Where I come from, the real estate at the end of the street is reserved for pokey shops stocking bottles of milk and loaves of bread. I will never get over ducking to the corner of the street in Rome, for a bottle of inspiration or a loaf of awesome:
Meet you outside gate 52?
Though I had to laugh when I passed the Rome Museum en route to the Pantheon. What do you put in a museum in a city built on ancient ruins? I briefly contemplated the museum, but decided my limited time was best spent soaking in the surrounds outside.
FEATS, eats and observations
1. Ability to eat plenty and often (I had an all-American Thanksgiving feast to prepare for in a few weeks’ time). A no-frills slice of fresh tomato, chilli and spinach pizza, found in a street behind the Campo ‘de Fiori open-air markets, and eaten in the sunshine, was just what my body was crying out for. Followed by a walk along the river and a stop-off at Tiberina Island for biscotti and pistachio gelato: perfection.
2. An entire day without going to the loo. That’s a mighty feat when you’re filling up on sparking mineral water and surrounded by the persistent tinkling of fountains at every turn. Considering the number of water-spouting monuments in this town, there is a seriously short supply of public toilets. Not to mention, I’m the sort of person who does a ‘preventative wee’ before going into the cinema, just to make sure I don’t have to dash out during the movie. An entire day (sporting a limp, no less)? Medal-worthy.
3. Maybe I’ve been on the end of a few too many expletives from the mouths of disgruntled footy supporters, but sometimes it’s just nice to be appreciated by a random chap, however un-PC it may seem. A friendly ‘Love’ or ‘Darlin’ (‘Sweetie’ if you’re in America), can go so far as to make your day, particularly if it’s been a shit one. In Europe, it’s no secret that they raise the bar a few notches in the self-expression department.
So I tried to view Pablo, from Barcelona, as earnest and romantic rather than creepy when he chased me into the streets of El Born from the train station exclaiming, “I saw you and I had to know you.” The beauty of not speaking the same language means things come out sounding disarmingly honest, sans the padding of etiquette existing within a common culture. Back home, Pablo would have been some jerk at a lame bar, the offer to get to know each other in the 20 hours I had left in the country coming across as dirty and desperate. Yet our interaction, although strange, was kind of heartwarming. I still went (politely) in the opposite direction after thanking Pablo for his honesty and wishing him well, all the while tightly holding my wallet inside my jacket, unconvinced the experience wasn’t a ruse to pick my pocket.
I thought of Pablo a few days later in Rome, when, as I limped my troublesome foot over cobblestones toward the banks of the Tiber in search of gelato, I was approached by a suited-up man wanting to buy me coffee after the meeting he was dashing off to. Perhaps it was the ‘lame duck’ vibe my bruised foot was capturing, and he was the rescuing type. I guarantee it wasn’t my daggy tourist dress sense. I guess the fact that I was too concerned people would think we were father/daughter to accept his invitation means we will never know.
Alas, one particular fellow did make an impression. A bit wooden, not sure I trusted him …
4. I suppose the men have always been quite amorous in these parts. I was initially appalled on learning that the worst seats in the Colosseum – the ones behind the slaves and prisoners – were reserved for, you guessed it, the women (see below fuzzy text of tour guide booklet). But apparently it was for their own good, to protect them from tempting the men. Right. The ‘raw meat’ argument. Been around a while.
NO WAY! Space Invader shows me the path to enlightenment and brilliant views.