We began our last day in France touring a small perfume museum - it was a beautiful building that housed perfume factory equipment and we got quite a history lesson behind perfume making and what goes into it - many of us enjoyed purchasing some French perfumes. Then we made our way to the Louvre. This was probably one of the highlights of Paris - so many AMAZING pieces of art and pieces of history! Seeing the actual Code of Hammurabi was simply unbelievable - so hard to believe something that old can even still be around. (All I-phone pictures for this day - recovering from my illness made me NOT want to lug my heavy camera around).
Waiting outside the perfume museum...
The beautiful Louvre.
The Code of Hammurabi - for REAL! I still can't believe it.
a closer view
The Venus de Milo
The Mona Lisa - AGAIN - unreal - it was much smaller than I had anticipated.
The very famous "Lock" bridge in Paris - where lovers place a padlock on the bridge and toss the key into the water to seal their eternal love - wish I was able to get a better picture - but I just got this I-phone picture through the bus window.
We headed back to the hotel quite early on this day to pick up our luggage and make our way to the train station to board an overnight train to Florence, Italy.
We officially named this train adventure the "Nightmare Express". Apparently the train car we were scheduled to board was malfunctioning, but since we were first to arrive the train crew put us on the next car down the line. Once the train was full, they apparently turned away later arriving guests saying that there was no more space since one car was not operating. These guests somehow pushed their way onto the train anyway, saying they would simply be seated in dining car instead of the bunk compartments. After the train got underway, this group of Italians (I believe) decided to see what they could do about getting us kicked out of their originally booked train car. They made for quite a miserable night for us all. After discovering that it would be unwise for any of us to roam around the train to the dining room or restroom, or anywhere, we had to hunker down in our six-to-a-compartment rooms. Picture the trains on Harry Potter - that's exactly what it was like - we had a little sliding door that we could close off, and five girls and myself were in our little sleeping compartment where the seats folded down into six beds. After venturing out once to the dining car, we quickly discovered that the group who had decided to board anyway wanted to barricade us from returning to our car. The boys were getting a little grabby with our girls but thankfully once they realized the "mommas" were safely right behind them, they kept their hands to themselves. After climbing over mountains of their suitcases that they strategically placed in all the aisles to block us, we locked ourselves up tight and had one of our very chivalrous gentlemen escort our little ladies to the restroom when needed. After we all settled down for what we hoped would be a good nights sleep, the train crew came along and tried to make us leave our cabins, but our oh-so-fabulous tour guide Marianna had already warned us how to conduct ourselves and we stayed firmly planted in our tight-quartered comfy little sleeping cabin. It was a long night of Marianna being our WARRIOR and continually putting the train crew, along with the fiesty Italian group in their place! Those Italians banged on our doors for hours shouting all sorts of things we couldn't understand! Good thing Marianna spoke so many languages fluently - she truly was our little Momma Duck that we all looked to for guidance. We would all follow behind her everywhere we went and she started calling us her "little ducklings" - and even nicknamed quite a few of her little ducks. The Naughty Duckling was a name we heard quite often - take a guess as to who that would be? (Hint - it was NOT a student). After the Nightmare Express (that actually turned out to be quite a pleasant way to travel once the rowdy Italians settled down) reached it's destination, we unloaded and began a guided walking sightseeing tour of Florence.
The cutest little tiny flower truck drove by!
Streets of Florence
We toured a real Italian leather shop...
This lady is stamping my girls initials on little leather change purses I got for them.
Italian candy - HA!
and of course Kirky had plenty of Gelato!
We loved having the whisper headsets for the guided tours - we could easily hear everything our guide was saying even if we were quite far from her. This came in very handy later in Rome when they were able to warn us of pick-pocketers heading our way - tour guides are pros at spotting them!
Michelangelo's childhood home!
It was Palm Sunday and we were able to see several catholic churches celebrating - there were so many people on the streets carrying olive branches all day.
On this day we were able to see Palazzo Vecchio, Piazza Della Signoria, Chiese de Santa Croce, Ponte Vecchio, Duomo, a leather workshop, the Gates of Paradise, Giotto's Bell Tower, and Dante's house.
Gelato - the best ice cream ever! (or so they say - this dairy free girl never had any)
A cute little wood-working shop, Hunter wearing Mrs Marni's hat, and Doug....well.... being Doug.
Madison and Marianna shared a love for literature and had nice long talks about books they've read.
Our hotel in Florence was everyones favorite! It was what we would call a bed and breakfast style here in the states. It was a very old - very Italian home that had been set up with rooms to rent.
It had beautiful Italian balconies .
Some of the girls including Marianna!
All the girls were able to stay in the same room at this hotel - and they loved it! It had beautiful Italian shutters on the windows and they said it was like the little stories straight out of Madeline.
And of course we had a wonderful Italian Pizza dinner that night! (I was able to enjoy wonderful Italian spaghetti - dairy free!)