Wednesday, June 22, 2005

La Dolce Vita

I'd like to be
in Giverny
in a spot in Monet's garden
in the shade...

Which I was, just last Sunday. And it was fabulous. The house, the deliberately wild garden, the water lily pond, all of it was simply beautiful. Even the stifling heat and the bus that didn't come and made us miss our scheduled train back to Paris didn't ruin the experience. In fact, missing the first train allowed us time to have a sandwich and some wine at the cafe across the street from the train station, where we met some fellow Americans who were not of the ugly persuasion, and gave the owner the opportunity to pour refreshing cold water on Mrs. Generik's feet, which made her immensely happy. When Mrs. G is immensely happy, I'm happy. So even sweating like a pair of razorbacks on the way to the abbatoir and returning to Paris later than we had expected didn't put us off our unbearable lightness of being after experiencing the beauty of the garden in Giverny. If we could bottle what we were feeling and sell it, the entire illicit drug market, worldwide, would go tits-up in a week.

Our Parisian adventure came to a close on a rather strange note, though. Monday we packed up and left the wonderful apartment that we had come to love (note: I have contact information if any of you out there are interested in renting a beautiful apartment in a good neighborhood in Paris for much les than you would pay for a luxury hotel), and took our luggage to the train station to store it while we took one last five-hour stroll around the City of Lights. We walked the length of the old Roman viaduct, up and down a few streets we hadn't explored before and spent hours in a cafe enjoying fruit salad with champagne in it and some chocolate mousse. Then we retrieved our luggage and prepared to board the night train to Rome. We were pretty wilted from the intense, muggy heat when we finally got on board, and were thankful to have roomy first class accommodations that included air conditioning. Then lightning struck. The conductor came back to us with our tickets, and showed us that I had somehow made a mistake in booking them -- the tickets were for the night of June 21st, not June 20th. Our tickets were for the following night, and someone else was to occupy our compartment. We got shunted off to a lesser space in an older car, had to purchase new tickets (we will be reimbursed, eventually), and discovered that our new cabin had no working AC. Yikes!!

Seventeen hours, a mediocre dinner, two beers, four small bottles of wine and three airplane-sized bottles of Irish whiskey later -- not to mention a broken toe that Mrs. G somehow suffered in the night getting into or out of our cabin -- we arrived in Rome. The train had no smoking car, so poor Mrs. G was in the throes of nicotine deprivation, not to mention suffering from advanced claustrophobia and hallucinating from lack of sleep. But we recovered all right once we got into our hotel room, which is in a very nice place just off the Via Veneto. Some food, aspirin, a shower and a smoke got the wife feeling nearly human again, and we explored the city late into the night. We walked to the Fountain of Trevi, where we were joined by six thousand of our closest tourist friends, a few dozen locals selling roses and one fat guy in a gladiator costume chain-smoking cigarettes. We threw coins over our left shoulder into the fountain, ensuring that we will return to Rome someday (if you believe in that sort of thing), then went to dinner at a local outdoor cafe. Tomato and mozzarella and basil, lamb with rosemary, ravioli, prosciutto with melon... it was wonderful.

Today we took the city bus tour and saw most of the major sights, driving past Castel Sant Angelo and through the Vatican and stopping at the Forum and the Colosseum for some major picture-taking opportunities. We then walked to the Spanish Steps, and just now had some gelato that I swear came straight from heaven. Tomorrow we are scheduled to see the Borghese Museum, and will probably try to see much more of the Vatican as well.

As I've mentioned previously, all this Catholicism surrounding me the past week or so -- Saint-Chappelle and Sacre-Coeur and Notre Dame in Paris, the Vatican and all the churches and basilica and religious trappings here in Rome -- is almost enough to give me religion. Then I remember how much money the church has, and where it came from, and all the other negatives that I associate with not just the Catholic church but with religion in general, and I recover my senses. Still, it is rather awe-inspiring to walk into the upstairs room at Saint-Chappelle for the first time and be completely overcome by, as my good friend Scott put it, "just how fucking gorgeous it is."

As for the city itself -- Rome is amazing for all the history present, and the people here are very friendly (as were almost all the Parisiens we met, stereotypes to the contrary), but I still think Paris is the more beautiful of the two. Not that I'm not enjoying where I am, by any means, but there was something special about Paris that will never leave me.

In any event, though, I must end this for now and get back to the hotel room to rest and make a phone call to my mother and get ready for yet another late-night dining experience with lots of wine involved. This SO does not suck.

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