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Report 926: My Dream Trip To Italy and France

By BGE from Fox Creek, Alberta, Canada, Spring 2005

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Page 19 of 38: A GTG Kind of Day

photo by BGE

Our GTG in Florence

Today is my Slowtrav get-together day. I’ve been waiting for this day for a long time! Slowtrav is such an amazing place. I’ve learned about 75 – 80% of all that I’ve needed to make this trip of mine a reality from this wonderful travel site. From the archival trip reports written by members who have been there and done it before me to the group of ever-so-generous people who’ve shared all of their wisdom and advice, I’ve been enriched a hundred times over by their kindness.

Today, I’m going to meet some other Slowtrav members for lunch and a GTG at Boccadama. We’ve been chatting back and forth for several months on the Slowtrav message board, as we planned, arranged and organized this day.

As I get ready to leave the apartment, I realize that my Carte Agile, my precious bus pass, is missing. After going over yesterday in my mind trying to remember where I might have left it, I realize with a sickening jolt in my stomach that I’m also missing 200E. I’d made a withdrawal at the ATM for this week’s expenses, tucked it into my inside zippered pocket with my Carte Agile, and now it’s gone!

Frantically, I search everywhere that I can possibly think it might be. No luck. It is late, and I have to walk, as my bus card is gone, and I have no money to buy another. I pick up my bag with my camera inside and leave the apartment. I am not a happy camper... have I been pickpocketed? Have I lost the money and the card somewhere? I'm not the kind of person who loses stuff ever, so this really eats away at my tummy.

Kris calls me on my cell. She and her husband, Mark are coming to the GTG, and she’s not sure where it is. We fill each other in on where we are and when we expect to arrive at the restaurant. This really is totally cool! I can hardly wait to meet everyone. I walk faster, my black mood over the missing money and bus card lifting, as I get closer to downtown, Boccadama and our GTG.

What a fabulous afternoon! There are several ST’ers who meet at Boccadama…Kris (Krix) and her husband, Mark, Colleen (colleenk) and her sister Kathleen, Angie (tuscanartist), Alessandra (Alessandra Federici) and me! It is such a special thing for me to meet these amazing people who I have known only through the magic of the internet... on our travel site, Slowtrav. The food is divine and the company is sweet!

We are talking about our experiences travelling and someone makes a sign that says, “Hi, Pauline!”, holding it up when we take photos of our group. A guy from the next table comes over and asks us if we are talking about Slowtrav! It’s John and Anjilla, currently living in Malta and soon to be in San Francisco… they have just spent time in Malta with Shannon and Colleen from Slowtrav! How small is this world, really? We invite them to join us and the rest of the afternoon just slipped away, with visiting, sharing information about travel, talking about our current trips. John and Anjilla invite me to visit them anytime. That sounds like an invitation I'd accept!

After many photos are taken on all of our cameras, hugs and more hugs given and received, bills paid and servers tipped, we leave, one by one, two by two, until there is no one left by 4:00 P.M.

This has been a wonderful afternoon.

I wouldn’t have missed this for the world.

Alessandra and I wander towards the Du-o-mo, talking and window shopping. She is such a delightful person. We stop in the Disney store to pick up a few treats for her children. Lucky kids! In my next life I want to come back as her child... I think I'd love that! After we make arrangements for my trip to Cortona on Monday, she heads toward Santa Maria Novella and I go back to my home in Florence.

A delicious surprise…my son stops by my apartment! He is back in Florence. They arrived here a little while ago, and we plan dinner at Boccadama. Walking along, we catch up on their trip and my time in Florence by myself. It is a lovely way to end a very special day!

After dinner, I leave them, stop in at a little scarf shop called Cipressi and choose several scarves as gifts for friends... and for me, also! This is such a good place to shop. The woman working here knows her inventory perfectly. She finds a merlot-coloured wool cashmere scarf for me, as well as a stack of not-so-expensive silk scarves in a kaleidoscope of colours for family and friends back home.

I stop at my Internet Spot on my way home, check my e-mail and then I check in on Slowtrav to see what’s happening there. Am I in for a lovely surprise! My little topic, Ciao, Amici! that I started when I was about to leave on this trip is now huge! There are 59 posts from all around this planet and over 2000 views! It is overwhelming for me to see this. These generous, kind, funny people, who I only know via this travel site, have been leaving messages, cheering me on, giving me advice and sharing their experiences with me…anything to help me make this trip of mine better and better.

It takes me some time to read through all of the new posts and to post a reply. By the time I am ready to head home it is dark and, although this feels like a very safe neighbourhood, I hurry along the sidewalk heading for 104 via Cavour. After a quick pit stop at Café Principe for another bag of cantucci, I’m home.

Sitting at my kitchen table with a cup of tea, I'm thinking about my day and all that has transpired since I woke up this morning. It has been a spectacular day! I realize, with a start, that I only have 4 days left…4 days! I want time to slooooow down a lot, to let me savour the last few days here. I am SO not ready to go home.

Still, it has been a luxurious 3 weeks and I am not complaining…it has simply flown by and I’m faced with the fact that it is nearly over.

My last few days are designated already:

~ Saturday - Museo dell'Opera del Du-o-mo with M. and D.

~ Sunday - San Miniato with M. and D.

~ Monday - train to Cortona to spend the day with Alessandra

~ Tuesday - pack, clean the apartment and have dinner with Angie and Judy, if she can make it

~ Wednesday - leave for Paris

Best Things Today:

~ my GTG at Boccadama

~ meeting everyone…making new friends…putting faces to names!

~ wandering along the streets of downtown Florence with Alessandra

~ taking photos of the sleeping carriage driver!

~ spending time with M. and D. again. I missed them a lot, after they left.

Worst Thing Today:

~ misplacing my Carte Agile and my 200E… did someone pick my pocket?

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