Friday, May 15, 2015

Florence log 1 - Getting to know you

This morning, I awoke early, and unable to get back to sleep, I decided to film the streets of Florence at 5:30am. At first, they were fairly empty - there were a few people wandering around, pulling suitcases behind them - so there was little to distract. I filmed mainly streets although I did pay quite some attention to the church Santa Maria Novella, not least because we probably won't be going there at all. Wandering around, I stumbled on the conference centre, which is only about 100m from the hotel, straight down one road.

Returning to the hotel, we had breakfast then went out for a short walk. I wanted to buy credit for the Italian mobile phones which I bought last year in Sorrento; the local TIM shop is a two minute walk from the hotel. Also next to the shop is one of the outside markets of Florence, Mercato Centrale; there is an outside market, full of stalls selling leather bags and belts, football shirts and souvenirs, and there is an inside market (where we didn't go) which apparently sells food and other items.

From there, we walked to the Duomo, which would take me about ten minutes (if that) on my own but took about twice the time with my wife, who doesn't walk at my pace. I knew it was close but I didn't realise it was that close. Although the streets were still fairly empty (thus making it relatively easy to take photographs without extraneous heads), I knew that we couldn't stay as we had to get to the Uffizi Gallery - we had tickets for 10:45 am. The walk from the Duomo to the Uffizi was slightly further from the hotel to the Duomo.

Once at the Uffizi, I was somewhat taken aback when I saw the lines waiting to enter. I had pre-booked tickets and was told by an attendant to join the queue at a building opposite the main entrance. There we joined other people who had also pre-booked; they were queuing to obtain their tickets before joining an even longer queue to enter the gallery. Everyone at least took the wait in good spirits. I should mention that the weather was suitable - between 18-20 degrees. Sometimes there were even spots of rain. Much better to wait in weather like this than in sweltering heat with no relief from the sun.

Once in the Uffizi, we spent about two hours walking around and absorbing the pictures. My wife had studied Renaissance painting whilst at school so she was in seventh heaven, looking at all the pictures. She even forgot about most of the pains in her legs while walking around.

After the Uffizi, we split a pizza in a restaurant just behind the Uffizi - I had my favourite Italian drink, lemon soda - then continued on to the Ponte Vecchio. I had been looking forward to this, but the reality was far from the dream: all the shops belonged to jewellers and they were very expensive. While we were taking pictures, I was 'accosted' by a lady in white face who, without words, insisted that we have our picture taken together. I gave her two euro for the pleasure.

Continuing back to the Duomo, we stopped at a few shops which we had skipped earlier in our haste to get to the Uffizi in time, leaving more than a few euros behind. The clothes and shoes look so beautiful in the shop windows; I told my wife that we should regard them as art and not as clothing. We resisted the temptation to have a cup of tea for 7 euro each in a prime location opposite the Duomo, instead electing to walk most of the way back to the hotel before stopping at a local watering hole opposite the Italian War of Independence (1820-1822) war memorial, where a cup of tea (actually two cups for the price of one) cost only 4 euro.

This reminds me that a review of our hotel stated that there were always hot drinks on hand in the hotel lobby and so I decided not to bring the small traveling kettle which I bought in the aftermath of Sorrento. No kettle and also no hot drinks in the lobby. Oops.

Once in the hotel, I resumed my Internet browsing from the early morning, looking for the photographic supplies shop which is supposed to be nearby. I noted the address and saw approximately how to get there; the shop is outside the tourist area of Florence, but then we are on the edge of that area so it took me only a few minutes to walk there. Fortunately there was another sports camera on sale (about 430 euro) so at least the staff knew what was required. The booklet which came with the camera mentioned an FT card, but the salesman knew that a micro-SD card was the required item. I had the choice of 16 or 32GB and plumped for the latter, at the cost of 45 euro (too much?). The salesman placed the card in the slot provided, I turned on the camera and a blue light came on. I thought that this showed that the camera was working.

On the way back from the shop, I turned the camera on again and even wore the camera (probably looking like a Cyborg), filming a little of the streets. When I came back to the hotel, I used the supplied USB cable to connect the camera to the computer, located the directory where the files would be ... and discovered that nothing had been filmed. Disappointed, I read the 'manual'; here I discovered that supplying power to the camera is not sufficient; there is an extra button on the camera which has to be pressed. I experimented with this a little, creating a few AVI files which I immediately deleted. I don't see how this button can easily be pressed when the camera is being worn and how one can actually check that the camera is working (the blue light blinks when it is filming). Probably I shall start filming before attaching the camera to the helmet; this prefix can later be trimmed.

Outside, it is raining; there was a brief thunderstorm, but already it seems that the rain has stopped. We may go out for supper or I may go to one of the many cafes to buy sandwiches.

All in all, a good day.

No comments: