Saturday, May 7, 2011

Carrara Marble Quarry and The Beach

After breakfast, we drove to the city of Carrara and then headed up the hills looking for a quarry to tour.  We saw a place selling souvenirs and signs in English offering tours.  I asked the guy standing by the four-wheel drive vehicle if there were tours.  He said yes and told us the price of 10 euros each.  We said okay and got in his vehicle.

We got a private tour of a working marble quarry.  He showed us how they cut both the vertical and horizontal cuts.  It's amazing how they cut out these big blocks of white marble.  He is a driver of one of the trucks that move the blocks to the city to the factories that cut the blocks into pieces per customer orders.

After the tour, he showed us some pictures of how they used to harvest the marble by hand and move the blocks by ox cart and train.  There are many tunnels through the mountains connecting one quarry with the others.  They were cut for the trains but are now one-way roads for trucks during the week and for tourists on the weekends.  He said the quarries close during the summer because it gets too hot and when it rains the roads within the quarry are too slick.  He mentioned how important safety has become within the quarries.
We bought a couple of things to take home to the kids.

On the way down the hill, we parked in a shady wide spot on the road and had a snack.  Across the valley, we noticed a huge cemetery.  They seem to now primarily use square panels built into a wall.  They are about 2 foot square and are all nicely decorated.

We then went looking for a beach.  GPS brought us to a private beach with no admittance.  We drove around and found one on our own.  We paid to park and walked onto the beach.  Not sure if we were supposed to pay or not but the guy standing by the entrance said hello to us and did not ask for any money.  We put our toes into the water - still cold.  We put out our towels and just watched the kids play and the people trying out the newest water toys.

We noticed that there was a guy showing people a bike mounted to a set of pontoons.  They seemed quite efficient on the water and the people seemed to be actually riding the bikes with the back wheel somehow powering the craft.  I walked over to see how they worked.  The guy showing the vehicles wanted us to try them.  We both did - they were fun  and very stable on the water and the gears on the bike changed the speed just like on land.  The guy invented the craft.  You can bring all the pieces in a backback, riding to the beach on the bike you mount on the pontoons.  A rotating flexible rod turns when the back wheel turns.  The flexible rod attaches to a propeller mounted to the bottom of the front wheel.  The propeller turns when you pedal and the craft turns when you turn the handle bars

See  He is selling the craft all over the world.  Something like 850 euros so not cheap, but it would be fun to ride to the lake and then take this out and ride across the water.  The pump to inflate the pontoons attaches to the same rod that turns the propeller, so once you mount the bike you pedal and inflate the pontoons.

Before we left the beach, Beth had a strawberry/chocolate ice cream bar and I had a coke.  We then drove south down the road near the beaches.  On our way back home, we thought it would be interesting to see where the GPS would take us if we entered Nicola.  Up to this time, we always entered Ortonovo and then followed the instructions in Joe's book.  The GPS sent us up the hill in a totally different way.  The road became increasingly steep and narrower.  We finally quit going this way when it tried sending us up a gravel path thru the woods that seemed suited only for a four-wheel drive vehicle.

We drove back down the hill and followed our ususal route home.  No more using GPS instructions to get to Nicola.

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