Saturday, September 28, 2013 (Day 18)
– no biking!
– 9a wakeup, breakfast pack
– 11:41a train from Perugia to Florence
– 1:39p arrive in Florence
– arrive Florence Chic hotel
– watched the women’s UCI World Championship road race from our hotel room
– walked around Florence and to the UCI Expo and finish line
– watched the women’s UCI World Championship race from the finish line
– 7:30p dinner at Trattoria Marione
It was strange to wake up this morning and realize we weren’t on the bike tour anymore. The end of our tour was really easy yesterday because all we have to do is leave the bikes at the hotel in their garage an our Iron Donkey rep will come by sometime at his leisure to pick them up. We were up today around 9am and then had a leisurely breakfast at the Hotel Fortuna in Perugia. The breakfast was the same stuff we’ve had at nearly all the hotels. Overall I’d rate the Hotel Fortuna pretty well. The room was comfortable, the shower was good. We had free and decent wifi coverage and the location was good in Perugia. Plus last night we were able to watch the sunset from the rooftop terrace which was certainly very cool.
We didn’t have rail tickets yet, as they are easy to buy at the station, so we had some leeway to decide if we wanted more time in Perugia, or just to head off to Florence. We decided to go ahead and head to Florence. We were most excited to ride the “mini-metro” down to the Perugia railstation. The “mini-metro” reminded me of the people-mover at Disneyland that I remember riding when I was 10 years old. It’s a driver-less tram on a track that just moves several people up and down from the base of Perugia to the top. Hmmmm, perhaps we should have found this mini-metro yesterday to get us up to the top.
Oh, and even more exciting, was taking an elevator down from Perugia to the mini-metro. The elevator was on an angled track, so that was pretty cool, and felt very Swiss.
So, the elevator, to the mini metro, to the train station and we arrived about an hour before our train. There was a Coop (grocery store) across the street from the train station, so we hopped on over, and with luggage and everything did some lunch shopping for our normal bread, cheese, and drinks. We still have some Chianti salami left and we will make our own sandwiches on the train. Then, we just sat on the train platform and killed time until the train arrived.
Our two hour train ride was uneventful and I was able to get some blog typing done. I realize now why I was so far behind in Iceland all the time. Usually when we travel Europe, I use our train rides to catch up and type blog entries, but in Iceland I was driving us everywhere, and so no typing every got done. Anyway, I’ll get back to that one after this trip is finished.
We arrived in Florence, and once again we are back in a big city full of tourists and bustling people! Our hotel, Florence Chic is about a 10 or15 minute walk from the train station, and with our google map directions it was easy to find the right street corner. Only then did we find out that the hotel is actually on the cycle route for the UCI World Championships bike races that are going on this week! How exciting! We are here to attend the races, but we had no idea that I had booked a hotel right on the route. I’m sure many tourists are annoyed at the bike race because it means more people in town, the hotels were hard to book, and the city is nearly all shut down and roads are closed off for the racing events. But, we are super excited to be here for the fun!
It was a little difficult finding the hotel because it wasn’t labeled. It wasn’t a large hotel by any means. In fact, I believe it is quite new, only opened this year and is located on the 2nd floor of a building condo unit. I think they only have like 6 or so rooms available. We rang the bell to the Florence Chic and they let us in and showed us the room. We were surprised at the keyring we got with the room, though! One key for the outside door, one key for the door to the common area, one key to the door that lead to the bedrooms, and another key for the bedroom. Whew, that’s a lot of keys!
We flopped down and pulled out the cycling maps to figure out when the women’s elite world championship road race was coming through. We knew the roads were closed between the hours of 2 and 4, so we figured they’d be by any minute. We spent our time taking lots of photos of the people and the route and running to and from the window every time we heard something. It turns out there are tons of official cars that come by up to 20 or 30 minutes before the actual cyclists come by, so we kept darting up just to see official cars and motorcycles.
But, then, finally, we heard the tv helicopter, and the cheering, and there they were, the women were cycling through! Wooooo, exciting! We cheered and took photos and then marveled at all the team cars with all the bike changes on top as they came through and then, poof, everyone left, the sidewalks were empty and they moved the barricades aside to allow people to walk around again.
The weather is beautiful outside, sunny, and clear, and probably 80 again as it has been all week, so we headed out on the street with no real destination in mind. We wandered around the Duomo, then found ourselves walking out to the main racing circuit. So the World Champion road races do a 16.6km circuit from Florence to Fiersole several times at the end of the race and then the finish line is at the Mandela Forum which is a 45 minute walk from our hotel. So, we headed over and found ourselves at the Forum after a rather long walk. It turned out that the women were still racing around, and we got to see them fly by the gates while we watched at the Dutch corner. The Dutch had a band playing, the flags flying, and they were all dressed up to celebrate. We meandered about the area and found the finishline, and then the big cycling Expo and several tvs showing the race. We ended up watching the finish of the race on one of the TVs in the expo, and it was great fun to be surrounded by so many cycling fans for the finish of the race. =)
The Expo was not quite what I was expecting. They had several vendor booths, and several were selling cycling jerseys and gear, but really a lot of the booths were food booths, or just general advertising booths. Also the area wasn’t as large as we were expecting. Oh well. We took a break and then decided to take the train back to our area of town.
It was really great fun to be here, and we are so glad we came. The quick train ride took us back to our area of town and we wandered into a random restaurant for some dinner. We ended up at Trattoria Marione at 7:30p and just barely got a table. When we left there was a huge group of people waiting outside to get in. We were packed into the restaurant and it was a good Italian family restaurant atmosphere. We had our usual shared pasta as a starter and then each got a meat. We still have chocolate from the Perugina Chocolate Factory at the room, so we opted out of dessert.
This was actually quite a fast dinner by Italian standards, and I believe we were back in our room by 9p. It was a Saturday night, and the streets were hopping until well after midnight, or at least until we fell asleep that is. We could have gone out and walked around, but we’d already waked about 8 miles today and we opted to stay in the room instead.
Tomorrow are the men’s elite world championship races and we are definitely looking forward to seeing some of the big names in cycling.