Rome was fa freddo this morning. Pearl and I rose before the sun which isn’t saying much since the sun doesn’t rise until close to 8 AM. Although maybe that was partly due to the fog this morning. No matter, it is a crisp day and it wasn’t snowing, there was no ice rain and Saint Peters square was calling. We just made a brief visit there this morning as I soon decided to return with either my good camera or at least my selfie stick to get both Pearl and I could in a picture with the basilica. As we were making our way back through the aqueduct gate, I witnessed a young man fall to his knees in the square and start fervently praying with tears rolling down his face. We were truly at the Vatican.
At the hotel we waited for the receptionist to come back to his desk and to take care of the much younger and prettier woman who came after us. Italian men may like all women but like many North American men they obviously prefer young blondes. No matter, Pearl and I had nowhere to be today. Eventually it was our turn and I discovered to my surprise that breakfast vouchers were not included and as they were €10 for breakfast at the bar next-door I declined the voucher and pearl and I set off defined to find our own breakfast spot. What a great choice! I found a little café a few blocks away that had the most delicious citrus yoghurt cake. A slice of that with a glass of orange juice and a cappuccino and I was ready to venture across the Tiber into the main city of Rome.
Pearl is very capricious when it comes to other dogs. At times she’s very quiet, wags her tail, sniffs and gets sniffed. At other times she goes into a barking, crying, yelping frenzy when a dog gets anywhere near. It doesn’t seem to matter what size or breed they are although I have noticed that she is less likely to freak out at poodles and cocker spaniels. This made our long walk longer, what with the sudden turns into alleys, darting into stores and art galleries or if necessary picking her up and shushing her until danger had passed. Rome had an additional danger as far as Pearl is concerned – horses! We had encountered them a couple of times before in Dundas and she did not like them, not one little bit. So our planned journey to a dog store and then to the Trevi fountain took about two hours longer than expected. I only wish that I had been able to look up more often instead of constantly looking down and ahead to try and spy dogs far enough ahead for escape to still be possible. Still, some of the buildings and statues were just so breathtaking that I failed miserably in protecting Pearl from advancing dogs and horses. With the sudden changes in direction and the darting into alleys I got completely lost numerous times and added more than one kilometre to the journey!
I did eventually find “Tutto per Noi” a cute little pet shop hidden in a warrant of small streets and alleys. If you’ve ever been to Rome or if you ever go take a moment to marvel at the buses somehow making their way down these alleys that have barely enough room for a motorcycle. Yet they somehow manage without running anyone over.
Speaking of running people over I’m starting to get the hang of crossing streets in Rome. Very few corners have crossing lights but every corner has markings on the road somewhere kind of, a little bit, almost near or at least in view of the corner. These are often made more difficult to find by the cars and vans that just park randomly in the intersections but if you do find them it actually seems to be quite safe to cross. By the end of the day I was feeling quite Roman I would just start crossing a road and stare down any driver coming my way. The most difficult to stare down are taxi drivers and motorcyclists, but I manage! It’s a little scary because motorcyclists are so impatient you can feel the wind of their passing on the back of your legs.
Anyway back to “Tutto per Noi”. It was the most cramped pet store I have ever been in. Many people in North America have walk-in closet larger than the store, but they still had every kind of dog food cat food bird food and probably iguana food (although I didn’t actually see any) you could imagine, along with treats and toys. Hidden at the end of this long closet like store, buried under multiple packages was a cash register and a friendly clerk to operate it. A bit worried about avalanches of pet food, I quickly found 2 packages of treats that I thought would do and headed to the back. I gave the woman a 20 euro note for a €7.30 bill. Since it was so early in the morning – only 10 am, she did not have any change in the till yet. How I understood that purely from gestures, I’ll never know, but somehow I figured it out and managed to scrape together the exact change. The women was so pleased she gave me 3 more small packets of treats for free! By the way, I read multiple times in multiple places that Roman shopkeepers will rip you off. I have found the exact opposite. They always show me the register amount or the bill and are very careful to count out the correct change!
Luckily I still had a cinquanta piece because our next stop was to be the Trevi Fountain. After all I’ve always loved Audrey Hepburn and I am on a Roman Holiday!
We talked to half a dozen people or more at the Trevi Fountain including the very kind Irish man took the pictures of me and Pearl. There were some young girls from Japan, a Scottish, couple, and Irish couple, a family from Denmark and a mother and daughter from San Fransisco. Everyone made a fuss over Pearl especially the San Franciscans who sorely missed George Clooney the poodle they had left at home. I was told that this name had initially caused a bit of a rift in the marriage when the wife refused to consider any other name. She told me that if her husband ever left or died, she would not be lonely with George Clooney at her side.
After our interlude at the Trevi Fountain Pearl and I started to make our way home to the Vodafone store to purchase an Italian SIM card. After walking only an extra kilometre or three in the wrong direction, I realized that Google maps did not work well in Rome. Every time we headed in what the arrow showed was the correct direction, the map would flip around and indicate that we were going the wrong way! Eventually my brain clicked in and I realized I could use the street numbers – duh. So after walking back to a spot essentially 2 minutes away from the Trevi we arrived triumphantly at the Vodafone store. Other than the expense, the process of a getting a SIM card was painless. Especially when I compared it to France where none of the store personnel spoke a word of English and such up their noses at helping an Anglais! At this point I was too tired and hungry to tackle the Pantheon, so off towards home we went with our shiny, brand new, expensive sim card that would not be active for 30 minutes. I thought I could find the way! Ah foolish brain. I get lost in Dundas! But wait there was a little cafe that actually sold something other than pizza, pasta and souvenirs.
Pearl and I could rest, have a drink and a bite to eat. My lunch was very traditional and not something you would find at home – a chicory and ricotta pie with a pasta like crust and melted cheese on the top. I twas delicious! I had some food and and a water dish for Pearl, so she settled quietly beside me to rest, eat and drink, allowing me to do the same. Fortified we were ready for the walk home guided by Google maps courtesy of the shiny, brand new, expensive sim card: that did NOT work! Arggghhhh
Supposedly there was another Vodafone store very close to the hotel, so I set off in that direction, only getting lost 3 or 4 times. Just as we approached the hotel the shiny, brand new, expensive sim card began working. A penny short and a dollar late as the saying goes, but at least I would be able to use the GPS the next day, so all was good with the world.
At this point I had walked 11.25 kilometres, at least a quarter of that carrying Miss Pearl whose legs got too tired and who was often in danger of being trampled by the hundreds of feet going by. So next step was a well deserved cold beer for me, some water for Pearl and an episode of Law and Order in Italian. This left enough time before dinner to add a few pictures to yesterdays post and start on todays.
The Sad End to the Day
And then, I checked my email and we come to the sad part of the day. My sister Joan had emailed to tell me she had been trying to call because my mother had taken a sudden turn for the worse. My 96 year-old mom now had pneumonia, and coli infection and her kidneys were starting to fail. I called my sister and it sounded very bad. We discussed whether I should try to get home and decided to wait until she talked to my mom. One group of doctors said there was a chance she might improve in the next day, the other group talked to her about end of life care! We decided to wait and I would Skype with my mom when Joan went back to the hospital around 4 pm for her and 10 pm for me. I had an hour, so I took Pearl out to do her business and then ordered lasagna and salad to take away at a restaurant around the corner. While I waited for my meal to be prepared I had a glass of red wine that I think finished fermenting last week while trying to distract Pearl from the dogs going by. I was relieved to arrive back at the hotel room!
My email takes awhile to arrive and so it was not until 12:30 that I got a message from Joan saying my mom was too tired to Skype and we would try in the morning Hamilton time.
So a quick walk with Pearl on the deserted and slightly scary street before climbing into bed for a sleepless night.
If all roads lead to Rome, do all rivers lead there too?