on the tracks and in the sky

Roma to Venezia
And so we left Rome on a fast train from Termini station, speeding through the Italian countryside (and what countryside!) on one of the nicest trains we’ve been on. I once spent a summer travelling Europe on the trains and this was nicer than all of those as well (that was in 1998 mind you, and most of them were overnight trains in central Europe). It took us over 3 hours to reach Venice from Rome, stopping in Florence on the way (but not getting out and looking around, we’ll save that for next time). My son was proudly sporting his brand new AS Roma shirt that he bought with money his Nanny in England had given him (it’s by far his favourite souvenir from Italy!) (when I say Nanny I mean my Mum, not a Nanny like in someone who looks after kids for a living) (international translations here). I wore my Sampdoria shirt so we were the Serie A Boys. The Calcio Kids. On our way out of Italy, flying back to London, we were both wearing our Tottenham Hotspur shirts and the border guards immediately called out to us with big smiles, “Eh, Harry Ka-ne! Totten-ham!” We had to wait while they looked up something, it turns out they were just trying to look up the name of Tottenham’s stadium, but were confused to see that it was now Wembley. They were very excited about Spurs.

Speaking of airports, while I am showing you my in-train sketch of Trenitalia Frecciarosso 1000, here are the other transport sketches from our summer trip. First off, Oakland to Gatwick, which started with a 3.5 hour delay, which was fun. On mt left was a woman who when I first got on board hurriedly picked up a bunch of items from my seat before I sat down, I assumed they were her things. Then when she just sat there holding them I asked, are those mine? (Blankets, headphones) “Yes, I picked them up for you,” she said, “and you are lucky, I don’t usually do nice.” Which was an odd thing to say to a complete stranger. She was British. “Ok, thanks,” I said, taking back the blankets in a bit of a puzzle. I’m not really one for conversations with fellow passengers. I noticed as we sat on the runway she was reading through not only the Daily Mail but also the National Enquirer, which I’d never seen people actually read before, so you see something new every day I suppose. We were in Economy Plus – these BA flights from Oakland to the UK are so much cheaper than we usually pay that we upgraded for a bit more legroom – but still it was a long and hard-to-sleep-on flight. I did at least get my sketch in. I had time…
Oakland to Gatwick

We flew Ryanair to Italy, from Stansted to Rome. As you may remember I call Ryanair “Difficultjet”, and this time the difficult bit was that they don’t let passengers from the US (or non-EU at least; good luck Brits, in a few years) use paperless boarding passes, unlike for example Easyjet, who do. Which means if you are travelling and need to print your boarding pass a day ahead (because you have to check in online nowadays, no other choice) and don’t have access to a printer, as we didn’t, you have to pay loads of money to Ryanair for them to print it out for you, at least fifteen quid a ticket. So that’s annoying. In the end we did find someone with a printer, but most travellers wouldn’t necessarily have that option. Otherwise though I don’t mind Ryanair, they fly to a lot of places and are cheap. It was exciting flying over Belgium, Germany, Austria; my son asked if he could check these off and say he’d been there now, but no, flying over is not the same as being somewhere. If it were, then we’ve been to Greenland loads of times.
Stansted to Roma
Venice to Luton was on Easyjet, which was pretty easy. My son’s hair in this sketch looks red like mine, bu it really isn’t, it’s more light brown/blond. However my paints were very much stuck in the Easyjet colour scheme. Boy we were tired after that trip.
Venezia to Luton

And the final flight of the vacation! This was a trip in which we went through SIX different airports (Oakland, Gatwick, Stansted, Roma Ciampino, Venice Marco Polo, Luton) which of course is my favourite thing, I love airports, SOOOOO much. This was a decent flight home. I had no stranger with a Daily Mail next to me (although my son put the brown BA blanket over his head, making him look like a Jedi). This little Miquelrius sketchbook/random notebook, which I’ve had for five years now, has a lot of in-flight travel sketches in now. Lots of Bon-Voyages.
Gatwick to Oakland

wherever i lay my hydrant, that’s my rome

Hydrant in RomeRome Hydrant sm

Almost there with Rome! Rome wasn’t blogged about in a day, but this will be the last one, much shorter and with less complaining. Above are a couple of fire hydrants! I was pleased to discover some in Rome, add them to my collection. Not many, but here they are. Rome is also well known for its fountains, not just the grand ones in the piazzas, but also the smaller ones dotted around the streets with drinking water for anyone who gets thirsty in those heavy, hot Roman afternoons. So I sketched the one below, the man with the barrel and no nose, in Via Lata. Next to that is a very quick perspective sketch just off of that street.

Rome noseless fountain sm

Now one fountain I did not sketch, you will have noticed, was the world-famous Trevi Fountain. It was very crowded there, and the surrounding streets thick with tourist-tack. Beautiful fountain, but not my favourite spot in Rome. We did nevertheless each throw a coin into the fountain, ensuring, as the legends and all the guidebooks say, that we will return to Rome. And I’m sure that we will, and I can’t wait. Arrivederci Roma!

nice one centurion, like it, like it

roman soldier (playmobil)
And so, a couple more Rome posts before moving on to Venice. There is an endless supply of Rome puns and Life of Brian references to draw from yet. Above is a little Playmobil Roman soldier I picked up near the Forum, goes nicely with all our Playmobil knights and pirates. So one of the things we did in Rome was the Gladiator School, which as I’ve mentioned before, was not worth it. It’s listed inĀ  lot of magazines and guides and tourist videos about Rome as a fun activity with the family, but I must say I wasn’t impressed. It’s quite expensive to take part, and I took part with my son so it was twice the cost. On top of that, it’s outside the center of Rome so you have to take a taxi there. Our taxi driver from the Forum fleeced us with a 30 Euro ride (his meter was not running, tellingly). The taxi back on the other hand was 17 Euro, but we had to wait 45 minutes for it to arrive. Now when we got there the place is pretty small, it’s a space for a group that does Roman re-enactments, and they go full on with the costumes and put on shows and things I guess. There were lots of photos of the Roman guy who runs it with various celebrities who had gone there in the past, Arnold Schwarzenegger and so on. The Gladiator School is for kids really but it was like, well it must be good, famous people come here. I was wearing my Sampdoria shirt and the same guy spoke to me, saying that Sampdoria are just a bunch of drug users and miming someone taking an injection. Hmm, okay, I said. We ended up being in a fairly large group of around twenty or so adults and children, and then we were given a history lesson with a whole bunch of Roman helmets and weaponry, which was interesting enough, except it was in a very hot room on a very hot day and went on for an hour. The guy taught us a lot of history, and some got to wear very heavy helmets, but all of the kids were getting quite anxious to get out and learn swordplay. When we finally did get to move into the practical space, the instructor gave us costumes – red tunics for the adults and white robes for the kids. Massive white robes that didn’t fit kids at all, and tiny red tunics that we adults all barely squeezed into. Hmmm. Some of us laughed about it, but at this stage one family had had enough, I’m not sure exactly why but I heard that the instructor had made some comment to their son, a tall lad, which had upset him, so the instructor spent the next 10-15 minutes off talking to the secretary while we waited around wondering what to do next. Finally the instructor reappeared and introduced a small obstacle course which we had to run around five times, while he went off again, distracted. Then he showed us a wooden structure which gladiators had to learn how to put together quickly which was supposedly used in battle, and so everyone took turns, while everyone else watched, because there is only one. We spent a lot of time watching. In the meantime the instructor would wander off, or just chat to the mothers seated on the benches (“Americans and British today,” he said to one, “No Australians thankfully, the Australian women are very rowdy because they are all descended from violent criminals.” He actually said that. Hmmm. When finally we got to learn swordplay, which was with the wooden practice swords, we all lined up and he told us to copy certain moves, then he would go around to each of us and maybe show us how to do that one move, or in the case of my son, just say one dismissive sentence and move on without showing him anything (his only words were, “Too much Jackie Chan,” whatever that is supposed to mean). It seemed like there were far too many in the group for anything more, though he didn’t seem particularly bothered. The sword practice was about ten minutes at most, and then we got to sit and watch while two kids or two parents at a time were able to fight each other. Kids couldn’t fight parents however, which disappointed my son who wanted to battle me. It was only simple gentle battling, and again the instructor barely took any notice, preferring to go and chat to other people instead, or ask that the mothers get up and fight because he “wanted to see two women fight”. And that was it. He gave us all certificates, and then thanked us as a group for funding their Roman re-enactment society, and then he went into a tirade that they get no funding from the Roman city government, who prefer to fund things “for gay people and foreign migrants”, mincing about as he did so. Eh? Stunned confusion from everyone. “Hi, can we have our money back?” I said, knowing that was not a battle worth our time fighting. As we waited for our cab home, a 45 minute wait, I peeked in to see the group after us, which was smaller, and who had a different, more enthusiastic instructor. They seemed to be having a great time. We and the rest of our group however all felt a bit underwhelmed. However. We got back and had a gelato, and still loved Rome, and in the end, you get to see this picture of me squeezed into a very, very tight tunic, fighting a duel. I guess it was worth it for that…

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