So here we are in Frankfurt Al Main Airport, waiting for the 1545 flight to Dublin, which is due to touch down two hours and five minutes later at 1650.
We’ve had a class time. Jo says it’s been good to see all the Italians being touchy-feely towards each other (she says demonstrative) but I hadn’t personally noticed for some reason. She thinks it sets a good example.
Plans to visit San Gimignano fell by the wayside in favour of sleep (and rest for Jo’s left leg, which is still sore from too much dancing at our wedding disco), but we did venture into the snow in the Italian Riviera and the Cinqueterre the day before we left Lucca. We had taken in some of the city walls the previous day.
We discovered the truth behind Darach Mic Giolla Cathain’s wise words about the decorative red, yellow and green lights all over Rome as we went on the bus tour, visiting the Colosseum, the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps, and of course the Vatican, where they were putting out a few seats yesterday for some reason. I wonder what that could have been?
St Peter’s Basilica was milling with people, but it keeps certain areas set aside for prayer and worship. One wonders where Sunday worshippers sit, as there are not many pews in front of the main altar, although the side chapels all have seats.
We stayed in two hotels in Italy, both four star – the Albergo Celide in Lucca, which is quite modern, although attempts to sleep during the day were stymied somewhat by work in the room above us, and the Hotel Quirinale in Rome. The Quirinale was built in the 19th Century and left me feeling it was quite pretentious in many ways – as though it were trying too hard to be five star. We did though like the lift nearest to our room, as it was an old traditional style metalwork lift with manual doors (including wooden internal ones!) but had a modern control panel.
We did all our travel around Italy by train, and got to see a lot of different sorts of trains – ultramodern Eurostar-type trains (Frecciarossa) and the Leonardo Airport Express (entirely 1st Class officially, but no particular service), down to rather older trains which, not unlike some of the stations, were showing their age. All the track we saw was electrified and had modern signalling, but the stations, while all clean, varied from recently decorated to grey with imperfect platform surfaces. Some stations and trains felt much as I think NIR would have done at the heights of the NIO’s parsimony in the early 1990s, or rather worse, but punctuality was generally excellent – the one late train which affected us was to our benefit!
Apart from the tour bus in Rome, we only chanced one bus, which we were told was the right route for the Duomo from the right side of the street outside Firenze Santa Maria Novella station. We gave up when it came back from the wrong end of the route.
The one problem with travelling so far is the layovers. We had a three hour wait in Zurich airport last Wednesday, and unfortunately we’re in the middle of another three hour wait here in Frankfurt – on the other hand, we should be back in my car all being well by 6pm, and in Belfast by 8 – the car is at the City North hotel where we stayed last Tuesday night. City North is very modern, but also quite homely, and we’d far rather get something for our money than pour money into the coffers of the Dublin Airport car park operators – and being at Gormanstown, it’s only an hour and a half from Belfast and rest for tired feet, give or take a stop to buy bread and milk for the morning and keep ourselves going along the way.
Still, we’ll be home not much after the time we reached the Hotel Quirinale last Wednesday – unfortunately we started a lot earlier, checking out before breakfast at 7 this morning! Jo says, “Try doing that in high heels!” to which I can only point out that they are not something I ever intend to possess…