Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Homeward bound...

Shorter. And Yellow car...
Final days are always somewhat tricky. Actually, not tricky, just shorter. With a deadline you can't avoid no matter what. At least not without some considerable expense. The good news though was with a 17:20 flight we had until roughly 14:30 before we needed to be on a train and heading back to the airport.

What could possibly go wrong?

Mama mia
So, the plan, vaguely head off to find a few simple gifts for those back in Blighty. The youngest offspring would be easy, the only sensible thing would be a faux roman centurion outfit. He is, after all, five. As we knew there were lots of gift shops, market stalls and street charlatans in the general direction of the Piazza di Trevi we headed there.

By the pretty route.

The Forum
Really pretty. We saw churches and streets, ruins and monuments, interesting windows, government buildings galore and goodness knows what else. To call it a circuitous route would be an understatement. The biggest happening upon was
probably the Forum which we initially found through a gap in a fence before realising there was a fabulous walkway that took is right through the whole area. I'm not sure how long we wandered and explored but, as ever, we were almost devoid of company from hoardes of tour groups so it was beautifully relaxed.

Eventually we headed towards the Piazza di Trevi in almost exactly the
Trevi, one last look
opposite direction to what had been planned before we went wandering. Even that route was somewhat meandering, after all it was warm, sunny and we had plenty of time and we used it finding a hotpotch of different places we'd never heard of but all that encouraged discussion.

The piazza was of course much quieter than the day before so we sat a while relaxing before heading off on the important job of locating something that was suitable. Even this went surprisingly well. Eventually we turned back with a vague idea of finding a spot for an early lunch. This would have been a leafy piazza near the Trevi if it hadn't been that they didn't start lunch outside until 12:30.

We'd decided on an al fresco lunch nothing else would do.

We passed several places, but none had the ambience I sought, until that is a flash of inspiration struck, there were several restaurants in the Piazza della Rotonda by the Pantheon, perfect! And only a few minutes away.

Haz winez...
Even the decision for the restaurant was simple, it looked good, it had customers and it had not too many tables outside. The clear view to the Pantheon and a couple of buskers with cello and viola da gamba was a definite bonus. So we sat, ordered pizza and wine whilst we watched the bustle of the world wander by.

It was idyllic.

Eventually the tick of time reminded me that we needed to head back to our
former hotel to collect bags before scampering to the Termini and our train to the airport. But not before having an ice cream. It was time to make like a cliché.

The upside was we discovered the secret to not being hassled by restaurant touts was to be stuffing your face. Who knew? The walk back was relatively direct with only a little bit of a diversion and even that was to make it easier to pick up the essential faux centurion outfit.

If we'd run we could have actually caught an earlier train, but we had plenty of time so waited patiently for the 14:52 and our ride out of Rome. But not before one final run in with a helpful beggar who felt he had to show me how to validate my ticket.

I managed not to actually growl.

So anyway, the airport is having a bit of remodelling. This means that we had to go to terminal 1 to check in but back to terminal 3 for our gate. It's around about a squillion miles away. But that's okay, we still had bags of time.

And there's the rub, there is no punchline, no "oops" moment, no chaos. We got to our gate, we sat for a while, the loos were clean and we boarded without a single scrap of drama.

Which was quite perfect.

I was a little more miffed getting back. As we left the sky ramp we were "greeted" by two official people that were obviously checking something. So I had my boarding pass and passport in hand to see what they said as we had *no* idea. It wasn't until one of them barked passport that I realised. So this is new. And as I said to the rude idiot, it really would have been helpful if you'd indicated we needed to show our passports there.

Because we still had to do it at border control.

Seriously, WTAF? As the elder offspring pointed out when he flew back to the UK via Manchester a few weeks ago they didn't have the same thing. Is this Her Majesty's finest just making all visitors and returning citizens feel as welcome as possible?

And then I got to border control. So I presented my passport, already irritated at doing it again and...

Official: Looks at passport, looks at me, looks at passport, looks at me...
Official: Are you sure this is you?
Me: Err, yes.
Official: Raised eyebrow
Me: It's ten years old and I've changed a bit...
Official: Mmmmm...

To be fair she was really nice. And it's true I have changed quite a lot as anyone who knows me closely enough to have seen my passport will attest! So we were back in Blighty and all we had to do was get home. Via the Piccadilly line. Joy. And reminders of all that makes this fair country of ours so tedious to live in...

So what of Rome? It's been years since I was last there and I'm glad I went back, more importantly I'm glad I could take me eldest there and imbibe him with the chaotic joy of Contrary Touring. I don't miss the beggars, but I did remember quickly how easy it was to blank them out. But I will miss, until the next time, the unadulterated pleasure of turning every corner and seeing something that simply makes you say...


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