Rolling Stones concert in Lucca Italy

The Rolling Stones in Lucca Italy: A Spectacular Disaster

I went to the Rolling Stones concert in Lucca Italy, but I didn’t “see” the show. Probably only about 10 percent of the 55,000 people attending were able to see the show, because it was general admission on a flat field, that sloped slightly downhill the opposite direction. It didn’t take long for the crowd to get frustrated and soon drunk concert attendees were climbing up anything they could find to get a glimpse of the stage. Trees and concert rigging were popular places to perch, but it seems the best seats in the house were on top of the portable toilets! The Rolling Stones concert in Lucca Italy can only be described as a spectacular disaster, but I’m still glad I went!

The Ticket

 

I didn’t go to Lucca with the intention of going to the concert. But on my second day there we drove by the venue where they were erecting the stage and I realized that the Rolling Stones would soon be playing only three blocks away from where I was staying. So, I decided to go, but by that time tickets were next to impossible to find. I tried buying some online but the websites were all in Italian and they would only snail mail the tickets. With only a few days to wait before the show, I didn’t want to risk the tickets not arriving in time. Finally, I looked on Craigslist and got lucky! An American many (Jason) was going to go with his girlfriend, but she cancelled on him at the last minute. Like I said, I got lucky, and he got $200.

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The view from Sassi Itlay

A Most Delightful Weekend in a 250 Year Old Home in Sassi, Italy

When my Italian friend and host suggested we go to Sassi for the weekend, I agreed, but I had no idea what, or even where, it was. Next thing I know we are headed out of Lucca and towards the mountains of northern Italy. Before long we are zooming along steep switchbacks, away from the city, enjoying the changing colors of autumn and the view of the valley below. Finally, we enter the most charming little historical village and stop in front of a giant red home, made of stones and concrete. To my right the Alps are towering in the distance and an ancient castle sits high on a hill. It was like like a view from a postcard. Staying in a 250 year old home, enjoying the astounding view, and mushroom hunting in the forest were all remarkable, and made for a most delightful weekend in Sassi Italy.

The Historical Home

 

Paolo Pocai’s family has owned the old homestead for generations. The front part of the home was built in 1770 and there is still an old brass plate above the door with the date on it. As if that isn’t remarkable enough, the back part of the building was a 15th century tower and still contains some of the ancient doors and the original circular stone staircase. The home contains some of the most beautiful antique furniture and chandeliers I have ever seen! It’s hard to guess how big the “house” is, as some rooms in the basement have never been completed, but I would estimate that it was well over 4,000 feet, which seems to be about normal for summer homes in the country in Italy. I helped Paolo prepare the home for winter as he doesn’t go there much anymore in the off season.

The view overlooking Biella, Italy

My Experience with Permaculture and Compost Toilets Near Biella Italy

My lifestyle as a travel blogger is rarely full of glamour and luxury like most people think. The past week has been a good example of that. I spent the days working my butt off for a family running a Permaculture retreat and education center in the mountains near Biella Italy.  Compost toilets, not-so-hot hot…

Omegna Italy on the banks of Lake Orta

Hiking, Swimming, and Shopping Around Lake Orta in Omegna Italy

The retreat center I’m staying at has an incredible view overlooking Lake Orta, and since I’ve been staring at it from a distance for the past week, I figured it was time to see up close. I, and my two friends Liza and Chi, decided to hike down to the town of Omegna, which is situated on the northwestern most point of Lake Orta. We filled our day packs with snacks and our swimming suits, and set off for a fun day of hiking, swimming, and shopping around Lake Orta, in beautiful Omegna Italy.

Hiking

 

 

There are a total of eight hikes in the  surrounding areas of Lake Orta. They range in difficulty level and duration. We were actually staying in the mountains, near the tiny village of Quarna Sopra, located about 50 miles from the Malpensa Airport in Milan, Italy. Fortunately, one of the hikes starts at the back gate of the resort. From there it was all downhill, on a cobblestone path cutting through the forest. Half way down we came upon a charming little church, built about 200 years ago. Out front there was a fountain with fresh spring water where thirsty hikers can fill their water bottles. It took us about an hour to make it down to the town.

Me and my nemesis

Lessons in Humility: You Want Me to Do What and for How Long?

I couldn’t understand a word my coworker was saying. She spoke Italian, and I speak English. Grazie and ciao was the full extent of my knowledge of the Italian language, but I gathered from her motions that I was supposed to follow her. I followed Katarina down the stairs into the basement. Workers were everywhere. People from the kitchen (she calls it the “chicken”) were carrying supplies up and down the stairs, and a couple of other women were folding towels on a table on the far side, jabbering away in another language I couldn’t understand. Katarina opened the door to a storage room, filled with folded and stacked towels and sheets. In the center was a huge pile of wrinkled sheets and pillow cases. She picked up the iron and pointed at the large stack. Then she pointed at me!

The town of Cascais, near Sintra

Magical Sintra Portugal and the Unbeaten Path

There is something special about the energy of Sintra Portugal. From the moment I arrived I felt alive and well. I haven’t felt such positive energy since Rishikesh, India or Friday Harbor, Washington. I don’t know if it’s the climate, the sea air, the happy people, or its mystical history, but Sintra is simply magical, and I really didn’t want to leave. The village is so much more than palaces and castles. Get off the typical tourist path and you will discover gorgeous beaches, charming coastal towns, impressive wineries and a fascinating history.

The Cork Covenant

 

Capuchos, also known at the Cork Convent, is a 15th century monastery that provided refuge to impoverished people. It’s intriguing to think that at the same time they were building all those lavish palaces, they erected a monastery for the poor, in between ancient boulders and Cork Trees. The door frames are about 4 feet tall and edged with cork bark. The hallways are about two feet wide and the ceilings about 5 feet high. The buildings feel like part of the landscape and the whole place has an incredible spiritual vibe. I sat and mediated there for a while. One of the more fascinating stories about the place is that one of the most famous monks fell in love with a woman, and they moved into a tiny cave just outside the monastery, where they lived happily together for the next 30 years.

Sintra Portugal

The Astonishing Castles and Palaces of Sintra Portugal

The charming and picturesque small town of Sintra Portugal is located within the stunning natural landscape of the Parque Natural de Sintra-Cascaisl. This national park includes lush rain forest and steep hills that blend easily with the gorgeous coastline, situated only about 12 kilometers to the west. The hills and forest provide mild temperatures and a vast variety of outdoor activities, such as hiking and biking, but it’s the astonishing palaces and castles of Sintra that steal the show.

Quinta da Regaleira

 

This gothic and neo-manueline style palace, built in the mid-1800s, was my favorite. Not because of the interior, which was also remarkable, but because of the beautiful grounds and gardens surrounding the palace. They can only be described as paradise. I could have spent days wandering those gardens. Beneath the grounds are a series of caves and tunnels that lead to the bottom of an old secret well and a waterfall. It was a maze of wonders that left me wanting more.

The streets in Old Medina Casablanca

8 Cultural Observations from an American in Casablanca Morocco

After being in the pristine and stunning countries of Germany, Austria, and Sweden, it was hard to adjust to life in a large, over populated, dusty, smelly city. I hate to admit it, but that really is my general opinion of Casablanca. Sure, it has some nice qualities, like beautiful beaches and the wealthy French Quarter, but in general my advice is that if you want to visit Morocco, skip Casablanca and try Marrakesh instead. I was there just long enough to learn some things about the culture, and here are 8 culture observations from an American visiting Casablanca, Morocco.

French influence

 

There is a heavy French influence in Casablanca that dates back to its history in the early 1900s. In fact, I think more people speak French than Arabic, at least in the area I was in. Street signs and marketing are mostly in Arabic, but everywhere you go people say “bonjour” or other common French phrases.

The bay of Bodrum from above

Bodrum, Turkey; City of Wonders

A few days into my Kos trip, someone asked me if I had been to Bodrum yet. “Is that one of the islands?” I asked in ignorance? Imagine my surprise when I found out it was Turkey, and only a 45-minute ferry ride away! I had an amazing day in Bodrum, Turkey, and to me it will always be the city of wonders.

Getting a Ticket

There is only one ferry that does a day trip to Bodrum. The rest of them leave in the evening and come back the next day. I tried to buy a ticket on line but had problems with the system, so I got on my scooter and rode to the office only to find out they were closed. In fact, many office close for several hours in the afternoon in Greece. With no other options, I decided to show up about an hour before departure the next morning, hoping they would still have available tickets. Success at last! With my ticket in hand I still had time to enjoy a Turkish cup of coffee before the voyage.

Turkish Coffee

The Turkish café near the marina brought me my steaming cup of strong coffee and I asked for some cream or milk. The woman just shook her head, stared at me with a blank face, and walked away. I wasn’t sure if she hadn’t understood me, or worse, maybe I had offended her. That is when a girl at the table next to me spoke up and explained that you don’t put milk or cream in Turkish coffee. It is unfiltered, so all the grounds sink to the bottom of the cup. If you pour milk in it all the coffee grounds will resurface. I asked her if you could then just wait for the grounds to sink to the bottom again before drinking it. She crinkled her brow, looking a little perplexed, but acknowledged that would probably work. A few moments later the woman did bring me some milk after all. It seemed like a pretty big ordeal for a single cup of coffee. The girl next to me also explained that fortune tellers in Turkey look into the grounds of the coffee at the bottom of your cup in order to tell your fortune.