This post is brought to you by CalChews, calcium goodness you can chew which gives you your daily recommended dose of Calcium, Vitamin D, and K, for optimum bone health, minus the risk of heart disease; and by the Lifestyle Network, the premiere cable channel for women in the Philippines. This 5-day getaway was my prize as the official winner for the Tuscan Blogger Adventure by CalChews.
NAIA 1, MANILA — September 26, 2012, 7:00 PM. Just minutes before hoping our KLM flight to Amsterdam (via Taipei), I was Tweeting with my husband and giving last-minute instructions about the house, the toddler, the errands. Having never left him or my son behind to go on a trip, you could tell I was a bit anxious! (My blog post a few days before I left confirmed that.)
After our last “I love you’s” via SMS, I turned off my phone and boarded the flight. The jitters were still there; not about the plane ride, but of being by myself, alone, in a new place, with new people. I’d travelled alone before, in my single days. But this time, things felt different. My mind would wander with thoughts of my husband and son, and I began to think how the next five days without them would seem too long, too empty without their company.
I don’t know if it’s age, or that I was able to sleep a straight 6 hours on the flight from Taipei to Amsterdam, but the 12-hour plane ride didn’t seem that long. (The last time I went to Europe, I was 18.) We landed in Schiphol at around 6 AM, September the 27th.
SCHIPHOL AIRPORT, Amsterdam — September 27, 2012, 6:15 AM. This is me, happy to be out of the plane and stretching my legs. (Plane rides that are over 8 hours are just killing — and not in a good way! I tweeted this pic to my hubby, who had already left several tweets wondering if I’d landed in Europe in one piece.)
We had about two hours to wander around Schiphol while we waited for our morning flight to Rome. It’s a good thing Schiphol is Europe’s best airport, because there’s much to see and do.
But perhaps, the best part about the airport are things like this:
The Garden Park is an indoor park, with trees transplanted into the interior, lots of “grass” seating and lounging areas, an organic cafe, Wifi connectivity, and (yes) bird sound effects. I was able to catch up on Tweets with my hubby while I was here, and was finally able to talk to some of my fellow group mates from the Lifestyle Network. The photo of chocoholics heaven there is from Café Chocolat in Lounge 1 of Schiphol, where you can by chocolate by weight, as well as savor a menu of decadent treats.
Needless to say, the Garden Park and the chocolate cafe made the layover an event in itself. (If you have more time, Schiphol has a spa, a hotel, shower facilities, an Irish pub, and loads of shops.)
By 8:45 AM, we were boarding the plane again, this time, for Rome.
Of course, we had to drive by the Colosseum! It really is an imposing structure. Being a lover of history, I immediately remembered the stories I’d read from all those meaningless textbooks, the encyclopedias and the reference books from my childhood. I took this from the bus, which had to take us to Termini Station so we could catch our train to Florence. Our guide, Patrizia, assured us that we’d be able to see the Colosseum on our way back to the airport on our last day.
At Termini Station, we paused for a moment to grab some lunch, before boarding the 2:30 PM train to Florence — or Firenze, as I now love to call it (accent and all, of course!)
We arrived in Florence at 4:15 PM — a total of 30 hours of travel. Whew! We were brought directly to our hotel, the Grand Hotel Adriatico, Florence, which was right in the hub of the city’s popular districts. We finally settled in and showered, before meeting again for dinner at 8 PM. We chose to stay close by, and had dinner in an osteria just opposite our hotel, Ristorante Maso.
My primi was a risotto di mare, followed by a secondi of Florentine T-bone topped with arugula and extra virgin olive oil. Dolci (dessert) was fresh, creamy tiramisu — the best I’ve ever had. I’m pretty sure it was, since I cleaned up pretty well.
And I mean really well.
I saw the meal as a good omen. (The food in Italy is phenomenal.) Our journey to Tuscany — though tiring — began on a delicious note: The food was fantastic, as were our first bottles of Chianti Classico (which were passed around generously throughout dinner); the group was soon getting to know each other; the city of Florence was all new to us, and yet it welcomed us with a warm, hearty meal and a nod of excitement. As I savored that final spoonful of tiramisu (followed, naturally, by my 2nd CalChews of the day, to end the meal), I was certain that this trip would be full of delicious memories.
And indeed it was. (Stay tuned for my next post on Siena, Chianti and Pisa, the 2nd day of the Tuscan Blogger Adventure.)