Saturday, 5 September 2015

San Marino v England 5.9.2015

Thursday 3rd September

Kev and Fi drove over to West Hoathly and at 3pm we were soon  in a taxi to Gatwick to start our San Marino trip which would mainly be spent in Tuscany.  We soon met up with Nelson and Scott in the Flying Horse at the airport.  There were quite a few Scotland fans there heading to Georgia via Kiev, I think they were expecting a nice win in Georgia (snigger).  After a couple of beers it was time to head to our Easyjet flight to Pisa, we boarded on time but took off late due to a plane traffic jam!

We landed in Pisa at about 10pm and had our first pint in Italy whilst we waited for the bus to take us to the main centre.  We had soon found our hotel and checked in, and before you could say lets go we were back out heading to see the Leaning Tower at night. One of the nice touches in Italy is that when you order a beer you always get some free nibbles.  It started with nuts and crisps in Pisa and by Rimini you were getting mini sandwiches! 

On our way back from the tower we stumbled to a student area and found 66cl bottles of Moretti beer for about 3 Euros!  Enough said!  Add a chicked kebab for about the same price and we were settled in for a few hours.  It was very busy and I confess to a little snooze at one point but it was now approaching 4am.

Eagle eyed Scott had spotted a bar doing shots for a Euro so we stupidly entered!  The Very nice barmaid had soon poured shot after shot and Nelsons attempt to speak her native tongue of Romanian failed - considering he speaks none not a great surprise. Nelson took the plaudits by drinking sambuca followed by tequila blue, this actually turned your tongue blue for a number of hours as Nelson found out the next day!

Arriving back at the Hotel at 5.30am was not ideal to be honest!

Friday 4th September

So it was back to the Tower in daylight this time


I think we found the worlds friendliest policeman. As we sat having a recovery cheeese and ham toasty with some strong coffee, he spent the time kissing everybody walking passed, hugging people, using peoples phones to add himself as friends of facebook (well that one may have been made up).  He had moved no more than 100 yards in the time we had our breakfast!  At that stage he was all over a man on a tricycle.

You had to queue to get your ticket for the leaning tower, but rather than then have to queue to get in it gave you an entry time.  We had a 2 1/2 wait so headed into the Cathederal first as that was included in the ticket price.  Its an amazing place, rumoured to be where one of the cups that Jesus used to turn water to wine came from.

After a hard walk round the Cathederal Scott and Nelson take a well earned rest on the wet grass, the wet point was only discovered when Nelson sat up and his very creased shirt now had a wet muddy stain!  Some little girl was delighted with there antics and soon joined them!  She looked bemused as Scott started doing some press ups!

a 5 degree lean apparently

How do they do that?

 Time to head up the Tower.  The tower had an ome point been closed for 11 years whilst they rectified the lean - otherwise it would eventually topple over.  I write this blog having just seen Brighton play Rotherham and I think that Steve Evans would have been open person to have tipped the tower just too far!

The view from the top

The walk up the hundreds of steps had taken its toll!!!

By now time was moving on so we stopped for food (Pizza in Pisa) before having some beers by the river.  We were able to witness some pretty erratic driving behaviour, how nobody was run over or crashed was beyond me.It however kept us amused for an hour or two. 

We caught the late train from Venice to Florence, all we really had time to do was find our hotel and then a couple of cheeky beers in a local bar.  We had an early(ish) night as it would be an early start in the morning and a long day! It was obviously dark but we spotted floodlights just down from the bar we were in, we would have to explore that in the morning.

Saturday 5th September

Saturday morning and it was a brief chance to see Florence in the day light!  Our hotel did breakfast from 8am but when they found out our departure time they had everything ready at 7am for us!  We managed to make up some breakfast to take on the train with us.  Scott had seen better days after failing to get into his hostel and caught up on a few missed ZzzzzzZZzzzz at Bologna station. To be fair to Scott we had just run up and down several flights of stairs to miss our train, Scott decided to lie down to prevent himself being sick!  Young and vibrant hey!

Those of us that had booked a hotel had the pleasure of walking passed Fiorentina's ground to get to the station.  To be honest it was not very modern or impressive from the outside.  Even the club shop was pretty unimpressive.

A couple of not very exciting pictures of Florence SM station, overnight sleeping quarters for Scott.  There were numerous platforms but all trains went from the same platform so it was a bit of a rugby scrum as people headed to all parts of Italy!  This included Nelson who left hours before us as using the local slow trains.  He managed to wake Scott up as he left the station about 5.30am, about an hour later he woke Scott up again as he returned to where he had started from! No wander Scott was confused after an open mic night with people singing Taylor Swift, followed by a quick nap with the local homeless people, before settling on the ticket office floor at the station!
Due to our train leaving Venice late we arrived in Bologna late and despite a valiant sprint (mainly round in circles) at a station undergoing major refurbishment works failed to make our Rimini train!  We found a car park, lots of escalators going down rather than up!  A nice local took us under her wing and got our tickets revalidated for the next train and before you could shout "wake up Scott" we were off again!

We arrived into Rimini about 11.30 so an hour later than expected.  We met Nelson who had left hours earlier at the nearest bar.

We arrived into Rimini about an hour later, but after a quick refreshing beer (bumped into Boro Mick and Batty from Doncaster) we had checked into our hotel.  It was then onto the Holiday Inn to collect our match tickets and meet our mate Sara.  We then caught one of the shuttle buses running between Rimini and San Marino.  We took the bus right up past he ground and into the San Marino itself (bus fare was 15 Euros return)

The second bar we stopped at had a locally brewed beer called La Capanna, well it was disgusting!

As it was now about 5pm and it was a 6.30pm KO we decided we better get one of the shuttle buses back to the ground!  Nelson still had time to buy a bottle of medicine, well he declared it was a horrid pink cocktail! The taste was better than the apperance.  20 minutes later we were at the ground, but not before we had stopped a picked up a group of lads who were taking the long walk down!  It turned out to be fellow Brighton fan Martin and his mates.

It was 0-0 and almost exciting at this point - to be honest an easy easy 6-0 win for England!  Rooney got to goal 49 but was subbed early in the second half. Our MOTM was the San Marino centre back who clashed heads and had to wear a head bandage Steve Foster style.  He then thundered in an own goal, next he clashed heads again which knocked his bandage off.  By now he clearly had no idea who he was or what he was supposed to be doing. 

Floodlights on in the afternoon sun!

After the game we headed back into Rimini for some food and a drink or two.  Now there were lots of people selling roses, hats, bracklets infact just about anything, even little animals made our of dung!  We were getting expert at saying NO but we left Nelson alone for about 2 minutes and he arrived with the lot! 
Hat - tick
Beads on wrist - tick
Beads round kneck - tick
Red rose - tick
Change from 20 Euro note - X

Nelson nods, wakes and nods again!

Cocktail O'Clock

Sunday 6th September

So Sunday morning and after a leisurly breakfast I headed down to the beach for a paddle.  It was very hot so I headed to the nearest bar to cool down and bumped into Brighton fan Les Gasson and his better half.  Kev and Fi soon joined me but it was soon time to collect our bags and continue our travels.

So it was now time to head to our final detination of this trip.  We took the train from Rimini to Venice. The train was busy with England fans as many headed to Bologna (first stop) for flights back home.

San Marino is on top of that hill, honestly it is!

After 4 hours on the train with an hours delay for a fallen tree (well more of an excuse than leaves on the line - until we saw the ermmm twig that it took about 200 people to remove it from the line) we arrive into Venice.  Exciting!!  We said goodbye to some other mates who were flying back that evening and it was time to head out the station to find our hotel.

So we finnaly arrived into Venice St Lucia train station.  Wow Venice is stunning and that is from a first glance just outside the station steps.  Now we had directions to our hotel based on catching a River Taxi.  Problemo number 1 - none were running as there was some sort of boat race going on!  Problemo number 2 - no people on the river = way too many people walking the streets, especially when you all have luggage!

We set off and after a longish walk we arrived at our hotel - a few pictures on route.  The streets were incredibly busy due to nobody being on the water.  We became excellent at slaloming between people with our bags,  we made great progress at one point following a man and his dog until the dog stopped to ermm make himself lighter!  We applied our breaks just in time!

The view from the hotel balcony and a feel I have to saw WOW again, infact I may have to use that dreaded term AWSOME! What an amazing place to stay, I was blown away.  The friendly hotel reception gave us a map and pointed out all the highlights and confirmed breakfast would be served when we opend the door and it would be wheeled in on a trolley!

It is very hard to be in Venice and not to take hundreds of picture of Gondolas or just the views up the canals. It is fascinating. If you are already bored of pictures of Gondolas then please scroll down several pages at this point.

St Marks Square

We finished the day with a great meal from the Tourist menu, portions were not huge but it was very tasty ohhhh and a cocktail as well! Mine in the green cup was called a Zombie!It was now time to turn in for the night as we wanted to be up reasonably early so we could get a full day in as we had a flight home late tomorrow night.

Monday 7th September

A day to explore Venice, but first a couple of pictures of our massive adjoining rooms - another great find Mrs Jones.

You cannot go to Venice and not go on a Gondola!

Gondola Selfie

MAIn Canal
Oh a random picture of beer has cropped up here - right this is some respite from Gondolas - deep intake of breath and back to a few more pictures.

The railings in Venice really are superb

We were on the 11pm BA flight back to Gatwick so at around 7pm collected our bags and caught a river taxi to the airport!  A great way to finish the trip.  We even got a good view of the Rialto bridge minus the scaffolding that had blocked our view earlier in the day.

Tuesday 8th September

We landed just after midnight, unexpectedly there was a big queue at passport control.  After about 45 minutes we were in a taxi back to West Hoathly.  I was in bed about 1.30am, sadly no day off so it was off to work but I left at 4pm to head to Wembley for the Switzerland qualifier.  Could Rooney get the record breaking goal?

My usual view from Block 513.  A pretty poor game but after Kane put us 1up it was game over.  With time running out England got a penalty!  History was made and Rooney netted England goal number 50.  What an achievement.

Next up will be Estonia at Wembley followed 4 days later by Lithuania away - a new country for me :-) 

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