Friday, September 15, 2006

Travels with Cyndi: Rome, Day One

"So it was that I determined to look again, to try to rediscover this monster land."-John Steinbeck

I must admit that, if pressed to give you a favorite city in Italy, I'd say Rome. Over the years, I've developed a little crush on it, and that crush has eventually grown into all-out love. It's a crazy, wonderful place, and if I get the chance to go there, I almost always take it. Yesterday, talking to one of my English students about travel, I told her about this crazy love I have for Rome, and she got the same look in her eyes that I do, the same smile on her face. "Rome!" Just hearing it is enough to remind you of its beauty. All of this talk of traveling everywhere else, when Rome is the one place I can go back to again and again.

So when Cyndi and I decided, who knows how long ago, that we wanted to go to Rome for a couple of days, I was more than happy to comply. We decided that we were in need of some serious American food--the kind that you can only get at a restaurant. With its free refills of iced cokes, its gaudy decor, and its bilingual menus, The Hard Rock Cafe stands out as one of the only truly American restaurants in Italy. Sure, back home in Indy I ignore the place completely, but here in Italy, going there becomes a journey, as high on the must-do list as the colosseum. It's kind of embarassing, really!

So Cyndi and I decided, on a hot hot day in early August, that we needed those iced drinks with free refills. We met up in Rome at the train station, both of us making journeys that stretched into the 4 hour range. Waving each other down and grinning like school kids, we took our luggage and began the walk to our hotel. Cyndi had spent the days prior to this little journey planning everything out, and she had successfully booked us at the Hotel Brasile, a hotel that fit our standards of 1) air-conditioned rooms, 2) general proximity to the Hard Rock Cafe and 3) a private bathroom. Upon arriving and taking about fifteen minutes to figure out how the lights work, we dropped off our bags, grabbed our essential walking gear, and headed out the door. At the front desk, they gave us a couple of maps, and we were off.

On the phone, days before this trip, we had talked about how many of our meals we would eat at Hard Rock. "Is once enough?" I asked, doubtful. In the end it wasn't. That day we had lunch there, starting off with a big basket of onion rings and barbeque dip, and immediately deeming it "very American" and "good." As if we were true restaurant critics, we observed our surroundings, rated the wait staff as decent, picked through our meals, tasting every bite, and used up as many napkins as we could (okay, so perhaps critics don't do that, but we did!). And despite the fact that I couldn't get my "usual" (garden burger sandwich and fries), the lunch was great. Leaving, we felt sick to our stomaches: another sure sign that we hadn't just eaten a plate of pasta. We had dined in true, American style.

Everytime I go to Rome, I feel lost if I don't see those typical tourists stops. I don't know why--by now I've outgrown the novelty of the Trevi fountain, and the Spanish Steps are just that--steps. But still, it's something that I feel the need to do, to go back and make my wishes in the fountain, to look out at Rome from those steps. Cyndi and I wandered through Rome like this, stopping for a photo-op near the Trevi, staring, awed as always, at the sheer beauty of the Pantheon. To add something new, I took Cyndi to Campo dei Fiori, one of my favorite underrated piazzas in Rome, we stopped and cat-watched at the cat Forum, and we sought out, through small streets as the sun set, Rome's charming turtle fountain, framed by its own pleasant piazza.

That evening, tired and still stomache-ached, we risked it and got gelato cones at Rick Steves' favorite Roman gelateria. We ate our gelatos and made our way to the Spanish Steps, passing from daytime Rome to the beauty of its nighttime, lamp-lit streets and piazzas. Rome at night takes on its own personality, and it somehow outdoes the daylight.

Now, first I must say that Cyndi is a good friend, and sometimes we get along too well--our senses of humor correspond too much, perhaps. Luckily, when we are with our husbands, they just nudge us in between our laughter and joking and remind us, in not-so-subtle ways, that we are embarassing them. But on our own, we must be complete distractions--passersby just staring at us like we are insane (and we AREN'T insane! really!). This happened in Rome, of course--in pure sleep-deprived bliss, we decided to play American tourists. We began to speak in Italian, but with thick, purposeful American accents, saying as many things as we could, slowly and with hoosier-twinged ciaos and per favores, and laughing outloud between sentences. We found this to be completely hysterical, and therefore kept it up, almost begging for people to stare at us. (Still thinking about this now cracks me up.) When American accents weren't funny enough anymore (let's say about an hour later), we switched to any other accent that we could muster: German, British, Australian, Boston, French--nothing was off limits.

And so the rest of the evening passed like that--on the Spanish steps we even called our husbands and assaulted them with our accents, giggling and surely inviting stares from nearby Spanish steppers. Luckily Danilo and Antonello are very good sports, and they are on our same wavelength--they laughed too.


Cyndi has a few entries from our trip to Rome: no place like Rome, part one, and part two.


At 8:36 AM, Blogger Cynthia Rae said...

Well done! At last! You always make me laugh Jackie. While I was reading this I was laughing out loud! That was such a fun trip and I can not wait to do it again.

By the way, yesterday (Friday) we had just a touch of rain in the morning and then sunshine the rest of the day! In the end, it was good we didn't go to Little Italy. There was a national bus strike and we would have been stuck at the train staion! Hope we can go Wednesday (fingers crossed).

At 8:56 AM, Blogger Stelle In Italia said...

Cyndi: same here about the weather. It was actually quite a nice day! i was pretty bummed that we didn't go ahead and make the trip, but if there was a strike with the buses, that would've been impossible. let's just hope mini italy doesn't go on strike!! :)

wednesday sounds great...if not mini italy, we can do bologna! (or maybe just hang around rimini? is there a lot of good shopping there?)

At 1:55 PM, Blogger EuropeanTop said...

Hello and thanks for the opportunity to read and post on your blog.

I’ve just posted an article related to travel tips for seniors on my blog and I thought maybe you’d be interested in reading it. Here is short preview of some of the areas I covered:

- Prefer a backpack on wheels instead of a suitcase, you could pull it behind you when your back hurts or you are exhausted.
- Consider checking your bag in with the airlines, because it would become an unnecessary burden to be dragged all over the airport or the city if you are going to have a short visit.
- You could stay outside the city, in a hostel maybe, because it is cheaper, less crowded and the air is much fresher, but you have to walk or use the transport more, to get in the city or to the station.
- Most museums, some concert halls, railways, airlines, bus lines, ferry and shipping lines have a discount policy for seniors.
- Electronic devices are useful but sometimes they can give you a lot of headaches. You could help yourself with a micro-tape recorder to record your notes. It would be easier than to write and you would put them down on paper later, to share your notes with your family.
- If you bring a camera with you to keep the beautiful images alive along the time then make sure you know how to handle it or you might fail to record them not only on that camera but also in your eyes.

For more resources on travelling to Europe you are welcome to visit my blog, where you can also get acces to some excellent maps of Stockholm and maps of London, together with information on hotels and restaurants.

Best regards,

Michael R.


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