Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Back in Heaven, Florence, Italy
After spending a quick night in Pisa, we had a nice breakfast at the hotel and caught a train to Florence. Interestingly, the cab fare to get us 10 minutes to the train station cost as much as the entire family traveling one hour by train to Florence! It didn’t help that our family of six (including Suzanne’s mom) needed two taxis. You would think that we learned from our experience getting over to Europe from the States, but no, we still had to manage 10 bags between us. (Although our biggest suitcase was packed with Christmas gifts, supplies and wrapping paper). For me, that is one of the most stressful parts of traveling – especially with little kids who don’t always listen particularly well. We got to the Vigna Nuova street, but our apartment wasn’t ready, so we ducked into a small deli-style café down the street to grab a bite and wait. It was a small, crowded place, and we got lots of funny looks hauling in all of our bags and piling them up around us as if we were building a fort. Yikes, the ugly Americans return… I pointed to a number of items at the counter and soon we were feasting on a delicious sweet onion risotto, a fresh pasta lasagna, and focaccia with prosciutto, arrugula and a deliciously soft, tangy cheese called “strachino”. Ahhh, Italia!!!! Every single thing we tried was delicious and it suddenly dawned on me that the Coastal Spanish palate left a lot to be desired. There is only so much paella and calamari that one can eat. Apparently, Suzanne felt this way pretty much from the start, but I guess I was a bit slower to catch on. Kim met us at the café and we were thrilled to have her with us, even for a short time. We got to our apartment and settled in. While it was a bit old and in need of updating (read: historic 17th century palace?), the main room was huge and had a large fireplace – perfect for lounging around without feeling like we were on top of each other. We got settled in and then ventured out to explore the town. We were back in heaven, to be in the center of a vibrant city with history, culture and fashion. Once again, a shocking contrast to our experience in Javea – which seems to have more businesses shut down than open and about as much culture as you would find in one city block in Florence. Hey, at least here when the weather sucks, you can always duck into a museum or palace and ogle a Botticeli or a Raphael painting! And for stunning architecture, you just can’t beat the Duomo. It truly seemed that all paths lead us past the Duomo, and it appeared almost surreal in the low winter light. We would end up spending lots of time in the plazas around the Duomo, be it to rest our weary legs or to let our kids run around and burn off some energy. Not a bad place to play, but I’m not sure our kids quite realize how lucky they are!