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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

No going back - 34. Colin 12: Holiday

"We now have half an hour to wander around the gardens, if you can be back here prompt at 4, then the curator will be able take us around the house." The local guide was giving them their marching orders for the rest of afternoon’s trip.

Owain turned to Colin, "What do you want to do?"

Colin shrugged, "I don't think I need to walk more; do you fancy going to sit by the fountain, you get a great view of the gardens from there."

Owain gave a crooked smile, "That sounds a nice use of time. All we need is an ice cream."

"Don't think the Marchese runs to that. Still, he was a nice bloke. I can't believe he came to say hello to us."

Owain shrugged, "It's money. These private tours probably help pay for all this."

"Must take a bloody lot of gardeners."

They were visiting a grand garden originally laid out in the 18th century and still very formal, with a villa at its centre; as well as the garden, they were getting to visit the villa too. They were now on garden number three of the holiday, and each one had been entirely different. It was a private tour of gardens in Northern Tuscany, run by an English bloke who lived in the area. He made a lot of his 'connections', but so far, he had been able to get them into places that folk didn't usually see. None of the gardens they’d seen had been quite Colin's style, but that wasn't the idea, was it? It was seeing how the other half lived. And by golly, they certainly lived.

The first place had been up in the hills, and was a series of winding paths, shaded nooks and stone grottoes, all populated with the most amazing collection of statues, some of which were seriously old. The security had seemed minimal, and but they left them out there for all to see. Colin supposed that the sheer weight of the stone put folk off trying to nick them, but he'd had fun trying to persuade Owain that one like them would fit in their garden.

Their garden.

It was beginning to feel like it. Ever since their chat in Lucca, things had sort of fallen into place. There were no definite plans, just an intention, but it felt clear. And Colin was happy.

The holiday had been wonderful enough. Owain seemed to have the knack of finding things. Oh, he could be narky and bad-tempered if he didn't get his way, or if there was nothing to be found and they had to make do with regular tourist stuff. That’s what happened on the day they left Lucca. They'd stopped for lunch, and it had been a disaster, then the place in Barga where they were staying proved unimpressive and designed just for tourists. Luckily, Alfie, the tour guide, was full of recommendations. Too full really, as HE got narky if he recommended somewhere and you didn't go, but then as Owain said, you didn't always want to follow advice, did you?

Colin had parked the idea of Owain investing in the business. It wasn't that he didn't want it to happen, but he was having difficulty getting his head around the idea of splitting up his business. It'd come. What he needed to do was get back home and do some work on the business plan, come up with ideas about what they might do more of.

And what he might do. Owain had pointed out last night, that it was no good expanding the firm and ending up in a role that you didn't enjoy. So, Colin had to work out what he enjoyed. But first, there was Italy.

They were staying in a small, tourist hotel which was close to the centre of Barga, a town about an hour’s drive North of Lucca. It was a small place, not exactly over-stuffed, but they now had a car and took it in turns to restrict dinner to a single glass of wine. The hotel had been chosen for them, effectively. Owain had happened on the gardens tour, found there were a couple of places and booked, then they'd needed somewhere to stay. Lastminute.com and Booking.com had evidently been boons there. Chatting to Alfie, it turned out that he'd had a couple let him down, hence the last-minute places. He'd blithely said that they should have contacted him, he had plenty of contacts with local hotels, but the other folk on the tour were all staying at real high-end places out of town. Beyond their pocket, and more to the point, not what they wanted.

Each night, wherever they’d been for dinner, they returned to the hotel and took a stroll round. The town itself was quiet and looked lovely in the street lights, it made a pleasant historic hill town into something a little romantic. And they’d go to a little bar near the hotel for a night-cap. Owain always had a grappa, which the barman assured them was made locally, whereas Colin was trying a series of rather sweeter, sticky drinks, some of which still packed a kick.

It wasn't a busy time. Of the three days, two they'd met the rest of the tour after lunch and one they'd met for lunch, so mornings were lazy, and afternoons devoted to the garden visits. There were eight of them, all told, on the tour. Nice enough people, but not ones you'd want to spend too much time with.

There was Nigel, an older Englishman along with his nephew, James, except that Owain swore that the relationship was something else entirely. And Colin had to admit that they’d learned, by accident, that the two men were sharing a room. Nigel had been moaning about something, he was a great moaner, things were never done right, but this time James retorted that his uncle had left it, whatever it was, in their room. Did people really do that? Pretend. Evidently, they did.

There were two older American couples, friends who always did something together in Europe and if you got anywhere near them, would happily tell you how much they enjoyed Europe and would start listing places they'd seen. But for avowed Europhiles, they seemed to have a remarkable lack of curiosity about local customs and were staying in a very expensive hotel that did everything the way they wanted.

The Americans had tried to persuade them to come to their hotel for dinner, but their descriptions of it, their emphasis on finding all the amenities that they’d expect back home, seemed not to be what either Owain or Colin would have wanted. And when one of them, Burt started going into raptures about the hotel’s steaks and hamburgers, then that was a definite no.

But afterwards, Owain had commented that it was a failing of many tourists, wanting to take their home environment with them. And they’d laughed about the English on the Costa Brava, drinking beer and eating fish and chips. Colin admitted that he knew a few guys like that, whilst Owain said that the French regularly got pissed off with foreign visitors in caravans who arrived with all their own food, ate in the caravan every night and didn’t contribute to the local economy. Colin found this amazing, he’d want to be sampling all the local food, granted there was some you might not fancy, but there were bound to be things you did.

The last couple was the only non-native-English-speaking one, a young German couple whose English was actually excellent and who were happy to chat to them about gardens, buildings and more.

That afternoon, whilst they were waiting in the garden for the tour of the villa to begin, the German couple appeared and sat at the next bench. Anni, the woman leaned towards them, "The Marchese and his wife, they live here?" and she gestured to the small, but elaborate 18th century villa and the matching gardens, full of elaborate topiary and crisply organised lines.

Owain shrugged, "It depends how rich he is. Probably he lives in Florence or Milan, and this is for weekends. But it might be run as a business, some places in the UK do that, even the grand ones."

"A business, you mean, taking tours?"

"That's probably small scale, the real money comes from people who want to rent the whole house and garden for an event. A party, a wedding, an elaborate holiday."

She smiled, "It would be nice to have a holiday here."

Colin grimaced, "Perhaps, but I think I'd fancy something more comfortable. And I'd like more flowers in the garden."

She laughed, "That is very English."

Horst, her husband looked very serious, "Flowers take more water."

Colin shrugged, "There is that. Perhaps I am very English. I like visiting, but not staying."

Horst stood up, "Alfie is waving, I think the tour will happen."

Colin looked at his watch, "Only five minutes late", Anni grinned.

As they walked back to the villa, the German couple asked them where they were eating that evening. They planned to stay in Barga for their meal and not use the car. The trattoria there was a pleasant local one; they had tried it for lunch. She asked whether they would mind if she and Horst joined them, they were staying on the edge of Barga and most of Alfie's recommendations had been somewhat expensive. So, it was arranged, and they would meet later.

The villa was most definitely not to Colin's taste, it was far too elaborate. He could appreciate the workmanship and marvelled at some of the plasterwork and the carved stone mouldings. But really, would you want to live with that. Give him a nice clean stone line any day. Owain had laughed and said that Colin was a good English Palladian. He now knew exactly what that meant. Owain had helped him tie up his sketchy knowledge of the Palladian style, as ripped off in countless houses across England, and link it with real buildings. They had started a list of must-see places. This was not one, but still it was nice to get a feel for the inside. The rooms were remarkably busy and over-filled with stuff, and they gathered that the Marchese and Marchesa did indeed use it at weekends, their eldest son had recently had his wedding here, so of course there were photographs.

One room had some lovely photos, proper ones not just posh wedding snaps, and evidently, they were taken by the eldest daughter who was developing a name has a photographer. Colin made a note of her name, idly thinking it would be nice to get one, though he suspected that they would be more expensive than they wanted to spend. There was no gift shop, or anything like that, of course.

At the end of the tour, the guide, a young Italian woman who was curator of the Marchese's collections (note the plural) asked if there were any questions, so he mentioned the daughter's photos and was given details of a website. Better and better.

The restaurant in Barga was a friendly trattoria, casual seeming but the food had been good the previous lunch time. Though they were lively, there was no hint that having four of them was a problem. Anni and Horst had walked from their accommodation, commenting that it was well under an hour and that it had been a pleasant walk. To Colin's amazement, they were planning on walking back too.

They ordered a bottle of wine, a local red recommended by the waiter, causing Owain to comment afterwards that the producer was probably the waiter's Father-in-law. Horst's 'is this true?' made them realise that despite the couple’s excellent English, the subtleties of being funny in a Foreign language were always difficult.

Colin pored over the menu, paying every dish great attention. A lot of the pasta was labelled 'fatta in casa' which was tempting, there were also some of the local soups, but when he'd had one for lunch in Lucca it had proved very much a meal in itself. Suddenly, he found himself being looked at patiently by the other three.

"Sorry, I'm a bit slow going through the Italian."

"Colin wants to try as much of the local cuisine as possible."

Anni smiled, and asked if he was involved in cooking and Colin simply patted his belly and said no, he just enjoyed it. But explained that he particularly liked Italian food and Owain had been helping him explore it beyond just the dishes offered to tourists. Talking about food took them until their starters arrived; it seemed that Anni and Horst lived near Munich and coming down to Italy was not the sort of laborious journey it was for Colin and Owain.

Have you been to Munich, led them to the couple describing the delights of the castles and gardens of Bavaria. Horst proudly proclaimed that most of the best ones were now looked after by the state, and it seemed locals were proud of them.

"You have a garden?", Anni looked from Colin to Owain.

"I have a tiny terrace with lots of pots, but he's got a big garden."

Owain shrugged, "It's boring at the moment, nothing much in it, but we have been busy working on the house."

"I am sorry, I thought you were a couple."

"It's OK, we are. But at the moment we live separately. For the last few months, we have been doing a lot of work on my house and I've been living in small-rented place. Colin's firm has been responsible for the renovations on my new house, and he is used to helping his Mother in her garden, so I think I will be getting advice about what to do. How about you two?"

It turned out they lived in a suburb of Munich, on the suburban railway. They had a flat, on the top floor of a building where they shared the garden, but it was looked after. However, the place was convenient for lots of walks in the forest.

It was a pleasant meal and not a challenging one. The food had been enjoyable, though not startling and Colin had been a bit disappointed with his choice. It tasted good but was nowhere near as interesting as it had sounded, whereas Horst's pasta, though ordinary sounding, had looked tasty indeed. The couple did not stay for a night-cap, they had to walk back to their hotel.

"Have you ever been to Germany?"

Owain shrugged, "I've been to Berlin a couple of times, mainly doing museums and bars. But I can't say that I've explored the country and certainly got nowhere near Bavaria. I think I still have a prejudice about it, you know, Hitler and the beer hall and all that."

"What?"

So Owain had tried to explain something of the early history of the Nazi party, only to realise that beyond a few basic facts, he knew very little either. They ended up laughing, and they moved from Colin feeling lacking in his education to a shared moment. And whilst they both agreed they needed to learn more; it wasn’t a burning desire. But Colin admitted that he liked the sound of some of the Bavarian castles that Horst had been telling them about.

Tomorrow, they would make their way back to Pisa airport. They had learned their lesson, and would be going foraging in town first thing, to buy a picnic. It was frustrating, that there was so much lovely food around, in restaurants and shops, yet coming up they had failed to find anything interesting. Owain, though, had been doing more research, and found a couple of interesting little places where they might stop for their picnic, and if they made good time, then there was an old church not far from the airport that they could visit.

Colin had been a bit nervous about going on a proper holiday with Owain. The weekend in Oslo had worked, but two whole weeks together with lots of time to get on each other’s nerves… But that hadn’t been the case had it?

Colin sighed and Owain looked at him. They were having a last walk around Barga.

“That was a big sigh?”

“Happy one.” Colin reached over and squeezed Owain’s hand. He wouldn’t risk walking along hand in hand, even when it was so quiet, but a quick squeeze. “Thinking about the holiday, and how I’ve enjoyed it.”

“We’ve enjoyed it. Think we can do it again?”

“I don’t see why not.”

“It’s a big step, a first holiday together, plenty of time.”

Colin smiled, “To discover all the things you don’t like about each other and wonder why you’re together.” Owain stared at him, so he ploughed on, “but I thought that we discovered all the things that were different about each other and learned how to do stuff together.”

“Perhaps still learning, but I’d go with that.”

Copyright © 2023 Robert Hugill; All Rights Reserved.
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Thank you for reading. As ever, I am always happy to hear from readers; the plot arc is pretty much in place, but that doesn't mean there isn't room for new ideas.
Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 
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Chapter Comments

A good chapter, they are learning more about each other, they a having a good time exploring, plus the couple are interesting company, I like that they are visiting the customer, but leaning about each place , trying the local flavours, and food , not eating the same as you would at home, they have realised that they don't really get on each others nerves being together constantly, which is awesome, I liked this chapter. 

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A lovely chapter, and I am so glad that they seem to have survived their first real holiday together.  Some don't, you know.  Being in a different locale with someone that you are just getting to know, can be a real challenge.

I enjoy garden and house tours, some are very well done, others not so much.  But sounds like Owain and Colin both enjoyed them, maybe for different reasons.  I really like the German couple, maybe someone they could communicate with and get some suggestions for visiting their neck of the woods.  

Hate to say it, but sounds like some typical American tourist, especially high end ones.  They really want to visit the world, but never leave home.  They want to eat, drink, sleep, and experience the world, as if it was their daily routine.

Think it is smart to maybe not have Owain invest in Colin's business just yet.  They need to figure out where they are going as a couple first, plus, is Colin's business even something that Owain actually cares about?  I mean it is Colin's so yes there is that; and he thinks they did a great job at his place, but the work itself, is it something he would want to be involved in?

Can't wait for the trip home and getting to share what they experienced with friends and family.

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17 hours ago, Cane23 said:

Great chapter, the way you described tourist group is fantastic. I almost feel like part of it. 

Owain sometimes doesn't have a filter. Speaking about Nazis with German couple you have just met don't seem like a smart idea. As the old rule says...no talk of politics, religion... Luckily, Anni and Horst haven't given much attention to the comment. Actually, Bavaria has so much to offer, more than dark nazi history. Fairytale castles from Ludvig II, sausages and beer...Colin and Owain would have enjoyed their holiday there. 

"It was a pleasant meal and not a challenging one. The food had been enjoyable, though not startling and Colin had been a bit disappointed with his choice. It tasted good but was nowhere near as interesting as it had sounded, whereas Horst's pasta, though ordinary sounding, had looked tasty indeed. The couple did not stay for a night-cap, they had to walk back to their hotel."

I don't think Owain spoke with Anni and Horst about the Nazis @Cane23. I think they had already left to walk back to their hotel. I think the conversation regarding the Nazis took place after Anni and Horst's departure and was just with Colin. 

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1 hour ago, Summerabbacat said:

"It was a pleasant meal and not a challenging one. The food had been enjoyable, though not startling and Colin had been a bit disappointed with his choice. It tasted good but was nowhere near as interesting as it had sounded, whereas Horst's pasta, though ordinary sounding, had looked tasty indeed. The couple did not stay for a night-cap, they had to walk back to their hotel."

I don't think Owain spoke with Anni and Horst about the Nazis @Cane23. I think they had already left to walk back to their hotel. I think the conversation regarding the Nazis took place after Anni and Horst's departure and was just with Colin. 

That was my intention.

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3 hours ago, Summerabbacat said:

"It was a pleasant meal and not a challenging one. The food had been enjoyable, though not startling and Colin had been a bit disappointed with his choice. It tasted good but was nowhere near as interesting as it had sounded, whereas Horst's pasta, though ordinary sounding, had looked tasty indeed. The couple did not stay for a night-cap, they had to walk back to their hotel."

I don't think Owain spoke with Anni and Horst about the Nazis @Cane23. I think they had already left to walk back to their hotel. I think the conversation regarding the Nazis took place after Anni and Horst's departure and was just with Colin. 

Thanx, now I see... The question 'Have you ever been to Germany' has been asked by Colin and not Anni and Horst!

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drsawzall

Posted (edited)

Nice to see the relationship growing and solidifying. Colin has the right of it, seeing he needs to update the business plan and has some serious thinking as to how he wants the business to evolve.

Edited by drsawzall
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Our two guys are getting on really well. They are learning to be in one anothers' space and to be accommodating. They are a good match.

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