Friday, December 28, 2007

Ahh Florence!! ...

(the continuation)

One of the things I noticed in Florence was that people were very stylish. Coming from someone like me who hardly cares about what's the latest in fashion, this observation says much about the city. I often found myself watching people, observing and admiring what they wore and how they wore them. I felt so...unstylish. I thought I could pick up a tip or two about fashion style, and hopefully kick mine a notch higher. This remains to be seen...

On our first morning at the hostel, I came to the dining room in my lounge wear thinking that other hostel guests, who were mostly in their 20s, would still be in their house clothes. It was still early in the morning, and besides, this was a hostel, not a 5-star hotel. WRONG! I was surprised to see people in the dining room all dressed and made up, ready to go. Somewhat embarrassed, I just went about eating pretending not to care. I'm old enough to be your mother... The next morning, I made sure I looked better at breakfast.

The hostel's dining area

Like I've said previously, our hostel provided good breakfast. Aside from your choice of a meal from the menu, there was a buffet of side dishes. I tried as many items as I could. I like Italian food! Outside the hostel, Gino and I looked for cheap places to eat. One time, I had bruschetta for lunch, which is a piece of bread with lots of tomatoes. At night, we ate at a pasta place. We had to eat pasta in Italy! In Venice, we ate pizza but never pasta. Fortunately, we found a cheap pasta place in Florence even if we had to walk far to get to it.

Gelato, or ice cream, is something you will see everywhere. In Venice, we bought a cone for 1 or 1.5 euros and we were happy. One night in Florence, after walking about 30 minutes from Piazzale Michaelangelo, Gino and I had a craving for ice cream as we passed by this attractive ice cream shop. Not knowing Italian, we just pointed to the flavours we liked. When the saleslady pointed to a cone size, we simply nodded not bothering to ask how much it was. Big mistake! A cone that size cost 9 euros. That's about $15 CDN! I could buy 3 gallons of cheap ice cream from Superstore with that amount. We felt so bad about our ice cream that we enjoyed every ounce of it. "Ahh, this is so good. It's so worth it..." we consoled ourselves even though it--the cost, not the ice cream--was hard to swallow.

Florence is a shopper's delight. I enjoyed the markets even if I did more browsing than buying. There were several shops on the streets and piazzas and ancient market places. We also passed by a street full of name brand stores. Very high end. "A woman's paradise. A man's hell," was how Agnes, our tour guide, described it. Men, if your wife loves shopping, Florence is the place to go--or avoid!

One of the shops on a street full of jewelry stores. The gems are dazzling! If I were into jewelry, I would probably linger on this street instead of just walking by.

An ancient marketplace that remains a market today. Leather goods galore! But not as much as the ones you will find in San Lorenzo Market

If I had more pocket money, I would have bought a good Italian leather bag or a pair of shoes. They were lovely, of good quality and I think cheaper than the ones you buy here in BC. But not being a bag or shoes person, I passed. What I was attracted to buy was an extraordinary pair of Levi's shoes for Gabriel as his birthday gift and another pair for Gino for his birthday. Gino said those same styles, which may not yet be available in Canada, were really cheap. I thought so too. What I got for myself was a Firenze apron, pashmina scarf and some souvenirs for the house. I was saving the shopping for Avignon.

Gino and I came across this market one night. It was very interesting. Lots of household products and not the usual leather goods and apparel. I liked this place.

We always went back to the hostel very tired at night after hours and hours and hours of walking around the city. After a nice shower and some time on the Internet, I would lie down and read my book or write on my journal. Gino fell asleep faster. On our first night, there were more females in our bedroom. Lights were out earlier. On the second night, there were more guys. At around 2 am, I woke up to a cacophony of snores. Finding it hard to go back to sleep, I amused myself by identifying snore variations. Each person had his own. It was beginning to sound funny. About that time, a couple of guys arrived and headed for their beds. "Ugh, snore fight," someone whispered. Within minutes of lying down, he joined in the fray. Tip to travellers: Bring ear plugs! You'll never know when they will come in handy.

(Next, the more artistic part of Florence...)

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