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31 October 2010 @ 04:45 am
2010 travels of Brammers part 2  
I note that the most popular choice in my poll of the other day was that I was doomed to wander airports eternally, like the Flying Dutchman, unable to reach my destination. This reflects either an impressively accurate assesment of travel with me, or else a disturbingly keen tendency to angst in my flist. It was 38 hours for anyone still wondering.

At least I missed the terrorist alert!

Of course, the angst is not misplaced -- gypsies stole my Violet Crumble!

Now many of you have previously asked what Violet Crumble is. And if I were not travelling and writing and sleep deprived, I would have responded to those comments by now. In short, it is chocolate-coated honeycomb of such deliciousness that it is known among my friends as chocolate-coated crack. It comes in two forms, lumps and bars, and the lumps are superior.

The lumps have fallen off the shelves due to what meredyth_13  tells me is a manufacturing problem and I was going to be travelling with none, but as it turned out, I found a few bags at Melbourne airport while transiting there. Yesterday, when travelling from Rome to Viterbo, I popped them on top of my backpack because I did not have a lock for my pack nor enough dirty undies to stick at the top. It is vital to have either a lock or something unpleasant or inexpensive at the top of your backpack when travelling in Rome, because there are thieves. Not all are gypsies, I hasten to add, but there are a lot who are. It's just one of those things, I am afraid, though I loathe making such a sweeping statement. It's Rome, it makes people avaricious.

Anyway, I was on the train, and there were girls loitering in the vestibule, which made me suspicious. But I still had to get off the train, and they had a moment of opportunity. After running to make my connection (of COURSE the first train was late), I put my backpack down and saw the top was open. There was only one bag of Violet Crumble left! Woe! I hope they get cavities!

And I must remember to buy a lock before I leave Viterbo.

Still, it was a minor loss, and I had already had a great train trip due to my companions: three young priests who looked so serious and grave until they opened their mouths and came out with a variety of American accents and comments such as 'No, we should stay an extra day because it is totally awesome!'

You can only imagine my delight when they pulled out a bag of McDonald's. One had spilled fizz all over himself and another was offering one of his shirts to clean it up. I pulled out my travel pack of wipes and handed it over (seriously, worth every bit of luggage space they take up), and was able to clean up a priest. I feel I did my bit for atheist-clergy fraternity that day!

Of course, all this talk of travel is not half so interesting as the places I went from and to. Heading back to Rome for a minute, I spent a lot of Thursday afternoon at the Baths of Diocletian, as I could not face the horror of walking down to anything more exciting by myself. I have been meaning to visit the baths and the attendant museum for a long time, and am glad I finally did. It's a beautifully preserved complex that starts with a small, classic garden, where the lavender was just finishing up but still wonderfully fragrant.

Like an idiot, I decided to explore the museum first -- I really do love museums. This was a very good one, though the interps were spotty, with some areas really well explained and others left for the visitor to guess at. There were particularly good sections on new religions in Rome, with Jewish and Christian iconography displayed, and on oil lamps, plus some really fine statuary, like this one of someone I have forgotten but have labelled elsewhere, and her piglet in her left hand. Yep, before Italian portraiture turned to small dogs, it was all about the piglets.
Naturally, being a dill, I ran out of go before I went through the actual baths. I just stuck my head in and then staggered back to the hotel to pick up my book before limping up the road for dinner. There I reached the high point of my Is Perennially Unable To Keep European Languages Straight by speaking for once perfect Italian (it was only a few simple sentences), but with a French accent. The staff and the single woman beside me all began to refer to me as Madam, sympathised about the strikes, and bid me au revoir.

I must say that I was grateful for this, as I was reading Jilly Cooper's Jump (I had to pack a book for my sole travel days that I can leave behind without qualms!) and so I deserved far worse! (It's fabulous trash for anyone who wants to know. Like a good plate of chips and egg.)

Yesterday morning I used up another part of my Therme Diocletian ticket at Palazzo Massimo. I had not even heard of this museum until I bought a ticket that included it (they are three-day, four-site deals, which at 7 euro is not bad!) and am very happy with the chance that led me to it. Not only do they have a good collection of antiquities, but they have a few really wonderful displays. The very best is a room of garden frescoes from Villa Livia that has been recreated in the museum. At the top of every hour, they shift the lighting through the entire day's spectrum, from sunrise to sunset, to show you how the colours changed through the day.

Even surrounded by hormonal German school children there on a trip, it was a genuinely astonishing experience as the light flared up to reveal details I had missed in the museum gloom, then tinted red and made the flowers and fruits on the painted trees glow as though they were new, not ancient. Absolutely worth the coming back at the right time and standing around waiting while sulky students glowered at me. They all had the 'Oh, I see!' moment, too, which was nice.

There were many more well-conserved frescoes, and mosaics, too. And this bronze, of a pugilist, wearing Roman boxing gloves -- just astonishing.

Then it was on to Viterbo and a lovely afternoon walking around the old city. It is a beautiful place, walled and hilly, with wide streets-- including the street I intend to spend much of tomorrow on, which seems to consist wholly of gelataria, buskers, chocolate shops and people walking the most beautiful dogs.

Today was a bus over to Montefiascone, which naturally began with me getting lost, since the bus driver was convinced I knew which stop I wanted and I was not, and I did not listen to my instinct when it guessed the best stop. This was serendipitous, as it meant that I got off at a stop outside a bank that took my card (about 25% do), so I could take out more euro. Then, following a pilgrim on the Camino, scallop on rucksack and all, I came back past San Flaviano, a splendid and serene Romanesque basilica filled with frescoes that were both beautifully made and mostly well preserved. It was open and I spent quite a bit of time inside it -- photography was acceptable, so I took a few shots of the frecoes, too.

From there it was a walk up the mountain path to reach the old town proper -- I do love it when people build on mountains, it makes it so easy to become un-lost. Montefiascone is one of those very beautiful mediaeval towns that Italy does so well, and the people who live there are mostly good at maintaining the fabric while letting it still be a living town. The ubiquitous car (so few Italians are walkers!) and satellite dish dented the picturesque, but with Lago Bolsena in the distance and so many beautifully constructed buildings, from the several churches to the old papal fortress, it was still enough to fill one with thoughts more fitting to an American divorcee in a best-selling memoir.

My favourite moments were very silly -- I have been missing my cats, and three came to me demanding pats. This little catten was adorable, happily well kept enough that I did not feel the need to steal it home (at ruinous expense).

Now, off to dinner with Jilly Cooper again, and tomorrow, Viterbo properly. Then I need to decide what to do with Monday -- I have that problem every week.

Mr Brammers is missing me and tells me the cats are, too. And well they might! I suppose that is the one benefit of him being such an awful stay at home, the cats have him to care for them. Then, back to do some writing and have another early night!

In final news, it occurs to me that if one wishes to pass beneath the notice of Italian men while walking great distances on a gorgeous autumn day in Lazio, it is best not to wear a fitted red T-shirt with a big white heart decoration on one's breasts. It was lovely meeting you, Andrea, Claudio, and Mr I Did Not Catch Your Name. Thank you all for understanding my apologies for my bad Italian and chatting cheerfully about Australian beaches. Yes, they are beautiful, and I love the fact that is the only thing Italian men of a certain age know about the country (the women -- also of a certain age, because I am not as young as I once was -- all have a friend who has a sister there, she is down in number 67, perhaps I will have time for us to go and chat with her and see if I know her sister?)

OH! One last anecdote: when inquiring as to which bus would bring me on the last leg back to my hotel, I interrupted the bus men chatting. The lead one turned to me and asked me if I thought Berlusconi was beautiful. Convinced I had misunderstood, I replied, 'Il Presidente? Berlusconi? Bello?' They nodded enthusiastically. 'No!' I said without thinking, and pulled a face. Apparently this was the correct answer -- they laughingly described to me the size of the viagra pill the man requires, hands spread apart - 'Cosi! -- Like this!' Ah Italians, I do love you, even if half your bus drivers are surly bastards and Rome is filled with smog and ill-tempered pickpockets.
This Girlthisgirl_is on October 30th, 2010 06:13 pm (UTC)
I am partial to a good bronze, and your boxer looks lovely. That's a very nice shot of him, too!
κάτι τρέχει στα γύφτικα_inbetween_ on October 30th, 2010 06:16 pm (UTC)
I'd like to be able to write a book like "Travels with My Brammers" but alas, it'll always be about stationary loners. And this time, there will no cats! Because of their utterly addictive and delightful essentiality - certainly they are the lovelies sight on any journey, if well cared for - I must curb myself and stop inserting them into each novel, since they take over it.

I'm very sorry about the delicious chocolate! The only thing that is of slight comfort is that all your readers who would not have got any now will feel less left out? No?
And I do understand the loathing to make what sounds like generalistations when it's true. Sadly, mine got no cavities from all my valuables, and despite robbing me of all my valuables they gave me dark stares. CATS ARE BEST.

STOP FLIRTING WITH EVERYONE from priests to bus driver ;* no, keep up the good work.

Edited at 2010-10-30 07:24 pm (UTC)
Kareinakareina on October 30th, 2010 06:40 pm (UTC)
I am amused at your descriptions of the locals you've met. I've been in the country for over a year and haven't met anyone! When I walk down the street the only time anyone tries to talk to me is when they need directions, at which I'm no help at all.
silent hallucinationalex_s9 on October 30th, 2010 07:44 pm (UTC)
Ah, Italian gelati! Yummy!

I was just wondering the other day if your friends and family are surprised that you travel alone. When I go abroad without my husband (which is far more often than not), everyone keeps asking me why I don't travel with him. Which is just silly. I like to travel alone.
Nennenenne on October 30th, 2010 08:53 pm (UTC)
For traveling alone (you are, aren't you?) you certainly have a lot of company. :) That's really nice.

Is this just a holiday or are you doing research or, or, or?
Bubba: Gondoabsynthedrinker on October 31st, 2010 12:25 am (UTC)
The pugilist. I would have done him.

shu_shu_sleepsshu_shu_sleeps on October 31st, 2010 12:36 am (UTC)
I love your travel journals - always full of fun stuff. I've only ever transitted through Rome but it does sound worth a visit one day..... mind you the food would kill me!
Jaeenchanted_jae on October 31st, 2010 02:02 am (UTC)
Thanks for sharing your lovely trip! And I'm sure the little thieves thank you for your violet crumble. *grins*
dylansbuzz: Emma black lacedylansbuzz on October 31st, 2010 04:22 am (UTC)
I love reading your travelogues :)

I always figured teh place for me would be Italy - where men appreciate a curvy backside and such. Where I would be eternally "Bella!"
Meredythmeredyth_13 on October 31st, 2010 07:04 am (UTC)
You and your red bosoms of shameful flirting!

*applauds you*

Also, your boxer = divine! He looks so detailed and real - as though he were really just caught out of time. *sigh*

Is 'The gypsies stole my violet crumble' the Brammer's travel version of 'A dingo stole my baby'?

theodoraleft on October 31st, 2010 08:44 pm (UTC)
So, is violet crumble like a "crunchie bar" do you think, if you have an encyclopaedic knowledge of british confectionery? Also, I would like to see more of the boxer; he looks delightfully lean and muscular.
sorrel_forbessorrel_forbes on November 3rd, 2010 10:09 pm (UTC)
The two are similar, but enthusiasts are able to distinguish between them. That said, even chocolate bars of the same name are appreciably different in the antipodes – I hear that the recipe is adjusted to allow for the difference in climate.
lilian_cho: Aziraphale also worshiped bookslilian_cho on November 1st, 2010 03:43 am (UTC)
I love your serendipitous meeting with strangers.

Where is part one of this, pray tell?
drbunsendrbunsen on November 2nd, 2010 09:59 am (UTC)
Aziraphale looks a bit too young there for my tastes. I always pictured him as more sort of Bill Nighy-y.
lilian_cho: Aziraphale also worshiped bookslilian_cho on November 9th, 2010 11:28 pm (UTC)
(Sry for late reply)

I made the icon from glockgal's Aziraphale!Draco fanart =) Thus the young age.

I picture Aziraphale like Pterry, except fussier and better-looking ;-)
lokifanlokifan on November 3rd, 2010 03:55 pm (UTC)
I do love Italy :) And lololol oh Berlusconi. A peculiarly Italian sort of bastard.
Atira7atira7 on November 17th, 2010 08:59 pm (UTC)
Having the bus drivers be surly bastards is what makes Italy so fun <3

I only went the one time on a school trip my senior year in high school, for a week. I want to go back and live there *sigh*.