Notes from Puzzle Palace

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

More of life in Italy-and a few puzzles too.

This has been a week much like the last one.  We have been going back and forth making appointments to make appointments to finally make an appointment to get an appointment.  I've come to realize that you must know someone here to get anything done.  Our Elena is a wiz at working the system.  She knows people in all of the right places.  Last post was about getting our Permesso di Soggiorno.  Well, we didn't. What we got after all of that run around was a small hope that we can get in early.  Elena knows some one who knows someone and she made some calls and they made some calls, and now our paperwork is going to head to the local questers office where she knows someone who will try to push our paperwork to the head of the queue.  To say thank you, we had to take them to dinner.  That in itself was a comedy of errors.  We tried 4 different places, all closed.  So we ended up in Citta di Pieva (30km from here) and had a great pizza!

We did have some good things happen though.  We bought a car.  Well, we didn't.  Our friend did and he's letting us 'borrow' it until we get our permesso and can buy our own. Then I had to get insurance on it.  Now I have the insurance but don't own the car.  So strange.  This in turn allowed us to return the rental car 2 days early which gave us a €72 refund, but because I didn't fill the tank back up to 100%, I have to pay for the gas, but because I prepaid for the gas, I didn't have to fill the tank, but €72 isn't that much money so the man said he would just keep it.  (My eyes are rolling.)

Our car is a 2001 Ford Mondeo diesel.  Wow.  Oh, and a stick shift.  And a station wagon no less.  It will be ideal for going to puzzle parties and picking up packages that we have waiting for us somewhere in Europe.  Lots of room for boxes.  

George got a new table saw so he has no excuses to not get his exchange puzzle finished.  

We bought some furniture for the castle. A rather large table and chairs/benches set that reminds me of something that belongs in a German brewery.  I got some great chairs for the library and a few others to sprinkle around the castle.  I also found an amazing bar that I just couldn't pass up. This one is from the early 1700's.  I'm still in need of a few more pieces, but for the most part I'm done.  

The kitchen in the castle is as complete as it's going to be.  I'm just waiting on a credenza and a new table.  We ordered 8 sofas and 4 lamps.  4 of the sofas have come in and the lamps?  Who knows where they are. The company couldn't give them to us on the spot, but they also couldn't deliver them.  I guess I'm out another €480.  I'm really not sure why companies think they can just keep the money here.  I also bought 4 bed sheet sets.  I was send duvet covers instead.  Now the seller said I could return them, but he's not sure if he will refund me.  What a racket this is. 

Amazon in the states is great.  Here, not so much. first, a fifty cent pencil case is €19.99 here.  No way.  I guess I'll pass or start to use aliexpress more.  There is no such thing as overnight delivery.  We have to wait for everything.  The fastest I can get something is 2 days.  One really has to plan ahead or learn patience.  Our most ferquently heard phrase is piano piano.  It means slowly.  Everything here is piano piano. I just ordered some lip balm for my poor chapped lips. It will arrive between the 7th and the 14th of July!  My poor lips.  No relief in sight anytime soon.  

We were able to lean out the window of the castle and watch the ascension processional.  It's fun living here, you never know what you will see. 

Oskar sent us a fantastic gift. George had a good time solving it.   I've not laughed so hard in a long time. When I first got it I asked José if it was a pink dildo.  

Oh, and even more good news!  We have had another collection come in.  We purchased Jean Carle's collection and it arrived just fine this past week. The hotel is slowly filling with puzzles.  If only I had shelves to put them on.

We even put a piece on the wall in the living room.  I've had a few Berrocals come in and they are on the mantle until the hotel is finished. 

I have kept a wallet full of currency from all of the countries I've visited over the years.  Usually I return and spend it.  This time I got caught.  I didn't get back to Italy soon enough to spend the Lire we had left so now it makes great bathroom art.  The value is still dropping.

Ah!  And now, a sneak peak at the crystal puzzle room.  It will be filled with antique mirrors.  I've been running around the area to all the used markets and flea markets buying them up. The floor is ugly so I'll need to purchase some nice carpets for there.  The tape represents shelves that will eventually be glued on to them. 

We were invited to a neighbors for a drink and George and Laus ended up assembling a swing for an upcoming 80th birthday party. 
When I was in the Loggia looking at the view, I discovered a second fresco that is on the outside of the building. I can't help wonder how many more are under the paint that has been put up.  I wish there were a way to find out and uncover them.  

We had a lovely little picnic after returning the car.  The aqueducts in the south are amazing.  It's a truly beautiful place we have chosen to live in. It's been a great week.  

Fino alla prossima settimana, arrivaderci e continua a rompicapo. Il lavoro continua.  Piano Piano.

Monday, May 8, 2023

On becoming Italian

If you want to move to Italy, I have one piece of advice for you. Don't do it!  Unless of course you are either very fool hardy or determined.  I wish this post were about installing puzzles and moving forward with the World Puzzle Center, but instead I will give you our experiences to date.  Warning, this is a long read.

We arrived on the 24th and at 7 am we decided to be off the ship with the first wave of departures.  We sent our luggage down the night before and were up at dawn prepared to head out quickly to pick up our rental car.  Or so we thought. We managed to get off by around 8. Why?  The immigration officials were still having coffee. In hindsight this was an omen.

Once we cleared customs (peace of cake for a change), we went out to find a taxi.  Now when I told them where I wanted to go, not a cab driver would take us.  They all told me to get a bus to the gate and walk.  Not an easy task with 4 suitcases and a 3D printer.  A gent finally came by and told me they were all stupid.  He took us for an exorbitant 20 Euros the 10 blocks we needed to traverse. I know this sounds small, but I would have never found the rental agency.  

We arrived about 15 minutes early, and the man inside would not see me until my appointed pick up time.  Well, as I kept walking in, he gave me the car.  Only later did I realize I was over 2 hours away from my pick up time.  What difference does that make?  Oh well.  We had the keys in hand and off we went. 

Now here is where the fun starts. We arrived on the morning before a public holiday.  Our caretakers gave us the "Kit" to fill out and the grand tour of work done to date.  They left us for dinner and the next day, we filled out the "Kit" to take to the post office.  Only we couldn't.  It was the Anniversario della Liberazione (a public holiday).  Which means the Post office while open in the morning was only open for 2 hours. No problem, we have 8 days.  

The "Kit" is the official word for all the paperwork that need completion for the issuance of the permesso di soggiorno (residency permit).  This form is all in Italian with no translation attached.  If it is not filled in correctly, the post office will return it only for you to try again until it is done correctly.  Without this kit and all its parts, one stands as good a chance as Lo farò quando sarà finito il ponte per Messina (I'll do it when a bridge is built to Messina-the Italian equivilent to when hell freezes over.) Without this, nothing, and I mean NOTHING, can be done in Italy. This will become perfectly clear as you read on. 

We set about doing other "work" while waiting for our caretakers to have the time to take us up to the post office.  Friday came and we headed to Perugia.  All we were told was turn it in at the post office there.  Why? Panicale can not accept the "Kit" and Tavernelle didn't have the required stamps.  So we drive to Perugia-45 minutes away on windy Italian roads with a man behind the wheel who-I kid you not-used to be a race car driver.  When we get to Perugia and get our ticket to see someone at the post office, we are told that we have a ticket B.  We need a ticket A or P.  Back to the machine to draw one again.  These tickets are the things we get at delis back home.  

Our number comes up again, this time with the right ticket letter and we are told we need a €16,50 marca da bollo (stamp) 

from the tabaccheria (tobacco and sundries shop).  And no, they don't sell them at the post office. OK.  We grab yet another ticket from the machine in the hopes that our number will come up again quickly when we return with this new stamp.   

We then run to the tabaccheria 2 blocks down, buy 2 stamps and run the 2 blocks back only to see that the number for our turn hasn't changed since we left.  Ok. Now we wait another 1/2 hour or so an finally get to the counter only to be told we need 2 tickets, not just one and wait, you haven't paid this fee so we can't take your paperwork anyway. 

UGH!  Back to Tavernelle where Elena is waiting outside the Confederazione Italiana Sindacati Lavoratori (CISL-free advice institution for families) for us to fill out the paperwork.

Now this office is open until 13:00 and it is only noon because our race car driver took those roads at 90+ to get us back before the offices closed.  I guess they wanted to do lunch early.  Great, we go back on Monday.  Which puts us on day 9 and we are at risk of expulsion from the country.  Elena gets on the phone and calls a friend who calls a friend who calls a friend and we get an 8 am appointment for Tuesday!  2 days over the limit!  I'm panicking now as is my usual nature but what can we do. The offices are all closed in the afternoon and we have missed not only our deadline, but Wil's King's Day Party.  This is just adding insult to injury. 

We sit in a local pasticceria (pastry shop) and have a cup of coffee and a cornetto (croissant).  Elena is still on the phone and returns with some good news.  Finally, we need it! Monday is a public holiday and the government won't count those or weekends against us so really, we have until Wednesday to turn in the paperwork. The sigh of relief could be heard all the way to Perugia.

So, it's a holiday weekend and you guessed it, nothing is going to get done.  I did a small grocery shop, drove to an outlet center an hour north only to find they didn't have what I want, and just relaxed a little bit because on Tuesday it starts all over again.

Tuesday morning we were up and running at 7.  We had to be back in Perugia for that 8 am appointment.  Thank god for Antonio and Elena.  The place we had to go was close to the post office, but without parking so we had to park about 5 blocks away and walk. the GPS on the maps sent us to the correct address, but the offices moved and Google hadn't caught up.  George however saw the queue and got us to the CISL.   We had to go to a second door and wait another 1/2 hour for them to open.  And you guessed it, it's now past 8 am.  

We walked in and found our someone quickly.  This process then took about an hour to type our forms again. For some reason unknown to us, they can't be hand written although that is what we were given by the post office.  There was a bit of comic relief while we removed the marca da bollo that we had purchased and put on the forms on Friday.  We handed over copies of insurance and a reams worth of paper that is our statement of income.  This was deemed to be too much and they took a summary of the past 4 years and our last tax return.  Finally, the forms are filled out and we have been given a price to pay.  

I even found a poster for the 730 income tax return that might be of interest to some. 

Now it is time to run back to the post office yet again and get 2 tickets with either A or P printed on them.  I'm starting to understand this bizarre system. We patiently wait for our numbers to come up and head to the counters when they do. This time we have all of our t's crossed and our i's dotted and we are given the permesso di soggiorno.  Or so we thought.  No.  What we were given was a paper that gives us an appointment to get the permesso di soggiorno.  Again, we wait.  Everyone we talked to and read online said this process would take about 2-3 months to process.  Ok.  We can wait. Not so for us. The day we turned in the paperwork was 2 May, our appointment date? 24 January 2024!  We now have to wait almost a year!  No problem though, the man at the post office told us that is all we need to stay here and to register with the comune (commune in English).  

The next morning we go over to the comune at 9 to register as residents and to get our avvio della procedura di registrazione (initiation of the registration procedure).  This paper then gets turned into our identity cards. Now this is important for two reasons.  We need it to purchase a car, and to get our household goods that are currently being held hostage at the tune of $300 per day in Rotterdam.  The man at the post office told us that the papers we had in hand are enough to do this.  Not so says the lady at the comune. We have to wait until January when they give us yet another paper telling us we can go back yet again for fingerprints before she will give us this card.  So yet again we wait.

We have Antonio on the job hoping to get someone at the local Questra's office to speed up the process for us.  Fingers crossed.  In the meantime, the car rental is €2500 a month and our goods still stay in storage.  This move is costing a bomb now.  The car problem will be solved in the typical expat fashion next week.  As for the household goods, we are all working on a solution to that.  Pray for us one and all.  

Moving to Italy reminds me of being in the Army.  Hurry up then wait.  Only here, we wait a very, very long time.  The good news though is that our shelves are in, we are living in the castle, and as we live here we see the work that needs to be done and are moving on that.  We have decided to extend the elevator through to the ground floor (who puts an elevator on two floors only?) I meet with the contractor on Tuesday.  On Thursday I meet with the engineer to fix the problem with the dead cat room (the ceiling and door is cracking so severely that the whole tower could fall if not fixed)

and we meet with the painters to get that work done next Monday.  

George and I have walked through the buildings and have changed the rooms where certain puzzles will be stored.  We have set up the temperature measurement devices and are doing a 7 month study of the temperature and humidity levels in the rooms to determine where to place each type of puzzle and the equipment we will need to purchase to keep the collection at a constant state.  This will be a feat in itself given the building we are now in.  

Per force, I have been given an extension of a year before I have to get my drivers license.  That will give me more time to study and actually learn the language.  Speaking of, everyday I improve.  I have to.  Our community really doesn't have many people who speak English.  

We ordered the kitchen estimate.  It is going to be amazing when finished.  The designer didn't like my ideas, but when I told him it was my kitchen and my money he quickly changed his mind and is doing things my way.  One example of this is I want separate Subzero's for the refrigerator and freezer.  Not a Smeg side-by-side.  He didn't see how 2 people needed so much space. I didn't ask for that. I asked for a design.  But after he realized my Spanish is better than my Italian, he switched languages and we were able to communicate much better.  This is not ideal, but it worked. While he wants the master bathroom project, he declined saying it will need an engineer to put in a new door and he's not one. He's engaged a few for estimates and that will all happen next week.

George and I purchased 8 sofa sleepers for the rooms because apparently here you are only allowed to purchase 4 per person. Is there a black market for sofa sleepers I don't know about?  We also ordered new lights for those that were ripped out of the ceiling in the staircases and a few sconces for one of the bedrooms on the second floor.  Once these are placed, we will decide upon the rest of the lighting.  Along the way, we had to go through heavy traffic. 

We went to a second hand shop yesterday to pick up a few mirrors-yes, we will have a Versailles room. Wait until you see what is in my head. For once even George can do it.  

We were measuring the bathrooms in the hotel for small closet space and decided to change up the room usage a bit.  The upper kitchen (behind the delivery room) was to be converted into a dining area but it just didn't sit right with me.  That room has so much power, all of which was going to be covered by a shelf, so we decided to change it to George's 3D printer room.  It even has built in exhaust so he can also put his laser cutter in there.  This is a real win for him.  

We decided to give Antonio the dead cat room for his workshop so I can have the room he is currently using back for puzzles.  It's just too good a space to waste.  He can design his workshop anyway he wants.  I just want my space back.  

Now, worry not my dear readers. Just because we don't  have our puzzles doesn't mean they aren't safe. They are all in a humidity controlled warehouse.  And we are still purchasing more puzzles as we are here. So far we have added 3 more collections to the World Puzzle Center and will continue to do so.  I have received Cubic Dissection, Pelican, Mine, LogicaGiochi and countless other puzzles in the short time we have been here. My puzzle budget is still non-existant and I continue to fill the shelves that will soon begin being installed.  We won't be fully opened by Christmas, but we will have a puzzle or two on the shelves.  As always, our doors are opened. Right now though, the puzzles to be played with are just in boxes.  This will change as soon as those shelves go up.

George has moved many of the shelves to the hotel in preparation for installation and I have begun to populate the library.  The work goes on. 

Fino alla prossima settimana, arrivaderci e continua a rompicapo.

Friday, May 5, 2023

FIrst visitors and a new name

 It has taken all too long to post this update.  We've been busy.

First and most importantly, we had Brian and Leigh Menold come for a visit.  They very kindly arrived the day after we did so we could get home and unpack a bit before they arrived.  It was a whirlwind 24 hours!

First, we are very fortunate to have Elena and Antonio working for us.  They have been taking are of the castle since time immortal and continue to do so today.  Well, maybe not that long, but you get the drift.  We would be lost without them and rely heavily on their judgement and assistance.  They had set up beds, a table to eat off and put the dishes I had previously purchased in the kitchen. We were in business.  We don't have a full house yet, but we can have guests over.  The wisteria is in bloom and the place smells wonderful!

We took a 4 hour tour of the castle and hotel to see the improvements they have made and that which wasn't done.  To say we were impressed would be an understatement.  I have heard nothing good about Italian workmen from the expats who live here.  They all told me how long it takes to get things done and we didn't feel that way at all.  Our major problems were fixed with the exception of those needing an engineer.  The wooden beams have all been treated and sealed. New copper gutters have been put up. (Big surprise here, they were cheaper than PVC pipe back at Home Depot!) This time they had Daniel with us to translate because I have been gone so long and they knew I wouldn't be able to cope.  Around 1 we had some lunch then continued the tour.  

I headed to the local market to get some food for us and breakfast things for our guests.  That evening we had a simple dinner and placed our first Berrocal.

We slept surprisingly well in the castle!  It's a new bed and not ours, but it worked for us.  The next morning I woke early, drove into Tavernella to pick up a few necessities like drinking glasses and towels.  We then set about unpacking and moving furniture around.  At 1 pm we picked up our guests and had a nice drive back home. 

We showed them where they would be staying and then George took them on a tour of the castle while I put together a lunch for us.  

We spent the afternoon chatting before heading to dinner in the city center. We have 3 rather nice places, and we ate at Lillo Tatini.  They both experimented with their dishes, the only one I remember is the rabbit.  George had pigeon, and I went for my usual quails eggs in pasta.  Top it off with a bottle of Amore and dinner was amazing.  (Food porn for Bill) 

I'd like to say we did exciting things, but we really didn't.  The next day we spent with the guys putting together George's new laser cutter and I took Leigh on a shopping trip from hades. I needed a washer and dryer and a big pot, table, and a valet stand for George.  I knew to run into Brava and order one for delivery.  This should have been an easy task. Unfortunately for me, the banking service in all of Italy was out of order because of a public holiday in the afternoon.  Now this is a hoot.  I purchased a microwave oven, George's valet, the big pot, a few other bits and bobs and a large table.  All of these had already been loaded into the car when we discovered that the cards didn't work.  Our solution, drive to the bank and another shop to pick up a few more things, then 20 minutes later go back to Brava and pay in cash.  This would have never happened in the States. Ever! We returned with the cash and all was well.  I must say, without knowing what had happened, I was terribly embarrassed.  I thought my card was not working because I had no money.  

We returned to the castle, had the guys empty out the heavy stuff and then they continued on with the work of the laser cutter.  

I decided to assemble my kitchen table So I had a place to cook on and prepared lunch for us.  We had a simple lunch of sandwiches and raw vegetables.  Both agreed that after traveling for a week they were happy to have simple food instead of the rich heavy pasta Italy is known for.  After lunch George took a nap while Leigh, Brian and I took a walk around Panicale and the surrounding area.

That evening we ate at Masolino and had another wonderful meal. I think we slept early that night. I know George and I were exhausted from the long trip and I think Leigh and Brian were grateful to just be able to relax and really do nothing. At some point, George gave them a lesson in juggling which was a real hoot.  Brian seemed to pick it up but he was a walker and couldn't stand still. Leigh didn't catch as many balls, but she was able to stay in one place while doing it.  Me? I watched.

The next day they packed up and got ready for me to take them to the train station for their return to Rome.  I have to say, I was impressed.  They each had a backpack stuffed with clothes for the trip and a small carryon bag.  I don't think I've ever traveled that way.  For the wonderful trip they had, it was a great way to do things.  I'm going to buy some of those compression bags they showed me.  

After breakfast we went to look at another piece of property in the area.  It was interesting and I'll say more about it if we are able to pull it off.

When we finished there, George and Brian helped with the chairs.  One of them has an upside-down back support that will drive me insane for the rest of my life.  I think this set will later be sent to the apartment downstairs so it is out of sight.  At 2:30 I drove them to Chiusi so they could get the train to Rome. All in all, it was a great visit even if it was only 2 days.  We loved having them here and thanks to Brian, now have a kitchen table and a laser cutter up and running.  They promised a return visit to see things when the work is done.  I do hope they will keep that promise.  Next time we see a bit more of the area!

On to the naming of the new place. While we love Puzzle Palace, it does not really fit the new location we will be housing the collection in.  Additionally, it doesn't fit with George's expanded dream.  So we have decided upon the following:  The entire collection of buildings will be known as "The World Puzzle Center".  It will house the "Miller's Mechanical Puzzle Museum".  George chose the name for the center, and the winning name for the museum comes from Primativo.  We decided upon his name as it just really explains what is in the museum.  Mechanical puzzles. Not jigsaws, not kids toys.  Mechanical puzzles.  As for the name of the complex?  Well, We have puzzles to be played, to be repaired, and now more importantly, to be designed.  George will be setting up shop on the ground floor, or maybe in another secret location if our negotiations go through. He hopes to lure people here to design and develop new ideas.   And as for the center of the world, we are close enough. In 1864 the center of the world was thought to be Giza.  Now it is considered to be in Kırṣehir, Seyfe Village Turkey. During the time of the Roman empire the center was Terni, a town a mere 1 1/2 hours south of here.  Today it is known to be at Ponte Cardona in Narni. Close enough for government work.  We are Officially the World Puzzle Center. 

We would like to thank everyone who sent in their ideas.  We had a very long list to pick from.  We hope to have our doors open sooner than later, but the Italian Bureaucracy is insane. But more on that in the next posting. 

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

2 weeks at sea.

We are now on our way out of the States for good.  We said our final goodbyes to friends and family and have nothing but dreams of the future.  Our youngest daughter spent her final weekend with us as the day before was easter.  What a disaster that was. We opted for rabbit, but the one I bought was too tough.  Even an overnight marinade didn’t help.  I’ll never buy it from that shop again. ;) 

On Monday morning we awoke way too early.  I helped bug pack up the last of the food and wine into her car.  We put our luggage in the garage for pick up and put the bedding in the trunk of the Tesla.  Who knows, we may decide to camp out on our next road trip.  We kept the car for a number of reasons, but chief among them is our eminent return every 3 years for IPP and the need of a vehicle.  Why not go with one we know.  The keys had been handed over to friends, and since the big house hasn’t sold yet, we left it plugged in and charging.  The day the house sells, they will pick up the car and store it in their garage for us waiting for our eminent return sometime next summer.

After all was cleaned and put away, our friend Scott came over and picked us up.  We had a chauffeur to the pier this time.  That was great because we had a lot of luggage and his truck bed took it all and then some.  I was very glad we were with him as it was pouring down rain and I would have been going crazy in an uber. (Only later when we were at sea did we learn that there was 26 inches of rain in less than 20 hours in the Fort Lauderdale area.  It closed the airport for five days!) 

When we arrived, we dropped our bags and gave our final hugs good-bye.  We know it is not a permanent farewell as he and his family will be coming to visit us in Italy in the fall.  Darned if I didn’t leave my glasses in the back seat though and I’ve been having to use cheaters ever since.  He handed them over to Katherine who will be mailing them to me soon.  Immigration was a breeze and we were on the ship in no time at all.  Our cabin was in the process of being cleaned, so we headed up to the Lido deck for some lunch and a sail away glass of something alcoholic.  

And thus began six sea days.  I wish I could tell you that we did interesting things, but honestly, we didn’t.  I went to a cooking demonstration only to find it standing room only so I left.  We spend our days like this: get up around ten.  Watch the news, curse at the absurdly slow interned-DO NOT buy the premium package, you’ll just throw away your money-George would play a game of sudoko while I would assemble some Nanoblocks.  We’d have lunch followed by a nap and a movie and more sudoko and Nanoblocks.  Dinner was always followed by a movie and the whole thing starts all over again.  

On day seven we finally hit land.  Our stop was in the Azores at an island we haven’t been to before: Praia di Vitoria, Terceira.  Since the excursions were all fully booked, and we had a mission, we spent the day wandering around the town.  First stop: A photo shop to get photos taken for our Italian paperwork.  After this, we met a couple from the ship and had a cup of cappuccino while enjoying the sunshine.  

We then got our billygoats on and climbed a rather tall hill to see a statue of Mary.  George thought it was Columbus and when he saw it from the ship he knew he wanted to climb it.  It was a bit scary for me, and at one point I was going up on my hands and knees. And of course my lover had to take a video of it.  On the way down, I butt bumped that segment.  The view was spectacular and well worth the climb.  

Upon our descent we returned to the ship for a long overdue nap and more of the same.  The next morning we were in Ponto Delgado.  We have been her twice before, but took an excursion anyway. It hit every part of the island I think.  We went to see Furnas and had a meal cooked in the ground. 

We also wandered around some botanical gardens and ended the morning with a swim in the hot springs.  They are very rusty and not only did the white lining of my swim suit turn red, but George’s beard did also.  I wish I had an eye patch for him.  It would have been great fun at dinner.  

After the swim we had the lunch that was cooked in the furnas.  Cold leak and potato soup, blood sausage, taro, and sweet potato were just a few of the foods on that dish.  All rounded off with fresh green house pineapple. 

Then went to a tea plantation where I videoed the machines and just generally wandered around.  Our tour guide while good, simply talked too much. I needed to get away. 

George of course took his siesta on the bus.
We returned to the ship for a much needed shower and an early dinner.  The hope was that we would sleep through the night.  No such luck.  We both have ship lag.  This is a first and I’m sure when we get to Italy and are running around that it will end quickly.  

Friday was a day in Málaga.  Since we have friends here, we will forgo any tours and instead spend it with them.  It’s been a couple of years since we met them and want to just enjoy a leisurely time with them. 

We started out the day with a good long lie in.  We’ve been to Málaga and didn’t feel like wandering around again.  We took a long walk to a restaurant on the beach.

Along the way we had to stop and look at the giant Rubik’s cube.  To say I was disappointed is an understatement.  

We later joined Carlos and Christina Berrocal for a nice lunch.  We even got to meet the mini Berrocal’s this time.  I’m putting photos of the food on here for Bill because I know he likes those. The cold soup was made of crushed allmonds, bread, and vinegar.  

We talked a long time about the castle and our move to Italy.  Then we got down to business discussing my favorite puzzles and what is happening with them.  Christina promised to introduce me to some of her friends in Italy. I’m particularly interested in meeting Franco Rocco and hope this will happen one day. 

While the adults talked, the mini Berrocals had a good time collecting shells on the beach and feeding the bread to the fish. It was enjoyable watching them have so much fun.  It’s been a while since we’ve been around young children.  Carlos’ daughter even managed to assemble George’s wedding band!

As our ship left around 5 pm, we took our leave and rode a bus back to the ship.  The busses in Spain now have the tap pay system so this was nice. We stopped at an Ale Hop and found a few puzzles we don’t have and one for our friend Oskar’s Knock off collection. 

On Saturday we were in Cartagena, again, we have been here before so we opted instead to see our friend Nigel for a drink and a chat.  We were told there is a marathon in town that day so we headed to a pedestrian street away from the tourists and the race.  Again, we just had a wonderful time sitting and chatting.  Nigel very kindly gave me a set of the lenticular post cards of the Berrocal Alamidas. These of course will be framed and hung with the other Berrocal prints.  

I guess we must have spent around 2 1/2 hours chatting away, but Nigel had to get back home for a family lunch, and we were only in the port until 3 so we decided to head back to the ship.  On our walk back, we stopped at a park and saw a beautiful statue dedicated to the victims of terrorism, a whales tale, and a submarine base. 

All in all, it was a good day.

Sunday was our final sea day.  I got up and packed first thing, then spent the afternoon finishing this blog and putting together a few more LEGOs. I thought I was done with all I brought along, but found 6 more sets!  Yippee!  I also spent a good deal of time cataloguing my Lego and Nanoblock sets.  I’m surprised at how many I’ve purchased in such a short period of time. Now to put them all together.

Once more, we have had an enjoyable and fun ride across the ocean.  It was just what I needed to help me relax after all the stress of getting bug moved into her home, selling the museum, closing up Puzzle Palace and packing, crating, and shipping all of our possessions to Italy.  

I am posting this from Castello di Panicale.  We have finally made it home and now the real adventure begins.  Next post:  The name we have chosen.  We found a winner!