Stout & Large do Rome - One
You would think that after navigating the hostile environs of South America for a month and a half last year, that Stanstead Airport would be a breeze. Mountains, jungles, all sorts of shady characters, urban areas dodgier than a Tour de France rider’s EPO sample...but no, standing in the queue for the CattleAir plane the following thoughts occurred in this order:
Tickets? Check. In messenger bag.
Passport? Check. In messenger bag.
Messenger bag? Hmmm...that’ll be the one still on the transfer bus from the long-term parking area.
A quick hotfoot out of the terminal which probably only resulted in minor contusions for the families I barged past and I managed to throw myself bodily in front of the bus before he drove away, said bag sitting smugly in the front window. I point and pant, driver laughs and opens the door. “There’s always one,” he laughs.
“Yeah,” I think, “but it’s usually some numpty on the way to Lanzarote not a hard-bitten, world-weary globetrotter like me.”
I resist the urge to take my passport out and show him all the stamps that prove that I have been to places unaided and without my mother, and slink back to the terminal.
“Ahem,” I say to Kate, “I don’t think we’ll mention this one in dispatches.”
“Ho ho, if you don’t then I will,” she replies considerately.
The flight’s one of those modern transport experiences which is at least brief (when Keats died in Rome, it took the news of his death over three weeks to make it back to England – and even RyanAir manages to be quicker than that). The highlight is undoubtedly flying over Rome itself on the edges of a thunderstorm: looking down and seeing the Colosseum from the viewpoint of the Gods and the Vatican from the viewpoint of, well, God I suppose. Maybe the bolts of lightning flying round the heavens indicates that He thinks it’s all got a little bling for His tastes. Anyway, we arrive in possibly the only country in the world where the phrase ‘three nuns get into a Fiat and drive off at a rate of knots’ describes what actually happens rather than being the start of a long and involved joke with the punchline ‘taking the dogma for a walk’ and that is that.
The hotel’s fantastic (www.hotelteatropace.com) situated right in the heart of the Centro Storico and surrounded by enough bars and restaurants of both the tourist and local variety to keep everyone happy. Its website does a nice line in irony too. Why don’t we have an elevator? See that lovely stone staircase you’ve just said how much you like? Well, we’d have to rip it out to put one in. The Parthenon? Sorry, can’t help you. That’s in Athens...
So, we shower, change, and head out to dine al fresco in a restaurant down a narrow Roman alleyway, eating pizza on a base so thin you could use it to replace a cracked window pane if you had to. A bottle of wine follows another bottle of wine in the sultry summer evening air and all is very much well with the world.