The Moment of Tooth part two....
Jim got back to the cottage before me. I arrived at 7.00.
The clemetis had been massacred by our now ex-gardener which meant all the beautiful white flowers that adorn the wall every spring were not there. My passion fruit trailers had all been hacked back too.
I nearly cried but told myself that everything grows back in time. But it was a horrible reminder that I don't spend enough time in my own home.
I found an old bag of Jims and packed just enough for a three night romp round Rome.
We retired to our big bed and set the alarm for a 9.30 departure.
The drive to Gatwick was smooth.
The check in was smooth.
Walking through the electronic gate was smooth until Eva Braun opened up the red case.
Jim and I don't look like terrorists, don't dress like bandits but I still had to run back and get two plastic bags to put our toiletries in. Bloody waste of time if you ask me. They confiscated my bottle of Johnsons pink lotion just in case I was hoarding baby bathtime semtex.
We paid for SB, which is not short for silly female dog who took up all our time. SB is short for speedy boarding. We were let on first and sat in the very front row. We both fell asleep as we climbed to 33,000 feet, touching down two hours later.
We had sprung forward once in time it was now the Italians turn so we lost yet another hour.
Off first, bus to the terminal and a ruck at the taxi desk who wanted to charge us twenty euro's more than the fixed price. Jim told me not to be so aggressive and I realised I was operating as a solo woman, which is what I normally am. I didn't need to get defensive as I was with the old man, I'd forgotten how two heads really can work better than my single fuzzy one.
Thus began the most expensive three days of our marriage, although given that we were only 60 miles from the earthquake there is not one squeak of a complaint. We have our lives, each other and a future.
Our hotel was a three star on Via Veneto. Opposite the Church of Isadora where bones from dead monks are assembled. We didn't get a chance to view them. The first night we wandered off to the Trevi Fountain to throw in our penniesworth, but there were so many kids hanging round the edge you needed to be a Russian shot putter to land the three coins in a fountain let alone make a wish. Although my wish was simple - to get rid of all the other people.
We went into a rustic restaurant for supper, a male Julie Walters waiter, stumbled up and down stairs to bring us our authentic Italian supper. No smiles, a telly on in the background and a re-mortgage for a bowl of sticky pasta and limp arugela salad.
Outside our hotel there were seven cattle grids in the road. All night cars, lorries, taxis and scooters rattled over the metal bars. It was like trying to sleep in the middle of Ashdown Forest.. Clackerty clack no turning back. But despite the bottle wagon at three, the police siren at four, the cattle grid at five, six, seven, eight, eight-thirty and nine we got a good nights sleep - more or less.
Travelling the metro always makes me feel I'm holiday, so we took five stops to meet up with Janette, our American tour guide, and 17 other suckers, outside the metro by the Vatican. It had already cost us £70 to get into the Vatican, Janette asked us for £40 so we could visit the Vatican museum, so far we had only taken thirty eight steps around Rome and had spent three hundred quid. It would have been cheaper to take a cruise round the Cape of Good Hope....
Janette held up her orange umbrella and we followed like tourists, which of course we were.
The noise, the crowds, the rain, the crush, Janette herded us willingly through the Vatican miles and, like docile sheep, we followed. Through one corridor with fig leaved Gods, under an archway to a red marble bath, round the courtyard for coffins, Raphael, Michael Angelo, Bellini, Bernini and the knowledge that in the vaults of the Vatican were masses of marble mens-morbilia. A long time ago an irate, offended Pope had run through the statues striking off their man hoods punishing them for their original sin. Taliban eat your hearts out. Some thoughtful novice had kept all the broken boy-bits-in-boxes out of the way of prying eyes.
The Sistene Chapel was so crowded I felt like Michael Angelo meself. He spent four years looking up, arguing with Raphael and going blind in the process as the plaster from the ceiling fell into his eyes and over his skin. When he finished the job he couldn't move his neck for years. So the Sistene Chapel was the orginal pain in the proverbial...When Raphael saw the brilliant work The Angelo had done he forgave him for being a lowly sculpture and honoured him by placing him in the centre of his massive painting in the gallery next door, you know its michael Angelo cos he's wearing boots and has a rye smile knowing that it was a good job done even thought he did all that work for free.
I have to say standing in the chapel with three thousand other paying guests whilst Mussolini lookalikes shouted SILENCE in Italian, was not my idea of a spirtiual moment, but it is still something worth looking up to.
It was a relief to get out into the sunshine. Which was on limited display as the rain clouds were gathering. Good job I packed my Packamac.
We left the Vatican and walked to the Spanish Steps. Jim took photographs and I took thirty winks alongside two Australian girls who were sleeping head to head on their rolled up sleeping bags.
From the Spanish steps we hobbled back to our tiny room where Jim discovered a lever in the wall of the bathroom. Flipping it turned the lavatory into a bidet. We were both so excited we used it more times than we should have, the temperature was perfect.
Supper that night was a thin, home made pizza next door.
We slept a little longer that night and decided that our final day would be the polar opposite. We'd done the Catholics on Tuesday so Wednesday would be for the Jews. Jim is a great navigator so he got us first to one column then another. Photographs were taken in front of several different Ceasars, which made me want a salad. So we ended up in the old Ghetto. eating the best bean and barley soup this side of Tel Aviv.
Off we went to yet another ruin when the heavens opened. We stood underneath a tree that had been planted before Christ. Having walked on mosaic that was two thousand years old it was time to brave the rain and wind and tourists and head for our hotel. After a quick burst on the bidet it was a small nap.
That night we wanted our last supper to be special. I asked the angels to guide us somewhere memorable.
We walked up one street down another. I couldn't settle. Jim was getting edgy. Nothing was suitable either too expensive, too light, too dark, too dirty, too empty or too sad. Then we passed an unimpressive looking road. We turned left. Dark, ugly, Caribineri vans everywhere. A high wall hiding a prison?. No entry here, blocked off there. It was horrible. Then Jim said in broad Yorkie;
'It would be your fantasy wouldn't it that we would swing to the right and there would be your dream restaurant?'
'Yes' I said 'Of course.'
So we did. We swung to the right and the angels had listened.
Light, but not too bright, crowded, all Italians, bubbles of laughter and exquisite home-made food,the best Romano restaurant in Roma. We had no reservation so I begged the Maitre D' to give us a table. We queued for at least 45 minutes and were finally seated for the best Italian food I have ever tasted. Served by old experienced waiters. Only Gennaro Contaldo could compete with the freshest mozzarella - it melted on the tongue. Only Gennaro's mama could compete with the most delicate Ricotta, served in wedges that looked like fancy ice-cream. The pasta was cooked to perfection, the salad fresh, Jim's lamb crisp and tasty. I have to say it was marginally cheaper than our taxi fair to the airport, and even though it upset my stomach - I think it was the clams - it was worth every visit to our newly found lavatorial delight.
The alarm went off at 6.30 on Thursday morning. We took breakfast in the art-deco dining room. Green and yellow stained glass with red and blue flashes and a creamy opague white background. The eggs were still scrambled but the water was hot and the cups not stained with old coffee.
Onto the plane, SB boarding and then a thirty minute wait for our air space.
We arrived in Blighty bang on time. Jim had polished off a small bottle of expensively, cheap red wine and I had a hot chocolate. I did not share his pringles, yuk.
We arrived back in the cottage just in time for me to unpack, complain about the clemetis again and then head off to the dentist where the hygenist told me that my tooth could not be saved.
Sliding into our big bed was bliss. It was good to be home although our French bidet could not compete with the Italian job.
I had to prepare myself for Friday morning when the Tooth will out.....
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Oh my God you just described my trip to Rome, 10 years ago, it hasn't changed at all, I remember wanting to shout "shut up" in the sistine chapel! Glad to have you back
Love Marmite xx
I wish you and yours a blessed Passover