Friday, June 25, 2004

Family vacation notes: En route to Venice (via email) 

I am writing from a second class car on the slow train from Rome to Venice.
Not surprisingly, it is running late, but not enough to provoke me into "at
least Missoulini made the trains run on time" sardonic grumbling. More
impressively, we succeeded in ejecting an entire Italian family that was
squatting in our reserved seats, all without any raising of voices or wild
gestures. We share a six seat compartment with a couple of 20-ish English
girls, who seem to put up with us quite well. I am drinking a cool beer
that I rescued from the fridge in our Rome apartment and blogging up a
storm, the TigerHawk son is wired into his Gameboy Advance, and the
TigerHawk daughter is making a list of all the equipment she will need for
her new acquarium, for which she secured a promise to purchase in a moment
of parental weakness last night. We were bargaining down from her starting
position, which was a hamster.

Yesterday was quite productive, from a tourism point of view, most of it
having been given over to "the Vatican death march," as an unidentified
family member described it. We got up early by the standards of our Roman
holiday, and made our way to the Ottavio metro stop, which we knew to be the
rendezvous of an English-language tour. There, at 8 am, we delivered
ourselves into the loving care of Flavio, who took us on a four hour tour
of the art and history of the Vatican Museum, the Sistine Chapel, and the
Basillica. It was exhausting, and fascinating. You have either been there,
in which case you know what I'm saying, or you haven't, in which case I
suggest you make it a priority to get there.

The highlight of the visit for me, however, was quite personal and not at
all religious. The TigerHawk son, who is only 13, stayed focused and
interested the entire time, and even engaged Flavio in an arcane debate
about Michaelangelo's precise reasons for carving his signature into the
Pieta. At the end of the tour, he reported that he finally understood what
I had been telling him for years: The purpose of education is not to get you
a good job, a partial and bourgeois reason at best, but to make the
experiences of life fascinating instead of boring. Thank you Princeton
Charter School.

Of course, that much art history and that much walking is tough on all but
the most dedicated, so we bailed to the nearest pizzeria on exiting Vatican
City, which I believe goes by the name of Pizzaria Marcello. It was
expensive, and had to be the worst pizza in Rome, if not all of Italy,
extremely reminiscent of an Oscar Meyer Pizza Lunchable, in itself something
to avoid. A meal in Rome is a terrible thing to waste.

After a brief stop at the Spanish Steps for gelato (family rule: "we must
eat gelato every day"), I took to a cyber cafe to catch up on my reading,
and the balance of the family hired a horse and buggy to drive them back to
the apartment. The TigerHawk spouse bargained the driver down from 400
Euros (!) to 100, which is still a lot of money for local transportation but
a small price to pay for that much fun for the kids.

On to Venice. More later.


By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Jun 26, 10:49:00 AM:


Sounds like you and your family are having a great time. I was your son's age when I went to Italy. I didn't go with my immediate family but my aunt, uncle, 2 older cousins, and paternal grandparents, and Our Lady of Guadalupe (Brooklyn, NY). I don't know if I was able to really appreciate it all as I would if I went back now. I did "get it" in the overall sense, but the some of the details have evaporated over time.

I basically spent a lot of time wrestling with my cousins in our hotel room, we were all too young to go out at night. I do have memories of Capri, "David", Pompeii, and the Vatican, but they are all sort of eclipsed in my mind because it was the first time I saw topless girls/women in real life. Right there on the beach and by the pool. I was 13 and that stuff really stays with you if you know what I mean. (Sorry if that's creepy.)

Enjoy Venice and wherever else you're heading.

Rob A.  

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