Monday, October 6, 2014

Rome. Day 2 - Up on the Roof of Rome. Down the Alleys of History.

And I’m back.

Back in all ways possible.
Back with the blog and back in Bucharest.

So now that I am back I can continue this saga of Rome as I literally did not have the time to write anything while we were there. We were out all day from morning till late at night. But then again, that’s what a vacation is all about right?

To take it back in time a little bit and explain some of the stuff I said in the prior post, I haven’t been that well with my health lately. In fact my stomach has taken the worst blow I’ve undergone in the last four years or so. A few weeks ago my grandpa has been diagnosed with cancer and has shown malign tumors on his bones, just where he has broken them a few years ago. On top of it all, his health has deteriorated incredibly fast. We’re talking about two weeks. From mild pain killers we are now going on morphine in high doses and he is in terrible pain sometimes. It was a shot gun blast to the head, a bullet through my body flying at light speed. It may sound dramatic but upon hearing the news, I seized to exist for a few days. I have seen him so close to death a few times that I thought I’d somehow be prepared for this. And then we got him into hospital for a mere treatment to strengthen his immune system and next thing I know he started getting worse and he was diagnosed with this. Just like that. He is literally fading before my eyes. Got so skinny and tiny and small. And fragile. And incoherent. I’ve seen this disease in its many forms in other people I knew in time. From lung to liver to bone and throat cancer. Now my grandpa is here and I recognize all the signs.

And my brain simply couldn’t accept it. Not so fast. Not so sudden. Then there were a few more other things, a stupid argument with my twin sis that literally capped sized my boat completely. At the same time some things went right. Finally. Some of my plans started taking form just when I least expected them and when I had almost lost all hope. Then, out of the blue and from literally unthought of circumstances, I met someone who feels like the perfect fit and in the middle of it all I am so fucked up, trying, like a stork, to balance my life properly, with one foot in a bucket of abundant happiness and joy and one foot in the bitterest of sorrows and the greatest of despairs.

Thank God I’m good with words right? I think I’m being eloquent enough as to how shitty I felt at times for the past month. Or how extremely happy I’ve been. So when vacation time came I didn’t really feel in the mood for it. A week before leaving I got sick, lost weight in a weekend as much as I’d lose in a month. Kept crying at work. Felt miserable. And guilty. Because I had to leave at this time when I didn’t know what could happen to my grandpa and I might not be here. Not that I can change anything at this point. It’s a matter of time. I would be fortunate to have him around until Christmas. Or perhaps spring at best. I know it. It is in my heart.

Mom turned into a wreck. Lost so much weight as well while being with him in hospital for two weeks. Eventually we decided we’re going to make the trip because we had already paid for it and because we needed the break. Both of us. When she came in and I picked her from the bus stop she looked ghostly. And very silent. She almost didn’t say a thing the entire journey home which has never ever happened. When we got home she took a shower and fell asleep for three hours. She woke up, had something to eat then slept again until the next day. I didn’t even know how to approach the subject. And she’s my mom, I don’t need to approach a subject. We are best friends. We talk about everything.

But this is our family. Four people basically. Not so many cousins, no brothers, no sisters. Each of us is a pillar in the others’ existence. And grandpa for grandma is not only a pillar. He is everything. And she is growing older with his pain, terrified at his demise and completely weakened and scared at the prospect of not having him at all after 57 years together. How do you even consider that?

When we left, we managed to put some excitement into our bones. Mom got some proper rest that week so she was a bit better. Plus flying always excites her so that was a good thing. The evening we landed, I must confess, I was not impressed. Not impressed at all. Coming out of the Termini train station felt like coming out on the streets of Bucharest. The filthy back door ones, with people sleeping on the streets, weird characters shadowing the long whole filled sidewalks, the small second hand cheap Chinese shops with the walls of buildings covered in graffiti. I told mom that maybe it looked better in day light haha.

And it did, a little. We got a comfy room and the people at the reception were absolutely marvelous. One was Magda, our Romanian fellow. The other guy, shame on me, I don’t remember his name, lent me his internet details to use throughout my entire stay! What a wonderful guy, very calm and charming.

Which brings us to the subject at hand actually. The first day in Rome. Our visit to the Colosseum, Palatine Hill, the Roman Forum and beyond. When we were at home, my gym subscription expired and I did not renew it knowing I’d be out most of the month. So I ran in the park and did my Jillian Michaels workouts which can be pretty intensive. Mom insisted she wants to try them out even though she doesn’t have my training. And I think she weakened one of her knees. So the morning we woke up in Rome the damn loose joint started hurting. Badly. So we stopped at the drug store and got some anti-inflammatory for her. The pain went down a bit the next day so the poor thing had to endure the stairs in the Colosseum with the tenacity and silence that characterize her all the time. Nothing much she could do about it either.

All in all, we walked our way from the Hotel to the Basilica San Giovanni where we had our first encounter with the incredible beauty and immensity of Roman architecture. Italy is truly the country of marble. Everything is made out of marble of all shapes and colors. It’s breath taking. Soon after leaving the basilica we took a breakfast break and had tea and a croissant in one of the small cafés on the side of the street. There are so many here, hidden among the alleys.

San Giovanni Basilica

Tea and a croissant to start the day 

Then, using the map we got from the hotel, up Via Labicana, moving down the small streets up to the Colosseum. The queue outside almost disappointed us. But before we could even think about it, we encountered the funny Roman “soldiers” outside, who, for ten euros, staged a whole masquerade in front of the ancient gladiator arena. And when we finally stood in the queue we were amazed with how fast things moved along. We got the tickets and we were on our way exploring the inside of this incredible looking building. Did you know they could flood the Colosseum for maritime games and that they used 80 pulley maneuvered elevators to lift the props, gladiators and wild animals up on the arena from down in the catacombs? Or that they had dug underground passages stretching like two or three sub stops away from the Colosseum where the gladiator barracks were? And they did this, what, 2,000 years ago? With the insufficient knowledge and precarious tools they had at the time? Or where they? From the looks of it, their work has sustained the rain and scorching sun and the weight of thousands of people coming to attend the games and later on to visit it. And the whole structure is still in place pretty much. Which reminds me that the steps to my block, built in 2009, collapsed yesterday again. I am sure that building won’t last for 2,000 years. It’s amazing and humbling the eye knowing the effort those people have put into all that. And we’re looking at the mere remains of what used to be the Colosseum. Can you only imagine its might and imposing beauty when it was intact and decorated! I’d pay heavy money (that I don’t have!!! Haha) to go back in a time machine if it was ever invented to have a look at Rome back in Caesar’s time. What a wonder!

Mom resting her knee from the climb. 
Paintings off the walls in Pompeii
They were displayed at the Colosseum
I wish one day I visit Pompeii. What a great experience that would be!

Down the Colosseum and into the alleys behind it and we found our way up the Palatine Hill. We stopped for a snack and had some yogurt and a banana. Mom, in her everlasting care and organizational spirit brought plastic spoons and napkins. I need to really learn from her when I have my own kids. Unless I buy them drinkable yogurt and get the spoons out of the way haha.

Oh wait. How could I possible skip this part? So, we’re at the Colosseum and I see this broken statue of a horse and rider. Now. The balls on that horse: huge man! So I’m left to wonder: they have all these immense statues of all the Romans and Gods and whatnot, white marble, worked down to the last detail, exceptional stuff, right? Big muscular well fit guys, strong legs and shaped arms, tight abs and broad shoulders, curly hair. Long beards, even the wrinkles on their foreheads. Yet when it comes to their manhood is like they ran out of material. What? Did all the marble go to waste on the lips alone or what’s the idea? And if you could find enough marble to make huge balls on horse, you couldn’t find half an inch of stone to add to the man’s pride?!?!?! Seriously!!! How can you build such incredibly beautiful bodies then shame them that way. I understand they didn’t pay attention to such taboo details, but if they were so much into showing the human body in its plenitude, well… there’s no plenitude where I’m looking! My beautiful handsome Achilles has been mutilated that way! Unacceptable! Maybe they needed to send their sculptors to Africa for like, cultural exchanges or something, to encounter a nation that adored the definition of a phallus and actually came with a very iconic, “long” and “protuberant” image of it in most of their statues.

No comment.
Anyway. Just a note to the injustice they had caused these beautiful men. Such a pity. Ah yes. And then there was the leaf. One was surely enough to cover it all. Sad. So sad.

Going back to the Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum. Took us about three hours to get through the whole thing. But then again mom and I are the kind of people to look at everything and discuss all the little corners and entrances and window details and God knows what else, so of course it took forever. Plus she stole some lime and lemons. haha Plus the pictures and sitting on a bench here and there to enjoy the view, listen to the sounds of nature and pretty much grasp on the feeling of being on a natural roof of Rome. Eventually we made it down to the Roman Forum and out to see Trajan’s Column in Piazza Venezia. I’ve learnt of that thing and what it pictured in my history books in school. Seeing it live put a different meaning to the historical tales.

Caesar's Forum in Piazza Venezia
Up the palatine Hill. There were Roman baths, a vinyard, an arena, kitchenes and homes and catacombes beneath. There is a maze up there!

Natural springs formed in the chambers beneath the main buildings.

Mom would have uprooted and stolen all the bay leaf trees she could find! haha
Details off the gate leading out o the Roman Forum.

We were famished by the time we were done so we literally took the first restaurant we set our eyes on which was a huge mistake. Piece of advice: when in Rome, always look for the restaurants down the smaller alleys not the one set right in the middle of the square, because on top of the city tax that you pay with your meal, per person, at all times, you also get semi-cooked food and not the real thing. Just like we did here. We were too hungry to complain and the view took some of the dissatisfaction away, but still. That was the only bad meal we had in Rome. The rest of the time, it was awesome. Best pasta I’ve ever eaten. Unfortunately being on treatment and continuous diet I had to be careful what I ate. But still had pizza and ice-cream damn it. That bitch (namely my stomach) gotta make a compromise for me here and there!

Talking about ice cream, the first one I’ve got was a mixture of forest fruit and figs. Then walnuts with mango, then yogurt with papaya. And the list goes on. So, indulging on these kind of goods we went up Via del Corso, stopped by the Palazzo Cipola and then turned right and went to the Fontana di Trevi. Unfortunately it was under construction so we didn’t see much of it. Nonetheless we threw some coins in a pocket of water we found laying in a corner of the pool floor. We had visited Stan and Cami the weekend before and Stan had given me, jokingly, a coin to throw in there for him. He said he wished he got more support for the charity as there are so many good trainable puppies in, that he needs help to raise and train them all. He probably thought I’d never do it. But I did! And also caught it on camera for him to see!

From there we literally got lost on the small streets leading to the Palazzo del Quirinale, where if I had missed climbing up some steps, I relieved my nightmare. Haha. We rested a bit, then we went to the Basilica Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri. Now here, in terms of the building itself, I was astonished by the same immensity and beauty. What was special about this place was the music. As we entered the basilica, this soothing music played from somewhere in a separate room. A choir of some sort, it somehow hit home. Voices of angels. Honey. Sweetness. It brought me to my knees with tears in my eyes remembering my grandpa. As if I had actually forgotten him for a second, as we called at least three times a day to check on him. I don’t really pray. I talk to God. He hardly ever responds but that’s ok. I get it. He’s a busy man. And I do get some answers one way or another. I need to trust my instinct for that matter. We spent like twenty minutes there. I almost did not want to leave.

A note should be made that most churches here are dedicated to Virgin Mary and that mostly all of them, just like the piazzas, have a fountain or obelisk or column of some sort in front of them. Anyway. We left the Piazza della Repubblica and this basilica behind just to end up visiting another major intersection and tourist point, the Basilica Santa Maria Maggiore in the Square baring the same name. The interesting thing here, other than the fact that we made a small donation to an NGO the church supported to help cure the drug addicts, was this huge line on the pavement marking the signs of the zodiac and the planets. I read what they meant but didn’t understand much haha. Something related to the combinations and positioning of the planets and their alignment as to the signs. Important is I found mine. Looked pretty cute! Haha

Some details from the stores we went into. Loved this one!

From there down Via Carlo Alberto we arrived to the Vittorio Emanuelle garden. And like any respectful garden in Rome it had some ruins in it! We concluded the day walking by the Manzoni sub stop, up Bixia Street and to our hotel.

We took a quick shower and then went back to Manzoni, took the sub to Lepanto to have dinner with Cristina. It so happened she was there with work for a week and we had to find a way and see each other. We went to one of the infamous Trattoria restaurants. Had some Quattro frommagi pizza as a starter, what the hell else? Haha I could’ve eaten that whole thing by myself, I was so hungry at that point. Then mom and I had beef cooked in green pepper sauce. ZELICIOUS!!!!! Cristina had rise with sea food. Had some of hers too, what else are friends for? Haha

At the end Cristina had a digestive drink tasting more like medicine but it seemed to work. We made mom have a taste and she was hilarious at it. We chatted some more, split the bill (‘cause Cristina is such a sweetheart!) then left to the sub. Another session of idiotic/sweetish pictures and then we were off to a good night sleep.

And I did sleep like a damn rock. Next morning, waking up at 7:30AM, eating breakfast in the house, then off for some tea and more visiting. But Day 2 in Rome is to come.

Until then, take a look at the pictures and see them differently now that you have a bit more details from behind the scenes haha.

Many hugs and kisses and have a great week,

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