Thursday, October 2, 2014

Roma

Finally, we can all sing “This is the night.” I even thought about sharing spaghetti with Jason to recreate Lady and the Tramp, but then I thought Marisa might feel just a littttle awkward about that. To me, the best part of Rome was the history. I loved seeing the ancient buildings among the modern city. It’s so extraordinary to see structures and landmarks that are thousands of years old; I was in awe the whole time.

Our run-on sentence of Rome festivities:
Jason said right after arriving in the airport he saw a lady's phone ringing in front of him which said the caller was Luigi - she answered "LOUIE!!" and began speaking animatedly in Italian and well, I can't think of better way to begin our Italian trip. So.

We arrived late at night and at the train station was probably the most fearful I was during the trip – clutching my bag tightly and nervously looking over my shoulder (but we survived and didn’t have any problems!), found our bed and breakfast which had a bathroom so small you felt accomplished when you managed to turn around, headed to the Colosseum first thing in the morn and was able to get some photos of mostly-people-free building shots, had a sudden maddening desire to watch Gladiator, uncovered new and delightful sights at every turn in the Roman Forum, got our first views of the cityscape and marveled at how much colorful Rome is than our past European destinations, felt crowded and overheated and somewhat underwhelmed by the Vatican (think late July in a building swarming with people and far too old for AC, or at least well-working AC), found ourselves often confused and befuddled by the Rome bus system, ate gelato atop Janiculum Hill (the first gelato of many!), were disappointed to find the Trevi Fountain under construction, ordered individual pizzas and valiantly tried to finish (only Jason managed), drank our only red wine of the trip and tried to savor it (we were quite poor after that whole expense of ya know, getting to the country, and just to clarify for Marisa's mom, Marisa did not drink), were impressed by the Mercedes buses (transit in high style), found the Pope's image plastered on every type of souvenir you could imagine, never saw the actual man in person (SAD), went to St. Peter's Basilica on a Sunday morning and creepily took photos of the church attendees in service, climbed all 551 steps in the panic-inducing dome (again, hot summer day, lots of people and a tiny, tiny closed-in stairwell with curved walls so it feels like the place is closing in on you), were lavishly rewarded by an amazing view that I still dream about, saw several crypts and then found myself googling "what does a body look like after it's buried" but then never getting the nerve to click "images", said "when in Rome" far too infrequently, ditto on "All roads lead to Rome", and stuffed our faces with pasta near the steps of the Pantheon.

A friend of our B&B host took us to the airport. She spoke very little English, but as she scurried in and out of traffic in her beater car, she exclaimed "Mama mia!" and we declared our Italian trip complete.

colvin
(We can all just pretend there's not a weird bump in my hair.)

Jason said he was in Rome now and no longer needed that top button.

pan

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Mont-Saint-Michel / Rennes

We left Paris on a high-speed train for Rennes. As much as I wanted to sit the whole time with my nose to the window, I succumbed to sleep pretty early on. And then kept getting woken up after each stop because the official in an all-purple uniform (hat included) had to check our tickets again. Halfway to Rennes, a man couldn’t present a ticket and was kindly given the boot at the next stop. We got to Rennes and bought tickets to Mont-Saint-Michel. We got to MSM in the afternoon amidst scores of other tourists. The island is certainly a spectacle, simultaneously remote and crowded. For the roughly 20 hours on the island, we circled up and down the winding path, admired the castle-like facade, resisted buying every pretty watercolor painting of the island, took a guided-tour of one of the museums that was all in French (sometimes I fake-laughed along with the group because I felt left out but got the side-eye from Jason), walked out along the road and took close to a million photos as the sun dipped below the sea beside the island, watched the sunset colors – bright oranges and pinks and deep blues – reflected off the sand and water, had a tables-are-turned moment being among mostly French tourists after our time in Paris as tourists among French locals, were dazzled by the abbey and the views on top – SO GORGEOUS, learned about the history of the abbey and the angel that drilled a hole into the founder's skull, admired Marisa’s gumption at getting up before sunrise to take photos, slept-in and missed the morning service at the abbey (sad), woke up to the sounds of seagulls, and explored the surrounding rocky beach (thanks to low-tide) in the morning in peaceful solitude.






We also stayed a day in Rennes, although there is less to say as it was mostly a day of sleeping, wandering and eating. We did see a quaint music festival in a lovely garden with tons of roses and every other imaginable beautiful flower. And a lot of cool medieval-style buildings. It was the place on our trip where the least amount of people spoke English, but people were nicer than in Paris. We stood for a long time in the metro station trying to translate and two different people came up and handed us their tickets with time left on them. We didn’t speak any of the same words, but it was touching.

A lady who took our dinner order kept trying to translate the menu for us and would blow a raspberry when she couldn’t think of the word. We went into a pharmacy and Jason had to gesture the word “deodorant” and the lady at the counter giggled. Perhaps because the deodorant he picked out smelled distinctly feminine once he started using it. We found a grocery store here and it was quite huge for Europe. I’m ashamed to admit it, but I felt much more at home in a huge store with a myriad of options than a little neighborhood market. There I hoarded more cheese, duh.

I think we may have enjoyed the city more had we spoken French and been able to take a tour of Parliament or go to a museum. As we were waiting in the train station to go back to Paris, I talked with the guy sitting next to me. He was originally from Turkey, living in Rennes to get his masters. He asked, “Why are you in Rennes? There is nothing here.”