Thursday, June 08, 2006

Day 2 - Luni to Lucca

Got up a bit late and had a measly breakfast of doughnut and double espresso. Lou eased some directions out of the waiter and we set off back to Luni where we got our passports stamped, but got no help in finding a new Pilgrim Passport for Lou. There were Roman ruins aplenty but we didn't stop to look around, we were keen to get going.

The roads were pretty with tomatoes, plums, olives and grapes growinmg everywhere. A mile down the road I realised I'd left my sunglasses back at Luni. Being too mean to buy a new pair we went back. I saw a lovely yellow-brown lizard warming himself on some unassigned Roman ruins piled outside the ticket office. Cool. He could have been a Roman lizard! This made me absurdly happy.

We set off again and at the ten mile point we arriverd at Marinella si Sarzana - 500 yards from where we'd come from an hour earlier. Arrrrghhhhh! I asked a chap "Dove Massa?" and pointed at both ends of the road. He pointed in the direction we'd just cycled from and said "Massa!" in a very authoritative voice. We cycled off through a very sea-sidey town with bingo halls, rides and ice cream stands heading for Avenza and then Massa.

We were in a higly industrialised area, deep in the heart of marble quarrying and processing territory. We carried on with mountains either side of us. Lorries thundered past but mostly they gave us enough room. Scooters seemed the biggest hazard, they're just so unpredictable. I recognised lots of places I'd seen from the train windows, which was fun, but reminded me of ur slow pace. It's interesting to see things other than cyclists with Fasso Bortolo written on them.

There's loads of cyclists of all ages, sizes, shapes and descriptions, and plenty of fairly sderious looking blokes in Lycra. Mostly they wave, laugh or shout "allez" at us. Other blokes, particularly Italian White Van Man, make other comments, which I'm choosing to believe mean "have a good holiday" rather than any body part related remarks.

We stopped at a bar by the road at Capezzano Pianore for lunch. Lou had a tuna focaccia which came with ham and I had a double decker sandwich with cheese on one layer and tomato and mayo on the other. It was OK. Lou nipped over the road for some cherries and peaches for later and we set off again.

We began a long steady climb, easiliy do-able in the biggest chain ring, but pretty unrelenting. Lycra boys were friendly and waving because they knew wwe were about to begin a giant climb. We stopped off to pump air into the tyres at a gas station, but it appeared to have no loos and no shop for water.

We carried on up the hill which had two double chevrons on the map to warn us of the giantness of our task. It was only about a 300m climb in altitude but it took us over an hour, including a peach stop at which my back tyre burst. I think it was over inflated. I replaced it using some foul language and my new plastic tyre lever which is much easier to use than a spoon. I made some fabulous gear impressions in oil on my legs and even my shoulder.

After setting off again a happy lycra boy who waved at us earlier came past on his way back down. He laughed and shouted something. I hoped it was 'nearly there'. We stopped to look down where we'd been. It was beautiful. The villages below looked like tourist brochure pictures. The olive trees were tied together with big nets, bunched upo ready to be unravelled for harvesting. The sky was blue but with enough cloud cover to stop me cooking.

We reached the summit and stopped for granita - ready made slush puppy frozen in a cup. Scrummy. I didn't even mind the brain freeze. Posters reminded us of our achievement as the hill is used for regular races. The downhill stretch was less steep and not bendy, which suited me. It seemed quite slow, but after Lou pointed out that my rear brake was locked on, and I sorted it out, we picked up pace.

The countryside was lush and green reminding me of the French side of the Pyrenees but without the cowbells. As we moved back into a built up area around Lucca the traffic became busier and more difficult to negotiate. I admitted defeat and got off to cross at crossings rather than trying to merge across lanes to turn left.

Just outside town we stopped to check the guides for accommodation. They both recommended the youth hostel San Frediano by the church. We went into town through a narrow arch on a cobbled road into the walled part of the city. The tourist office was dead ahead so Lou went in to get directions whilst I went next door to a bike hire place to get an inner tube - la camera d'aria - which I think translates as the 'room for air', which is cute. The bloke behind the counter took me through the shop, out the back and across the road to his repair place and introduced me to a Chinese guy who spoke some American English. Lucca has lots of bike hire places as you can cycle all around the city walls. We plan to do it in the morning.

Our hostel was just around the corner and for 62E we got a private double room with bathroom. It's actually on two floors with four beds. I'm sleeping downstairs and Lou upstairs.

We took a look around town but the churches were all closed. None of the eateries were really swinging and we were hungry. The walls of the town seemed to be put there to keep tourists in so it's easy to price gouge them. We ate in a square - seafood risotto and aubergine parmasan for me and seafood pasta and tuna salad for Lou. Chianti to share. It wasn't great. We played 100:1. I got 2 and Lou got 6. We started to notice that an unfeasibly high proportion of people were wearing orange trousers. I have no idea why.

The cathedral and St Frediano's looked beautiful but were closed so we mooched back, had a frozen yogurt and now it's time for bed.

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