The Adventure Begins

Thursday April 24/14. 

At last after a fairly hectic few days we are at the start of our journey.  To get to Como from Wellington we have three flights.  Wellington/Auckland – hour; Auckland/Hong Kong – 12 hours and Hong Kong/Malpensa, Madrid – 13 hours.  This is  followed by a 40 minute car ride to Como.

The adventure is just beginning and a charming young Asian steward brought a glass of champagne before the plane took off.  Then the purser appeared with a beautifully produced menu for lunch.  I chose salmon with apple and wasabi mayonnaise salad, followed by stir fried prawns with XO sauce, jasmine rice and vegetables.  Delicious.  But before lunch the same young Asian man brought me a perfectly mixed Bloody Marycomplete with a small bottle of Tobasco sauce as he didn’t know how much to put into the drink.

We had fully flat beds and after such an early start they looked very appealing.

It is a few years since I was last in Hong Kong and the changes to that airport are amazing,

And the Cathay Pacific lounge has to be seen to be believed.  It is without a doubt the most beautiful airline lounge I have been in.  Carrara marble on every surface and while that sounds awful it was absolutely beautiful.  They call this lounge The Bridge as it bridges two areas each complete with bars and cafes with every type of food imaginable.  But who really wants to eat after a 13 hour flight?  We had some broth and a cup of coffee.

We had four hours wait in this fabulous lounge.  And even at 12 midnight the shops were open offering high class goods.

Friday April 25

Then it was time for the next leg of our journey.  This time I slept most of the way – all through dinner and the next round of snacks.  It is great to be able to stretch out in full length beds and sleep the hours away.  Breakfast was served and suddenly we were beginning our descent into Malpensa.

Our friends were at the airport to meet us and drive us to their home for a few days rest and recuperation after our long flight.

In Italy April 25 is a public holiday – Liberation Day.  It marks the fall of Mussolini’s Italian Social Republic and the end of the Nazi occupation in Italy in 1945, towards the end of the second World War.   This is also a public holiday in New Zealand – ANZAC Day.  It commemorates the landing of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) at Gallipoli, Turkey, during World War I in 1915. This event, also observed in Australia, remembers all New Zealanders who served their country in wars and conflicts. Links to posts written for Anzac Day 2011, 2012 and 2013 are at the end of this missive.

As everybody was on holiday the whole family came for lunch on a glorious spring day.  Small children, adult children and their spouses all gave us a great welcome to Italy. It was such a lovely spring day that we ate outside in the gazebo. But once the family went home, we retired to our beds for a welcome siesta.

Saturday April 26

Another lovely warm spring day and so after breakfast we went into Como to parade around, look at the lake and do some people watching.  But first our host had to have coffee.  What a beautiful old city this is.  The church, duomo, is 12th Century and we decided against going into it as there were so many people around.  Instead we chose to just wander around for several hours.

Then back to our hosts’ house for another siesta.  We were becoming very used to this custom by now.

Sunday April 27

All the family came to lunch again.  As it rained heavily we were all in the house and the children became a trifle grumpy as they couldn’t get out to play.

Monday April 28

Today it rained as if it would never stop.  Typical spring weather in Italy we are told.  good friends of our hosts came for lunch which went on well into the afternoon following which we had another siesta.

Tuesday April 29

A wet start to the day but it improved to hot sunshine later.  We went into Como for the necessary espresso and to acquire Italian sim cards for our phones.  But we didn’t have our passports with us and so we had to go back home to retrieve them.

We did some window shopping, bought another suitcase and had lunch in a restaurant atop a four story building affording fantastic views of both the duomo and the lake.

Buying sim cards and a usb for the internet proved to be more difficult than we expected.  Vodafone would not take a credit card or cash for the usb and after trying several of our cards our host came to the party with an cash card to pay for the connection.  With the difficulty of language, their not taking our credit cards or cash this transaction took over an hour.  So we were all pleased to find somewhere for coffee and then go home again.

“The traveler sees what he sees.
The tourist sees what he has come to see.”
― G.K. Chesterton

Links to ANZAC Day Posts

 

Tie a Yellow Ribbon

The siren call of home has sounded and each day it is getting   louder.  It is now 10 weeks since I kissed my family and special friend goodbye at Wellington airport and set off on this adventure.  And what an adventure it has been.

Wellington August 2013 040

First I visited my sister in London and we did things that sisters would do if they saw each other on a regular basis.  We don’t but we make up for it when we do meet.  We visited family, and aged aunt with Alzheimer’s (although we discovered she is only a few years older than us), cousins, nieces and a special blogging buddy in Oxford.

Sisters

Originally our plans were to both go to Florence, hut these plans were dashed when my sister had to have a series of tests after suffering what was thought could be a heart attack.  She wasn’t allowed to fly so I went on my own.

I felt rather shaky on the day I left London.  I was going off alone to a country where I knew nobody and didn’t speak the language.  But what a great time I had there.  I found my way around very easily and quickly felt at home in this wonderful city.  Paris is described a the City of Light but for me now Florence will always have that soubriquet.

I discovered all the wonderful buildings and artwork that I had read about so many times in the past but I also discovered the back streets where lesser known wonders were housed.  I discovered the joys/benefits of living in an apartment in a suburb as opposed to living in a five-star hotel in the centre of town.  And there is a certain freedom in being somewhere where one is not known and one knows no-one.

I have waxed on and on about the wonders of this now my favourite city in earlier posts and so wont bore you here, but if you have missed them or if you are a new reader of this blog please click here to read of my adventures.

Il Duomo

Click the photo to read some of the posts on my visit to Florence

After almost three weeks the call of family and home was becoming stronger and so I left Florence and went back to London to decide on the next leg of this journey/adventure/experience.  The decision was made that I should return home and resume normal life albeit slightly differently because now my partner and I have decided we want to spend the rest of our lives together.  So another chapter in this long and colourful life is beginning.

Wellington city and harbour.

Wellington City and harbour. Via Wikipedia

Changes to the airline ticket have been made and I am now going home on Saturday 2 November – that’s only “four more sleeps” and I am getting excited about seeing family and friends again. Oh I shall miss my sister,the interaction, laughs,stories and jokes but it is time for normal service to be resumed.

China Southern Airlines

Because of the mix up on the way to London the airline has upgraded me to First Class travel home.  I another reason to be looking forward to Saturday.  I am looking forward to it.

So I will be off-line for a few days, but watch this space.

“Is it possible for home to be a person and
not a place?”
Stephanie Perkins,  American author

Florence Days 14 and 15

“it is a serious thing just to be alive
on this fresh morning in this broken world.”
Mary Oliver American poet 1935 -

Day 14

Today was the day for Sienna (note the Italians spell this place Siena).  The train duly arrived and left on time.  Quite a change from the last abortive effort of going to Sienna.

On the train I met a delightful American couple from Stockton, California.  Talking with them made what could have been an uninteresting train ride through uninteresting countryside, interesting.  They were both retired, he a statistician and she a school teacher.  It’s great to talk and share with people  you meet while on vacation.  They had been the victims of a pick pocket on the railway station at Rome and so he had lost his wallet and his phone..We joked that now she had him in her power; she had the money and the access to the rest of the world.  At the end of the journey we went our separate ways having exchanged names addresses and phone numbers in case we ever found ourselves near to each others homes in the future.  Stranger things have happened in  my life.View from the stationThe train from Firenze arrives at the station in Siena on a level well down the hillside and to get to the exit we had to climb about ten sets of escalators and travelators.  I thought we would never get there.

Then my guide book had told me which buses I could get into the centre of the town but not which direction.  So I approached a woman getting out of her car.  “Scusi Senora.  Parla Inglesa?” to which she replied “Yes I do”.  So she pointed me to the nearest bus stop and told me which bus to get on.

At the bus stop I met a couple from Sydney, Australia ho were at the end of an 8 week holiday.  The bus duly arrived and we got on it and were taken to the centre.  After a few more scusis to different people I found my way to the square.

The Square

Il Campi 1

Il Campo, the square, spreads out in front of the Gothic Town Hall with a fountain at its tip. As it was Sunday the crowds were everywhere, talking in a variety of languages, laughing, eating and having fun.  A group of young people were playing a game the rules of which seemed to be known only to them, shrieking and laughing and really enjoying themselves.  All around Il Campo are restaurants with outside seating, souvenir shops and also specialty shops.

Diners around the square

Panforte shop

One of the delicacies particular to Siena is Panforte* and I discovered a little shop selling this sweet among other Tuscan delights.  I asked for a piccolo piece and the kind lady sliced me off a sliver and refused payment;  I walked out with my foil wrapped sweet which I ate as I wandered the streets of this quaint town.  Of course, I went back and bought this larger piece.

Panforte

I decided that I didn’t want to visit any museums and so just strolled around people watching and enjoying myself.

Pizza for lunch

Pizza for lunch and

Lunch finished!

Lunch finished!

Another late lunch found me having a huge pizza at one of the outdoor cafes ringing the square –Quatro Stagioni (Four Seaons) Pomodoro formaggio, jambon cuit, champignons, artichaut e olives (or cheese, ham, tomatoes mushrooms, artichokes and olives).  I am really no great lover of pizza but when in Rome etc.  It was enormous and I managed to eat only half.  My grandsons would have been sorely tried with a pizza this size.

Harvest Festival

I saw a display of locally grown vegetables and fruits – I think it was a group of local growers.  This display attracted a lot of interest.

Museo Civico

Museo Civico

Apparently this building is considered one of the most beautiful in Tuscany.

Then it was time to head back to the station but on the way I passed the Post Office.

Post Offce Siena

This time at the bus stop I encountered a man with his wife and her friend and husband.   The man was German and they all live in Canada but he and his wife have a house in the hills locally.  As they spend a considerable amount of time here he was able to tell me which bus to get to the station , having first shown me how to purchase the bus ticket from the machine. He then kept us entertained with his laughter and story telling not only until the bus came but also all te way to the station.

I arrived back with plenty of time to catch the train back to Florence.  And what a surprise when my American friends came into the carriage.  So we spent the return journey learning more about each others lives.

And at last, the train pulled into the station in Florence, we said our goodbyes again and went off they to their hotel in Florence and me to the apartment.  Another long (10 hours) day and so once I arrived home I had a shower, a banana and a cup of tea and after a short Skype call to New Zealand I called it a day and took myself off to bed..

Notes:
*Panforte is a traditional Italian dessert containing fruits and nuts, and resembles fruitcake It may date back to 13th century in Siena.

2. According to my guide book and my friend in New Zealand Siena is famous for its horse race.  This takes place twice a year and lasts just 90 seconds,  This race around the square has been held since the 13th century.  Originally it took the form of a bareback race the length of the city but from the 17th century it has been run around the square.

Day 15

Rain on leaves

I awoke this morning to the sound of heavy rain and thunder and lightning, so it made the decision of what to do today very simple.  I would stay inside.  This is one of the benefits of being in an apartment rather than a hotel.  One can lounge around all day if one wants.

The downside of the bad weather was that the internet, never the most reliable here in Florence, was down for a part of the day.  So the Skype call was not very successful and writing my blog had to be put off in favour of reading.  Oh dear – how sad is that.

Lunch today was made of things already in the apartment, served and eaten on the coffee table as I was reading.

French brie, cracker, banana and apple,

French Brie, cracker, banana and apple

The rain did let up in the middle of the afternoon and I thought I should take myself out for a breath of fresh air and a wander around the neighbourhood.

Local Pet Supermarket

I just had to go to take some photos -I’ve never seen such a large pet shop

Pets accessories

This is about one-third of the wall with toys for pets

Florence Day 15 008

A large cage with bright colourful birds

Sexy shop

Wasn’t game to go and see what they sold in this shop

Dinner - salad, eggs, and smoked salmon

Dinner – salad, eggs, and smoked salmon

And I just love the Brie made in France.  It is so much better than the Brie made in NZ.  I have been eating it all day, with crackers for breakfast, with fruit for lunch and with coffee after dinner.

Brie Made in France

And as Marcel Proust said:
“My destination is no longer a place,
rather a new way of seeing.”

I am most definitely discovering a new way of seeing – beautiful objects, buildings and art, and lovely interesting people.

 

Florence Days 10 and 11

“Oh to be in Florence now that October’s here”
With apologies to Robert Browning
(Home Thoughts From Abroad)

Michelangelo

I have had without any doubt, the most magical day here in Florence.  It started as usual, call from NZ, tepid shower followed by macchiato and brioche at my favourite local pasticerria, I had no real plans for the day so I jumped on a bus and went into town.  I walked through the station and checked out trains to Sienna.  They leave at ten minutes past the hour every hour.  So then I checked out how to buy a ticket from the automatic machines and so I am all set for when I decide to go there.

Then ambling out of the station I saw a big red double-decker City Sightseeing bus.  For just 20 Euros you can have a day sightseeing, jumping on and off as many times as you like.  This seemed like a good idea and so I bought a ticket and hopped on.  There is a constant commentary about the tour giving you advice on which stops to get off to see particular attractions.

Piazza Michelangelo

I stayed on until we reached Piazzale Michelangelo.  I was totally amazed/blown away/awe-struck at the sight that confronted me.  Spread out before me was Florence and from this high vantage point it all looked like Lilliput but clearly defined, and with the Tuscan countryside spreading out behind it like a theatrical backdrop.

Il DuomoDistant viewPonte Vechio from Piazza MichelangeloFlorence3

Of course I took scads of photos to bore everyone with when I eventually get home; but oh, it was a truly wondrous sight.

Lunch

Lunch today was taken at a table overlooking the Duomo and all of Florence.  I ordered a Pizza e funghi (mushroom pizza) e acqua frizzante (sparkling water).  And as I sat in the sunshine looking at that view I experienced one of those rare moments of pure joy, knowing I was exactly where I was meant to be at that particular moment in time. My pizza and water tasted like manna from heaven  because of that.

Lunch

Signora enjoying wine and nibbles in the sunshine

Sitting there in the sunshine soaking up the sights of this most magical city and the sounds of the many different tongues, it wouldn’t be too fanciful to say that I was drunk with life without ever having had a glass of wine.

Road to the Forte

After a time I tore myself away from this place that will from now on be my favourite place in Florence and got on the bus.  But this was not the tourist bus but a regular one.  I got off at the stop for Forte Belvedere.  There was a sign to walk to the Forte so I set off.  This led me down a narrow street lined on each side with large houses protected behind high gates.  The road was hardly wide enough for a car to pass me without hitting me.  So I walked and walked in the hot sunshine but nobody told me that the Forte was closed while they dismantled an exhibition.  “L’Anima e la Materia/Soul and Matter” is the largest exhibition ever organised in Italy for the Chinese artist Zhang Huan. The exhibition closed on the 13 October.  So I walked on and found the Bardini Mansion and Gardens.

Florence Day 10 064

Villa Bardini Gardens

Villa Bardini Gardens

View from the terrace Villa Bardini

View from the terrace Villa Bardini

There as an exhibition “The Renaissance from Florence to Paris and back” described as “Treasures of the Jacuemart-Andre Museum return home.  The treasures were housed in three rooms of this palatial  villa and included works by Botticelli, Donatello, Mantegna and Paolo Uccello.  How lucky was I to be here in Florence at this time.  The exhibition closes at the end of the year.

Monopoly Italian style

Monopoly Italian style

When I peeped into another room I saw this game of Monopoly all set up and ready to go.

From there I wandered into the Barboli Gardens but I must say that after the splendours of the Bardini, the gardens left me feeling rather flat.  And then the battery ran out in the camera.  I had forgotten to recharge it the night before.  So no more pictures today.

I left the Gardens and hopped onto yet another bus.  I must say that I am getting very confident about bus travel here in Florence.  When I got off the bus I saw that the sightseeing bus was pulling to a stop and as I hadn’t gone all the way around I thought I would jump on it.   And this was a bonus.  I hadn’t realised that there were three different routes the buses took and I was on the one that went through Florence and up to the little hillside village of Fiesole.

Fiesle ampitheatre

via Wikipedia

This charming little village overlooking Florence predates Florence by some eight centuries; it was an Etruscan city well before the Romans colonised the city. In the 19th century it was a favourite haunt of many Upper Class English people including the poets Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

We stopped only for 15 minutes so no time to inspect the Roman Ampitheatre or the Cathedral which we are told, has its own dome.  Really will try to get back there again before I leave.

And so once again being deposited at the station, I found my weary way back to the apartment at the end of a lovely day – one that will stay with me for many years I am sure.

And apologies, I was so tired after being out for 8 hours that I typed half this blog, fell asleep and had to finish it today.

____________

Day 11

After all the excitement of yesterday I decided to have a quiet day today.

My day started with a long Skype conversation – don’t you just love Skype and then I had my usual tepid shower.

I gave up battling with the darned washing machine.  I don’t know how that woman made it work but I can’t, so the washing was done by hand and is drying on a drying stand.

I can’t resist going into the centre of town and so I did so and wandered around the streets that are becoming so familiar to me now.  I did some people watching and listening to.  How fascinating when one really can’t understand what is being said, but often from the inflections and the hand movements one can make a pretty good guess.

Not so many people queuing to get into the Dome

Not so many people queuing to get into the Dome of the Duomo

Something that I became aware of early in my stay was the attention paid to window displays and the interior of some shops

Beautifully dressed window

inside shop

Shop interior

By this time it was around 3 pm so lunch was called for.  I found a little restaurant in one of the streets leading from the Piazza Duomo called Buca Niccolini.  Here I ordered Gnocchi ai quartro formaggi (gnocchi with four cheeses)  The gnocchi which my hostess assured me was “Fatta en cassa” or homemade, was fabulous.

Gnocchi ith four cheeses

I left the restaurant t0 make my way to the stazzione when I saw this

Bride and groomSuch a beautiful young couple with their whole lives in front of them.  I wished them “Una vita felice e auguri” a happy life and best wishes even though it was not said out loud.

So that rounded off another day in this wonderful city.

“In the end, only three things matter:
how much you loved,
how gently you lived,
and how gracefully you let go
of things not meant for you.”
-Buddha

Florence Day 9

Workmen have left

I awoke this morning to the sounds of silence from the street.  The workmen have gone.  All that remains are the barricades to stop people driving on the newly laid tarmacadam.

So after the call from NZ and shower I was ready to begin another day in this most fabulous city.  After my usual breakfast I took the bus into town, but again I had jumped on the wrong bus.  I realised this shortly after I got on but with my new-found confidence, I got off  and found my way to connect to the correct bus.

A different bus stop

View from the new bus stop

For several days now I have been going to the Ponte Vecchio but each day I have become waylaid by all the wonders around me.  Today was to be the day, but first I wandered around the streets again

More door knobs

More door knobs

Entrance bells

Entrance bells

Peep of anither spire

Peep of another spire

More door knockers

More door knockers

until I found a little restaurant/bar in which to have lunch.

Spag bol Italian style!

Spag bol Italian style!

Then I decided to get real so I took a cab to the Ponte Vecchio.  The bridge is fascinating and was more crowded than any piazza in which I had already been in Florence.

River Arno from Ponte Vecchio

River Arno from Ponte Vecchio

Mask in shop window

Mask in shop window

A Display of masks inside the shop

A Display of masks inside the shop

Shops full of the real thing - bling

Shops on the bridge sell only gold and fine jewellery. The real bling

Houses along the River ArnoHouses along the River Arno

Houses on the Arno

More houses on the river bank

River Arno rom Ponte Vechio

River Arno from Ponte Vecchio

Vehicles drive through this arch

Vehicles drive through this arch

Plaque  on hotel wall

Plaque on hotel wall

Plaque

Plaque depicting Virgin and child

Side street at Ponte Vecchio

Interesting – side street leading where?

Busy crossing

Busy crossing

So many sights, so many people, so much activity, it is almost overwhelming.  But around every corner there is yet another wonder to behold.
As Mark Twain said
“The Creator made Italy from designs by Michaelangelo.”

And just for fun, this is how I feel after another busy day being a tourist in Florence

Tired panda

Sightseeing is so very tiring!

 

Florence Days 6 and 7

Apologies, after another long day I as too tired to write my blog yesterday so am combining the two days here.

Day 6 – Saturday

After the usual call from New Zealand I decided to have an easy day here and so didn’t leave the apartment until after 12 noon.  I got my usual greetings from the girls in the  passticerria “Ciao.  Come sta?” And “macchiato e brioche” I settled down for breakfast.

There was a different group of people there yesterday.  Locals obviously enjoying an easy start to the weekend.  A few acknowledged me with a smile and an occasional “Ciao” to which I bravely responded “Ciao”.

Then the bus, but horrors I was on the wrong bus.  The driver assured me he was going to the stazione but when the bus took a different turn, I was sure he was going to some other stazione.  But it turned out well because it stopped at the other side of the main station so I knew where I was after all.Queues at the DuomoA wander around the now familiar streets and I came to the Duomo.  The crowds here today were unbelievable; even the Cathedral itself (not the Dome or the Campanile) had a very long queue so I was glad that I had already visited it earlier in the week.

The plan had been to go to the Ponte Vecchio but what do we know about the best laid plans.  I ended up in a warren of little streets, each one holding a treasure for me.

Door decration

Door handlesDoors with fascinating door handles

School Leonardo da Vincithe School of Leonardo da Vinci

Floremce Day 6 005a Salumi (charcuterie)

Floremce Day 6 007and the same shop inside

Floremce Day 6 020

Shop InteriorA beautiful little shop full of magical smells and beautiful things

Panelled doorrA screen that I think was of beaten gold leaf

All these wonders were laid out for my edification.

Restaurant

I found a pizzeria in a back street, Gusto Leo where I had the most enormous calzone – prosciutto e funghi e mozzarella (ham, mushrooms and mozzarella) and acqua frizzante (sparkling water).  How the vocabulary is improving if only so that I can order food!

Lunch

Then refreshed and replete, I wandered on to the Mercato Nuovo (New Market).  A market has existed here since the 11th century, and the “new” current arcade was built in the mid 16th century for the sale of silk and gold.  Now it is mostly sales of leather goods, and I was agog at what was on offer.  Beautiful Italian leather goods, purses, wallets and bags that would make one want to throw out everything they had and start again.  It is possible to buy good leather articles from the market vendors but the products in these shops are beautifully displayed and demand one goes in if even only to touch and look.

Then having bought a few things for gits to take home to family and friends, I got the usual bus back.  But this time, because of the crush of people on the bus the doors closed before I could get off and I was taken to the next stop.  Cries of Basta! Basta! brought no reaction from the driver.

Fortunately, it was a straight and short step back to the area I know.  But there is an upside to this – I found a very large pet shop – large as the local supermarket here – where I found a new red collar for the Beautiful Miss Bella adorned with bling.  Italians seem to be overly fond of their animals.  The entry floor to this shop was filled with rows of different animal food and down below there was all manner of accessories for your pet, aquaria with and without inhabitants, and anything you could want for four-legged or swimming and slithering beings.

So to Day 7 – Sunday

An even later start to this day.  I awoke around 8 am.  The building was quiet; no voices from other apartments and no road works outside.  But it looks as if the serious work is about to begin with these road rollers sitting waiting to be used.

Road rollers

I decided to have an easy day so after a Skype call from home and another tepid shower I started the day with my usual call into the  passticerria but as it was now well after breakfast time instead of a brioche I had a lovely apple turnover.  The pastry was so light it almost melted in one’s mouth.  What a good way to start the day – an apple pastry and a macchiato.

Breakfast

I wandered aimlessly today, people watching and window shopping.  The crowds had increased yet again and so there was a panoply of languages to assail the ears.  I heard a few words of English but not many,  And the lyrical Italian was all around me – definitely music to the ears.

I found the Leonardo da Vinci Museum in a little unimposing building in a side street.  Here were replicas of da Vinci’s working models.  Unfortunately WordPress is now having a hissy fit and I can’t upload any more photos at present.  So I am sorry words will have to do.

Amongst the models was one of a printing press, an armored tank, an olive press, an air screw, a paddle boat and a study of a flying machine.  Incredible when one remembers that this was in the 15th Century.

I discovered more interesting door handles, peeps of church spires at the end of small streets, lovely buildings that bear no notification of what they are and of course, more statues.  And street art is everywhere, a few beggars and people trailing small dogs with them.

Another walk through the market and then the bus ride back to the apartment and another busy day in this magical city came to an end.

 

 

 

Florence Day 5

Well I don’t know what the workmen were digging towards but the reverberations made the apartment shake at 7 am .  A rather rude awakening.

I started the day early with a Skype call during which I talked to my partner’s two little granddaughters.  They were agog to see me and when he showed them where I m on the globe  they were even more amazed.  But as they grow older they will take these modern miracles of technology for granted.

I decided that I wouldn’t go into the city today and instead would wander around this neighbourhood to see what it is like.  So I started off with the idea that before I left I would do the washing.  What a good idea except that I couldn’t get the machine to work..  A call on the next door neighbour was needed. The wife answered the door and came into the apartment, looked at the washing machine, shook her head and said something about her marito and supermercado  so I assumed she would send her husband in  when he returned from the supermarket.  Next a ring on the doorbell and Guilliano the husband appeared.  He is a large jovial fellow who went out to the shed that houses the laundry, fiddled with a few knobs and then I think he said he couldn’t make it work and would call Ornella the mother of the owner.  She was particularly unhelpful telling him to push the knob we had both been pushing.  So after molto grazie from me and prego from him he left.  Shortly thereafter the doorbell went again – turning out to be a busy morning.  There was the neighbour and his daughter Bette who spoke un po Inglesie.  So we trouped out again to the washing machine.  Bette pushed the knobs that we had, checked the water was connected and the electricity connected, shook her head and admitted failure.  So the outcome?  undies washed by hand in the hand basin in the bathroom.  Oh well they are now clean again.  And it really was like something out of a sitcom comedy – perhaps the Big Bang with Sheldon in charge.

Well after all that I needed a sit down and a cup of coffee.  So I didn’t get out until after lunch time to start exploring the neighbourhood.

Florence Day 5 017

I started with macchiato a usual but as it was after 1pm I didn’t have a brioche instead I had a Panini type sandwich.

Florence Day 5 013

Florence Day 5 004

Complete disregard for pedestrians

No parking's the same in any language I guess

No parking’s the same in any language I guess
The footpaths are in a shocking state of disrepair

The footpaths are in a shocking state of disrepair

Florence Day 5 009

Some really grand buildings-now converted into apartments

Some really grand buildings-now converted into apartments

Florence Day 5 014

A smart homeware shop – the only shop in the street. Unfortunately, it was closed for the siesta.

 

And another buildingAnother nice building

Bikes and more bikes

Bikes and more bikes

Auto shop 2

Auto shop

A repair shop around every corner

A repair shop around every corner

Another beauty shop

And almost as many beauty shops

Beauty shop

A bridal gown shop

A bridal gown shopFlorence Day 5 019

A car audio shop

A car audio shop

School of Music

School of Music

Florence Day 5 031

Supermarket

Supermarket

 

Florence Day 5 023

Woman was sitting in window watching the world go by

Woman was sitting in window watching the world go by

 

 

 

Tennis court inside dome

Tennis court inside dome

Roof o dome

Roof of dome

This was a fascinating way to spend a few hours just rambling around the district.

 

 

Florence Day 1

I arrived in Florence last night after a very easy Air France flight from London City Airport.  But the taxi stand has to be Florence’s best kept secret. However, I arrived at the apartment to be met by the owner’s mother who speaks not a word of English.  Somehow we managed particularly when I told her I really had to use the bathroom and then she showed me around this tiny apartment.  It is quite basic but does have a small patio area to use if this incessant rain ever stops.

We discovered we were both widows – she for 8 years and me for 15.  Then we trotted around the corner to meet ‘mia amica’ her friend who speaks English.  Unfortunately the friend is away for a few days so no joy.  We then went on a rapid walk around the area – there supermercado, here bakers, not café, here the daily market, here the auto bus.And then she introduced to me Juliano and Lori (?) the next door neighbours, gave me a quick lesson on opening the front door of the apartment, gathered up her two chihuahuas and left.  I decided to have an early night.  She had left me some grapes, tomatoes that I gather she had grown herself and some bottled water.  No electric jug and I didn’t fancy boiling water in a pot and then pouring it into the cup so made do with the water.  By the way she showed me how to light the gas but the lighter failed to light – run out of gas so I couldn’t have boiled a pot anyway.

So I took myself off to bed and slept for about 10 hours.  Didn’t know how tired I was.

This morning I set out for my first foray.  Luckily Ornello (I think that was her name) had introduced me to the neighbours because I couldn’t get out of the building.  There’s a complicated locking mechanism and so the wife showed me how to open the door.  I was heading for the supermercado.  I found it eventually, and am so pleased with myself – I bought coffee, ciabatta, butter, cheese and bananas.  Said a few scusis and grazies on the way.  Then across the road I espied another shop and here bought an electric jug and a lighter for the gas.  So I think I am all set.

Had fun and games with the internet, but eventually it is up and running.  So my Florence adventure is really starting.

It does seem strange to be in a country where I know no one and don’t speak the language.  Rather daunting actually.

Duomo 2

via Wikipedia

Tomorrow I am going to the Duomo – the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore and I propose to take the autobus.  But first I have to buy a ticket for the bus.  Apparently these are sold in many shops so I have been practising saying “Autobus biglletto per favor.”  Watch this space to see how I get on.

 

Guide to Hiring Women

A friend copied this and passed it on to me as he thought I might get a laugh from reading it.  I hope you will too.

This purports to be from the July 1943 issue of Mass Transportation Magazine written for male supervisors during the Second World War.

Eleven Tips on Getting More Efficiency Out of Women Employees

There’s no longer any question whether transit companies should hire women for jobs formerly held by men. The draft and manpower shortage has settled that point. The important things now are to select the most efficient women available and how to use them to the best advantage. Here are eleven helpful tips on the subject from western properties:

1. If you can get them, pick young married women. They have these advantages, according to the reports of western companies: they usually have more of a sense of responsibility than do their unmarried sisters; they’re less likely to be flirtatious; as a rule, they need the work or they wouldn’t be doing it — maybe a sick husband or one who’s in the army; they still have the pep and interest to work hard and to deal with the public efficiently.

2. When you have to use older women, try to get ones who have worked outside the home at some time in their lives. Most transportation companies have found that older women who have never contacted the public, have a hard time adapting themselves, are inclined to be cantankerous and fussy. It’s always well to impress upon older women the importance of friendliness and courtesy.

3. While there are exceptions, of course, to this rule, general experience indicates that “husky” girls — those who are just a little on the heavy side — are likely to be more even-tempered and efficient than their underweight sisters.

4. Retain a physician to give each woman you hire a special physical examination — one covering female conditions. This step not only protects the property against the possibilities of lawsuit but also reveals whether the employee-to-be has any female weaknesses which would make her mentally or physically unfit for the job. Transit companies that follow this practice report a surprising number of women turned down for nervous disorders.

5. In breaking in women who haven’t previously done outside work, stress at the outset the importance of time — the fact that a minute or two lost here and there makes serious inroads on schedules. Until this point is gotten across, service is likely to be slowed up.

6. Give the female employe in garage or office a definite day-long schedule of duties so that she’ll keep busy without bothering the management for instructions every few minutes. Numerous properties say that women make excellent workers when they have their jobs cut out for them but that they lack initiative in finding work themselves.

7. Whenever possible, let the inside employe change from one job to another at some time during the day. Women are inclined to be nervous and they’re happier with change.

8. Give every girl an adequate number of rest periods during the day. Companies that are already using large numbers of women stress the fact that you have to make some allowances for feminine psychology. A girl has more confidence and consequently is more efficient if she can keep her hair tidied, apply fresh lipstick and wash her hands several times a day.

9. Be tactful in issuing instructions or in making criticisms. Women are often sensitive; they can’t shrug off harsh words the way that men do. Never ridicule a woman — it breaks her spirit and cuts her efficiency.

10. Be reasonably considerate about using strong language around women. Even though a girl’s husband or father may swear vociferously, she’ll grow to dislike a place of business where she hears too much of this.

11. Get enough size variety in operator uniforms that each girl can have a proper fit. This point can’t be stressed too strongly as a means of keeping women happy, according to western properties.”
Was this really published in 1943?   We have seen many such items and I have fallen for some and have even blogged about them only to find out later that these claims were in fact not true.  While we know that in the 1940s women in the workplace were almost universally under valued and patronised we still find it hard to believe that such an item could be published in a recognised trade magazine

So I Googled our trusty friend snopes.com and found out that this was indeed written by L H Sanders and did  appear in the 1943 edition of the magazine that was widely circulated at the time.

Now look at the eleven hints – which is your favourite?  I can imagine the uproar that would ensue if any company considered hint 4.  And I do like hint 8 as I feel much more confidant if I can keep my hair tidied, apply fresh lipstick and wash my hands several times a day.

Discussion at the Hospice last week, from whence came this photocopy, centred around the various hints and hint 3 the “Husky girls” came out as top choice among the staff.

Women workers at war

Click here to read more about women at work during the 1940s.

I love you

Waterfall

“And as the water continues in its downhill rush over rocks
and the thoughts continue to tumble around in my brain
with no defined pattern or path,
they eventually find and settle into a safe place
and the void is suddenly filled
and my mind is active once again.”
Judith Baxter, Mother, grandmother, sister,
friend and blogger 1938 -

Yesterday was my very least favourite day on the calendar.  I don’t look forward to 22 April as this was the day in which my DYS (not so Dashing Young Scotsman) gave up the fight and slipped quietly away from us.  So it is a sad day for me and the rest of the family.  And it is now unbelievably 15 years since that awful black day.

But today is another day and I am back to my normal self.  So what have I been thinking?

Well had I not met my DYS on that fateful day way back in 1957 what would my life be like and where would I be living.

At the time we met I had a steady beau to whom I had become engaged the previous year; sorry John you had to move aside for my love.  But had I married him I would now be ensconced no doubt in the stock broker belt in Surrey.  No he wasn’t a stockbroker but many business men live in the area and commute to the City each day.  Although by now he would have retired so would not have had to make the daily trek into town any longer.

I might have been one of those wives who have never worked but who spend their lives on charity committees, on the golf course, playing bridge and being “a lady who lunches”.  Not that there is anything wrong in any of these things.  I have always been active on committees and since I have been on my own have played golf and bridge too.  But in my busy working days I had little time for being a lady who lunched.

My children would have had a different father, different experiences and so different outcomes in their lives.  Of course, they would have been different people too.

I probably would have had grandchildren, but not the four handsome young men I call my grandsons.

My daughter-in-law from heaven would not be in my life nor would my charming son-in-law.

No doubt I would have visited many places in the world but would not have lived anywhere but England.  As it is I have lived in England, Scotland, New Zealand and Canada.

Would I have had a better life?  I doubt that.  Would I have been more loved?  Certainly not.  Do I wish I had followed that path?  Decidedly not.  I am pleased with the decisions made and the road taken on that fateful day when according to my young sister I came home and announced that I had met the man I was going to marry.  I guess that caused some confusion in the family as I was already engaged.

That earlier engagement was celebrated with a big formal party.  About 100 people were invited and one of my abiding memories of that day was the two of us dancing to our tune “Too Young” sung by Nat King Cole,  being played on the gramophone (do you remember those).  Well yes we were too young.  We had become engaged at 18 without either of us having had much experience of the world.  So my deciding to break that engagement probably did as much for him as it did for me.

Mind you I often wonder what happened to that young man.  We did keep in contact for a few years until we moved to Scotland – he even attended our wedding and he and my DYS became firm friends.  But then he became one of those people who are in your life for a Reason, or a Season but not for a Lifetime.

My Lifetime person was the one I married.   And shortly before he died we found this lovely poem by W H Auden.  He told me he thought it was written for us.  I am happy to share it here.

“I’ll love you, dear, I’ll love you till China and Africa meet,
And the river jumps over the mountain
And the salmon sing in the street,
I’ll love you till the ocean
Is folded and hung up to dry
And the seven stars go squawking
Like geese about the sky.”
From “As I Walked Out One Evening” by W.H. Auden

And because it is another day, the rain has gone and the sun is trying to shine I am also sharing my rainbow with you.

Rainbow

My rainbow