Picking up Guests (22/12/2021)

Picking up Guests (22/12/2021)

Bit of a short one this week, and very few photos I’m afraid!

I breakfasted, but got a little lazy and didn’t go for much of a walk – just around the local neighbourhood and back to the apartment. Here’s a snap from my favourite lane in Tuscany… Vicolo delle Prigioni.

We got to Pisa airport early and returned our smaller rental to Sixt. We walked to terminal and waited. And waited some more. We could see that our guests’ flight had landed, but there was no sign of them. We were clock-watching, as lunchtime was rapidly running out, and we had yet to get to the car rental place to pick up the vehicle big enough for four of us. Our original plan was to park at the carpark near the Field of Miracles, and walk into the centre of Pisa to look for a place to eat, but then it was thought it would be nice to get out of the city as soon as possible to grab something to eat. I found what looked like a great place (Hostaria “Il Granaio”) about 15 minutes south of Pisa Airport.

Back to the airport for now. Many people who were definitely Italian wandered out, but no sign of our guests (Niamh’s sister and her husband who were flying in from England). About 20 minutes later or so, the pasty folk began to make their way through the door, but we were waiting a good 10-15 minues more. They came out eventually, commenting that immigration took ages. Pesky Brexit wreaking its havoc once again, unfortunately.

We made our way outside and marched towards the Goldcar desk. Now we usually blow hot and cold on Goldcar, as they often try to sell you everything, and sometimes with strongarm tactics. This time, however, a pleasant slender man greeted us and before 10 minutes had passed, had handed us the keys to our car. We thought we were getting a Dacia Duster, but instead got an ‘equivalent’. I was happily surprised when I saw we had a Hyundai Tuscon instead, brand new, with a modern infotainment system. I was a little apprehensive, as parking such a beast can be problematic in many Italian hilltowns, let alone driving one around the curving, narrow roads. But we’d cross that bridge when we’d come to it. I was also surprised that it was a manual, rather than an automatic, given how new the vehicle was. Niamh and I lean towards automatics, as it’s just one thing less to have hassle about when you’re driving at night (remember, it was Winter, so the chances were that we would be driving sometimes without much light), possibly in rain on dangerous roads you may not be familiar with.

Anyway, we put the name of the restaurant into the on-board GPS and the nice robot-lady cooed that she had found a route. Niamh’s brother-in-law took the helm. He’d driven on the ‘wrong’ side of the road before, but it had been a while. Now when Niamh and I first came over, it was our first time driving a left-hand-drive car, and the first time driving on the right. We both were quite nervous at first as passengers, when the car seemed to get too close to verges and roadsigns. It didn’t take long for my inherent trust to kick in, but Niamh still gets very nervous as a passenger. Anyway, I found my nerves had returned somewhat during that first journey, wincing and shelling-up a little when it really looked like the car was going to smack off a roadsign. I was less concerned for myself, as the car is a beast, but more for the €900 deposit for the week that was paid! Anyway, minutes later I was all good again, and we drove towards the restaurant over what isn’t exactly the most enteraining terrain in Tuscany – the Arno flatlands – it’s like driving on wallpaper – featurelessness abounds.

We got to the restaurant in the allotted time, and found it closed. Damn you Google! It was 14:15, and it should have been open (just), but it was definitely shut-up and not just recently. I can only assume the owners hadn’t updated the seasonal opening times – so I can’t really blame Google. Disappointed, we decided that we’d just go straight home instead and maybe grab a sandwich. But providence often provides… which I suppose is what it’s designed to do! We got back to Volterra and walked to the apartment, and saw the Porgi l’Altra Pancia seemed to be still open. Rather than set another incorrect expectation, I checked inside and they confirmed it – still open at 15:30! Woohoo!

We went upstairs, left the guests’ luggage and before we raced out again, I remembered that we had a little box of Butler’s chocolates to give to the staff of the restaurant. What better time? We headed back down, and were shown to our seats. They were very surprised and delighted by the gift, and we found ourselves with a high-end bottle of Prosecco to start off the meal. Not too shabby! We also ordered wine, because it was nearly Christmas! Niamh’s sister had recently just completed a 3-month cookery course in the prestigious Ballymaloe Cookery School, and was eager to tear into some Tuscan goodies. Her husband, much like myself, is always keen to tuck in!

I didn’t take any photos of the meal (sorry!), as I wanted to relax with the guests without us having to feel like we were always on display. So remembering what we had becomes a bit of an issue for me. I know Niamh’s sister had a form of carbonara, and her husband some fab wild boar stew. I’m pretty certain I had peposo (beef slow-cooked in red wine and black pepper – they do it well there). I’d would put reasonable money on tiramisus too for a couple of us at the end of the meal. And I certainly remember wandering out of the restuarant a good deal more merry than when I’d wandered in!

It was dark out, so we could show our guests some of the Christmas lights in Volterra. It wasn’t a long walk, maybe 25 minutes, as I think we were all perhaps a little ‘tired’ after the meal! At least I got some shots of our meanderings this time!

We got home, chatted, screen-watched and imbibed a little, and that was that day! I hope you enjoyed the read, and I would love to hear some feedback from you! Thanks a lot. Next week: our trip to Montepulciano’s Christmas Markets!

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