I am experiencing my own renaissance here in lockdown. Oddly enough, I am now an early riser.
At 5:30 a.m. I open the shades and the sliding glass door to the balcony to hear the 30-minute, a capella concert of every bird in Rome. It is so loud that it fills the neighborhood with chirping, trilling, throaty warbling, caw-ing, and that sound that seagulls make, the one that mimics sea lions only 3 octaves higher.
During this gentle half-hour, the traffic cannot be heard, and now at 6:06 a.m. I can hear the cars and trucks off on the main thoroughfare drifting up over the hill. The riotous cacophony has moved to another street.
While the concert is performed, sunrise slowly displays the perfect ombres that inspire every artist and textile designer in the world. This lighting plan is delicate and nuanced. The blues being gently overcome by pale blue, then there is almost no discernable color that moves towards the palest nude that moves to buff. The sun is coming. Soon.
This slower pace is good for me. This slower pace makes it easy to think, to heal. It is as the Psalmist wrote:
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures.
I have often noticed that when I need to rest, to slow down, and I don’t pay attention to that need– let’s say I discount that need as lazy, or listen to bad advice to “push through” or “move on” — I get sick or injured or experience one of my many migraines. I am then forced to meditate on Psalm 23, made to lie down, and in my life, it is green pastures.
Day 10 and I am accepting this new normal. I wonder if I will be changed, long-term by this slower pace. Will I start a commune or become a hermit? Or will I push forward and forget the lessons I am learning?
What makes women in a particular city, say Paris, look so Parisian? Likewise, what makes women in Rome, look so Italian?! Here are some decoding bullets:
Jewelry (big, bold, and lots of it!)
Trendy or beautiful shoes
Loose locks of hair
One really big statement piece
Clear style statements of confidence
Mani/pedis are a must
Fully styled professionals
Luxury denim is styled upscale
Lips and Mascara
Here are some other style helpers:
Helmet that coordinates with scooter
Leather (Italian) handbag
Leather (Italian) jacket
Here’s what I don’t see on the streets of Rome worn by Romans:
Bottom cleavage/muffin tops
So let me describe a few of the beautiful Italian women I have seen so far, but haven’t gotten photos of:
Woman #1: 60s/70s — Black hair — skinny skinny
Hosiery with large criss-cross design, flat black suede shoes
Black sheath dress trimmed with short fringe
Black leather jacket
Giant pearl and gold necklace, earrings, multiple rings
Woman #2: 40s/50s — brown hair — average build
Wide-legged, over-dyed, oversized denim cropped jeans in a melon color
Matching oversized straight cut car length jacket in same melon denim
Extra-long print scarf down to her knees in a print of melon/neon green/red
Ankle boots, mid-height heel, trendy in light tan (Italian leather, I would bet)
Woman #3: 60s — salt and pepper hair — athletic build
Cropped gabardine pants in dark green
Open-toed suede shoe in cognac with a chunky stacked heel (Italian leather)
Silk print blouse — three shades of green with some purple for good luck
Leather jacket in cognac (Italian leather)
Cream-colored helmet & matching cream and black scooter
Silk chiffon scarf in pale green
Leather brief portfolio in cognac (Matchy-matchy I love it!)
Each of these women had a certain striking air of confidence, and of assertiveness. I got the sense that they didn’t put too much focus on matters that didn’t directly involve them. I also sensed that they weren’t looking for style approval, but rather that style was their medium, under their control.
One day before we boarded a plane for Rome, we found out that our apartment was not ready for us to move-in yet. We would be staying at a beautiful and conveniently located hotel for up to 6 weeks. A little bit of a surprise to which we couldn’t prepare since we were already staying in Washington, D.C. for the two weeks leading up to our departure. Meaning, we had already packed for a two-week trip, with about another two weeks in Rome, after which we expected to receive the first batch of our clothes and office equipment, with the second, larger batch coming in about a month after that — or so.
Anyway, that cut out the packing anxiety completely. We were already packed and committed. Fortunately, I have some on-the-road tools that have become my all-stars for road trips. NOTE: These all-stars must be in checked baggage. I realize that the trend is to take everything in a carry-on, but at my age, I rely on various comforts and for long-term trips, over two weeks, on an abundantly filled suitcase.
Here is my bullet list of All-Stars and how they have made our hotel living work:
Scissors: used to cut black electrical tape, stray threads, open pockets on hubby’s new blazers
Black electrical tape: used to cover all of the led lights in the room (TV, 10 light switches, thermostat)
Foldable sharp knife: open jammed suitcase, open packaging, slice lemon for sick hubby, slice olive focaccia bread, slice cheese
Cosmetics organizers: two hanging organizers, one train case, three clear plastic zippered bags (one shown)
Samples of Products: shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, lotion, serum, moisturizer, sunscreen (already don’t like the smell of the shower gel–I have an aversion to the smell of lavender, need special shampoo/conditioner, love expensive serums but hate having $100 of product leak out during flight, it’s nice when you can get your special products in travel size–but can’t always find travel size plus samples are usually free, etc.)
In the same vein as a second semester home-ec class in 1977, here is a genuine muffin. Not cake batter in the shape of a muffin, but a not-too-sweet muffin with the coarser crumb that defines old school homemade muffins.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees-this is always the first step.
List of ingredients-get them gathered with the proper cooking utensils second.
The morning of my flight from Johannesburg, South Africa to Frankfurt, Germany I started an earnest sinus infection/summer cold. Here’s what I did right and what I would change if I had to do it all over again…
This is what worked well:
Scheduled 24-hour layover in new hotel
Hall’s cough drops in a carry-on bag
Advil in a carry-on bag
Z-pack antibiotics (proactively prescribed from fantastic nurse practitioner)
Giant bottle of water to take on the plane
Best carry-on bag design
Shopping in airport
What I would change:
Type of hotel
Should have been located near some restaurants
So, I stayed at a sister brand hotel– it was really new, and really cute. Hip. Trendy. Lower cost. Here’s why:
No in-room coffee
No executive lounge
No room service
No wi-fi in room
I learned on this trip just how spoiled I am with a full-service hotel, meaning the big, full service with a restaurant, a snack room, an executive lounge, room service, coffee-at-will in my room. In these big hotels, I can work in the room, in the lounge, in the lobby, but in these trendy scaled down hotels, it is designed for a different crowd. Folks who have kids, don’t work from their room, are not spending any time in their room except to shower and to sleep.
So, I dragged myself around the coffee bar/check-in a few times during the day, looking so pathetic, the guest manager/clerk helped me microwave my soup, find the spoons, and made me coffee. I ended up sleeping throughout the day and night, recovering from the crud that had ushered me out of Africa.
Note: I have found incredible hospitality at the hotels that I have stayed at — caring people, ready to help. Because I have been a road warrior, I have had several instances of being quite ill during my stays throughout the United States and Europe. Here’s a shout out to every room service person who helped me with hot water and lemon, disinfecting the bathroom [don’t ask], the folks in the restaurant who prescribed lime juice with salt for my throat so I could deliver training to a crowd, and proceeded to procure it for me from the kitchen, and I could go on…Everyone at these places deserves to be treated kindly and with respect. I love you all in the hospitality industry!!!!
Shout out to the room decor designers! This is what I was waking up to when I was so sick in Frankfurt, Germany at the Moxy Hotel.
One of the annoying little things that can happen on any given expedition out of your front door is an accident. There are all kinds of accidents that happen every day, you get stung by a wasp–swelling up, you eat something that makes you sick, or you step one wrong way, causing some weird injury that impacts your ability to do what you want to do.
This happens while traveling, although usually not to me.
You see I am a bit of a “being safe” nut — full of helpful anxiety about germs, street food, and neighborhoods that are off the beaten track. I walk tall, don’t drink much alcohol (if at all), and am inside of my hotel room at a reasonable hour. I avoid public demonstrations, threatening people (both them threatening me and me threatening them LOL!), and going out without a scarf, a sweater, and a cross-body bag. I pack bandaids, acetaminophen, diarrhea medicine, vitamin C, and sunscreen. All of this so that when I travel I can walk all over the city fearlessly and fun-loving!
But accidents do happen. And one happened to me on Monday of Week 3 of my 5-week vacation. I was at a wild animal park/sanctuary, and I stepped down from a tall step onto some cardboard that had been placed, I had imagined at the time, over a former mud puddle. The dirt was dry, there was no mud, I didn’t even stop to think about taking this large step. My weight landed on my right foot, which then slid over the hidden large rock, and proceeded to hyper-extend, popping as I landed with a thump. My phone flew out of my hand; I managed to land on my knee, then my well padded hind end; shaken up, to say the least. I am not in the habit of falling, tripping, nor stumbling. I think of myself as being quite spry, although not at all athletic.
As you can see below, this did not stop me from petting the baby cheetahs!
I am so grateful that I didn’t know at the time that I had broken a bone in my foot since I have extreme anxiety about visiting hospitals, especially hospitals in Africa. Now, I say this since the local hospital that was pointed out to me in Zimbabwe was built from cinder blocks back in the 1950s–I would guess. (Realize that I do believe in contributing to any and all aid organizations that help third-world countries get medical supplies and other assistance.) We have resistant strains of bacteria and viruses in the U.S. and I am certain that it is no different over here in Africa.
So, grateful. No trip to the doctor [until 6 weeks later when it became apparent that it was more than a bad bruise]. But….with swelling, bruising, and pain that continues every step that I make a full two weeks later, I now have a new understanding of making the most of a trip. [And now, 9 months later, I realize how important it is to avoid injury!]
It is now a full month later and I still have pain in my foot and rely heavily on my hiking shoes — no other shoe feels comfortable. I have a bruise on the bottom of my foot, another one on the side, and the worst bruising on the top of my foot. You know what this means…Dr. Podiatrist here I come!
Also another P.S. regarding healthcare and Africa: Thank you to my nurse practitioner J.S. for not only prescribing medicine to prevent malaria, but also having the foresight to prescribe a Z-Pack — as it happened, the morning of my 10-hour flight from Johannesburg to Frankfurt, I woke up with a sore throat, coughing, –some sort of bronchial sinus cold that I am prone to–the meds are saving my butt. I am in Frankfurt, showered, napped, and on day 2 of the Z-pack and can function. Even if the flight was rough, thank you Halls Extra strength by the way. I will cover being sick in a foreign city in a hotel layover room in a future post!
Table Mountain: You want to take the gondola (at least we wanted to take the gondola up the mountain) so keep your eyes on which line you are in — but no matter how long the line is, it will move quickly and the view is worth the wait. You can pre-purchase tickets using a QR code, so check that out! As you snake your way around and up to the gondola, don’t miss out on the photo op! Plan a fun pose and strike it with your fellow adventurer! Inside the gondola car, the floor slowly turns so that you can get a 365-degree view. Be aware, they pack the car full!
Dassies: part rat, part marmot, all rodent — our driver says beware, they can carry rabies! We noticed a fair number of these critters on top of Table Mountain. Especially near the cafe. No dassies were foaming at the mouth when we were there.
Atlantic Ocean: Beautiful views of the Atlantic ocean, rivaling the views of Diamond Head in the Pacific Ocean on Oahu. Also, when you are looking at the ocean, a simple quarter turn reveals beautiful mountain ranges with fog and clouds. This view reminds me of Kokino in Macedonia. Either way, getting up to the top of Table Mountain is worth the line.