We were as surprised as anyone to be finally jouncing along the Via Trastevere in the middle seats of a chauffeured van on the way to our apartment. The trip to London had been uneventful, and almost pleasant. The seats on the British Airways 747 were relatively spacious, the amenities – food, free drinks of all sorts, pillows, blankets — desirable, and the plane landed a half hour early due to a good tail wind over the Atlantic. But then . . .
We de-planed, hustled toward the terminal, and found ourselves being directed by purple-uniformed staff people to the end of a very long line. Its dimensions shifted as one group of people or another was called out to get screened ahead of us for a flight that was about to take off, and other people sifted in under the cords defining the queue, slid into place just in front of us, and then started making their way up along the line to get closer to the front. I would have said it was a couple of blocks long, but that would almost certainly be an exaggeration. Block and a half at the most, when we joined it, but it quickly grew to half again the length before it went out of sight around a corner.
That line eventually ended at a series of “Passport Control” booths, where the pleasant woman who took our tickets informed us that we’d been upgraded to business class (just because, I guess — no reason given). The thought of the luxuries of the upgrade sustained us through the next hour of waiting to get through security (shoes on; otherwise much like the U.S.).When we emerged into the terminal, we had just enough time left from our 3 1/2 hour layover to get a quick lunch. We headed for gate A23 after that, at the far end of Terminal 5, only to find that the flight was now leaving from A12, near where we had eaten lunch. So we hustled back, short of time due to all of the earlier delays.
Hurry up and board — and then we were late taking off, by about 3/4 of an hour. The seat across from us in business class had something wrong with the cushion, and they brought in a repairman to work on it. Seemed like they could have just sat the person who was assigned that seat in the next seat over, but it was apparently urgent. The afternoon tea with perfect little rectangular sandwiches, made of the finest, softest white bread (no crusts) with egg salad, ham salad, and roasted red peppers helped make up for the delay. There were dry citrus-y scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam, and sweet almond cakes, and for the decaf coffee drinkers, Nescafe finest instant brew. Not bad.
More lines greeted us when we left that plane — first another very long line for passport stamps. Our agent trimmed his fingernails in between people, and didn’t stamp Jim’s passport at all — not the guy’s best day on the job. Then a half hour wait at the baggage carousel, watching the bags get pushed to the top of the chute, then thunk over and land on the belt; next one — ka-thunk, next one — ka-thunk. It had a mesmerizing rhythm in my sleep-deprived blur. And finally out into the muggy warm Rome night, with billboards flashing and cars everywhere. The general guidebook suggestion is “don’t even think about driving in Rome,” and it’s immediately apparent why they say that. Our driver, sent by the apartment owner, was a young guy with a white shirt, open at the neck, sleeves rolled to the elbows, stylish and full of attitude. He didn’t get on his cell phone until we were off the freeway, and then didn’t get off until he had to maneuver around on the narrow streets to park in front of the apartment.
Our landlady greeted us, showed us in, left the keys and instructions for the (very handy) air conditioning, and took off. It’s a very different place than our usual low-rent digs – chocolates on the pillows, a bottle of red Sicilian wine, and Italian coffee for the stove-top espresso maker. Although the streets were lively with pedestrians and plenty of restaurants even at 9:30 p.m., we spent our time settling in, and getting to bed early (Jim and Anthea at least).
Wi-fi is limited in the apartment, so here’s just one photo: our celebratory wine, a taste to make all of the day’s delays fall into perspective. This is Rome — we have arrived.
Thanks to all who sent restaurant advice, and sights to see. It’s already clear that this week is the tasting menu, and we’ll have to return, but we’ll get in as much as possible.
Ciao –Jim, Teri, Anthea