Monday, August 27, 2007
This Boot Was Made For Walking
Figuring that my family is about 98.5% of my readership, I've decided to skip the cruise portion of my trip since my family was there and just summarize it as such: I hadn't seen my family in about seven months and I really missed seeing them, but no one should be crammed in tight quarters on a boat nearly twenty-four hours a day with their relatives - or anyone else for that matter. Now I know why pirates always seem so angry. Suffice it to say, it was a lovely trip and a much-needed respite from sharing hostel rooms with strangers and eating roadside shawarma two to three times a day.

Now onto the final leg of my trip: Italy. After my family headed for home, I spent a day in Venice, managing to catch a tour at the Murano glass factory and walk every single street/canal-side pathway from the train station to San Marco, and all the way back. Probably should've brought hiking boots as I literally wore my feet off. I gave myself the evening off and the next morning, I hopped a train to Florence. I arrived at Stazione Santa Maria Novella and - without getting lost for more than fifteen or twenty minutes in the staggering Florence heat (which seemed so romantic in Under the Tuscan Sun...) - I made it to my hostel.

The reviews about this hostel, Ostello Gallo D'Oro, were fabulous. All I had been hearing from previous visitors was Massimo this, and Sylvia that. Well, I arrived and though it wasn't Massimo or Sylvia at the front desk, I was greeted with warmth, espresso, and no immediate request for payment. This was a welcome change from five weeks of forking over room fee after room fee before I could even put my bags down. Feeding my caffeine addiction with delicious Italian espresso didn't hurt either. At the front desk, I met Leann, an Australian traveler who - as it turned out - had been staying at the exact same hostel in Venice that I had at exactly the same time I had and who had taken the exact same train from Venice to Florence that I had that very morning. And yet, we never met. This was the first of two major Italian coincidences. There is just something about that giant boot...maybe my love of shoes gives me good boot-country karma.

Later that day, (the just as amazing as advertised) Sylvia made reservations for me at the Accademia and Ufizi Galleries and helped me arrange a night at the opera in the Giardani Boboli. She told me I could take a bus from the train station if I didn't want to walk the whole way and I thought that sounded like a good idea, seeing as my feet were worn down to stubs from a full day of sightseeing on foot. I bought a bus ticket at one of the "Tabacchi" (tobacco) shops, which seems to be THE place to buy public transport in Europe, and jumped on a bus at Stazione SMN to go to Boboli. Sylvia said I would see the gate to Boboli when I arrived so I figured I could wing it.

Bad idea.

I looked at the bus stop signs as we passed and noticed there were fewer and fewer people on the bus. Not having seen the Boboli Gardens yet and knowing that it shouldn't have been that long a trip, I decided to get off the bus. I didn't recognize the stop name, and had not a clue as to where I was. I still had to buy tickets for the opera and the show started in only a couple of hours. I stopped a woman walking by to ask her where I was on my map. She looked for a bit, tracing the road with her finger. I was off the map. Oh, lord.

There were buses going back toward the city, but I was going to miss buying tickets and the opera since the buses this far out of the city center came so seldomly. So I walked. And walked. And walked. I started passing the bus stops I had seen on my way out. Finally, my feet were ready to give up. I mean, I had taken a bus so I WOULDN'T have to walk. There was another girl waiting next to the bus stop sign, so I figured maybe the next bus was going to come soon. Just to figure out where I was, I asked her - in my most broken Italian - how long it was to Giardani Boboli. Though most of what I said was probably some gibberish-y mix of what little three days worth of Italian I had picked up so far, the remnants of my high school Spanish, and even a little English, but when I said "Giardani Boboli" she said (in Italian, of course): "Oh, Giardani Boboli! Just a little bit that way."

I thanked her and decided I would keep walking. I saw signs for it and finally, just five minutes later, there it was: trees, a gigantic arched entrance, and no other significant markings. No wonder I missed it.

After forty-five minutes of trudging, I had made it. The falafel sandwich I had thrown in my bag for the road was smelling pretty darn good right then, and lord knows I earned it. I bought my tickets, sat down at one of the outdoor picnic tables, and dug in. When people started making their way into the outdoor ampitheater's stadium-style bleachers, I followed behind and situated myself for Rigoletto, a tragic tale about a court jester whose jokes and taunts come back to haunt him. Though the acoustics probably would've been better in an indoor theater, it was a moving production and even more rewarding for having hiked miles to get there. I had been so worried they would run out of tickets. But not only were there plenty of extra to go around, it didn't even matter much which level of ticket you bought; After the first act, everyone moved down from the upper rows to fill in the vacant spots anyway.

The show let out just before midnight and, though I was a little wary of returning alone in the middle of the dark night, I did have a map to guide me back. Besides, it was doubtful that I had enough money on me for cab fare. So back I walked. Crossing over the river on the Ponte Vecchio, I caught a glimpse of the full moon reflecting over the water. I distinctly recall inhaling deeply, exhaling, and thinking aloud, "you just don't get this kind of beautiful stillness in Beijing, do you?"

No, my dear girl. You sure don't.

That evening I had chosen to wear an Italia football (soccer for the Americans and Aussies) zip-up I had bought in a fit of wind in Venice. I was glad I had brought it because in the windy Giardani Boboli's outdoor theater it was quite cold - despite its being mid-summer. However, during my walk back, I was serenaded with team Italia's fight song more than a few times by drunken twenty- and thirty-somethings hanging out on the street in the wee hours of the morning. I grinned at the inebriated chorus of football fans with my lips tight, ducked my head down, and kept walking. Perhaps just a little faster than before. I finally got back to the hostel around 1 AM and fell into the soundest sleep I'd had my entire trip.

Next: Rome, Heathrow, and my most frustrating fiasco to date (a.k.a just another day in Beijing). Tune in to see what goes down.
posted by Rachel @ 1:53 PM  
THE WILD WILD EAST: Everything you never knew you didn't know about life on the other side.
In China, the people are represented by two separate, yet equally important groups. The Chinese, who call this land "home," and the expats who migrate here. My name is Rachel. I am an expat. These are my stories.
What You May Have Missed
A Brief Disclaimer:
This is a satirical site intended for the entertainment of an online audience. None of the features on this site are real (except in my own distorted view of reality), nor are they intended to harm the subjects mentioned. This site uses fictional names in all its stories, except in cases when public figures are being satirized or when I choose to use this site as a platform for someone's public humiliation (usually my own). Any other use of real names is accidental and coincidental (or purposeful, but with good reason).

Despite the trivial nature of my random daily (sometimes weekly) musings, I hope you enjoy your stay at my site. If there is anything you need, don't hesitate to ring up the concierge, because I just travel in style like that. Have a pleasant stay and I hope that you will come see us again soon!

Thanks To
Free Blogger Templates
Blog Directory
Travel Blogs - Blog Top Sites
China Findouter
Ferienhaus Kroatien
Personal Statement Of Purpose
web page counter
Get a website hit counter here.
#1 Free Link Exchange Directory On The Web - Link Market