Thursday, November 16, 2017

Reflections From Roma #02

Reflections From Roma #02
16 novembre 2017

Photo Update Alert:

Hello there… Rodger French here.

Good news! Our final shipment of furniture has arrived in Naples, so we will have everything in our apartment before Thanksgiving. With some shrewd household engineering and a bit of luck, we’ll make the place comfy and less like living in a large shipping container. And, most importantly, ready for guests.

We have been grossly negligent in fulfilling our sightseeing obligations, although we did get tickets for an evening guided tour of the Vatican, a time when there are theoretically fewer tourists. Yeah, right. Three words: Zombie. Tourist. Apocalypse. With selfie sticks. I recall visiting in 1980, when one could simply stroll in and hang out, but those days are long gone. The place was packed, like sardines packed. The Vatican is still a must-see when in Rome, but one must gird one’s loins.

[Agony and Ecstasy Sidebar - The climax of the tour was, naturally, the Sistine Chapel. I had not seen it since it was cleaned and restored… and it was breathtaking. The colors in Michelangelo’s paintings are vivid, vibrant, and a revelation to behold.]

Speaking of tourism, one of the benefits of being victimized by the idiotic federal hiring freeze is that I am at liberty to occasionally tag along with A.J. when she visits facilities out of town. Last week found us in Portugal, a country new to me. And I must say, I liked it very much. The people are nice, the food is terrific, and art and music flourish there.

I spent two days wandering solo around Lisboa (Lisbon). It is a lovely city, smaller and cleaner than Roma, with some very serious hills. I caught a taxi to the Museu Nacional do Azulejo (National Tile Museum), which I highly recommend. (Check out the photoz.) Otherwise, I simply skylarked, did some light shopping, and ate a lot of good bread.

Our next stop was Aveiro, a small town on the road from Lisboa to Porto. While A.J. went to work, I got dropped off in town, a very charming place, complete with canals, boats, and flamingos. I walked, took photoz, and bought some Fado CDs. I also stumbled upon a restaurant where I ordered grilled sardines, a Portuguese speciality, served with boiled potatoes and salad. That was an itch well scratched.

From Aveiro, it was off to Porto, Portugal’s second city, and a favourite tourist destination. We stayed at a place called Hotel da Música, located in Mercado Bom Sucesso, a renovated 50s-era marketplace. It is a short walk from Casa da Música, a concert venue of modern and confusing design (thank you, Rem Koolhaas), where we attended a performance by the Porto Big Band, a 15-piece outfit that played Ellington, Basie, and other swing music. Very cool.

Tourism aside, the principle industry in Porto is the making of Port wine. There are a boatload of establishments offering tours of their cellars where grapes from the Douro Valley are meticulously aged into many different varieties of Port. Naturally, there are tastings. And gift shops. We decided that Port wine, in all its permutations, is a good thing.

Then it was back to Lisboa by train. So. Civilized. We spent the day wandering about before ascending the Elevador de Santa Justa to take in the panorama before sunset. Then, back to our hotel, after a bit more walking, eating, and shopping for Fado sheet music. Our trip to Portugal was “um grande sucesso” and I hope to one day return.

[Zombie Tourist Apocalypse Sidebar - Lisboa has recently expanded port facilities to accommodate several cruise ships at once. It is my considered opinion that these vessels, specifically the gigantic floating skyscraper variety, are a worldwide pestilence and environmental menace.]

Back in Roma, it seems that Anne has some “use it or lose it” leave on the books. Alrighty, then. Next up: Florence and Siena - by train - for 10 days beginning at the end of this month. Then back for Natale a Roma.