Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Tag: Rome

Speed

Life happens so fast. Last Saturday night we were in Rome. This evening we are at the end of Boxing Day, having celebrated my homecoming, Christmas eve with friends, Christmas day with other friends, and much being at home with Big friendly and the small furries. We have just come back from our neighbour’s daughter’s 21st celebration, Woodstock Muslim style, which was fantastic and reminded me again how I love living right here, right now.

Already I am forgetting the sensations of Europe; winter, the bleak sun disappearing at four in the afternoon, the brisk breathy mornings, hot chocolate and pasta, foreign tongues, food, music, the lack of living space, the size of monuments, the magnificence of Michelangelo’s David, the weirdness of the Vatican, the gorgeous smell of Italian men, the style of the Parisians, history, glamour, excess, the most delicious ice cream, the collections of tourists, the souvenirs, the fewness of black people, the many crowds, the cold.

Already I am getting reused to the smell of the Atlantic, the Boxing Day braai smoke, the grumpy, hungover bergies, the strange demands for ‘Christmas box’, the shocking shlok TV programming. Already I am going everywhere in my car, I am worrying about the cricket score, I am sickened by how many stabbings, road deaths and drownings there have been.

In a week it will be 2010. I am keeping eyes and heart open for that one.

Traffic

I think that traffic, driving and pedestrians tell us a lot about societies, and how people are. Flying through five cities in 11 days and comparing the traffic gives one amazing insight, just through the modes of transport and traffic solutions.

We went on a day tour of Istanbul while we were in transit there. Traffic was heavy, driving reckless, lots of hooting but everything was well handled. There are a combination of huge highways on the outskirts and tiny, ancient roads in the city centre, all negotiated by cars, motorbikes and even busses.

Paris was incredible. There, a successful Metro makes traversing the city a joy, especially when the train pops out of an underground tunnel and gives you a stunning view of the Seine, the city streets or even a glimpse of winter greenery. It also gives one a chance to perve at the Paris sexies, of all ages, colours and sizes. it just doesn’t get more stylish. Out on the street traffic is totally intense. In places, cars move at a snail’s pace, waiting for pedestrians to move across hectic intersections. Sirens are constantly heard, and all traffic gives way to the ambulances that dash across the city. In Monmartre everyone has a scooter. Their buzzing can be heard up and down the streets and alleys through the night and into the morning. There are piles of scooters on every pavement and street corner. A novelty for me were the rows of automated bicycle parking spots along many of the streets. Apparently, you get a card loaded and then activate a bicycle pole with your card, to lock your bike down.

DSC00280 There is not a single car or scooter or bicycle in the whole of Venice. You either walk, or travel on water. What an absolute relief. The public water taxi/ferry system is efficient and comprehensive, just like an ordinary metro. Gondolas are strictly an expensive tourist thing, and not really to get you from point to point, although Paulo, our gondolier, was a wealth of information, and of course you can hear every word he says, the trip is so quiet, with no motor, only the gentle slap of water against the buildings as you go past. It is also a great leveller, seeing everyone walking; rich, poor, local, foreign.

DSC00339 Rome is a traffic experience like no other. The advice I was given was, just walk. You can, and everyone stops for pedestrians. It is a madness of cars, busses, scooters, bikes, pedestrians, trams, trains and, even in some piazzas horses and carts. It was also a wet dream for the car buffs. Lamborghinis, Porsches, Ferraris and other fancies dot the streets and are left parked in alleyways. There are thousands of teeny cars; the best way to have a car in this mad traffic and space deprived city. And of course there are hundreds of thousands of scooters and bikes. I saw an old woman kick start her fancy black scooter down a busy city street like a stylish Hell’s Angel granny. And all of this is perfectly negotiated, as cars and bikes mount kerbs, huge busses screech to a halt to let a school’s tour of children cross a massive intersection, people bulldoze onto packed busses and metros and squeeze past cars and bikes in narrow cobbled streets. 

Home and back on Megan’s Head

I missed my blog while I was away in Europe. I missed being able to download, purge, diarise, reflect, complain, criticise and connect. So, this is the first of many posts about going away, things that struck me, differences, similarities, people, places and new ideas and inspirations.

Today’s post is about fairy lights and decorations. The moment we arrived in Paris, at Charles De Gaulle airport at around midnight, I saw a brilliant modern red Christmas tree made up of rope lights. Immediately, I was struck by how stylish and slick and Paris the holiday lights were, and I hadn’t even left the airport yet. Obviously the street lights and shop decorations blew my mind. The trees along the Champs Elysees were lit up with white fairy lights and dripping lights that looked like melting icicles. The shop windows were decorated with trees and sparkles and leaves and snow and fairy lights. Every single store had their own style and flavour. We were staying in Monmartre, altogether a seedier and more bohemian place, and there the Christmas lights and decorations were cheaper and more garish, but still nothing like I’d seen before.

When we got onto the train in Paris, bound for Venice, it was around 2030 and already pitch dark. After travelling through the Industrial side of Paris we slid into the country side. I don’t know when it became Italy, but I was awake and looking out of the window at about four in the morning. It was gloomily dark, but at even the slightest hint of human habitation there was a Christmas light to guide us train travellers on our way. I saw trees, stars, flashing rope lights, fairy lights and coloured globes. I can’t explain how touching it was.

Venice was the home of the climbing Santas. Every flat had one or two or even three Santas entering a window via a little white rope ladder. But that’s not all. Being on the Grand Canal at night and seeing the hotels and shops on the water’s edge lit for Christmas was absolutely spectacular. It was breathtaking. Hotels lit up their entrances from top to bottom. Waterfront facing rooms had lights in their windows. The little streets and alleys were all strung with lights. The stalls selling souvenirs all had lights. The shops and piazzas were covered in lights, making the whole of Venice even more magical. I felt like I was in fairyland.

But Rome took the Christmas cake, literally and figuratively. I have never seen anything like it. Rome was a sparkling Christmas wonderland, and it was splendid. Some of my favourites were the Piazza Navona, which had a market with stalls selling sweets; toffee apples, candy floss, nougat and long strips of marshmallows, toys like weird laughing witch puppets, Christmas stockings and decorations, a carousel and huge cartoon balloons. Benetton also had a genius Christmas idea for their shop windows; Christmas trees covered in tiny woollen jerseys and cardigans of all colours. There was even a baby tree in the window display for the kids’ stuff. On the floor of our hotel (literally 50 metres from the Trevi Fountain!) there was a Christmas tree with shiny red heart baubles.

It helps to be in a shivery, snowy landscape. Christmas really works in the Northern hemisphere.

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