Walking through the backstreets of Florence, we found ourselves away from the rest of the tourists.
Saturday morning and we were off like greyhounds (or whippets) out of the trap. We decided the only way to beat the crowds was to get out early. Surely no other tourists would be out at 9am?!
We started with a coffee and then headed to the Duomo to get in early. Good plan, except it wasn’t open. And so we decided we’d go up the Campanile (the bell tower) as it was open and there wasn’t a queue.
|The Duomo, Florence|
I was pretty sure there’d be a lift (there was in Milan) but it seemed Florence was more traditional and so 84.7 metres later up a very narrow staircase (or four) and we emerged on the roof of the Campanile overlooking the red roofs of Florence.
It was a breathtaking view, the history of Florence immediately visible and relatively unchanged over centuries.
|View of the dome from the Campanile|
Descending from the top, four hundred and fourteen steps later, we emerged back at the base of the cathedral and after a second coffee, joined the queue of early bird tourists to go inside.
The inside of the Duomo was strangely austere compared to the almost gaudy marble-covered exterior. Devoid of decoration with the exception of a beautifully painted dome, it was a dichotomy of design.
From the Duomo we walked around the rest of Florence but all roads seemed to end back at the Duomo as we repeatedly found ourselves back at the great marble icon.
After the fourth or fifth time, we decided we needed to get off the tourist track and venture beyond the immediate centre. With map in hand we explored every piazza and sculpture and then went in search of a non-touristy restaurant for dinner.
Perhaps the greatest challenge of all!
After a dubious and disappointing breakfast, I set off to the biggest kids’ fashion trade show of the season to see the latest collections.
Arriving in Florence at 7pm, it was hot. I did a quick change at the airport, quick check-in at the hotel and jumped in a taxi to go to a reception at the Four Seasons.
Gatwick airport, day two. A strange sense of déjà vu but here I am again waiting for gate information.
Apparently the French have decided that France is closed and no one can fly through their air space. Very unsporting of them.
I’m off to Florence to go to a trade show.
We’d been hearing a lot about Walthamstow, an area of North East London which is always ripe for development but somehow seems to have avoided it so far. Friends are buying a house there and so we thought we’d go and see what all the fuss is about. And of course we thought we’d go by bike.
We set off on Sunday morning and arrived in Walthamstow Village in time for lunch at The Nag’s Head. We rode through seven and a half miles of suburban sprawl on another hot and sunny day and so, spotting the first pub in the village, we downed bikes and downed pints.
A pint of cider on a hot day starts as a lovely thing but soon becomes a force to be reckoned with and sure enough, it went straight to my head. Perhaps a second pint wasn’t such a good idea.
Walthamstow was a strange mixture of twelve century village surrounded by low income housing. The village itself was a tiny pocket of loveliness surrounded by all things horrible. We decided it wasn’t fur us.
Leaving Walthamstow we decided to come home a different way and as luck would have it, we discovered the bike path along the River Lea.
The River Lea runs down to the Thames through Hackney Marshes. We had a gorgeous ride along the river where dozens of swans lazily dozed on the surface of the water and dozens of people filled waterside pubs.
We passed the River Lea Weir, a brilliant feat of Victorian engineering where water gushed through metal sluice gates, passed the old sewage filtering system, now a well fertilized nature reserve and wound our way towards Stratford where we saw the Olympic stadium and red Helter Skelter sculpture before turning right and heading back along the Regents Canal.
We headed west along the canal, winding our way among tourists until we arrived back in familiar territory.
Another six hour bike ride. Good for the Whippet, challenging on the Purple Duchess!
Riding our bikes from Chalk Farm to Bethnal Green to go to a barbeque (a speedy half an hour ride past Kings Cross and up Pentonville Road), Letad announced that all the recent cycling had turned him into a whippet. From the Kilburn Supermodel to the Chalk Farm Whippet.
I’m dubious, I don’t see a rib cage but it could be a well covered whippet.
There’s no doubt though, we’re definitely fitter as a result of extended flat hunting and cycling through London has become a much enjoyed pastime.
We rode back several hours later having enjoyed a fun day out with friends. Riding along Regents Canal we stopped briefly to paddle in the fountains outside The Grain Store at Granary Square, a recent development near Kings Cross and arrived home just as dusk fell at 10pm, a late dusk on the longest day of the year.
And for our next excursion…
Coined by Letad’s best man, we set off on Saturday to look at six flats all within our golden triangle of NW5. From Prince of Wales Road to Kentish Town Road, up to Highgate and back down Hampstead Heath, it’s the area we feel the happiest. I felt that after seeing six more flats if we didn’t like anything, we might be the problem.
It was Mid Summer’s Day, the weather was glorious and even the dodgiest parts of K-Town sparkled in the sun. We were optimistic and it seemed as though luck might be finally on our side.
The first flat seemed ideal and we were about to plonk an offer on the table when a herd of elephants ran overhead. It turned out a very loud family lived upstairs, loud enough that the seller had asked the estate agent to mention it as an issue. Not for us it would appear.
Another flat, for the bargain price of half a million pounds, had a bathroom made of glass bricks in the hall and had a curtain instead of a door. Call me old fashioned but I tend to prefer walls and a door with my bathroom. Not for us it would appear.
And then there was Castlehaven Road. A nice flat with a garden, just down the road from The Grafton pub and the Kentish Town pubic baths and a lazy five minute walk to work for me. It needed work and had potential. Seemed ideal. We knew it would be popular but we emailed our offer in and now we wait (again). Offers will go to “Best and Final” tomorrow, a wild card lottery system we’re very familiar with where one randomly offers the largest amount possible to outbid the other parties and the biggest fool wins!