Venice > Florence
So we all woke up in Venice like someone had ran over us with a semi truck so it was a difficult time getting all of us to eat, pack, fold up the damn sleeping bags we all STILL weren't using because it was a thousand degrees outside with a humidity index off the charts and get on the bus without our heads exploding. Off to Florence we go at 8:45. We stopped in Pisa to see that tower. After doing the stereotypical pictures, Rachel and I decided to eat at a little cafe right in front of the tower. I had a sandwich that was quite yum (as the kiwis say) with truffle sauce that I think inevitably made me a little queasy for the rest of the coach ride.
Day 14 cont'd
Luckily I made it to the Florence campsite without spewing (thanks to Emma, whom for some reason looked at me and I felt better...weird) and Rachel, Zoe, Ellie and I got to our cabin. They were very nice but there was a dark shadow cast over them, because it was so damn hot! At this point everyone was way too comfortable with everyone (or maybe it was just us) because we hang outside in the shade on our porch in our bras. Janelle was next to us and touched the railing on the porch of hers and it fell over. I almost peed on myself with laughter. We hung out and tried to relax before showering up to go to dinner at the site ( I had a Bellini which they had in little bottles at the store inside the dining area) and then out to the Red Garter, which had amazing huge drinks and karaoke! Emma, Zac, Ellie, Elizabeth and my personal favorite singer, Michelle all sang. There were a few other Contiki groups there, so people were so plastered! When the bus came to take the group home, I stayed thinking we would just party it up all night (the drunk crew on the taxi in Venice said that they had the absolute best time there, and considering they pride themselves on good times, I wanted some of it!), but most of the crew ended up wanting to leave and go to some bar that Kelsey’s boyfriend had previously been to and loved. We got lost going there, but getting lost in Florence is so not a problem in my book. We turned a corner and were standing in front of the Duomo! It was so beautiful, all lit up!! After taking some pictures and asking 5 different people where the bar was, we ran into an America who was doing a bar crawl on a bike. She was super cool so we decided to go to the bar she was going to end at. A super duper born and raised American bar. It was kinda funny that all the Americans in our group were at the bar. The one time we outnumbered the Canadians, Kiwis or Aussies. I even found a “Fuck ya Pi phi,” graffitied on the wall. I unfortunately had issues with my stupid contact lens and about 7 minutes into me being at the bar, I couldn't bare it anymore. Walking around had killed my buzz anyways. I grabbed Emma, who I did not realize was so drunk and we got a cab home. I made friends with the cab driver, surprise surprise! We got to the campsite and there were 3 boys at reception (where the hill up to our cabins starts). The boys said something about being from South Africa and I fell in love. They could have looked like troll's for all I know, but that accent baby, meow! Unfortunately, Emma had something else in mind because even though they were being nice enough to walk with us to our cabins so we didn't get raped, she started yelling some rubbish about rugby and New Zealand and South Africa at them. Short-lived romance. Needless to say they did by walk us to our doors. I went into my cabin, took another cold shower and went to bed.
I felt fine the next morning, but feeling nausea on the bus ride the day before a few times after eating spooked me enough to not eat meals when I know I'll be on the coach after, so I went to breakfast to see everyone but didn't eat. A lot of us dressed in our "church dress," aka long skirts that covered our knees and a shawl or cardigan that covered our shoulders. When it is over 90 degrees and you are wearing this attire, it really rules, NOT. We got into town, saw a few old planes pass us overhead and walked straight to the Leonardo leather shop, where we were given a demonstration on how Florentine leather is made and how to spot a fake (real leather burns). I got chosen to brand the leather with gold leaf and ironically the brand he chose was a kangaroo. His name was Tomas and I made it a point to remember that, in case I go back maybe he will give me the same 10% discount he gave Contiki then (being I didn't have a credit card, I couldn't buy all I wanted). I bought my dad a wallet, making sure it had the strict specifications he requires in a wallet and a bracelet for myself, both with our initials. I was going to put "dad" on his but the brander guy said only people who don’t know their father’s middle names do that. Louis. Boom. The girls all wanted to go to the Basilica of Santa Croce or BFC (big fucking church, as Zac calls it) but I was starving and told them to go ahead. I found Michelle and Tanya at a cafe right across from Leonardo's and sat down. Ben joined. I got a Quattro formagi pizza and was in heaven! Those Italians sure do know how to make a great pizza. And it was a legit one because it was not cut into slices. We all met in the Piazza Della Signoria for our walking tour. This is where Michelangelo's David originally stood, before it was moved to Galleria dell' Accademia. The tour guide was not as good as the one in Venice and sounded like a recording. She didn't have ear buds for us, she just walked around with a microphone, so unless you were right next to her or ahead of we, it was impossible to hear her through the huge crowd. We went to the Ponte Vecchio bridge and she explained that back in the day, Hitler and Mussolini had a lovely stroll on it and when Hitler went back in WW2 he specifically did not want it blown up, making it the oldest surviving bridge in the city. The Medici family had the top part built because they didn't want to walk amongst the common folk and had all the fish markets on it removed and replaced with like 45 gold shops. It was really lovely and had a nice breeze but it was a bit unnerving trying finding and keeping up with the tour guide. On the bridge they also have the "locks," but every three months or 3 weeks or something like that, someone comes and cuts the locks off, because it is a very tiny place the locks are. We walked through the shops, found another H&M, which I made a mental note of, knowing I was not going to repeat this church dress 3 times and was going to need another one (the Vatican deserves a new dress!). We walked to the Duomo and the Baptistery (where the taxi driver from the night before had told me he was baptized), which didn’t have the magic it did from the night before when it was quietly lit up with no crazy tourist around it. The line was crazy busy to get inside and she said we could go up into the dome, but the path was really narrow, as you were traveling in between the inner and outer dome. That's a heck no from me. We split off and my girlies went to eat and I went with some peeps to go put our name in the list to get into Accademia to see the David. We couldn't get a time until after 5 and since we were leaving at 4 we opted to miss out. They were all hungry so I decided I would venture out on my own. Luckily when we walked back to the Duomo, the line was only 5 minutes long, so Kate and I seized the opportunity and went in, which was free. I got a guided tour headphone and Kate did her own thing. It was so beautiful inside with the glass mosaics all lit up from the bright sunshine. I went over and made a donation to light a candle for all my grandparents that had passed. I thought of Grandpa Wayne first, who paid for this magnificent trip he always had wanted me to go on, then Papa B who was such a wonderful man and I felt so close to, then Mama Marge who is my guardian angel always and finally pop pop, who had managed to create and raise my father, who I hold at the absolute highest pedestal. I miss him talking to Kobe cat (which I randomly thought of in there). I had a shed a few tears, not because they were gone but because I had the honor or knowing them all. I moved on knowing that they each would be upset to know I had any moment of sadness on this journey, and moved over to the dome. It was truly awe-inspiring. Our guide had said that Michelangelo modeled St. Peters some after this one by Brunelleschi, and even saying kind words about it, which was the one and only time Michelangelo was nice. There was a quiet about the dome that was calming. When I left I decided to save the Uffizi gallery for when I came back, so I didn't feel rushed and went to shop. H&M was nuts and I waited 25 minutes to try on clothes because there was 4 rooms and 2 of them were occupied by couples, which didn't bother the sales girl at all. I ended up liking a long black maxi and floral maxi I was iffy on. I ran into my girlies (surprise surprise) in there and helped them decide on some sunnies, because everyone was having bad luck at keeping them and not breaking them. I found a belt, a scarf, a flower and an amazing shirt that completely exemplified my trip. We headed out toward Santa Croce where the BFC was and our meeting place to get back to the bus. Rachel and I had a semi meltdown (literally and figuratively) outside the busiest gelato shop I had seen, which of course was where Zoe and Ellie had picked out. It was quite funny though because it was so fucking hot, even the bottom of our feet were hot. We got back to the BFC in time to sit in the shade for half a minute, which was exactly what we needed. Got on the bus and headed back to our campsite. It was a mad rush to get ready for our proper Tuscan dinner and night out at space disco. We hung out for a bit, Zoe, Zach, George and Stuart played "piggie in the middle," (aka monkey in the middle), even after they had all showered. While I was getting ready Ellie told us that she had been told the Athens group was getting an extra day in Corfu because the Greek ferry had issues. Zac confirmed this on the coach back into Florence and we found out the reason was because the 2 days in Rome had turned into less than one day total for the Athens crew, but the Rome crew would be left behind there. Needless to say when we stopped at the view with the 3rd David overlooking Florence (my cab driver friend from the night before told me that,” this David is our David. Who watches over our city) to take our group picture, I had the fakest smile ever. Thinking of being away from my, now family, was too much to handle. I was upset with Zac, not because things played out the way they did, which I knew he had no control over, but because he didn't give the Rome people a heads up before. I know it would have been no use because we would have all freaked out and told everyone ourselves, so I know the reasoning behind it, but at the time I felt so hurt. We all know I don't deal well with surprises. We got to dinner and by this time I had marinated on the situation enough to enjoy my last few hours with my crew. Dinner was amazing. The pasta was so perfect. By the time our 3rd course or main course came, I was super full. It was a quite hot in the room so Ellie and I left a few times to get fresh air, which did her well because she had a tummy ache from eating too much gluten. When we went back inside, there were limoncello shots being passed out and I jokingly asked the waiter for 3 shots, which he laughed at, then gave to me! Emma knocked a shot accidentally on Zoe who was having an apartment crisis back home, but luckily she handles crisis really well. I decided at that moment I would be heading out to the space disco. Great decision! The bar was an aquarium and the “JJ special,” was sweet and strong. Zac bought us all shots and we were right next to the karaoke on the first floor and as the other Contiki groups came in and we only mingled with our group, I realized how needy we were for each other and how much I would miss them. We headed upstairs to get our dance on and were quite surprised to see young, young boys in there. Apparently in Italy, 16 year olds are allowed into clubs. Fuck they are 11 years younger than me. Old balls. I got it out of my head by drinking a bit more and having a kamikaze shot with Michelle at the bar (I had signed her up for the wet t-shirt contest, which she quickly took her name off of and I promised to buy her a shot). We were all dancing and this guy came up that was in another Contiki group and I was immediately attracted because he had a nice smile, sexy tattoos and piercing light eyes. We "pesced," a bit as the kiwis say and I found out he was on a hotel tour as opposed to my concept tour. I told him I was staying there though, for some reason (which is really funny now). He was also traveling to Athens and I got really upset all over again about leaving my family. We're all the signs pointing to me extending my trip? I decided quickly I was definitely not going home with him because I didn't want to be that girl or not go home to my girls or potentially miss my coach to Rome the next day but mostly, I just didn't want to. He went to the men's room, & told me he'd be right back, so I took the chance to ditch him, went to the ladies room upstairs, had a girl tell me I spoke beautiful Italian, told Zamir I was peacing out and left. In Florence they give you a card in the beginning of the night, that the bartenders punch everything you get a drink, that you turn in before leaving to pay for everything. There's a 50€ charge if you loose it, which for my friends in the US would probably be less than a bar tab we would come up with, considering me alone was 23€. I grabbed a cab after the bouncer offered to take me home, which I politely declined and hopped in a cab for my 14€ ride back to the campsite. Security was at the gate when I got there and he took me in the golf cart back to my cabin. I ran into Ellie who was outside with Michelle and Tanya sleeping in their sleeping bags on the porch. Ellie and I went back to our cabin, I took a shower and went to bed about 3:00 am.
Bernini's statue, "Perseus & Medusa," with his portrait on the back of the head! So sneaky!
Our Darling Coach driver, Rui
The Tour Man, Zac
She copied me!
Arrivederci Firenze! Ciao Roma!