Tag Archives | Casablanca

in which I try to avoid cliches about Italy

Memory works in peculiar ways, doesn’t it? I mean, I know that when we were traveling in Italy a few weeks ago, I was tempted to leave my bickering children at the top of Vesuvius as an offering for the gods but now, weeks later, what remains in my mind is a blur of ancient beauty, tiny streets, motor scooters, and meals comprised exclusively of variations on cheese, tomatoes, and bread (which is, I think, what gets eaten in heaven, if there is such a place).

But in trying to write about this trip, as was the case when we went to India, I find myself frustrated.  If I talk about laundry hanging off balconies, sheets flapping against the bricks, it’s as if I’m describing the opening shot of an old Sophia Loren movie.

IMG_0878

If I tell you about the Mediterranean light splashing across peeling pastel buildings, I’m channeling every bad romance-in-Italy movie ever made.

IMG_1017

Should I tell you instead about walking out of our lovely little hotel in the Piazza Decumani in Naples, on a Sunday morning with bells ringing across the city to call the faithful to Mass?  And that further down the narrow cobblestone street (awash in garbage, it being Naples), we heard glorious opera pouring from an open window, a secular celebration of the morning? By the late afternoon, however, the morning music had been replaced with the scents of cooking garlic and onions, so fragrant that we were stumbling with hunger.

IMG_1180

Maybe instead I should describe a narrow street in Rome, where cars bump alongside pedestrians shopping for vegetables and people sit at cafe tables sipping wine, a barely functional chaos?

IMG_7081

See what I mean? Italy has been a subject for millenia, long enough to make me glad I’m not Italian: I’d be paralyzed by all that history, all that beauty, all that language.  (Frank Bruni offers a somewhat bleaker view of history’s weight in a recent op-ed piece, here).

Instead I’ll go with these pictures taken inside a church, San Giovanni Decollato, in Rome. It’s a private church and gaining access can be complicated, unless you know someone with a key, and keys are only given to those in the brotherhood or descendants of those who were in the brotherhood of the church. It’s straight out of Dan Brown, isn’t it? And unbelievably, our friend G., whose family belonged to the order, and his wonderful wife, unlocked the church with a satisfyingly big key, and let us walk around inside.  There was a lot of decollato; I couldn’t decide if going to a church with decorations like these would hold my interest during dull sermons or terrify me into leaving the church completely.  Probably the latter, given my heathenish proclivities.

IMG_1059above the altar (Caleb was very fond of the bleeding neck detail)

IMG_1062head on a plate (detail from ceiling fresco)

IMG_1058skulls were everywhere in the church: memento mori

The church was beautiful, a tiny gem tucked into a corner of Rome we never would have found on our own.

I don’t know. I’m beginning to think that Rick and Ilsa may have had it wrong: maybe everything would’ve been different for them if instead of having Paris, they’d had Rome.

 

 

Continue Reading · on October 29, 2013 in expat, family, Kids, Travel, writing

We’ll Always Have Paris. Sort Of

So we went to Paris for two days before going on to Provence, where we were having a family reunion and celebrating my mother’s seventieth twenty-ninth birthday.  Two full days to revel in the city of light, stroll the tiny cobbled streets, marvel at the enduring romance of a river spanned by bridges, discover sweet little cafes tucked into quiet courtyards, sip chilled rose on the tiny balcony of our apartment and watch the sunset over the Paris rooftops.

Oh. Wait. That would be a two-day Paris vacation with my Husband, or by myself.

Actually? We were on a two-day family trip to Paris.

The last time we were in Paris, Liam was still in a stroller and Caleb wasn’t even the proverbial gleam in our eyes. Maybe because now, in comparison, both boys seem more grownup, Husband and I forgot that family trip is not a vacation (thanks to Cousin Sarah for pointing it out to me).  Thus Day One of our trip was filled not only with cold wet weather (more Novemberish than Julyish) but tag-team whining of the first order. If there were a Olympic whining event, my kids would definitely medal.

In a kind of French version of the Bataan death march (their version) we trudged from Notre Dame to Musee Cluny, to Musee D’Orsay.  It rained. It was cold. Caleb was, variously: hungry, bored, thirsty, persecuted by his brother, TIRED.  Liam wanted to know the French word for pretty much everything , which was charming for the first vingt minutes et puis tres aggravating because then he whined in French: je suis faim, je suis froid, je suis fatiguee, je suis HATE MY BROTHER.  (Yes, like Caliban, in The Tempest: we taught him the language and he learned how to curse).

Sigh.

You know where we ended up? The carnival. Yep. Missed the Louvre—why would you go see the glass pyramid at the Louvre when you could ride the Pirates of the Caribbean for three euros a pop? Well, actually, in this picture you can see one end of one wing of the Louvre, just behind the tall arm of the Ferris Wheel.


Double sigh.

Day Two, Husband and I threw our Paris desires out the window.  Husband and Liam left early to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower, while Caleb, Grandma, and I meandered more slowly to the Tower, where Caleb (who insists he dislikes heights) rode the carousel and ate soft-serve ice cream. I tried not to be disgusted by the fact that the ice cream came from a dispenser that had been, a few short minutes before, crawling with bees.
After the Eiffel Tower, le batobus: the aquatic equivalent of a double-decker tour bus. We went from boat to lunch (pizza, of course) to the courtyard of the Louvre, to the boat, to Les Invalides (armor! guns! swords! Napoleon’s huge tomb!), to the metro and home.  Ice cream and small souvenirs were applied at judicious intervals in a way that never would have happened at home.  We are now the proud owners of a small blue Eiffel Tower, any number of commemorative “gold” coins, two small notepads, and a small plastic horse-and-knight.  Plus post cards.

But the boys went to sleep that night saying that they loved Paris, so maybe it was cheap at the price.

I guess Rick and Ilsa were right: we’ll always have Paris…and one day we’ll come back for an actual vacation.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Continue Reading · on July 24, 2011 in Children, Travel

Powered by WordPress. Designed by WooThemes