Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Ciao, just a quick wave from Rome

Jetlag with a 9-hour time zone difference is tough. I slept through my first night here, but scarcely a wink the second. Then last night, I fell asleep about 11 only to wake at 1 for a few frustrating hours. But when I dropped back into slumberland, I stayed there long enough to miss the free hotel breakfast which only runs until 9:30.
So this photo is of me, finally dressed and heading out in search of collazione. Caffe e un cornetto. I'm practicing the words I'll need even as I pose for the camera. 

I'd downloaded directions to get me to the Protestant Cemetery today, on the advice of helpful readers. But as I began walking, I let my body tell me something: I'm tired, in many ways and at many levels. I might try to follow those directions today. But I might also just wander Monti without direction. I might just sit on the marble steps surrounding a fountain in a piazza that's gradually becoming more animated as the sun rises higher in the sky. I might take some time to write a short post on my iPhone. I might just pretend to write a post and instead listen to the sounds around me, all the conversations in language I only catch sparks of....

Breakfast first, though. I pass a few possibilities but off the main drag I'm not seeing those outside tables I've learned the easy drill for: just sit and someone eventually comes to take your order. 

Instead, I pass a doorway that looks so promising. A bar counter, wood tables with patrons lingering over coffee while turning the pages of the morning giornale. The aroma suggests good beans, roasted recently, brewed carefully, and there's a bowl of oranges in the window ready for juicing, a plate of enticing pastries. I hesitate, but can't quite do it. To go inside on my own, to order, either in English or my emerging Italian, to decide where to sit, to feel so vulnerably foreign, exposed. . . I walk on, scanning for an easier venue. 11:00, my tummy wants me to find something. Now.

So I do it. Spin on my heels, walk back to, then through, that doorway. At the counter I say, Vorrei un caffe e un cornetto, per favore. And magically, he's nodding, reaching a croissant onto a plate, sliding it along the counter to me. He puts a small spoon on a small saucer for the espresso cup, which he takes to the espresso machine, whirs out its hot, dark liquor for me and puts it on the saucer. Meanwhile, I've worked up the nerve, found the words, to ask if anche, posso avere un succo d'arancia. And again, magic. He's nodding and I seem to have made sense, but then a torrent of Italian I'm helpless to understand. No problem. Gestures to the rescue, and soon we have both confirmed that the orange juice I'm asking for is to be fresh squeezed. 

And did I mention that I'm doing all this st the counter? Where I'm eating and drinking? As the locals do, along with experienced travelers who know the prices are much reduced if you don't require table service and a place to park for very long. At the counter, there's always a cool vibe, and it feels good to be a part of it, momentarily. 

But I'm on a wandering mission. Cuanto costa, I ask, then fish out the coins for the 4.50 Euro charge, slide off my stool, and out the door, barely restraining my newly recaffeinated self from patting myself on the shoulder. Of course, writing this in a nearby piazza half an hour on, I realise I made one significant error in an otherwise successful foray: I forgot to use an available toilet when the opportunity presented itself. Rookie move! Shame on you, mater--you should know better.

Ah well, that's all for now, as I've consumed untold realms of data to post this. Follow my days in Rome on Instagram if you'd like. I'm happy to have company as I wander. Meanwhile, as you know,Comments always welcome

39 comments:

  1. Rookie error indeed! If you had a small person in tow you would surely have remembered!

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  2. Congratulations on taking it easy, taking it all in and finding your way. I remember it taking me a full day (or was it longer?) to dare to enter a Paris patisserie with its mysterious rituals for ordering and paying. And then there was the small town in Spain where I spent a full day trying to figure out where to find something to eat. And yet the lovely memories, and the small satisfactions, and yes, the pride in navigating another culture solo. And on we go....

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    1. When I traveled on my own in France just before I turned 40, I met a young couple who had been surviving on bread and ice cream because they were too intimidated to order anything in a restaurant. I mean, I guess if you have to choose two items, those aren't bad, but. . . . (keep in mind this was long before the ubiquitous "menu also available in English)

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  3. Yesssss! Brava! That's the way, uh-huh,I like it....:-)
    Believe me-you could do it and talk a lot,lot more...(remember me :-)!)
    I have spoken Italian better after first semester of learning than later-you have hands,no?
    Dottoressa

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    1. Yes, I think I need a semester of "speaking with my hands" ;-)

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  4. Brava!!! I'm awake at 2:00 a.m. on the other side. Your Italian practise is paying off. The beauty of solo travel is that you can do everything on your own time and at your own speed. Enjoy!

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    1. I was too last night, Mme, hoping it won't be the case tonight, but the walls are thin and my neighbour snores very loudly!

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  5. I'm all for aimlessly wandering on holiday & I've often found the most interesting places that way . The Italians have always seemed very understanding of my mangling their language & never made me feel small . My method is to keep smiling - seems to help . Sounds like you are having a lovely time .
    Wendy from York

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    1. It's true, Wendy, they've all been just lovely with my Italian, very patient and helpful.

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  6. Well done you. Just managing the shortest sentence makes us feel less of a blow in, doesn't it? And it sounds like you are well up to paragraphs. Enjoy your wandering. Company is great too but sometimes it's good to move at our own pace. Ceri in B

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    1. No paragraphs yet, but I've occasionally strung together a couple of sentences and I haven't sensed any major faux pas. . .
      Yes, sometimes we forget what our own pace is, and it's good te remind ourselves.

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  7. You not only failed to use the facilities but drank TWO beverages...setting yourself up for later disaster.

    It's so much fun walking around with you...the fountain in Monti in the morning sun...

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    1. I know! Can you imagine the foolishness of that move! Lucky it was only an espresso, so not much liquid (but then the bladder-irritant factor)
      Thanks again (I'm sure it was you, right?) for letting me know about Borghese Gallery last year, warning me to buy tix ahead -- went again today, marvellous!

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    2. I can't take credit for the Borghese I'm afraid. I did think after commenting to mention Santa Maria Maggiore but saw your IG so too late. Those mosaics (swoon)!

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  8. Good job! I think anyone who has traveled overseas is familiar with the feelings..anxiety, embarrassment about language skills, wanting to just do what is needed...I loved being able to roll my tongue in Italy and use my hands:) Have a wonderful time!! Meems21345 I follow you on Instagram too..Deborah

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    1. Welcome, Meems/Deborah! You seem to do so much traveling yourself.
      It's true that even attempting (with some sincerity) to speak the language of the country one travels through -- and, yes, doing something with purpose, using one's hands -- changes the whole experience. Not that I'm going to try to distinguish between being a tourist and being a traveller as I think that's a pretty spurious project, but something about engagement. . .

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  9. Just lovely. I did my solo travel when young, I am wondering now if your way is in the end more edifying, if that makes sense.

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    1. I'm not sure about that, but I'm able to bring my life experiences to illuminate my travels -- while you had your travels to illuminate life experience. . .

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  10. Forza! as the Italian gentleman said to me and my friend one bright morning as we crossed the Piazza Venezia with trepidation. Well done, Mater for plunging. Italians are always happy to serve foreigners who make the effort linguistically. Happy munching.

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    1. Oh yes, munching happily. And slurping. And chewing. And savouring. All the good stuff!
      Yes, no room for trepidation crossing P. Venezia. I learned from my daughter last year while fearing for my granddaughter's life in the stroller. Daughter said Italians, child-lovers to the core, would always stop for a little one. In the absence of that, it's important to make bold eye contact, take the decision, and then move. Stride! Own that Crosswalk! Forza indeed!

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    2. I also follow nuns. Seems like a good bet.

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  11. What evocative writing! I felt like I was right there in line behind you! Ciao!

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    1. Thanks, Stacy! Thoughtful praise -- I love it!

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  12. Those first words in a foreign language, and tackling the customs of another country - they are daunting (especially when you're still a bit travel weary) but you feel so good when you push yourself, don't you? Loving your travel posts, as always, and look forward to hearing more of your adventures. We're off to Russia in a few days - now that will really be a stretch!
    Rosemary

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    1. Not as much of a stretch as it was when Russia was part of the U.S.S.R....have a great trip!

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    2. I do, Rosemary, I do feel good about pushing myself. Enjoy your trip to Russia. My husband's been (with work), but I haven't. Leslie in O., that must have been quite an experience.

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  13. Lovely to have the freedom to wander and discover Rome at your own pace and have quality time with your Italian family. Mary

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    1. Sadly, Mary, no time, quality or otherwise, with the Italian crew, but I'm enjoying the time and city to myself (and we'll be seeing them soon in Berlin)

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    2. Wow! That's way braver than taking your bike down the stairs. A great opportunity to explore and dolce far niente as the mood takes you. Did you consider popping down to Naples in light of your recent reading of Ferrante. Plenty in Rome to keep you busy I'm sure. Always found the Italians lovely when I've travelled alone. Mary

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  14. This was so enjoyable to read! You are doing really well ... but I'm sure you'll be so happy when Pater arrives .... :0)

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    1. Of course I will, Patricia, but I'm going to enjoy every minute I have to myself. Even the ones I don't enjoy, if that makes sense. Very good (for both of us) for me to remember what really ticks my boxes. And to take the time to do those things without making him tag along.
      Are you home now? Jet lag sorted?

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  15. Well done you! I did laugh out loud at the rookie move, though. Always, always use the bathroom!

    Brenda

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    1. I know! I've learned the lesson and am ridiculously scrupulous now, never passing one up.

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  16. Another experience like that, or perhaps two, and you will feel that exhilarating security that comes from finding you way around ALONE. Rome will be yours. Never again will you get lost or go hungry in that city. (As for bathrooms...)

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    1. This comment really resonates with me, Eleonore. I feel as if I'm on the cusp. . .

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  17. Good for you! And remember that Rome )as in so many large cities) a beautiful woman, and an older "signora", often elicit an extra bit of patient service... and when both are in one package... :) Jet lag- I would give anything for a cure, and I'll bet your walk will help.

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    1. Aw, you're sweet, and that's a good reminder. In fact, everyone's been quite kind. . . servers in restaurants taking special care, quite lovely.
      A walk does seem to heal fatigue, oddly. We're nine hours' difference, which is a lot, especially given the reality of two flights and the stress of connecting at Heathrow (and throw in the inevitable delay, the fact that the first flight, the 9-hour one, left at 9 p.m.). . .

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  18. I may have suggested advance tix for the Borghese, as I missed out on my last trip. A couple of off-the-tourist-track suggestions that you might love as much as I did: the garden wall frescoes from the House of Livia, on the 3rd floor of Palazzo Massimo, are just sublime. And if you care for Etruscan art, don't miss the Casa Giulia. Did you make it to the Protestant cemetery? I hope you're more rested and more comfortable with each passing day.

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I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

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