Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Travels with Helen

Hi - I am getting to be nearly as well travelled as the Polish/Canadian/Hungarian/Spanish Carters - not quite but still. However this last couple of months I have been to Barcelona with everyone else for Peggy's birthday which was lovely and so warm (!). It was really nice to spend time with Chris and the girls and meet George and Oscar at last. Then in the middle of December Brian and I went to Florence. He has wanted to see Michaelangelo's David for ages so we had 5 days in Florence and walked our feet until they were begging for mercy. Highlights were all the various Michaelangelo sculptures in various places, not only the David, which gave us a chance to see different moods and different types of his sculptures in real life which is not something you can do in many places, and to study them in relative peace as there weren't hordes of tourists around. I loved seeing all the early art - Fra Angelico, Giotto etc which (being frescos mostly) you can only see in situ and which mean a lot more when you see them in context, and see them together. The Duomo is magnificent, the Baptistry is absolutly stunning and the Duomo museum is wonderful. The Accademia, in addition to David, has a really good little musical instrument museum which we spent ages looking at. They have 2 Stradivarius violins (in cases - a shame, they should be played) an original fortepiano by Christofieri (not sure about the spelling here) who invented the piano, and lots of other really interesting things. We sightsaw solidly every day we were there and still only saw parts of what there is to see. Down sides were the food which was exorbitantly expensive and not very good - after one awful lunch I did even say that I would have preferred to go to McDonalds (which is not a place I go to (sorry Joanne)), so that was disappointing. The other big disappointment was the Uffizi. We had prebooked tickets on the internet for which you are charged more than the cost of the ticket, and the way they had it set up when we got there you had to go elsewhere (not marked, you got told to go when you reached the ticket desk) then get your ticket there and come back to the entrance you had just left - by which time a busfull of Japanese had arrived. We queue jumped. In december you don't need to prebook. But the real disappointment was the gallery. The paintings were not well lit, they weren't even well marked - they had no information up about them, the place was shabby with cracks in the paint and looking just a bit down at heel. Some of the pictures were unavailable and a lot were in different places from the locations in the guide book, so it was generally just a bit of a let down. Not nearly as good as some of the other places we went to, which considering its reputation is sad. We were really lucky with the weather which was dry, clear and sunny every day. I would recommend Florence in December if you want to go - everything was open, there were lots of tourists, but no crowds, we saw everything we wanted and spent as much time as we wanted in every place. It was pleasant to walk around, not boiling hot as in the summer. However I would go self catering and not bother spending a lot on mediocre food. Fantastic experience though, and looking through art books for the Xmas art quiz I can see lots of paintings that I have now seen in real life which is a thrill and gives a different perspective onto things.

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