Hello from Detroit!!!
I must say one of the Most Beautiful places I've had the pleasure of visiting is Montecantini. I have been scheme-in and plotting on how to get back there ASAP.
Though I was there with 46 People (34 French/Spanish Students 9 Adults 1 tourguide) I had the most Special and Wonderful day there. Our tour bus was not allowed to go down the street of our Hotel so we all had to lug our suitcases down the very narrow sidewalks for a distance I was not prepared to walk dragging one huge suitcase, a carry on, back pack and large bag. But I made it. As I was struggling with being a Mule a crowd of school children shouted to Me in Italian, where are You from? And when I said Detroit they went nuts. They started cheering and clapping. I smiled and asked if they wanted to help Me carry my stuff....
Our Hotel was SO worth the trouble. We stayed at The Ariston and it is Beautiful and I would Highly recommend it to everyone. The front desk clerk was Wonderful, despite the fact that the Lobby was just invaded by 46 bodies. She handed out keys, sold us stamps for postcards, gave us Maps and advise. She also informed the Kids that this is a Quiet Hotel, use indoor voices at all times. The Lobby was furnished with Lovely couches and chairs. Lemon Tree's and I loved sitting there just people watching. I shared my room with another Lady Adult. Now it's kind of awkward sharing a room with someone you don't know. But this was our 3rd hotel stop and We really bonded. Especially when Your sleeping together. Ok take it easy. Let me clear that up, it was 2 twin beds pushed together. The first few nights I pushed the beds apart the best I could. But by the 3rd night I had no problem with sleeping so close and too tired to push the beds apart. But our room was Huge, with 3 windows with views of the Mountains and Town. The bathroom was just remodeled and all marble. The tub was big and it had a shower curtain Wa Hoo that was a plus. All the amenities included. Some of the Kids had rooms with balconies, those lucky dogs. However the Bible teacher, Soc. Studies teacher and Principal had a very small room with a cot. So us girls were doing the happy dance.
We had 5 hours of free time before dinner, so I dropped my stuff and ran out of the Hotel. Some of the Adults and Kids wanted to hang out with me but I had to be tough and say NO, I shop alone....I headed right for Hugo Boss to check out the clothes I'd seen earlier, I ended up spending more money in Montecantini than anywhere on our 10 day tour of Spain France Italy. I also hit a jewelry store (the one who has a swan for their emblem) and got a piece of crystal I had been searching for about 4 years. A crystal puzzle piece. I had bought 2 of them for Me and My Man here in the Detroit area, and His broke so I was on a mission to find another one. I had searched High and low all over for one, and BAM I walk in the front door of this shop, and of course I speak no French (other than the basics) and the Sales Lady starts off in French and I look at Her like a Fool and she starts speaking English. Yeah...So I ask Her if She has such a piece of crystal in Her shop, and She walks me over to a showcase and there in the case is the blue puzzle piece I had been looking for. So Me being the mushy type, tears start rolling down my face. She looks at Me in total shock, and then smiles and say something in French to the Man working there with Her and He smiles at Me too and He starts looking for the box the piece should go into to, I also buy some sweet looking earrings for My sister in law. I was on cloud 9 all afternoon.
In the Middle of town there is a Merry go round. Just Beautiful..I sat there for a long time watching the kids go round and round. I was jealous. Even the children can speak French. Next door to the Merry go round is a Restaurant I had read about on several internet sites, La Castia. I walked around the outside and entered the dining room to inquire about dinner hours. The Bartender was very nice, showed Me the Menu while He made me a Excellent cappacino. They serve dinner from 7:15 till 2 am. Awesome, I will be back for a bite. The coffee was only 1 euro, I left 4. I bought postcards, candy, shirts, sweater and fruit and headed back to the Hotel to change for dinner. When I walked into the lobby several of the Adults from My group were there talking so I sat down and filled out My postcards. My Brother in Law (dean of Students/Bible Teacher) asks if I'd like Him to drop off my bags in my room while He was going up to rest before dinner. So he took My bags, and I finished My postcards and chewed the fat with the Girls. My roomie came down ready for Dinner, So I went up to get ready too.
Dinner is usually in a local Restaurant. This time it was right in the Hotel. So that was easy. I didn't have to bust butt to get ready. All 46 of Us along with our bus driver headed to the dining room, where we got Outstanding Service and Excellent Food. I own a Restaurant and I know how tough it is to serve so many people at once. Not only was our group there, but so was another. It was Italian Highschool Kids on a Field trip like Us too. So the Staff served approx. 150 People in 1 hour. We had Spaghetti with Tomato sauce, Great Italian bread, Pork with melted cheese and ham on top with a side of Sauteed Spinach. And for Dessert a sponge cake of some kind with whipped cream and coffee soaked into it. It was so good, I had 2 pieces. After sitting around for an hour talking with some of our group I decided to go to my room and get my stuff ready for our departure the next day. Our tour guide warned us we must be out of the hotel and in our bus no later than 8 am other wise we would be stuck in the city until 10 am. Why? The city won't let tour busses in while the Kids are being bussed to school. They are worried about a mix up or something with the Children. Makes great sense to Me. So as I'm packing My stuff, I can't find the jewelry bag, I'm tearing up all my stuff and relooking in the bags My Brother in Law dropped off. I was totally freaking out. My roomie was in the shower and she could hear Me saying over and over OH NO OH NO and got so worried. I in the meantime ran down 4 flights of stairs to the Lobby, and looked around trying to find the bag. No Luck. I go to the front desk and the same nice lady is still there working. I ask her had someone turned in blue bag with a swan on it. She gives Me this funny look, and starts asking me how big is the bag, what color, how many boxes are inside, after I awnser all the questions she reaches under the counter and pulls out the bag. I wanted to Kiss Her. She said She was sorry to ask Me all these Questions, but She wanted to make sure the right owner got the bag. Talk about sweating it. When I walked back into the room, my roomie comes running out of the bathroom and says what's wrong..I told Her..
Because some of the Italian Girls from the other group had invited some of our Boys to the Disco that night, we had some of the Adults in the lobby to make sure no one was going anywhere. I don't think the boys would go, and I know the Disco's don't start hopping until after midnite, and I can't see how the other Groups leaders would let their Kids run around to the Disco at night, but I may have been wrong. I ran into several of the kids. They were smoking, going in and out of eachother's rooms, being loud and some of the girls were dressed in itsy bitsy outfits. So maybe I was wrong, maybe that's OK for the Kids to do what they wanted. I didn't see any of their chaparones, and the Hotel Management was reprimading them alot that evening. But I must say alot of the Italian boys were very nice, and wanted to talk to our Group. There was a crowd of them and Us in the Lobby comparing The American way to the Italian Way. And they wanted to compare their muscules to our boys. And they talked about Basketball and stuff like that. We all got a kick out of that.
About 11 pm I took off to have a Cheese Plate, dessert and coffee at the Restaurant I had checked out earlier. I think the Teachers had the kids in check so I was able to take off on my own. I walked into the courtyard of the Restaurant hoping someone may be dining outside so I could too, but no one was eating outside. I walked in and no one came over to greet Me. So I did have to use the little girls room, so I followed the restroom sign but couldn't find the door. Suddenly the wall slide open to reveal the Ladies restroom. How cool is that. After doing my business, I went back to the dining room and stood at the door waiting to be greeted. Still no eye contact or Hello. So I seated myself in the Bar area. Finally after about 5 minutes a Young lady came over and handed my a Menu, not the one I looked at earlier. She asked for My drink order, and off She went. The menu was a bar menu, not what I was interested in. So when she brought My Bottled Water (with Gas) I asked for a Dinner Menu. She came right back with a Dinner Menu followed by an Elderly Gentleman. He put a table cloth down along with silverware and plates. He smiled at Me the whole time. I had to look away. It was not a bad thing, just shy I guess. After looking at the Menu and sticking with what I came for, The Gentelman took My order. He didn't speak English and My Italian was very Limited. He tried to get Me to order a Glass of Red Wine with My Cheese. I relied No Thank You, He tried again. I told Him I don't drink Wine (Or anything for that matter) He looked very hurt and disappointed. After setting down the most delicious bread basket and Cheese Plate the Waiter gave Me this huge smile and stood there looking at Me. I said Thank You in My best Italian and He just stood there smiling. So for like one minute we stared and smiled at eachother. He finally told Me to enjoy and off He went. The Cheese Platter was very nice. Fresh fruit, Dried Fruit and 5 diff. kinds of Cheese, all Local. I really enjoyed it. I ate every piece of bread too. When I was done, My Waiter appeared again to see what else I wanted. Now as I sat there I noticed several Beautiful looking salads, so I ended up passing on Dessert for Salad. And I was happy I did. More Bread this time with breadsticks, and a Huge salad with Hard boiled eggs, tuna,anchovies,tomatoes,onions and olives. He also brought the usual Vinager and Oil. But that's what made the Salad. The Olive Oil was Fantastic. So rich and nutty. By the time I was done, there was no way I was getting coffee. While eating My salad the place started hopping. Thank God You can't smoke in Restaurants here in Italy, They would have killed My lungs. But there sitting next to Me were 10 Italian Men. Young Men. I tried not to make eye contact with them. The Waiter was more than I could handle. But the Men stared and talked about Me in Italian. Not bad stuff, but it was very plain to see I was a tourist and the place was all Locals. After asking for the Bill, and paying cash, I had to get up and part this crowd of Men to get to the Door. I'm not shy what so ever. However, I am chaparoning a Group of Christian School Students and there was no way I was going to cause even one second of problems. I did not feel frightened or threatened at all. Just awkward. But as soon as I stood up and put My jacket on and slung my Purse over my shoulder, the Men stood up and moved the chairs and tables out of My path. I felt like a giant compared to them. I'm tall and these guys were about 4-5 inches shorter than Me and I did find that funny. They all stood there and smiled and said Good Evening and there holding the door was My Waiter. We shook hands, and off I went back to My Hotel. It was late and some of the Kids were still in the Lobby talking with the Italian Kids. 2 Teachers were there of ours, so I said good night and hit the sack..
We had breakfast in the Hotel too. I was up really early as usual. I could smell coffee as I took the elevator to the lobby with My suitcases. There I met up with 2 other teachers and we headed down for Breakfast. The Man attending the Breakfast room was very nice. The Food was good, but no Salami and I was very disappointed. The Coffee looked so good, and smelled good, but did not taste good. We even had warm frothed milk, but it didn't help make it taste better. I noticed several of the Adults at our table didn't care for the coffee either. And I looked in the bottom of the pot that was placed at out table and I could see that it was instant coffee. There was still sanka crystals at the bottom of the pot. What a Drag.. The kids were drinking hot chocolate, so I joined them on that.
Our bus could not pick us up at the Hotel. We had to walk down the street a little ways. But not too bad. We actually were loaded and ready to roll out of the city at 7:45 am. It was a record. Our next stop...Florence tp see David and then the Leaning tower of Pisa.
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Hello from Detroit!!!