Finding a place to begin

Nike was smart when they launched their campaign admonishing those of us who sit far too long on our ever-expanding rear ends to “Just do It.”  But when you’re someone who is more inclined to first think, then talk about what you are thinking about — like writing — then think about writing before you actually write anything,  clearly those words have no effect.  None.

I haven’t “Done It” yet.  In other words, I’m still getting warmed up to the idea of possibly thinking about wanting to write something.  Not just anything, but the piece I am supposed to write.

The problem is twofold.  On second thought, it’s got quite a few more folds than two. Tenfold might be more accurate.  I have no excuse for this.  It’s pathetic.

And so when I find myself in this particular situation, I review what I know.  I mull over every detail and experience much like one might sort through an old recipe box, thinking about what is on each card instead of pulling one out, and actually cooking and serving it for dinner.

I could go back through the books I’ve used in the past whose authors have helped me sort out my thoughts.  People like Zinsser and Lamott, or Goldberg or E.B. White, because they force me to think about what I’m not doing. But I’d have to have something, anything, to work with before I’m compelled to pick up one of those books again.  Otherwise, it’s no different than reading travelogues and never traveling, or buying yet another cookbook when never intending to cook.

Somehow in my wandering today, I came across Vonnegut and his take on style.  I’d not seen it before, and I read it through several times acknowledging his advice, but thinking more about his writing.  I read parts of it aloud, as I often do when something is written just right, needing to hear the cadence of words as each works with another.  Then I considered the advice.

One thing was missing.

Find a place to begin.  And therein lies the rub.

Since it’s not a dark and stormy night, I’m taking myself out into the sun that has finally decided to grace us with its presence to sit and read something well-written, take a few notes, and find a place to begin while I’m distracted by green bugs in the vicinity.

Books, Brioche, and…Boredom

Finally, finally, all things Italy are done.  The planning, the packing, the photos, the writing.  And when you’ve spent the time that I have getting ready for a trip like this, there’s a kind of void after it’s over.  A huge void.  Kind of like the Grand Canyon.

I just might be…

…and I’m not quite certain…

…but thinking perhaps that…

I’m bored.

Wait.

I’m never bored.

Ever.

I’m not quite sure what to do about this feeling.

And even more strange?

Because I’ve been up to my ears with all things flickr, Photoshop, iPhoto, and Blurb,  I’m not in the mood to sit here, either.  It’s Friday and the whole weekend is yawning ahead.  It is Friday, isn’t it?

I thought so.

I’ve got three cookbooks opened to some very nice brioche recipes all requiring overnight refrigeration, (I can’t decide if I want plain or chocolate…) and I’m wondering whether the MoH would like to go down to the water tonight to sit and stare at the horizon with a bit of food and something nice to drink.  Or maybe go see Mama Mia…

But there are other things to consider as well:

  • Like how to get my doggo to stop her incessant scratching and my cat’s interminable yeowling. The fleas are beyond nasty this year, and although I’ve sprayed, and vacuumed, and washed, brushed, combed and yes, finally broke down and bought some Frontline (disgusting poison…), it doesn’t seem to have put a dent in them.  I.  Hate.  Fleas.  Which is why I hate carpeting.  And whomever conducted that study that reported simple vacuuming daily will eliminate up to 99% of the fleas because it destroys their shells?  What-ever, dood.  Sounds good, but no cigar.  Well, not around here, anyway.  My cat is the world’s greatest fleabus.  It doesn’t make sense to me.  We have almost NO dirt anywhere.  There are flagstones, and concrete, a few flowerbeds that are predominantly damp, a patch of damp grass…WHAT GIVES?
  • I need a new book. I loved Such a Pretty Fat by Jen Lancaster (laughed my ass off…well…not quite since my scale still insists upon telling me the gawd awful truth).  It lambastes Jenny Craig and the whole concept of a weight-loss plan that includes packaged food AND has the greatest kiss-off line I’ve heard in a long time.  Click the link and watch the video.   I also just finished The Patron Saint of Liars by Ann Pachett, one of my favorite authors.  It was her first novel, and I’m letting it stew a bit before I say what I need to say about it.  But her books have that effect on me.  And since I’m on a “thinking about writing seriously” kick (again) and still have 8 gazillion books here I haven’t read that can inspire me from one perspective or another and keep me from actually doing my own writing, Dave Eggers’ A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius is next up.  It looks to prove that when you want to write a book, you can write whatever you want, and sometimes, people notice.  Yes, even people like myself, who notice, then let it sit on their bookshelf for, oh, about five or six years.
  • I need to sign up for a photography class and a writing class (you know, because sometimes, homework is a good thing…) through one of the university extensions here.  I seem to have recovered from my post traumatic distress syndrome over all things “school,” and both of these classes will occupy my time, feed my creativity, and give me yet another excuse to not actually start my own real writing. Okay, so writing somewhere other than this blog.
  • I have to make a fix-it list for this house. I know I used to joke quite a bit about it, but jeez.  I’m tired of putting money into having the carpet cleaned and want to rip it out of the house and heave it out the windows.  I need a painter to even out the walls where boys incapable of standing up without hanging onto the walls have left smudges that can no longer be wiped.  And the fence on the patio needs replacing (along with the neighbor it shields us from), along with the drip sprayers and lights.  Then there are the screens the cats wrecked (and the one I totaled while we were trying to break into our house last night after swimming because we were locked out….) because the extra key wasn’t in it’s normal place… and…yes, things need to be fixed.  I checked.  There is a Handyman section in the Yellow Pages.  My fingers will be walking.  Soon.  They will be walking miles.
  • And last but not least, try not to feel so wistful about this blog. It’s sort of crawling along while my food blog is roaring.  Okay, so, not like the Internet Market type roar, but everything’s relative, yes?  As much as I enjoy both of them, this one is special because it’s just about whatever comes to mind.  It’s me.  And sure, so is the other one, but it’s about my food, which isn’t necessarily me, even though they say, “You are what you eat.”  Um, thank-you.  Next?  But the crickets have been chirping loudly here lately, and I’m trying to adjust to the idea that it’s okay and that I didn’t set out to write here to do anything other than expend energy and get back into the habit of writing.  From that perspective, it’s all been worth it.  One step leads to another, right?

Right.

So shut up and write.

On to the brioche…

You’re so over the Italy stuff, right?

Trenitalia Alta Velocita

The train ride to Florence was easy.  There were no delays, the air conditioning was refreshing, and it actually seemed as if we were really skimming along at 300 km/hr, leaving cars on the autostrade in the dust, which is saying quite a bit.  We were able to look out the windows the entire time, unlike our first trip, when a man sitting across from the boys yanked the shade down without the slightest acknowledgment that three others were sitting at the same table. Okay.

Small towns appeared along the way, their terra cotta roofs clustered on hill tops in the distance.  Fields of sunflowers stretched away from us one after the other, but their heads pointed down and away, revealing only a yellow fringe in the midday sun.  I wondered if I’d have the chance to drive through that countryside some day to explore those towns.

From the moment we arrived at Stazione Santa Maria Novella, it was different.  The area inside the walls of Florence is traffic controlled, allowing only those with a special permit the opportunity to enter.  Yes, there was traffic, but far less.  And absolutely, we had to be wary crossing streets, but not as if we were taking our lives in our hands each time we did.  The streets seemed more organized, neater.  Less frenetic.  And… not quite as intriguing as Rome, nor as quaint as Sorrento.

Continue reading “You’re so over the Italy stuff, right?”

Our Italian Saga Continues

Vicolo Equense ?The unpleasantness of being in Naples wore off as soon as we were settled on the boat that would take us to Sorrento. Maybe it was the deep blue of the sea, or the cool breeze that refreshed our sweaty bodies.  Or Vesuvius, looming in the distance, reminding us of all those history lessons delivered so long ago and so far from here.  Pompeii…Herculaneum… Pompeii

But it could also have been the tall, thin as a willow whip blonde that walked up the gangplank with the assistance of the crew right ahead of us who bore an uncanny resemblance to Diana.  The Diana.  Her hair was short, and she was dressed in a leather mini skirt and strapless bodice.  Her four-inch heels drew everyone’s attention, and we waited to see if she could balance herself on the boat as well as she could on cobblestones.  Most of the crew exchanged knowing looks, but one took it upon himself to sit next to her as we made our way across the Bay of Naples.
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At first, she had chosen to settle in on the first deck in the cushy seats, but after we’d all dragged our luggage up the tiny stairs and flopped into seats where we’d get a good view in the open air, she emerged upstairs.  And as much as there were only a few passengers, and therefore, many open seats everywhere, she decided to sit in the row directly in front of us.

We must have appeared to have been harmless, or uninterested in young women wearing black leather.

I soon figured out I was on the wrong side of the boat to snap my next 500 photos and moved, with the MoH following.  We kept an eye on the boys and the woman as she sort of avoided, but not with any true energy, making conversation with the forward crew member.  He eventually gave up on her and disappeared downstairs.

At some point in a strong British accent, she turned to the boys, and with a cigarette posed between two fingers, asked if either of them had a light.  You just don’t know how hilarious that is considering that not only does neither smoke, but that they wouldn’t expect anyone to think they did.  Well, that anyone like her would ask anyone like them anything.  Ever.  Their raised eyebrows and quick glance at one another after she turned around told it all.

Marina Piccola, SorrentoWhen we stepped onto the dock in Sorrento, she was already getting into what we thought was her mother’s car, because we realized at some point, that she wasn’t quite 20.  Goodness. Nothing like a bit of intrigue to take one’s mind off travel weary doldrums.

Marina Grande Officially, we were rested and ready to enjoy a small town where streets close to traffic in the evening so everyone can walk and shop, sit in cafes and watch passersby, or eat well into the evening.  We did all of that, and crowded into groups clustered around televisions in bars here and there to watch Roger Federer lose to Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon.  It was like a huge street party.

In a walled garden setting lined with lemon trees and dotted with impatiens, we enjoyed pasta, seafood, lovely wine, and dessert at ‘o Parrucchiano “La Favorita,” a restaurant housed in an old building and credited with inventing cannoli.  Who knew?  The wait staff was ridiculously tolerant of our horrible attempts at Italian, and the setting a perfect place to relax after an extremely long day.  Even the cat that wandered through the tables and brushed against our legs added to the perfect evening. And yes, I fed the cat. Incorrigible. Marina Grande at Night

I now know that Sorrento was my favorite place on our vacation.  We never took the bus to Positano or Amalfi, nor did we take one of the ferries we constanly saw headed to the island of Capri.  But I have no regrets because we wouldn’t have been able to enjoy what was right in front of us:  balmy weather, delicious food, hospitable people, the Hotel del Mare, and a clear, warm sea to swim in. Private Beaches in Sorrento

Although everyone seems crazed to spend time in Venice or Tuscany when they travel to Italy, Sorrento is a place to be considered.  I know I’d go back so I could stroll through the quiet streets without an agenda of any kind and let time take its course, but maybe in the Fall, when others are back to work, and the idea of other places to go and things to see don’t exist. Sunset from Hotel del Mare

Yes, I’d go back to Sorrento.
Relaxing on the Rooftop

Naples & “Rude Ebullience”

On Sunday, the fifth day of our vacation to Italy, we were ready to leave Rome.  Not so much because we were tired of being there; we’d only put a small dent in what there is to see and do.  It was more because knowing the reservations at two more places had been made, and it was inevitable that we go.  Besides, after reading so much about Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast, I know I was looking forward to being near the ocean.  I’m glad I had the short time to do a post while we were there because as much as I can say I’m able to hang on to memories, being able to savor the better moments after it’s all over can get lost in the shuffle.

When we travel, my volatile personality battles with itself.  I’m an odd combination of someone who loves beautiful hotels with soft towels and scented soap, and one who also enjoys being very casual, and comfortable.  Going unnoticed.  Because I’d approached my planning for our trip from the latter perspective, I quickly decided that we’d not be staying in Positano, a picturebook perfect place that I would have loved to stay — but not with two of my sons in tow.  So Sorrento seemed to be a better choice.  If we decided to take a bus to Positano, or a boat to Capri, then I’d be satisfied with that, hoping to return someday just with the MoH.

Some would call me a dreamer, or not very practical.  I’d prefer to say that I look for the silver lining of most aspects of life.  I’m a highly observant person with a near lethal critical eye, so I enjoy looking for the softer more beautiful characteristics in as much as I can find.  It works, because although I am incapable of not noticing the underbelly of just about everything, I prefer to wallow in everything else.  Yes, this is about Italy…

Because we spent so much time on line before we left trying to book train fare and failing (that’s a whole post in itself…) we took time to go to Stazione Termini the day before leaving Rome to use the self-serve ticket machines.  All went perfectly, so on Sunday, after allowing one of the swarms of men who offer to “help” put luggage on the train and then actually haggle with you about what the service they forced on you is worth, we were off to Naples.  I knew there would be a bit of confusion once we arrived there, because never having been there, we couldn’t quite figure out how we’d get from the train station to the docks to catch a boat to Sorrento.

Bear in mind that I’m a planner by profession, so if I say something is not quite clear after I’ve spent time thinking about it and searching for options, then that means I’ve decided that we’ll just figure it out.  Besides, the MoH kept telling me we would be on a bit of an adventure, so I allowed myself some moments of letting go of my worries.

And then we arrived in Naples.  Yes, I’d read about Naples, which was why I never considered staying there for even a second.  To be fair, we’d just stayed in a huge city, so even if I’d planned for us to venture into Naples to see the spectacular Museo Archilogico Nazionale, we’d do so from a smaller town.  Any possibility of doing that evaporated when we stepped off the train.  The “loves the finer things in life” side of me kicked in when the four of us had to traipse across the station four or five times just looking for information about where to catch the “tram” I’d read about.  Yes, I understand that Italy works differently than other places, and that it’s best to relax and “go with the flow.”  I.  Get.  It.  Okay?  But then we decided to venture outside the station to figure it out ourselves.  Surely there would be obvious signs to follow.  When one can read Spanish, Italian isn’t that different, thankfully.

But there were no signs, and the station was in some kind of transition with construction going on that looked as if it was stalled and hadn’t been touched in quite some time.  Walkways were blocked, and as we ventured out toward the large square in front of the station where buses were lined up, we were more than cautious about traffic.  For as much as vehicles didn’t honk their horns in Rome, it seemed every one of them used their horns to warn anyone in their path — red light, stop sign or not.  Trash was everywhere, accumulated against buildings, wafting across streets as traffic passed, and worse, wedging in the wheels of our luggage as we searched for the yet unseen “tram” mentioned in one of our travel books.  (Erm, thanks, Rick Steves.  You might want to edit that book.  And don’t forget to change the phone number for museum reservations in Florence while you’re at it.)

We walked back and forth.  We asked people for direction, and then finally we found the city buses and began to look at their numbers hoping to see the “1” we needed.  A tram looks different than a bus, doesn’t it?  Or so we thought.  Right as we’d decided to go for it and walk the distance to the port, we located a bus — full sized — with a “1” emblazoned across its front.  Perhaps that was our tram.  But by the time we’d figured it out, it left and we stood on the curb waiting, trying to decide if we should wait for the next, walk, or catch a cab.  After eyeballing the cabs streaming by in the frantic traffic, we knew there was no possibility of the four of us and luggage fitting into one tiny vehicle.  One cab driver actually stopped in the middle of a huge intersection, motioning at us out his window, wondering if we needed his cab, and we had to wave him on.

So we set off in the general direction of the port.  It was beyond hot, and the area we walked through looked as if it might be a business district.  All was closed since it was Sunday and the traffic immediately became sporadic.  Light posts were missing from their bases, wires exposed in a tangled mess.  Phones had been vandlized, receivers hanging from their sturdy cords, missing covers for the ear and mouth device.  At one point, a young man with a beautiful girl on the back of his motorcycle drove up onto the sidewalk in front of us pulling his bike alongside the store windows and cruised in the opposite direction, slowly, as if allowing the girl to window shop.

We began to look into the shadowed alleys to find one that looked safe.  Yes, I was not feeling very safe, and that’s a rare thing.  But we found one and just being able to walk in the shade calmed my nerves long enough to notice the high rise buildings from which laundry slowly flapped in a breeze we couldn’t feel.  I could begin to smell the salt from the bay, so knew we couldn’t be that far away.

I was wrong.  The port is huge, and we came out, luggage in tow, near where the large cruise ships dock.  More of the seemingly always present orange plastic construction fencing lined the busy street, so we had to pick our way through it all, then wander along the docks until we finally found where the ferries dropped off and picked up people headed across the Bay of Naples. 

The MoH’s suitcase experienced a flat as a result of this particular leg of our adventure, so he had to carry it for the remainder of our vacation.  He thought it had just become heavy since he was just as tired as the rest of us from our ordeal, and he just pulled it harder.  The poor wheel had all its rubber worn completely flat on one side.

If I told you I was traumatized over this experience (um…not the flat on the suitcase wheel — Naples), I’d expect you to know it was an exaggeration.  But I can say that I was offended.  Seriously.  And then I was embarrassed by my reaction, so that pissed me off.  Picture an ugly black cloud with lightning bolts flashing out of it hovering over my hatless head, and you’d have the right picture.

So much for relaxing.  For adopting a “whatever” mentality.  For embracing the casual “no worries” attitude that the MoH abhors when he hears someone mutter that particular phrase.  I was only an ugly American who would wallow in self pity, unbeknownst to anyone but her family.  MoH being the mostly calm person he is, ventured off to find a cool Coke to share once we’d found a bench to sit and wait.

When the ferry to Sorrento arrived and we were settled on board, my mood had passed, the deep blue water we skimmed over helping to soothe my ugliness.  It was only then that the MoH realized that the Cirumvesuviana we’d opted not to take to Sorrento had a stop we could have taken to the bay to catch the ferry.  The travel book had evidently neglected to mention that particular piece of information.  Of course, there was more than enough mention made of the rampant crime and pickpocketing that goes on, so clearly, that factored into our decision to forego use of the Circumvesuviana at that point in our little adventure. 

Underbelly indeed.

Maybe if I was 25, I’d have a different outlook than I now do.  But when I was 25, I had two babies and wouldn’t have been able to even afford thinking about Italy, so who knows.  I do know that as much as Naples might be described by some as having “an attractive, rude ebullience,” I will say that the only thing I found attractive about it was being able to board the ferry to Sorrento — regardless of what Rick Steves thinks.

The silver lining?  The MoH. He doesn’t always understand my strangeness, but is always willing to lighten things up when the time is right.  It’s nice.

Vacation to Italy: Four days in Rome

I’ve been sitting here most of the day, clicking through the 750 photos I took while in Italy, and it’s been a pleasant way to replay our time there which now, seems a million miles away. Funny how that works, isn’t it?

I took an old-fashioned journal with me, thinking I’d write since I wouldn’t have access to a computer for any real time. And although I did write, I’m so out of practice doing so with a pen and paper, that my thoughts left me before I could finish sentences. We were so busy, packing much into each day, it was challenging to find time to sit and write anything, and when I did, I wanted to close my eyes for just a bit to catch my breath.  Stare at the ceiling in our room and wonder who had lived there (and it’s a very old ceiling…)

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When I travel, I long to know what it’s like to live where I’m staying. It matters.  I enjoy walking through streets that are off the regular path, and shops that aren’t on anyone’s recommended list. In fact, I enjoy this sort of time spent in a place more than seeing attractions most of the time. It gives me a better sense of who the people are, and what it might be like to be one of them even though I know that it will never be quite right. To some extent, this was possible for us in Rome, Sorrento, and Galluzzo, the small town we stayed in outside Florence.  And it must have worked, because I now know that people from each of these areas are distinctly different, and fiercely proud of it.

Via dei Cappellari apartment In Rome, we stayed in a very small apartment a short walk from the Campo di Fiori on Via dei Cappellari. The streets everywhere are paved with small square, black cobblestones planted in an arching pattern.  Buildings plastered in muted, warm colors rise three or four stories across passageways sometimes only wide enough for a tiny car to pass by.  Windows are shuttered against the heat, which at times, is oppressive, and others, interrupted by breeze from a cross street. Via dei Cappellari is such a street.

A variety of tiny shops that don’t quite make sense together line the way past our apartment: furniture makers sand and varnish chairs and tables, a spotless motorbike repair shop takes in customers, a dress boutique waits for shoppers, and an antiques dealer fans himself in the dim lighting of his shop. We wondered each day how any of them could keep afloat tucked away as they were, with so many others hid in their own tiny areas of such a huge city.

Rome apartment stairs Our apartment was three flights of stairs up through a tiny door that was nearly impossible to open with the skeleton key we were given.  Thankfully, we never did see the person whose apartment we tried to get in at first, thinking it was ours. And it wasn’t so bad after we did get into our apartment to find that an air conditioner was available as long as we were willing to pay 5 Euros a day. But there were no clean sheets or towels, and when the MoH tried to use the telephone to call the rental company, it didn’t work. No surprise since it looked like a relic from the ’50’s. At least there was a large plasma screen — until I blew a circuit breaker with my flat iron the next morning. So much for our converter, hmmm?

So much for anything remotely close to what I’d consider a “good” hair day for the next couple of weeks. Note to self: Tell Dan the Man haircut dood that I will not be having a cut this short again no matter how thrilled he is with the way it looks. The hat came in VERY handy.

IMG_1560.JPG The MoH and I left the RTR & his big brother in the apartment under the AC — literally — while we ventured out to find a phone and food. We found the phone, but figuring out how to use it was another story all together. Yes, it’s explained in tourist books. Embarrassing, but true. So the rental company was contacted about the linens and they were promptly delivered. Woo-Hoo!

Rome is a gritty place. There are scooters everywhere, and the traffic even in tiny streets, is something you have to keep an eye on. Once you realize that the key is to step into the street, make and keep eye contact with the driver, and move quickly across the street, you’re fine. Unfortunately, that only seems to work for the cars. The scooters are not as trustworthy.

There are cafes everywhere. Cafes and bars and gelato shops line nearly every street, and deciding which one to go into doesn’t have to be a science. We never did figure out exactly what “tourist food” was because every meal we had in Rome was exceptional whether it was pizza near the Pantheon, or clams and mussels in wine and garlic in Trastavere across the Tiber. And the pasta? Mmmm…who knew that Carbonara could be made so many different ways. Campo di Fiori

We walked everywhere in Rome. We walked until our feet ached and our knees weren’t sure how to act when we finally were able to sit. We walked and sweat more than I thought it possible to sweat. No wonder the Romans wore togas. Or was that the Greeks? A nice breeze ruffling a skirt would have been quite nice as long as a puff of Gold’s powder was available. More than once I noticed Italian men and women on their way to work; the men in beautifully cut suits of rich fabric and the women in smart linen trousers and stylish tops. Not a drop of sweat on any of them. How do they do it? That could never be me, wrinkled damp human that I am. Thank goodness for the cool quiet, shaded streets we often found on our way to one place or another.

Often when we travel, we’ll mark a map just to see how much ground we’ve covered. It would have been too challenging in Rome because we often wandered. Sometimes on purpose, and sometimes because we were lost. The MoH and I rarely agreed that we were where we thought we were or supposed to be, so bitching and moaning ensued. Not him. Me. But that’s what happens when you put two strong-willed people together in a strange place with two large young men in tow.  I know I tested his patience this vacation more than I usually do, but there wasn’t a cork large enough in Rome for my mouth or my opinions.  I’ve never been very good at following.

So what did I truly enjoy?

  • Walking around the corner of a tiny street shrouded in the shade that early evening imposes on the city and seeing the Pantheon amongst the buildings that have grown around it over the past 2,000 years. It was beautiful, and early in the week, not as crowded as it would become by the weekend. I had my first taste of Italian gelato sitting on the wall next to the Pantheon, trying desperately to keep the deep, dark chocolate from dripping down my arm and onto my white bermudas. My camera wasn’t so lucky.
  • Pantheon

  • Seeing the cat hospice at the Largo Argentina Ruins.  It was twilight, which in Rome is about 9PM, and since the city has physically risen over the past few thousand years, the ancient area is at least a couple of stories lower than street level.  We never quite figured it out, but someone was setting up a show of sorts, displaying edgy contemporary art with music and a light show.  But as we looked more closely, we noticed cats.  Scores of cats in the shadows.  All colors and sizes.  On one corner of the square, you can venture down a flight of stairs to talk to them, give them a few pets, and marvel that in a city the size of Rome, someone would provide such a place for them.  Amazing.
  • Sitting in the Campo di Fiori with the MoH the first night in Rome.  We watched a talented street entertainer mimmicking passers by, the armed Carbonieri, and the young people they were keeping an eye on.  A guitarist’s quiet music was a perfect accompaniment to the show seen satisfyingly from our tiny cafe table.  The evening was warm, and a breeze across the square made everything just right.
  • The walk through the Borghese Gardens after we saw the gallery.  Sure we were hot, thirsty, and hungry.  Okay, so starving.  And sure, we had a detour caused by some construction going on.  But it was beautiful, and I thought that it would have been a perfect place to sit and nap or picnic, if figuring out how to get the whole picnic thing right could have been a possibility. But no one complained. The grounds are completely shaded and there’s a large wading pool of sorts.  People wearing bathing suits were sunning on towels.  It was quiet.  Fountains appeared here and there, and it was all I could do NOT to sit on the edge of one and dip my feet in since diving was not an option.  As we finished our trek through the grounds, my favorite view of Rome was there, right above the Piazza del Popolo all spread out in front of us.
  • Rome Skyline from Borghese Gardens

  • The wine and the espresso.  Neither was as expensive as the Coke the boys drank or the birra the MoH ordered. Of course, the ground espresso I purchased to make in the apartment each morning ended up opening in my suitcase during our travels, and for the remainder of our vacation, I sported dark smudges on my undies and smelled like coffee, but who’s complaining?
  • The spigots that can be found throughout Rome.  All you need is a bottle.  The water is ice cold and free.  I don’t know where we would have been without it because it wasn’t as plentiful in Sorrento or Florence and we missed it.
  • The ORANGE purse and wallet I purchased.  I guess I like orange after all.

The low points?

  • Begrudgingly, the throngs of people at Trevi fountain.  I suppose in thinking about it now that we could have stayed up later and then ventured to see it, but everyone is up until the wee hours of the night anyway, and transitioning to Rome time, we were lagging.  On second thought, getting up very early would work best.  Everyone is asleep after a night full of revelry, right?  It could be magical.
  • Trevi Fountain

  • My older son admitting that he was not impressed by the Colosseum.  He told us he was really looking forward to seeing it, too.  I’m sad for him because a life spent building up expectations and nothing being able to meet them is a tough life indeed.  He does tend to have a half empty cup about life at times.  It breaks my heart.
  • Tour groups.  They were like a virus.  They took up vast quantities of space everywhere forcing everyone off the sidewalks and up against the walls of any space they oozed in to.  They arrived, they armed their point-n-shoots, they shot, they left.  One after the other.  Hoards.  It was beyond annoying.
  • The Sistine Chapel.  Michelangelo’s  jaw droppingly beautiful ceiling was actually reduced to a room full of people standing shoulder to shoulder with a grouchy guard incessantly hissing, “Silence!” to the noisy masses who seemed to be there only to try and sneak a photo of something they wanted to be able to say they saw, instead of think about how it was painted and by whom, or why.  Very sad.

And something unexpectedly lovely to end on a positive note…

  • St. Paul’s Basilica in the very late afternoon.  No lines, unearthly light streaming through the windows, voices from the mass taking place echoing through the building…Breath-takingly beautiful.  And Michelangelo’s Pieta?  Oh.  My.  It brought tears.  Maybe I was just tired, but still.
  • Mass at St. Peter's

Cost so far minus airfare?

Private Shuttle to Apartment:  $120 (Okay, so this was convenience just because we had to stop by the rental office, then get to the apartment.  The airport is not close to the city and the office not close to the apartment.  I was at the “whatever” stage of booking.)

Accommodations:  $650  (Not bad for 4 people for 4 days…)

Food:  $475  (No junk food.  Yes, they have Mickey D’s.  Some cooking in the apartment, fruit, wine, gelato, salami & cheese, and some very nice dinners.  Did I say wine?)

Attractions: $300  (The Colosseum, The Forum, Palatine HillThe Borghese, The Vatican…I forget what else…)

Train to Sorrento:    $120 (Inter-City train)

Orange Purse & Wallet:  Priceless  (Okay, so it wasn’t, but it was in my suitcase when we left, so I didn’t get to collect on the tax that I was charged.  What.  Ever.)

Un-jetlagging

We arrived back in Paradise last night at about 7:00 after an 11-hour flight from Rome to Cincinnati, then yet another delightful 5-hour flight just about as far as one can go in a Southwesterly direction in these United States.  Long.

Did I say long?

Way long.

I peeked out of my left eyeball in the taxi on the way home from the airport, not quite able to see normally after failing yet again at trying to sleep sitting up, and squeezed in the backseat between my boys, weighed down with carry-on bags the driver couldn’t possibly crush in his already packed trunk.

In my next life, I will live on the Right Coast so that I can enjoy shorter flights to Europe.

It’s 4:20 am, Italy time right now — tomorrow.  And considering I’m on that time about now, and that I’ve been up 16 hours today so far, I should sleep quite a long time tonight.  I’m running on fumes.  Or espresso.

But it was worth it, because I’ve learned so much about Italy…and me.

For example:
Dawn over the Atlantic

It is totally possible to ride on nearly every type of transportation possible on a vacation.  Didn’t they make a movie about Planes, Trains, and Automobiles?

The cars are very small.
Parking in Rome

There are young people everywhere, and I wonder who their parents are.  Okay, so I really don’t, but still.  What you can’t see is the open market surrounding this guy.
Is this your son?
When you think something is old, stop, think again, then understand there’s a whole different level of old.  Julius Caesar was stabbed on the steps of a temple that used to be here.  Like that old.
Rome
It would be nice to have a produce market to go to each morning.

Fresh squeezed orange juice is 6 Euros a glass, and isn’t it nice that there wasn’t a menu.  Can we have two glasses, please?

Espresso can actually come in a cup that holds one tablespoon.  Really.  For 3 Euros.

Bad hair days can be experienced by everyone.
Me on Vacation

It is still possible to get all worked up over religious iconography.  Like, you know.  Moved to tears.
Inside St. Peter's

But, yes, we’re back. And since I’m falling off my chair, I’ll wait to put this all in some kind of order.

‘night.