DAY 5 - MONDAY 18TH AUGUST
I wake up with the thought Its Monday it must be Florence! it is 6am and just getting light. I quietly let myself out onto the balcony to watch us heading into Livorno, our port for the day. The sun slowly rises over the sleepy city and I am anticipating a wonderful day of discovery ahead.
We breakfast at the Waterfall Café where we sit outside and feast on a selection of things including; coconut French toast, waffles, hash browns, bacon, beans and doughnuts - obviously not all at the same time on the same plate. Disembark at 8am and grab a taxi to the station for 20. The train tickets to Florence cost 13 each return. We validate the tickets and step out onto the platform 7 but have missed the 8.11am train by a few minutes, so have to wait for the next one at 9.11am, but it is quite pleasant sitting in the warm Italian sunshine. At 8.45am the train arrives with a prompt departure at 9.11am. The scenery is really quite industrial until we get to Pisa where the train stops to let off passengers, it then changes to the rural Tuscan countryside that is depicted in so many pictures. Cypress trees, olive trees, Tuscan farmhouses and the hill top villages - a glorious site. Arrive in Florence at 10.33am and exit the station. We head off in the direction of the Duomo and Campanile.
What an amazing building decorated in wonderful marble with many stunning features with the bell tower to one side. We queue for a short time to enter (entrance is free), where the girls and myself are handed a blue paper poncho to cover our bare shoulders. Inside the building is very large and cavernous with next to nothing in the middle of it. The stained glass windows are beautiful and the dome is intricately painted, as you would expect.
We exit and wander through the streets off the Campanile, and see the Uffizi Gallery with the statues outside including of course the replica of David. Georgia says Didnt they wear clothes in those days do they really need to be naked? in typical 14 year old girl in disgust mode.
We stumble across a dress shop with a wonderful strapless dress outside this is exactly what Georgia was looking for before the cruise but we had been unable to get one. Five minutes later it was tried on, declared a perfect fit, paid for and we had one happy daughter. For 25 we were pleasantly surprised at the price for a shop in the heart of Florence. Walk across the Ponte Vecchio, Florence's oldest bridge, which is lined with jewellery shops and up the tiny streets towards the Boboli Gardens and the Pitti Palace. We find a great gelato shop where we all have a small cone, coffee for India, white chocolate for Georgia, praline for Kev and a frozen yoghurt cherry combo for me. Absolutely divine and a nice cooling diversion from all the walking we had done. We were still hungry though and as it was lunchtime we found a lovely restaurant called La Sagrestia. We share a ham pizza, ham and mushroom pizza and a ham and mozzarella toasted sandwich, together with half a bottle of red wine and the girls have Sprites. The total is 42 plus tip. The waiter was amazing dashing around taking orders, clearing tables and still managing to flirt with the English blonde ladies! He said the girls were beautiful like their parents well me more than Kev he said. As we left he gave each of the girls a kiss on the cheek but they werent impressed as they said he was a bit sweaty (not surprising bearing in mind how busy he was). I myself was a tad jealous that I didnt get a kiss and I think Kev was too although he did his best not to show it!!!
It was lovely to take the weight off our feet and the pizzas were very good so it was a big thumbs-up from us.
We then took a leisurely stroll along the river Arno where it was a lot quieter. The views across the river of the city and the Ponte Vecchio were like a painting so picturesque.
Kev had read about the even more stunning views available from the Piazzale Michelangelo so we headed up the numerous steps until we reached it. As the steps on the way up had been relatively quiet we were somewhat amazed to see so many tourists up there. It is obvious that many tour groups etc., are driven up here by road and stop to take in the scenery. I have to say that this view was superb we could see the whole of the city laid out before us bathed in sunshine with the Arno river in front and the Ponte Vecchio to the left it was the perfect place to take a panoramic picture that would do some justice to this wonderful sight.
After taking copious photographs and video we headed back down the steps to make our way back to the station. We went over the Ponte Alle Grazie and along many more cobbled side streets lined with people enjoying food and drink in the hot Italian sunshine. Arrive at the station at 3.20pm just in time for the 3.27pm train back to Livorno. It is absolutely heaving so we have to sit on fold out seats by the doors between carriages. It is baking hot and there is no air conditioning on this bit of the train so the windows are opened to try and cool it down for our journey home. Luckily we managed to get a seat later when people got off. We arrived back in Livorno at 4.45pm but there were no taxis in the taxi rank. By the time they arrive the station is a scrum and there is no sense of order people are basically pouncing on each taxi as it drives in, trying to get back to the port to meet their ships' departure times. We team up with a lady and man from California and eventually sequester a taxi, but unfortunately the gentleman is in a wheelchair and try as he might the driver cannot fit it into the car so he hands it to a waiting mini bus full of people also going to the port. Fifteen minutes later we are back at the ship and thankfully the minibus containing the wheelchair is also there. At the entrance to the ship we are greeted with cold towels, chilled water and fruit punch this is a lovely touch by Celebrity and something that would be much appreciated if other cruise lines did it. It was great to get on board feeling refreshed, slightly cooler and slightly less grubby than you would otherwise be. We go to our cabin and sit on the balcony Kev goes in search of beer and peanuts. He manages to find both and we enjoy a cold Sam Adams while I play checkers with the girls. When we are all showered and changed we sit on the bar aft on deck 10 I have a Flirtini and Kev has a John Daniels. A chap plays the guitar and sings while we watch the sun setting over the ocean, which is like a millpond. The Voyager of the Seas glides gracefully behind us as we head out of port and the air is warm with a gentle breeze. This truly is what holidays are all about total relaxation after an amazing day of sightseeing and discovery. The guitarist then starts playing Margaritaville by Jimmy Buffet, which evokes happy memories of holidays in Captiva, Florida.
Kev and I both order a glass of Shiraz Peter Lehmann The Barossa from Australia and take them to the dining room where our companions are already waiting. Starters include; scallops with Thai salsa and rice, fruit medley, New England clam chowder, followed by beef rib with roast potatoes and Yorkshire pudding or pork medallions with potato pancake, spinach and gravy. Our pudding choices included crepe suzettes with vanilla ice cream or pistachio ice cream. The food was really delicious and we had an enjoyable evening talking to Bill, Ruth and family about what we had all done in Florence. We decided that in spite of the early starts we ought to take advantage of the nighttime entertainment on board, so we went to the Cova Café for liqueur coffee (for me) and beer for Kev. There is a string quartet playing so it makes for a very relaxing evening. The girls decide to play chess until we retire to the cabin at midnight
Click on the film strip to see some video of our time in Florence
[AUGUST 2008 REPORT HOME PAGE]