May 2, 2011
It begins. Another rainy day in Seattle. Last minute chores. Last cuddles with OdinCat and a final visit with BusterBird. A side trip to the post office to pay my rent. The 10:15 AM bus to the Metro tunnel which I almost miss, the 10:45 Lightrail which whizzes past the Franz “Slice of White Bread” sign that always cracks me up. My longest sojourn away from home is now officially underway.
I’m glad I followed the extreme-sounding recommendation of allowing three hours for an international flight at SeaTac Airport. It felt like I spent half that time walking from the Lightrail station to the Lufthansa gate, which are at exact opposite ends of each other. The flight is completely booked and they are weighing bags for Economy passengers. Mine is too heavy for a carry on, so it is taken from me and checked. I am several gates away before I realize that the locks for my suitcase are still in my pocket…I am SO glad I repacked again last night, moving my train tickets and back up cash into my purse. I mentally inventory the contents of that bag and decide that a lost bag won’t be a calamity. I still have my netbook and can Google the stuff I need again I may be traveling much lighter than I had planned. Ever the pessimist, my mantra for today is: “what’s travel without a little stress…”
The in-flight movies seem a better diversion than my book, so I watch ‘TRON,’ which is nice eye candy but it is not Jeff Bridges’ best 1.5 hours. ‘The Tourist’ was really great and I was pleasantly surprised to see Sowel and Bettany, two of my favorite actors, in supporting roles. Bettany’s “Liechtenstein” line was a hilarious segue that you would only appreciate if you were familiar with his role as Chaucer in ‘Knight’s Tale.’
I catch about three hours of sleep on the Seattle to Frankfurt flight. I wake up at 3:30 AM to see a blue and purple pre-dawn sky above the rugged, icy expanse of the Arctic.
We land in Frankfurt at about 9 AM Tuesday. Oh Frankfurt, how I am learning to hate you. A full body frisk includes a visual peek down the front of my pants! The alarm was set off by the safety pin I used to secure my money belt, which had to be scanned separately. Bin Ladin may be dead but his legacy lives on.
I cannot get through this airport without leaving something behind. Last year it was jewelry. This trip it’s a water bottle and almost my camera and my hat. My shopping list now includes ‘things to intentionally leave in Frankfurt to appease the travel god…’
The flight to Florence is delayed, but neither the delay nor the change of gate is announced. I make a mad dash to the opposite end of the concourse to the new gate, happy now that I had to check my bag. It’s a short flight but there is significant turbulence during landing. Nauseous and disoriented, I have such difficulty finding the exit that a plain clothes police officer stops me and asks my nationality and purpose of my trip, but lets me pass without requesting my passport.
Finally finding the way outside, I find the bus that will take me to my B&B. “San Frediano?” I ask, and the driver nods, before taking off full speed on twisty roads that don’t seem to have any lanes, and which add to my queasiness. Fortunately, a fellow passenger tells me where my stop is after the driver fails to respond.
I get off the bus and walk up and down the street several times before I remember that in Florence, B&B’s don’t have signs, you have to look for a labeled doorbell. Finally I find one for S. Frediano. But its the wrong S. Friediano! I find the San Frediano Mansion Via Borgo further down the street, obscured by scaffolding
I’m surprised to find a lift here, just big enough for two people with a small suitcase each. Gigantic rolling American luggage will not do you any favors here. The lobby is exactly as shown on their website. My room has no ambiance or view but is adequate and has a small safe and a private bath. Downstairs, at the back of the building, through two immense leaded glass doors, lies a garden with a grape arbor over a bench, where I am sitting as I write this. Calla lilies and iris are blooming here already. The iron gate on the street side overlooks the Arno Fiume (Arno River).
I Love This City! It feels impossible get lost here. And unlike my last trip here where I stayed downtown, here I’m in the San Frediano neighborhood, surrounded by the churches of Santo Spirito, San Frediano and Santa Maria, and within a block of a pharmacy, two laundromats, a couple of convenience stores, and plenty of cheap eats. It’s lasagna for dinner, which has a texture more like pudding than the heavy pasta American version.
After dinner, I walk around until dusk, and then head back to my quiet room to review my sight seeing plan for the next day, and let dreams come as I drift off to sleep on this, the first day of my grand adventure…