Arriving in Rome

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February 10th 2020
Published: February 11th 2020
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Hail Caesar!! A quick outline to start our trip. It will begin with a few days in Rome followed by three weeks on a cruise ship and ending with a few days in Dubai. We left Gabriola early Wednesday, taking a ferry to Nanaimo, followed by a half hour cab ride to Duke Point. From there we boarded the larger ferry for a two hour ride to Vancouver followed by a bus ride and sky train to the airport. After all this, hauling two suit cases and a backpack, we awaited for our shuttle to La Quinta hotel. It never arrived. The weather was dark and grey and wet and the people at the airport seemed depressed and subdued. Monica finally phoned the hotel and we were told the shuttle had broken down and to just grab a cab and the hotel would pay. It was a long first day and we had only made it as far as Vancouver. The next day, Thursday, we returned to the airport and boarded our KLM flight to Amsterdam. We took off at 3:30 Thursday afternoon and arrived at 10:30 Friday morning. The flight was ten hours and we had lost another nine hours flying east. The seats seemed small to Monica and I - or maybe we have just gotten a little older and a little larger. We slept very little. We spent the next four hours in the airport in Amsterdam. The sun was shining and the sky was blue. The people seemed much more alive and positive than the solemn dregs we had left behind in Vancouver. Even the customs guy - leafing through our passports - asked if we had climbed Kilamanjaro to the top. When we replied that we only had made it to base camp, he laughed and shook his head as he stamped our passports. Our flight to Rome left at 2:00 in the afternoon and we arrived shortly after four. Disembarking, grabbing our luggage, and boarding a 90 minute bus ride into central Rome, meant finding our hotel at around seven amid darkening skies. We dropped off our bags in our room and stumbled to a nearby restaurant, Casa Maria, for some fettuccine and calabrone. We fell into bed, not waking until two in the afternoon on Saturday. Rome has a large and majestic history. The empire emerged some time around 509BC and lasted for over
confession booth confession booth confession booth

Would have taken too long
a thousand years. Even after the demise of the western half, the eastern section of the empire lasted until around the 19th century. However, without Rome, this part centred around Constantinople, was renamed the Byzantine empire. The rise and spread of the Christian church is central to Rome’s many influences on our modern world. We are staying in a somewhat old hotel called the San Giubileo. We are a mere ten minute walk from the Colasseum. It is small but certainly doable. The cost of food and shelter is surprisingly low here - a room can be had for 60-70 Euros, a meal for two for under 40, and a bottle of good wine for around five. The euro is worth only slightly more than the US dollar. The downtown area is filled with hundreds of restaurants and tourist shops. The food is almost always good. At times, the service people seem a little short on patience, however one must take into account that they are dealing with tourists constantly. On the whole, a demanding and slow moving crowd. The cobblestone streets are relatively clean and constantly filled with pedestrians which adds a bit of security to one’s mind. We arose Sunday at a usual hour and met with our friend Liz who we knew from Arusha in Tanzania. She lives in Rome but has roots in the US - her mother lives in Dallas - and has lived in many parts of the world including Japan and Iraq. She took us to two of the largest public churches in Rome - the San Giovanni and and the San Paulo. One could fit a half dozen or more of our North American churches inside each of these and still have plenty of space. At San Giovanni, more than one service was going on at the same time. There were a number of areas each dedicated to a different Pope or holy figure from the past. It is all New Testament stuff with many statues of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The art work is nothing short of magnificent. The church of San Paulo is actually dedicated to the apostle St. Paul. In the centre of this large church - certainly the size of three or four football fields - is an open tomb that supposedly contains the bones and remains of Paul after he was beheaded. It was wonderful to see Liz again and she was so helpful in introducing us to the Metro (subway system) and the commuter train set up. This brings me to our cruise. We were set to board our ship on Tuesday, however Norwegian has informed us that work on the boat will delay our trip boarding until Friday. The down side is that we will miss the Greek Islands - Athens, Crete, Rhodes, - and will have to find lodging for three more nights here in Rome. The upside is that there is certainly more than enough to see and do here in Rome to fill in the three days, and Norwegian has given us a 25% discount on this cruise and another 25% on any future cruise. Monica and I quickly decided that we will have to simply plan another trip to see Greece. I will finish with a story concerning Leonardo da Vinci. Seeing Liz and being here in Rome brought this to mind. It is well known that da Vinci was gay. His home was in Florence but he lived a kind of nomadic existence due to the fact that he was respected and admired for his intelligence and artistic skills,
Crucifiction door.Crucifiction door.Crucifiction door.

Must have been 100 feet high
yet somewhat shunned for his sexual preferences. There was a handsome young man who worked in Florence as Leonardo’s stable hand and serving boy. Let’s call him Ricardo. They had a relationship of sorts but it is not certain whether Leonardo loved the boy or simply loved loving him. Leonardo often travelled from town to town, selling his art and written works and looking for new inspirations. While away on one of his trips out of Florence, Ricardo caught the plague and died quickly, unbeknownst to Leonardo. However that is not the end of the saga. It seems that Ricardo had a twin sister named Elizabeth. Physically, they were almost identical - tall and willowy, with olive coloured skin and long dark hair. Growing up, they had often dressed in each other’s clothes and gone out in public, amazed at how no one could tell who was who. Elizabeth very much enjoyed dressing as Ricardo - she felt much more free out of the confining clothes women were forced to wear. She also liked doing things that girls would not be allowed to do. By her late teens, she was skilled both with a sword and on horseback. With Ricardo’s death, Elizabeth knew that she would have to do something to save her family from starvation. Hearing of Leonardo’s impending return, she dawned Ricardo’s hat and boots along with his leather clothing. She tied her hair back and prepared to meet Leonardo as her brother Ricardo. Da Vinci returned in a state of depression. His artistic skills had hit a wall and he simply could not find any inspiration. Plus his funds were running low. He returned to Florence in a state of self pity and despair. Riding in, he simply threw the reins of his horse at Ricardo/Elizabeth without a second look, and ambled off to his solitary room. Elizabeth kept this charade up for a bout a week. She cared and groomed da Vinci’s horse, prepared and delivered his food and laid out his clothes. But after dinner one night, Leonardo emerged and demanded that his boy join him in bed. In a panic, Elizabeth tried to escape but Leonardo grabbed her and - thinking she was Ricardo - kissed her and reached down inside her pants. Finding nothing, da Vinci became hostile and tore the clothes off of Elizabeth. Discovering that his love had actually been towards a young women and not his young man, Leonardo flew into a rage filled with anger and shame. Elizabeth froze in fear in the hands of the great da Vinci. But within this rage and shame, Leonardo felt a new wave of inspiration. He ordered the young women to sit silently and unmoving. And then he began to sketch. For two days she sat, unmoving and frozen in fear while da Vinci worked his magic. Later, when the paint had dried, Elizabeth had become Liz, and Liz had become Lisa. The Mona Lisa. (My acknowledgement and thanks to Timothy Findlay - a great writer)

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11th February 2020

thank you, how fabulous, huge doors!! wow
12th February 2020
San Giovanni

Hi M&M---great intro! Love the wine and food in Rome, too! Imagine confessing your sins in that mighty impressive looking confession booth. Maybe your postponement for departure is meant to be. Now you have to take a separate trip to Greece. That country deserves your time. Living vicariously through you both. Keep the blogs coming!
12th February 2020

just checking
Hey M&M...left a comment but not sure whether it was in tandem with one of your excellent photos. If you got it, then ignore this message. Keep the blog going Marty!
14th February 2020

We were wondering what you two were doing....
A Mediterranean cruise! Wonderful. We did a similar cruise out of Rome, over 10 years ago. I didn't know about the Mona Lisa story. We just finished a Panama Canal cruise. Love your blogs. Have fun!!

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