First off, I left off on the way to Roma.
Roma, Roma, Roma.
The land of the Pope. By the time you're reading this, you will have heard for sure that the Pope was knocked down by a woman during Christmas services. It wasn't Jodi!
Our place in Roma was quite nice. The staff were great, and it was a few blocks from a Metro station, and around the corner from the Vatican. We did spend some good quality time at the Vatican, with Benny - who we had an audience with. It was kind of surreal to be there. Not just because I'm Jewish, but because I haven't experienced a high school pep rally religious event.
The Pope held court, well....as only the Pope or Queen (or a queen!) really could. He sat in his seat/throne, and there was cheering, signs (B-E-N-E-D-I-C-T-E!!!), balloons, flags and the like - much like you'd expect before an American high school football game. He read his shpiel in Italian, and then it was translated/synopsized by him into French, English, German, and then some other fellas did Polish and Portuguese. It's great that's he's able to do so many languages, but I wonder if people that speak Portuguese and Polish feel that he's giving them the shaft. And no, that's not a slam at the pedophile Roman Catholic priests.
Getting the tickets, which were free, was an adventure. Jodi said that we should see about getting tickets, on the Monday before the Papal address. I went online and found a website that said you should order them a few weeks before. Minimum. WELL...I played the newlywed card, and emailed them in the hopes of getting the tickets. Not that I'm religious, let alone Catholic or a believer that Jesus Christ was anything more than a Jewish fella who had a following. Much like me. I'm a Jewish fella that has a following, but I'm not able to walk on water, turn water into wine, or any of those other miracles Jesus is purported to have done, but I have some crazy mad skills in the kitchen.
But enough about me, my delusions/visions of grandeur, and sugar plum fairies dancing in my head.
They emailed me back and congratulated us on our wedding (I left out the Jewish part!) and told us that we could indeed come to the church and pick up the tickets. Which is great, except for the fact that we went to the Vatican to pick up our tickets. We spent some good quality time going through security checks and talking to several groups/pairings of Swiss Guards (Nice outfits fellas!!!) who had no idea what we were talking about.
We knew that we had to get the tickets before 6:00 or so, and it was almost 5:00. (That's 18:00 and 17:00 in European time, which they're fond of over on this side of the Atlantic!) So, frustrated, we went back to our B&B to check and see if I could find the website again, to see what we needed to do to pick up the tickets.
Not only had they sent us an email that had the address for the church (Santa Susanna), we also had until 6:45 to go find the church and Father Tom, who had the tickets. With Jodi's superb navigating skills (and I may give her the gears about getting us lost from time-to-time, she's got a REALLY good sense of direction, reads maps really well and dammit, is nowhere near as geographically challenged as I am!) we got there, found Father Tom, made a 5 euro donation to the church for the tickets - that and the money for the Vatican Museums and climb up the dome at St. Peter's Basilica is the last money the Roman Catholic church is getting from me until they realize that abortion and homosexuality are not wrong/sins, and that they need to enter the modern era.
Quick, fast and in a hurry. No worries. Flavor Vision ain't blurry. (This Public Enemy break has been brought to you by the word "Gay", the concept "Womens' Right to Control What Happens to their Body", and enough with the church not dealing with the problem of pedophile priests. There's obviously something wrong with the "system" if priests are molesting children/boys. Fix it, or perish in a fiery inferno of wrath and righteousness. But that's just my two cents worth.)
The audience was weird, in that I don't attend services as a Jew. Though, I have been going to Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services with Jodi and her parents the last couple of years. It's interesting, in that I don't pray (I can read Hebrew, but I don't know what I'm reading!), but end up looking around and sort of spending time thinking about me and my life. That reflection is good and healthy, but I've been doing a fair bit of that while away on this trip and suspect that I'll be doing more of it when we return from our travels. It's part and parcel of being an educator, to be a reflective practitioner, and something that I spent a lot of time doing last year while in a difficult spot of having a tough class, in a different division (4/5 (junior) versus kindergarten) and obviously new curriculum, and teaching styles needed as a result.
I don't know that I have much place for religion in my life. I know that I was born Jewish, and that my grandmother was born Scottish Presbyterian. I know that I have cousins who are observant Jews and cousins who are living with non-Jews. I have a Jewish brother-in-law and a non-Jewish sister-in-law, and those of you who know me and my life, know that Jewish doesn't make anyone better or worse in my life.
So, me and religion are currently on the outs.
I think that churchs displays of ostentatious wealth - the gold, silver, marble, statues, paintings and the like - is disgusting. Don't stand up on the pulpit and preach charity when the killings and starvation that have occured (and continue to occur) in the name of relgion have left our world in a sad state of affairs. The wealth of the Roman Catholic Church (and the monarchies of several countries - England namely) would go a long, long, LONG way to help developing countries and continents, and aid with global warming.
It's beautiful, and nauseating, pretty much simultaneously.
The churches/basilicas/duomos are huge, yet barely get used. I'm not suggested tearing them down, but perhaps it's time to re-evaluate the role of religion in the world. I'm just throwing it out there. Believe me, I know that I'm not expecting people to jump up and applaud, but I think it's a dialogue worth having.
Roma was also the continuation of my leather bag quest. A satchel. A man bag. A murse. We had been looking at several places while in Milano, but they were either too expensive or not what I was looking for. It was the same in Roma. Except far too often we'd chance on a store with leather bags that looked like they might do the trick, but the store was closed, and we weren't returning to that neck of the woods again.
The showers at our place weren't great. They APPARENTLY had 50 litres of hot water, but there only seemed to be about 2 or 3 by the time I got in the shower. Morning, afternoon or night. So, shaving for my Papal audience involved a lot of cold water. Thankfully, I didn't cut my head, like I did in Malaga. Jodi made us some MEAN cappuchino. I didn't know she had the crazy mad barista skills, until she reminded me that she worked at Second Cup about 20 years ago. We had some yummy wafers from their "breakfast bar" - chocolate and vanilla - that I kept putting into a sandwich bag and we'd eat them through the day. And night!
We ate some enh to REALLY good food in Roma. We were looking for a place in our book that gave free wine with dinner. Maybe they went out of business for giving away the free wine, but we ate at the place that replaced them. This place was owned by the same people that had the place across AND down the street. In fact, Jodi had to go down the street to use the loo. In any event, there was us and an Asian guy in there. The food was enh. We at a super yummy place called Dititrambo (no connection to Sly Stallone so far as I can tell!), and started with our pattern of sharing a salad, and having a pasta/primi each. In Italy they serve a primi (starter) and secondi (entree). Some places have larger primis and secondis, much like you'd find places all over that serve larger portions. It was really hit and miss, and no matter what your guidebook(s) say, you only learn by experience.
TV in our room was an adventure. Once we figured out how to turn on the TV/satellite, we had about 1000 channels, of which about ten were in English. EVERY language under the sun, including a myriad of Arabic/Middle Eastern channels. We watched WAY too much BBC World News, but their programming is pretty good. Some good interview shows. A WWII POW who is 93 and a great interview (done by a new fave: Steve Sackur (sic), who also did the next one), and a chippy chap with a bunch of people involved with the Copenhagen talks - the head of the Maldives, the South African Environmental Minister, the Swedish (?) leader and Mexico's leader. I can never remember who has a PM and who has a President, so we'll go with leader and head. REALLY interesting panel discussion. My bottomline on the environment is that everyone needs to get their S**T together before we really destroy the Earth. We're certainly well on our way to do that. Those of you that know my love for Joe Rogan standup have heard my sandwich/bacteria analogy, and I stick to it. We're bacteria and the Earth is a sandwich. All we're doing is eating it up.
We're eating the freakin' sandwich!
There was also entertaining porn ad channels, that rotated between women talking on the phone (or pretending to talk on the phone) or women slowly taking their clothes/bikinis off. The latter was FAR superior to the former, but still painfully inferior and lacking in quality. In any event, if the BBC World News was something I'd seen - they also had a great piece on athletes and depression - then I'd flip channels. Oh, and the women talking/pretending to talk on the phone would often have pretty good music in the background, frequently from the 80s and 90s, which made the channels somewhat (SOMEWHAT!!!) more compelling.
We ate some good pizza in Roma - Hostaria Da Dino and Bafletto come to mind - and some KILLER gelato. San Crispino for sure.
We went to the Colisseum (the outside) and couldn't quite figure out how to get into the Forum or Palatine Hill - which is just as good, since I probably would have found them PAINFULLY boring. I'm not too good with "old stuff" that isn't overly interesting. Seeing something because it's old and famous is like going to see that older relative who smells like rose water or moth balls. Except you have to go see that older relative and that old thing while away isn't mandatory/the "right" thing to do.
But that's just me.
In Firenze (Florence, not to beconfused with "Mel, KISS MY GRITS!!!" Flo, from "Alice") we wandered around, and found THE LEATHER MARKET!!! But we didn't have any money. Which is where the adventure began, since I didn't want to find the bag, AKA THE BAG!!!!!, only to find that we couldn't pay for it.
Both our cards were not accepted in any bank machine. We probably tried a half-dozen, until we were outside the Duomo and found a bank machine that would allow us to withdraw money. Maybe it was divine intervention, or maybe it was just a good connection with our bank. Regardless, we had euros and went off in search of dead animal skin.
After looking at about 50 booths, Jodi bought a purple purse (the "in" colour in Europe this season, and both of our fave colour, along with green. Go figure, they were our wedding colours!) and I got a black satchel/man bag. (Thanks to Carly and Lavinia for suggesting Firenze's leather market on market day!)
It seems that Italy has a thing for toilets with no seats, in restaurants. It may have to do with men peeing on the seats, or something else, but it's something we saw quite a few times.
It was cold and snowy in Firenze. Even by Canadian/Toronto standards. Not quite by Montreal or Winnipeg standards mind you, which is why it's called Winterpeg by so many. And to think that we're possibly going to be house-sitting in Montreal in February! Since we sold our place in Toronto, we're homeless. YAY!!! We're not stuck with our place anymore. Mind you, we also have no place to go back to AND we're also going to need to go house shopping in a reviving market. Ugh and yay, I suppose.
We went to go see my namesake in Firenze. At the Academie is the original. There was also a Robert Mapplethorpe exhibition, which I really enjoyed. I've always admired his work, and to see his work compared to Michaelangelo's (side-by-side) was really cool and quite a highlight. Yes, I took a shot of David, as we were on our way out. It's strictly forbidden, but I still took one! That's how I role. Then we saw a copy in Pizzale Michaelangelo and also in Piazza Della Signoria. THREE DAVIDS IN ONE DAY!!! I had a lot of fun snapping all three of them, and got several shots of the copies, all in different light.
On our way up to the Pizzale Michaelangelo, the steps were SUPER icy, and that's when I found out that Jodi is afraid of walking/falling on ice!!! A Canadian woman who goes skiing, but is afraid of ice. Sure, none of us want to fall, but after a life in Toronto and Montreal I'm surprised by this.
Piazza Della Signoria was fun, as the Italian art seemed to be just as much art as porn. Well, in my mind at least. I tend to view things just a wee bit different from others. Those reading this should know this by now.
We had planned to go to Camucia, and another HelpX/farmstay, but unfortunately owing to the snow/ice they couldn't get the gas delivery through. That meant to hot water or cooking fuel, and not much by way of quality of life. So, we got in touch with Jodi's cousin Maya, who is studying vet meds in Padova (Padua), and she told us we could come to stay with her - which we were going to do anyway, after our farmstay.
So, we had a good time with Maya. Had a Jewish/Israeli Christmas dinner, which was interesting and fun, to say the least. We wandered around. Lazed around. Grocery shopped in the market - not cheap, but hopefully local - and like other markets, it was very tasty and fresh. The peppers liked delicious, the cabbage was crisp and yummy, the onions were ONIONY! Yum.
In Italy they have their own version of "Deal or No Deal", which is SUPER WEIRD, but it's weirder not knowing the language. In HD it's even more weird, as you see all the bad makeup jobs that the people did themselves.
And so now, we're on the train from Padova to Napoli. Going for pizza. 6.5 hours for pizza. Okay, maybe more than just pizza. We're hoping to get a HelpX with a couple in the south. REALLY in the south. If they're not interested in taking us, then we'll probably head to the Amalfi coast and figure our time out from there. We've been looking to head to Venezia (Venice) and maybe Verona, but that might be on the way back to Milano.
Who knows where the wind will blow us.