The Shortest European Trip Report Ever!

Old Jul 1st, 2013, 01:58 AM
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The Shortest European Trip Report Ever!

Yesterday afternoon we went to the airport to begin our trip to Italy, Switzerland, Germany, and Spain.

The first leg, the flight from Washington to Montreal was "delayed" (the incoming aircraft hadn't even taken off from its origin by the time it was to arrive in Washington) and then, finally, we were told the flight had been cancelled altogether (weather conditions).

Those lines of passengers snaking back from the gate "podium" where rather disturbing noises are sometimes heard have to be the slowest things on Earth.

What to do? Stay at the airport (it is now 5 PM) until 9 PM and take a flight to Montreal to spend the night in a hotel? Decided against that one.

Come back tomorrow afternoon and try again (but I was warned we could have the same weather problems what with thunder storms being predicted once again).

Alternatives? Come back tomorrow and take an earlier flight to Toronto (circumventing possible afternoon storms) and hang around Pearson for five hours waiting for a flight to Rome Well, at least we can hang around in the Maple Leaf lounge so decided to do that.

E-mailed the hotel in Florence from my cell phone about the delay. Prompt reply of no worries BUT with the reminder that we went beyond the cancellation period so will be charged for the first night regardless.

My response: well since I'm paying FOR that room then I expect it to have been unoccupied by anybody else and that it will be ready when we get there on 2 July. (Stay tuned for the results of that one.) Definitely Goose and 7 time at this point.

My advance on-line purchase of a train ticket Termini-SMN (non-changeable, non-refundable, of course) is lost, (the breaks of the game) and we'll get to play with the ticket machines at Termini while following the ticket machine warnings about absolutely rejecting any and all suspicious and otherwise offers of help.

So, "tomorrow" which is now today we try again.

End of report for now....
Dukey1 is online now  
Old Jul 1st, 2013, 02:09 AM
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Good luck, Dukey1..
lincasanova is offline  
Old Jul 1st, 2013, 02:27 AM
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Dukey, sorry about your luck. Sounds like you are rolling with the punches. I hope you get to use your Hotel room today.
Friends just came back from Italy and received "the best help ever from a darker skinned girl" while getting train tickets. I just cringed when they were telling me the story how helpful she was. So far nothing out of the ordinary has been charged to their credit card but its only been one month since their return to the states. I laugh at the advice of "take precautions like you would at home" because around here it is common to see farmers' produce for sale and the booth is unattended with just a can or box for you to deposit your money.
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Old Jul 1st, 2013, 02:58 AM
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Dukey, hope the rest of your trip goes better, and I hope you are making the most of that hotel room about now (midday your time, I believe.)
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Old Jul 1st, 2013, 04:25 AM
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Thanks for the kind replies. Actually, it is just a little after 7 AM on Monday 1 July as I write this so will be leaving for the airport again in a couple of hours. Security yesterday seemed unusually slow and it was a Sunday and we were leaving from the concourse with the fewest number of gates.

I have to say that everybody seemed to be yawning and this was around 3 in the afternoon. The TSA person checking the boarding passes/ID's was yawning. Then she had to pass the boarding pass to somebody next to her to (I guess) make sure she had made all those circles in the right places. She yawned as she made the circles and then yawned again as the gave the pass to the "checker."

Then while we were at the gate I watched a plane being loaded and unloaded with baggage and both of those people were yawning, too!!!

Airports are the great microcosms of the Universe it seems. People checking their cellphones, children running around, fast food bags open, TVs tuned to CNN or some other channel and you cannot hear anything they are saying but you see the moving banners: "Mortgage Rates Soar!" (what, they went up about a percentage point or something...are we going to be able to sell the house when we come back????); PA "announcements" from the various gates that you cannot quite understand.

I am sitting there wondering if I should have brought at least one guidebook; this is the first time I have never brought one. What to see and do in Florence? I suppose just being there is enough but we've done the Duomo, the Ufizi, seen David, shopped, stared at the Arno, done the Medici everything. Maybe we should be going to Siena instead but it's Italy so who cares?

I will try to keep this thing going as we progress but the last time I did that internet connections became more elusive than ever.

Best to everyone!
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Old Jul 1st, 2013, 05:18 AM
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Dukey you are going to be near us. If there is anything we can do ...

Good to hear they have those signs up at Termini. I had people trying to grab my wallet "to help" me pay for the tickets.
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Old Jul 1st, 2013, 05:23 AM
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Good Luck Du
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Old Jul 1st, 2013, 05:50 AM
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Buy boots in Florence of course.
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Old Jul 1st, 2013, 05:54 AM
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good luck. I was stuck in an airport last night (Sunday night) trying to get home... had just taken surfgirl (and teammates) to diving camp. All flights home were either delayed (multiple hours) or canceled. I traveled light - as a day trip - and only carried contact solution and backup glasses (thanks to the the thread a few days ago!) if forced to spend the night. Alas, I did make it home - albeit 2+ hours later than planned.

I know what a nightmare being stuck in the airport is - it feels like a time warp withdrawn from reality outside. The only reality is flights taking off and landing - and you hoping yours is one of the ones taking off!

here's hoping the weather gods calm down a little.
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Old Jul 1st, 2013, 06:39 AM
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This is probably the longest shortest TR yet. And you haven't gotten where you are going.

Suggestions for the shortest Tr's.

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Old Jul 1st, 2013, 06:45 AM
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YIKES! What a way to start off a trip.
I sure hope you have better luck as your travels progress.
Think Gelato, Cappucinno, and wine---lots of wine!
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Old Jul 1st, 2013, 06:59 AM
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You're in Toronto on Canada Day.
I know it was completely unplanned but if it hadn't been, could have made some arrangement to show you around our fair city for a couple of hours on our National Day before heading off to family commitments.

Oh well, best wishes on the rest of the trip and looking forward to updates.
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Old Jul 1st, 2013, 01:56 PM
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Yes!!!!! We are, as I write this, holed up in the Maple leaf lounge on Pearson's international concourse. The place is packed and I really WISH everyone who ever asked THE question, "What should I wear?" could be forced to sit here and observe. Everthing from flip flops to fedoras and t-shirts to shorts...LOTS of shorts but we know those will never ever appear on the streets of foreign lands...yeah sure they won't.

As to it being Canada Day, I notice in today's "Globe and Mail" on page 5 there is a picture of the Canadian flag being presented UPSIDE DOWN by the Marine Corps color guard at game 2 of the World Series back in 1992 in Atlanta. I mean talk about holding a grudge LOL...

We are blessed at the moment with overcast skies and no anticipated storm delays.

I will endeavor to write from Florence tomorrow and will let you know if the room actually was ready upon arrival.
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Old Jul 2nd, 2013, 01:31 PM
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Florence at last!

The Air Canada flight over was smooth and basically uneventful. Managed to get a little sleep on the way. Basically an on-time arrival at FCO which was pretty much quiet at 10:30 AM since most other flights from "overseas" seem to have arrived. Passport Control took less than one minute since there were very few "non-EU" citizens going through. The EU line was full of a couple of groups of what appeared to be student tour groups.

Found an ATM in the baggage claim area; the machine isn't nearly as prominent as are the various and several change bureau booths. Got cash without problems and headed to the train station. Bought tickets from the manned ticket booth; validation machines not working but "conductor" on the train said no worries.

The Roman suburbs the train passes through are the usual high density building blocks with laundry on the balconies in many instances; those awnings pulled down or shutters closed to keep out the oppressive heat. Homes of "the locals" many seem actually not destined to ever meet much less get to know.

Termini was the usual swirl of humanity. Had been told the airport train comes in "a long way" or some have said "a ten-minute walk" from the more main part of the station. Make that about three-four minutes max.

Found the ticket machines and yes there was somebody helping the man at the machine next to mine and then the somewhat awkward "and now the money for helping you" scene.

I had enough trouble of my own since at first I picked an offer which included a free seat for a child!!! Started over and bought tickets. This machine only took debit cards but mine worked and I had used it earlier to get that cash out at the airport.

We did the usual wait until the train departure track shows up on the electronic board routine and then joined the mass migration to the correct platform.

The train a Frecciargento had plenty of people; traveled in First which was full at least in our car (one of two First carriages). Usual smooth ride and the complimentary drink from the trolley rolled dowwn the aisle. I had two of what the Italians call a "cup" of coffee which is more like a shot glass because at this point I needed some caffeine to stay awake.

For all the luggage questioners: there were two racks mid-car for luggage; plenty of room between seats also at the end of the cars and in the racks above which were pretty empty.

I'm glad we each had only an expandable carry-on rollaboard and backpacks. I haven't checked what the temp was in Rome but it was hot there and just as hot in Florence. Santa Maria Novella station seems almost like an outpost in nowehere compared to Termini but even here those crowds can seem intimidating.

The Hotel L'Orologio faces the SMN church "piazza" and although some have commplained it can be difficult to find because of lack of signage I had read a previous report here and the poster had very graciously given me specific directions so we had no problem. It is no more than 5 minutes from the station.

And YES!!! the room was not only ready but we also received a complimentary upgrade. We are on the top floor (some have said because the breakfast room is also up here it can be noisy but we are down the hall and around the corner from that...will know tomorrow morning).

Our room has two levels with the actual bedroom being a stair flight above the sitting room below where the bathroom is located (tub, shower, bidet, lots of marble, hige mirror); bedroom has a king and an adjoining terrace with a view of the Duomo.

Good air conditioning and great reading lights.

Took a nap and then walked around this evening around 9PM in the cool of the evening.

Let me make my usual comment on clothing here.

Who are these people who tell you there are no shorts being worn in Europe? Or no jeans? I've seen more shorts being worn on this trip than I remember from the past and for the men there is every length including plenty of 3/4's. T-shirts and polos abound; younger women in some shorts; very VERY casual clothing as expected.

Walked over to the Duomo which looked wonderful in the fading sunlight. Husbear had the first gelato of this trip; I, of course, the absolute sucked for men's Italian shoes since they are about the only kind of dress shoes I wear anymore was glued to several windows; abolute "steals" at 450 Euros...and UP. The question is can I escape this city without buying any.

Wandered over to the nearby piazza in front of the Savoy Hotel where there is a carousel set up; someone playing an instrument and singing; those pricey but enticing restaurants; lots of folks eating late; just being here is nice.

And the latest "gadget" (I say latest because I haven't been over for more than a year) is this lighted parachute
-like device which you launch with a rubber band and then it floats down. I am not sure what the price is but the kids are hawking them everywhere: in front of the Duomo; in front of the Savoy; in the piazza out front of the hotel where they have fenced off the roses but the dogs are peeing on them anyway..but at least nobody seems to be trampling or picking the blooms.

I asked earlier would we find things "to do" here having been so many times before. The answer: yeah just being here is somehow gratifying enough what with the architecture alone.

More to come...
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Old Jul 2nd, 2013, 02:18 PM
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Glad you made it, Dukey!!

Here are a few ideas for less-visited sights in Florence:

I think the scaffolding tours at the Basilica di Santa Croce are still being offered, although restoration of the Gaddi fresco cycle was completed last year.

Palazzo Davanzati
Wealthy merchant class housing in 14th-16th Century Florence. General admission covers lower floors; guided tour of upper floors requires reservation.

Opificio delle Pietre Dure
The small museum within the workshop displays beautiful inlays of stone and semi-precious gems/stones.

This month, at the Gallery of Modern Art in the Pitti, you can visit the apartment of Duchess of Aosta, the last "resident" of the palace. The apartment arrangement is based on a 1911 inventory. No reservations required, but there are two entries on Tuesday afternoons only. [Italian only, but Google will do a good translation]

The Koffeehaus in the Boboli Gardens has re-opened, but I don't think there is meal/beverage service as before. [again, Italian only]

There are "Aperitif for Art" after-hour events at the Accademia (Wednesdays) and the Uffizi (Thursdays). 15 euros per person, reservations required.

Have a great time in Florence!
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Old Jul 2nd, 2013, 02:34 PM
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Good to hear you have finally made it. Keep the news coming....
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Old Jul 2nd, 2013, 03:04 PM
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thank you for those recommendations. First thing i have to do tmorrow is buy a power adaptor since somehow we left all ours at home. The hotelent me one which I am using and there is a storre near the Medici Tombs which apparently sells them (I can only anticipate the price for my really stupid oversight) so your recs other than my thoughts earlier of visitng, finally, the Pitti are extremely welcome and much appreciated,
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Old Jul 2nd, 2013, 03:21 PM
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I do believe the shortest trip report ever was David West's 'Breakfast, beer, bath, bed, bonk'.
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Old Jul 2nd, 2013, 05:14 PM
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Our Travelguard insurance reimbursed us for the sites/tours we missed (and obviously had paid for in advance) because of our canceled flight in 2011. Have a spectacular trip! Italy....sigh....Germany, can't wait to hear where you will be. Safe travels!
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Old Jul 2nd, 2013, 05:57 PM
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Duke- glad to hear things are working out well. A bit of experience re the adapter-

"First thing i have to do tmorrow is buy a power adaptor since somehow we left all ours at home. The hotelent me one which I am using and there is a storre near the Medici Tombs which apparently sells them (I can only anticipate the price for my really stupid oversight) so your recs other than my thoughts earlier of visitng, finally, the Pitti are extremely
welcome and much appreciated,..."

Offer to buy the power adapter loaned to you by the hotel. It may be cheaper than buying one from another source, you know it works, and you don't waste time hunting down the store.

I did this in a hotel in Heidelberg one year and still have the power adapter...

Looking forward to the rest of your TR-

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