Saturday, May 31, 2014

Room with a view for we two – the Florence adventure begins.

It’s not really an exotic adventure unless a trip starts with drama. And of course, ours did.
Definitely not Oregon
Let me back up a bit. Cecile and I have wanted to tour Italy since our honeymoon – days short of 42 years ago. Time and money got in the way. For out 30th anniversary, we finally went to Florence.  But it was Florence, Oregon, which was just a few miles from our Eugene home.
Once I became a professor, I could afford the time during the summer break. But Cecile could not take off as much time as we wanted for a trip. This year, however, Alliance Enterprises gave her a 12-week sabbatical to do what she pleased. And it pleased both her and me to rent an apartment in Florence – Italy this time – for the month of June.

The drama began with a text message from Delta Airlines that the flight comprising the Paris to Florence leg of our trip was cancelled. Then the St. Louis agent said she could not rebook us, as Air France owned that flight and Air France doesn’t like to talk to Delta.
An Air France ticket agent in New York found an alternative flight for us – but routed through Amsterdam and adding 11 hours to the trip.  We were bummed, but still enthused. When we arrived in Paris, a more enterprising agent found a direct flight for us, so long as we would wait around Charles de Gaulle Airport for eight hours. We tried to take a bus to a nearby super mall, but apparently the busses had the same schedule as our original flight.
So wait we did. We browsed every shop, tried sleeping in awkward seats, and read our books (Cecile on a Kindle and me on old original iPad.
Cecile is our navigator

Eventually we made it and were overjoyed to land at the Florence Airport. No ATM, though, and no place to by SIM cards for our phones. But we found a lonely pay phone to call our landlady and caught a cab to our temporary home near the Arno River.
The joyous greeting given us by Dafi Krief made up for all the discomfort the airlines could throw at us. She and her husband are artists – she a potter and he a sculptor. The apartment they own is itself a gallery. It is in a 13th Century building next to the old city walls in Oltarno – just across the river from the cathedral district. The white walls soar to a ceiling of ancient beams. Original artwork is placed like only an artist could place it.
It is small, but incredible.
Then I discovered that we had left a bag in the taxi. In that bag was my iPad and an older unlocked phone I planned to use, among other things (like my toiletries). Dafi called the cab company several times, to no avail. I wrote a plaintive note to them in English and then in computer-translated Italian. Why worry too much, though? We actually made it to Florence, after all. 
It's more than a store
Not surprisingly, we slept in. We made breakfast from the two eggs left by the previous tenant, then went off in search of a SIM for Cecile’s phone. That took a few hours of wandering and rewandering only to find the phone store closed for siesta. But along the way ate our first gelato, got cash and enjoyed the ambiance. Had a late lunch at our neighborhood restaurant, then back to the phone store for the SIM.
Squash blossoms at Eataly
We went to a nice but rather routine supermarket for our groceries, but later found what may be the ultimate grocer. Eataly is both shopper and chef-friendly (Mario Batali owns the New York version). It combines elegantly displayed foodstuffs with scattered restaurant counters. Where else have you seen squash blossoms in the produce department? I’ll be back (and write more).

So now we are back at the apartment, where Cecile cooked a wonderful pasta that we washed down with a fantastic red wine. It is time now to reflect, recover and ready for another day in Italy.