Now-a-days I seem to start every post with an apology ... and this one's no different. I said I would post about week #22 a couple of weekends ago, but I never did ... sorry! Just when I think I'm getting caught up on posting, something else creeps up and demands my attention. With that said, let me cast my mind back a few weeks and share with you what was probably the most NEW52 things I've ever experienced in one week!!! This is going to be a LONG post, so go grab yourself a tea / coffee and get comfy before you start reading.
Week #22 began with a bank holiday here in the UK, but rather than relaxing and enjoying the extra day off work, DH and I were running around like headless chickens, whilst we tried to get organised for our trip to Tuscany. Our flight was due to leave Gatwick at 10:55am the following morning and knowing that we'd need to check in at least 1hr before departure and that driving to the airport would take around 1.5hrs, we figured it made sense to book into a B&B (near the airport) the evening before. The B&B was nice enough, though it was located on a busy road with traffic lights right by our room, which meant there was constant noise from idling vehicle engines ... not great!
The first of this weeks new experiences came when we arrived at the airport. We'd bought our flight tickets online (via expedia.co.uk) so didn't have an actual ticket, just a print out with a booking reference. We went to the British Airways check-in zone and were greeted by a row of self service check-in screens. Now, we consider ourselves as fairly frequent travellers, but this was the first time we'd ever had to check ourselves onto a flight ... eeekkkk!!! Thankfully though, it was really easy! It was just a case of keying in a code, scanning our passports and confirming luggage numbers. I don't know about you, but I always think holidays begin the minute your luggage is checked in ... our trip, albeit short, had begun. Bring on the planes, trains and automobiles.
The flight to Pisa took less than 2hrs and we were soon through customs and let loose in Italy ... for the first time!
Usually when we go on holiday, we book a "package" deal where flights, transfers and accommodation are all included in the price. Our trip to Tuscany was different though because everything was organised separately. We'd have to make our own way from the airport at Pisa, to San Gimignano where we were staying ... eeekkk!! Thankfully a friend had given us great advise / instructions on how to get there.
Train timetables in Italy were surprisingly easy to understand. The closest train station to San Gimignano is at Poggibonsi (btw, isn't that just a great sounding name?!?!?) and to get there meant we needed to change trains a couple of times. Firstly we got an express from Pisa Aeroporto to Pisa Centrale, then we got a connecting local commuter train to Empoli and finally another train through to Poggibonsi. It was on the last train that we met up with some fellow British travellers and when asked where they we travelling to, we found out they were actually guests at the same wedding we were attending!!!
By the time we finally arrived at Poggibonsi, it was after 5pm and we were shattered! We were due to catch the local bus to take us to San Gimignano, but the thought of another hour of travelling really didn't appeal, so we grabbed a taxi instead and booked into our hotel a very swift 15 minutes later.
No sooner had we arrived, than we were heading out the hotel door to meet up with friends (+ the Brits we'd met on the train) for a pre-wedding dinner. Members of the main bridal party were all staying at a farmhouse approximately 2miles from San Gimignano, and had invited everyone for a meal the evening before the wedding. It was a chance for people to get to know each other before the big day itself, a chance for the two families to meet and mingle and have a glass of two of wine!
The Big Day
It was like a scene from a fairytale wedding with a white carpet leading towards the assembled guests and officiating dignitaries. The groom looked a little nervous as he glanced over his shoulder and caught the first fleeting glimpse his beautiful bride.
The weather was perfect, the sun shone throughout the ceremony and a refreshing breeze kept the temperatures comfortable for everyone that was dressed up to the nines!
We'd planned to head back into San Gimignano the day after the wedding but instead, friends invited us over to the farmhouse for lunch on the patio, under the Tuscan sun. Or at least that was the original idea. The weather, however, had other plans. It rained. A lot. But this didn't dampen our spirits because instead on sitting outside, we sat indoors, ate delicious cured ham with melon and drank tasty wine, made from the grapes grown on the vines outside the very farmhouse we sat in, all the while we listened as Dave (playing his guitar) & John (serenading Paula) entertained us. Bliss.
But all too soon, our time in Tuscany was over. So with wonderful memories and 700+ photos, we packed our bags and headed home. Automobiles, trains and planes.
After you've been away, do you have a view / a building / a land-mark that as soon as you see it, you say to yourself "I'm almost home"? We do and this is ours ...
As you can see, it's not a scenic view, or an historic building or even a beautiful land-mark. In fact, it's a bit of an eyesore ... it's the cooling towers from Didcot power station ... however whenever we see them, we know we're nearly home.