Saturday, February 29, 2020

Two trains. Two successes

Saturday February 29th (Leap Day)
Florence Italy

Back in Florence. Kinda like being home. I still get confused with the streets, just not as confused.

Everyone is talking about the Black Death that is killing millions and millions. At least that I the way they seem to be reacting. I think I took a class on history someplace along the line, maybe it was 6th grade. They were talking about the actual Black Plague in the 1300’s. Out of Africa on ships to devastate Europe. Have planes, trains and automobiles (but no John Candy) and a very mobile population. Whereas people in the 1300 seldom went more than 5 miles from their birthplace. Now that is a drive to the grocery store. We have a virus with a long incubation period. It is now on every continent (Maybe not Antarctica). I fear the genie is out of her bottle and stopping events, flights and voluntary travel might slow it down, but it coming to a town near you soon. Hopefully it will be after a vaccine is created, but I fear it with us like flu or common cold (some strains of the common cold are corona virus’). It seems to be more contagious than the flu but less lethal. Use common sense, wash your hands whenever soap and water is available, and alcohol based something (I prefer Vodka, Smirnoff not Grey Goose) when soap and water is not available. Keep your damn hands away from your face, especially the nose and mouth. I seldom wear mascara, but on this trip I do, it keeps me from rubbing my eyes. So men maybe you should let your freak flag fly until we get that vaccine.

Okay back to our usual irreverence.

This morning began as always with a shower, but I was staying in an apartment and not a hotel and the coffee situation was dire. By dire I mean none. So I speed showered and ran down to the corner coffee shop. I had coffee and a roll there yesterday. It was good, and like a good Italian drank my coffee and ate my roll and then put both of the dishes on the order counter. Like a good American I gave her a small tip. Coffee is cheap here (a Euro and a half) and the same price for a coussiant, so a tip is in the area of 20 cents. Every town has a city hotel tax. Rome over $10 as I recall, Florence less, Monteresso was a Euro and a half. The woman who showed the room made sue, double sure, that I left the key on the counter and of course the three Euros. That left me with a two euro coin and a couple 100 Euro notes. I walked into the coffee place and pulled out he C note and sheepishly if she could manage it. She demurred it was impossible. That’s fine, just give me an Amaricano please. I took the coffee and sat down and drank my coffee. He asked me if I wanted a croissant now and come back and pay her later. I explained I was leaving in an hour so that was not going to happen. A couple sips later. She asked me what kind I liked. She was going to give me one !! Really! That was as sweet a thing as anyone has done for me this trip, and sure washed away the shellfish.

I got my bags, made sure the key and the three Euros were on the counter and was again back on the road. It wasn’t as great a day as yesterday, but the walk to the train station was hundred times better on the return than it was in the monsoon on the way in. I did make a small detour to capture a photo of the name of yesterday’s memorable meal tore front, so I can give then the grand review they richly deserve. The coffee shop at the train station could handle the bill so I got a second cuppa Joe and some carbohydrate energy for the trip back to Florence.

While waiting on the platform I chatted up a English speaking couple. They were newlyweds and came to Italy to celebrate. I got to go to La Jolla California and Ocean Shores, Washington. They had chosen Venice for theirs. The had chosen Venice specifiably for Mardi Gras . Right in the middle of the week’s celebration the city announced the celebrations were all canceled, because of the virus. I had read that fashion week in Milan was also curtailed and some models were still walking the runway with and empty room to strut for. The train arrived and we parted, but didn’t shake hands.

Hey! I got on the right trains, twice! The ride was without drama. My Apple watched like it though. I guess the rocking of the car made it think I was moving and it congratulated me on being so active, as I sat on my butt.

Once in Florence, I made a quick pit stop at the same hotel as before. I had left my luggage there. I gave the bellman my ticket and he brought me my suitcase and a Prada shopping bag, with something under the tissue paper. He insisted it was mine, and I insisted back it wasn’t. I didn’t use the ‘Fuck’ word with him but he was a hard sell.

I left immediately to go to the restaurant that I had the fabulous meal at on Wednesday, but they were full and had no room for a poor wandering stranger. I asked for second choice and they gave me a name. It was nearby. I looked at the map and I was right across the river. A phone call and reservations were made.

A slow stroll back to the train station to secure a ticket for tomorrow to Naples, then the room to chill out and internet hunt a place to sleep in Naples.

Dinner at 7:30, so I’ll leave the hotel at 7 for a 22 minute walk, according to Apple maps. I haven’t had good success with Google maps this time. Apple is pretty good and the watch buzzes when you gt close to a direction change. Down I go past familiar sights, jostling people on the sidewalk. Alternating from walking on he walkway and the roadway. After a while, the tourists lessen and it becomes more locals. Then fewer of them. I check my phone to make sure I’m on the right path and it looks good. Then I walk across the bridge and there is no one. And the map says take a soft right. Well the soft right leads up a hill rated for a 4X4 in low gear or at least a Sherpa. I know people walk his type of street, but they have thighs and calves of iron. Mine are more on the melted lead type. Also it is one of those streets that curve and you can’t see what it coming up, or how far the corner is. I am sweating at the first corner and then have more of the same to go before the restaurant. I can see the light, my watch has dinged that I am close, still I actually have to stop twice more to catch my breath before crossing the threshold.

This better be good!

Friday, February 28, 2020

Sea Shells

Friday February 28 2020
Monterossa, Cinque Terre, Italy

I was about to get a cup of coffee, come back to my room and book the first train back to Florence when I got up this morning. Last night’s forced march in a driving downpour had me sure of it. It was so bad that I almost didn’t go out to eat. Luckily there is a pizza joint on he other side of the wall. Since this is a summer tourist destination most of the restaurants are still shuttered.

I stepped outside and was hit with blue skies and blinding sun. I never would have believed it possible. That canceled my internet search for fast trains. After coffee and croissant I went a wandering. At the top of my hill was the city information office. I asked her for an area map and she gave me one and explained things. You see that blue line? That is the easy trail overlooking the water. It’s closed for landslide repair. The next easiest? It’s pretty much closed too. - Where would you suggest for someone old and fat, bit mostly fat? - Two towns away on the train. Thank you.

I walked back downhill and came to a church and walked it. Pretty great little church with a pretty great ceiling. Down to the seaside and a few pictures and mostly enjoying the sun. Through the tunnel, there is an actual 100 yard long tunnel connecting one part of the village with the other. Down to the train station. After some cursing at the ticket machine I got my paper and then had to learn to validate the darned thing. I don’t quite understand, but once you buy the ticket, you have to get it stamped my a machine. If you don’t and the conductor checks your ticket, you are subject to a several hundred Euro fine.

I had thought the trains between he towns was a special little train. No you get on a regular train and get off a couple miles later. I got off at the station and there is nothing there except station. The town is perched atop a crag of a mountain. I followed the crowd to the base and expected to find an elevator that you could pay for and ride up. That was an unmet dream. I looked up at the stairway, full of switchbacks and decided I’d need a burro or a llama to get me up that. I turned back t the station for the next train going my way. At the station there was a little bus, I asked about a ride and he said for 2.50 I had a seat. Narrow roads and switchbacks and horn honking we got to the top. The top of what exactly? The top of what looked like the village I had just come from, only steeper. I killed and hour and went back to the train.

Back on my home turf I went searching for an ice cream shop. Oh, right. It’s winter and none are open. There was this attractive restaurant on the seaside. It was after 3pm, let’s get an early dinner and watch a movie on the computer. The waiter ushered me to a great seat, and looking at the menu I saw they had a tomato based seafood soup. I don’t know if it is the same name here, but back home it is called Chopino. I’ve had it a few times in restaurants back home and have even made it. A nice thickened tomato and garlic base, in a fish stock. Simmered with fish and shell fish. Simple and good.

It came in this kettle and looked great. It wasted wonderful. I was surprised how much olive oil they used in the dish, but it is their recipe, not mine. Mussels, clams, shrimp and octopus. Soak some of the broth up with hearty bead and you have the perfect meal. All is good in the world … well there was that Mussel that had the cracked shell ….. and then the clam that one of it shell halves was broken and gone. Whoa Filter feeders with broken shells? Did they toss in maybe an opened shell as well? I think now would be a good point to stop eating this. I pointed out the broken shells to the waiter and he said – oh you know? They sometimes break when stirring the soup. – All the recipes I read and followed said, make the broth, let it reduce then a few minutes before serving add the seafood. The shellfish goes in last because they cook the fastest. 2 to 4 minutes. No heavy stirring. I tell the waiter to take it away, he offered to make a new one and I tell him that is not necessary. Then some suave guy comes over and asks what is going on. I explain that the shells were cracked and the waiter said them got cracked in the cooking process. I said I couldn’t be sure and was stopping on the safe side. He explained how I didn’t know anything, he was the owner and was listed in the Michelin book and on and on and on .. I could see that nothing I said mattered to him, nor would it shut him up. This is not a quiet table side chat, this is a full on baby stomp your feet rant. Finally I had enough and said “Just give me the fucking check” – Did you say to me to give you the fucking check?!?! Did you really say to give you the fucking check?!? How dare you say to give you the fucking check?!? There are children in this restaurant a who don’t want to hear you say fucking in here. – Err… I said it once, and you have just yelled it how many times four? Five? – You are a crazy lady! .. on and on. The waiter gave me the check, I tipped him 2 Euros, the service was good, and told him the Euros were for him, and left. The owner was still ranting as I walked down the street.

The TripAdvisor review will be fun.

I sat b the beach the rest of the afternoon watching the tide come in and the sun set over the hilltops. Yikes, as soon a the sun drops so does the temperature. Now all snug in my room with train reservations and a hotel in Florence tomorrow.

Good fucking night.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Try it, you'll lke it

Thursday February 27 2020
Cinque Terre, Italy

Well, that was more of an adventure than I had planned, but let’s go back to last night.

I had reservations at a Michelin stared restaurant for dinner. I don’t get many chances for such an experience. Oh, I’ve eaten as several restaurants run my chefs, but never one of their restaurants that had actually earned a star. I figured I’d never get a chance again, so let’s blow today’s budget.

I made a reservation for 7:30 hoping to get in on the early bird special. When I say early bird, I mean that I was the only customer for the first hour. Just me and the staff. As the meal came I was watched like a hawk by the owner to see my reaction. I had ordered one of his three tasting menus. The only problem with the tasting menu is that the entire table has to order the same. One of the few times dining solo has it’s perks.

The meal started with the chef bringing a hot cup of broth, to warm me up. I was already pretty warm from walking to the restaurant, but it was welcomed. Then an Amuse Buche, and then the meal started in earnest. Wild boar, with Fiore Gras, pomegranate stars on a nice sauce. I think you are getting the idea. There were about 10 courses, each one as good or better than the one before. All the ingredients he used were ones you and I have used before, but certainly without his knowledge and touch. The only thing he made that I’d never heard of to eat was Rooster Comb. The red crown like thing that roosters have. It wasn’t bad a little gelatin like, just an odd thing to consider serving. The meal kept coming and coming, and one dish before the dessert came, I was about to call ‘Uncle’. I was stuffed, but I didn’t want to offend the chef, or miss out on what he came up yet. After two and a half hours the food stopped arriving. The cooks are in this giant fish bowl affair and so everything they do is on display. Along with the tasting menu I’d ordered a glass of red wine and a big bottle of water. When the bill came it was 115 Euros, somewhere close to $125. Christ ! I have spent more than that at a restaurant 20 miles from home. Granted it was a great meal, but it was a Big Mac in comparison to this delight. Before this meal I use to have a favorite meal, but it has now slipped to second place. This was the best meal I have ever had.
Leaving the restaurant a little after 10pm I walked back to the hotel, possibly a half to three quarters of a mile. Through well it alleys and streets feeling completely safe, except for the occasion Italian driver. When I got into bed I had a hard time going to sleep thinking about that meal.

Today was my travel to Cinque Terre day. I got t the madhouse of a train station and looked t both the major and the local arrivals/departures board and didn’t see my train. One of the staff steered me in the right direction and finding a seat we were off. I had left my big bag at the hotel and just brought my computer/camera backpack and my trusty blue backpack with 3 days of clothes. I stuffed these in the overhead rack. Ever since I had my camera borrowed from me in South Africa I have been very careful not to pull it out when on a train. There was a guy who go on late and took a seat near the door. He checked everyone out and his eyes strayed to my bags. I made evil eye contact with him and near the same time the conductor walked through. He leaned into the aisle to see where the conductor went and as soon as the conductor left the car, he was out of his seat and moving to a different car.

So we chug along and stop here and there until the end of the line, where get off and change trains. We got in at 1357 and my train left at 1402. I went to the right track and leaped on just as the doors were closing. After a few stops I asked a guy if this was the right train, I just had a feeling. He said no the 1402 was late, this was the train before that. I got off and the next station in Hicksville Italy. No ticket agent, nothing. I my Apple watch made English into Italian for a lady sitting close too the door asking when the next train back to my change point was. She said no, you want to go that other way. I got on that train and found a map where it was going and it wast where I wanted to be going. I hopped off and trotted along the train until I got to the conductor want to blow his whistle to send the train off. He held the train long enough to tell me to get the second train and get off at ???? and switch there. Fuck me ! I followed his instructions and here I am.

Ya, go to Cinque Terre, you’ll love it they said. It is 45 degrees, the wind is blowing 20mph with gusts to 30, and it’s raining. Eamonn you can go to the west coast of Ireland in February look out over the Atlantic and feel right at home, except you’d be warmer. This is going to be soooo much fun.

H, did I say the place I’m staying is a mile from the train station and there are no cabs?

Grumpy Camera

Wednesday February 26 2020
Florence, Italy

3:13 am, forget you clock! I have no plans for the day until dinner. Roll over and shut them peepers, And I did until 7. Yay, me !

Long slow shower. Long slow breakfast. I didn’t get out of the hotel until close to 10. This is the way a vacation should be. ‘Everyone’ says go to Cinque Terra. A series of small former fishing (now tourist mecca) villages. Five in all, stretched along the coast. Except for the first and the last the ones in the middle are inaccessible by anything except boat and now a train. ‘Everyone’ says go, you’ll love it. Well I’ll go but I’m not gonna like it! I’m not ! I’m not !

I want to go to Modena where the balsamic vinegar is made, and Enzo Ferrari was born. I want to go to Parma where the cheeses is hatched. I want to drive like an Italian. So I think I’ll go check out renting a car for a couple days. Joe’s junker cars wanted $250 for 4 days. Sorta big named wanted $200 (but offered no liability insurance), Budget Renta Car wanted close to $300 with full insurance, both car and liability. A far cry from the $90 a week some places on the internet advertised. Maybe, you can buy Balsamic vinegar other places than the source. Maybe I can look at red cars someplace else. I’’ll have to work on that one while I am in Cinque Terra and not liking it.

So off to wander the streets of Florence. No destination, just look and see things without a guide and at my slow turtle pace. It has suddenly turned cold and windy. Overcast with a hint of rain being threatened. Over breakfast I got a glimpse of sun rays through the clouds. I was watching the rays move across the city and was waiting for them to spotlight the Douma. You know, God looking down on the church of Ash Wednesday? Well it stopped just shot of making it. Guess God wasn’t feeling particularly benevolent this Wednesday. I was alright in my hoodie, but my gloves would have been nice to have along.

For some reason my camera and I are not on the same page today. It doesn’t want to focus on what I want it to focus on. I assume I clicked a software switch someplace in it’s brains and can’t figure out which witch is which. I’ll just have to go old school and use manual focus. I can’t remember using manual focus since ….. ahh …. 1969? Even then you had assist. You ad 2 hemispheres that you had to move to become a circle for the shot to be in focus. Today, I had to use my eyes!! Oh, God the inefficiency.

I am becoming a near Italian for my coffee. If you order your caffeine and don;t take a seat it costs less than if yo sit your butt down. So I am now a coffee stander. I still want a cup of coffee not a shot. At home coffee is an experience to savor. Here it is consumed, like a drunk coming off a bender. Coffee on counter, straight, no chaser, thrown into the mouth. Cup slammed on the marble counter. Ciao, and gone ! If it is a Latte’ maybe two gulps. Try that I Starbucks and they would call the aid car to remove the unstable person from their premises.

Without my Apple watch and phone today I would be someplace south of Rome. There are no reference points. it's mostly flat, and the part that isn’t flat is like the rest that isn’t flat. Where the might be a visual difference there is a building in the way. I am forever begging people for a general direction to get where I am going. The watch vibrates wen I am getting close to a choice. Back home it is easy. Snow is east, water is west. Not always, but as a rule you can follow it. I did manage to work my way back to try and recapture a few images I either poorly exposed or missed yesterday. It was nice t be fee of the reins and tethers of a guide for a day. Not nearly as informative, but I guess that is why you pay extra for free range eggs. (that doesn’t make any sense)
I generally don’t have lunch, per se. I might snack in the afternoon, but to eat real food isn’t what I do. But as was passing a smell grabbed me and pulled me to a stall, and forced me to order a sandwich with that magical animal the pig roasted to crispness and covered in black truffle sauce. I almost burst into song and started high kicking around the square. That was absolute best sandwich I have ever had. It is a meal that is very close to the top ten.

On the way back to the hotel I heard a thud on the walkway behind me. I turned and saw a late middle aged, perfectly presented woman on the curb. She had fallen and dropped her purse and shopping bag. I put out my hand and helped her up and a man came by to offer further assistance. We got her up and going, I handed her her bag and exchanged thank yous and you’re welcomes. I took a few steps and thought, pickpockets are rife in Rome. This is Florence. Where is my iPhone? Where is my Apple watch? Are my pockets still zipped? Everything was as it should be. Then I thought “you touched another person’s hand”, and reached in my pocket and bathed my hands in alcohol. Oh, what YouTube and the news have turned me into.

I had dinner reservations for 730. I wonder if I’ll get the early bird special?

p.s. If I don't text you as I normally do, it is becaise it cost me $.30 for each text and I only put $10 in that part. I can receive for free. -- Also off to a small town for a few days. Not sure about the internet, so may be MIA for a day or so.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Can you keep a secret?

Tuesday February 25 2020
Florence Italy

I sure don’t understand this sleep thing. I am dead beat at the end of the day. My feet and calves are sore from walking. I stay up to a reasonable adult bedtime and still can’t sleep past 3am. Oh, well I’m functioning, maybe not at peak efficiency but enough I suppose.

Today was a tour day. I had signed up for a nice 3 hour tour of Michelangelo’s David and a walk around town. There was another option of a 6 hour tour that included the Ufizzi Gallery, a magnificent art gallery donated to the city by the Medici family. They were the Jeff Bezos of their time. Started out in cloth (not books) and moved into money (not everything). They bought art like some women buy shoes. I have to admit, it would be nice to see some of this stuff, but I missed art appreciation day in 6th grade. Oh, I can look at the Masters, but I ain’t no connoisseur of art. I thought seeing David was about all I really needed. Besides, six straight hours on m feet again? No thank you Sir, I do not want another one! Three hours will be just fine.

Breakfast was included in the cost of the room, so I grabbed a cup of coffee, and some scrambled eggs before heading out for a ten or fifteen minute walk to the meeting area. Check in went smoothly, there were only 7 of us in the group, all North Americans and Jessica the guide. This was the same tour company I had used in Rome for the Colosseum and the Sistine Chapel. One of the guides was outstanding and the other was in it for the job. I was hoping Jessica was one of the former and not one of the latter. She and the tour wrangler outlined what we were doing today. See David, walk around, break for lunch and we all meet back at 1245 to go to the Ufizzi. ALL? Not what I signed up for, but if it’s in the cards, I’ll take it. I don’t know the 6 hour tour was broken up and a six hour forced March of the arts. Since it was the wrangler who said that and not the guide I figured – Their loss, my gain. I like to think of myself as a reasonable honest person, I guess I’m not.
Get your ticket, disrobe, x-ray our stuff and magnetize your body before you can get in. Jessica walked us and talked us though a bunch of lesser know sculptors and a few unfinished Michelangelo sculptures. The all recognizable as works in progress. We've all heard his saying “I see what I want in the marble and it is my job to release it”. These four unfinished are referred to as ‘The Prisoners’ because they are still locked in the marble.

Through a doorway and there was David. What a breath taking piece of old rock. Huge too. Jessica explained why this was different than all the other Davids. All the ones before depicted after Goliath was given a terminal headache. This one is set just before the meeting. Both sizing the other guy up. One hand the rock and over his shoulder the sling. How from one angle he looks like an adult and a different angle a barely pubescent boy. And I’m not talking about what you think I am talking about, you dirty minded thing. I like to think, it was cold on the field of battle that day. No she was talking about his face when looking at it face on. She explained and really brought to life this statue. Then we went looking as some more art and then back on the mean streets of Florence.

Past plazas that had significance, past buildings that were also significant and churches that were big or worth a mention. We looked at the outside of the big domed church that is one of the symbols of Florence. Went into a small church dedicated t lovers, where it had the most interesting votive offering holder. And back to the Ponte Vechio. Where we were set free to reassemble at quarter to one.

I went in search of an ice cream shop she recommended. I had to do one stop along the way to get my directions cleared up. I was about to push on the door and then noticed they didn’t open until 12 and it was 1130. Time to kill. More people watching and then back at 5 til I was there, now behind two people. Shortly the church bells rang and the area shuddered and it was noon! Then noon 5. The man in front of me pulled out his phone and typed. Then he said “They are closed on Tuesday”.

Besides that disappointment my feet were sore. I found a place to sit down in a restaurant and bought an overpriced sandwich and bottle of water, the rest and wait to rejoin the group.

I saw Jessica and the wrangler talking and then start checking their list to see who is naughty and nice. The wrangler came up to me and said she just assumed all of us were in the same group all day and I wasn’t on the list. I asked if I could pay the difference and continue on. No, way. The Company had only so many tickets. - Okay, I understand. - If you want to bu our own ticket into the gallery. Jessica says you can stay with the group, but I can’t give you a headset. - How could I complain about that? - Oh, wait, we have an extra headset you can use. Just don’t mention this to the company. - I know how to keep a secret. The price difference was $60 more. All I had to put out was 12 Euros to get in! Thank you Wrangler lady !

The Ufizzi Gallery was great. We hit the high points, but it is so large that you could easily spend the entire day and see everything. Leonardo, Raphael and Michelangelo paintings. A short class on evolution of painting from medieval to Renaissance. A couple Botticelli paintings that I recognized. I certainly got my 12 Euros worth. At the end I slipped Jessica a 20 and she seems satisfied and I was thrilled.

I did get that ice cream on the way back to the hotel, but not from the ‘best’ one.

Monday, February 24, 2020

Livin' the lfe !

Monday February 24 2020
Rome – Florence Italy

Boy, oh am I fancy schmancy. On the train to Florence. No not second class. No not Business Class. Yes, Executive Class. You know the one where you get to sit in the lounge before your train. The one with the leather Italian styled seats (Look great. Not built for human anatomy), the free coffee, juice, canned drinks. The cookie selection looked like it was stocked from the the dreams of Cookie Monster. Only those of us with the secret code and whispered password were allowed to pass the sliding glass gates and leave the hoi paloi and noise behind. I am now enclosed in leather and chrome. With my own table, and a waiter shared with ten other seats on the entire car. They rival any first class on any airplane I have had the the privilege of walking through on the way on or off a plane. The train’s steward took my drink order and food order almost before I sat down. He was shocked when I declined alcohol. I guess it is NOT done. He just came by in white gloves and laid the table cloth and silverware on my tray table. We’ll have to see how the grub is at this end of the train. I did mention that lunch and drinks and white gloves are included in this service didn’t I?

The current plague has hit Italy, at least that is what my home page told me this morning. While waiting in ‘the lounge’ this morn the news crawl for the rail system said that trains would no longer be stopping in the two towns that are hardest hit by the virus. (currently 120 mph on train) Will they contain it? Who knows? I am skeptical, but I am just praying I don’t get a cold or bad shellfish and my temperature to rise since the remote people thermometers are out at the airport and now train station. I don't need two or three days in quarantine

Sure is a lot of lit and dark on this train. One moment countryside, the next tunnel. I guess that is how you can go 225 kph, nope 229 kph (you gotta do you own math to figure out miles) – 245 – 250 ---- where will it stop!! Yikes, when you pass another train going the other way at this speed it’s like trying to catch a mosquito.

We got into Florence about 25 minutes late. Mussolini wold be spinning over in his grave if he has one. That was his campaign slogan ‘He made the train’s run on time’. I go on he platform, found the way to the taxi stand and loaded the bags into the back. I showed him my hotel reservation on my phone and he laughed, and pointed to my hotel a block and a half away. It was easier to pay him a couple Euros than it was to unload the car. Hey! I’m on vacation !

The hotel is something out of an Agatha Christie novel. Dark wood, thick carpets not made for roller bags. Bell boys and uniformed desk clerks. Federico took my passport and found my reservation and stared typing for a room for me. The room is a suite. Hard wood floors, KING sized bed. Mini bar and breakfast included. The price? About the same as the Radisson at SeaTac. I’m not sure if I got the winter rate or the virus rate.

I came to see Michelangelo’s David and the Ponte Vechio bridge. So I headed down to the bridge to see it at Sunset at the golden hour. I took pictures and people watched for about and hour and then came back to the hotel. A light dinner on the roof and back here. The bill had a discount f about 10%. I put cash down and the waiter said I had to sign it to my room for the discount. Okay fine, but I am confused.

Tomorrow is a skip the line tour to see David and other stuff. So I’ll stop now.

Dome in the background over dinner

Sunday, February 23, 2020

.. and he said it was just a short walk

Sunday 23 February 2020
Sill in Rome

Again with the 3 am. Enough already! Well I was able to roll back over and get back to sleep until 5.

Out the door and off to the Concierge to give me some advice on hoe to best get to the Pantheon. I was looking for the closest Metro, since I’ve become the Metro Queen. The Metro doesn’t go there. But! If you are walking it is just a short multi block trek past what you already know and then into the new “Beware! Dragons!”. A simple walk. Yeah. It’s not like any street runs longer than four blocks and then dead end’s and to have to turn to find the next street, or alley, or cow path, since the map makes almost no distinction from a 4 lane divided highway and a one car wide alley. Then when you finish with the Pantheon you should walk over here (another short walk) and then down here and over there and …

Okay thank you, I’ll be sure to see everything you suggested. (whispered “not!). I started out the door and lo and behold Mr Blue boy was on gate duty again. I happened to remember I had a shoulder patch from that unnamed Federal agency that use to pay me to show up for 30 years, until we both got sick of one another. I went to offer him that as a Thank you for being human yesterday, reward. He wasn’t having any of it. He did say in pretty good English. Thank you, but inside would not allow it. - Fair enough!

Back on my trek, down familiar streets and then into virgin territory. The street was about to “T” and my sense of direction has been so out of whack in this city, I may as well be in Stranger Things’ Upside Down. Left or right? I knew my next landmark, and a coffee place was right there. I opened the door and was greeted with.”I don’t speak English”.I said you do speak, and pointed in a couple directions. I showed her the map, pointed to me destination and she pointed off to the left. I told her thank you, and she almost smiled. Almost.

I followed the map and as the camera totters became more frequent knew I was in the right area. A short pit stop for a cup of coffee and a roll I was back on track. Suddenly I turned a corner and there it was. The Pantheon. Some big old round building with a domed roof that the Caesar type Romans built. They used some sort of super cement and it is still standing. Big Whoop! I’ll give it the obligatory look and get on to some other stuff. Wow! What a building! The architecture is outstanding and decorations are out of this world. Marble and gold in the pillars. Marble mosaic on the floor. Kings and artists laid to rest inside. 25 foot tall 7 ton doors to enter through. High ceiling that has a little hole to let the sun light in, that little hole is 25 feet across. It was amazing! Thanks Eamonn for reinforcing that I should see it. Raphael is entombed there. So I’ve see the works of Michelangelo and now Raphael. I expect to see some DaVinci in Florence. So I now have three of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles under my belt.

Stepping outside into the plaza, I look to m left and that is the exact spot where Audrey Hepburn noshed in Roman Holiday. Right there! It wasn’t a cafe, but a set of doors, but it was the spot. A little bit of a disappointment, one of those heroes falling off pedestals times.

The next place was easy. Look at the map. Look at the picture of the Pantheon. Look at the orientation of the door and turn left and start walking. Along the way was a really big church, so might as well have a look see, churches seem to be free. This church wasn’t as big as the one the Pope lives in, but it must to have homed a Cardinal or two. The altar was as ornate as Saint Peter’s and the ceiling was fresco-ed beautiful. Were the Sistine Chapel didn’t want anyone to share what they saw, this church welcomed cameras. They even had a very large mirror cocked to the roof so you didn’t have to stand there and stare up. Obviously the artist was not as famous as Michelangelo, Whatever this church paid the artist, they got their money’s worth. I was reluctant to leave, but my list was long today.

Suck it, Sistie !

On down the street I walked. Did a quick local pedestrian direction check and found I was going in the right direction. Until I got to the corner and saw a sign pointing to my destination directly back the way I had just come. I sighed, but was really happy the wrong turn lead me to that church. Back to the Pantheon, past Audrey Hepburn, follow the rest of the tourists and five minutes later. I was at some big square, that was a must see. I saw, and wondered what I was missing. It had a nice fountain, a tall pointy thing stolen from Egypt. A guy with bagpipes and men in skirts, and restaurants lining the sides. My watch said I had walked over 2 miles, so I was allowed to have a real breakfast. Sitting at a white table clothed sipping coffee and eating scrambled eggs done to perfection is a great way to watch the world pass by on a Sunday.

With trusty map in hand I pointed to my next stop and could see it was either via that end of the square or that end. The waiter assured me it was that way. I stopped in at a church along that way. Another no shoulders or cameras church, but the choir was rehearsing. God they sounded Heavenly. I mean that. The director was seldom happy with the women, but never corrected the men. I guess you can’t go wrong with too much bass. Back on That-a-way in a few blocks I hit the Tiber. That was not what was expecting. The part of the Tiber I wanted was at least 10 blocks from that square. Looking at the map, it was clear I was in the wrong spot. A quick U-turn, back to the square to bitch at the waiter. But he was clearly cowering in the back of the restaurant fearful of my return. I kept the sun in my eyes and in about the right number of blocks I found the right part of the Tiber. Triple checked and turned left.

Before I knew it, I was in front of m destination. I was within 50 feet of where I asked for directions to the keyhole. This was one of the must see’s that the concierge circled. The line was long to get in. Maybe it was free chocolate Sunday. Might as well get I line. The line moved with fits and starts, an then it dawned on me. Me and most of Japan and Korea were waiting in like to see an artifact. A round disk like a sun with a face and a mouth. Gregory Peck (?) told Audrey Hepburn that it was the mouth of truth. If you put your hand in and lied it would chop off your hand. Everyone was in line to get their picture taken with their hand near the mouth. The church was totally secondary, it was just a place where the disk lived. I hopped out of line and went directly into the church. Frankly the Disk was the high point. Though there was an entrance to Hadrian’s crypt, which was pretty cool.

Back along the Circus Maximus and a left to the Colosseum and the subway beckoned. According to Apple Watch I had covered 7 miles on foot. According to me, I had covered quite enough. Metro, short stroll, taxi and I was back at my starting point. My bed.

Dinner time eventually came and I looked at the nearby restaurants and they all seemed to be closed for Sunday. I found one about 4 blocks from my hotel and really had a nice meal. I just wish all the men and women in this town would quit asking me personal questions. I walk in and the say “Prego?”, and I have to admit. “No, not prego. Just fat”. I guess I’ll get used to it.

Tomb in the Pantheon

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Good cop - Bad Cop

February 22 2020
Rome, Italy

Hooray I slept in today. Didn’t wake up until 4 am, I must be getting used to the time change. The hotel has breakfast included I the price, so I begged a cup of coffee at 7am. Breakfast runs from 730 to 10:30. I emerged from my room around 8 and there was nothing left. I guess I’ll have to be faster tomorrow.

The first place I wanted to visit today was a subway ride away and the closest entrance as closed for, I don’t know. Lent? Repair? Friday? Who knows. The next closest was at the Spanish Steps a manageable walk. “Just go out the door. Go down the hill past the American Embassy and turn left at the end of the street”. The U.S. Embassy is directly catty corner from my hotel. My phone and Google maps were not being good companions this morning. Both the available ways were downhill. Right on the corner is the rear entrance to the embassy. There was a green soldier (Italian) and a blue cop (also Italian). Mom always told me if I needed help to ask a cop. I walked up to him and, honestly before I could open my mouth he said “I don’t know!” I said you do know, he said “No I don’t know”. Me, Yes, Him “No”. So plan B. Ask the soldier. “Is the Spanish Steps that way or that way?” – Spanish steps? Uh … Oh! Espania Plaza. Hey Mario (Blue cop) Which way is the Spanish Steps? (This was all in Italian) – Me, don’t ask him, he’s got a stick up his butt – Blue Boy “Go this way to the end of the street, turn left and right at the first street” (In flawless, but accented English) – Me See I knew that you knew ! Thank you VERY much. His directions were perfect.

The Spanish Steps left me baffled. What is the big flipping deal? They are nice stairs leading from a plaza to a church, with a small fountain at the bottom covered in tourists. Even without the tourists I wouldn’t have been awed. It must go back to the Audrey Hepburn effect. Even if she and Cary Grant, or Rock Hudson or what male lead she was with sat there and licked fancy ice cream, it still wasn’t worth much more that a second glance. Especially now that sitting is no longer allowed. I got a cup of coffee and a croissant for half the price of a cup of coffee at the Colosseum subway station. The prices I this town really vary from cheap to stupidly inflated. Enough sightseeing, time to get back on the trail.

Into the maw of the subway. Insert ticket, do it’s thing and door should open. NOT! Show ticket to nearby cop and explain. He inspects the ticket I think he must be from the C.S.I. division. Begrudgingly he opens the special gate for me and allows me to pass into the hollowed grounds of Rome’s Metro. I get on the right train, change lines like a local and get off a the correct station.

At street level I know my destination is at one end of the Circus Maxims, but this end or that end? Ah, barret wearing machine gun toting cops. I whip out my map like an old west gunslinger and point to where I wanted to go. “Here or there?”. There, of course. Oh well, the sun is out, the scenery is interesting, a great day for a walk. I hit he Tiber and realize I might have gone awry. Another co in a blue suit and golden epaulettes showed me the error of my ways. A block back and uphill and I was getting close. The yoga guy (not a cop, I think) pointed I was on the right track. A bit ore uphill and there was the line of people waiting! I’d made it! I now you are saying all this for a line? Well it was what was at the end of the line, a key hole in a door. No there is no hot babe or dude slowly undressing, it is a view of three countries. Italy

, Malta and the Vatican. The door is the entrance to the order of Malta and you can clearly see St. Peter’s dome in the distance. The line moved quickly and in five minutes I looked and tried to get a photo with my Nikon. Then I walked back to the end of the line (it had grown) and reviewed my images. I didn’t do so hot. The line moved and after a bit I was back at the keyhole. I popped off a few more shots and went back to the end of the line (it had grown) and reviewed my pictures and realized where I went wrong. This time at the door, I think I have the problem solved and press and pray. I reviewed what had captured and though not perfect, pretty close. Close enough I don’t know how I could improve in it.

On the way back to the subway I passed a church that the guide from my first day recommended and went in. I sure wish he was with me, because the whole thing was lost on me, and I think that is a pity. I did find an altar to light candles so I lit one for all the Papists I know and love.

Back at the subway I got off at the main terminal and left the underground and went up to buy a ticket to Florence on Monday. Then went back down to the subway, tried my unexpired ticket in the machine. Handed it to a subway cop, he gave it a quick glance and opened the doors to the train. Back at the Spanish Steps I made a last review of the site from the bottom an the top and came away with my opinion unchanged. A short walk back to the Trevi Fountain to see it in the daylight. It is much better in the evening. I bought an ice cream. It was double the price of ice cream at the Colosseum. Crazy. I noshed and watched people for a bit. One rough looking guy was checking people coming out of the money exchange and then stood with is back to the fountain and very closely checked people out. Not just

women, but men too. I’d heard that Rome was a pickpocket’s haven. Either this guy was an undercover cop or a pickpocket and I strongly am leaning towards the latter. He talked to a pal for a bit and noticed me noticing him and abruptly turned to look at the fountain.

I only at half of my overpriced ice cream and was about to throw it away. At the trash can was the dirtiest man I have ever seen this side of Bangladesh. He hadn’t seen water since the last rain. He was Caucasian, but you couldn’t tell from looking at him. He was rifling through the trash for half smoked cigarettes. He was carefully straightening them and setting them aside. That I understood. I used to be a smoker and might have done the same in his circumstances. I asked him is he would like my ice cream. He snatched it like a Cobra and said in perfect English “Thank you”.

Back at the hotel I checked my Apple watch and found out I had walked over 6 miles today, and yesterday, and the day before too. I laid on the bed and cried when I had to stand. Eventually I did have to stand and walk back down to the Trevi fountain to a restaurant that caught my eye for dinner. With dinner finished, I think the only walking I’ll be doing is the walk to the Taxi stand.

Friday, February 21, 2020

God hates cameras

February 21 2020
Rome, Italy

Today again started at 3:30, luckily the day was supposed to start at 4:30 so I didn’t cry too much. Today’s tour had a start time at 7:45 for a private viewing of the Sistine Chapel. It is one of those tours that if you are on time you are late. I needed to my bags packed because today was hotel moving day.

After checking out and getting my luggage safely locked I their baggage room I hit the cold city streets a few minutes after six. I found a little bodega that was open and got a coffee and a croissant before undertaking the underground. At six thirty in the morning the passageway had me on high alert, but everything went smoothly. I even got a seat and didn’t have to toss a nun to the floor to get one.

I was given two choices of stations to detrain at and chose the farthermost one, to squeeze every penny out of my fare. Emerging back in to the air like a mole I pulled up Apple maps and followed he little blue dot to he meeting place. Pat the gypsies selling this and that to other gypsies from blankets on the sidewalk. Then I saw ahead my Nemesis, six flights of stairs, from one street to the next. Okay, buckle up cowgirl, you signed up for this, so get to high steppin’. My heart didn’t explode in my chest and at the top the meeting place was mercifully a few steps down hill. I was nearly an hour early.

My guide from yesterday, with a different group. We chatted and she offered some great advice. I wanted to light a candle in the basilica for my grandparents and a friend back home. She told me there were no candles or even pay for electric lamps thee any longer. But in the Sistine chapel around 9 a priest would come in and say priest stuff and then be available for confession and he could say a blessing for the people on my blessing list. I didn’t think I had enough time on the our to give a confession, it was only three hours long, but the blessing would be nice.

The seven of us on the tour headed out to go wait in line for our 8 am tee time. Today’s guide as a distant second from yesterday’s. She said all the right words, but the passion was missing. We walked down long corridors lined with art after passing through a security screening that would have made TSA proud. I wish I could have the words to express the grandeur of the hallways, but all those nickels, dimes and pesos dropped into collection plates over the centuries really paid off. You’ll just have to look at the images and try to get a feel for it yourself.

Upstairs, downstairs, and back upstairs we followed the leader, and after an hour we entered the Sistine chapel. We had been briefed on what to see and who was doing what on the walls and ceiling. No talking, so our guide at this point was useless and the camera on my shoulder was just there for the weight. Our private tour was as private as a Springsteen concert. There were only about 500 of us in there. The ceiling was 30 or 40 feet from the floor and so all the detail was way far away. God forbid that you might bring the camera to your eye to use the telephoto as a binocular ! Some little man with a very heavy badge informed me as such. I knew that God didn’t like knees and shoulders, since we had to have them covered to get in, in the first place. I didn’t know God hated glass optics so much.

Right on time the priest entered, said priestly things, including No Photos and was off to the corner to hear confessions and give blessings. He was so verbose that they had to call in a relief blesser. I told him who I was asking the blessing for and he broke it up into living and dead. The dead went pretty quickly. The living was a bit longer. Carl got his blessing as did my husband, my family and friends (So it looks like you are covered for a bit). Actually I was pretty touched and left him with a tear in my eye.

We left soon after and whizzed past statues and tapestries and little things that might have been interesting, but we were on a time table and the train had to remain on schedule. Then to Saint Peter’s basilica’s with a stop at Michael Angelo’s Piata. The altar an Saint Pete’s resting place was pointed out. Then t was time to collect the earpiece radios and bid us a farewell. 11:02 exactly on time. wouldn’t have been surprised to see a large puff of smoke as she disappeared. One minute she was there the next gone !

I wandered around for a bit, camera to eye. Bought a couple small things, mailed a postcard from the Vatican post office. Then strolled back to the Metro.

Back at the hotel I found a comfy chair and rested my crying feet. Called a taxi and was off to the new hotel. Guess what? Taxi’s in Rome cost more than Tuk-tuks in Bangkok. He dumped me at the correct address and I was looking at a building. Not a hotel. It could have been an apartment building, or an office building. It had a door and rows of bell buttons. I went inside and found a plaque or the place I am staying. Third floor via an elevator that was old when Audrey Hepburn was having her Roman Holiday in 1954. The room has walls and a roof and a door that locks. He toilet flushes, so I guess I’m alright.

I fell onto the bed and went to that place between awake and asleep. Two hours later I was feeling guilty spending time in a hotel room, so decided to walk to the Trevi fountain. A mere 10 minutes walk away. 10 morphed into 40, with two stops to ask directions. Google maps let me down. Trevi Fountain, nope. Fountana Trevi, nope. One I got there I found my smart pone thought it was Plaza di Trevi.

I was a mob scene. This is low season and I nearly had to stand on other people’s shoulders to get my iPhone to get a peek of the art and water. I got a few snap shots on the phone and tossed a coin into the fountain. I mean I better come back to Rome since the plane leaves from here, bu 50 cents is pretty cheap insurance that I’ll return to Rome. Then a stop at this restaurant to type this out and I think I’ll break the budget for the day and take a taxi back to the hotel.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Big old rocks and being a mole

Thursday February 20 2020
Rome Italy (not Georgia)

Evening and I am a little tuckered out. According to Mr. Apple Watch I tromped around over five miles today, but I am ahead of myself.

The day either started at 3:30 am when I woke from a fitful jet lagged tossing and turning, or 6 am when I got up. I had a 9:45 meeting with the tour I had booked before leaving home. They were very strict in their warnings “Be there or be square (and out the money)”. So I left the hotel a little after 7.

The first 2 blocks to the Metro (subway) went pretty well. The area is not what you’d consider posh, and I didn’t get mugged. That is a win almost any day. I walked down the steps and almost turned around. It was dingy, poorly lit and people just hanging around loitering. The way to get a ticket on the train is to push some buttons, decide how long you want a ticket for 120 minutes to a week. Slip on some Euros and magically a little piece of cardboard pops out and you have keys to the underground kingdom. Well my 20 kept going in and then being mechanically spit out at me. The machine said it loved to eat anything up to a 50. Well maybe that machine was having a bad day. So was the next, and the next. Zip! Spit ! Zip ! Spit ! Okay now what? Here is no one around except denizens and jumping the turnstile is frowned on in the US, and I assume here as well. There was a sign that said I could pay with my phone with one of those ((@)) sorta symbols. I walked up to the turnstile waved my magic wand phone. It asked for my pin and the doors to the kingdom parted and I entered. I have no idea how much I was charged. That will be a mystery until the bill comes.

I kind of knew where I was going. I figured if I could find my way to the main terminal I’d be able to find the B train or if I failed at the get back up to street level and sunshine and find a taxi. I did do one smart thing, I took a photo of the station’s name on the wall. This really came in handy on the ride back. Really handy. By now it was 7:30 and the morning rush was in full crush. And by crush I mean crush. You have seen images of the Japanese pushing people into the subway cars? We could have used a few of them this morning. I got to know several Romans better than most of my friends back home. After a bit we were barfed out at Termini and following the blue arrows found my way to the B train and to the Colosseum.

Bidding the river Styx and the door to Hades behind I emerged into the daylight at 8 am. Only an hour and 45 early. My friend Lynda would have been so proud of me.

I took a saunter around the Colosseum looking for a coffee shop or some dispenser of caffeine and carbs. The one cafe didn’t open for an hour and the neighborhood 7-11 type store had carbs, but not caffeine. So I walked. Around this giant oval, past a big arch that Constantine must have copied from that big one in Paris France. Eventually I found myself back at the subway. Funny how that works. There I espied with my own little eyes, humans with cups of hot caffeine in their hands. I backtracked their tail and found a stand within the Metro that I had blithely walked be. He was selling coffee at priced that would have shocked Starbucks, but he was there. With a cup of pleasure and a mouthful of carbs and chocolate I sat outside and contentedly munched, sipped and fed the pigeons. Life was again worth living.

A the appointed’ish time I found the woman with the flag who going to lead me through the next three and a half hours. I felt like a school child looking for that red flag the rest of the day. A least she didn’t force to hold onto a rope like a class of per-schoolers on a field trip. I liked her, Ellianna. Sometimes a guide will focus on on person or group within the group. That 10 year old who asked questions about everything or that photographer who needs to get that perfect image out of the previous 49 had has already shot from that same location. She gave everyone some personal attention and no one was showered. You jammed the mono ear thing on, hung a controller around your neck and enjoyed her talk not matter where you were in the group. She was informative and funny and an all around good guide, among the best I have hired in the past. Sometimes a guide plugs in and internal memory tape and sews back as that mental tape runs. She seemed to really enjoy sharing what she knew, and she knew a lot.

As far as the tour went, I was unimpressed with the Colosseum and pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed the Palatine Hill and Forum. Before coming I had expected to jettison the group at the Colosseum and spend the rest of the day hanging out picturing battles against man and man or man and beat, with the occasional Christian Roman candle. She explained it well enough that the hour and a half we spent the was sufficient. The next stop was Constintine’s Arch and then up the Palatine Hill. She made us aware that it was a bit of a climb and made sure all of us were able. I felt a bit singled out as she looked directly at me when she asked. No worry, it wasn’t Machu Piccu and 9000 feet. I was glad to reach the top, but a few of the youngsters seemed to be replenishing their O2 as much as I at the top of the hill. Of course she was like a mountain Gazelle bouncing up the steps.

Hr presentation was flawless and really made the area come to life. The only problem was all those other tourists getting in my way. This was February, dammit ! They were supposed to be home working and going to school. Skiing down the Alps or almost anything except being in MY way. Why can’t you have stayed home and huddled under your blankets shivering in fear of the Woohoo virus? Maybe photoshop will make them go away.

As the stroke of 3.5 hours we were done and set free to wander as the wind blew us. I walked around the area, had my required Gilato and after a bit found my way back to the Metro. Frankly she wore me out. By now my 20 had morphed into a five. Maybe this would make the machine happy. Nope! It wouldn’t even sniff at my paper. I kept bending the five’’s nose and I wouldn’t even go in. I did fine a sales person who changed it to five metal disks. I put the first disk in and it just sat here. Finally the man behind me motioned that you had to move this thumb lever up to fee the machines. Well fed it barfed (maybe it pooped) out the proper cardboard and I was again a rider and not a pedestrian..

I retraced my steps, thanks to the picture of my morning train platform. Using my intuition I would have gone in the wrong direction. I must have looked dead on my feet, because I was. A nice man and a nice woman both offered me their seat. That NEVER happens to me.

Back at the hotel I flopped on the bed and didn’t move for 2 hours.

I came up to the hotel’s bar/restaurant to be informed that the restaurant was closed. I knew that the custom here was a late dinner, but didn't think 6 was too early. I was wrong. Not even bar food was offered for sale. I guess if you can’t eat, might as well drink. I ordered a vodka tonic and it came with corn nuts and olives. Well that was something. Then came the steamer basket of finger foods and small sandwiches. I was planing on eating dinner, but think the aparritivo was enough.

It is now close to 8:30 pm, guess I’ll close and go find the bed. 5 am seems about right to get to the Sistine Chapel by 7:45 tomorrow morning.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

All roads lead to Rome

Wednesday February 19th 2020
Rome, Italy

It has been about 24 hours since I last saw a bed. I am not complaining though. There have been times when I had spent 2 hours just on planes to get to my destination.

I let home on Monday afternoon to catch the bus to SeaTac and spend the night. I like being able to get up and not go into a tizzy about traffic through Seattle, not to mention the additional 2 hours driving time and the cost of long term parking. Figure in gas and parking and the cost difference isn’t that great. One of the few times solo travel doesn’t come with a single surcharge.

The bus was brand spanking new. It still had that new bus smell, which is totally not the same as a new car smell. The driver made good time and we hit downtown Seattle right at sundown. Got a semi nice golden hour Space Needle picture on the phone. No drama with the hotel or getting to the airline in he morning.

The waiting area’s air wafted by with that distinctly singular smell of curry. I was kind of baffled why 50% o the travelers to Paris had roots in India. Then I remembered that when I went to and from Mumbai they used Paris as the hub. I checked the seating assignment on the Delta app and saw that the seat next to me was empty ! Thank you airplane gods. Then I made a grave error just before boarding and checked it again. I think one of those standby low life’s snatched my primo seat. I guess I shouldn’t whine too much it was a two sea row, not three. So when he aisle called I only had to step over one person. I almost always give the flight attendants 4 or 5 five dollar Starbucks cards. Just to see what happens. On one trip to Paris I got a bottle of wine from first class and slippers. Once Chris and were invited into the cockpit after we landed. One time I had the feeling the FA would have rather been handed a dirty adult diaper. A thank you note from the crew is what generally comes, this time a few stopped by to say thank you and one handed me a large handful or mini candy bars.

The only picture I got of France was a smoke stack across the runway. It doesn’t look anything like the Eiffel Tower.

Got to Rome and realized I hate the suitcase I borrowed. It is one of those 4 wheeled jobbies. Going through a pool table smooth airport it works wonders. Get on the rough tough like a Eur peon sidewalk it is like pulling one of the pyramids down the street. The wheels are just too small. I’m not sure what I’m a gonna do.

The train got me from Rome’s airport quickly to downtown. Then the fun began. Taxi ! You cant stick your hand out an an empty taxi stops. Oh, no you have to go to a designated taxi stand, and they aren’t all that obvious.

It is now a little after five pm, I am tired. Think I’ll close for now. Dead Romans on the sightseeing tomorrow.