I was a terrible traveling companion this day because of the fact that I was coughing so much. My cold had finally caught up to me. I was really trying to contain it but Sabrina, being a schoolteacher, helped me out and gave me a Zicam. I'm sure they were still not thrilled to be locked in a van with me coughing and sneezing away. Part of the problem was that my throat was so dry the whole trip that I needed to keep sipping water to keep from coughing.
Anyway, back to the Zicam, if you don't know what it is, which I really didn't, it is a miraculous little ampoule that you snap open and then swab the contents into your nose. Be sure and read the directions and don't do what I did, which is sniff it in. Vickie and Sabrina quickly corrected me so I didn't repeat the mistake on the other nostril. I still can't smell out of my right nostril very well because of my mistake. I'm hoping that it will eventually correct itself.
Back to the trip.
We had planned on taking the train into Florence with Jim and Sabrina since Vickie and David had other plans to go on a private tour with another couple. I was a little sad because I really wanted to stop into Pisa and see the leaning tower and try to get a little Pinocchio puppet for Austin because I had read that Pinocchio had originated in Pisa. (The name means "pine nut".) It was going to be too complicated to try and figure out the train system to stop into both Pisa and Florence and since Florence was the main city, that's where we needed to go. If it were France I probably would have tried to figure it out myself since I still remember some French, but I am worthless when it comes to Italian. Plus the train systems are notoriously irregular so you can easily get stranded. So, I had resigned myself to skipping Pisa.
Anyway, the night before, Vickie called and told us that the wife of other couple they were supposed to go with was sick and couldn't travel. I felt sorry for the sick lady but I started to feel happy for us because I had grown rather fond of Vickie and David, as well as Jim and Sabrina the last couple of days. They went ahead and cancelled their tour and were going to brave the train with us.
Well, lucky for us, the next day Jim rounded us all up another driver and because there were six of us for all the tours, we saved enough money that we were able to afford to have another private tour. (And we got to go to both Florence AND Pisa.)
So, once again, THANK YOU Jim and Sabrina and Vickie and David.
Honestly, before the trip when I was calculating how much it would cost us to do the private tours I wasn't sure if we should do it, but it saved us so much stress and time because the drivers just took us all around and we didn't need to think or figure out what to do next or how to get there. We had spent so much money to get to Italy that it just didn't make sense to get almost all the way there and then not know how to actually get to anything worth seeing. We would have wasted a lot of time and not seen nearly as much.
Saving time, plus convenience, plus a nice private van (and some cute Italian drivers): Priceless.
Ok, on with the tour.
So our first stop was Pisa. Everyone says you can see all there is to see in about a half hour and I'd say that is probably true. What they don't tell you is how absolutely beautiful it is, with all the important buildings that are clustered together, made out of the white (Carrera?) marble.
It was actually at this market that Hal ended up being an extra in an Italian movie. I was trying to go to a certain booth and some people stopped me. Hal just kept walking across the street. I asked the man if I could follow him or keep walking in the street and he said, "Not unless you're an actress." I think they might have actually been filming when Hal was walking. So, you may see Hal in a theater near you, if you happen to live in Italy.
Here is the oculus of the Duomo. I thought it was beautiful.
Eventually we went to the little square that used to house the original David before they decided to lock him away and charge admission. The one in the square now is just a replica.
Here is the other side of the gold shops. It looked like a fun street to window shop but we really didn't have time.
This next shot is probably my favorite of the whole trip. Even though I felt lousy, I just love this photo of us together.