Monday, February 17, 2014

Where's Dr Who when you need him?
February 1st 2014   We take an (eventful) trip to England.

We decided we would go to England to see some friends - Carol and Andrew in London, and Joan and Ross in Cleethorps, (up on the coast, north-east of London near the old Tioxide Grimsby plant). 

After some research on the web, we planned the following trip:

01. Saturday morning, taxi from apartment to Florence SMN railway station
02. train from Florence to Pisa Central
03. bus from Pisa station to Pisa Airport
04. plane from Pisa airport to London Gatwick
05. Gatwick express train from Gatwick to London Victoria Station
06. tube from Victoria Station to South Ealing

Saturday night with Andrew and Carol.
Sunday with Andrew and Carol, and Sunday evening with Jonathan.
Sunday night with Andrew and Carol.

07. Monday morning, tube from South Ealing to Kings Cross Station.
08. train from Kings Cross Station to Cleethorps

Monday evening through Wednesday morning with Ross, Joan and Martin

09. Wednesday morning, train from Cleethorps to Kings Cross Station.
10. tube from Kings Cross Station to South Ealing.

Wednesday evening with Andrew and Carol

11. Thursday morning, tube from South Ealing to Victoria Station.
12. Gatwick express train from Victoria Station to London Gatwick
13. plane from London Gatwick to Pisa airport
14. bus from Pisa Airport to Pisa central railway station
15. train from Pisa Central to Florence SMN station
16. taxi from Florence railway station to apartment.

All planned with my usual military-trained attention to detail!

The trip may look a bit complicated, but I had checked all the timetables, booked and paid for bus tickets, train tickets, and aeroplane tickets. Everything was in place.

We got up early on Saturday morning, packed the last of our bits and bobs, and caught the taxi to the station.

"Take the last train to Clarksville"
We found the train and hopped on. It was a "locale" train, which means we stopped at every station from Florence to Pisa, and would take about 90 minutes. But, I wasn't worried, because we had plenty of time. Otherwise, we would have taken a "Rapido" which goes direct from one major station to the next, missing out on smaller regional stations.

It was during this Step 2, about half an hour before arriving at Pisa railway station, that I realised something was wrong... 

Where was my passport? I couldn't find my passport.

I checked every place it might be. Pockets, hand luggage, hold luggage, manbag... everywhere. Nothing!

I knew I had packed it somewhere in my luggage this morning, but I couldn't find it anywhere. Su searched everything. I searched everything.  Su searched everything again. I searched everything again. Nothing!

Maybe I dropped it in the taxi? or, did I leave it in the apartment at the last moment? 

Nothing for it, we had to return to Florence and find it. I knew there was another flight the next day - we would be a day late, but at least, we would be able to continue with 90% of our plans intact.

Take the last train to Florence
So, we jumped on the first train back to Florence, very disappointed. It was about 10 minutes into the return journey when Su said "Did you check your around-the-neck travel wallet thingy?" 

Merde! I had completely forgotten that I'd decided to try one of those 'Around-the-neck' travel wallet things... and yes, the passport was there. I quickly calculated the timings - yes, if we got off at the next stop, grabbed the next train back to Pisa... Ripper!!


Ahh....  sorry, no you can't. A local traveller told us the next stop was Florence - this train was a "Rapido". 

So, using my smartphone (ownership of which I suspect I no longer qualify), I quickly determined that there were a couple of seats remaining on the next day's Easyjet flight, and booked them.

The next day, Sunday, felt a bit like Groundhog day.

Got up, got the taxi, caught the train, caught the bus, caught the flight, caught the Gatwick Express, caught the tube to South Ealing. No problems really.....

So, a very truncated visit to Carol and Andrew, but never mind, we would see them on Wednesday night. 
Kings cross Station

So we train-ed it the next morning, to Cleethorps.

Watch the birdie...
Great catching up with Ross and Joan, Martin and Sue... we had a lot of years to catch up on.

Then, we got news of a 48 hour tube strike in London. 3 million commuters were going to be fighting for buses and taxis, just as we were to arrive back in London, Wednesday evening. 
The calciner  Stack. All that's left of
the Tioxide Grimsy factory.

Luckily, the regional trains were unaffected and we returned to London uneventfully. What chaos in the centre of a city of 10 million people! 

The Picadilly line was completely cancelled - getting to South Ealing was going to be a nightmare. Even if we could get there, how confident were we, that we could successfully get back into the city centre the next morning, along with the other 3 million disgruntled commuters?

We had two time-interdependent, critical path events to meet - the Gatwick Express train and the Easyjet flight. 

I wasn't at all confident. So, not wanting a miss the return flight as well, we decided to stay in London and found a B&B  5 minutes walk from the station that Wednesday night. 
You're forced to aint ya!

Never mind, we'll see Andrew and Carol in Florence on the 16th of February when they come to visit us.

Lucky, Italy let us back into the country. 

Ahhhh. The joys of international travel.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Su's retrospective, continued...

January 6th 2014 - Bifana (She who sweeps away holidays)

Su Boyle
This photo was taken in a trattoria in the Piazza Pitti where the parade started on the 6th of January. 

This is an  important day here in Tuscany for children receiving gifts. The day of the Befana. There is a legend concerning her.
(Too long to recount - best to Google it!). 

Pick the wizened, old grumpy person - er, no.....
She is also known as the one who sweeps away all the holidays. 

She's a witch of course.

January 8th 2014

Have spent the last 2 weeks looking for another apartment and will move in a few days.

Then too we were busy enjoying ourselves with a visitor from Milan whom we hadn't seen for 3 years. We first met Su in 1986 when we went to her language school in Milan. Lots of walking talking dinners and the odd vino here and there! 

The Ponte Vecchio - the old bridge
Su's retrospective: December 28th 2013

An occasional series where we try valiantly try to catch up with events that seem to be unfolding too quickly....  The problem with this blog is that posts are plonked one on top of the other, like dinner plates in a stack. Any newcomer must read the blog from the bottom post to the top, which doesn't feel quite right - normally one reads from the top down to the bottom.... and if you want to add a comment that's a bit older, (a bit like wanting to insert a plate in the middle of the stack),  sorry, you can't!. You can only put it on the top.  Thus the retrospectives... read on.

Michael Franks Live with
Crossfire in Australia.1980
Having a G&T and listening to Michael Franks "Crossfire" album. So many memories from 1980 and beyond! 

We are looking for our next apartment which will provide all 'access-ments'! We spent 4 hours yesterday wandering the streets of Oltrarno (across the river Arno)

We really like this area away from main tourist places with more local bars and trattorias. Good lunch and wander back across the Ponte Vecchio an old bridge lined with jewellery shops. 

These are protected by ancient wooden shutters. l believe this was the only bridge not to be destroyed during the war by the retreating Germans

Here and there one can see bunches of padlocks with names on them. 

Young  couples lock them to the iron railings and throw the keys into the Arno river. Very romantic! And much nicer than the graffiti that is now fading!