—Rome, in which a hotel becomes an eerie experience
Having just discovered ants in my kitchen cabinet, I am giving up any attempt to adequately edit this travelogue in favor of screaming, cursing, and throwing crawly things into the garage. I'll post this while waiting for the fog to disburse...
The hotel was an adventure in itself. (photo at right. Would you know this was a hotel?) Rome does not depend on tourism. Signs—when there are any—are seldom in English. Hotels are enormously expensive. We wanted to be able to walk around rather than take taxis, so we settled on what is mostly a B&B in one of the old buildings blocks from the Colosseum. The taxi driver dropped us off at a two-story wooden door with an almost invisible sign. Think pretentious New York City restaurants that only those in-the-know can find. We had to press a bell to get the door open. There is no helpful bellman to drag in our luggage. There is no lobby. (photo on left is view behind the front door) There are no signs inside. It looks like a huge garage with two-story rounded ceilings. We stare blankly at empty walls and wonder where in heck the desk is. Or the rooms. Or anything. Have we been high-jacked to a railroad tunnel?
A little exploration reveals a really old-fashioned mechanical lift around the corner. A sign—in English!—warns it can only hold one bag at a time. One wonders if it can hold one bag and one person. I get to be the guinea pig. I have no idea where the lobby is. The elevator simply has numbers on the buttons without further explanation. While Don guards the rest of the luggage, I take the lift and one bag up to the next story. Voila! A desk appears off to one side with a smiling gentleman who declines to come out and help me with the enormous bag. Or the elevator door, which does not open automatically. Nor close automatically, I discover later, after Don climbs umpteen—marble—steps carrying three bags because the lift won’t work unless the doors are
closed. (photo on right, me taking the marble steps down)
And of course, it’s too early to check in. So we leave our bags in the care of the smiling gentleman who speaks perfect English and orders up a tour for us. We find a local café where no one speaks English but hand gestures are understood, eat lunch, walk around a little to get the lay of the land, and return for a guided tour of the Colosseum, having learned our lesson in Athens that there will be no explanation of anything otherwise. (photo to left, some of the remains of the Imperial Palace)
Unfortunately, there are no explanations of the Colosseum even with a tour guide. We have a fabulous tour of the Palantine, get a better grasp of the enormity of what is called the Roman Forum, walk the cobblestone (photo on left)
streets of the Caesars, see lots of fallen columns, marble statues, and temples, and then are abruptly left off at the Colosseum to wander blindly about. Apparently, since there are actually a few signs in English, we are expected to figure it out on our own. I’m thinking the animals in those basement cellars were not happy, but beyond that, it’s hard to conceive of crushing 60,000 rabid, jeering gladiator fans into that towering stadium seating. Apparently football stadiums haven’t changed much since Roman times. (view of Colosseum from the top of the Palantine)
We buy a book (Italy has learned commerce, and gift shops abound) and figure we’ll work it out ourselves some other time. There’s a lovely café across the street from the invisible hotel—we find out later it’s probably a chain—and we have good wine and pasta served by the most efficient waitress I’ve ever seen and call it a day.
Tuesday, June 01, 2010
Katakolon, Greece is little more than a fishing village and port connected to lovely beaches, but further inland is the sprawling complex that was the origin of the first Olympic games in approximately 776 BC (http://www.katakolon-greece.com/greece-olympia.html). By this point, I’ve lost count of how many of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World we’ve visited, because most of them are nonexistent today. Besides that, Greece made up the list. But the Temple of Zeus here once contained an enormous golden statue that, of course, got melted down by a conquering nation. By now, I’ve seen more fallen Roman columns (marble, porous stone, amalgamations, whatever was available or stolen from elsewhere) than I knew existed in the world, so I’m dragging. Besides, it’s hot. The museum is lovely and cool and spacious and has food and drink. So we obligingly gaze at more statues that should have been on temples but got sacked and buried instead. The amazing detail and artistry is no longer amazing. These guys
had molds! So much for awe. The more energetic (read—young people) among us race in the Olympic stadium. I sit in the shade and admire their energy.
At this point, I’m finally flagging and ready for the day at sea where I plan to plant myself in a lounge chair, soak up the sun, drink daiquiris, and read my e-books. (I stocked up on some really good reading—must remember to make recommended reading list)
Day Nine—rock-and-roll heaven or do pirates get seasick too?
At lunchtime, the crew bravely sets up a barbeque on deck. Plain American food—pork and corn cobs and baked beans and potato salad. The potato salad was a mistake. Those intrepid enough to eat lunch are down for the count by mid-afternoon. I don’t like potato salad. I got to listen to the results instead.
After that, the wind picked up, the waves were cresting on some insane figure I can’t recall, and I learned how difficult it is to walk while being tossed four ways at once. Quite fascinating, actually, and I spent a lot of time trying to imagine how our pirate heroes walked the deck without being tossed into the drink since they didn’t have all those nice banisters and inside walkways. My potato-salad-eating husband sipped tomato soup for dinner while I cruised the buffet and admired the way the aft lurched up and down.
On the bright side, I got a lot of reading done.