Monday, October 3, 2016

Rome Retrospective from Bordeaux


 Hello from Bordeaux! I flew here from Rome on Saturday -- thank you, RyanAir, who did a surprisingly decent job for a budget airline (I'd paid for an extra bag, just in case, but didn't have to check anything -- and by choosing Priority Boarding, for very little extra cost, I got on early enough to easily find space and stow my bag overhead).

Having spent considerable time in Bordeaux over the past few years, I had no trouble taking the bus into town from the airport, transferring to a tram in front of the train station, and walking the last half kilometre or so from the stop -- all for the shocking sum of 1.50 euros. I'd splurged on having a driver pick me up from Fiumicino and then drop me off a week later at Ciampino in Rome -- a hundred euros very well spent, I thought, for the comfort and security, although something I've never done before. But with my easily wheeled cabin bag, light backpack, and purse, and plenty of daylight hours to spare, I was content to ease my way back into Bordeaux via public transit and what my Grandpa used to call "Shank's Mare."

The place we're renting is the pied-à-terre of a friend of a friend here, and we'd visited it last year, so I knew what to expect, but it was lovely to be greeted by a neighbour and shown where things were and how they worked. All of this greeting and instruction was offered in French, and I'm pleased to say that the lessons we've been taking twice a week this last month have revved up my language skills enough that -- with the occasional request that A. slow down or repeat a phrase -- I seemed to understand most of what I was being told. And she understood when I responded -- bonus!

After she'd left and I'd unpacked, I hazarded a walk to the shops for some milk, bread, eggs, etc., -- with some trepidation, I will admit, about whether all the keys would work on my return (there are building fobs and hallway lights and doors that lock uncompromisingly should you have forgotten keys inside . . . and my experience with European locks and doors and keys is that they can challenge). But all went well. I had some engineering difficulties with the mysteries of the exterior shutter/blind wand, but oh, the satisfaction of figuring that out by myself.

And then the best night's sleep I've had since leaving home -- I woke after 8! I never, ever sleep until 8 -- it was wonderful!

Went to the market, ate oysters on the half-shell by the river, met a friend later for lunch and a long walk with a bit of shopping, popped into Galeries Lafayette to buy some day and night creams for very thirsty skin (managed this in French as well, and came home with Caudalie products, just enough).

But while I'm very happily ensconced in Bordeaux now, I'm still thinking back, as well, on my days in Rome, and I suspect I will have to tell you more about those as I settle into a rhythm here. For now, here are a few photos from my wanderings in that Eternal City. . .

And wanderings they were. I had no particular itinerary, although I had reserved admission to the Borghese Gallery.  I'd ended up booking a budget hotel (more on this later) in Monti, just because I remembered enjoying that neighbourhood last winter, on an outing with my daughter.  My idea was that I would just begin by exploring the neighbourhood, perhaps starting the day with a destination, but being prepared also to abandon that plan if I saw something interesting just around a corner. . .

What drew me the first morning was the Basilica of Saint Maria dei Angeli e dei Martiri (St. Mary of the Angels and Martyrs). I posted a photo in an earlier post of sunlight directed through a small hole in the building to fall on the meridien line constructed in the floor.  The earlier post also included a model of Galileo's pendulum -- outside in the courtyard is a wonderful five-metre-high bronze statue of Galileo donated to the basilica in 2010 by the China Centre for Advanced Science and Technology. Fascinating, this blending of science and religion and this cross-cultural exchange, in a building whose foundations include the ruins of Roman baths -- left mainly undisturbed until Michaelangelo's 16th-century determination to incorporate them meaningfully into a new Christian place of worship. So interesting to think of those medieval Romans, busily sorting out their own lives only a few kilometres from those ancient ruins, which they left undisturbed for the most part, the Quirinal hill apparently remote to their quotidian realities. . .

Here, a few more photos of that floor, with its 18th-century meridien line. . . .




 Then back to the wandering. I'm guessing the Italians must have a word for this. And I suspect there will be much more a sense of "dolce far niente" than in the French "flâner." I need this word -- do share if you know it. . .

Can we call this fellow a caryatid?  Strictly speaking, he doesn't truly seem to be serving as a pillar, but rather decorating one (and what he's decorating isn't truly a pillar either, is it?) Again, your superior knowledge would be very welcome.
 No requests here, except that you admire that sunshine and shadow and blue sky with me. Interesting how cities each do their own thing to the sky. Here in Bordeaux, a much smaller city, I'm always struck by the expanse of sky, a sense of openness -- I mean, okay, it's hardly the prairies, but perhaps because I have always arrived here after being in a place that squeezes the sky into fascinating, irregular shapes such as this one, the Bordeaux sky feels wide to me. I'll show you what I mean soon.
 Back to the requests for information. While I was wandering aimlessly, I continually came across these slightly coercive stencils on the street or sidewalk. I believe they might have something to do with the Vatican's Papal Jubilee Year of Mercy, which seems to comprise numerous pilgrimages.  I've spent some time researching this online, however, and I haven't been able to find information about these route markers. I came across them many times as I meandered through the streets.
 And finally, this installation of equestrian statues glimpsed in the ruins near the Trajan complex. I was so sure I would be able to track down the provenance of these once I got back to my computer, but it's not so. There is, of course, the famous equestrian statue not too far away of Marcus Aurelius, but of multiple horses, nothing.

I do wonder if these cavalli might have something to do with a monumental project by the Mexican artist Gustava Aceves.


 But I'll tell you a bit more about that next post, shall I? I have a few photographs. . .



24 comments:

  1. We shared the cost of a car and driver a couple of times this trip. It is more comfortable and there is often a flat fee charge. Bordeaux must feel like home to you. And to sleep past eight...Bordeaux looks fascinating. I would like to visit some new areas of France one day. Enjoy your meandering!

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    1. I would definitely use a car and driver again when I'm on my own, especially in a city and don't know and after a transatlantic flight -- brilliant!
      Bordeaux does feel like home by now, although still different enough that I don't take its beauty for granted. Are you almost over your jet lag now?

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  2. Hi Frances, just lost my comment, will try again. The first thing that came to mind was 'passeggiata', but that might specifically be the after-dinner walk. I then looked up 'wander' and came up with 'fare un giro' and other similar verbs with 'giro'. I'm sure you'll find out from someone when you return!

    I seem to remember you mentioning a meet-up with the young fam. in Berlin later on - I'm really looking forward to reading what you think about that wonderful city (I'm a fan!). I know you like to figure things out for yourself, but if you are looking for a good walking tour, I can heartily recommend Insider Tours, especially if you get Barnaby, he's a hoot. We did two walks with him, and a few years ago I did one with Tarek - that took 5 hours, he was so enthusiastic about the architecture and history! http://www.insidertour.com/tours.php/cat/27/id/40/title/tourdetails

    Enjoy your time in Bordeaux, I guess Pater will be arriving soon!

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    1. Thanks, Patricia! I'm looking for something with a slightly different connotation than 'passeggiata' or 'fare un giro,' which seem to me often to have the sense of a 'daily constitutional,' although perhaps that's not fair. The french 'flâner' has more than a hint of subversiveness, more abandonment and detachment at once, I guess, that I'd like to capture. You've helped refresh my Duolingo/Babbel vocabulary, though! Thank you!
      I'm excited about seeing Berlin, although I'll be distracted by our little one, and we only have three days there. But we'll catch a flavour and can decide to return some day. Thanks for the tour recommendation!

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  3. The pillar is a pilaster and the male version of a caryatid is an atlantid (sp?) but I don't think we can call your fellow that as he's not serving the purpose of a column. He's quite, er, imposing though isn't he?

    It's funny what we chose to save and splurge on, but knowing yourself helps. I nearly always use a car and driver or a cab to travel to and from airports. Otherwise crankiness (arriving) and stress about lateness (departing) would just overwhelm me. Money well spent.

    A maybe-too-nosy question...so ignore as you please...but can you tell us something about how you manage evenings when you travel solo? In the past I have struggled with this and ended up staying in and reading...which is a great activity but feels wasteful. Any hints would be appreciated.

    Looking forward to your continuing adventures!

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    1. Thank you! Not that Wikipedia is to be relied on overly, but the illustration for their article on an Atlas/atlantid is similar to this fellow in the amount of support it seems to lend -- and to think I've used "caryatid" all this time as a gender-neutral term! ;-)
      Yes, it's true about the choices in saving and splurging. I think this is one of the good things about doing some solo travel, finding out what different choices I might make on my own, although I'm happy enough, generally, to accommodate or be inspired by his preferences (and to be fair, he would do the same for me, if I were as clear)
      I haven't done enough solo travelling to feel qualified to answer your question, but I'd recommend you to Duchesse's response, and Dottoressa's below. My own would be closer to Ceri in B's, mostly because I'm more lark than owl anyway. That said, I did go out for dinner on my own in Rome, quite comfortably. I brought a book, but ended up not reading much, just enjoying the ambience, the people-watching (although having to be careful not to stare, not to get caught;-) -- there were many good choices near by, so that I never felt anxious about walking a few blocks back to the hotel.

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  4. Looks like the weather is fabulous for your wandering out and about...and a bonus that you had a great night sleep...oysters for breakfast! Wow!
    Bordeaux looks lovely.

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    1. I know -- oysters for breakfast does sound odd, but it's a thing here. More like a light brunch really, from 10 on. Half a dozen oysters on the half shell for 6 Euros, includes bread and butter (one of the few times you'll see butter served with your bread here, as I'm sure you know). And a glass of white wine for a little bit more. And yes, you'll see many people enjoying that wine with their oysters by 10:30 or 11 any Saturday or Sunday morning -- we've been known to partake. . . just can't imagine it playing in Vancouver or Victoria, right? Vive la différence!

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  5. The word you are looking for may be "gironzolare".
    Happy wanderings.

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    1. Getting much closer, thanks, Eleonore. . .

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  6. So rich and historic and... blue! Thank you!

    @ Georgia, materfamilias will answer, but for me, I often book a performing arts event such as theatre or concert. (These need not be big ticket shows and there are often rush seats.) A theatre or concert hall is a setting in which a woman alone is not bothered, and there are always taxis outside. Though I'll use public transit to arrive, if it is straightforward, I take a cab back to hotel, it's later.

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    1. My evenings ,when I travel alone,are very similar to yours Duchesse. Concert or the theatre.
      Sometimes I go to dinner in, or very near, my hotel
      I always take a taxi
      But I am sure that there are places where I would stay at home after dark :-)
      Dottoressa

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    2. If I'm on my own, I tend to eat out at lunchtime and then pick up a few snacks, fruit, crackers, juice, wine etc to have in my room in the evening with my book. After a day's wandering I'm usually ready to kick off my shoes and have an early night, but brava to those who venture out.

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    3. As I said above, I'm more like Ceri, happy with my book or perhaps Netflix if the Wifi's good. Thanks for offering some livelier options, D and D -- jump in anyone else who might help as well.

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    4. Local television is always worth seeing , for the advertisements if nothing else . Italian game shows are diverting and French television has excellent chat shows on books .
      And I love going out for breakfast .

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    5. Good point, S&S, and I haven't yet turned on the TV here -- I have such a clear memory of a wonderful Coke commercial than ran on the TV when we were in Lisbon 9 or so years ago. . . it featured singing and words we couldn't understand and sardines which -- and I'd never have thought this before that commercial -- apparently are enhanced, brilliantly, by combining them with Coca-cola.
      So perhaps I'll see if I can muster enough tech skills to figure out this fancy set-up here and pick up some pop culture, en français.

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  7. How beautiful to be again in the city you know and love.....and passeggiare or gironzolare or camminare senza meta :-) (or con meta :-)!)
    Dottoressa

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    1. I like this camminare senza meta, which hints a bit at the hope for non-conformity that I think the original use of "flâner signalled.

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  8. Your post prompts so many thoughts and memories of travel, especially the differences between traveling with other(s) and traveling alone. The meridien is lovely. Somehow these glimpses of past lives and past realities help me feel more connected, even when traveling alone. I love to see your photos, read your comments--you're wonderfully observant.

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    1. Thanks, Elle, and I'm so glad you're enjoying these posts -- there is something in those glimpses of histories before ours that prompts a sense of connection. Perhaps the edge of loneliness that can creep into solo travel helps us appreciate that connection more?

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  9. Lovely photos! It's because of your write-ups about your prior visits to Rome that we decided we hadn't given it enough of a chance and are going back next April. My BIL had a way to research images taken on his phone through Google, don't know if you've tried that but I'd be happy to find out for you how he does it.

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    1. Yay! The city had to grow on me, it's true. It's not nearly as well-groomed as Paris, but. . . well, you'll see. . .

      I've heard about tracking down images like that, tried to Google the method but can't figure it out for my iPhone, so if you can find out, I'd be grateful!

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  10. Sounds and looks wonderful, Frances. Been off-line for a while now... camping.... and before that in NB with Mum so not much chance for commenting. Still...following your adventures on IG and FB. Fall in Bordeaux.... sounds heavenly.

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    1. It was very good, Susan, especially since there was a disappointment involved at the heart of the trip -- I'm so pleased with myself that I persisted and made myself a bundle of good memories out of that potential sadness.
      And I'm still waiting for Fall in Bordeaux -- high today of 27 degrees! In October! (although the forecast shows the temps trend steadily downward from here -- fair enough!)

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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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