Monday, September 10, 2012

Cruise Blog 1

September 7. 2012

The plane is squishy and somewhat uncomfortable but we have the advantage of excitement and the energy that comes from looking into the future and seeing only pleasure. I switch places with the wife of a chatty man so Vince can cuddle into the window; so can Peter on the other side of the plane. I cuddle into Mary Jo and try to sleep. We have decided not to eat or drink alcohol so we can have a better rest but it doesn't work. I find that the sober times in my life are windows to inferiority so I vow to be more vigilant whenever someone suggests better behavior.

We arrive at the airport to be greeted by Mauro, a tall grey haired handsome man who speaks English extremely well. He and Vince converse all the way. Meanwhile I get a text from Helen and Sandy telling us they are waiting at our hotel. This is why I love technology! When we arrive at the Alimondi where we are quickly checked in and off we go to the Vatican Museum.

It's hard to believe but the Vatican is right next door. From our street we look up a long flight of stairs and there is the very imposing wall that surrounds the museum, the Papal house, St. Peter's Cathedral and the gardens. We are astonished by the short lineup and hustle in. Just as we are about to enter we see Mary Jo Fitz on the street! This is the second time we've had the experience of meeting MJ on the street in a huge international city. The last time was in Paris a few years ago. Ken and MJ are off to check in so we tell them to come to the hotel for dinner. Now we're inside the museum!

We walk quickly through the long corridor to our selected destination: the Sistine Chapel. As jaded as we are by the catholic church we cannot help but admire the enormous talent that was Michelangelo. When you gaze up at the colors and creatures, clouds and hands, babies, women and men, figures intertwined, fingers touching, faces alit with an ideal, it's breathtaking and dizzying. Amongst the admiration comes the sound of voices, followed by the sharpness of a SH! or an admonition, stop talking, the gods require silencio.

When we get back into the hallway we get separated from some of the others and soon it's me, Helen and Vince making our way past marble, gold, tapestries that cling to soaring wall frames. Here and there a soft breeze tickles our scalps wafting in from the gardens. Maire and I have already discussed the feelings evoked by this gaudy ridiculous display of ornate treasures while people go hungry outside the enormous thick walls and locked doors. I feel this again so I force myself to concentrate on the skill of the hands and eyes and vision that created the art. By this time Vince has given up but Helen and I haven't quite had our fill. We discover some of Rafael's exquisite painting - the mix of color and design is enchanting. Inspired. Through rooms occupied by the Borgias, the walls now opulent with priceless art, the way it was in this Pope's time. As it is now, a self centered greed that it ignores the reality of the world beyond. Yet who can deny the art that was created, protected and so beautifully displayed?

Helen and I get lost, with the result that we climb the same stairs many times before we finally burst out of the entrance into the hot Rome sunshine. We find Sandy outside waiting for us so we drag him off to the Hoi restaurant for a cold beer. Soon every one else joins us and we have a great dinner. Reasonable prices, perfect portions. Wine, laughter and memories echoing up the street against the ancient stone.

The people of Rome live right in the pages of the history books we studied years ago. Around every corner is a monument or a museum or the site of an event worthy of someone's attention even centuries later.

We are picked up in our mini bus by Germani. Tons of space and a guided tour in a lovely lilting accent. The evening is perfectly warm with a soft breeze wafting across the hills. We pass through both narrow and wide avenues curtained by plane trees, palms, walls and draped flowers and vines. The history pages fly past: Piazza San Pietro with the cathedral as its stunning back drop. Castell St Angelo looms above the river; every bridge is a work of art. Cherubs, flowers, vines, all stolen from nature and transformed into marble or wood to often outlast the real thing. Unless you believe in the faces of the innocent babies as angels who hover still. Trevi Fountain erupts in the midst of someone's neighborhood, jammed with tourists. Some are loud in their admiration while others snap photos or kiss. In the midst of this crowd the place is still somehow romantic. Probably the energy of so many people, so much hope. We pass through the streets toward the Piazza Navona, where we walk past restaurants and shops alive, bright and joyful. It's infectious. Back with Germani, we stop at the hill of Gianicolo, where we can see the lights of the city in the distance. By this time the fatigue has overtaken most of us, so we drop off Helen and Sandy and sleep our way back to the hotel. A domani, Roma!

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