We began with the Queen, or a phantom queen. We never did quite know whether it was the Queen we saw on our first day in Europe, though the newspaper later confirmed four royal women wandering around in black on Rememberance Sunday: Kate, Sophie, Camilla and Elizabeth. Well, there might have been pretenders for the first day, but on our last day in Europe we ended with the Pope. And you can’t really mistake him, if only because he has a window, and there are thousands in St Peter’s Square calling for him, like a rock star. But why were we here? And how did we get here?
Myles was calling for it since we had missed the Pope’s mass on Wednesday. And because he had been so sad about it, we indulged him. We decided to walk to the Vatican through Trastevere; it apparently has the biggest flea market in Rome on a Sunday. Perhaps. But we didn’t come across it. All we saw were some pretty sad little stalls selling pieces from the $2 shop.
Trastevere, according to guide books, is a gentrified former working class suburb. This was interesting because it looks nothing like a former working class suburb. It is all hills and parks and large buildings. It looks, as Myles said, just like South Yarra. It was quite peaceful walking though the suburb on a Sunday; though there were too many hills for most of us. We ended up in a large park on the top of the hill, with people selling balloons and some very excited children having a party, and old men sitting on benches reading the newspaper. It was also quite close to a series of hospitals, so harried people going for visiting. There were lots of busts of people here too, at least three busts of various Garibaldis, who knew there were so many? And a few busts of people (and by people, I mean men) who sported quite spectacular mutton chops. Perhaps they were famous for their beards.
Time was marching on and Myles didn’t want to miss the big moment when the Pope appeared at his window and blessed the crowd. So we stumbled down the steep roads and into Vatican city. This time (unlike the disappointing Wednesday) the place was full to bursting with people, so carrying placards with Mary and Jesus featured (for what? Protest? Support? Is wasn’t clear). There were groups marching around with banners. There was a group who had control of a microphone and an inexhaustible supply of rollicking religious tunes in Italian.
Zelda spotted the carpet laid out from the window of his palace (it was a bit, blink and you miss). The musicians kept playing and we waited. And then, with no fanfare really, the Pope appeared at his window. The group with the microphone happened to be in the middle of a song, and had to kind of fade it quickly as he began to speak.
It was mostly in Italian, all about words and actions and helping the sick and being a good Christian (at least they were the bits I could understand). And then he began to go through a couple of different language. He began with French, then English, then German, then Spanish, then another language we didn’t recognise but thought it was some kind of Eastern European tongue. The kids were quite excited by how many language he could speak. The message in English at least, but possibly replicated across all the language, was that Christ was the way and the light, and that we had to be good. Being good was the big thing.
Then he introduced a young girl and she gave a speech about being good and climbing the mountain to overcome evil and badness and listening to your teachers and parents. It was all a bit depressing really. We left before it all ended.
Myles liked the bit when an American couple walked passed it and suddenly realised that it was the Pope at the window. ‘Shit!’ said one to the other. ‘I think that might be him!’ Ah the yanks. Always good for a laugh.
As it was our last day in Europe on this tour and we were feeling very sentimental (at least I was) we thought we needed to have a last hot chocolate and possibly cake. So we ended up in a little café and ordered hot chocolate and lots of cake. Myles is off all this so he just watched, but we ate and drank and felt good about the world. And then it was time to go home and good all the fabulous vegetables that we had bought at the market the day before. It was close to one when we got home and we had to get cracking. But things felt apart as you might imagine. We didn’t have eggs so we couldn’t make the fried eggplant. Then I had already made chicken with passata, so going for a ratatouille was looking shaky. So we had to do some improvisation quick smart.
We ended up not quite pulling off a delicious lunch. Sad really, because we had very much improved our cooking skills and we had diversified our ingredients. It just wasn’t to be. We were too addled; our heads were too much in the sky rather than on the ground.
After lunch we all lay down; some of us in the bath.
And then a final goodbye to Rome. Myles skilfully turned us to Via del Corso for more shopping; god I hate shopping, so the kids and I left him to it, and we walked to the Trevi fountain for a final farewell. We had no money throw over our shoulders but we watched others do it, and some kids apparently getting into trouble for littering. It must be odd to be cop here. And they have a million different kinds; this was the municipal police, but there are the state police, and the national police and traffic police and so on. So the municipal police apparently go after the hard core litterers. And you can’t blame them really.
On the way back to the shops, the kids discovered a Lindt shop and as you may or may not know, this is their very favourite thing in the world. So we ate Lindt balls. More walking. Great buskers; a woman danced in the most wonderful black suit with an umbrella, some break dancers (how??), an old couple with a microphone and a portable karaoke machine. Whooo hoo!
The right way to say goodbye to Rome, and to our trip.
God we have love it.
Thanks to everyone and anyone who had joined us on this tour. I have adored all your comments and emails and encouragement.