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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 9 of 38: First Day in Florence

photo by BGE

Looking out of the skylight over my bed...

5:00 A.M. is early for me to be awake.

I count backwards and realize that it is 9:00 P.M. at home in Canada. Why am I waking up at this time, for Peteís sake? Iím going to live on Italy time, not Canada time, SO itís a nice early morning in Florence.

Iím in Florence!

Florence, Italy! Firenze, Italia!

While sitting at my kitchen table and eating the best yoghurt Iíve had in my life... KIR brand, in little delicate glass bottles... I cannot believe I am actually here. After all of the delays, family illnesses, family upheavals and the many stops and starts, it really is a miracle.

"I really, truly am in Florence", I think to myself.

What starts out as a glorious first day in Florence quickly turns very quickly into a sad and very emotionally upsetting day. First, I spend 1Ĺ hours walking, walking, walking, and trying to find a bakery that Iíve read about that makes gluten-free bread. I walk and walk, getting lost in my own neighbourhood. Finally, finding a small bakery that seems like it might have gluten-free products, I go in and I ask the guy at the check-out and he says they do.

ďRice be ok?Ē

Rice be perfect!

I want 2 loaves of rice bread. He hands me 2 bags of rice flour! No, NO. Thatís not it. My pathetic Italian canít get me out of this little fix! He says to come back Tuesday next week, ďMaybe we have for you, thenÖĒ I choose a pastry, a few slices of what I think is freshly-sliced raisin bread, I pay the guy, and leave, really feeling exhausted now.

At home, I unpack my little bakery bag, to find the pastry squashed underneath the weight of... 2 one-pound bags of rice flour!

Damn! That was not what I asked him for.

Setting the bags of flour aside, I take a bite of the smashed pastry. It is tasteless, cold, sticky andÖ tasteless. I wrap it in a paper towel and set it aside. I also stash the 2 bags of rice flour in the cupboard and open the bag of fresh raisin bread slices. I'm looking forward to tasting the bread. It looked yummy on the shelf in the bakery.

Crap! It's as hard as a witchís heart.

Stale bread.

Damn! I toss it into the trash, along with the cold, smashed pastry. My day goes rapidly downhill from here.

One thing you need to know about hypoglycemia is this ~ not eating on a regular schedule, like every 2 hours, is one of the worst things that I can do to myself. The next worst thing is not getting enough sleep. Top that off with a huge load of stress, an enormous, about-to-explode case of jet-lag and you have a recipe for disaster.

So, back to my story... my son and I had arranged to meet at "the cafť in front of the Du-o-mo" for lunch. That sounds simple enough, doesnít it? I leave the apartment at least a half hour ahead of when we are to meet and I take an apple with me to get me through food-wise, until we find a place for lunch. (Remember, not eating = not good.)

My feet are hurting a lot by now, my head is aching a lot as well, and Iím feeling absolutely awful. I'm close to tears, suffering from lack of sleep and feeling so unbelievably tired. I walk and walk, really having no idea where I'm going, but finally arriving at the Du-o-mo. My feet are really sore by now.

I should have listened to the experts on Slowtrav.

I should have bought some really ďcomfortable walking shoesĒ and worn them for a few weeks before coming here.

Instead of finding the restaurant at the front of the Du-o-mo, I find a restaurant and then... another one and another one and another one... I have no idea at which one I'm to meet them! I walk from one to the other, back and forth between 8 or 9 places, around the piazza.

What if I've missed them?

What if I am at the wrong place?

The wrong time?

What if, what if, what if?

There are people selling purses, paintings, sunglasses, paintings, sunglasses, umbrellas, sunglasses... people coming up to me, pushing scarves in my face, saying something to me about ďBuy it, signora, buy it!Ē

I donít want it.

I just want to sit in some quiet little place and have a bite to eat and a visit with my son.


I need to eat now.

Iím still walking frantically back and forth between the various cafes, looking for M. and D. I'm really beginning to panic now, thinking that I must have misunderstood what they said and thinking that I am probably in the wrong place and they are going to be so pissed with me because Iím late for meeting them... because I'm likely not where I said I'd be, when I said I'd be there, wherever that is.

But, where else to go?

Where else am I supposed to meet them?

Is this even the right Du-o-mo?

What if there is more than one?

The circus atmosphere in the area around the Du-o-mo is wearing on me big-time by now. Iím developing a full-blown headache from not eating, my hypoglycemiaís kicking in big-time. Iím appalled at the grey concrete courtyard around this gorgeous old cathedral, full of beggars, people selling stuff that I have no desire to buy, tourists pushing and shoving, people spitting on the concrete, as they walk along.

It is way too much for me.

I finally see M. and D.

Running toward them, I'm crying by now... ďWhere the hell have you been?Ē I ask them. They've been doing the same thing as me... walking back and forth between restaurants, looking for me, thinking I was lost, and worrying about missing me.

Iím done, though. Now, it's a priority for me to find a place to eat immediately, and then rest.

I need to eat, and I need to sleep... and I know that I can do that at the apartment. I tell my son that I have to go home, and I know he doesnít know what is wrong, and I donít have the energy to explain it to him. They will come to my apartment later, he says.

He tries to get me to look for a place to have a salad. I know he's worried about me, and he doesn't know what is going on. All I know is that I want to go back to my apartment, eat something really fast and then sleep off this blood sugar crash.

It's a long walk home on my very sore feet, in shoes that aren't comfortable at all.

Back at my apartment, I eat immediately, protein, carbs and then a hit of sugar to bring my blood sugar back to something resembling normal. Then, I fall asleep for several hours. After sleeping and then eating again, I spend the next few hours downstairs, watching for M. & D. to come. They don't come, and now I'm worried about them.

I suddenly realize that they won't know how to ring my apartment to get into the building. I have to find out which outside doorbell button to push to ring my apartment. Going down to the main floor, I find the guy at the front desk, and he figures it out for me.

Now, how am I to let them know which button to press for my apartment? We have no cell phones that work, I have no phone in the apartment and I have no clue where to find a payphone or how to find the phone number of their hotel. I write a small note to them, explaining the doorbell issue, and I leave the note outside the front door of the building, on the front step, with a small rock holding it in place. Hopefully, when they come, they'll see it.

After a few hours, there's still sign of M. & D. I walk to Esselunga for a few more groceries that I missed on my last trip, and in paying for them, I hand the cashier 20E. She yells at me in Italian, slaps the front of the cash register several times really hard, and yells at me again. What the...?

I look at the numbers on the till, it shows 17.50E and I look at her, puzzled. I've given her enough money, haven't I? Just in case, I hand her another 5E. This is obviously not the right thing to do, as she slaps the till really, REALLY hard several more times, and yells at me again, then screams something... she's really angry with me...

Finally, she tosses me some change and yelling at me again, she abruptly waves me out of her checkout area, with a disgusted look.

It dawns on me.

She was looking for me to give her exact change!

I walk home, my feet burning and really sore, by now. My head is pounding, my eyes are filled with tears, my cheeks feel like they are on fire... I'm so embarrassed to be yelled at like that in public. The worst part is that I have no idea what I did wrong.

At last, I'm home. As I walk towards my apartment building, I see an elderly gentleman entering the front door and he curses and kicks my note to my son, and the little rock holding it, out into the street. Apparently, leaving that note is not a good idea, but there is no other way to contact them that I can think of.

There is still no sign of M. & D.

I dump my groceries in the kitchen, put the refrigeratables in the fridge, leaving the rest stacked on the table for the next day. After journaling a little and crying a lot, I fall into bed, exhausted.

Best Things Today:

~ waking to the sounds of the cathedral bells

~ not much else was 'best' today

Worst Things Today:

~ bottoming out with my hypoglycemia... the worst part is that it takes so long to get myself balanced again, after being this far out of sync

~ being jetlagged to death

~ almost everything today was 'worse' has to get better than this, I hope.

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