Rambling in Rome

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We have arrived here in Rome.  We are both excited and exhausted.  This is our baptism into Airbnb and the place we have chosen does not disappoint. It has been twenty-eight hours since we left our home and now we have discovered our new home in Rome. The cabbie finds the place easily.  We exit the car with luggage and backpacks in hand and head over to the giant door.  We buzz number five and Barry, our host buzzes us in.  To get to our room, we pass through a locked door, a locked gate, a tiny, tiny elevator, another door and another gate until we see our room.  It is compact, with a very comfortable bed, a “kitchen” which includes a hot plate, mini fridge and sink.  The bathroom is normal sized and well appointed.  But the magic of this place are the four terraces.  We walk to the first two terraces and then we enter a secret garden maze to discover the other two terraces which include spectacular views of Rome and the Vatican.  I abandon all sensibility while climbing the  stairs/ladder to the upper terraces.  It is apparent to me that building inspectors have not been around since the Romans built the Colliseum.

Absolutely we were exhausted, but our host was kind enough to give us an overview of the city and his recommendations for places to eat, sightsee and to see Rome from an insiders perspective .  He has thoughtfully left us some prosecco and Brie to enjoy on the terraces.

Next, we walk the cobblestone streets to a fabulous bistro for an early dinner.  The clouds are forming but the temperature is perfect.  We chose a small place, off the tourist path to enjoy dinner.  Apparently, wine is cheaper than water so we happily sip the house wine at each meal. Our first waiter, who looked remarkably like Captain Kangaroo was surley  and overworked. However, he brought us some of the finest pizza we have ever tasted.

imageThe first night we slept well and enjoyed the prosecco and beer we bought at a nearby store.  The next morning, it was raining and we enjoyed the luxury of sleeping to the sound of the raindrops falling on the terrace. Our host thoughtfully left an umbrella for us to investigate the neighborhood.  Greg purchased a map, but I’m pretty sure it is if Ancient Rome because we get lost, nonetheless.  At lunch we eventually found a great place where the owner kissed me and gave us some delicious cherries for dessert. For dinner we found a very small place that cooks fresh pasta daily to serve to the eight tables in the dining room.  We were seated with an American couple and enjoyed hearing about their travels through Europe.  At dinner we devoured two pasta entries, a carafe of house wine and cookies for dessert.  All of this for twenty-four euros. After dinner we visited an Irish pub and watched the American students order margaritas.  It is already more than we could hope for. Life is very good.

Flying Freakin’Forever

imageWe have been in airports, airplanes and sandwiched into seats forever.  At the airport I see older couples, going on trips, knowing this may be the last time they will independently travel.  The wheelchair bound travelers, relying  on the muscle and humanity of others. Also, there are children whining, crying and trying to hide their excitement. At different airports you notice different things, in Berlin the characters seem to be the backdrop of a zombie appocolypse movie. In Chicago, I noticed the professional travelers, the ones that look the part,  they roll a tiny suitcase, dress impeccably and wear stilettos like they mean business. They are neither harried nor excited. I belong to the group of pleasure travelers, we travel because we seek excitement, relaxation and especially a change in scenery.

I am sitting in the middle of an exit row. The big guy next to me does not care, he is taking over the armrest and I have no  recourse. I try to get a partial elbow on there, but he bullies his way to complete domination. I am sitting crooked, with my right arm inexplicably twisted behind me.  I intend to win this battle by waiting him out when he uses the restroom. The guy never gets up, he figured he was not going to lose his territory.

It’s interesting to me how intimately the passengers in steerage sit atop one another, but rarely speak. On the flight to Berlin I was pretty sure the lady in front of me was resting IN MY LAP yet we never spoke. Luckily, there was no offensive BO issues on this flight. That can be really tricky. Once, I was alone on a flight with really horrendous turbulence. Drinks went flying and people screamed. I am happy to report that I merely grabbed the hand of the stranger next to me and said “Jesus, Mary and Joseph.”   I figured that I would cover the entire holy family in that one desperate prayer.  I apologized profusely afterwards but never did get her name.

We wait in the Berlin airport. A mere three hour layover in a airport bereft of charm, personality or comfortable seating. When  we arrived at the airport, it was 8am Berlin time. Since it was 11pm Phoenix time it seemed appropriate to have a beer and a soft pretzel for breakfast.

You know that point in a trip when you are ready to come home, to come back to something that is familiar and warm? Well, I reached that point about four hours ago.   We boarded the plane to Rome from Berlin. We were on the runway and getting ready to take off. I was busy reading my book.  But Greg was paying attention. He is one who always pays attention. He told me the brakes were bad on the plane and we would need to get off.  I was sure he was mistaken, but a few minutes later we were all told in German that the brakes were “kaput”.   Next, we were deplaning and getting on a bus for a thirty second trip to the terminal (now I know why they call it terminal).   Once everyone was off the plane, mayhem ensued.  We were told to collect our luggage. Yes, even our carefully packed “American” carry-on luggage miraculously became “too heavy” for the EU and was banished to the belly of the plane. I only hope we do not face the same fate when we return to America. We waited for luggage, complained and then waited in yet another line.  But luckily our named was called, either because we were flying international or because my bubbly personality had charmed the ticket agent.  I’m pretty sure that I explained my last name translated to “horror” in German. Now we were scheduled for another plane to Rome.  We of course ordered anther beer and wine and waited for the next flight.  After two delicious German wines I was less concerned with making it to our destination.  The one thing that became painfully obvious to me was that there were no gate agents and the only moving of passengers we observed was in buses. Where the hell was the plane?

Have I mentioned that I have had a headache since Tuesday and its freaking Wednesday. Greg has gone to investigate.  Hopefully he will rangel up a plane and pilot willing to deliver us to Rone.  I am now praying that we get there today…..

The Power of a Positive Perspective

How a positive perspective can change everything.

I have always looked at the world with rose-colored glasses. I can’t help but see the bright side of everything. I believe in Santa, the Easter Bunny and in the future. I know in my heart tomorrow, it will be better. When I hear bad news I try to reframe it in my mind to better news.   Rain today means the lovely smell of creosote bushes and flowers tomorrow. I consider myself lucky, I have won numerous raffles, and even online contests. The reason I win is because I always buy the ticket! As Steve Forbert said, “You can not win if you do not play.”

When my youngest child was in the hospital, scheduled for open heart surgery I was sure that he was going to be alright. Thirty minutes before the surgery they discovered that he did not have the heart abnormality they had originally diagnosed, he went home that day.  I am grateful. I know I live a wonderful life with a man I love and three healthy, happy adult children. I think a positive outlook  can can alleviate so many worries. The glass is always half full to me.image

In contrast, my parents were children of The Great Depression. They both grew up without their mothers. My dad was definitely a glass half empty kind of guy. He not only believed that the glass was half empty, it was also teetering on the edge of the table ready to shatter in a million pieces and slice open a vein.  My mom had a rosier view of the world.  They loved traveling however, after a couple of plane crashes a friend asked my mom if she was afraid. “Why would I be afraid? If the plane crashed we would both die together, doing something we love.”  When she was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s Disease, after the tears and there were lots of tears she said, “Well, you have to die of something.”

Today the State Department announced an advisory on travel to Europe due to concern  about terrorism.  I am not worried. I will not think twice about our two month long trip to Europe.  This is our dream trip. I look forward to the sights, the people, the food and the adventures we will have. I will not be dissuaded by warnings and fear. We intend to immerse ourselves in the cultures, to learn about our fellow human beings and to make some new friends.

We leave in four days. My thoughts are not of dying, they are of plane connections, new sights, shopping and the anticipation of something new.  Right now all I’m thinking about is comfortable shoes and how many things I can fit into a plastic bag for my allowed liquids. It is amazing the number of things you need to include: toothpaste, sunscreen, moisturizer, eye drops, hair products etc. I really don’t think it will all fit.

Greg has the travel spreadsheet which includes all the necessary information for the accommodations, passports, flights, tours and EVERYTHING we might need for the trip. I no longer need to worry about tickets or anything related to the “travel documents.” That is because about fifteen years ago when we were driving to LA for a  family cruise, I picked up a large manilla envelope labeled “TRAVEL DOCUMENTS” and threw it in the garage. My only thought was that it was on my seat and in the way. Four hours after we left the house Greg asked for the envelope.  I told him I didn’t think it was important so I left it in the garage. At that point, I was pretty sure Greg considered leaving me at the border of Arizona and California. Yes there was screaming. But the point of the story is, it has become a favorite family anecdote and we made the cruise. I do not dwell on the fact that he drove an extra eight hours, because I no longer have the burden of travel documents. My only concerns are about connecting to WIFI , snagging a blanket on the plane and keeping up with the Line Leader.

My biggest worry is whether or not my headphones will keep out the noise of the adorable crying baby that will likely be sitting next to me.

 

International Insomniac 

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In college I slept through rowdy roomates, randy roommate and even downright rude roomates. I could close my eyes and I was asleep. When I went to bed with my husband he turned on the radio, “Please turn that off” I requested. “It’s the only way I can ever sleep” he explained. Greg grew up listening to Yankee games and Gene Shepard on the radio, it was his sure fire way to get to sleep. I eventually learned to get some sleep with the radio on, as long as it was boring talk radio or sports. My preferences were some guy talking on and on about trains or people talking about tonight’s game. The killer for me would be some news story, or worst of all some right-wing conservative. I would feel obligated to argue whatever point they were making, usually at 2am.

Once I had my three children sleep, as I had known it ceased. I would get up with the babies and feed them, change them and ensure they were breathing, comfortable, not too warm, not too cold, sleeping in the correct position etc. As my children grew I would worry about their well being, mostly very late at night.  Once my children were older I worried about them driving. We’ve had our share of car accidents and I am frankly shocked that we haven’t been blackballed by the entire car insurance industry. As my children grew and moved out on their own, my thought are of them in the middle of the night.  Sleep is elusive.   At home on a typical morning I rise at 4:20 am, because I love my 5am gym class.  At this point in my life, I figure  as the late, great Warren Zevon said, “I will sleep when I am dead”.

When we arrived in Rome we had not slept for twenty seven hours.  I was sure that the expensive European bed that our AirBnB had provided would lull me to sleep like a baby.  We tried to emulate the guidebooks gurus’ s advice and stay awake and get on Rome time as soon as possible.  We stayed up as late as we could, but soon I was wide awake at 2am.  In the afternoon we figured a short nap would help us.  Five hours later we awoke to the sound of seagulls cooing.

Since our arrival in Rome, I have been plagued with a headache every night.  At first I was concerned that I was allergic to Italian wine, luckily that was not the case.  I finally figured out that maybe I was suffering from caffeine withdrawal. After dinner I had a cappuccino and my headache vanished!  This was about 10 o’clock, but I was just happy to find relief.  Eventually exhaustion kicked in and we were both sound asleep.

I am so grateful for technology, it helps me keep in contact with family and friends.  Being so far away I love hearing about things that are going on back in Arizona.  I am a bit less appreciative of technology when my family and friends call on FaceTime or Skype at 2 or 4am. When my dentist’s office called at 3am two days ago I merely told them “I am in another country!” and promptly hung up.

I think now that I have kindly reminded my friends and family about time zone differences we may sleep all night tonight.  But for now I am AWAKE.  This morning  I enjoyed a espresso AND a cappuccino.  I think I still need to learn about moderation.