Monday, September 22, 2008

Mr Atrocity's Grand Tour. Part One: The Getting There

I am returned safe and sound from Florence. T and I have had six nights there and it's been a really lovely holiday, principally because we got to spend a week together, without work interruption, for the first time since May last year. I obviously had preconceived ideas of what Florence would be like but in quite I few of them I turned out to be mistaken, in some ways good and in others, bad. This week I'll write up the holiday in exciting (hem hem) daily installments and I'll post up some of the pictures I took too, like this one:

The Ponte Vecchio

T is of the opinion that one should arrive in one's holiday destination as early as possible so that a day is not, as she puts it, "wasted". The result was a booking on a nine o'clock flight from London Gatwick. The practical upshot of that was that we had to awaken at three in the morning, get a cab to London Victoria railway station, take the Gatwick Express from there to the airport. Ouch.

As is my natural inclination I spent most of the Sunday night unable to sleep and fretting about everything that could go wrong en route. My chum ZF had tried to assuage my worries earlier in the week explaining that the worst that could possibly happen would be being med-evaced out of Italy. This didn't reassure me much. I was just about getting drowsy enough to properly sleep when the alarm went off and I fell out of bed. T, who had far too excited for her own good about the trip hadn't slept either but had got out of bed at one o'clock and had been checking she had remembered to pack everything she needed every ten minutes between that time and the time we left.

I'd booked us a cab to take us to the station and I have to say I love Addison Lee taxis. I booked online a few days in advance. Half an hour before the taxi was due to arrive I received a text message informing me that the car was on its way. This is perfect because that is just the time when you're wondering to yourself whether you booked the car for the right day or whether you mistakenly booked it for four in the afternoon. A few minutes later another text arrived. This one told me the car was outside, what make of car it was and gave me the driver's mobile phone number in case we needed his assistance. We decided we didn't and hauled our cases down and into the car which was exactly as described.

Ten minutes later we at the station. Three minutes after that we were on the Gatwick Express, a train with a single aim in life: to be the fastest thing between central London and Gatwick Airport seven days a week.

Once at the airport we went through the usual nonsense of checking our bags in, having our crevices searched and putting our shoes on a conveyor belt. Three hours later we were in the air on a beautiful clear day over Europe. We flew over the white cliffs of Dover and over the Alps which were utterly spectacular from the air. An hour and half after take-off we touched down in Pisa. Having found the station we discovered a delightful trait of Italian retailing that of putting the location of payment facilities for a thing nowhere near the thing itself. We trudged, with our cases, all the way back to the terminal, all the way through the terminal, back past where we had collected our bags until we found the enormous queue at the the Trenitalia ticket office. When it was our turn we shuffled forward and looking very embarrassed at out language skills asked for "Due biglietti a Firenze per favore". These we duly got and then we made our way back to the platform again. The train journey was uneventful. The train was perfectly on time and we stepped off at Florence Santa Maria Novella station and dragged our bags to our first hotel.

The Hotel Davanzati is a lovely, small, family run place with modern-ish styling and an unfussy but highly conscientious manner. We checked in and crashed in our room for an hour or so before finding the energy to venture out for dinner. We ate in a diner on the first night. What we both needed after a long day travelling was something simple and a beer to accompany it. My pizza (not a classic Florentine dish but I didn't care) was fine but anything after 12 hours without food was welcome and so with that we went to bed ready to explore properly in the morning.



Blogger Churlita said...

I love that photo. I can't wait to see more.

1:23 am  
Blogger booda baby said...

Damn. I've been on a computer so long today, I can hardly see your white on black. But still ... I forged on.

I can not believe it's your first time to Florence!! This is wonderful! (and of course, I'm very excited to see your photographic history). I'm going to dig through all my second rate pictures of Italy and turn them black and white and mess with the levels. And MAYBE I'll get something a leeeeeeetle like your picture.

Probably not, but ...

4:34 am  
Blogger Mr Atrocity said...

Thanks, Churlita and Booda Baby, there's a few pictures more still to post.

Booda Baby, the best tool in Photoshop to make colour photos into black and white ones is the Channel Mixer. It gives you a lot more control than just tweaking the levels and using desaturation.

7:44 am  

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