Merkato Centrale

We started the day with a one Euro cappuccino at the Mercato Centrale, known to have the best food in the city.

We bought a small block of white cheese soaked in red wine, two chocolate brioche, and 4 mini-paninis. Unbelievable!

57 steps

Location. Location. Location!

That’s what sold us on our Firenze (Florence) apartment. On Via Del Sol, right in the heart of the Italian city known as the cradle of the Renaissance. For the modest price  of 1200 euro we have a full 70 square metres of beautifully tiled space, complete with bathroom, washing machine and of course espresso maker, for a month. It sounds perfect on the Internet. And it is–sort of.

What they didn’t mention were the 57 steps. Vertical steps.

That is to say, I climb six flights of 9 stone steps to reach my front door. P.J. lopes ahead of me like it’s easy, but he’s Dutch. I swear, they have a stair climbing gene. My knees give out at 50, frozen in solid pain, but with a short rest I make the rest. The location is truly magnificent and worth the climb. I think they say that about Everest. I signed up for wine tasting and art gazing, mountain climbing epiphanies are a bonus.

After a memorable taxi ride from the airport, we arrived with stiff muscles, grumbly dispositions and empty stomachs. It had been a 28 hour trip that grew crazier by the moment. We got to the point where every time we looked at each other we’d laugh.

The final event was our experience in Paris, at the Charles de Galle airport.  We used a kiosk to obtain our boarding pass, and learned that we couldn’t get the gate number until 20 minutes before take-off. An interesting process to say the least. But who are we to complain. So we sat with some two hundred other travelers, eyes glued to monitors waiting our turn to learn which gate we needed to be at.

Every few minutes a horde of people would get up and rush out, having learned where they were to go. There was a stewing excitement in the room, and I couldn’t help but think about the tension workshop I’d taken the weekend before with Edna Sheedy. We all held onto our question (boarding gate?) and waited with bated breath.

With two minutes left in our waiting time, my stomach began to clench and unclench. It was the last of our three flights. I could imagine being in Florence in a couple of hours.I could taste the Chianti! We just needed the ##### gate number. Then a flashing red message beside our flight number read: delayed. And we waited. Just like in a well paced plot. A long five minutes later, the gate number was revealed and we rushed with a pack of travelers from all over the world for our gate, as if it was an oasis in a desert.

Only to fin d a bus. Yes, a bus. What could we do? We boarded it with the masses and ended up standing like squished vertical sardines, because there was barely enough room for everyone. The rising tension in the crowd was visceral. We were at least moving. Now we just had to find the plane.

The bus drove for some time, until it found one on a distant tarmac, in the middle of nowhere. It stopped and we got off. Was this the beginning of the end? At least it was a plane. They took our carry-on luggage, but what could we do about that? I’d stopped worrying about feeling powerless. I’d submitted to the god of wonky travelers hours ago when I ate cardboard tasting pasta.

We got on and buckled in. The plane took off. In a series of shudders and loud clunking sounds the landing gear was pulled in and we proceeded to Italy. I had a window seat. The side of the cabin was so cold I folded up my jacket into a six inch cushion to insulate myself, but I still felt like a Popsicle in December.

The captain announced the final approach and another series of sounds and shudders rattled the small plane. I prayed it was the landing gear dropping. But who knew? Visions of firetrucks danced in my head.

We landed and headed outside for fresh air.

Then we encountered the taxi line-up. That was such a bizarre experience it deserves a post all on its own.

Then there was the crazy but wonderful Italian cab driver who delivered us to our apartment where we met Cesare (pronounced Chezeray). He welcomed us to Italy with such warmth and charm, the hours of frantic traveling faded away.

That was the first day of my trip.

The picture is the bottle of wine Cesare left us. After our travels it tasted like a tiny piece of heaven.

Squishing my life into a Carry-on

“Global travel is somewhat of a religion. But within this religion, there are many other ‘faiths’.

One of these is the carry-on-only philosophy.

And as the name suggests, it’s a philosophy to travel the globe with nothing but carry-on luggage.”

(Globetrotter Tom at GlobeTrooper.com)

There are advantages:

  1.  No waiting in those awful zigzaggy cattle line ups to check bags.
  2.  No waiting beside spinning carousels with sharpened elbows to pick up bags.
  3. No waiting at luggage  claim’s desks (with sedatives to manage anger)  for clothes that accidentally detoured to Timbuktu.
  4. No baggage fees.
  5. Wheeling around airports and new destinations is much easier.

Disadvantages?

  1. Less stuff.
  2. Less room to bring more “stuff” home.

But can I do it? Can I fit what I need into a small carry-on? We’ll see.

How do you pack? Do you have special tricks to share with a novice? I’d love to hear your stories.

Picture: technorati.com

Italian train passes make no sense

I wasted a couple hours today researching train fares in Italy.

I’m a “bundle” kinda gal That is to say, if I’m buying more than one item from a business I expect a discount. Nah uh. It doesn’t work with trains, or at least trains in Italy.

I turned my research notes upside down and tried looking at the figures with crossed eyes, but I can’t get the numbers to work. It’s cheaper to buy individual train tickets from machines at the station than to buy a train pass. In addition to it being simply less money for the fares, we’ll be saving additional booking fees. I keep reworking the numbers, but the bottom line is it’s much cheaper to not buy a pass.

So why do they have passes?

It’s a mystery to me.

Hacked and Angry

Picture from this site.

Yup, I’ve been hacked Well, at least my Twitter account’s been hacked.I hope that’s the extent of the damage.

My sincerest apologies go out to all the people who received ridiculous tweets from me.I’ve changed my password twice checked all my connections and I should be in the clear now. I hope. Needless to say, I’m momentarily not tweeting.

I gather I’ve been spamming my 1,120 followers with xo and direct messages suggesting they open a Facebook link.That’s how I think I caught it. I tried to open that link when someone I know sent me the message. Life hasn’t been the same since.

I’m defragging my favorite laptop and searching for viruses hoping it’s not infected.

I need a hacker poster to shoot darts at. This is such a waste of time, and embarrassing. Grrrrrr.

Again…my apologies.

Wine Town Firenze – Oh Yeah

Held in restaurants and wine cellars throughout the Tuscan city, Wine Town Florence offers visitors the opportunity to celebrate quality wine. A host of activities entertain between tastes and the WineCard also gives free admission to affiliated museums. (KLM wesbsite)

I’m trying my best to live a normal life here on my quiet  island on the west coast of Canada,  but when I got a message from KLM (airlines) telling me Florence becomes a “wine town”  for a few days during our upcoming stay, “normal” became impossible. It’s not that I’m a big wine drinker, but I do like the taste. So, here I am in my jammies. I haven’t started writing for the day yet, and I’m googling Wine Town Firenze. Heck, it’s research:)

This was the best “nutshell” description I found:

The, “… third edition of “Wine Town”, [is] an event dedicated to wine, art and spectacle. Several historical palaces in Florence for the occasion will open their courtyards and their cloisters and host schools of wine tasting and culinary and  musical performances. It will be possible to taste the best Tuscan and Italian wine, at the same time, attending theatrical and listen to quality music.” (Italian Wine and Foods Blog)


The home site for the event is in Italian, but I think we’ll figure things out. The pictures are from that site.

P.S. I’d like to thank everyone who left me ideas of things to do and places to go in Italy. I’ve made a list.

Does anyone have any tales or thoughts about drinking wine in Italy that they’d be willing to share?

Florence and a blog adjustment

Photo from Wikipedia

Some people make changes at the beginning of the New Year, but I like to  initiate change in the Fall. I relate to maple leaves changing color.

My blog has mostly been about my life as a writer, but that’s getting boring: write, edit, crumple pages, sigh, write, edit….  I love the process, but that kind of passion doesn’t translate well onto paper. Don’t get me wrong, my blog stats show growth in readership, but the growth is slow. My new plan is to focus more on my research hoping that will draw people who will be interested in my stories.

But before I launch into a new blog schedule I’m going to go to Italy. I’ve never been there before. It’s a trip of a lifetime for me. So, I’ll be blogging about that for awhile.

Do you have favorite places in Italy? Places you’d recommend we go see, or suggestions of activities to do? I’d love to hear your stories.

Our first plan is to take a cooking class in Florence. They take you to the market to pick out the food, show you how to cook it and then you get to eat it. I can’t wait.