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Medieval Ballooning

Siena, Italy
June 26 - July 7, 1998

Journal by Paul

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Part Zero: Pre-Trip Journal

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Wednesday, May 27, 1998

It's only a month until we depart for Siena, with its ballooning and the Palio! I've been trying to learn Italian, but so far I've only made it through the first tape. I know a couple of vowels, and I'm starting to work on the consonants. Can whole words be far behind? I wonder if I can actually master a new language in one month. I suppose the odds are against it.

Yesterday I received the itinerary from Buddy Bombard. He's going to be hosting a number of ballooning clients at the same time we're there. I suspect that our "Alf-Modified Tour" (commonly known as an "AMT") will keep us in some contact with Buddy and his gang, although we'll probably engage in some frolics and detours of our own. Alf assures me that casual clothing will be fine, despite all the luncheons with Counts and Princesses and Barons.

We'll be arriving in Florence on June 27 -- hmm, I guess that means I'll have to fly out of Seattle on June 26 -- and our balloon crew will whisk us immediately down to the Park Hotel in Siena, where we'll have a "leisurely check in" followed by a "welcome cocktail party" and dinner. (Of course, those of us from the west coast will have traveled over 6,000 miles and been up for about 30 hours at this point, but that "travel adrenaline" will surely be kicking in and helping us along.) After that, we'll have ten days of unpredictable adventure.

Here are a couple of photos from a Park Hotel web site, plus some information from the brochure Buddy sent:

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The Park Hotel Siena is situated in the Marciano Hills, about a mile from the centre of Siena and some 35 minutes by car from Florence. A splendid Tuscan villa dating from the first half of the 16th Century, the building is the work of famed Sienese architect Baldassarre Peruzzi.

Originally the country seat of Conte Gori, the villa has recently been transformed into a luxurious hotel, with every comfort including a swimming pool, one tennis court and a golf course of six holes, but retaining in its new guise all the grace and prestige of a historic aristocratic residence. Guests may still attend Mass in the seventeenth century private chapel.

The beauty of its setting and impeccable service, the extensive park with its shaded walks, opportunities for excursion on horseback into the Tuscan Hills and the close vicinity of many artistic and historic centres of interest provide a unique backdrop for a guest's stay. Elegant and comfortable public rooms with vaulted ceilings and carved stone fireplaces are ideal for important meetings, business dinners, ceremonial occasions.

23e.jpg (17182 bytes)The most unusual element of this trip will be the exciting Palio, the medieval horse race and its surrounding events, that have been a tradition for hundreds of years.

Just two years ago, Denise went on a similar trip with Alf, and she wrote the journal. This year, I'll be doing it.

To give you some idea of what this trip will include, you might want to look at some great pictures from the 1996 trip. There are some incredible shots here! I'm glad that Annie Erickson will be along, with her camera, to record the 1998 version.

By the way, I know that it's taking me forever to complete my report from the Chateau d'Oex trip in January ... but in the process I've learned valuable lessons about how to pull this all together, so THIS journal will be far better organized. Hey look! I'm already a month ahead of schedule: We aren't even leaving for several weeks, and there's already lots of detail here.

Saturday, June 6, 1998

Well, I still haven't mastered Italian, although I can now ask "Is that Tina?" and answer myself "That's Tina." I can then even issue the incredulous rejoinder "That's Tina??!!"  I suspect that his will all come in handy on numerous occasions. A couple nights ago I dreamed in Italian. Ordinarily, that should be a good sign of growing fluency. Unfortunately, however, I didn't understand of word of what I or anyone else was saying.

Siena TicketsMy plane tickets arrived this week from Cindy, so everything is all set aeronautically. Annie, Lisa, Bryan and I will be flying non-stop from Seattle to Amsterdam, then hopping a plane to Florence. Our flight to Amsterdam will take the northern shortcut, saving us a great deal of time compared to the latitude-restricted tradional route that would lead us across the United States first to New York. It should be a breeze!

The plan is for Alf to meet us at the airport -- he'll be arriving a day early -- and then we'll have some lunch while we wait for Stephani and Robin's arrival a few hours later. Then it's on to Siena, to Bombard's Bombardiers, and to the whole Palio/Ballooning thing. I've been shopping around for film, so I'll be able to document all the action. Plus, I've been practicing being concise in my writing, so the Siena story can be told in little, timely segments. Modem connections willing, updates will be posted during the trip.

I may stop back here and update this preview from time to time before we leave. For more details, you can also look at Buddy's plans for the trip.

Monday, June 8, 1998

I was reviewing Palio sites on the Internet last night, but the best one wasn't responding. I did find a few minor ones, but none was as good as the one I'd previously reviewed.

Well, I got an email from Alf this morning with the link to the good one, and today it's working! If you want to find out more about the Palio and its surrounding events, this is the place to go. Here are some other sites that will tell you about Siena and the Palio:

Wednesday, June 24, 1998

Well, we're really getting down to the wire now! I still have lots of things to do. For instance, I'm STILL on the first of my twelve Italian tapes, so I'll really need to buckle down in order to achieve fluency in the next, uh, two days. Oh well.

I've completed the "ends" of my travel plans. I've decided that I will FLY to Sea-Tac Airport Friday morning, where I will hop on the big Northwest plane. (I'll also fly back across the Sound on July 7, upon my return.)  Now, Sea-Tac is only about 20 miles away from here as the egret flies. But with all this annoying WATER, these ... these FJORDS! ... it's really inconvenient for us non-winged species to traverse the Waters of Puget. Driving around takes forever, and don't even get me STARTED on the parking issue. So I'm going to drive to the local "park for free forever" airport (which is also about 20 miles away, but those are in real, Honda miles), and from there I'll take a little baby plane over to the BIG NWA DC-10. It should be an adventure.

Hey, where's my passport ... ?

Next: The Adventure Begins

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