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