- We don’t normally have much to write about our transit to our destination but today, getting there is the story. And an unexpected happy story. We got to Dulles early enough to exhale in United’s Red Carpet Club. We were a little disconcerted that our flight to Munich never appeared on the departure monitor, so a half hour before departure time we went to the gate to find lots of people in line and on the phone making other plans for connections in Munich. A malfunctioning plane had returned to the gate in Denver with 160 passengers who intended to go to Munich on our plane. So United decided to delay our flight indefinitely until they determined what could be done with the people in Denver who wanted to get to Munich. It sounded like it’d be a long delay since they hadn’t even left Denver yet so we went back to the RCC to get listed on a later flight to Florence from Munich. The lady and her daughter next to us at the desk had just arranged to leave on tomorrow’s only other flight to Florence from Munich – at 3PM instead of 9AM. And then only about 45 minutes later than originally scheduled, we heard the announcement that the flight to Munich was boarding! On the way to the gate, we saw the ladies who had earlier told us they were from Yakima, Washington having a snack in the concourse. They weren’t near enough to the departure gate to hear the announcement nor were they in the lounge where they could hear it. So we told them to get on board and they hurried with us to the gate.
The plane – minus the 160 passengers left on the ground in Denver was eerily empty, so everyone was able to expand their personal space and stretch out for the night. In Munich, the ladies from Yakima asked us if we were going to try to make our original connection to Florence and we said we might make it if we sprinted. We sprinted and just missed it by just a couple of minutes. So we four had to decide what we would do for 6 hours until the next flight to Florence. We suggested bussing to Freising, a little German village about as close to the airport as Herndon is to Dulles. Darci and her college freshman daughter, Gretchen were game to go with us so we “formed an alliance” (as in our fave TV show, Amazing Race), confirmed our seats on the 3PM flight to Florence, had a little breakfast, stored our bags, and took a bus to Freising.
Although thousands of tourists travel worldwide just five minutes from Freising every day, it’s not a tourist town. Its main square and shopping street, though, have lots of interest. We strolled through Freising last summer
during a long layover in Munich but today, with clear skies and dusted with snow, stepping into Friesing was stepping unexpectedly into another world. Today there are colorfully decorated fiberglass bears on every block and a work crew is dismantling the Christmas Fair booths.
We strolled down the main street marveling that, though we’d been geared up for Tuscan sights and smells, we found ourselves instead deep in German winter traditions and culture. We found a hat shop and had a ball trying on funny hats. Darci and I actually needed new hats but didn’t find what we needed there. We did find a cozy, warm place for lunch where strangers appear to be an oddity.
Our waitress asked how long we’d be in the area; and was disappointed to hear we were only here for lunch before going to Italy. Later, at another hat shop where we found just the right thing, the haberdasher felt the same way asking why we didn’t want to stay in Freising a little longer. He pointed out that the pope, who comes from nearby, had recently driven down this very street and had come into his shop. We did stay as long as we could re-visiting a wine and olive oil shop where everything is sold out of large containers through spigots into smaller containers. We made it back to the banhoff (bus station)
in time to get back to our gate for the flight to Florence. We four took both sides of the aisle of row 21 and slept like babies missing all the beautiful Alps below.
The line for taxis in Florence was long and wasn’t getting shorter very fast so when the bus to Santa Maria Novella Bus Station arrived we jumped on. We agreed to meet for dinner; Darci and Gretchen took a cab to their hotel across town and we walked to our hotel nearby.
Anne and I walked all over town looking for a couple of new restaurants that were recommended by Divina Cucina
(Judy Witt) and decided we’d make reservations at Da Giovanni
, a relatively new but very typically Florentine place near the Piazza Goldoni. We met Darci and Gretchen at the Mercato Nuovo by the bronze cingiale (boar) and walked to Da Giovanni for dinner. We were greeted like old friends by the five foot tall host who took us to our table, poured everyone a flute of prosecco, brought us a platter of deep fried bread dough, and little bowls of farro soup drizzled with green Tuscan olive oil. Then we ordered our dinner of pumpkin filled tortellini – big pockets filled with fabulous creamy winter comfort food – pici (thick twirls of spaghetti) with sausage and cavolo nero (black winter kale) and a big plate of stewed rabbiy. Our waiter, Urbano, included a slice of the special stuffed rabbit roll also.
This was all accompanied by carciofi fritti (artichoke tempura), garlicky spinach, and some fried potato chunks. The house wine is a pleasant fruity red from San Gimignano and we finished with big plate of assorted biscotti, riciarelli, and a rich fig/hazelnut panforte, all dipped in vin santo. We raved so robustly about the soft almond riciarelli, that Urbano brought us another plate of warm ones when a new batch came out of the oven.
It’s rare to find such compatible traveling companions but Darci and Gretchen are such positive, enthusiastic courageous kindred spirits we just kept finding things to share with them. They even accepted our invitation to join us for our opening Music and Markets
dinner tomorrow night. They really are fun to be with and prove the Rick Steves maxim, “Extroverts have more fun.” Tomorrow, the fun continues.