07 October 2009

Roma: Day V

The other day while searching the bowels of my computer for a lost file, I came across a travelogue I'd written nearly 10 years when I went to Rome on vacation. At the time, I shared it with a few friends. And it seems appropriate to share it here now. Enjoy.

Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know Byron hung out in Rome. Shelly. Keats. Gibbons. Many writers came for the Grand Tour and forgot to leave. More than a few died here and are buried in the Protestant Cemetery, a belated papal nod to the Reformation.

On the northern edge of the city, beside the Spanish Steps, is a little tea shop called Babbington’s, where the fine tradition of English cooking continues. The eggs are runny, the coffee weak and the side of bacon a whole hog. The undercooked serving would feed me for a week.

But I am most interested in the coffee this morning. Last night, something shell-fishy was in the supper, and for a few moments, I thought I was going to have to test out the Roman healthcare system (I'm allergic to shell-fish, particularly shrimp).

But after doubling up on my Claritin, my allergic reaction isn’t too bad this morning. I can breathe easily again, even if my lips are still swollen to Angelina Jolie proportions (as Kate tells me with an evil laugh). My eyes only open halfway, and I can’t bear to look in a mirror. So my friend, who hangs with New York actors, screenwriters and directors when she’s not writing branding proposals, entertains me with tales of celebrity heroine addiction covered up by great make-up artists, suggesting, of course, that I should have done the same this morning.

I nod, do coffee shots and pick out the crispy bits of bacon.

Babbington’s is the only real disappointment in our choice of restaurants.

For the most part, the food in Roma is fresh and good, if a bit too reliant on pasta and sweet tomato sauce. We are not eating in the finest restaurants available, though, and the street vendors produce snack food nowhere near the quality of the Parisian sidewalk carts. However, wherever we go, the house wines are phenomenal. The whites are dry and unsweet. The reds are robust, nonacidic and you can almost taste the dirt in which the grapes were grown. I am in love.

After eating enough bacon to satisfy me for the rest of my life, we walk around the pink house where Keats died, peek in the windows of Byron’s Roman home and head toward gardens where English tourists have wandered among fake ruins for a century or two.

At the top of the Spanish Steps, we buy miniature watercolors from a deaf artist. I know a little sign language from my days of teaching a deaf student in my karate class, so I understand his final warning to us as we strolled toward the Villa Medici.

"Beware the gypsy children," he gestures.

Tomorrow:  What day is it?


Unknown said...

KEENA--how funny! I recall the citizens of Rome are rude--they will not move out of the way, take the entire sidewalk--always narrow--and force you to walk in the street. The innumerable motor scooters were a sight to behold.
but my dh and I usually wander away from our tour group, and with my heart in my throat, I allow him to charge off into strange territory. But when we get lost, a citizen falls all over himself to answer out poor Spanish to guide us on our way.When we need food, one will "take" us there with much hand-waving and gestures. In other words, as a group--rude. Individually--very helpful and kind. This, though, we've found to be true in Paris, London, Berlin, Austria, St. Petersburg--everywhere. Rude as a group--kind and helpful individually.It must be universal. Celia

Keena Kincaid said...

Hi, Celia. I, too, have found that individuals are usually quite wonderful, even if the 'crowd' isn't. One thing I've noticed, too, is immigrants tend to be more rude and hostile to me, particularly in Paris, than the born-and-bred Parisians. Go figure.

Glad my blog brought back some good memories.

Stephanie Burkhart said...

The gypsy children are back! haha. Sorry to hear about the allergies, but it sounds like you did the right thing. Sorry to hear about Babbington's, but it's so nice to see Rome through your eyes! Steph

Keena Kincaid said...

Hi, Steph. Yeah, I'd forgotten about my brush with death until I found this travelogue. Oh, well. I've always said if I'm going to go out, I want it to be in Rome or Paris vs. the produce aisle of Harris Teeter.