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Florence in Three Days

 

“Among the four old bridges that span the river, the Ponte Vecchio, that bridge which is covered with the shops of Jewellers and Goldsmiths, is a most enchanting feature in the scene. The space of one house, in the centre, being left open, the view beyond, is shown as in a frame; and that precious glimpse of sky, and water, and rich buildings, shining so quietly among the huddled roofs and gables on the bridge, is exquisite”. Charles Dickens, 1846

Charles Dickens said it all, really. I wish I can write a vivid and beautiful description of the city. Sure, it felt  nice to walk along the streets  of Florence . The ‘old world vibe’ is everywhere. There’s something delightful in  knowing that early Florentians  ambled on the same cobblestone pavements  centuries ago; who knows what kind of tragedy or victory transpired on those streets.

From Venice, we took the high speed train to Florence. Frecciarossa highspeed trains, reach a maximum speed of 250km/h and 300km/h respectively. After two hours, we were at Santa Maria Novella Train Station which was a mile away from  our Bed and Breakfast, Palazzo Graziani.

This is a view of the Duomo from the rooftop of our Bed & Breakfast.

I love the wood beams inside our B&B. That afternoon light from the outside passing through the door and highlighting the dining area is lovely.

For dinner, we checked out this restaurant, Boccanegra for our first bistecca alla Fiorentina.

First on the list for the next day was the Uffizi Gallery, we did not have any tickets, so we wanted to queue up early for a chance to see the museum. On our way to the Uffizi Gallery, we walked from our B&B to see Ponte Vecchio.

We lucked on getting tickets early to check the Uffizi ,which  displayed beautiful  artworks  of great artists  like Michelangelo, Botticelli, Da Vinci, Caravaggio, Titian, etc.

After  admiring the beautiful  artworks at the Uffizi, we had brunch at this neat breakfast place which was recommended by my sister in law Claudette, the  Cantineta dei Verrazzano. Of course, I ordered two cups of cappuccino, I only learned about the Italian’s preference for cappuccino as a ‘morning only’ coffee during my initial research about Italy while planning for the trip.

Next stop was Pisa, I’m amazed that we were able to squeeze Pisa in this visit. We did not linger in Pisa  since  it was very hot and crowded;  but we can’t NOT visit the Leaning Tower of  Pisa. It was great to see such famous architecture, and we could not help but do the obligatory touristy poses.

After Pisa, we had a little nap at our B&B to recover from the heat . We walked again to Piazzale Michelangelo and waited for the sunset.  It was a great place to just people -watch and wait for the sun to go down.  It was beautiful. I loved seeing the Duomo, the Ponte Vecchio , the Arno River transformed by the different colors of the setting sun .

On our way back to our B&B, we tried the pizza at I’Pizzacchiere. It was too good, I forgot what we ate, something with mushroom,  prosciutto and cheese, of course!

Next day, we visited the Basilica di Santa Croce. It is less illustrious than the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, but it boasts of being the burial place of a few famous Italians like Michelangelo, Galileo and Macchiaveli.

We spent an extra day in Florence on our way to the Chianti region since we missed the pickup time for our car rental.We explored Florence again where we actually enjoyed it since we didn’t have an itinerary, We haggled with a Bangladeshi vendor selling “firenze” leather goods; had dinner at the Mercato Centrale and enjoyed another round of pistachio gelato from Grom .

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Lost in Venice

We had booked and cancelled this trip in 2020 at the start of Covid pandemic . This time, we  didn’t finalize our itinerary until the last few days before the trip  and only booked accommodation with free cancellation policy. We were anticipating  flight cancellations and  reinstatement of travel restrictions up until we left for our layover  at JFK.

First  and last stop was Venice. From Marco Polo Airport, we took the Alilaguna water bus Orange line to Ca’  Rezzonico and walked for half a mile (backpack and all ) to The Hotel American Dinesen where we stayed for  the night. Despite the heat and humidity, it felt great to enjoy the sights and sounds of Venice for the first time.

After checking in, we rested and freshened up a bit. Afternoon was spent  exploring the island of Murano . We   had fun exploring the shops which showcased  murano glass items  . It was hard to decide which souvenir to buy and take home, but  finally decided on a colorful  gondola decor  which we thought would make a nice addition to our travel souvenir collection at home.

At night, we explored  the streets and shops and followed everyone’s recommendation, “ just get lost in Venice” We found this nice osteria  in a neighborhood which served fresh seafood.  We even   met a Filipina  who lives in one of the apartments above the osteria . She told us how Venice is just starting to recover economically with the influx of tourists this summer season; how isolated and eerily quiet Venice was during the peak of the COVid pandemic; how   they were ‘ quarantined’ with only one pass given per family to buy food and essentials;  that large cruise ships  will soon be banned  from entering Venice’s waters , a move that will protect its already fragile ecosystem.After dinner we walked some more, exploring Piazza San Marco at night .

On our second day, we woke up early and waited  for sunrise at Ponte dell Accademia , It’s always nice to see  the sun transform the sky and waters from black to orange, and golden and the buildings from mere silhouettes to structures defined by centuries-old  art and sculptures. Venice awakens. St Mark’s square early in the morning was also wonderful; the  sound of bells was exhilarating.

 

 

We headed back to the hotel for a nice breakfast buffet. The Hotel American Dinesen is a boutique hotel which overlooks the San Vio Canal. It’s in a quiet neighborhood in Dorsoduro, but still very accessible to the city’s main attractions. We were given a room which had a wonderful view of the canal. Loved the decors,  it gave me that modern meets old world  vibe . 

Outside our hotel , there was a gondola station where we found Ricardo. He  owns his gondola and like his father and father’s father, they’ve lived as gondoliers in Venice for generations . He didn’t sing to us while he maneuvered  the gondola, but he did regale us with stories about Venice and the mechanics of navigating  its narrow canals. No the canals didn’t stink ! maybe because of our masks? or maybe because it’s not the season for  ‘ acqua alta’  .  I didn’t  tell him but I thought his face bore a strong resemblance to Michaelangelo’s David , haha! He did give me a flower after the ride . 

Next stop  was the Doge’s Palace (Palazzo Ducale) . Gorgeous ceilings and flooring ! And I love seeing Carpaccio’s The Lion of St Mark being restored by a fine art restorer. 

In the afternoon , we checked  out and headed for Florence .

 On our way back home, we travelled back to Venice to explore the city even more , bought goodies for the kids’ while we stored our luggage at the luggage hero for a few hours . Tried some pistachio flavored cannoli (one of my musts ). We then took the bus route to  a bed and breakfast near the airport where we spent our last night.

Ciao and arrividerci, Venezia. 

 

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Life In The Time of Corona (virus)

During this Corona Virus (CoVid 19) pandemic, I’ve gone through different kinds of emotions. From feeling fearful and panicky during the early days when I first took care of a CoVid-19 PUI with CDC recommending only the the use of regular surgical masks while taking care of these patients which afforded minimal protection as an ICU nurse , to being creative while painstakingly sewing surgical masks and bonnets from old scraps of fabric just to feel useful and in control.

As a parent , there’s additional challenges – making sure that kids are learning something from the distance education modules that they received from school. And there’s ‘how to keep them nicely preoccupied’ during this quarantine period.

This pandemic has really changed our lives. This post is my attempt to document these changes, at least from my point of view.

March 15, 2020

It has been an interesting week. From cancelling travel plans to Italy for the first week of April, to learning that the kids wont have classes for a month, which gave me some anxiety.. what to feed the kids during these coming weeks, LOL. It has been crazy in my part of Southern California. The grocery stores are being emptied of basic stuff- meat, chicken, bread cleaning supplies like Chlorox, Lysol wipes etc. At the grocery store yesterday, people were panic buying, the atmosphere was tense and it was easy to to get affected by the mood. When I saw these flowers, I grabbed a bunch just to feel a little of bit of normalcy.. like it was an ordinary shopping day on a weekend.

March 19,2020

It started as a normal day at work, the presence of familiar faces , the occasional beeping of the IV pump signaling an empty IV fluid bag , even the random PVC alarm in the cardiac monitor were comforting . It felt normal even though the news on the television reported about the long lines at the grocery stores , the empty shelves, the hoarding and panic buying. It seemed normal even though at home, the presence of my 3 school age kids on a week day when they should’ve been at school said otherwise. It’s day 1 of distance learning for them. No school until after spring break. During the latter part of the shift , I was told of an admission ; Rule Out COVid. 32 YO male , with severe SOB , intubated in ER with a history of HTN. After preparing the airborne infection isolation room, I was ready, so I requested for an N95. I had to beg because there was an initial argument : that I didn’t need a N95 for this CDC- recommended Droplet Precautions. Though patient was already intubated, I had to assist the intensivist inside the room to place an access for an emergency Hemodialysis . I didn’t want to prolong the argument, I used the last N95 in my locker stashed unwittingly during the days when the shortage of it was unheard of. Because of the dwindling supply of N95s, like other facilities, my hospital started rationing N95 masks to only those that require airborne precautions and because CDC recommended droplet precautions for these cases and use of N95 is prioritized in aerosol -generating procedures like intubation, CPR, etc; Cal OSHA on the other hand says that a novel virus such as the coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2), the virus that causes COVID-19, is considered an airborne infectious disease and control measures such as the use of airborne infection isolation and respiratory protection are required.Cal/OSHA’s Aerosol Transmissible Diseases (ATD) Standard (title 8 section 5199) There’s ambiguity, and I understand that the shortage of supplies has led us to this scary situation.But there’s just so many unknown elements about this virus and if I feel that I don’t have adequate protection to care for these patients, can I refuse a patient? . Do I risk exposure ? What about my family? What about my oath to care for the sick without bias or judgment? Nurses should not even be in such a predicament , but that’s what I felt, scared yet feeling compelled to serve .. Like a soldier being sent to war against a powerful entity with minimal protection, without ammunition .
I know nothing of the logistics involved , but isn’t it ironic, the US is at the forefront of developing and supplying sophisticated ‘ machinery of war’ , yet lagging behind in the provision and manufacturing of N95 masks and other PPEs, in establishing early testing and accessible testing facilities?I would like to serve, but I need protection.And please, stay at home..

March 29, 2020

“A true friend never gets in your way unless you happen to be going down” Arnold H. Glasgow

Last week I was assailed by feelings of panic and sense of doom when I realized that healthcare workers like myself are fighting an invisible entity with minimal protection; PPE’s were running low. An old friend whom I haven’t seen for 15 years saw my desperate post, she was moved and offered to make fabric masks for me and my co-workers in the ICU. She sent me about 50 fabric masks.

Nurses don’t ask much. Most nurses don’t get the thrill at being called ‘heroes’, saving lives in the first place is part of the job, but efforts like this: a friend offering support, a family offering prayers of protection, or a stranger taking heed to #stayhome warm the heart and help give us the strength to carry on. If there’s any silver lining in this surreal situation that we’re in now, it’s that. Thank you https://www.etsy.com/people/zakkastudio



April 3, 2020

Two weeks into quarantine now. I feel a bit ‘normal’ . I still go to work, nothing changed except that 3 of the 4 ICU units at my work are now filled with Covid 19 patients. Some remain on the ventilator, some are on High Flow Nasal Cannula and some have succesfuly beaten the disease. At the home front, the trails are utilized for activities that help beat boredom and improve physical well-being.

April7, 2020

The PPEs at work are being rationed, donations from friends help healthcare workers get through this pandemic. It’s amazing how much the community responded. Gloves, face masks and shields were donated. People donated food from day shift to night shift. Even my daughter made face shields. It is a quick 5 minute DIY/mask made of Transparency Film acetate, 12 inch heavy duty rubber band and 1/2 inch Window Door Seal Tape.

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