A Travellerspoint blog

Under a blue Tuscan sky with clouds

sunny 14 °C

We left Venice by boat taxi, getting up early enough to get et breakfast at the hotel before pushing our gear (no much heavier for some reason) bags to the dock, get tickets and hope that the next boat taxi was only 10 minutes away, as the predicted voyage was 35 minutes to the railway stop. The boat was packed with workers and we had to manouver ourselves and our bags on board. We safely arrived with a few minutes to spare and found our train to Florence.

There are many good things to say about the Italian train services, they are very nice and clean, they have an efficient service for passengers meaning that you get booked seats, they leave (and attempt to arrive on time and are ver fast (on this trip the train hit 300ks per hour on a couple of occasions and generally travelled at 240 ks, so ifyou are watching the ccountrysideout of the huge windows, it is whistling by. Iin the odd possibility that you are Korean or Japanese then it just means that your eyelids close sooner on leaving one destination and open quicker as the train stops at your new destination. Must be difficult to know if you have indeed moved or that reality (as you perceive it is actually the same place given a different name).

Anyway we were now in Florence and got a cab to take us to our AirBnB in Lungarno by the river. Vittorio was there to meet us and show us his unique basement apartment. His ecclectic ttaste meant that the walls were like an art gallery and the adornments and furnishings more like museum pieces. Great space, walking distance to town (for us, now seasoned walkers) and just right for our tastes, even if the shower was a tight squeeze, and I rested my head on the underside of the stairs when using the toilet and the kitchen was definitly a one person activity. He was a great help answering questions whilst we were there, left us a a great bottle of wine a tasty breads.....

Over the next couple of days we visited the Uffizzi Gallery, too many churches to mention although it's best I mention the Duomo The Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore here David climbed the 483 steps to see the renowned double cathedral ceiling, spent a day on the Hop on Hop off bus (which required us to walk to the Railway Station to catch as they would only take a printed voucher, not the E one on my phone), this took a long time but we managed to do both the A and B routes which took us to a number of sites (to the sound of harpsichord music) we would otherwise have missed, and we even got up into the hills above Florence to Frisole to see (as the driver suggested how "the other half live"). It as so sunny Sharon got a sunburnt face. We walked to the top of the Michaelangelo hill to look out over the city on another day, then wending our way through the back streets.

Florence is known for its leather and Sharon kept looking at the bags and boots without finding anything that suited. What she did fall in love with was gelato. Just as well it's not winter (the temperatures in the teens most days) as we have found a number of flavours that are really great. What we didn't like about Florence - the smokers! We were struck by both the high numbers of both men and women who smoked either cigarettes or cigars, and the disregard they had for anyone else, blowing smoke directly at you in some instances, and certainly seemed to feel entitled.

Leaving Florence for Rome was our low point for organisation so far, contributed to in a great extent by a Florentine system that's hard to fathom. Here' how it went. I booked a taxi on-line for 8am. We were ready outside waiting. It didn't come. Taxis in Florence do not respond to hailing them. They only respond by telephoning them. We telephoned them. They did not come. Apparently there was an International mens design event happening in the city so no taxis were available. After discussions by txt with Vittorio, and pigeon english conversations with the builders (who had arrived to work on another apartment in the building), we rushed down the road, pushing our bags and caught the bus which took us to the airport with 5 minutes to spare. The bus trip was like watching paint dry, honestly I now have a better understanding of how Italian people can be laid back.

Anyway, we're on the train to Rome and our last stop.......

Posted by claptonisgod 10:37 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Carless days

sunny 12 °C

Venice: Carless Days. We weren't really sure what we were letting ourselves in for as we arrived at Venice airport.  We have now worked out that sortie is not where they sort your bags but is actually the way out...this is quite helpful and you can imagine. Anyway I digress. The airport is actually not Venice you need to hop a bus to get there.  The bus driver and the young woman looking after the patrons were obviously an item...let's just say we were in a city of love. :-) We came to the end of our bus trip and from then on it was boats or walking. The vista as you caught the boat for the first time passing amazing architecture and colour were something you just needed to absorb.  The waterways traffic reminded us at times of the craziness of Taipei without scooters. Paganelli was our accommodation and it was perfect. The staff were very helpful and you had everything you wanted...clean towels each day a comfy bed and breakfast as part of the deal.  We were approximately one block away from San Marco (St Marks square) This meant we felt like we were almost in the bell tower when the bells rang but it was very cool and reminded us where we were.  Our first wander around the streets ensured we fell in love with the glass. Especially the Murano glass. It was everywhere ....nearly anything you can think of can be made in glass .  However just by chance one day  (yes because I talk to anyone) we got offered a free water taxi ride out to the Murano factory.  David was a very excited as he had been watching the water taxi's since we had arrived.  They were made of a lacqured wood and very styish.  We were greeted on Murano ( an Island ) by Stephano who was our guide for the day...This is when we feel in love with a glass sculpture which we will be very proud to have in our home.  Yes is is solid and yes we will have quake wax under it . While there Stephano organised a free taxi for us to go to Burano.  This is a lovely fishing island where all the houses are brightly painted so that the fishermen can find their way home or so the story goes. Whatever the reason the brightly coloured houses were a delight to see and we enjoyed an afternoon wandering around here.  This is an island were the best lace is made ....it was truely stunning. Back to land and my cousin Brent said " Venice is a place you can get lost in" and we did most days but that just added to the harm.  We would happen upon a door open and inside found a museum. We happened on a music Museo one day where there were violins and all sorts of variations. Housed in an amazing building lightly lit playing beautiful music I thought of Lorraine and knew you would really love this place.  These Museos were everywhere and you had to look for them.  Here we also sarted out love of gelato hmmm I need say no more.  Near the end of our trip we decided to spend the day in San Marco.  Whether you were in the square watching the tame pigeons sit on peoples hands and arms for photos and listen to the vairous bells...or go inside the buildings.  We were sad that the Doges Palace was closed for a meeting on the day we were there  (well, actually it was a union stop work meeting) but we went to everything else and marvelled at the beauty of the gold mosics in the sun Being in a city with no cars was facinating.  It makes the place so quiet.  Venice has all the needs of an ordinary city, we saw emergency boats and abulance boats.  People working on the outside of bulidings woud lower waste and plaster up on a pully system with wheel barrows onto boats. Yes we even think we saw a coffin being taken away on a boat early one morning.  The cemetry for venice is an outer island.  The gondalas were beutiful but at 80 Euro a pop we decided to just watch the from afar.  Legend has it that they have webbed feet so they can tread they way around the canals safely Sadly it was time to leave although to be honest we needed to as the smog and the amount of people blowing smoke in our faces had meant we had both become a little unwell.  Thank goodness out Dr gave us some antibiotics, a must while traveling and we are on the mend now. The boats were frequent and we were able to catch a boat to the train station from outside Pagenelli.  Good bye Venice till next time it has been a great adventure

Posted by claptonisgod 10:52 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Iphone Ipone in my hand who's most beautiful in the land

semi-overcast 15 °C
View To the shoe factory on claptonisgod's travel map.

If I am to have a moan during this fantastic trip (and I'm want to have one), then it has to be about the 'selfie stick'.

Since we have arrived in Italy we have sellers of the dam things on every street corner and one finds onseself saying "no" many many times a day to rid oneself of the bartering methods of the local, well, maybe not locals. The group today was from Senegal and eventually went through the process of leaving me gifts on the table after lunch "free - because I love people from New Zealand", yet you knew that to take the trinkets [God help me from it being a 'selfie stick'] that you'd be asked to pay.

Anyway, the selfie stick. Now the most feared item to take your eye out, be clunked on the head with by some weak armed make-believe photographer from Serbia or Slovakia, or to fall over after being extended behind a non-observant post modern video photographer of faded grafitti essays from the 90s. A tool to make up for your limited arm length and your total inability to communicate with other members of the species-human to ask if a photograph can be taken of you looking nomal. Not squinting nor looking as if your arms have taken on the characteristics of quasimoto. But no. My fellow humans have ceased to communicate, and instead believe that life is a solo activity, and I can recall slide events of the 70s when "and this is me beside the Pyramid" was always follwed by "oh! and this is me on the other side of the pyramid", but I hope to never have to file though an accumulated thoroughly compiled photo collection of some of my fellow travellers exploits through Europe with a 'selfie stick'.

Iphone Iphone in my [extended] hand, who is the cheesiest in the land?

I can see only one positive from owning such a tool, and that is to answer man's most challenging question. "Does my arse look big in this?" can now be solved by getting her to use her selfie stick and deciding for herself.

Posted by claptonisgod 10:52 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Paris from Sharon's eyes

overcast 10 °C

Paris through Sharons eyes

Well first of all; this was the first place I have felt underdressed. The French dress beautifully. Of course not all of them but they have a certain way about them. The men are very dashing and they like to watch. The funniest thing I saw was a guy standing outside a cafe smoking and giving the girls the once over...following the girls was a not very happy father...of the girls lol. Oh well cest la vie We walked for hours each day starting around 9.30 and often getting home at 11ish at night. This was at Kayleigh speed so you can imagine David and I slept well. We saw so many things while were here. David saw the Louvre and Orsay so he was filled with art happiness. Although he did find the pushing and shoving of people a little hard to deal with at times. People there were soooo many. There were about three types of police all with guns ..some with machineguns which is always a little unnerving for kiwis.We did so many sites...Eifle Tower (where we stood in line for 2 1/2 hours in the cold) However it was worth it...an amazing experience and so pleased we had the opportunity. I always thought the lift would go straight up but it actually went up on an angle. We went to the top. Hard to believe but it was colder there than on the ground lol. We also went up the Champs Eylese, again right to the top. I now know how pop feels with his vertigo. I felt pretty wobbley up there when I looked over the edge. Notre Dame was a treat. There was a service on when we were there and the sound of the choir was amazing. I tried to put a video on FB for those who get my posts. This is a beautiful building and when the bells ring you feel all is right with the world.

We also went to see the sewers Although a slow starter Kayleigh held up well and I think we all learned quite alot about the history of the city. Eating was an event. Whether it be at the markets where the banter from the stall holders was great or in the restaurants that we tried. The service was everything I would expect from a French eating place...you were never rushed and they very much wanted you to enjoy. In the cafes the seats all sat outwards so that the patrons could continue the great french tradition of people watching. Wine tasting was also great we all learned so much. Our host was very charming and I now have skills which ensure I get the best out of all the wine I drink (great choice Kayles) Although we had been warned about the french attitude they were nothing but helpful and curteous. This was the first time we had all been together for years. Please understand, we are all strong individual people but in this setting it was so nice to hug, laugh and enjoy each others company. I am not sure how long it will be before we can all be together again so I will savour all these memories. PS Iain is included in this. It is so great to have him around and he puts up with all of us...the lad needs a medal...happy times

Posted by claptonisgod 10:47 Archived in France Comments (0)

A tale of two towers

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the ege of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of increulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.......hope you all know where the quote is from.

Anyway for the first time in too many years we were all together as a family in Paris. Five go mad in Paris (just to mix texts), in an AirBnB in Guy Moquet in Paris. Great times and lots of adventures in the Metro and across the four corners of Paris. Indeed, too many to mention in a blog like this one. I don't want to lose what little audience I have though being verbose on my blogs, so for Paris the title of the blog will indicate that we climbed at least two towers. And in the process of climbing said towers managed to either lose ourselves or our nearest and dearest.

Firstly after a long day walking around Paris we decided late in the day to climb the Champs Elyses. Great views from the top and numerous photo opportunities meant that some of us spent longer than others at the top. There was also a very informative display of military uniforms on a lower level, and by the time we went to leave we were four only. Timmy had gone missing and no matter how far we spread out and looked, reconvening at nominated spots to confir, we were still at all times four. It wasn't till she who can read the mind of Timmy came up with a possibility, that all were joined again to fulfill rampunctious adventures again on another day.

On the following day, again late into the afternoon/evening as David had spent the day at the Louvre and needed to meet up with the others, a decision was made for three, David, Sharon and Emma to go up the Eifel Tower, and Kayleigh and Iain had already been on an earlier trip. So with tired legs all decided to take the elevator to the top and joined (at this particular point) a small queue. time passed and we did get closer to being able to buy tickets, but the cold had set in and the temperature was probably down to 0 which had us doing quite a bit of prancing on the spot. It was then we were advised that the slowness of allowing people to go up on the tower was that some plonker had left their bag unattended on the 2nd level and a security alert had been called with bomb disposal on the way. A decision was made at this point that we would only wait until 7.00pm as we figured by that stage we would be frozen. Finally things got moving and although we broke our own rule by getting tickets at 7.02pm reckoned that we would have time to view the tower and still make dinner with Kayleigh and Iain who had already sent a txt saying that they were at a restaurant with a bottle of wine.

The lift trip up the tower is extraordinary as it cuts across before climbing vertically. We all got off on the first level and that's when things tuned pear shape again as Hermione (can't seem to help with the book references) was last seen climbing into the lift to the top, but when the three musketeers were to meet up Hermione was nowhere to be seen. Again floors were checked individually and meetings held, before she who knows Hermione's thought patterns best suggested that we head for the ground and go to the dome (an inflated plastic dome filled with xmas trees, a leftover from The Grinch stole Christmas). Sure enough we had no sooner hit the ground that we were reunited, just as predicted, like [well, actually name any Harry Potter book and there's such a story line].

...it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of dispair.......Whilst I gest at these missadventures, getting lost in Paris is not only easy, but with so many people about, and in the dark on both occasions - bloody traumatic for all concerned.

Anyway, a tale of two towers now told, a quick reprise of others things done. As both girls got to spend their birthdays in Paris, it was great to share in their experiences. Kayleigh organised a wine and cheese tasting lunch in an underground cellar conducted by a wine expert. We had a super parisienne cafe dinner, and someone went on a pattisserie run every morning, we visited markets, endured fun filled Metro experiences, galleries, the Moulin Rouge at night (only from the outside), trips to the bridge of keys and the Paris sewers. We can't say we say as much as we would have liked, but time just flew and we were rarely in bed before 12 each night.

Emma flew back to Newcastle on the afternoon of her birthday so she could share it with friends, Sharon and david snuck away early morning (5.30am) on the 6th to fly to Venice, and kayleigh and Iain got to spend a last half a day in Paris before getting the train back to london.

Posted by claptonisgod 10:55 Comments (0)

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