St. Lucia Train Station in Venice. The ride took us through mountains, forests and beautiful countryside. As soon as the train left I found myself snoring too the rhythm of the tracks.. in front of two strangers and my husband! Zzzzzzzzz’s after-all what is a girl to do after so much shopping and travel? As we debarked the train we walked into the train station to purchase a map of Venice, as we had left ours behind. We were soon approached by a man that offerred us a deal we could not refuse….or so we thought! For 5 euros each he would take us out on a private boat to the island of Murano and have a glass blowing demonstration. We were excited so we hopped on board. The ride out took about 20 minutes, the lagoon was smooth and the ride was very relaxing in the hot Venetian sun. Soon we were pulling up to the dock and jumping off the boat for our tour. WE walked inside to a beautifully restored building with a furnace and showroom. We had our 15 minute glass blowing demonstration, and then were herded into a fancy shmancy showroom like a herd of wild cats. Wild cats you say!!!! Well the first item on display that I focused on was a beautiful example of Venetian art. A hand blown sculpture of a cat. The cat was beautiful indeed. I did not ask the price but, “Addie”, the showroom person was after us like a fly on crap. It turns out that, that infamous cat cost a total of 1200 euros, and he wanted me to bring it home with me. Oh, the pressure was building. For those of you that know me, the one thing that instantly turns me off is a pushy salesperson. Well that was all it took to drive me out of the place. With Don somewhere behind me I left the building only to have “Addie”, chasing me down the calle, telling me that I had insulted him and his family for leaving. Oh boy! I tried to tell him, that I had left message for him, that we were leaving and did not want purchase the cat. So offf we went, insulted hot and a bit frightened. Enough said!

We waited until the next vaporetto arrived to bring us back to San Marco Square. We walked around and soon discovered a hidden gem on a calle headed back towards the Rialto, for lunch. Although I do not recall the name of the trattoria. The food was excellent to say the least. I was in Venice and of course I had to have the local fish! Was my lunch consisted of grilled polenta and calamari.

lunch.jpg This calamari was some of the best I have ever eaten. Don was delighted by his spaghetti carbonara and the local bread. Slowly making our way through the maze of Venice, after getting sidetracked on several occasions to take breaks, we made our way back to the Rialto Bridge and enjoyed the views and photo stops.

We shopped around the Rialto and admired the views that surrounded us, had our daily gelato, and I stopped in to an Internet Train to check my email at 2.50 euros for 15 minutes of time. The slowest computer I had ever seen. At a local bakery we stopped to purchase some Tarfutto Neros (chocolate truffles) for the ride home. Today was extremely hot as we made our way back to the train station, we stopped in some local neighborhood parks and watched children playing under the fountains.

We our time to departure arrived we boarded the train and said goodbye to Venice once more as we settled into our air conditioned car for the long ride home. we watched Venice disappear behind us and talked about the days events including my encounter with “Addie” the equivalent of a Venetian used car salesman.

We arrived back in Florence around 9:30 pm and we took the #13 bus back towards our hotel and had dinner that the Golden View Open Bar.

Our dinner consisted of my daily caprese and pizza margherita and Don’s penne a la ragu, with a pizza diavalo (spicy). I had a 1/4 liter of house bianco, then we left the restaurant to enjoy another gelato of the day at the Bar Ponte Vecchio.

mask.jpg Indeed Venice is a beautiful and mysterious place. Strange also, for after my encounter with “Addie” I’ll have to think twice about being so trustworthy to hop on a boat headed out into the Venetian Lagoon with someone we didn’t know! What lies ahead for tomorrow? to be continued….. πŸ™‚

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Tuesday June 12, Day 3 of our Italian Adventure 2007!

Up by 7am, showered and headed up to the balcony for my cappuccino, brioche, and yogurt for the day! Don stayed in bed for a few more winks! I came back as he was getting ready for us to head out for the day. Out to the streets of Firenze we headed! First we hopped on the B bus and headed over to the train station to purchase tickets for tomorrow’s train ride to Venice. As well as to purchase a weekly bus pass on the local ATAF for our rides to and from our rental car. We could no longer purchase a weekly pass, just a three day pass. We then went into the Santa Maria Novella Train Station and decided to purchase our tickets to Venice. For a total of 120 euros for two round trip tickets in coach, we were set for the next day. By mistake we went on a wild goose chase on the wrong bus out in the middle of nowhere outside of Florence. Needless to say to say we hopped of as soon as possible and took another bus back to the San Lorenzo Market as well as the Mercato Centrale…to do some shopping! I purchased some locally grown tomatoes and raspberries to enjoy later in our room. Temps today soared into the high 90’s and the sun beat down upon us.

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We stopped for lunch at the nearby Pizzeria Reginella. I had a great caprese and a pizza margarita, while Don enjoyed his favorite tagliatella and pizza salamino. The of course off for an afternoon gelato. I had cocco (coconut) and Nutella, while Don enjoyed his predictable Straciatella. After enjoying the sites around the Duomo we strolled back to our Palace for an afternoon siesta.

ham.jpg Well the sights and smells of the market have not changed much since last year. We were offered samples of cheese, prosciutto, truffle oil and other delights. Sometimes on a hot day the smell can be a bit overwhelming to the faint of heart.

Back at our hotel, we took a brief 2 hour nap! The heat was exhausting to us. We each purchased a new Swatch at a nearby store. This is the one that I purchased.

We were up and ready for dinner around 7pm so we walked over to the Santa Croce neighborhood and had dinner at one of our favorites spots The Osteria Il Gatto E Volpe. Don had spaghetti bolognese with a filetto di manzo and I had carbonarawith a filet as well. The meat was cooked so deliciously. We savored every bit. I also enjoyed a 1/4 liter of house bianco frizzante and water. As soon as dinner was over our waiter was quick to bring me a limoncello on the house. It washed down dinner very nicely. We strolled back to our room slowly savoring the sights and sounds of Florence at night. The Piazza Del Republicca was alive with music and festivities so we stopped as we searched for a gelato of course! We were soon devouring my cocco and pistachio. while Don was enjoying the menta and straciatella combination. Back to out room to retire for the night with a 6am wakeup call. Our train was scheduled to leave for Venice at 8am. Soon we were off to dreamland thinking about what lay ahead for us in Venice tomorrow! ……to be continued!

dolci.jpg While visions of dolci danced in our heads! zzzzzzzzz

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Monday June 11th. Well after a great night’s sleep, I am up at 7:30 ready for the day. Don on the other hand is still sleeping. I am showered and dressed and before long, pop up to the 6th floor for my favorite brioche and cappuccino. The waiter is still the same as last year and the breakfast room is wonderful. I sit inside instead of the the rooftop, as it is already HOT this morning. The views of Firenze are beautiful. After Don is up and showered, I bring him yogurt and fruit back to the room for a quick bit, before we head out the the bus station to purchase a bus pass. We walk on over to the nearest Tabbaceria to purchase a 24 hour pass, then get on the #12 and head up to Piazza Michelangelo for photos and the views. We have decided on a slow touristy day for today. At the top we meet a young woman travelling from Switzerland, so we discuss the bus with her. After photos and purchasing a few gifts, we hop on the #13 back down and then go to the bus station for get on to the #7 to go to Fiesole for lunch.

firenze.jpg In Fiesole we decide to have lunch at the Bar a la 4, outside. We sit in the shade under an umbrella and enjoy the sites, scents, and beauty that surrounds us. For lunch I choose spaghetti carbonara and Don has tagliatella once more followed bu water and gelato produced on the premises a few doors down. Yummy! Limone…..makes my mouth water!

Came down from Fiesole and then went shopping in the Oltrarno neighborhood, which is where we stayed. Took a short nap, afterall we had experienced such a busy day….hehehehe. Woke up around 7pm and headed over to the Ristorante Celestino for dinner. They have a rather large menu that can accommodate any taste here. They even serve brains and cavallo on the menu. Of course we opted for other choices. Our waiter appeared to be under the influence of alcohol as he waited on us very slowly that evening, he in fact reeked of booze! I chose a glass of house rossa, which was very good. I had a caprese and tortellini bolognese, while Don ordered his usual tagliatella bolognese. We sat across from a couple from Georgia, who spoke of all their travels around the world. Then without eavesdropping we overheard a rather strange conversation going on behind us. A woman in her 60’s sat across from a very elderly man. She was sobbing off and on and like a soap opera at first, but then as I started to listen to the conversation I became engrossed in what she was saying to him. You see, in 1960 she came to Florence as a young woman and apparent met up with this man and they had what appeared to be a two-night love affair. She back to Germany and several months later disclosed to her parents that she was pregnant. She called him and wanted nothing to do with the child. So her parents sent her to Switzerland to have a later term abortion in 1960! The child was boy. this woman sat there pourring her heart out to him, as he was rather hard of hearing everyone around could hear the conversation. After 40 years, she finally had the opportunity to see him and tell him this story….what a heart breaker. This story broke our hearts. But in a strange way, I was glad to have witnessed such an event for this woman after all these years of silence she was allowed to speak. They left together, and wondered who the story ended.

After dinner we left for a gelato, once more of course!

gelato.jpg I had crema and pistachio while Don had Menta and Strac. oncve more. We walked back to our hotel and remembered the conversation from dinner. I wondered if we would see int he morning news of a murder or someone jumping for the bridge into the Arno, but we never heard anything. AS we got back to our room for the night we were able to watch the “Stepford Wives” in Italian. What a treat! We were both of to dreamland by 11pm, waiting for the next day to begin. I was dremaing about the conversation that I had overheard at dinner…..I could not help but to wonder what happened to the woman and the elderly man. I hope the story ended happily for them both.

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Day 1…..This is the beginning of our story of travel to Italy in June 2007.

The day started with clouds and sun shining through my bedroom window. At 4:30 am. I jumped out of bed, showered and was ready for our big adventure to start. After doing all my last minute chores around the house, last minute packing I stopped off at Dunkin Donuts for a iced coffee and headed up to pick up my mom and my sister-in-law, as they were seeing me off at the airport. The ride was uneventful until, we were stopped by the US Border Patrol at a random check point. Further down the road my mom had a bout of intestinal issues that set of a chain of events…hehehehe. Pull of the road open front and back doors and let her out quickly…if you know what I mean. My poor mom…how embarrassed she was! 😦

In the meantime, I looked at my gas gauge only to find that the my “out of gas light” was on….oh brother! So I made a quick detour to find gasoline off the interstate. Got to the airport with a few minutes to spare. Check in at the airport, went throught security screening boarded my flight to Boston. Arrrived in Boston to meet Don, who had already landed at Terminal A. Went went to collect my luggage only to find that it did not make it on the plane with me….oh no! So off I went mumbling to the lost luggage department at Delta Airlines. Then I met “Mary” at the counter, little did I know she would save my sanity. For those that don’t know me I’m a bit of a perfectionist, and when something doesn’t hasppen the way it should it throws me into a downward spiral. Well “Mary” being the kind and compassionate person she was saw, my eyes welled up with tears, called my departure city and told them to make sure my luggage was on the next flight to Boston. So off we went to check into Alitalia at Terminal E. We were one of the first in line. I told the agent about my situation and she quickly made some chang4es to our seats and told me to let her know if I was able to get my luggage before the International flight. So Don and I grabbed some lunch at “Dine Boston” in Terminal E and waited anxiously on the status fo my luggage.

Well without a minute to spare we ran back to Terminal A to locate my bags, and met up the “Mary” again….to this day I think she was my travel angel…because she would keep appearing out of no where to help me out. We watched as the luggage carousel, went around, and before I knew there was a welcome sight…….my pink checked baggage…Mary was right…It did make it…..Thanks so much “Mary”.

We boarded our International Alitalia flight to Milan. The flight it self was uneventful…except for the unedible food served. Roasted pork loin with veggie lasagna, and vino rossa. We tired to sleep with no avail. The sound would not work on the movie…so I gave up eventually and just shut my eyes. A morning meal of a toasted tomato and cheese sandwich was served along with a pastry and coffee. We landed safely in Milan and 7:55am and departed for Florence at 10:15 and landed at 11:15 local time. We had to wait for over 1/2 hour for our luggage, and soon after collecting our belongings we were on a cab for the city center and our palace! The Pitti Palace Ponte Vecchio.

Our room 411 was ready, so we checked and showered, then headed out into the streets of Firenze. we headed over to change some dollars for Euros. We were able to get 71 euros for 100 US dollars. Then headed off to the Piazza Del Signora to have lunch at Cafe Il David. Don had his usual Pizza Salamino Piccante and I had pizza margarita and bottles of water. On the way back to our hotel we stopped for our first gelatos of the trip. Don had straciatella and I had pistachio an fruitta di bosca. Arrived back to our room and took a two hour nap. Normally we don’t do this but the heat wore us out. We woke up at 7:30 pm and headed out for our first dinner in Florence. We chose the Il Ghibellini for a caprese for me along with a 1/4 lt of house vino rossa and spaghetti carbonara. Don had carbonara and another pizza. We returned to our palace and retired at 11:15pm…..out like a light to dreamland….zzzzzzzzz! To be continued!

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