I have been very lucky since I have been here in Florence to have met some very interesting and fun people. But the last four weeks have been the best so far! The hardest part about meeting people here is that Florence has a tendency to be extremely transient. The school I attend is a language school. So when I meet people they are generally only around for a few weeks on vacation or a quick language refresher and then they are gone, which has caused me to not want to become too friendly with people at my school. It’s not that I don’t like them, but I tend to be one of those sappy, overly romantic thinkers and I always hope that we will be friends forever. Then I get hurt and upset when we don’t stay in touch. It’s not their fault, usually it’s mine. I hate being sad and so I tend to just steer clear of the obvious. Now that I am in a “Superiore” class at school I have people in my class that are here for more than a few weeks at a time and we actually get to know each other. Recently, one of my classmates asked me if I’d like to go on little trip with her to Barcelona Spain, through a company called, Florence for Fun. Which is why I have been absent for a few weeks…
Florence For Fun is a great little tour company owned by a fabulous woman named Anna who is originally from Australia, came to Florence for a vacation, and basically never left. It happens here. (It is rather quickly becoming a problem for me too!)
A friend of mine from school mentioned something about their excursion to Barcelona. Me, one to rarely say no to travel (if I can afford it) jumped at the chance. I have no idea if this is something that I would’ve done on my own, so I am glad she asked me to go with her! My friend is a lawyer in Australia and is extremely independent so I knew we would have no problems traveling together. Clearly, I am one of those people who like to go off and “do my own thing.” I really don’t care to babysit grown-ups and rarely need it myself.
Our trip was from Florence to France (the French Riviera), France to Spain (Barcelona), back to France (Montecarlo) and then home to Florence. We met and departed from the Santa Maria Novella train station in the evening. Our tour guide was Logan, who was a fun and vivacious lover of all things travel. We also lucked out and had Anna and her friend Giulietta (a fantastic dancer) along on our tour!
We traveled by bus and only after 5PM so there was aways time to sight see and enjoy the day. Ok, I know you are groaning at the prospect of traveling by bus but it really wasn’t as bad as it sounds! The tour was a whirlwind adventure (5 days) so we really didn’t have time to grumble or be uncomfortable. We only traveled for about 6 hours at a time with a stop in between and when we reached our hotel destination we were usually so tired it didn’t matter if the beds were comfy or not, (which they usually were) we just slept. The bus company drivers were safe, extremely friendly and funny. Anna told me she tries to ask for the same guys as often as possible because she trusts them and the company.
The nicest thing about Florence For Fun tours is that you are not on their timeline for things to do and see. They give you options and you are on your own to go and see and do whatever you want. But, if you choose to stay with the tour guides they always have something planned to do. Just don’t miss the bus! I never asked Anna what happens when someone does, but I am sure it can get expensive to catch up or find your way home… And if you are a young student, probably a little scary. These tour guides are not den mothers and you are responsible for your time!
We left on March 28th at 6:30 and reached our first hotel (a very nice Best Western) at around 1 AM in Cannes. When we woke we walked around Cannes for about half a day and then got back on the bus and headed for St. Tropez. Because it is still early spring, the weather was not completely in our favor… a bit chilly and windy but it was still fun to walk around and see what the French Riviera is all about. From there we got back on the bus and headed to Barcelona, Spain. We had two days here and I was very excited to be here! We arrived in Barcelona around 1 AM again and crashed into our beds! Barcelona is a fantastic city! It has now become my number one favorite city after San Francisco… Sorry S.F; but I am slowly and surely becoming Euro-trash… We stayed at a great little hostel called Melon District. Nothing fancy mind you, the accommodations are small and prison like but they are clean and close the city center and the beach. We also happened to get a great view of the Segrada Famiglia from our room! My classmate, Lee, and I ate at some great Tapas restaurants and did some much-needed shopping. I bought a great little book bag for school that was made of recycled banners and old tire rubber. We also partied one night at a club called Opium Mar until 4AM!. On our last day, Lee took off on a bike tour and I went on a walk around the city and beach. I think I was still a little drunk but sobered up pretty quickly with a coffee and some sea air. Lee told me the bike tour was great but unfortunately was sullied by a small accident. One of the girls (not from our tour) fell off her bike and cracked her head open. (Peeps, if you aren’t a good bike rider… DON’T go on these tours! While they are normally extremely safe, riding on busy streets can be scary and dangerous. If you don’t have excellent bike manners you will more than likely get injured or injure someone else.) It seemed that everyone on the tour had a great time walking around, shopping and partying and eating tapas until we thought we would burst! After two fun-filled days it was back on the bus to Nice, France.
We arrived in Nice at around 1AM again and flopped back into bed. When we woke it was another day of sight-seeing, shopping and eating. But alas, this is where my story ends because from here I left the tour and I caught a plane to Liverpool, England to visit a friend. According to Lee, the rest of the tour went on to Montecarlo, Monaco where she [Lee] informed me that they saw the Princess of Monaco. Unfortunately, no one realized what was going on and they never got a “paparazzi” shot of her.
The tour itself was well worth the money!
Tour Cost €349. This is for travel and lodging and a continental breakfast is provided. But I think it is better to go out to eat. If you are on a tight budget as many of the students were, you can eat fairly inexpensively anywhere. There are some great restaurants and if you are a foodie like me bring extra money for this! Barcelona has great tapas and of course you can’t beat some of the French food either. Also, Barcelona has a great nightlife and if you go early you can usually get in for free but no one gets there until after midnight! Shopping will also cost you a bit more and there are optional activities that you can do like bike tours, museums or just relaxing on the beaches. For me, this was a just “check it out” trip to see if Barcelona was somewhere I’d like to return and I WILL be returning to Barcelona this summer! I want to have my 45th (EEK!) birthday there!
I am not going to go into too much detail about Barcelona because I want to give her her due and write solely about those two and half days and the rest of my trip to England in another post. This is just a shameful plug for Florence For Fun…
Florence For Fun has a lot of other great tours and other activities to do in Florence and the Tuscan region! Check them out at:
Office: 055 247 6605
Address: Via della Pergola 10A/red Florence IT 50121
More photos from the tour…