Today I went to Rome. You know how I hate cities, go stark staring mad in the space of a few hours. Three days (even in Paris) and I need to leave. Most days three hours in a city is enough for me.
Well, today was a Rome day. Or so I had planned, or so I thought I had planned. There were three reasons to go (probably described in reverse order of urgency).
Number one: I was arranging to meet a friend "when I was next in Rome", but didn't get any email replies once my trip up was looking definite. Ah well, maybe not today then.
Number two: I was hoping to go to the exhibition of Dutch masters from the golden era, but didn't arrange to go with another artist friend because I wanted an early morning start (because of reason three) and hadn't advised him ahead of time.
And number three, friend who forgot to leave with me a purchase she had made but wasn't taking home (because being wooden it wont be allowed into NZ without being fumigated and that's a nuisance). She also managed to leave something of hers here, so at her suggestion to meet in Rome on Tuesday morning I set out, to deliver and to receive. But she wasn't answering email or text or phone calls either.
So, with 0 out of 3 things in place I was on the train to Rome at 8.13 this morning. Giving up on "travelling Kiwi friend" I sent a text to "lost in cyberspace Italian friend" and suggested meeting if he were free. Delighted, was the reply, can meet you at 5pm if that's not too late for you. Mmmm. Bit of a long day. NO problem, I replied, (well, wouldn't you?) It's not too late, I have things to do in Rome.
So, what does one do in Rome? People watch, of course! First at the station in case Kiwi friend had received my train time. No sign of her.
Vermeer exhibition alone... oh heck, why not? It will be great to see it twice. Watch the people, look at the art, watch the people...Tick. (The best behaved Italian school children I have EVER seen were there, all of about three years old. Imagine, at that age, having class trips to the Scuderie del Quirinale to see some of the finest paintings in the world!)
Still a few hours to kill. Walk and walk and walk. Get on bus to give feet a break. Go back to Termini after seeing several new things (but no photos of them, sorry). Sit down to eat something and decide that you have had enough of central Rome - after all it has been at least five hours - maybe walking near the main tourist venues was not the cleverest thing I did today. Catch the metro. The wonderful BIRG tickets cost 14 euros now, but as well as my fare to Roma and back these give me as much bus and metro transport as I need in a day.
Arriving too early to meet friend I wander the market and buy a book. Time for a chair when the steps became uncomfortable (the park benches don't have backs on them there) so it was up to (shhhhh) McDonalds Italy. They have a covered balcony perfect for people watching or studying Italian... or even drinking a latte macchiato with your apple cake.
More people watching. In this suburb the young folk are smoking far too much, and too young. The flight of the illegal market people was wonderful to see from my vantage point when the inspectors came through. All done with such humour! About 15 men ran with Santa-like sacks made of white sheets bulging with merchandise. They looked worried until they were off the market area, and down the steps below me. Then they split up and disappeared at a more leisurely pace, watching but not running any more. The flurry of activity in the market quietened, but I noticed that they didn't risk going back up again.
And then... flight really was the word. And absolute wonder and awe, as I watched for ages... so long in fact that the sun went down and I was still gazing at the birds, it was just wonderful. The only other time I have seen such an impressive display was in Altkirch in Alsace, France, way back in September 1999. Thanks Jackerd for this link ... aren't they just magic?
And then, it was home again. I have been out of the house for just twelve hours, but they were such richly packed hours. I do love living where I am.
Today I am grateful for migration.