Thursday, 22 June 2006

I'm well behind, but I intend to give you a flavour of what I've been up to if nothing else.

Most dramatically I guess, we went to Rome for the weekend. More than 3 hours on the train, but it was kind of a posh one - like an aeroplane on wheels. Inside I mean. The air-conditioning was really good, making the not inconsiderable heat of Rome rather more of a shock to the system than it might have been.

We booked a night in a hostel online, not without consulting a map. It was on a road right by the station, but, as we discovered by a steady pedestrian process, not quite at the same end. We popped in to check in and then took a bus to...

...the Colloseum! If you're from the EU and from x-24 years old, you get in half price. I am 24 - Jurassic park. The colloseum is quite big and impressive. And all the arches seemed to be constructed just slightly differently. It was interesting. Apparently JPII conducted an annual Via Crucis from it re. all the martyrdoms facilitated within. There was a bit of a sculpture exhibition within, of muses and philosophers, which was good. My knowledge of muses is pretty serviceable it would appear.

We then had a butcher's at the triumphal arch of Constantine. I mused on the Romanness of the depiction of angels in Christian tradition.

A funny thing happened to me on the way to the forum. Well, not so much funny as pleasant. We went to Palatine Hill, which is rather nice and full of ruins. We found a big ruined foot, among other things. Ruins and gardens, gardens and ruins - sorted. It had plenty of water fountains, if you haven't been, you mightn't know that Rome in general is punctuated with these helpful devices, which help to counteract the clearly exploitative price of beverages in what I am told is known as "the eternal city". My trained intellect immediately flagged up the difficulty with the nomenclature - a truly eternal city could not have been built in any number of days, and I'm sure my buddy Thomas would back me up on this. Having bathed both in water and in smugness, I moved on, Monica opting only for the water.

We then went to the Spanish Steps. They're nice. When we went, there were no flowers. You can't have it all.

We also went to The Trevi Fountain. Monica ironically complained about all the tourists on my behalf, thus saving me the bother. I threw a penny in (this approximates to the done thing) which apparently is the fee for coming back to Rome. It's a funny old world. I was firmly charged not to take roses from the rose-selling people well in advance - I'm not sure whether I would have been got otherwise; they hand them out like leaflets and then ask you for money. As I sometimes don't bother to refuse leaflets I guess I'm prone.

we only went to the gardens of Villa Borghese for a brief spell, but Monica was loving it. She especially loved the "Temple of Aesculapius", which is a fake by a lake. Pond really. There are boats, but we couldn't use them as it was getting on a bit.

Monica had intended to watch the Italy game, but was knackered, so we went back the hostel for some sleep instead.

In the morning we headed for St. Peter's for mass inside the Basilica. They have signs up requesting that people dress modestly and people to check - I just got away with my swimming shorts, which were the only legwear I had with me, what with the heat. I was perturbed at this scrutiny for a little while, and braced myself for a dry, by-the-numbers, 'official' mass - but it was quite good actually. They gave out service books with plainchant - brilliant - but they'd got a choir from Copenhagen in, so I feared we'd be listening rather than singing. After a false start where they sang some of the ordinary for us (Aaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrrggggggggggh! Not really very Vatican II is it?!) it turned out alright.

We then rushed out for a bit of a papal blessing. We thought we had a good spot until he got going, and then we considered ourselves in a rubbish spot. Anyway.

Monica was disappointed with the papal tombs, and quite rightly so - it was as noisy as a market and really crowded. Everyone wanted a piece of JPII, so they have people to move you on. A bit like the crown jewels I guess. Noise in churches was something of an endemic complaint - also cameras and camcorders or whatever you're meant to call them.

We had intended to go to the Vatican museum, and visit the Sistine chapel, but unbeknownst to us - closed on Sunday. I expressed an interest in the pantheon, so off we went. It's advertised as the pantheon, but it's been a Christian church since the 7th century apparently. I think I'm within my rights to have been disappointed, but it was interesting. The tomb of the last Italian king is there, as it happens. Or possibly not; Monica's not so hot on Italy's monarchical history.

Last stop was the Quirinale. And that was our trip to Rome fairly well done with.


Monday was a dozy day, especially in the morning. The rest of the day was spent visiting. First we went to see Monica's Nan, and then to see a lady called Stella.

No time to go to the beach today, so we went to Ancona instead. Monica wanted to look for stuff for her friend Marghe the nun, so we went to this amazing bookshop. It was like a Catholic SPCK and they had loads of encyclicals and apostolic letters for a euro a pop.

I also completed my selection of Italian music to take back to England. Singing along is a good way to practise pronunciation I'm told. Another good way to practise your pronunciation is to read Harry Potter e il Principe Mezzosangue to your girlfriend and watch as she drifts up to sleep. At least I think it helped.

We played the listing game. Monica won. We did flowers, animals at the zoo, and fruit. We also went to mass and watched the England game, which wasn't hugely exciting as you may well know.

Another day at the beach - this has been a good holiday. Nothing very unusual about it, but the sea was reaaaaaally clear, which was good.

No car today, so we simply watched The Incredibles. And that's what I've been up to.