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Hello from Florence!

I don’t even know where to start this post. It seems like the last week has been a blur.

I think I’ll skip past the gory details of the trip over. I’ve been traveling since I was 4 and flying since I was 12 (about the same time they invented air travel), and it was one of the worst trips ever. It ranks right up there when I was a little kid traveling with my grandmother and brother on a bus. I came down with whooping cough on the trip and the bus driver put us out on the side of the road. I understand the driver’s perspective, but putting an old lady and two little kids (one of them ill) out on the road just shouldn’t be done.

Once I got here, things have improved. My hotel is very basic [read "stark"], but it’s very convenient, being a short bus ride from central Florence and within walking distance to several passable restaurants and a market where I can by Coke and water and whatever else I need.

The language is a bit of a problem — not with people, but with reading. For example, I didn’t pack things like shampoo, lotion, etc. because since I’m here more than two weeks, I wanted to buy the full-size version of stuff I use at home. So at the market I bought what I thought was body wash and a bottle of lotion. I found out the hard way that the lotion was actually more body wash. (Boy I was really clean that day!)

My days in Florence sound pretty much like my days in Dallas. Get up, drive (Dallas)/take a taxi (Florence) to work. Work until whenever, then come home and do it all again the next day.

Today is Saturday and I got the day off, so I took the bus into City Center and visited the central markets and several of the sites of the city. Now I’m back at the hotel wondering what to do with the rest of my day.

I love the Italians. Everyone I have met (except one policeman in the Rome airport) has been friendly and helpful. The staff at the hotel have been really nice, so I guess you can’t ask more than that. Even trying to order food when I can’t read the menu very well or order even more poorly hasn’t been an issue. I went to a little pizza/pasta restaurant last night. For some reason, I have been hungry for pasta with mushrooms and chicken. I went through the entire menu and didn’t see anything that even resembled it. I do happen to know the words for chicken and pasta and mushrooms, so between those three words and hand gestures, I wound up with an incredibly delicious meal.

My husband will be joining me next weekend and we’ll fly back together early the following week. It will be good to see him. I brought a MagicJack with me, so I can call back to the US for free, so we’ve been able to keep in touch, but it’s not the same. The 7 hour time difference doesn’t help, and he’s been traveling, making the total time difference 9 hours, but we’ve figured it out.

The trip isn’t for the faint of heart or the badly impaired. Florence, like the rest of Europe isn’t ADA friendly, and there are some interesting twists for those of us with RA. For example, many doorknobs don’t twist or use a lever. They’re round like a “normal” doorknob, but they have a large button on top that has to be squeezed in order to work the latch to open the door. (Think of it as a large child-proof cap to open the door.) I’ll tell you, there have been times this week I thought I might get stuck in the office bathroom until the midnight cleaning crew came in and found me.

In most ways, it’s a blessing to be here and I’m fortunate to have someone send me to Florence with all my expenses paid. But being a woman, traveling alone in a country where you don’t speak the language makes you feel a bit isolated. I was sitting outdoors at a small Trattoria having lunch today when a couple came up to look at the menu and were discussing whether to stop and eat — in English. I looked up and before I could stop myself, I told them that it was so good to hear the English language spoken.

So I hope all of you are doing well. I’ll try to post more from my adventures in Italy perhaps with some pictures — if not now when I get back to Dallas and get reorganized.

Thanks for checking in.

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