Baby, it's Cold Outside
November 19, 2005 and November 20, 2005
I left New York on Saturday evening and arrived back in Rome at 8:00 on Sunday morning. I got through Immigration and Customs quickly and emerged to find Markus in the arrivals hall. We then went to the British Airways counter to get our tickets changed for the next 2 flight segments. We leave Rome to return to London on the 23rd and we leave London for Cape Town on the 26th. Since we have a few extra days in Rome, we reserved a rental car through Avis - it was very amusing that we got back the exact car that Mark turned in yesterday!
We are staying for 3 nights at the Castello delle Castelluccia, a restored 12th century castle about 12 miles from the city center. Walking into the Castle for the first time was quite impressive as the main entrance, as shown in the photo, consists of wrought iron doors about 12 feet high - they would open very slowly for you as you approached the entrance. Just inside these doors was a large foyer with an old horse drawn coach parked inside. The castle is even complete with legends of the presence of two ghosts! Our room is quite nice and of a fairly good size by European standards. The grounds are beautiful with multi-layers of terraces that cascade down the hillside from the castle. Unfortunately, it is too cold to sit outside (temps only in the 50's) and enjoy the gorgeous views of the surrounding countryside.
After we got settled in, we went out to explore the area and have lunch. There is a pizzeria and restaurant just down the road and we decided to try it. They didn't serve pizzas at lunchtime so we both had very nice pasta dishes. Having flown overnight with little sleep on the plane, I was really knackered by this point and we returned to our room for an afternoon siesta. We had dinner in the hotel restaurant - it was lovely.
It was a gorgeous day today with the sun shining brightly (although still a little cool) so after breakfast, we set out for a drive in the country. We drove through several small towns before reaching Bracciano, which is a quaint little resort village on the shores of Lago Bracciano. It is definitely a resort location - the type of place where the population swells with tourists during the summer months. Nearly everything on the water was closed for the season but the shops in town were open. Bracciano is also home to its own castle, perched on the hillside overlooking the lake. It was very impressive - but as luck would have it, neither Markus nor I had our camera! We drove around the lake passing the Italian Air Force Military Museum and coming into the town of Anguillera. Their weekly market was on-going so we decided to walk through and see the various offerings. It was much the same as the market in Ravello with predominantly clothing, shoes, linens, etc. As we weren't looking to buy and it was a bit chilly, we didn't linger.
We came back toward the hotel and stopped in the nearby town of La Storta for lunch. Once again, another pizzeria that doesn't serve pizza at lunch! We returned to our room for a few hours of surfing and managed to find a self-catering apartment in Cape Town that still had last-minute availability.
For dinner, we returned to the pizzeria down the road. It was explained to us (in Italian) that there were no pizzas tonight. My understanding of the situation was that the pizza oven had died - Markus understood them to say that the pizza man had died. We both bowed our heads for a moment of mourning and quickly ordered pasta before anything else could happen. After some additional thought, we concluded that maybe the pizza oven fell on the pizza man. The explanation definitely involved the words "mortality" and "mutated", but no matter how you interpret it, there was still no pizza!
November 22, 2005
It rained overnight and the sky was still very overcast today. Our original plan was to take the train into Rome but the weather impacted our enthusiasm so we just stayed in the area. The neighborhood around the castle is interesting - several very large villas (we are guessing that they are summer/weekend villas of wealthy Romans) as well as a farm, an orchard (olives, we think) and believe it or not, a seminary (we think Slovakian, based on our amazing grasp of Italian and the Cyrillic language on the entrance sign).
The castle itself is also quite interesting. There is a beautiful roof terrace with incredible views and there is even a chapel and a cloister. Speaking of the castle, we thought you might like to hear one of the ghost stories, so here it is. In 1804, Napoleon Bonaparte was crowned King of Italy. To commemorate the occasion, Pope Pius VII decided to organize a series of parties and special celebrations. One such event was a fantastic plan of floating and flying a giant air balloon filled with different colored luminous glass elements.
The idea was to fly the balloon from Castelluccia to the nearby Lake of Bracciano. Shortly after taking off, the balloon crashed directly on top of the tomb of the infamous and fearsome former Roman Emperor Nero. Today, you can still see signs of the impact of the balloon upon the tomb.
The locals, upon seeing the flash and multicolored ball were convinced a UFO had landed and rushed to the spot. For weeks, peasants, villagers and hunters plagued the area looking for bits of the wreckage. Legend says that Nero was livid that first the balloon and then all of the pesky people, disturbed his slumber. It is said that the commotion rose him from his sleep and made him leave his tomb. For the last 2 centuries, people have sworn that they have seen him roaming the fields and woods of the Castelluccia looking unsuccessfully for a place to sleep.
November 23, 2005
After a very significant delay due to our original flight being canceled and the later flight being delayed, we traveled back to London today. We arrived at Heathrow just before 9:00 PM local time and decided to take the tube to our hotel in Kensington. The journey took only 35 minutes and a further 10-minute walk to the hotel from the tube station. It was very cold when we arrived - only about 37* - so we walked quite briskly!
November 24, 2005
Of all of the holidays that we have spent abroad, we miss Thanksgiving the most. It may be due to the fact that no other country celebrates this uniquely American tradition, so there isn't even any local "spirit" to catch like at Christmas or Easter. I particularly miss the Macy's Parade and the newspaper overflowing with sale circulars and Mark particularly misses the turkey and the football. We didn't have to go completely without though. As we are staying in an American chain hotel, turkey and sweet potatoes were served at cocktail hour in the executive lounge - and there was even pumpkin pie for dessert! We followed this treat by watching a rousing game of cricket on the telly. Mark decided that it wasn't quite as exciting as watching the Lions and the Cowboys play football, but at least the commentary was in English!
November 25, 2005
Today was a day to catch our breath and also to catch up on laundry. We spent the morning finalizing our itinerary for a month-long self drive safari in Namibia and Botswana. Then, we headed across the street to the launderette from which we emerged with sparkling clean and fresh smelling clothes - and all for only 10 Pounds!! It was very cold again today - it started out below freezing. When we first walked out this morning, the fountain in front of the hotel was frozen. So, we spent the balance of the day doing absolutely nothing, but kicking back in our nice warm room with a couple of books. All very unexciting!