Monthly Archives: October 2013

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 4

Well today started out as usual with a long Skype call from New Zealand, then a warm shower and out of the door for breakfast.

Florence Day 4 005

But before breakfast I had to remove the rubbish.  There is no rubbish collection and householders take their garbage to collection bins.  These are all around this suburb.  So recycling is alive and well in Florence.

Florence Day 3 2013 008

Then into my favourite place for breakfast.  This is the sight that greats one as one enters the premises.  Mouth watering to say the least.  But I stuck to my macchiato and brioche.

Then the bus into town.  Yesterday I was accosted by two separate people one to ask directions and the other for my signature on a petition against drugs.  This second girl/woman chattered away to me in Italian and when I told her “Non parlo Italiano” or I don’t speak Italian she then switched to English and told me that I looked like an Italian.  I think maybe that was a compliment; certainly when I look at the fashionable Italian women around this city.

And today on the autobus on the way to town I was asked the way to the Santa Maria Novella train station.  This was easy with a few pointed fingers particularly as it was almost exactly opposite where the bus stopped.  She spoke Italian and I understood her to say that she came from Poland and that she would like to visit New Zealand sometime.

Academie di belle arte

via Wikipedia

Then I set out for the Academie de Belle Arte.  This is of course where one finds the original David by Michael Angelo.  A gentle saunter through streets now becoming more recognisable to me, brought me to the Via Risoli and there at the end was the Academie.  But what a long queue confronted me and it was so long and so many people around that I have resorted to Wikipedia’s photo for this. The photos I took show only people queuing and once inside photography i forbidden.

David 2

This is the plaster copy of David that now stands in the square where the original stood for several centuries.

I decided to join a small group being shown around the Museum.  For E60 (gulp  that’s $NZ96/$US81) we went straight in by-passing the queues, had one and half hours with this delightful (pregnant) guide Lara to show us around and talk to us about the artworks, paintings and of course, David.

 

Florence Day 4 007

The traffic is fast and furious  Look out if you try to cross other than on a pedestrian crossing.  Drivers take no notice of the road rules.  They stop and double park wherever they choose.  This of course, makes it very difficult for the buses to get around corners, particularly the very long buses with the groin in the middle.  And cyclists I guess,  are the same the world over.  They appear to disregard any road rules, traffic lights or pedestrian crossings, and they are everywhere in this city.

But I did see this one guy arguing with the traffic warden as she was giving him a ticket.  Unfortunately my photo disappeared into the great blue yonder when I was downloading my camera today.

Florence Day 4 011

And then after David, I strolled through the square into a market that seemed to be completely filled with vendors of leather goods.  All beautiful of course.  After all this is Italy, and all competing for attention.  But I priced a couple fo items at several of the stalls and they were all the same price.

Florence Day 4 013

By this time it was well past three o’clock so  I decided to have lunch.  Not a great success.  The pasta was dry and the sauce lacked body but I was eating it in a pavement café in Florence.  How bad is that.

After that and another stroll through the almost familiar streets to the autobus stop at the stazzione for the ride back to the apartment.

I rounded off the day with a visit to the local supermercado.  That was quite an experience.  But easier this time than the first.

And now I am exhausted.  I was out for over six hours today, mostly on my feet so I shall say goodnight to all my friends in the blogosphere.

And a few more photographs:

Florence Day 3 2013 030

Florence Day 4 006

Florence Day 3 2013 017

 

 

 

Florence Day 3

Well it was a better start to this day.  After a long, lovely chat on Skype to my partner I was able to have a hot shower.  Oh joy and the hair was washed to.  So I sallied forth feeling like a new woman.

Florence Day 3 2013 007

The first stop was the passticerria for macchiato and brioche then onto the bus into town.  Here I discovered that the reason I was not able to go up into the Dome or down into the Crypt yesterday was because  I was in the wrong Cathedral.  Instead of the Duomo, The Cathedral di Santa Maria del Fiore,  I was in The Cathedral di Santa Maria Novella.  Oh how easy it is for a woman on her own to become confused.

So after I went into the same Cathedral asking for directions to the Crypt and Dome I was told I was in the wrong church.  How embarrassing.

Undaunted I set out again on foot to find the right church.  You may wonder how I became confused when the dome towers above Florence – but I did so there!

Florence Day 3 2013 051The historical centre of Florence became a World Heritage Site in 2007.  Unfortunately my photography is not good enough to show this plaque.  But if you click on the image a larger image appears and you will be able to read the words.  Only  found that out after I published the post .

I wandered along the beautiful little lanes of Florence and marvelled at the number of people there.  All tourists many with guides but equally as many in small groups.  This is not really the tourist season and so I am glad I am here now and not then.

Duomo 3Anyway back to my story.  I eventually found the right Cathedral and went inside.  There was complete silence while the many, many people there gazed in wonder and awe at the works of art.  I think it wouldn’t matter how many times you saw these wonders you would never get tired of them.

I did go down into the Crypt where Brunelleschi, the architect of the Duomo, is buried.  The crypt holds the ruins of the Church of Santa Reparata, the original church on the site.

But when I enquired about going up inside the dome the very nice young man in charge asked first if I were “solo?” and then suggested that it would not be a good idea for me to go up the 463 steps to the spiralling dome. I didn’t bother to ask about the Campanile as I was sure to get the same response.  Oh well, perhaps when I come back with my partner?

Lunch today was not in the same class as yesterday.  When I returned to the apartment last night and did the conversion I found that lunch had cost the equivalent of $NZ49/$US40 so I had to rethink lunch today.  And I chanced upon a lovely little Gelateria where I had a gelato and a sit down all for $NZ4.10/$US4.

GelatoThen back on my feet and off to the Bargello, a former barracks and prison.  Here is another magnificent art collection including works by Michelangelo, Donatello and Cellini but I shall hae to go back to spend more time amongst this priceless art.

Florence Day 3 2013 017And everywhere I turned there was another wonderful thing to see, another street to go down, another square to cross.  One could spend months here and not even see a tenth of the treasures.

The streets are home to many sellers of leather goods, obviously and the streets are also lined with high class shops  But I am not here to shop, so apart from buying some jewellery for my daughter and a friend, I resisted the temptation.

PigAnd then I discovered this pig.  I was told that everyone had to pat the pig but nobody seemed to know why.  So like a good tourist I patted the pig.

So after another full day delighting in the treasures of this Renaissance City I found my way back again to the station to get my bus.  If I am honest here I would tell you that I did find myself going past the same shops and entering the same square a few times but that’s part of the fun.  And in the event I asked a handsome young policeman “Stazionne?” in answer he gave me directions in Italian with the help of many hand movements.  How lovely.

I arrived back here at the apartment, sated in beauty, tired and needing a cup of tea.  I am English after all.  And I have decided that I obviously have not been walking enough recently – my thighs are letting me know that I have walked for about 5 hours each of the last two days.  This must get better!

And a few more photos for you.

With fig leafFlorence Day 3 2013 048Duoumo with caffolding Florence Day 3 2013 030 Florence Day 3 2013 056 Fountain

So thanks for travelling with me and exploring this fantastic city.  I will tell you more tomorrow.

Post script – Thanks to Nancy at http://nrhatch.wordpress.com/ for the story about the pig – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Porcellino

Florence Day 2

London and Florence 062 I was woken up early this morning by the workmen who are digging up and (presumably) re-sealing the road outside the bedroom window.  This started around 7 am and now at 5pm they are still drilling.  Maybe they get paid by the hour.

That was followed by a long call on Skype to my partner in New Zealand.  Oh how very far away that is.

Then into the shower – another tepid one asI just can’t get the hot water to flow  Really have to do something about this.

Then Day 2 in Florence started. The sun was shining brightly and I was really pleased with myself :

  1. I found again the market that Ornella had shown me when I arrived on Sunday.  It’s a seven-day market apparently selling food and clothes.  It was very busy.
  2. I found a passticerria close by where I had a macchiato and a brioche for breakfast
  3. I got on the right autobus to take me to the stazione from where it was only a short walk to the Cathedral of Santa Maria Fiore (The Doumo)
  4. Found JK’s on the piazza for an elegant late lunch, then
  5. Found my way back again.

The woman at the bus stop spoke no English but we managed to communicate as I did with the two bus drivers.  It was a little more tense coming back because I had to look for something recognisable.  And it was the market.  So I jumped off the bus and almost got run over by a police car.  Many years ago I had a ticket for jay walking in Santa Monica, California and I really thought I might get another today.  But the policeman simply said “andare, andare” which I took to mean go!

Lunch at JK's Florence 2And lunch..  All the tables on the piazza were reserved but the charming maitre d’ (what is Italian for that)  suggested I might like to eat inside.  And what a joy that was.  There are several photos at the end of this missive.  It was like a beautiful home open for lunch and dinner.  I had sesame chicken salad, served with oil and balsamic vinegar, preceded by a basket of bread and  rolls and oil for dipping.  Heaven.  It was  rounded off with a pot of Twining s tea with lemon so my meal was a complete success.  I decided then that I wouldn’t need dinner just some fruit that I had bought yesterday and a couple of brioche from the same passticerria.  So I am all set.

Here are a few photos I took today.  I am sure you don’t need to see all 55 of them.

London and Florence 017London and Florence 012London and Florence 013At the market

London and Florence 019 London and Florence 048London and Florence 026The Duomo

London and Florence 057 London and Florence 058 London and Florence 059JK’s on the Piazza Duoumo

So another day in Florence comes to an end.  I shall sit and read my book as there is no English TV programme available here. Well maybe there is but not in this apartment.

Goodbye

My visit to London is rapidly coming to a close.  My original intention was to be here for some two weeks and then go to Florence with my sister.  She would stay for a couple of weeks and I would stay on alone for a couple of months.

London-Skyline 3Alas, the best laid plans etc .  Shortly before I arrived in London it was thought that my sister had suffered a heart attack.  So in the first few days we spent time at the local hospital having a barrage of tests.  Nothing moves fast in this big, over crowded city and so she is only today receiving the results of these tests from her GP.  Several more tests were called for which entailed waiting for the letters of appointment, as they were in two different hospitals, and to make life complete she was advised not to fly until the results were all in.

At this time she is still waiting for the final test to be carried out and this will happen next week.

So it was decided that I should go to Florence and she will join me when she is cleared to fly.

british-museum-27-09-13-005.jpgMeantime we have been enjoying my native city again.  Not as a tourist because I was born and brought up here, but as a returning visitor.

The most surprising thing of all is the changes wrought to the East End by last year’s Olympics.  Stratford that was once a really derelict and run down area has been transformed.  During World War II, the area suffered severe bombing damage. Industrial decline followed, accelerated by the closure of the docks from the 1960s onward. And the ethnically mixed area suffered from high unemployment, a labor force with low skills and crowded housing..  But all this changed once London was awarded the 2012 Olympics.

Where once were disused factories now stand tall apartment blocks,

University of Eat London

University of Eat London

the University of East London and student housing to accompany it, a large Westfield Shopping Mall and a new transport hub.  This has been good news for most of the people living in the area.

There has of course, been controversy.

_Orbit_at_nightThe Orbit sculpture and observation tower has been praised and denigrated by the public.  It was  designed by  artist Anish Kapoor and engineer Cecil Balmond  and stands 114.5 metre (376 feet).  It is apparently the largest public sculpture in Britain.   Orbit closed after the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, as the South Plaza area of the Park (in which Orbit is positioned) is under significant construction – and will re-open to visitors in April 2014.

London Olympic Stadium 2The Olympic Stadium is still being fought over by rival football clubs who want to use it as their base.  Currently the  has been awarded to West Ham but Leyton Orient are claiming that exclusive use rights should not have been given and that these two East End clubs should have equal access to the facility.

London_Aquatics_Centre,_16_April_2012

The London Aquatics Centre.  An indoor facility with two 50-metre (160-foot) swimming pools and a 25-metre (82-foot) diving pool.

Some of the residents of course, were moved on to make way for this huge redevelopment, and the redevelopment is still going on.  I saw a sign advertising a shopping and entertainment centre of 1.9 million square feet..  Wow!

the_Shard_London_Bridge_5205

The Shard Via Wikipedia

And the changes are not restricted to the East End.  The City is changing.  Where once were old office blocks now stand huge glass monoliths that do little to differentiate my home town from many other I have visited around the world.

British_Museum_from_NE_2

The British Museum – Still hasn’t lost its charm*

But the old favourites remain.  The Bank of England in Threadneedle Street, The British Museum in Great  Russell Street, The Tower of London, St Paul’s and of course, Parliament and Big Ben.  These are all a must see on any visit I make to London.

Portobello RoadAnd of course no visit to London would be complete without the street markets.  I have written of these in an earlier post.  The World famous Portobello Market in Notting Hill (you probably saw the film Notting Hill  staring Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant), the local markets at Roman Road and Ridley Road, Petticoat Lane and Brick Lane, the antique market at Islington and on and on,

So as my time here comes to an end and once again I say farewell to family and friends, I am a trifle sad and of course, nostalgic.  But I have my adventure in Florence to look forward to and of course, I shall be back here again after that before taking that long haul flight back to the other side of the world.

“My formula for living is quite simple.  I get up in the morning and I go to bed at night.  In between, I occupy myself as best I can”
Cary Grant,  1904 – 1986 ,
English stage and Hollywood film actor.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Related Posts:

The Market 
Down Memory Lane