Monday 22 September 2014

Home from Rome

Home again, home again, jiggity jog, and at last I have got Blogger to work. It has been slow and cranky today---unlike me.  I did not get to my Monday dusting and hoovering regime, butI had plenty of work to get on with.

It has been a week and a half of incident. First, Benedict Ambrose and I went on our annual Roman holiday. Second, we returned home to vote in the Scottish Independence referendum. Third, Polish Pretend Son, not to be confused with Seminarian Pretend Son, arrived for a visit. And fourth, yesterday B.A., P.P.S. and I all went to a boozy luncheon party.  Between engagements,  I wrote two paid articles on the Scottish referendum and edited something for somebody, thus generating personal wealth.

Today I shall tell you about Rome. I have here my travel journal, and if my tablet were not on the fritz, I would take photos of my travel sketches and post them here. But, alas, my tablet is on the fritz, so I will have to find photos of things online.

We arrived in Rome on Wednesday around noon, and I almost went mad trying to find someone in the main railway station who would sell us weekly train tickets. Sales of the weekly regional train tickets have been devolved upon the tobacconists and magazine kiosks, so I dragged poor B.A. all over Roma Termini as I closely questioned apologetic tobacconists and ticket-sellers. But at last I found a Termini tobacconist who really did have weekly train tickets, and I forced our 84 euros upon him. Still dragging B.A., I validated the tickets (always validate your tickets!), and we got on a train to our chosen beach town.

Happily for us, our two-room (upstairs and downstairs) flat was in a beautiful, peach-painted palazzo quite close to the railway station. We paid the rent to our freckled landlady and rushed across the street to Il Bettolino, a restaurant popular with our expat friends, to stuff ourselves with pasta al limone, seafood and wine wine. Yum, yum!

Our next stop was the sea, where B.A. snorkled about and I, despite my swim shoes, was prickled by a sea urchin. Hilary was with us, and we went to her place afterwards to perform surgery on my sea urchin slivered toe. Hilary said if I didn't get all the little black bits of urchin spine out, my toe would go septic, so I poked around with tweezers and a pin and bled in a murmuring, lady-like fashion.  Once all the spines were out, Hilary gave me a drawing lesson, unfortunately stabbing me in the finger with her pencil in the process. It was a sad and dangerous day for digits.

On Thursday we got up early, had coffee at the bar around the corner and rushed off to Rome by train. Interestingly, it was warm, but not hot, and it even began to rain. However, we had planned to spend our morning near the Piazza Navona in the Museo di Roma, so we didn't mind. B.A. wandered happily through the galleries as I sat down in front of this painting and began to sketch Saint Charles carrying a young invalid to safety.

Then B.A. came to get me and off we went to lunch at our very favourite Roman eating spot, Cul de Sac. We had pate, the cheese-stuffed ravioli with citrus, and almond torte with candied orange for lunch, all washed down with Frascati. As I almost do every year, I almost cried with joy. Yum, yum, yum. We took a short stroll afterwards, so as to burn a few calories, and then we went back to the Museo di Roma. Finally we got on our train and went back to our beach town, where we swam and gave a light supper to friends.

On Friday B.A. and I took our early train to Rome and went straight to the Galleria Doria Pamphilj to look at the princely rooms and huge collection of paintings. I very much liked the rooms, especially the ballroom, which could have fit perhaps 400 (rather crowed) people, and a few of the paintings. I was impressed to see the famous Velasquez painting of Innocent X, a lovely Fra Angelico depiction of the Annunciation and a number of Caravaggios. I sat down in front of the Caravaggio I liked best and sketched it until lunchtime:

"Cul de Sac?" I asked B.A. when he approached, and he agreed. So off we went once again to Cul de Sac, where I had a minor squabble with the owner about whether or not I had ordered B.A. babaganoush. I said I hadn't; he said I had; I was mortified; I recovered when I ate my delicious lunch, and B.A. and I stayed for an extra HOUR to fill in our postcards.

Then we bought some fancy biscuits and toddled around until it was time to meet Vatican City friends and their children for a pizza supper.

On Saturday I got up early and began to sketch one of my favourites among the beautiful palazzos of our beach town. It is bright yellow with romantic wrought-iron balconies and lanterns. I sat on a concrete utility box, stuck in the pavement like a milestone, and sketched away. The town's principal church was behind me to my right. And then B.A. came along and we took the train to Rome. Our plan was to tour the churches of Trastevere, but the Romans needed them for weddings that day. So we peeked in on weddings for a bit, and then went for lunch at our dear little Hosteria Farnese.  And then we met a READER, this one a professor of theology named Oana, and she took us for gelato at the famous Teatro. That was really great fun. And then we went back to our beach town and had supper with Hilary at a lovely restaurant with a view of a garden leading down to the sea. Well, apparently it has this view in the daytime. By the time we got there, it was too dark to see it.

On Sunday I continued to sketch the bright yellow house, and when B.A. met me, we went together to Rome to have coffee outside the Caffe Farnese before Mass at Sanctissima Trinita.
Fraternity of the Priests of St. Peter in Rome.
Friends came along, so we all sat together chatting, drinking coffee, and enjoying the sun shining on the piazza until it was almost time for Mass. Off we went to Mass. Mass was especially glorious, as it was the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross. Mass was Solemn, Sung and High, with a choir and red vestments and general gorgeousness. And then a THRONG of expats went off to lunch in Trastevere together, and it was all very jolly. After gelato at Teatro (the Tiberside outlet), B.A. and I went home and to the big sandy beach, where we met another friend. Ah, the seaside social scene!

On Monday, when there were bus strikes in Rome, we stayed in our seaside town. First I wrote an article for the Catholic Register in a cafe-bar with free wi-fi, and then we went to lunch with a friend. Another friend came by and then, before I quite registered what was happening, we were all whisked away to a glamorous seaside terrace behind a hotel drinking a variety of delicious and potent things. B.A. swam afterwards, but I just lay about in our rental flat eating crisps to sop up the booze.

On Tuesday, after I had a good sketch, we went back to Rome to eat lunch at Cul de Sac, where we were met by still another friend. Afterwards we had a lovely long walk through the Campus Martius area to see the Ars Pacis. And then we went all the way to the splendid Piazza del Popolo, which we had never visited before, and up the hill to the glades and gardens of the Pincio. B.A. and I found a nice bench by a fountain, and I went to sleep. And then we hurried a little down the Spanish Steps and down the Via Condotti and through various piazzas to get to evening mass at Trinita.  After Mass we went with friends to a flat near the Colosseum and had a glorious expat supper, awash with booze of every description and with gossip. We caught a late train back to our little beach town and were in bed by 1 AM.

This meant a rather panicked packing session early on Wednesday morning, for we had 11:05 AM flight back to Edinburgh. However, we got everything packed, and the flat tidied, and all the rubbish in the right receptacles, and we were on time for everything. So we flew home with light hearts although probably heavier bodies, thanks to all the lunching and dining.

I felt rather calmer during this holiday than in years previous, in part because I took a short refresher Italian course in August, in part because our flat was so nice, and in part because I am dealing very firmly with my seratonin issues. Come what may, I get up at 7 (or earlier) every day and take my bee-oo-tee-ful pills. When we got home, I found a pre-trip note B.A. had written to remind himself of a travel essential. It read, "PILLS."  B.A. doesn't take pills, but naturally he has a vested interest in mine.


  1. Glad you're back and safe Seraphic. Do we still call you Seraphic or Mrs McC now? I was reading somewhere as well that if you take down a blog, the name can be used by others, to sell anything or advertise anything so do think on leaving up your trademark blog. :-)

    Have you considered one of those natural light lamps that wake you up like the sunrise for the winter coming?


  2. Dear Sinéad! I guess I will stay Seraphic, since B.A. is still B.A. and Seminarian Pretend Son is also pseudonymous (i.e. Alban) ! I will leave my old blog up, although I don't post its comments anymore, as it may continue to help readers that way. As for the lamp, it's a great idea, but B.A. wouldn't like it. He prefers to arise much later than I do. He's a night owl.

  3. I loved reading this an imagining I was there in sunny Rome instead of cold, windy Wellington. A nice holiday for the mind :-)

  4. That sounds like an absolutely lovely holiday!


This is Edinburgh Housewife, a blog for Catholic women and other women of good will. It assumes that the average reader is an unmarried, childless Catholic woman over 18. Commenters are asked to take that into consideration before commenting. Anonymous comments may be erased.

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.