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When You Just Have to be in Siena for the Weekend

Jeff Holmes from NH

Steve Martin and John Candy made a movie about this!


0530: No breakfast. Walk to Reading train station from the hotel in Reading, England.

0600: Take train to London, Paddington Station on the West side of London.

0700: Take the underground/tube from Paddington to Liverpool Station on the East side of London.

0800: Take a train to Stansted Airport, 30 miles NE of London.

1000: Take Ryanair to Pisa – packed with kids, kids, kids!

1230: Arrive Pisa – time to call Art at the villa in Siena. How do these pay phones work! I'll call later; he knows I'm coming today.

1300: No train or bus to Siena from Pisa airport! So take a cab to downtown Pisa bus terminal.

1315: Take another cab from the wrong bus terminal to the "correct" bus terminal, where, although there are no direct busses to Siena, there is a way to get there so ... 1400: Take a bus to Lucca via back roads, stopping every 4 or 5 miles to pick up and drop off passengers out in the country. Borrow a cell phone on the bus and call Art, whose wife informs me that Art is sick in bed – very ill. Well, hopefully he'll improve 'cause I'm on my way.

1445: Lucca, now wait 90 minutes for a bus to Florence.

1615: Take bus to Florence. I ask the driver where the bus to Siena will depart in Florence and he is kind enough to take me off his route so that I may catch my connecting bus to Siena.

1700: Dash into terminal and instantly get on third bus to Siena.

1745: Siena. Where are the cabs? Ask around and find the cab stand is maybe three blocks away – next door to MacDonald's. Now ... figure out how to use Italian pay phone again. Get help from English speaking Barkeep call the Villa. Art is still sick and still in bed; has been sick all day! Am I still coming? Coming? ... I'm here! Get address of the Villa.

1800: Take cab to the villa. Driver is smirking at the address (Via Fornicacione) and makes a joke about me traveling alone to "Lovers' Lane."

1815: Arrive at Villa. Art's wife shows me in and I am greeted with an extra large glass of local (Chianti) wine, which is handed to me by a perfect stranger, who says, "You look like someone who could use a drink!" I feel welcome. Art rallies briefly, but fails to make dinner.


By noon or so Art recovers – we trek around Chianti for the afternoon; have dinner at the villa with four couples and someone's mother all at the dining room table - the weekend is not a total washout.


0400: Hook a ride with Art and his wife to Florence airport (they are departing for the States).

0500: Get cab to the Florence train station from the Florence airport (only cab at the airport!).

0530: Train Station is closed. Train to Pisa will depart at 0615 and Station will not open until 0600. Grab a double espresso, like the locals are doing (with lots of sugar), wait for station to open.

0615: Take train to Pisa airport.

0800: Begin to kill three hours waiting for a flight to Stansted.

1100: Take Ryanair to Stansted airport .

1600: Take train from Stansted to Liverpool Station, London.

1645: Arrive at Liverpool and it's a mob scene! The London tube is in maintenance mode on Sunday afternoon and evening; many tracks, some trains, even a few stations are simply closed! How to get to Paddington Station, which is clear across town? Study the wall maps, read all the signs … get a plan together and go for it!

1730: Take tube to station x, then transfer, take tube to station y, then transfer and take tube to Paddington Station - only took 2 1/2 hours!

2030: Take train to Reading.

2130: Arrive in Reading and walk back to hotel. Sidle up to the bar.

"How was your trip?"

"Good" ... and I pat myself on the back for having visited a sick friend for the weekend.

Jeff worked in Europe during 2001. Headquartered in Reading, UK, this was one of many "adventures" he had that year.

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