Day 13: Tuesday August 3rd, 2004 Read Short Version View Photos

Short Version Instructions: Only read every other paragraph.

Thumbs Down: Locked gates Today we were checking out of our hotel, but we still had a date with the sea, so after a quick breakfast Jessie and I ventured out in search of swimming. Alan didn't want to go and Bekki had gone out shopping in the back streets we had explored the previous night, but we met up with her and conned her into buying Jessie and I swim goggles, since neither of us had any money with us. We made our way down to the Grotto of Byron at the castle at the end of town to find the gate locked even though it said it opened at 9, and it was now past 10. After trying unsuccessfully to manhandle the locks and deciding it was way to sketchy to try to climb down by any alternate route, we walked back the way we came, past the hotel and to the first "beach" we found.

Thumbs Up: Swimming The entire time we'd been in Italy, everyone had been dying for a swimming pool or the time to dive into a river or the sea. That time finally came. We abandoned our bag and flip flops on a rock and got into the water which wasn't too cold, and swam for about 35 minutes. We swam out to these inflatable floating water polo cages (which actually had pictures of soccer balls on them, for all your... water soccer needs?) and discovered that there were a lot of fish swimming around, and not boring fish but brightly colored and interesting fish. We explored along some rocks then slowly made our way back to our stuff. We tip-toed onto the rocky beach, dried off and went back to the hotel for showers and packing.

We checked out, dragged our luggage down the stairs to the car, and took 5 minutes to shove everything into the trunk and arrange ourselves. We ended up latching the trunk but not all the way, and got a friendly honk-and-point from a driver a bit later, telling us what we already knew. We cruised out of the town, onto the autostrada, and eventually to another Autogrill for a snack and a trunk tweak. Bekki and I split a panini and hash browns (like Arby's) and had sodas, Jessie had a panini and a soda and Alan got a value meal of an apple pie, hash browns and a coffee.

Thumbs Down: Microsoft Word creating ELEVEN
temp files while editing this document
We got back on the road and headed towards Florence. The drive was uneventful and we ended up on the streets of Florence with a perfect idea of where we were going but no idea where we currently were. We drove around for about 30 minutes, slowly making progress towards the hotel, ending up in pedestrian-only areas and one-way streets going away from our destination. We finally found it, through mazes of one way and unclearly marked streets. We climbed up to the third floor to find out where to park (the next street over for 30 euro a day), then went there, unpacked our bags and walked a whopping 60 yards to our hotel.

Thumbs Down: Being 3 floors up with lots
of luggage and a tiny ghetto elevator
We lugged our luggage up a bunch of stairs to where the elevator was, and I left the rest of them to figure out how to shove it all in the miniscule elevator while I look some of the smaller bags up the stairs to the third floor lobby. The elevator is so ghetto that someone needs to be inside of it in order for it to go up, so after waiting around at the top for a while, I went down to drag some more bags up the stairs instead of waiting around. A grand total of three baggage trips up the stairs and two elevator rides, we had everything in the lobby. We checked in and got our rooms. Our room was pretty big and nice, but Jessie's was pretty tiny and pink, although she did have a nice deep tub while we only had a shower. This hotel had a few oddities; there were no temperature controls in the room, it was all controlled from the front desk; they had old school keys that you had to use to both lock and unlock your door from both inside and outside; however, they also had such amenities as a second trash can (everywhere else had only had one in the bathroom) and 24 channels on the TV (though some were repeated) including MTV and CNN.

Thumbs Up: Florence We settled in for 15 minutes then went out to explore the city. The other three had been here before in 1996 so were somewhat familiar with it and the sights. I didn't know it until later, but this entire journey was in search of a gelateria that was particularly memorable from their previous trip. We wandered around, past the Duomo and other interesting sights, until we came across Eby's Latin Grill, and decided that a burrito snack was a great idea. We were the only ones there but it still took the guy a while to seat us, bring us menus and take our order. I got a turkey burrito and water, Bekki got a chicken burrito and a Cuba Libre, Jessie got a chicken burrito, a sex on the beach and water, and Alan got chips with salsa and guacamole, an astronaut (a beer with a shot glass of cassis and vodka inside of it) and a chicken burrito.

Thumbs Up: Mexican food, finally... sort of The chips were good, although they were just spicy Doritos, the salsa was very good and the guacamole was basically green mayonnaise. The "burritos" were good, but were actually wraps with lots of lettuce. We stuffed ourselves then continued on The Great Gelato Quest of Florence™. We wandered all over the place, browsed through a few stores, got harassed by gypsies, then eventually gave up and went to the nearest gelateria, which most likely was the one we were looking for anyway. I got a chocolate milkshake, though it was closer to icy chocolate milk, but tasty either way. Everyone else got gelato and we relaxed and enjoyed our treats.

We then headed back to the hotel, where we made 9 PM reservations for dinner at a restaurant the hotel guy suggested, and took an hour and a half long nap. We got up and ready, and walked around two corners to the restaurant, which was small and hot but looked promising. I ordered Tuscan salami and lasagna, Bekki ordered gnocchi in gorgonzola and a steak which I split with her, Jessie ordered caprice and the gnocchi, and Alan got tagliotelle with a meat sauce and veal. We had a good Tuscan wine and stuffed ourselves silly. For dessert, I had crème caramel, Bekki had biscotti dipped in wine, Jessie had tiramisu and Alan got a panacotta covered in strawberry sauce (which was disappointing since he was expecting real strawberries), all of which were tasty. We waddled out of the restaurant fat and happy, and walked down to the Arno River, took a few pictures and took in the view, then went back to the hotel and called it a night.