Most Recent Posts
- Video: Larry hears cowbells, makes a chocolate cow and soaks up the culture in Switzerland
- Video: UK offensive coordinator Neal Brown talks about recruiting the home state of Kentucky
- What role did Drew Barker’s mother play in his athletic development?
- Calipari will be keynote speaker at Iba Awards June 3 in Tulsa
- D.J. Eliot understands coach Mark Stoops “very well” can bring new ideas to UK defense
- Swiss Cat Part 2: Larry continues his adventure in Switzerland
- Brumbaugh understands junior college talent, feels he can bring JUCO players to UK
- Volleyball training, personality will both help Marcus Lee at Kentucky
CBS Sports Network presents ONE2ONE: JOHN CALIPARI, a 30-minute show featuring an in-depth interview with University of Kentucky head basketball coach John Calipari. CBS Sports Network’s Jon Rothstein conducts the interview. The show debuts Sunday, June 3 (7:30 PM, ET). Among the topics discussed are the Wildcats’ 2012 National Championship season, one-and-done players and the difference between coaching at a mid-major school and a national powerhouse.
A clip from the show can be viewed here: http://cbsprt.co/JUiSXR.
CBS Sports Network is available across the country through local cable, video and telco providers and via satellite on DirecTV Channel 613 and Dish Network Channel 158. For more information, including a full programming schedule and how to get CBS Sports Network, go to www.cbssportsnetwork.com.
By LARRY VAUGHT
He’s regarded as one of the top scorers among the incoming college freshmen, but UK signee Archie Goodwin also understands the value of defense.
“I am very aggressive with my on ball defense. My dad and stepdad taught met the value of playing defense. I know growing up a lot of younger kids mostly want to shoot and a lot of kids want to leak out (on the fast break) and not play defense and hope someone misses and they can run the court and try to get a dunk or whatever,” Goodwin said. “Defense is the key to the game. The greatest player who ever played, Michael Jordan, was a great defender. If he can play defense, anybody should play defense.”
Goodwin played quarterback on his middle school football team and played some baseball before his stepfather Datron Humphrey said he decided it “was kind of hot out there.” After his freshman season, he concentrated solely on basketball.
He also has maintained about a 3.0 grade-point average with only an occasional push from his parents.
“There might have been one time me and his mom had to sit him out of an AAU game, but that got his attention and we never had to worry about academics again,” Humphrey said. “Archie knows I was hard on him, but he understood why. In order to be successful, you have to be disciplined. I taught him if he did not anchor down, he would get taken for a ride. He listens and sucks up everything. He really is a good kid.”
Goodwin is not worried about being overwhelmed by the media/fan attention that Kentucky basketball players receive daily.
“I don’t mind attention. It is something if you are going to be a professional in any sport that you have to expect a lot of attention from media and fans and the corporate world. It’s not something I just love. I am pretty sure nobody loves it, but I can tolerate it,” the future Wildcat said. “It will not bother me. What’s said is said and what’s done is done. I can handle the attention and still focus on playing ball.”
AP Basketball Writer
NEW YORK (AP) – After a painful wait for a new owner, the search for a new star was a breeze for the New Orleans Hornets.
All it took was a little luck of the draw.
And Anthony Davis can’t wait to play as a pro in the city where he won a championship in college.
The Hornets, recently sold by the NBA to Saints owner Tom Benson, won the league’s draft lottery Wednesday and the No. 1 pick overall ‚Äî which they almost certainly will use to select the consensus college player of the year who led Kentucky to a national title.
He could be joined by another young piece, as the Hornets also have the No. 10 pick.
“I’m excited for our fans, especially those people who hung in there with us,” said coach Monty Williams, who represented the Hornets on stage and insisted his team keep playing hard as its difficult season was ending, even though it could have hurt its chances of landing a high pick.
“I’m excited for the Benson family. They bought this organization without knowing what pick we were going to have. And yet I’m mindful of all the work that is going to have to be done for us to be a good team. You can’t skip those steps. … Those two young guys can’t help us become a championship team overnight. We’ve got to address a lot of issues.”
So do the Charlotte Bobcats, who added one more loss to a historic season full of them. Michael Jordan’s team had the best shot at the No. 1 pick after the worst season in NBA history, but instead fell to the No. 2 spot.
No such disappointment for the Hornets, whose good fortune comes after a difficult season in which they traded All-Star Chris Paul and a couple of years in limbo where they couldn’t do much to upgrade the roster while the league was looking for a buyer.
“Just a first step for us to winning it all,” Benson said in a TV interview after the lottery.
The Hornets moved up from the fourth spot, where they had a 13.7 percent chance, to earn the pick.
“Everything was surreal once they announced the fourth pick,” Williams said. “I said ‘This is pretty cool.’ I knew my wife and kids were home praying that things would go well and they did.”
The Bobcats had a 25 percent chance of grabbing the No. 1 pick after going 7-59, lowest winning percentage in NBA history. Instead they will have to take the best player after Davis, possibly his teammate, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Washington will pick third and Cleveland fell one spot to fourth.
The team with the worst record hasn’t won since Orlando drafted Dwight Howard in 2004.
“We will still take the best player available and when you win seven games you have a lot of holes,” Bobcats general manager Rich Cho said. “From a competitive standpoint and for anyone who has played sports or been competitive, you want to win and be No. 1. We know we’re still going to get a good player.”
Cho and team vice chairman Curtis Polk said shortly after the results they hadn’t heard from Jordan, the Bobcats owner.
“Being No. 2 isn’t terrible. We’ll be fine,” Polk said.
The league bought the Hornets from financially struggling owner George Shinn in December 2010 and the sale to Benson was completed in April. In between, the NBA was criticized for the conflict of interest of a league owning a franchise, particularly when Commissioner David Stern blocked a trade that would have sent Paul to the Lakers in December, then approved another that landed Paul with the Clippers.
The ownership uncertainty hindered the Hornets, but they were in a celebrating mood Wednesday after earning the No. 1 pick for the first time since 1991, when they were still in Charlotte and took Larry Johnson.
General manager Dell Demps said he pumped his fist in the room where the drawing took place after seeing that the balls had been drawn in the Hornets’ favor.
“When our combination came up, it was an exciting feeling,” he said. “I got an incredible rush. … We knew what the odds were. We hoped for the best. It was nothing we could control. We’re just happy.”
The Hornets finished 21-45, winning eight of their final 13 games with a young roster. Williams and his players felt it would be wrong to do anything but try to win down the stretch, and they were rewarded.
“Obviously, we’re very excited,” Demps said. “This is a great day for the city of New Orleans, our fans. … This is the start of a new beginning.”
Though they didn’t officially say it, it’s expected to start with Davis. One of the most dominant defensive college players in years, he earned Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four even as he went 1 for 10 from the field in the championship game. He blocked a record-tying six shots and had 16 rebounds and three steals in the Wildcats’ 67-59 victory over Kansas.
“Davis is not LeBron. He’s not Tim (Duncan). But they were young once and Tim had four years of college,” Williams said.
The Nets were the other big loser when they stayed in the No. 6 spot. They owed their pick to Portland for this season’s Gerald Wallace trade unless they moved into the top three.
The Cavs beat the odds last year and moved up to take Kyrie Irving, the eventual Rookie of the Year, and tried to follow the same formula. Nick Gilbert, the 15-year-old son of owner Dan Gilbert, was back on the podium in his bow tie, and the Cavs’ traveling party that included Dan Gilbert, and former Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar and current Browns players Josh Cribbs and Joe Haden sported the same dress.
But there was no repeat, as the Cavs went backward this time.
“Still feel very good about (number)4 pick,” Dan Gilbert wrote on his Twitter page. “We are getting a great player there and good additions w/our other 3 picks. I believe.”
Sacramento rounds out the top five of the draft, to be held June 28 in Newark, N.J.
The Golden State Warriors stayed at No. 7, meaning they get to keep their pick instead of having to trade it to Utah. The Trail Blazers also will have two lottery selections, the Nets’ and their own at No. 11.
AP Sports Writer Brett Martel in New Orleans contributed to this report.
Just when it seemed the trip could get no better, it did. First we drove to Verona, setting for Shakespear’s Romeo and Juliet. Yes, we fought through the crowds to see Juliet’s balcony and had to fight even harder to get close enough to touch Juliet’s statue for good luck as local folklore suggests.
The Verona Arena is an impressive pink marble Roman amphitheater that is incredibly well preserved and still hosts major opera performances the locals enjoy. Built in the first century AD, it is still a magnificent site.
For lunch the market place had a wide assortment of fruit cups and offered a chance to taste things like bananas, watermelon, cantelope and strawberries that we had not seen much of during the trip. Like every Italian town, there were an abundance of cafes and we enjoyed a pizza with an unbelievable crust. There were plenty of local vendors as well as high fashion stores as the splendor of Verona certainly extended to way many of the locals dressed.
Venice might be impossible to describe. One arrives by water taxi and the drivers are as reckless and aggressive as New York City taxi drivers. Saint Mark’s Square was incredible as we made our way through it to our hotel that was just one block away. We had a few hours to wander before taking a ride in a tradtional gondola, including a serenade. We made our way along the centuries old canals under famous arched bridges and through neighborhoods and lavish restaurants/hotels. At every bride, pedestrians stopped to look or take pictures/videos. The view was beyond belief.
We searched for a less expensive spot to eat away from the square and were persuaded by the hostess to try Ristorante Noemi. I had noodles and salmon in some type of cheese — I am not sure what. Not only did I get a huge portion, but it was so, so good. The bread and salad were also the best we had on the trip and it was a perfect candlelight dinner.
On our way back to the hotel, we looked at a few shops and then listened to small bands playing typical Italian music for patrons eating outside at restaurants in the square.
I capped by perfect day with about a four-mile run along the “lagoon” — as our hotel conceirge described it — that was magnificent and let me see even more of the city.
DESTIN, Fla. (AP) – With the addition of Missouri and Texas A&M, the Southeastern Conference is tweaking its football and basketball schedules.
Football coaches are having a tougher time deciding on what changes to make than their basketball counterparts.
“The consensus is that there’s not the right answer right now that suits everyone,” Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen said.
Mullen and the 13 other league coaches are debating whether to play an eight- or nine-game conference schedule and whether to maintain cross-division rivals like Alabama-Tennessee, Auburn-Georgia and LSU-Florida. It’s not an easy decision considering each school has different allegiances.
Alabama, Tennessee, Auburn and Georgia all want to continue their longtime rivalries. LSU, meanwhile, would prefer to dump its annual game against Florida in favor of playing other Eastern Division teams like Vanderbilt and Kentucky more often.
“It’s not because I’m opposed to playing Florida,” LSU athletic director Joe Alleva said. “I just think it creates a competitive inequity in the whole league. In my opinion, people are voting for their own self-interests, not what’s best for the whole league.”
Coaches presented their thoughts and concerns to athletic directors Wednesday. The ADs will make a recommendation to school presidents and chancellors Friday before the conference settles on a format for future schedules.
Moving to a nine-game schedule is a long shot at best. Florida, Georgia and South Carolina already have non-conference games against in-state rivals, so adding a ninth league game would make daunting schedules even more difficult.
The most likely scenario appears to be keeping things status quo, with an eight-game conference slate that includes one designated rival from the opposite division and a rotating game against the other six teams.
“Mississippi State is going to play Kentucky every year,” LSU coach Les Miles said. “I think that’s disproportionate. I’m not for that. I’m not for Auburn playing Georgia every year. Again, it’s disproportionate. I think there should be an opportunity to see a greater segment of the conference. I think the opportunity to rotate two games as opposed to one game, not annually picking an arbitrary criteria to determine the champion.
“I’d say the majority would be for that.”
Um, not quite.
“I’ve been in this league for a while and I have a national championship ring from when my crossover games at the University of Florida that were Auburn, Alabama and LSU,” Mullen said. “Is that fair? But we still won a national title. I don’t see how there’s any relevance to that. It all balances out.”
Georgia coach Mark Richt laughed when told Miles said most coaches wanted to eliminate designated rivals.
“There are a lot of issues going on here, but some people think the rivals games are really important and some people think their rival games really aren’t that important,” Richt said. “Some of the rival games are because we played over a hundred years and some of the rivals are because somebody arbitrarily said, ‘That’s your rival team.’ Some have a hard-felt emotion to it and some don’t.”
Miles and Alleva were the most outspoken on the topic. Not even Arkansas and South Carolina, who would end their designated rivalry under the new scheduling format, didn’t seem to really care that they are being thrown into annual games with newcomers Missouri and Texas A&M.
SEC Commissioner Mike Slive said one option would be to try to preserve traditional crossover rivalries like Alabama-Tennessee and Auburn-Georgia and let everyone else rotate two opponents annually.
“We’ve asked our people to look at that as one of the possible formats,” Slive said. “We have looked at that. There’s some real complexities with that. That’s a nice solution if it was available, but like everything else, every time we do something it raises another set of issues and you’ve got to balance those against the issues raised by another format.”
Basketball coaches had fewer problems Wednesday.
They proposed an 18-game league schedule that would keep all 14 teams together instead of moving back to divisions. Teams would play everyone at least once (13 games) and have one annual home-and-home series with a designated rival. Those rivalries are Kentucky-Florida, Tennessee-Vanderbilt, Georgia-South Carolina, Alabama-Auburn, Mississippi-Mississippi State, Arkansas-Missouri and LSU-Texas A&M.
The remaining four games each season would be filled by the other 12 teams on a rotating basis.
The format, along with changes to the postseason tournament, likely will be approved Friday.
“We’re going to do a lot of things for the first time with a 14-team league that we may look back a year from now and say, ‘That’s a great idea,’” Georgia coach Mark Fox said. “We may also do some things we thought, ‘Well, you know, we didn’t see that coming. Maybe we want to change our thought.’”
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.
Vaught’s note: Reader Steve Moody often provides with me statistical/analytical information that amazes me. Today I thought you would enjoy this message he sent me. And yes, I am still doing well in Italy. Planning to take a gondola ride in Venice tonight.
By LARRY VAUGHT
Landon Foster certainly would seem to have the versatility to be a productive punter and/or kicker at Kentucky based on what he did for Independence High School in Thompson Station, Tenn. He was a first-team Class AAAAAA kicker by the Tennessee Sports Writers’ Association. He made 11 of 16 field goals as a senior with a long of 49 and averaged 41.3 yards per punt. Fifty of his 56 kickoffs went for touchbacks and four of the others were on-side kicks. He was named his team’s most valuable player and was ranked as the No. 8 kicker in the nation by Scout.com and the No. 12 kicker and the 10th best prospect in the state of Tennessee by SuperPrep.
During a recent visit to Nashville, I made the short drive over to his hometown and spent about an hour with the future UK player. He shared these insights (as well as more on videos that will be posted at vaughtsviews.com in the days ahead):
Question: What does a punter do during practice to stay busy?
Foster: “We had another kicker here who is about to start kicking for us. We would go to the game field, do some drills and play some punt golf. I am not sure what they call it at Kentucky, but you start off 20 yards and punt it and can’t drop it. All the snappers and punters play that. Ryan Tydlacka was giving me problems about being on the winning team. You just have to work on your technique. You can’t go into practice and kick 200 balls. That’s what I did my sophomore year and ended up injuring my knee. I played soccer still and it was awful. You have to just work on technique and not kick a thousand balls.”
Question: How did a punter from Tennessee decide Kentucky was right for him?
Foster: “I went to camp twice at Kentucky. My dad came up with me the second time and we talked to (former Tennessee quarterback) Tee Martin and asked him why he was coaching at Kentucky. He said the people. Without a doubt, that is it. Coach Phillips was up front the whole time. (Special teams) Coach (Greg) Nord is one of the funniest guys I know. He is random, but so funny and practices are fun. Coach Steve Pardue is my recruitng coach and knows so many people around here. He knows my geometry teacher’s husband. He knows the high school coach in Franklin who is our biggest rival. He knew tons of people around here, so that was odd. He is a great guy too. Very personable.
“Also the opportunity to come in early and maybe play. Nothing will be given to me. You have to go in, do your work during camp and earn the spot but just the opportunity is there and why not take it. The last thing is the atmosphere. I loved it up there. The campus is great. Medical is great up there. Just everything about it seemed right.”
Question: Do you know much about the success current Green Bay punter Tim Masthay had at Kentucky?
Foster: “No, not really. I had heard of him because Green Bay won a Super Bowl. It was funny right when I went up for my second camp at Kentucky and I was watching on ESPN the Packers getting their rings and think it was two days later they actually flew Tim down to work with me. He brought his ring and I got to meet him there. It is odd because Craig was the last punter to punt for the Packers when they won the Super Bowl, so I know the last two punters who have won the Super Bowl with the Packers. It was great and he’s a great guy.”
Question: What do you hope to improve on or learn more about during the summer before preseason camp starts?
Foster: “Obviously, learn my way around the campus and just get used to college. Being on your own and so forth. Football-wise, obviously get stronger and more consistent – any kicker or punter will say that. Even the pro guys. I tell everyone that says you hit a 60-yard field goal and should be in the pros. The difference is that in the pros they can hit that 99 times out of 100. In college, you hit 50 out of 100. A guy going Division I out of high school can hit it 25 out of 100. Your consistency is key. We can hit the same ball as most NFL guys and they can hit it over and over without shanking one or dropping inside. That is the biggest difference.”
Question: What about comments from Phillips and Nord that you “sound” like a punter?
Foster: “You can tell. If you hit the sweet spot, it sounds great. You can tell when people try to create the spiral by side swiping it and kicking it off the side of their foot and it doesn’t sound as solid. When you drop it right, hit it right and follow through, then it sounds like a boom. It really does. You can just tell. You can close your eyes and tell.”
Question: Is that the best compliment a coach can give a punter?
Foster: “I would say so. And being clutch. That was a huge compliment and didn’t surprise me. I remember my first camp that I went to and I didn’t even kick. We were supposed to kick and I ended up punting all day. Coach Phillips would stand shoulder-to-shoulder with me and say, ‘Don’t shank this one’ and I would hit it right and he would say, ‘One more.’ It just kept going. Probably did that 10 to 15 times and he finally said, ‘Alright. You are good.’”
Question: What about academics? Do you enjoy your class work?
Foster: “I have always enjoyed school. Certain subjects I don’t enjoy, but I am a big math and science guy. I was thinking about going pre-med but after talking to Pat Simmons, a walk-on kicker who stopped this year to focus on med school, I think I am going in undecided to make sure that is what I want to do. I have to know if I want to devote most of my time to that or do I want to go a different route. I have always enjoyed academics and school. It has been a blessing here.”
Question: Can a punter think too much, especially a punter who likes math and science like you do?
Foster: “Not too much. I try not to. That is what happens with a lot of kickers. When we watch film, it is completely different from how other players watch film. We always see little things we will work. You can’t work on everything at once. You have to work on one thing and once you get that down, it is muscle memory, and then you can move on to the next thing and take it a step at a time.”
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — LSU outfielder Raph Rhymes was selected 2012 SEC Baseball Player of the Year, Chris Stratton of Mississippi State was named SEC Pitcher of the Year and Kentucky outfielder Austin Cousino was named SEC Freshman of the Year by a vote of the league’s 12 head baseball coaches. The coaches also tabbed Kentucky skipper Gary Henderson SEC Coach of the Year. Michael Roth of South Carolina was named SEC Baseball Scholar-Athlete of the Year.
The Wildcats have had a historic season in 2012, starting with a 22-game winning streak to open the year, setting a school record for the best start and the longest winning streak in program annals. UK has posted series wins over No. 2 South Carolina, Tennessee, No. 18 Georgia, No. 10 Ole Miss, No. 9 Arkansas, No. 1 LSU and Alabama. UK’s seven series wins in 2012 mark the most in program history, equaling the 2006 SEC Championship team’s series wins. Kentucky’s 41 wins in the regular season were the most in UK school history.
Coaches were not permitted to vote for their own players. The complete 2012 All-SEC Team follows:
SEC PLAYER OF THE YEAR – Raph Rhymes, LSU
SEC PITCHER OF THE YEAR – Chris Stratton, Mississippi State
SEC FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR – Austin Cousino, Kentucky
SEC SCHOLAR-ATHLETE OF THE YEAR – Michael Roth, South Carolina
SEC COACH OF THE YEAR – Gary Henderson, Kentucky
1B – Christian Walker, South Carolina
2B – Alex Yarbrough, Ole Miss
3B – Matt Reynolds, Arkansas
SS – Anthony Gomez, Vanderbilt
C – Mike Zunino, Florida
OF – Raph Rhymes, LSU
OF - Preston Tucker, Florida
OF – Taylor Dugas, Alabama
DH/UTL – Brian Johnson, Florida
P – Chris Stratton, Mississippi State
P – Kevin Gausman, LSU
RP – Steven Rodriguez, Florida
1B – Matt Snyder, Ole Miss
2B – Bo Bigham, Arkansas
3B – Curt Powell, Georgia
SS – Nolan Fontana, Florida
C – Luke Maile, Kentucky
OF – Austin Cousino, Kentucky
OF – Ryan Tella, Auburn
OF – Mason Katz, LSU
DH – Drew Steckenrider, Tennessee
P – Alex Wood, Georgia
P – Corey Littrell, Kentucky
P – Bobby Wahl, Ole Miss
RP – Matt Price, South Carolina
ALL FRESHMAN TEAM
1B – A.J. Reed, Kentucky
2B – Will Maddox, Tennessee
3B – Josh Tobias, Florida
SS – Joey Pancake, South Carolina
C – Grayson Greiner, South Carolina
OF – Austin Cousino, Kentucky
OF - Tanner English, South Carolina
OF – Hunter Cole, Georgia
OF – Ben Moore, Alabama
DH/UTL – A.J. Reed, Kentucky
P – Aaron Nola, LSU
P – Tyler Beede, Vanderbilt
RP – Jonathan Holder, Mississippi State
ALL DEFENSIVE TEAM
P – Ryan Eades, LSU
P – Kendall Graveman, Mississippi State
P – Michael Roth, South Carolina
1B -Dominic Ficociello, Arkansas
2B – Alex Yarbrough, Ole Miss
SS – Nolan Fontana, Florida
3B – Matt Reynolds, Arkansas
C – Mike Zunino, Florida
OF – Evan Marzilli, South Carolina
OF – Taylor Dugas, Alabama
OF - Austin Cousino, Kentucky
NOTE: Larry is in Italy with his wife, Penny, and is sending updates on the highlights of his trip. This is his second update.
By LARRY VAUGHT
Our first stop was Siena where we walked through narrow lanes to the Piazza Del Campo, theater of the biannual medieval style horse race known as the Palio that apparently sparks the kind of reaction in this community that the Kentucky Derby does in the Bluegrass. The city was full of small, unique shops — and narrow, hilly streets. What seemed to be a sidewalk could quickly turn into a street with a car, truck or bus fighting with pedestrians for space.
We had perhaps the best hot chocolate ever to start our day. The cocoa came with a cup of homemade whipped cream and a cookie. That was perfect on a crisp morning and was the jump start we needed to look through the various shops.
Next it was off to San Gimignana, the most picturesque of Italy’s preserved medieval towns. Again, it was a treasure full of shops and great cafes. Two can’t-miss spots were the home of the gelato named the world’s best ice cream and a cafe/bakery that had unbelievable chocolate and sandwiches. We wandered the streets into the fortress where local artists and musicians were showcasing their talents and took our look at the unique cistern that once provided all the city’s water. We also saw several statues of an unclothed man on display at several locations in the city.
After a scenic one-hour drive through the hills, we came to Verrazzano Castle where the world-famous Chianti wine is made. All grapes are grown on the property and the whole fermenting/bottling process takes place on site. The cellars are 1,000 years old — and even the restored ceilings were 600 years old. To say our group had fun would be a huge understatement. The food was okay, but the wine was superb — and I an not even normally a wine drinker.
The property also had olive trees used to make virgin olive oil that was delicious with our meal of local specialities. We also got to sample four wines as well as a shot of grappa (86 proof alcohol) to end our visit. We made our way to Florence to spend the first of two nights near the city center and only a stone’s throw away from the Arno River.
A local guide took us on a walking tour of the city that was highlighted by a visit to the Academy of Fine Arts with Michaelangelo’s celebrated David, and it was breath-taking. It’s hard to imagine the detail and work that went into this masterpiece.
We got a look at Giotto’s Bell Tower and numerous other historical spots in the city. We also had to wander and see the leather and gold products made only in Florence. Some were enormously expensive, some not that bad. Leather goods and gold jewelry sold by the ounce are part of Florence’s culture.
During the day, we felt the mild tremors from an earlier earthquate in Italy. No big deal, but it did make one pause to wonder what was happening.
We got a little taste of home by having lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe — the only place we’ve seen with an English menu and real iced tea. We wandered around the town most of the afternoon before I lucked out and got to take about a five-mile run with three Italians who were leaving to run about the same time I did. They took me through different parts of the city that were quite scenic.
Easily the day’s highlight was our drive into the countryside to enjoy a typical Tuscan dinner that included more food than anyone could ever eat. There were 20 dishes on the antipasta buffet to start the meal followed by a second course of ravioli and penna with sausage cooked in wine sauce. Next came either prime rib prepared in a special way or swordfish and shrimp. I went for the seafood and the shrimp were big, juicy and great. Salad and potatoes also came with the meal if anyone wanted that much. Dessert choices were sinful as the chocolate torte with blackberries on top was so, so good. We also were able to sample about four types of local wine that were again way too good to even describe and made for quite a happy bus ride back to our hotel. We even celebrated two birthdays and one anniversary and the local musicians seemed to have as much fun entertaining us as we had interacting with them.