October 23 – 27: Catching Up

23rd:  We had two whirlwind travel days, followed up with the beginning of our visit with friends in Scotland. Hence, catching up . . . 

On Monday, we headed to our day in Assisi. I am not a religious person. I am more spiritual, but find value in many teachings. One of the figures that I admire, based on what I know of his life, is Saint Francis of Assisi. His prayer, which begins “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace . . . “, is one of my all time favorites.

So, we caught the first bus at 6 AM, and ended up at the train station in order to take a bus from Siena to Assisi. We arrived in Assisi mid morning, and began the hike up to the hill to the basilica founded in St Frances’ name. It is a very large complex, with an active monastic order living and worshipping there.  The basilica is not as elaborate as many, but beautiful nonetheless. It is painted with many frescoes inside, but allows no photography.

We explored the upper and lower levels, and then went on to other areas that we wanted to check out. The church of Santa Chiara (St Clare, a contemporary and religious partner of St. Frances’), was closed when we arrived.  Many of the churches there closed at midday and reopened  around 2. We wanted to go down to the lower level of the town and see the Cathedral of St. Mary, so we took the bus. Assisi is a very very steep town and from top to bottom is quite a distance. We waited for the church to open, having lunch and the rare free WiFi connection.

We finished early in the afternoon, with three hours until our return bus, but really had nothing else that we wanted to see or do. We waited at the bus station, killing time by playing on our phones and people-watching.

Upon returning home, we reworked our suitcases to make sure that the weight was not over, as I have heard that Ryanair can be a real stickler, and we would be experiencing our first flight with them the next day.

24th: Another early day, with heavy heavy travel. It went like this . . . bus one from the B&B to Siena . . . bus two from Siena to the train station . . . train one from Siena to Firenze (Florence) . . . train two from Firenze to Milan . . . train three from Milan to Bergamo . . . bus three (by far the most crowded we have been on so far, had to push our way in) to the airport to check in for . . . 

RYANAIR: What can I say about this airline? Neither of us had ever flown with them before. At some point during the day, we realized that we had not checked in for the flight the night before.  It can be a pain to have to check in at the airport, but as we had to get in line to check our bag anyway, we figured we would just check in at that time.

The lines were not bad, and we got to the counter fairly quickly. We had arrived a few hours before our flight, but we wanted to get all of the details taken care of before doing anything else. That turned out to the a good decision. When we got to the counter, the lady informed us that we had to check in online and print our boarding passes, or pay a fee. If we checked in more than two hours ahead of our flight at the airport, it would cost us €10 each. If we waited until less than 2 hours before our flight, it would cost us a whopping €50 EACH! We let her know how unfair we felt that was, as many people who are traveling do not have access to printers. We told her that we were not upset with her, but that the company had a really crappy policy. She told us we should have read the fine print. 

We went to the area where we had to pay to check in, took care of it, and then had to go back to the baggage check in area. We got the same lady. She tried to tell us again how it was our fault, we told her to please just get it done. She checked the one bag that we wanted to check, stuck the baggage claim check to my boarding pass, and sent us on our way.

We next had to clear security; while we were in line, I was looking over the  boarding pass, which was in four parts. One part talked about making sure to have your visa stamp on the pass, which you got at the baggage counter. Neither of our papers was stamped. We figured it was because we did not need a visa. Fast forward to boarding: turns out we did need the stamp (which was not a visa). The lady at the baggage counter “forgot” to stamp our passes.  Luckily for us,  the lady at the gate was kind,  hurried,  and simply wrote “OK” on both our passes and sent us on to the plane.

The plane took a westerly tack over the Alps enroute to Edinburgh. I was able to watch the sunset for over an hour, it was absolutely breathtaking! The moon was coming up in the same place, and I was able to capture the sun setting above the clouds over the Alps, with the moon in the same photo. All of the tension and frustration of the day drained away, and I just sat there, soaking it in, being in the moment.

25th: The Scotland part of the trip is very relaxing. Some days we just hang out at the house. As I write this, we are binging on season two of Outlander. On the 25th, we hung out at the house. 

26th: Today, Kelly headed out to hike a very strenuous hike with a friend of our host. I am not in shape to take this hike, so rather than slow everyone down, Kamy (our friend and host) took me up to St. Andrew’s. We stopped in Dundee so that I could tour the Discovery. This is a ship that was built in 1903 specifically for an Arctic expedition. Steel hulled ships collapse when they come into contact with ice, so this ship was built out of wood to withstand the pressure. The expedition did not reach their final destination; they got iced in. While some of the men did not survive, the ship and the surviving crew were rescued. The museum and ship were very interesting to tour.

27th: Today we are chillaxing at the house, bingng on Outlander. Tonight we have dinner with several friends, tomorrow a masquerade party for the 50th birthday of another friend.

The basilica of St Frances from the entrance, and then from the side where you can see the area where the monks dwell . . . 

The Chapel of Minerva, inside and out.

One of Assisi’s furry residents.  He had a bowl of food and water just a few feet away, and was very friendly!

This is inside the church of Santa Maria de Novella. There was a small church here, and St. Frances died just outside of it. Instead of tearing down the small church, they built a new church on the site of the existing church, and there is a small chapel in the bigger church to mark the spot where he took his last breath.

In this image you can see the sun setting over the clouds, the Alps with a couple of lakes, and the moon in the upper left hand corner.

And here the sunset over the clouds.

Visiting the Discovery in Dundee . . . 

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