So much has happened since my last post on The Wander. Last you heard, I had just been scuba diving in the Mediterranean. While I’m still on the Mediterranean, I’m a bit further east. If you took and chance and guessed that I was in Roma, you wouldn’t be off by much, for I was just there. However, I’m actually in that beautiful sinking city of Venezia, that is Venice to the rest of the world. How did I get here? What happened to the days in between!? Have patience my friend and in due time the tale will unfold. I suppose I should begin where I last closed the book for no one likes to spoil the story by skipping past the middle…
Leaving Saint Raphael was a sad day. It felt as if I were being wrenched away against my will, silently weeping all the way to Roma. Saint Raphael was a place I’ll never forget, a place my heart feels akin to, a place my soul is able to rest. In that place I was able to have adventure and fun, while feeling safe and warm. I was able to keep up on world events via newspaper or internet, while at the same time being completely ignorant to the rest of the world. Saint Raphael gave me many new dreams that I can add to my life’s to do list. If I had the money, I would make Saint Raphael one of my homes away from home. That and England. While we’re at it, Australia.
Later in the day, after our scuba diving adventure, I was completely exhausted. Crylle, the nice French guy we met on the dive, told me while we were motoring home that I would begin to feel some curious sensations. First, he said, you’ll start to feel happy but not energized. Your happiness will build and build until you’re almost serene, but it will be a very methodic sort of happy, a very calm happy, for at the same time you’re going to be utterly spent. He was absolutely right. Kate and I went back to our favourite coffee shop, Magaya, and just sat to try and recover. I was beaming with joy but at the same time, I felt no desire to move. It wasn’t until a shower, some journaling, and lots of rest, that I finally felt energized enough to walk around again. That’s when we went to the outdoor market.
I guess I shouldn’t call it a market per say, it was more of a walkway with stands along it. It was nice because that walkway lined the harbor. So as we strolled along looking at the handmade goods of southern France, we could admire the boats in the background. That’s where Kate dropped loads on some wood bowls and I dropped 8 euro on a herb grinder thing. I’m not sure what it is, but it was the cheapest thing that he had and it’s made from olive wood which is absolutely gorgeous wood. I wanted something and it was handmade, so I jumped on it. I’m quite happy with it.
We leisurely strolled back to our hotel that night and pretty much passed out. The next day was even more leisurely than the last. Our travel plans were a bit weird which made for a sort of weird but relaxing day. We were catching a night train to Roma, and our train didn’t leave Saint Raphael until six in the evening. So during that day, we just walked around for a long time, sat in a coffee shop, admired a church, wrote postcards to friends and mailed them off, and we even had time to lay on the sand beach and soak up the sun. Around six, we packed up our things and got on a train bound for Nice, which is where we were catching our night train to Roma.
Our train left Nice at about half Ten, so by the time we boarded, Kate and I were pretty knackered and ready to sleep. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to sleep on the train and I envisioned myself plugged into some outlet near the train bar writing in this very journal or corresponding to friends. The reality was, I pretty much passed out once my head hit the pillow. It was warm, and the bed was no better or worse than the bunks on which I had slept while serving on the Adventuress. The warmth was inundating and, coupled with the gentle rocking and vibration of the train, my will to remain awake was utterly destroyed.
Before I knew it, we were in Roma.
There isn’t much to say about Roma, for I’ve already said it all. We did everything again, well… almost everything. When we got off the train in Termini station, I took us straight to Village Camping Roma, where we deposited our things, showered, and then left shortly after. We got into Rome at about two and went straight into the Vatican. This I cannot stress enough. We went unhindered, directly into the Vatican. When I was there with Grace we were in a line that wrapped halfway around the city-within-a-city’s wall! Not this time.
I saw much of the same in the Vatican, but it’s impossible not to see something new every time you go because of the sheer vastness of the structure and the volume of artifacts it contains. I saw some new exhibits, and some old. We took lots of pictures. There was one thing strikingly different from when I’d gone just after Christmas; there were almost no people. When I went into the Sistine Chapel the first time, there was an amorphous blob of people packed onto the fairly limited floor space. There were Italian men with piercing scowls constantly berating people for speaking too loudly or taking pictures. Imagine in the thickest Italian accent a man saying in his more condescending tone, “Silencio! Silence! No photo!” at least once every five minutes. I dare say that was more upsetting than the murmuring ooh’s and awes resonating within the vaulted chamber. But this time, this time was so very different.
We went in and there was but one Italian man with the distinctive Vatican badge on. He didn’t even look at us as we entered; he was lost in his own thoughts. Lucky for me, I was able to fully lose myself in this chapel this time. I could, for the first time, truly appreciate its mastery. I also chanced to seat myself next to an English guide who was pointing out many little details about the wonder of the work. That was fun. I pulled out my rosary, as is habitual for me to do now in every church I visit, and sat down to send off a prayer. I’m not terribly religious but there is something in vocalizing your hopes that makes them, at least for me, more powerful. Though I rarely take a kneel for such a thing, but as Casanova says in The Story of My Life, When addressing our wishes we should do so with “Con le ginocchia della mente inchine.” That is, with the knees of the mind bent. So I sit and take a bit of time to humble myself while praying for family, friends, and a safe journey.
After the Vatican it was actually getting dark. So we went to Piazza San Pietro to see that famous square where the Pope makes his Sunday sermons and addresses to the world. We also went in the Bassilica San Pietro, which I’d actually not seen last time due to an immense line. However, this time there was again no line. The inside was immense and very cool, though I was disappointed that once of the church staff wouldn’t let me sit on the benches in front of the main alter to say my prayer. That frustrated me a bit. However, there were many cool things to see, like the iron statue of Peter who’s feet at been worn off by the outstanding amount of pilgrims who had visited him and touched his holy feet.
After visiting Peter, his church, and his square, we left back for Camping. Despite visiting only one place, we were dog tired. We took the night to relax, have some dinner, journal, post letters, do laundry, and unwind. The next day was a bit more fruitful.
We started by booking out train journey out of Termini station to Venice for January 31st. Then we sped to the Colosseo. That was amazing again, and this time Kate and I separated so we could have our own time to wander and ponder. It was nice. After that, we moseyed around the Foro Romano, where I relaxed in the sun while Kate went exploring. I’d seen it before, and I just wanted to people watch for a while. Plus, I had such good memories of that place with Grace, I honestly didn’t want to muddle that with another visit with Katie, I wanted it to remain undisturbed.
The plan was to end up at this nice restaurant that Grace and I had been to around dinner time. But it was fairly close to the Colosseo while the rest of the sights we intended to see were quite far. So I devised a plan. We would take the metro up to the Piazza de Spagna, and work our way down past Trevi Fountain, past the Pantheon, to this little eatery. My plan worked beautifully, though it got us there well before the normal Italian dinner time of half seven. I knew there was a little square nearby with some shopping, so we strolled the streets and looked in shops. That’s when I found a tiny jewel that I had not noticed before.
There was a bookstore called something along the lines of Libreria Fahrenheit 451. It was very quaint, hip, and pretty much everything I want a bookstore to be. Wood shelves filled with books new and old, classics and the modern, side by side with stylish pieces of art and photographs. I loved it. That’s where I found a jewel within a jewel. I saw this painting on some cloth. It was red and orange, and it was just some designs, not really any sort of picture. Needless to say, I was drawn to it. So I bought it and I’m excited to hang it on my wall when I return home.
Not long after, we went for food. It was happy hour so they had this little buffet for people who bought a drink. So Kate and I bought a drink. The waitress was so nice and she recommended some really splendid drinks. Mine was called like Kikki Uva or something like that. It was delicious. She even told me how to make it!! She said it was a pretty normal Italian drink, so I was sold on it. I felt a little buzz but nothing really substantial at all, and when we made the long trek home, it sobered me right up.
We had to leave Roma pretty early the next day, so we had some dinner, packed up, and went to bed. Well, Katie went to bed at a reasonable hour. I was up on the internet trying to sort out my application to the Adventuress until about one in the morning. Despite my minimal sleep, the next day didn’t really require a maximum level of performance, as we spent most of the daylight on a train to Venezia.
We had liked Camping Roma so much, that we decided to book our stay in Camping Jolly; their Venice branch. Upon our arrival to this camping place, we were sorely disappointed. The place, unlike Roma, was a dump, though the receptionist from Germany was cute and very helpful. She has probably been the best part of the experience. Other than that, the first night we froze because the power went out. The second day we were there the power were constantly on and off, but luckily it was on by the time we went to sleep so no worries. The internet is broken so I haven’t been able to post or keep up with correspondence. I have to pay for the internet when it is working unlike Camping Roma, and at an unforgivably high price. And they don’t even have some pool tables to help us unwind at the end of the day. Basically, the best aspects of Camping Roma are nowhere to be found here. Though again, there is the German receptionist.
Venice has been a maelstrom. Kate and I left the first day and set out for the city not knowing what was in store for us. As it turns out, the three full days we’d be spending in Venice were smack in the middle of Carnivale, the party week before Mardi Gras. I have to say that Carnivale in Venice has been very cool but very heavy for me. I wasn’t expecting this volume of people, I wasn’t expecting a crazy party, I’m under dressed and I’ve restricted my funding so I really don’t have the money to spend on festivities. I’d like to come back with a sweet mask, I nice cloak, and a proper tri cone hat. The hats here are like 20 euro, a cheap clock is 60, a nice cloak is 120, and a mask is around 20 for a cheap one, upwards of 200 for the best of the best. I want to make my own though. Anyway, this place is expensive as it is, in spite of Carnivale. I want to come back, I do, but I want to come prepared and with a bigger group. That would be a lot more fun for me.
I’m also a little hesitant partying with my cousin for numerous reasons. One, when we get there, do we dance together? Isn’t that weird? If there were any potential women to meet, wouldn’t they be put off the moment they saw me dancing with another woman? They wouldn’t know we’re related. But say I did meet someone and wanted to go have a drink with her. What do I do? I couldn’t very well leave Katie along at some bar. The whole reason her parents supported her coming with me was because I’m the travel partner, I’m someone they trust, I'm a bit of safety. I don't mean to demean Kate at all, she's a grown up and capable of taking care of herself. But being along, especially if you’re a woman in a foreign country and you don’t speak the language, isn't a great situation. Many of those questions and concerns can be flipped around too, Katie could meet someone and go off with them; though, I would feel much better if it were that way because I’m ok being by myself, even though I know it’s not the ideal situation.
Well, no matter, we’ve seen quite a few things but I’m ready to get out of Venice. I’m really excited for Berlin as we’ve found some cheap accommodation and hopefully there will be less craziness. I can’t wait to get back to Bristol to see my friends and party with them there for a day. Anyway, I’m paying for internet time and it’s expensive. Miss you all! Love,