Monday, December 21, 2009

Florence/Pisa 12/1/09

We had our wake up call set for 5:00am! We heard it, and laid back down. I planned on just shutting my eyes for a few more minutes...but a few minutes turned into an hour! We woke up, got ready, had breakfast at Garden Cafe, and by 7:30am, we were headed off the ship. We had to ride a shuttle bus from the ship to the middle of the town of Livorno. Then, we had to buy another bus ticket at a news stand to take us to the train station. We got in line at the train station and got our round trip ticket to Florence with just minutes to spare! We ran to our platform, validated our ticket, and got on the train in the nick of time!
On the train, we met a woman from the U.S. who had been living in Florence for a few months. She was very nice and gave us some good information about catching the train back from Florence. We exited the train station in from of the church of Santa Maria Novella. We walked East and passed the church of San Lorenzo and lots of street vendors, mostly selling leather.
We passed a little cafe, and the proprietor saw us out taking pictures. He spoke to us in perfect English and asked where we were from. When we told him Texas, he produced a Longhorns keychain from his pocket. He said it was a gift from his good friends who live in Texas. Small world! We continued to walk, and before we knew it, we could see the Duomo peeking out at us above the rooftops!
When we got up right next to it, I was utterly amazed! It was so breathtakingly beautiful...and HUGE!!! I think my jaw was on the ground the whole time we were there! It felt like something out of a dream! I was stunned!

After the Duomo, we headed to Piazza della Signora. This is where the Uffuzi Gallery is, but there are also statues out in the courtyard, including a replica of Michelangelo's David.
It would have been nice to go into the Uffuzi, but there just wasn't time on this trip. Definitely a reason to go back! We continued to walk and ended up next at the church of Santa Croce. The facade looks very similar to the Duomo, just smaller. :-) We headed to the Arno river, and it was so beautiful! Storm clouds were starting to roll in, and it drizzled a little bit, but not too bad. We walked along the river to the Ponte Vecchio. It is the only bridge in Florence to have survived WWII...supposedly because Hitler thought it was too beautiful to destroy!

We went to the middle of the bridge, got some pictures, and then started heading back towards the train station. The rain was starting to pick up, so we decided to stop at a little cafe for some lunch. I got a huge plate of delicious, homemade pasta, and Natashia got a Margherita pizza. We each had bites of both, and they were so good! After lunch, we got our first taste of gelato. I wasn't too impressed with it overall, but it was very pretty to look at and fun to say I had it in Italy!
As we ate our gelato, we walked back to the train station (in the rain!). We looked at the schedule boards and saw that our train was leaving from the platform furthest from the door in just a matter of minutes! We RAN to the other end of the station, went to the wrong platform first, then got to the correct train only to remember we hadn't validated our I RAN back to the validation box and RAN back to the train and got on just before the doors shut! Whew! We settled into our seats on the train started our journey to Pisa. We thought it would only take about 45 minutes, but we soon realized we were on a local train, not an express. It stopped in every single little town between Florence and Pisa! If I remember correctly, it took at least an hour and a half to get to Pisa! Once we were there, we quickly walked 20 minutes to the Field of Miracles...where the Leaning Tower of Pisa is located! Upon first glance, the tower was much shorter than I had thought. I don't know why I thought it should be much taller...I guess after seeing the Eiffel Tower, anything looks short! Lol! Anyway, we only had time to get a few pictures before we had to run back to the train station.

We got to the train station right as our train pulled away, so we had to wait about 20 minutes for the next one. We were getting a little nervous about our time until we saw that some of the crew of the ship was waiting for the train with us, too! We got back to Livorno Piazza Grande a little bit after 5:00pm, and went to wait for the shuttle bus that would take us back to our ship. When we arrived at the bus stop, a woman from Princess Cruise Line was there. She told us that the Norwegian bus service had ended at 5:00pm! There was a mini crowd uprising because we had been told multiple times that the buses would run until 5:30pm! The woman called the bus driver and told him we were waiting, and he did eventually come back for us! We made use of the time we were waiting by getting more gelato! We made it back to the ship and had dinner at the Blue Lagoon. It is supposedly the place to go for good old fashioned "comfort food"...burgers, fries, chicken fingers, etc. Unfortunately, we were definitely NOT impressed with the quality of the food. Oh, well. After dinner, we went to the Stardust Theater to see "Los Locos Ole" in what they called a "Comedy Flamenco" show. It was hilarious!!! It was three guys playing guitars and singing, but they mixed it with a great sense of humor...lots of physical comedy. It was good fun! After dinner, we ran into our friends, Jonathan and Maureen in the stairwell. We ended up chatting with them for a good while before heading back to our room. Before bed, we ventured back out into the ship to explore a bit. We walked through the casino and then I sent an email home (for $.75 a minute!). Then, it was time for beddy-bye!

See more pictures from "Florence/Pisa 12/1/09" HERE

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