Saturday morning I woke up sick. Low grade fever, sneezing, and scratchy throat.... bummer. We were suppose to drive to Florence today and stop along the way at some of my favorite small towns. I didn't have the energy and I know Ned was disappointed. He had never been to Sienna and San Gimignano, but I just couldn't do it. I was hoping that if I took it easy I would be OK tomorrow for Florence. I was feeling so lousy that we never made it to our favorite restaurant, La Barca. We ate in the hotel and I went to sleep early.
Plan worked and I was feeling much more human on Sunday. Some ibuprofen and some throat lozenges and I was ready to go. Florence is my favorite city. I love the art and the architecture.
It is said that Florence was the birthplace of the Renaissance. It was called home to the Medici's, Dante, Leonardo da Vinci, Botticelli, Michelangelo, and Galileo just to name a few. We were going to only be here one day and the weather was gorgeous. We decided to just walk. We had to park the car pretty far out of the old city but we headed toward Ponte Vecchio, along the Arno river.
We passed by the Uffizi Gallery, the Pitti Palace Museum, the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, and lots of lovely typical Tuscan buildings. We ogled the jewelry in the shops along the Ponte Vecchio. We had a lovely lunch in one of the piazzas and were serenaded by a (really good) female opera singer. We were going to stop in and see Michelangelo's statue of David, but the lines were too long. If I had been feeling better the day before I would have ordered tickets online but I wasn't sure I would make it. If you haven't seen it in person, you really don't get the full impact. It is usually one of the things I always do when I come to Florence. I found one of the street markets and bargained mightily for a leather pocketbook. Probably the only bargain in this area are the leather goods. The jackets are to drool over in both color and style as are shoes. Probably just as well I wasn't feeling great and not in a real shopping mood! It was time to drive to Venice for my return flight early Monday morning.
Monday... the downside to using points for flights is that you get the crappy routes. My trip home had me going Venice, Munich, Toronto, Chicago to Phoenix. Luggage got tagged through to Phoenix but I had to go through customs and immigration in Toronto and pick up the boarding passes for Toronto and Chicago flights. I thought I had plenty of time. It took 40+ minutes for luggage to arrive, another 30 minutes for the agent to arrive to hand out boarding passes, and immigration was a zoo thanks to some crazy lady directing traffic.. that took another hour having to schlep luggage through the maze. By the time I got through customs and dropped my luggage off, my flight was already boarding. I was going to have to sprint to the gate to make the flight. Thankfully, the gate was pretty close and I made it with about 5 minutes to spare. Turns out everyone else was having the same problems so the flight was delayed. We finally pulled away from the gate only to hear an announcement that there would be another delay because they were experiencing a mechanical problem. Some sensor in the landing gear was acting funny and they were going to try to fix it. If they could it would only be a 20 minute delay. If they had to replace it, it would be longer. I had almost a 4 hour layover in Chicago so I wasn't all that worried. Two hours later and it still was not fixed. We were still on the plane. Crew explained that if we got off the plane we would have to go through Canadian immigration and U.S. again before we could get back on. They were starting to take some passengers off and reroute them if they had connecting flights. I still figured that if they fixed it, I could make my connection. Another hour and they cancelled the flight. They were going to rebook us all for the next day and provide us with a hotel and a meal voucher. Not the end of the world. Here is where everything went to hell. We were going to have to go through Canadian immigration, collect our luggage and find our way up to the rebooking desk. One would think there would have been some airline representative shepherding us along the way. Toronto airport is very large and very confusing. Not one person representing the airline was anywhere around. We got separated in the crowds going through customs and immigration (there were 130 of us), baggage was delivered haphazardly and people weren't sure where to go after that. Turns out we had to go somewhere on the 3rd floor... again schlepping all our luggage. We finally all straggled to where we were suppose to be only to find out that the computer systems for the airport were down. It was well past 9:00 p.m. by now. I hadn't eaten since the morning ( Venice time) and was starved save for the junk food I picked up. It took about an hour before the system started to work again. There were 3 agents trying to juggle 130 passengers. We were given vouchers for hotels (several different ones) and a dinner voucher. 17 of us were going to one hotel... it turns out there was a west hotel and an east hotel and the voucher did not say which one. When the van arrived the driver refused to take us because he didn't know which one. I called the hotel and was told there were no reservations for us! One of the other passengers ran back upstairs to ask the agent which hotel. By the time she got back the van driver had left..... turns out it was THAT hotel. The driver did not return for over an hour... he didn't want to deal with us apparently... and he couldn't fit all of us in on one trip. By the time the first group of us got to the hotel it was well past 11:00 p.m. Their restaurant closes at 11:00. We were pissed off and starving. We did notice a Burger King a few blocks away so a few of us walked over and had to use the drive up window at that hour. I will say they were very nice to us. The beds were supper comfortable but I had to take a 5:00 shuttle back to the airport. I wasn't going to get much sleep but I was able to snag a direct flight to Phoenix. We were told that it could take up to 3 hours to get through immigration in the morning so we should be there early. I was switched to another airline and also had to get boarding passes. I originally had 2 bags checked but the new airline insisted on charging me for the 2nd bag. I was too tired to fight with them (but I am going back to original airline... I did ask them the night before and was told there would be no fees). Getting through immigration was a breeze although the agent did ask what I purchased in Canada... I cheekily told him just a bottle of water and a hamburger. I had already told him that my flight the night before was cancelled. I was able to use the dinner voucher for breakfast. Flight home was uneventful.
I got home a day later than planned but was happy to get home and see Lucy and sleep in my own bed for a change. While I had a wonderful trip, I need to decompress for a while.
Hope you all enjoyed the trip along with me. You can see all the photos HERE.