Prato

Majella’s conference had an early start with registration open from 7:30. Emily wanted to sleep later than that so Majella rose, had breakfast and got ready for the conference. I got up and walked to the conference with her at 8:00, leaving Emily asleep and knowing that I would be out briefly. Once I got back I roused Emily so that we could eat breakfast. After that she had another short nap and then we went shopping for an hour at the store she had noticed around the corner from the hotel when we went out for dinner the previous night. She bought a top and spotted some other items that she would have Majella look at later in the day.

The major task for Emily and me was to check out of the Art Hotel Milano and then find and check in at the Palace Hotel, which Majella had booked through the conference. I had some maps that I had printed from the Internet and one we had obtained from the hotel reception the previous night. Unfortunately they didn’t link up and most had insufficient detail to navigate our way across town. One of our first shopping tasks was to obtain a city map of Prato which I managed to find in a bookstore. Once we were back in the hotel, Emily and I each worked out a route that we thought would get us to the other hotel. We then checked out and hoped that with Emily navigating and me driving we could get the job done and then get back to Majella. As it happened, neither of our routes was possible. Mine collapsed first when the exit I needed from the first roundabout proved to be one-way in the wrong direction. We went around and headed along Emily’s route only to find the same problem two roundabouts further on. We finished up on a track between the two planned routes which brought us out onto the major road that we needed to reach the hotel. My Internet research had produced a map which showed the Palace Hotel down a side street but we found no hotel there, just several apartment and office blocks. We decided to head for the conference centre to see if they had clearer directions. As we rounded a corner on the way we noticed a sign to the Palace Hotel but too late to follow it. We took the next turn and then, with Emily navigating from the map, looped around several city blocks to return to where we had just seen the sign. Second time around we followed the sign into some back streets, saw another sign but still found no hotel. We went back around the loop to confirm that the signs were there. They were, so we got out and walked the other cross street, not the one that my Internet map had indicated. Eventually we saw a building with an awning but no visible signage and thought that might be the hotel. It was but even inside the signage was subliminal – mostly ‘HP’ emblems. We later found that there was some subtle signage on the other street frontage but that was not where the hotel fronted or any of the maps or signs indicated it might be found.

As we checked in we met a woman from the conference who was checking out to move to another hotel having found this one unsatisfactory. One of her complaints was that the advertised pool was out of service. We checked the room, which was OK but not wonderful, and then drove into town to see if Majella also wanted to arrange a change. She had been talking with somebody who recommended a hotel further out in Poggio so we decided to check on the Internet to see if it had anything available.

The Internet point that we had spotted up the street from the conference centre the previous evening was on siesta until 3:00 so Emily and I had some lunch. She wanted gelato to follow her piece of pizza so I insisted that she do the transaction herself for the experience. After lunch, while we waited for the Internet point to open, we checked the shops and market stalls. Emily managed to buy a top for herself before we collected the car from the now expired parking area and moved it closer to where we needed to be.

We checked on the Internet and found a vacancy but decided that we did not need another navigational experience and waited around, looking at more shops, until Majella was done at the conference. We also managed to fit in some sight seeing around the old town, mostly on the way from one shopping point to another. Emily bought 3 more tops for herself.

Once Majella was finished with the conference we headed back past the store where Emily had made her first purchase in the morning. There she had Majella approve the purchase of another top and a pair of shoes. From there we went back to the hotel and hauled our luggage up to the room via a lift that could just manage the 3 of us and our bags. We went back into town to find some dinner and let Emily conduct Majella around her favourite shopping spots.

This had been one of our more challenging and satisfying days. Navigating and driving in a strange city stretched Emily and me but we enjoyed our success. Emily especially enjoyed her shopping for bargains and will have lots of prompts for memories.

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