Monday, 5 August 2013


Well what can I say about Florence? It is indeed a museum of a place, quite amazing really, which is what you would expect me to say really. I enjoyed my stay there immensely and the conference wasn't bad either.  

The view from my hotel
I had an early, early start as I had to be at the airport for about 7:20 and we usually give ourselves 2 1/2 hours to get there, just in case of mishaps, although 2 would be enough. So two rather weary and bleary eyed people set off that morning as my dear hubby Ian valiantly drove me there. It was so early we didn't even need to let the animals out as there was plenty of time to get back and let them out, even if it was just a tad later than normal, but not unusual. It was a good trip and I spent a loooooot of time in Rome airport, six hours in all. I suppose I could have gone for a quick look around Rome in that time, but I would rather not get lost in a strange city with a plane to catch - I'm just not that brave. I also slept on both plane journeys, the one from Riga to Rome and then Rome to Florence. I was exhausted after all the physical work I had been doing and trying to get my head around what I would say and how I would say it at the conference. I had a lovely lunch in Rome, a humungous bowl of salad leaves with croutons, hard tangy cheese and six decent slices of smoked chicken. I followed that up a bit later with a wonderful gellato - Azteco chocolate scoop and another of hazelnut, very rich and very filling - good job as I didn't eat anything after that. The one downside to Rome airport though is the toilets, they smelt so bad it was horrible. Tissues are not placed down the loo, but in bins next to the loos and they really needed emptying a little more often. Riga has the same set up, but the bins do not ever get into the smelly state of the Rome ones and it can get pretty warm in Riga too. Well that's enough on that subject, I don't want to put you off your food if you are eating.

My new friend! Can you tell we were having fun? This is
actually on the last night but I will tell you more about it
later. The credit must go to another friend I made during
the week, so thanks for the photo.
I met some lovely, lovely people, especially a lady who turned out to be a pastor's wife. We met at the hotel when she came up to a group of us waiting by the hotel desk and asked very brightly if we were at the conference too, to which we all replied yes. The other two ladies were just checking in, but I was dithering over what to do next and as my new friend had decided to go and take a quick tour around Florence before the evenings session which was to be in the middle of the city, I asked if I could tag along. Well after that we had a blast! Just as we reached the end of our bus journey into the city it started to pour with rain, which was not entirely promising for a bit of sightseeing, but eventually it eased off enough for us to track down a trattoria to eat at. It carried on raining and so we carried on talking and eating and in all spent an hour and half over our meal. As time was ticking on and we were supposed to register sometime soon, we decided to wend our way through the streets to our first destination of the conference. We weren't in a hurry and the rain had stopped and so we took some time to see the sights too and take some touristy pictures one of which was this handsome fella below, the copy of the statue of David, the real one being tucked away in the museum.

Next to this chap was what looked like a salvage yard full of statues, not particularly carefully arranged but stuck under a covered area to keep them safe from the rain until they had a better home, well that is what it looked like

On we travelled until we reached the river. Hang on a minute, we weren't supposed to reach the river, we had gone too far, but we took photos anyway. I never really thought that Florence, or Firenze in Italian is situated amongst the hills and mountains, shows how much I know of the geography of Italy.

We retraced our steps and landed back in front of the statue of David, it couldn't be in here surely, it was one of the most famous museums in Florence. It was then we realised it was the Museum Vecchio and we were meant to be in the Palazzo Vecchio. We wondered if there was a back entrance or something, but there was nothing obvious and so we went on in

 Nice ceiling heh! But still no clue yet as to where we were meant to be

Everyone should have an entrance like this shouldn't they? Finally through another doorway and we saw the signs to our conference and we headed on in.
This is where we ended up, the Salone del Cinquecento in Palazzo Vecchio. It was impressive and as the person who had organised the event had said, it was meant to stir the emotions. It did feel slightly surreal. These next pictures were taken on the way back to the hotel after our buffet meal

 I have to say the statue insisted that I have a photo taken of us both, which sounds rather bizarre but that was the truth and I didn't drink too much, in fact I was on fruit juice - honest!

Oh yes! Back to the river, but there was also a gellato place and my friend needed gellato, so I kept her company of course. The next day was a bit simpler as it was just a 15 minute walk down to the University where the majority of the conference was held. It was a bit nerve wracking as I was the second presentation in the first session. I had no opportunity to find out how most people did it and re-jig my presentation if needed. It was in at the deep end stuff. My talk was fine and I'm pleased I refrained from putting too much information on the slides, unlike many folks. Working in children's work for twenty years did at least teach me that less is more to keep attention and hubby's wise advice helped a lot too. I was surprised to be honest at the presentations given, as many were poorly presented and didn't make good use of powerpoint at all. My slides were static ones, no fancy transitions or anything but then I have a Mac and always worried about a Windows system messing them about and so I try to keep that aspect of it simple, but they were colourful and not bland like many. After the presentation I could relax as the hard work had been done. In fact due to the fact there was only walking to do and not lots of physical hard work, I actually felt quite refreshed.

Duomo - 15th Century cathedral
I did get the chance to ask a couple of questions at the conference. The first one was after we had been presented with a lot of statistics on villages of less than 500 where unemployment runs at 30% and I asked "Who are these people?" After all they could be sick, or older and do they want to change anyway? I felt that someone actually needed to go and talk to them, not just decide they need transforming based on statistics and fortunately the guy heading the workshop I was in agreed with me.

I also asked in another working group "How rooted in the land is European culture?" From the presentations it was easy to see that Nigerian culture is, Mexican indigenous culture is, but is European culture? Is it just food, singing and dancing? Dressing up in costume? What do you think? What is your culture? How important is place to you? Discuss! (Whoops sorry, slipping into teacher mode I think)
Also at the Dumo
I was able to encourage one young woman, who seemed to have discovered a different Poland to two other academics, but the big difference is that she had met and interviewed the people, she had connected with them. Maybe one other academic had met the people, but you could feel the antagonism, they need to change was the overriding feeling you got, did she put them off? Did she just ask set questions? Or did she really get to know people, their desires, their needs, their aspirations? Or did she just rely on statistics too. Funding cuts don't help here of course, academics live in cities and need money to go and talk to people, but until they can, they will have an imperfect picture of what the situation is really like and their initiatives and findings will count for little.

Well being hosted by an Italian university meant we also finished with a flourish and so we were greeted at the door by two of these guys
Natty trousers heh! And as we made our way into the entrance hall where there was wine, fruit juices, hors d'oeuvres and a humongous cheese we were welcomed with a fanfare by buglers, or were they trumpeters?
We wandered around salons with impressive mirrors and furniture, although the furniture was sparse and amazing ceilings

More hors d'oeuvres and more chats with different people from the conference and finally to the dinner and we ended up in the cheap seats, in other words we ended up in the room where there was no air conditioning, whereas the majority of folks were in a bigger dining room which was somewhat cooler. Put it this way, the daytime temperature was 38C and so I have no idea how hot it was that night. 

So chandeliers and infinite mirrors, just a taste of the grandeur we had to endure. After this I think the location maybe a bit of a let down for future conferences. A few other photos just to finish off
I wanted a bag to carry my computer in, that didn't shout
 business traveller and this is what I came up with. It even had
made in Firenze on a label inside

My other handbag started to fall apart just
before the conference and totally gave up on
me during my stay and so it was the perfect
opportunity to buy a bag after an early finish
one day.

The detail on the bag. I have to say at this point, I am not
obsessed by bags, it was just I really did need one and not
one with lots of bling. Normally I hate shopping

Our afternoon respite from the sun. Lunches were amazing too
octopus one day and that was just a regular canteen lunch

The streets of Florence. I did get a little lost
but Florence isn't huge and so I found my way
to the river and then it was easy after that

Down by the river yet again, but brutally hot walk to get to
somewhere I knew

One of the many plazas in Florence

Rainy skies over Florence
So do check in again next week, as there will be news of some new arrivals but not enough space to talk about them today.


  1. Loved reading that Jo and it has whet my appetite even more for a trip to Firenze.

  2. It is certainly a city steeped in its past and I found the people and the place quite friendly too.

  3. Oh fantastic Jo!!! So glad I can be one of your new friends. Lovely photos. Wish we could have an order of that gnocchi right now!

  4. That gnocchi was good and so was the ravioli that I had. I could sit for another hour and a half over lunch, that would suit me fine anytime. Hope we get to meet in person again.

  5. I'm so glad that you enjoyed the conference in Florence, being a tourist & eating genuine Italian gelato. Hugs to you both.

  6. For someone who doesn't usually do "tourist" it was rather fun!

  7. how interesting...loved sharing your trip. You're getting to be quite a jetsetter!

  8. Glad you enjoyed it Karen. There will be more in the not too distant future, I assure you


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