Rome: What can we see in one day?

 

Perhaps you are traveling to Rome and only have a couple of days to wander around. Perhaps you don’t want to rush, plan too much, and stand in too many lines.

Here is one walk that is relaxed and very easy to accomplish in one day, an evening if you don’t go inside the Pantheon [go inside the Pantheon though, really].

Take a hotel room on Via Veneto. Walk to Via Vittorio Veneto past the Hard Rock cafe and down to Piazza Barberini — where you will see a beautiful, but smallish by Roman standards, fountain, Fontana del Tritone.

20191106_124837 Barberini
Fontana del Tritone in Piazza Barberini

Wind your way to Via Sistina, just the street further off the front of the fountain. Turn towards a tall Obelisk, Via Sistina and walk through the charming street, along with 57 other people to see the view, the Roman-made obelisk, the beautiful church. If you head towards the other Obelisk, you will be on Via delle Quattro Fontane which goes up a hill, then you see an intersection with a small fountain on each corner. Head back the other way.

Next, walk into the beautiful church. Then after you say a prayer for world peace, head back to the view, then down the Spanish Steps and see the fountain at the base, look up in awe at the steps themselves. When it is raining, you might have most of the steps to yourself, except for those guys who sell umbrellas, self sticks, etc.

Spanish Steps at night
Looking back up towards the obelisk and church.

Once you have taken lots of pictures of yourself near the fountain — be sure you don’t get into the fountain, the police will blow whistles at you and admonish you in Italian. Continue forward [West] on Via dei Condotti past several luxury shops and when you get to the Fendi flagship store, look around for another column — this one is an intricately carved memorial to Marco Aurelio [Marcus Aurelius] commemorating his victories. Continue on around the bend to see another obelisk, Obelisk of Montecitorio. Then wind your way around — following the crowd to the Pantheon, where there is another fountain, a Salumeria, and restaurants with outdoor seating.

In front of the Pantheon
Fontana del Pantheon

Enjoy the Pantheon, then take a side street back, winding past the Trevi Fountain, then back up to Barberini then up to Via Veneto. Use Maps to ease some of your anxiety about getting to Trevi fountain, although most likely, you will follow the crowd past Hadrian’s columns from his temple, Il Tempio di Adriano in the Piazza di Pietra …

Hadrians Columns
Il Tempio di Adriano in the Piazza di Pietra

and right over to Fontana di Trevi [Trevi Fountain of movie fame]. The scene over at Trevi fountain is amazing and there is a lot of police whistles going on to keep the crowd under control. Trevi is beautiful by day and beautifully lit by night, and worth seeing under both conditions.

Bullet List Rome: Cultural Differences

20191106_124837 Barberini
Fontana del Tritone in Piazza Barberini

As far as I can tell, Italians are warm, friendly, and open generally speaking. The cultural behaviors that we love so much– the hand gestures, the emotional outbursts– are in evidence daily. Here is my list of differences that were new to me:

  • Fish and steak are charged by the 100 gram — so if you see €20 on the menu, that is not the price you will pay at the end — but rather you will pay €20 per 100 gram — so that piece of fresh fish might cost €40.
  • Toilet seats — or rather the lack thereof. Be prepared with disinfectant wipes and portable toilet seat covers, which are also not available. If you can manage not to sit — even better!
  • Grilled vegetables — listed as Miste Verdue griglia do not arrive at your table hot, or even warm. They come room temperature or even cool. That often goes for the side potatoes too!
  • Espresso is cheaper at the bar and costs around €3 more at Tavola or table. Go ahead, order it, watch it being made, and drink it right there standing up! When in Rome, do as the Romans do,
  • Don’t order a latte, rather order a Caffellatte. Latte just means milk in Italian and you get some funny looks when you order a milk.
  • Buona sera (Bonah Sayrah) happens right about noon and lasts until about the time you leave a late dinner at the restaurant. First thing in the morning is Buongiorno.
  • Old men and their shoe shops. So far, I have seen a few shoe shops that sell only Italian made shoes and each of these has an octogenarian greeting and running the money. These guys are over-the-top charming, one joking with us, flattering us, and kissing my hand even though he knew we didn’t speak Italian. The younger workers, I like to think that they are the great-grandchildren, make apologies, translate, and overall this creates the charming family environment that moviegoers expect.
  • Italian maids are amazing, don’t understand English and have full access to your room to tidy it up; once late morning and once while you are supposed to be out to dinner, plus someone else brings water, someone else checks the minibar, someone else checks to see if the maids did a good job…it’s like grand central station.
  • Roman water is good, unless you have a tendency to kidney stones. It has calcium — not the good bone-building kind, so one drinks a lot of bottled water. Frizzante is the most bubbly–the waiter will ask if you want gas, there is natural slightly sparkling mineral water, and there is still water. You are able to purchase water in glass bottles to avoid single-use plastic.
  • Birkenstocks have a tendency to get “side-eye” from Italian men. Women simply ignore them.
  • Skip the line by purchasing tickets and vouchers in advance from the hotel — you can even purchase from a hotel if you aren’t staying there, making impulse tours easy! There are always folks on the street selling tickets too — they are well marked so you don’t accidentally buy from the wrong guy.
  • Metro ticket machines — look at the pictures of the money it is taking — sometimes it quits taking bills and you can tell that by the picture of coins.
  • Don’t accept roses from the guys on the Spanish Steps — unless you want to donate.
  • Eat the roasted chestnuts. Look for evenly roasted chestnuts, the vendors paying attention to even roasting have the chestnuts arranged in a single layer. Wait until after 6 to ensure enough roasting has happened. Then walk around with 600 other people looking at the luxury shop windows and Roman landmarks.
  • Don’t get into the fountains. These are national treasures and meant to be enjoyed visually by everyone.
  • Be respectful of the churches — turn off your phone notifications and sound, wear pants not shorts, or skirts/dresses that aren’t classified as mini. Talk in a quiet voice, take in the art, make a small donation, and feel free to pray for world peace and contemplate.
  • Buy local. Italians make some of the best shoes — so look for “made in Italy” try them on because some are designed better than others, and in small shops sometimes you can make an offer. Italians have access to wonderful produce, so get as much fresh fruit juice (spremute) and fresh room temperature vegetables as you can get!
  • Learn some Italian — it’s really easy to get the hang of it! Grazie!

Bullet List: Rome Style Decoded

 

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!)
  • Scarves
  • Trendy or beautiful shoes
  • Loose locks of hair
  • One really big statement piece
  • Clear style statements of confidence
  • Hosiery
  • Mani/pedis are a must
  • Fully styled professionals
  • Luxury denim is styled upscale
  • Lips and Mascara

Here are some other style helpers:

  • Umbrella
  • 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:

  • Pajamas
  • Flip flops
  • Wrinkled clothes
  • 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.

 

Historical Crosswalk: Arco di Tito

The Roman Forum is jam-packed with architectural finds, such as the Arch of Tito. Normally, I just associate these names with characters in movies and don’t really know why Tito is important enough to have his own arch. Tito, like the other guys who have an arch, conquered and looted, bringing wealth back to Rome.

What is interesting from a historical intersection is that Tito conquered Jerusalem. He is the one responsible for the destruction of Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem. That’s why there is just a big wall. Tito proceeded to take all of the valuable stuff back up to Rome and had the Arco di Tito built to commemorate his power and wealth.

Traveling While Sick: Tips & Observations

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
  • Cash
  • Shopping in airport
  • Very-close-to-airport hotel

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 restaurant
  • 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.

Moxy Hotel, Frankfurt, Germany
Welcome to the 2nd Floor!

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.

cute boy mural

Travel: Broken Foot Edition

Ace bandage helps!
Waiting on picnic bench while Hubby tours the mine.

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!

3 Cheetah kittens sunning at Rhino and Lion Safari Park, South Africa
Sweet kitty kitty cheetah 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!

Broken bone in foot

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!

 

 

South Africa: Simon’s Town Penguins

Beach with Penguins Milling About_July2018Certainly one of the highlights of my visit to South Africa was the morning before our flight. We decided to book a private car to Simon’s town. Yes, this was an additional and unexpected cost, however, in the big scheme, we already spent the time and money to get down here. And sometimes, the best way to maximize your time and your trip is to be flexible.

I would never have thought about using this private driver option in the past. I haven’t been accustomed to traveling other than for work. But when hubby and I were in Macedonia, the only way to get to Kokino was to hire a private car (one that was referred to us by friends at the local U.S. Consulate). This turned out to be a fantastic experience — as those of you who are used to doing such a thing probably already know.

So, we booked Jeremy, our driver from the African Pride Hotel, now a Marriott Autograph Hotel, to drive us through the Bo-Kaap neighborhood (another thing we wanted to do but due to my dumb foot injury couldn’t do on our own), then drive us to Simon’s Town, to see the penguins, then straight to the airport.

You might think this sounds rushed, but you wouldn’t be right. We had a great breakfast, met Jeremy at 8:00 a.m. and drove through the Bo-Kaap neighborhood, with it’s brightly colored buildings, with a running dialogue. As it turns out, Jeremy was born and raised in Cape Town. We heard about the real estate issues, the cultural differences, etc. from an on-the-ground POV.

We had a lovely drive out to Simon’s Town, a naval base town, with more local history about a fire, the devastation to the local snakes –Cape Cobra and others– and how the college students studying geology, botany, and zoology hike along the trails. We drove past some of wine country, and then to the home of the African Penguins, formerly known as Jackass Penguins.

We walked the short walk from the parking lot, through a neighborhood street, to the Penguin beach. We paid, went through the turnstile and headed to the walkway. I thought that we would — wait!!! Wait!! There they are!!! Penguins!!!

I couldn’t believe it — right there. Not 10 steps from the start of the walkway — it keeps people off of the penguin’s beach—there were penguins. Not one or two penguins, but at least 10 penguins and the further down the walk we went, the more penguins we saw, until we arrived at the end of the walkway, viewing the beach, the Indian Ocean, large rocks, black Commorants with orange beaks and claws, and a hundred penguins.

My husband and I were delighted. I have to say that the light earlier in the day is absolutely magical. The African Penguins shimmered and their inimitable shadows waddled towards the water. Soon, the sound we were hearing was becoming clearer.

One penguin would point his beak straight up to the sky and start the sound, then another, and another. It sounded like donkeys braying. Ah. Now I am reading the sign. That’s how the name Jackass Penguin was first assigned to these birds. I am a little slow when it comes to connections.

Bottom line: This was one of the top highlights of our trip to Cape Town.