Roman Holiday

HAPPY NEW YEAR! How have you all been? I hope that Christmas was all that you hoped it would be and that you’ve had a great start to 2019! As for me, I arrived back home last night after an 8 hour drive and, what turned out to be, a very enjoyable break in Rome. There was the odd emotional moment but I let them come and they did…and then they went but there were also some very happy moments, some of which I thought I’d share with you…

HAPPY NEW YEAR! How have you all been? I hope that Christmas was all that you hoped it would be and that you’ve had a great start to 2019! As for me, I arrived back home last night after an 8 hour drive and, what turned out to be, a very enjoyable break in Rome. There was the odd emotional moment but I let them come… and they did…and then they went but there were also some very happy moments, some of which I thought I’d share with you….

Rome is a very strange place; it has more graffiti than I’ve ever seen in any city in the World, it has potholes that you could bury a badger in and it is extremely dirty, in many places there were bags of rubbish piled up in the streets. However, you can walk along narrow, cobbled streets (do not wear heels here ladies!), with their tiny boutiques full of Italian chic and then come across something like this:

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There are immense monuments to the city’s glorious past that just seem to rise up before you from nowhere. We found this one whilst on the hunt for lunch and were lucky enough to get the last remaining table in a restaurant just opposite; what made it even better was that the sun was shining and it was warm enough to sit outside! Can you imagine looking at this whilst tucking into the most delicate mushroom risotto? Heaven! Saying that, I’d chosen the risotto as my stomach was in revolt after 2 or 3 days of eating nothing but pizza and pasta; it says something about a culture when the ‘light’ option is risotto!

What many people don’t realise about Rome is that, just outside the city there are mountain ranges that, if tackled, offer the most beautiful views and one of the best ways to get to them is on a motorbike, so that’s what we did. Glorious bend after glorious blend led us through tiny villages and beautiful countryside that seemed to subtly change with every kilometre.

 

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After 100km or so we finally stopped for lunch in a grotty looking cafe that served wonderful food (I was told that any restaurant in or around Rome that doesn’t serve great food will close down within a month or so!). We chatted about the ride up there as bikers are prone to do, enjoyed our lunch and some coffee that was like rocket fuel and  eventually wandered outside for the journey back. At some point the weather had decided that it would stop being warm and sunny and, instead, would give us some cloud cover and drop the temperature by 8 degrees or so; it was absolutely bloody freezing! The guys decided that the route back through the mountains could potentially result in the loss of extremities so we took the motorway instead…..4 very experienced bikers, full of coffee and with a straight road ahead of them meant that we hit speeds of 240 kmph but at least we got back to the warmth of our friends’ house in double quick time!

I should point out that this trip into the mountains was taken on New Year’s Eve and 5 hours on the back of a powerful bike, travelling at high speed through twisty, winding roads is not exactly what you’d call relaxing. Once home, there was time for a quick change of clothes before it was off to the supermarket to stock up on booze for the evening’s festivities and then shower, slap on some make-up, party dress and I was good to go! I started to feel a bit weary around 11pm but all thoughts of sleep were drowned out by party music and the noise of 15, over-excited Italians all talking at once (how anyone actually follows the conversation is beyond me!)

Close to midnight I was looking longingly up the stairs and was, mentally, already in my PJ’s and tucked up in bed with my kindle but then the countdown began and everyone rushed outside; curious, I followed. The view from my friends’ house is, well, Rome…pretty much all of it and it was ablaze! There was an absolute sea of fireworks as far as the eye could see and the noise was unbelievable! Lights in every colour, flashes, speeding rockets, spinning fire, raining droplets and the sound of 10,000 drums, it was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen! Sadly I was too busy enjoying it to take any picture – sorry about that! The excitement of that kept me going until 01.30 but then I took myself of to bed – the last of the revelers crashed at around 5am but were up the next day at 10am to prepare lunch for 20 guests!

New Year’s Day involved lots of eating and people yawning but the next day dawned bright but freezing cold so my best friend Will and I and his cousin Manuel (our host) wrapped up warm and set off for Frascati. From there we went to Castel Gandolfo, this beautiful old village is on the edge of a huge lake and is home to the summer residence of the Pope; lucky guy, the views are amazing:

 

We drank cappuccino outside while watching the world go by, we ate Porchetta in pizza bread, we wandered through market stalls and smelled all the delicious aromas they had to offer and marveled at the beauty of the landscape before agreeing that we were all cold and tired and it was time to go home. As we circled the lake to pick up the road back to Rome the sun began to set and, despite the temperature and our heavy eyes, we had to stop and just watch……

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I cried a little on Christmas Day because I wasn’t with the man that I loved, I cried again on New Year’s Eve for the same reason BUT in between those times I was with friends, people who care about me and want me to be happy. I was welcomed into an Italian home by people who are hospitable, charming, generous and unfailingly kind. I was hugged and kissed by everyone who crossed the threshold and I even learned to speak a little Italian with their patient coaching. Before leaving, I had wondered if I would be better off spending Christmas and New Year alone; I’m very glad that I decided to spend it with these wonderful people instead! Oh and I mustn’t forget Stella, our host’s beautiful dog who let me hug her when I felt sad and made me laugh by doing a 4 wheel drift on the kitchen tiles when she was racing to get her dinner. We went for several long walks with Stella and I was reminded of what it is to be joyful; I want to be as free and as happy as that little dog and, over the last 2 weeks, I came close ;O)

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Lisa x

PS. If you ever fancy a trip to Rome my friend Manuel has a super little B&B for rent just yards away from the Colosseum ;O)

 

Merry Christmas One and All

After much soul searching, worrying and general stress (all self-inflicted) I have decided to go to Rome for Christmas. I have decided to give myself permission to feel sad if the need comes upon me, to politely duck out of something if I need to be alone and to enjoy what I can without feeling guilty about doing so. 

After much soul searching, worrying and general stress (all self-inflicted) I have decided to go to Rome for Christmas. I have decided to give myself permission to feel sad if the need comes upon me, to politely duck out of something if I need to be alone and to enjoy what I can without feeling guilty about doing so.

I’ve also decided to leave my laptop at home so I’ll be away from my blog and all of you guys for the next couple of weeks. I’ll miss you all and I hope that, whatever you are doing, you have the best Christmas you can possibly have and that the New Year brings you what you most desire. In my (almost) year of writing drivel on here I’ve realised that there are some really, truly wonderful people out there in blogging land so, along with seasonal best wishes I wanted to give you my thanks….for everything :O)

Love and hugs to you all

Lisa xx

I’m Dreading It…

Christmas that is so, if you’re big fan and don’t want to be bah humbugged look away now……..

Christmas that is so, if you’re big fan and don’t want to be bah humbugged look away now……..

The thing is, I’ve never really been a big fan to be honest. I don’t like Christmas Carols (except Oh Holy Night but that makes me cry), I’m not a big foodie so Christmas dinner is a bit lost on me, Christmas films are invariably nauseatingly saccharin and it seems to be 3 weeks of crazy for one day. Saying all that, I always made the effort because I know that other people love it; my husband was a huge fan and used to love cooking the dinner, paper hat atop his head and a glass of something in his hand.

Of course, he’s not here now. I don’t have to think about finding him the perfect present, something that will make his eyes light up and make him want to hug me tight and kiss me. I don’t have to think about buying a little something for my two cats because I lost them too. I don’t need to worry about buying presents for my parents because we decided to give the money to the hospice where he died instead.

He won’t wake me up at the crack of dawn Christmas morning, running around like a big kid and trying to find his apron so he can get on with food preparation. He won’t nag me about doing the washing up (he cooked after all), we won’t argue about what film to watch, he won’t fall asleep in front of the TV, having drunk too much at lunchtime. He won’t be asking for turkey sandwiches or another sweet or trying to convince me that it won’t hurt if he has a third mince pie. He won’t be giving me a present that I know damn well he bought at the last minute but, all the same, put so much thought into.

We won’t stay up late, hugging on the sofa, watching rubbish and scoffing chocolates. We won’t be going to bed together tired but happy and we won’t fall asleep in each others arms, each of us knowing that we are loved.

Instead I have the offer of going to Rome with my best friend as I did last year and the year before. I would spend Christmas and New Year with his friends and family who are all incredibly lovely and make so much effort……I’m dreading it. Everyone makes me feel welcome, they’re Italian so they try and feed me every five minutes and when I’m not being fed, someone is hugging me or telling me something I can’t understand…..I’m dreading it. I would probably laugh, drink too much, have far too many late nights and be drowned in a cacophony of endless chatter. During the day I’ll be with good friends, explore Rome, take motorbike rides though the beautiful countryside outside the city, take photos, drink the mind-blowingly strong coffee and eat cake….

And feel totally separate from all of it and more alone  and more trapped than I feel at any other time of the year. You can’t escape from the jollity at Christmas and, if you’ve lost your husband, wife or partner, you can fully participate in it either because the best part of Christmas is sharing it with someone you love……..

I’m sorry that this is such a dismal, feeling sorry for myself post but this is the worst year yet for me and it will be the fifth without my husband; I don’t understand why it doesn’t get any easier……

Lisa x

Go Away!

What’s been your experience with shop assistants over the last few weeks? Helpful? Bored? Can’t be bothered? Kindness personified? Manic expression in the eyes with a few clumps of hair missing? I worked in retail many years back and, I must confess, I can’t help but feel sorry for shop workers in the weeks leading up to Christmas. For this reason I do everything in my power to be patient..

What’s been your experience with shop assistants over the last few weeks? Helpful? Bored? Can’t be bothered? Kindness personified? Manic expression in the eyes with a few clumps of hair missing? I worked in retail many years back and, I must confess, I can’t help but feel sorry for shop workers in the weeks leading up to Christmas. For this reason I do everything in my power to be patient..

The problem is I’m not, patient that is and this morning I found myself having to grit my teeth to avoid screaming ‘GO AWAY!’ at the top of my voice. When you walk into a shop over here the nearest assistant will say ‘bonjour’ and then ask if they can help. As I knew exactly what I wanted I said bonjour’, gave her a pleasant smile and said no thanks (or non merci to be exact). Excellent! This was going to be a quick trip in and out of the store and then home to my blog. Or so I thought…….

I paused to look at some eye shadows (yes I was make-up shopping) and a young woman asked if she could help.

“No thanks I’m just looking” I’d already found what I needed at this point

“Well, you should know today that with X, Y and Z brands we have 25% off”

“Ok, great thanks” Can I communicate ‘I’m not interested’ telepathically I wonder?

“What is it you’re looking for in particular?” We were almost shoulder to shoulder by this point

“Nothing thanks, I’ve got what I need” Smile very slightly strained

“Well, if you’re looking for mascara we have this” Air hostess style pose adopted and said mascara indicated

“No thanks, no, I don’t need mascara, I have what I need” Holding up selected product and pointing at it did not constitute a big enough hint apparently

“Perhaps a lovely bronzer to give you a glow for Christmas” Box of brown dust with suspicious looking sparkles held at smile height and then shoved under my nose.

“No thank you, no bronzer” I decided the time had come to move away with some real purpose so I strode briskly to the other side of the counter and towards the checkout.

She followed me.

“This is one of the brands where we have 25% off today, do you know it” Double handed gesticulation which at once indicated the little counter and blocked my escape to the checkout

“No not at all” My answers were becoming shorter and shorter along with my temper

“It’s marvelous, you really should try it. Would you like me to make you up and you can see for yourself” She reached for a pink jacket thing which resembled a strait jacket and tried to usher me towards one of those tall stools (do you know the ones I mean? About 5 feet high with a three inch round seat?)

“No……thank you” blank stare, no smile.

“Perhaps some perfume? We have a great selection”

I honestly thought this was going to go on all day with my only means of escape being pretending that I was going to vomit or hitting her over the head with a a florescent pink blusher blush which I’d noted in case of emergency. It was then that I heard the words

“Excuse me madame, can you help me” from a very well to do woman standing just behind my stalker shop assistant.

Just like that, the woman turned her back on me and her radiant, possibly surgically fixed smile, onto her new victim customer and departed without a word. Well!

What about you? What’s been your worst experience at the hands of a well to do (or not) shop assistant?

Let me know, I’d love to hear from you

Lisa x