Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Transports and Tuscan Terror

After drifting off to sleep in our new Florentine surroundings, we awoke the next morning to embark on our first guided tour adventure. We had selected a bike tour through the Tuscan hills surrounding Florence, specifically choosing this tour because it focused on a local winery. As we had had a thoroughly magical cycling vineyard spree through the Wachau Valley last year, my hopes were high that this tour would provide similar memories.

The weather was perfect, the young tour guide was cute, and we clambered into the van to take us outside the city brimming with excitement. That was of course until we started driving and I quickly realized that the van was more akin to a death mobile and I literally spent the entire length of the ride holding on for dear life. There were no functioning seat belts, the guide was whipping through the streets of Florence as if we were running from the law, and the back seat I was sharing with cousin and another girl literally lifted from the ground every time we hit a bump or rounded a corner. I sincerely believed the seat would go flying out the back of the van at any moment. There was also the moment when the van collided with a road barrier and the screeching sound reminded me of what I think the dark angels of satan might sound like.

At long last, we finally made it to our starting point but it took a few minutes to feel comfortable walking on firm ground once again. My spirits lifted as I breathed in the Tuscan air and feasted on the beautiful landscape, all rolling hills and picturesque vistas. I would soon find these hills much more akin to torture by incline but for now they remained serene. Over the next few hours we stopped at various points for beautiful photo opps, hit up a small local bodega were we got a brief snack and were able to replenish water. At this stage I was already beginning to feel small bursts of loathing toward the guide, as he insisted on rallying and motivating the team to roll up each and every painstaking hill, but with the result that he became much more of a big fat liar in his efforts. These hills were not at all easy to ride, every single member of the group had to walk their backs up certain inclines, and nothing about the landscape was enjoyable when you were fighting for your breath. In fact, the scary death can we rode to our starting point was following us the whole time in case anyone was over it and wanted to cruise about in the van instead. Deathmobile it may be but a tempted vehicle of terror more and more. Finally, we stopped at he winery we were all so anxious to see. It was beautiful and cultural, we saw some of e grounds and the barrels and heard a lot of great information.... But received no wine... I repeat... No. Wine. My resolve not to throw things at anyone in range was quickly melting away. And I have never once been mistaken for a person who remain quiet about their emotions, the tour guide was well aware that my patience was running thing.

When we reached our final "rest stop" and were told that the final stretch was super easy and we could all do it! I looked the guide in the eye, asked him to tell me the god's honest truth, and he finally conceded that it might still have a bit of steep incline before we got back to our original point way up top a hill. Without a moment's hesitation, I rolled my bike to the van, and climbed in with the other guide who knew just as much if not more of our surroundings than the other. I enjoyed the sun and the sights, and was soon joined by another of our team who was over it as well. As our van guide said, this is our vacation so why work so hard? Love the Italian mentality.

After what seems like eons or millennia or frankly parallel universe lifetimes, we got back to the meeting point and received our lunch and wine. Two wines, two tasting, and while the glasses were given a hefty pour, any further tastes required additional purchase. The lunch spread of meats and cheeses and various other treats was certainly adequate, but I was not at all happy with the overall value of our tour. Perhaps I was bring petulant (yes, duh) and perhaps with more training, those hills would have felt like rainbows gliding beneath our Pegasus wings. But while it was a gorgeous day with spectacular scenery, I wouldn't necessarily imbibe again.

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