- The French have missed another crass marketing opportunity. When I read that guillotine victims were usually dragged from the Conciergerie prison to Place de la Concorde along the Rue St-Honore, where they were jeered at by so many Madame DeFarges from the steps of St. Roch church, I immediately wanted to re-trace the route. Every town worth its salt has horse-and-buggy rides--why were there no tumbril rides along the route, with dressed-up jeerers at St. Roch like Williamsburg re-enactors? I had to go up the steps myself and do my own jeering, which did not have the same effect, since I couldn't simultaneously droop by at street level, mourning my impending doom.
- Paris has a secret train station, unknown even to practiced hoteliers. It's the Gare Bercy, way out there and rather close to the Gare de Lyon, and the night train to Florence leaves from there, but you'd never know it because even our hotel concierge told us there was no Gare Bercy, and once you got to the place, the train to Florence was never listed because it went on to Rome, and once you figured out that that was the train you wanted, the Gare workers amused themselves by not listing the track the train would come in on until four seconds before it was going to depart again, so when they did list it, they could watch every person in the station take off like it was the 100-yard-dash, luggage and small children bouncing along behind them. Also, accept the train guy's offers of assistance to lower the beds. Otherwise you attempt it yourself, and one of you is nearly beheaded by the bed which it took the other person's entire strength to rip out of the wall. Not that we would know.
- Exciting things happen in Florentine piazzas. If you saw A ROOM WITH A VIEW, you already know this, and Scott and I can never see the Palazzo Vecchio and the Neptune fountain and the Loggia of Whoever without reciting to each other in our best Helena Bonham-Carter, "My photographs! I do believe I left them in the Square. Would you--?" Well, we didn't get to see anyone get stabbed, but we were hanging out in a neighboring piazza one afternoon, enjoying the Italian, James-Taylor-sounding ballad-singing of this street musician when, without even finishing the verse he was on, Singer Man spotted someone and dumped his guitar and took off after him, hollering. He got right in the guy's face, accusing and protesting and going on about something. (Three weeks of Italian were really inadequate for these purposes. I learned how to say, "What a nice bookcase!" but where was the unit on Following the Intricacies of an Italian Confrontation?) And Other Guy tried to calm Singer Man down, but it was no good because Singer Man started yelling, "Polizia! Polizia!" and came right over by us, dragging the accused, and Scott and I cleared out as fast as we could before the crowd of onlookers walled us in. Had the accused stolen a few Euros out of Singer Man's guitar case? Covered some of Singer Man's songs without permission? Slept with Singer Man's muse? Mystery. But good novel fodder...
- As affiliates of First Presbyterian Church of Bellevue, we Dudleys are big fans of anyone named Leon. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that the hands-down favorite restaurant of the trip was the Quattro Leoni in Florence. Or, as we called it, "the Four Leons." (Yes, we know what leoni actually means.) I've already blogged about it over at UrbanFarmJunkie, but let me just throw in another plug here. De-li-cious.
- Rome was dinged-danged hot. Sun + 2000-year-old pavement and buildings and cobblestones and ruins = dinged-danged hot. We know because we rode the "hop-on-hop-off" bus one morning--a.k.a. the "Rotisserie Bus"--and every time it stopped we thought our goose was cooked for sure. Our goose and everything else. I think the real reason Rome has so many churches (and each one with art treasures and someone very famous buried within) is not that people are pious, but that churches are wonderfully cool. Sermons about escaping the fires of hell make perfect sense in Rome. Or about God being like the shadow of a great rock in a weary land. Or like going into Santa Maria Maggiore after you've stumbled off the Rotisserie Bus.
- Having been on this circuit before, it was fun to do a few new things. This time we hit the Keats-Shelley House in Rome--air-conditioned, thank God. And let me tell you, that famous poet died in one tiny little room. Great location by the Spanish Steps. One disappointment was that there was a great big sign on the bed in Keats' room admonishing visitors (in English, of course) not to touch the bed. Or, in other words, "Please do not throw yourself on this replica bed, Christina, so that you can cough up a lung pretending you're Keats dying of tuberculosis, while your husband takes a picture on his phone and posts it to Facebook." Which is exactly what I would have done, had there not been a sign. They could easily have put clear vinyl over the darned thing and charged everyone a Euro for the privilege of lying on it and pretending to be Keats, and their fund-raising woes would have been over. (See #1.) Their loss.
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
The Trip, Posthumously
locked in the Galeries Lafayette bathroom, things could only get less exciting. Nevertheless, my thoughts: