The drive was fairly easy. We relied on the GPS to get there and after a bumpy start where she told us to drive to the Nice port then take a ferry to Corsica, an island, then another ferry from Corsica to Italy, she redeemed herself by getting back on track and getting us there in the 5.5 hours it was supposed to take. Maybe she was giving us the 'cheap' route?? Come to think about it, this may be who Shaun's team uses as their travel agent for away games....I can see it now, the front office hops in their car, fires up the GPS, punches it all in, et voila, an itinerary is born. Back to the drive, it was absolutely beautiful. The route was along the coast all but 30 minutes of the drive so the views were incredible. Almost to Florence, both Shaun and I noticed we were going through a lot of tunnels, I mean a lot. So I threw out a guess of how many tunnels we had gone through since the start of the drive, '30 or 40 something' and vowed to count them on the ride home. Shaun disagreed and said more, 'maybe 50-60'. Remember those numbers for the end of the story...
|The Duomo (Florence cathedral)|
|The many Fleur de Lis|
|Cheeses and meat|
|Hunks of Parm|
|Sun dried tomatoes|
|Marinated artichoke hearts|
|Gotta love the ole' long arm self photo|
|Someone kindly took our picture after seeing us struggle to take one ourselves...|
As I am writing this, I am re-reading what I wrote and realize there is so much more I have to say. Like dinner our second night. Our hotel made us reservations at a nicer restaurant at 8 and when we arrived, we realized that 8 was going to be a stretch. The place was packed and it looked more like we were going to have to wait. So we took our wine and headed to the waiting area and just chatted. Shortly after, an older couple joined us in waiting for a table. 5 minutes later, a waiter told us only a table for 4 was available so did we mind sitting with the other couple but they would split the table so it would be like 2 and 2. Talk about putting us on the spot...I mean the couple could hear our answer. So we agreed, and as soon as we sat down we realized there was no way we could eat right next to these people and not talk to them, it would of been more awkward to ignore them than to actually talk to them. Then, when they ordered a bottle of wine to share with us we knew we were doomed. They were mid 50's, puerto rican, and spoke broken english. Us, early 30's, speaking English and French. Not much in common but hey, you only live once. Fortunately for me, I was sitting next to the lady and not the guy since he became very very comfortable and whispered things in Shaun's ear about life, ordering wine, how to pose for pictures and appear thinner, and when we were going to see them again. It was one of those nights you only see in movies. The pinnacle for me was when he asked me to try his steak that he ordered. When I say asked, I mean demanded, since he was already in the motion of putting his fork towards my way when he suggested I try it. We shared wine, food and dessert with them. I honestly couldn't make this up if I tried. For those of you who watch The Office, there was definitely some Michael Scott uncomfortable moments during dinner. We bid them adieu with the promises that we will e-mail them and come visit....we''ll see about that.
While walking one day, we made our way down to the river that flows through Florence, the Arno river. It is lined with shops and little trattorias where people mill in out of and many bridges to cross over on. One bridge appeared different than the others architecturally, Ponte Vecchio. The Ponte Vecchio bridge was the only bridge not destroyed by the Germans in WWII in Florence so therefore it is much older than the others (learned that from 'over hearing' the english guided tour, promise we weren't following them). Legend has it that if you or your loved one attaches a lock to any part of the bridge then throw the key over into the river, you will have ever lasting love. Well, apparently the government did not like the way the bridge looked with all the locks attached to it, and made it illegal. However, it is rumored to be all the same to rub the remaining locks attached instead of attaching them yourselves. Needless, to say we gave the locks a little rub, can't hurt right???
|View of other bridge from Ponte Vecchio|
I could go on forever about what makes Florence special, the warm people, the food, the gelato in 40 degrees temperature, the Duomo. But what really hit home was when I got home and uploaded my pictures to the computer..I took 570 pictures!!!! Most of the pictures are better than words so I will do just that, post them at the end with a little explanation if needed. And I am going to try to load our videos of the square on New Years in the upcoming days if I can figure out how.
We decided to take a little detour on our drive home and swing by Pisa, don't you just love the fact that you can swing by something as cool as The Leaning Tower of Pisa? It was pretty much on our way home and I figured it would be a shame to drive by it and not at least stop in for an hour or two to explore. This wasn't my first time in Pisa. In 89 or 90,( still can't figure out which year) I spent a few weeks in Italy with a friend and his family who are Italian so I saw the tower on that trip, and even got out on all the levels which is now forbidden, you can only exit at the top. Surprisingly for it being 22 years ago and me being only 11 I have a pretty good recollection of my time so I really wanted Shaun to see it because, obviously, it is pretty memorable. The weather wasn't that great, a little misty but it didn't stop us from taking the obligatory 'holding up the tower' pictures. We spent about an hour there milling around and asking each other questions that neither one of us had a clue the answers too. We took mental notes and figured we would look the answers up on the internet when we got back to France. Darn you cheap French phone with no internet. For me the trip was amazing and when I saw Shaun get on the internet for information about the Tower before ESPN.com, I knew it was just as good for him. Oh, and there were 182 tunnels, might have been 1 more but I was singing my heart out...
|Look how strong my man is...1 hand.|
|Got heavier..two hands needed|
|I swear I'm not super-imposed|
|Up close look|
|Side view of Duomo, it was so large I could never get it all in 1 pic.|
|Duomo from across the river|
|The author of Pinocchio is from Florence so he is everywhere.|
|Ahhh...gelato. Who would eat it in this cold?|
|Bronze boar statue at the back of the market. Legend has it, if you put a coin in his mouth and it falls into a grate below and you rub his snout, you will return to Florence.|
|San Lorenzo Basilica|
|Up close view of the San Lorenzo Basilica|