In my last entry I said that I was breaking off as this entry took me into July 2017 and the previous submission was getting rather unwieldy as it spanned quite a time period and so I thought it made sense.
July in Rome and it was just getting hotter and hotter, peaking at about 35 degrees some days. Still, I wasn’t complaining as I had headed this far South specifically for the sun but there was a problem. The season had definitely started in Canada by about now and I was due to head there but I was so mired in my complete travel inertia that one day just seemed to roll into another. On the rare occasions I could get an internet connection touted so loudly on the website of the utterly appalling hostel I was staying in (M&J Hostel if you have not read the previous entries) I was looking at flying there directly from Rome, a fairly major hub even if the national airline had gone bankrupt and entered into administration a couple of months before. Well, other airlines still flew. I knew I should really go back to London if for no other reason than to check my mail but I had got stuck in such a rut (not too bad a thing in one of the greatest cities in the world) that I just couldn’t move myself. I reasoned that the Canadian “season” for going out in RV;s (campervans) would go until about the end of September when most of the campsites shut so I reckoned that Lynne and I could still have a decent trip.
Back now to a few days of random images and a few accompanying words as per the previous entry.
The third started in the usual fashion in Mauro’s and I do appear to have gone on a bit of a Kodak frenzy in there but I hope the images below indicate a) the quality of his food, b) how spotless the place is and c) how much he was trying to feed me up by forcing food on me left right and centre. It seemed churlish to refuse and I did try my best although I rarely finished the gargantuan portions he would put in front of me. Honestly, I really do not eat a lot Mauro, my dear friend, but thanks all the same. Incidentally, how you manage to stack that many pieces of crockery without breaking them is still a mystery to me!
I suspect it may have been something to do with trying to walk off the rather large and tasty lunch that Mauro had forced on me but I thought I would go for a walk round just by way of a post-prandial peregrination (I do so love “fancy” words, I just wish I could use them to write something of note) and I ended up, no more than about 500 yards from the cafe door, at the Church of Sacre Cuore di Gesu (Sacred Heart of Jesus) which is designated as a basilica and which I had passed many times as it was just round the corner from where I was staying. I had marvelled at the gold statue of Christ that surmounted the building and had several attempts at getting an image of it at night when it is beautifully illuminated, but all without success. Whilst I would have loved to have shared that with you, I think you will agree that it is still fairly impressive in daylight, especially bathed in a searingly bright Roman summer sun.
Again, apologies for the image but the little compact really was on it’s last legs lens-wise.
Without wishing to bore my 14 (I checked the stats) regular readers, and purely for the benefit of anyone who may find this page inadvertently, I am an atheist but I have a fascination for places of worship of whatever stripe. I had to have a look at this Church.
In I went and was confronted with a most wonderful building and yet again at the risk of boring people I found out something fascinating about it. It is relatively recent, having only been constructed in 1887 which, to put it in historical context, was only six years before my maternal grandmother was born, but there is a much longer history than that. I have mentioned often that I love military history of all periods and it was only whilst researching this that I found out that the Church is situated on the former site of the barracks of the Praetorian Guard, who were the personal bodyguards to Roman rulers and considered the military elite of their day, picked for their ferocity and military prowess albeit they were not averse to turning against their Masters for the right amount of gold. In some ways I wish I had known that at the time and yet in others I am glad I didn’t as I just took the place for what it was i.e. a charming 19th century basilica which was fine. The ancient Roman military connection was merely a later little bonus and, as one who has taken up arms for his country, at least I can say I have been there.
No, it is not he most impressive place of worship I have ever been in although I would be hard pushed to say what was. No, it is probably not one of the most visited sites in this hugely visited ancient city. Yes, I am bloody glad I visited it, not only for itself but for the connections I later discovered.
As I keep going on about here, never a wasted day. Travel is never wasted even if you only find out the number of the bus you have to get from point A to point B. At least you know that for again and possibly for the benefit of others and that can only be a good thing. As always, all feedback is warmly welcomed so please tell me if I appear to be over-complicating things. Given the new-found freedom I have in writing my own blog and not being constrained by the rules of commercial sites I am very conscious I may be going a bit wild with my “thoughts on things” and I am still unsure as to how to “pitch this blog. Please do let me know how you feel.
Let’s be honest, people have made themselves famous and even rich talking garbage online although that is not my aim. I just want to put down as honestly as I can my travels and daily life (which are fairly well interchangeable as I always seem to be on the road) and hopefully the few that read it will enjoy it and, dare I say, possibly even learn something.
Anyway, enough of this and back to the 3rd of July, 2017. Much as I had enjoyed the Church, that was quite enough sightseeing for me for the one day and so I headed back to Mauro’s, a journey that, even given the parlous state of Roman pavements, took all of five minutes tops.
When I returned Mauro decided that all that strenuous sightseeing must have taken it’s toll on me and insisted on feeding me yet again (as always, free of charge) and, as you can see, it was not a shabby snack that he served. If only I could have got it into his head that I do not really eat during the day. Still, I made a game attempt and got most of it finished.
Time was starting to run now but I still reckoned I had about two and a half months of Canadian “summer” to play with so that would be OK. My friend is on a military pension and so it was not dependent on her getting specific dates off. I figured I still had it sorted.
Mauro closed up fairly well on time (obviously under orders from the lovely Angela) and I went for a bit of a wander which consisted of a couple of beers in another little backstreet bar which was not nearly as expensive as most places locally but still knew how to charge and a sight that gladdened my heart considerably.
I have raved on considerably about the criminal and totally morally reprehensible travel website whose CEO is basically Hell-bent on making his useless and perjured site the only available travel site online. I do not wish to re-rehearse the issue yet again here but I was overjoyed to see a door decked out with a number of the useless stickers including those that constitute the business model of that awful organisation. The premises waere closed and I did not even try to suppress a smile. I would be prepared to bet that no real traveller or local had ever written a review of that place. These images are of no interest to the reader but I just take such delight in publishing them after what those scum did to me and hundreds of thousands of other people after stealing our product on dubious legal grounds because they were so big that nobody could take them on. Don’t you just love the American legal system?
What a glorious sight, an establishment recommended by that vile organisation and shut down. Just shows how much you can depend on their recommendations. Sure, places close all the time but I am prepared to bet any reviews were written by staffers in Minnesota.
I did find another half-decent little bar without one of the reviled stickers that provided a few more beers before heading home where I had another of my mad ideas and, believe me, I am full of them. I was thinking of doing a piece for the website I was writing for at the time along the lines of “What’s in your pockets”? I think it is interesting the things people carry around and so I took the image below which was genuinely everything I had in my pockets that day. I was going to start a bit of a piece on the website I was then writing for called something like, “what’s in your pockets today”? Obviously that option was removed from me so I thought I might give it a run here if anybody even reads this.
Send me an image of the contents of your pockets (OK, you can leave out any really embarrassing things) and I’ll include them in here. Just one of the silly notions I have for things to put up here and I promise you there are some utterly mad ideas flying around my disordered brain at the minute. Anyone for a daily limerick challenge? There are plenty more where that came from.
My images show that I went home for my usual supper of very cheap and yet remarkably palatable supermarket beer and some of the wonderful Gorgonzola cheese from the same emporium to which I was becoming inordinately fond. I love cheese and the riper the better. i deliberately leave cheeses in my fridge long past there sell-by date, there is nothing quit like having to wrestle an aged Camembert or Stilton onto the plate before you eat it. OK, this stuff did not have the time to get in that condition but it was pretty flavoursome in it’s original state, I did eat rather a lot of it. I did actually look up Croce Piccante and it meant, as I thought with my smattering of Italian, “Spicy Cross”. I have no idea why as spice came nowhere near it but it was damned tasty.
Off then to an uncomfortable room in a stinkingly hot room with huge road noise outside to try to sleep. I still really do not understand why I stayed there so long.
Nothing to report here so move along quickly, folks. Apparently, I managed an image of young Alice’s lovely tattoo, an image of the supermarket that sells the lovely cheese and the very cheap beer and that was about that. The tattoo will become relevant later in this story.
I could not resist a further image of the fish counter in the supermarket which was not overly expensive and I just wished that I had some means of cooking some of it. I really cannot believe that I insisted on staying in a tip like M&J after having been on such good hostels before. Had I had access to this place in, say, Rotterdam or Lyon, I would have been a veritable Rick Stein in those wonderful hostel kitchens and, if you have not read about them, then please go back a few entries in this series and you’ll see just what wonderful kitchens they had.
Another day of doing very little. I wandered up to the Termini station to get my daily English paper as I still had not mastered Italian enough to get through La Repubblica every day although I was getting better.
On the way back I stopped of into a reasonably sized cafe / gelateria / supermarket called Trombetta which I had seen many times on my rambles. I believe it translates as the trumpet and it is directly opposite on of the entrances to the Termini station on a busy main road which makes it absolutely ideal for people watching which is one of my favourite occupations, I could do it for ours. Like so many places in this area it is ruinously expensive and so not the venue for a hard drinking session. Sitting outside requires table service which is average to put it kindly but it is yet another case of location, location, location.
I have included the image here as yet another indication of how appalling the driving and parking standards are in Rome. I had previously thought that Athens was the worst I had ever seen, and it was but, like their military counterparts of two millenia previously, the Romans had the Athenians beaten all ends up. I really could not believe my eyes some days.
Back to Mauro’s (no surprise there) and a supper in my usual little Chinese where they were getting to know me and being very friendly, lovely people so I shall pass quickly on.
The 7th of July followed an all too predictable pattern according to my images and starts, almost inevitably with another parking nightmare. How, or indeed why, the drive managed to do this, is a complete mystery to me and how (s)he ever intended to get out is way beyond my understanding.
After another lovely day in Mauro’s it was back to my little Chinese hideaway which I was becoming very fond of. Dirt cheap, friendly, great food and I rarely saw another Caucasian in there, it suited me nicely although I am still amazed that I seemed to be eating huge feeds on a daily basis which is most unlike me.
On the way home I could not resist taking the above image as I just love odd looking things like this. I wonder how long it had been there. In the very unlikely event of this blog becoming more widely read, this is another one of my mad notions for it. Post up a random image like this and invite people to construct a short story, poem or whatever else about it, I think that might be quite fun. As I said before, I have loads of oddball ideas for this site. If any of the few of you that do read this want to have a go, please do and I’ll publish them here, it might be a bit of fun.
Nothing much today except to share an couple of images of the many shared use small vehicles I saw round central Rome, most of which were electric powered. Given the lunacy that is Roman traffic and parking of which I have spoken often this has to be a good idea on so many levels. Smaller vehicles, many less of them, less (zero?) emissions, it all seems to add up. My only slight qualm about the whole “drive electric, go green” agenda espoused by the tree-huggers is that they never seem to address the issue of where the electric comes from. Fossil fuel burning power plants belching out masses of waste themselves or else nuclear power (anyone remember Cehrnobyl or Three Mile Island?) so I am not sure how “green” it all really is but I suspect it is a step in the right direction.
It is much the same thinking as with the car-pooling which I wrote about earlier in this series and which I used so successfully in France, Germany and Austria. Why have four people in four cars when toy can have four people in one car. Although I know little or nothing about sustainable energy etc. at least that makes sense to me.
Anyway, enough of my rambling and on to the next day.
Another day of nothing to report other than I seem to have gone all Italian and had taken to coffee, water and doughnuts for breakfast with not a beer in sight. Unheard of behaviour but I thought I should record it here as nobody I know will believe it because I don’t “do” breakfast.
Next day and guess what, it was back to Mauro’s where I received a lovely gift.
One of the many street artists that seem to be everywhere in the city came into the gastronomia hawking his wares which looked to be very good. Along with his business card he gave Mauro the little sample you can see in the image above. The only reason the cigarette packet is there is to provide a sense of scale. I think you’ll agree it is rather good. As soon as he left, Mauro said he had no use for it and promptly gave it to me. Remarkably, I managed to get it home undamaged and still have it. What a lovely souvenir especially as I rarely buy them.
I do not want to get too overblown about all this but I do often wonder why such lovely things happen to me so often. Yes, I am lucky enough to travel a lot. Yes, I meet a lot of people. No, I am not exactly the shy, retiring type but these little apparently insignificant things just keep happening to me and I genuinely don’t know why.
If you look at the image below you will note that I am still wearing the lovely ring that had been given to me by a young French actress in her home country a few weeks before and the story of which is recounted in an earlier episode of what was by now becoming something of a saga in both the doing of it and the subsequent writing about it. I’d better stop before I do get all philosophical about it although even that poses a question. What do philosophers do all day? Just sit quietly and think about things? Hell, I’d like a job like that. Get paid for coming out with the odd comment that nobody really understands? I do that all the time.
Anyway, enough of this and back to an oppressively hot day in Rome. Much as I loved the little Chinese restaurant mentioned above, I fancied a change and so took myself off to find a pizza. When in Rome and all that. I went to a little place a couple of streets up from Mauro’s which I had seen before. Pizza and beer before heading home, what could be better?
Given the ludicrous food and drink prices in the area which I have spoken of this, like the Chinese, was remarkably reasonably priced. It is actually possible to eat well for not too much money round there if you are prepared to walk down a few back streets and look around a bit.
I have to say at this point that I have the oddest tastes in pizza and when I told Mauro of my favourite pizza combination (my own invention obviously) I thought he was going to punch me as any right-thinking Italian would have done. OK, it is tuna, banana and garlic and, yes, you read that correctly. Please don’t hate me, pizza lovers, give it a try, it is really good. Anyway, that was never going to be an option in Rome and so i opted for a fairly simple offering but less is so often more and such was indeed the case here. It was utterly beautiful with an obviously freshly produced sauce and the mozzarella was as good as I have ever had. A few anchovies, which I adore, completed the meal and I really am going to have to add them to my own odd concoction. Anchovies and tuna, yes please. All washed down with a bottle of the Moretti that I was getting rather fond of and it could not have been a more Italian evening if I had been falling off a Venetian gondola into an open sewer whist clutching a bottle of Chianti.
The place was quiet and I was chatting to the waiter a bit but I am not sure which one of us instigated the image of me at my supper. I suspect it was him as I do not like having my photo taken but I do quite like this one. It shows me doing about the only thing I was ever any good at i.e. travelling, finding little backstreet places, hanging out with the locals, eating authentic regional food and generally being at peace with the world. What a far cry from the fairly embittered and unhappy man who had effectively given up on travel that had left home three months before to spend a few days with a friend in Southern Holland. Isn’t it funny how travel gets you that way?
I know you will find this hard to believe that I was eating on an almost daily basis but such is the case, mostly instigated by the mighty Mauro. He did appear to be on a mission to fatten me up which I suppose is understandable given that I have a build like a whippet. I am not sure if a constant diet of pasta, pizza and Chinese is really what a dietician would recommend but there you go. Better than nothing I suppose. It started off with another of Mauro’s offerings given to me with the implied threat that anything less than an empty plate might result in a fit of Roman violence and he was a big guy as you shall see in a future instalment here. I really would not have liked him to have hit me.
During the course of the day I did get an inkling as to why the parking in Rome is so appalling. The Council parking attendants seem more at home sitting in cafes than they are doing what they are paid to do.
Mauro obviously decided I had not eaten enough for the day and hit me at closing time with a plate of chips / wedges or whatever they are called in Italian. Man, I could hardly walk by the time I left. I cannot remember when I last ate so much. Off to the pit then with a very full belly and a very happy heart. Everything was looking good but I really had to think about getting to Canada but with half of July to go I reckoned I had two and a half months of viable weather there and I knew we could have a really good trip in that time.
The 12th of July arrived although I did not really know it was the 12th until I started reading the newspaper in, guess where, Mauro’s. As you can see from the image, I had taken to reading the local paper by choice and was getting a little less than utterly incompetent at understanding Italian. As always, the forthcoming elections and the appalling crisis of uncontrolled economic migrants were hogging the headlines.
For those not au fait with the politics of Northern Ireland, the 12th of July is a big day and is actually a public / bank holiday there. It is a day when the various lodges of the Orange Order exercise their right to parade on the streets of Northern Ireland (and even beyond). I am not going to go on about it here but it is a source of great contention amongst the two diametrically opposed communities in the land of my birth. Look it up if you are interested.
After duly pressing “breakfast” on me (looks great, doesn’t it? It was), I happened to look around the bar and what did I see?
I saw what is displayed in the image above and it, yet again, almost reduced me to tears. For a man that didn’t ever cry for several decades, this trip was becoming a bit emotional. Does your propensity to exercise your lachrymal glands increase with age? I have no idea nor do I have any problem with men crying. One way and another I have known some seriously hard men in my life and I have seen them crying like babies. What is perhaps more telling is that other equally hard men never batted an eyelid.
It is stupid little boys that contend that “real men don’t cry”. My response to that is, “grow up, do something of value that exposes you to horror and then tell me that real men don’t cry”. OK, here endeth the lesson and I really had no intention of starting down this road when I began writing today’s entry but as I have previously stated here, I can only write one way. I am an old man now and, with my lifestyle, may not be here too much longer so what you are getting is going to be real, if sometimes uncomfortably real. I really am quite revelling in having my own site where I control what I publish, it is hugely liberating in a way.
This just touched a nerve in me somewhere, he had obviously been planning it, waiting for the right letters to turn up in his beer delivery. To clear up any possible confusion, this is my proper forename, Fergy (which everyone has called me for years) is merely a contraction. How beautiful is that gesture? Even or one as verbose as me, I am running out of words to describe how I felt. Why do such simple things manage to choke me up so much?
Again, little to report here but I want to get this particular entry concluded before I get to the hard work of writing about the “proper” sightseeing trip I took the next day. My two images for the day show that Mauro was still on his mission to fatten me up (I do hope it was not for slaughter!) and I must have ended up drinking something I would not normally look at. I can only assume I was given it as I do not drink spirits, much less cocktails but, as they say, the camera doesn’t lie and I promised you absolute reality on this site.
Well, that is the end of another marathon episode of this rather marathon adventure.
I’ll go and do some proper sightseeing in the next episode so stay tuned and spread the word.