Travel Journal from Rome

Tomorrow we fly to Frankfurt, Germany for a two-hour lay-over before heading home to Toronto. Excluding travel days, we will have enjoyed seven full days in Italy, six of those in Rome, one in Naples and Pompeii. It has been an amazing trip with my girl, one I hope neither of us will ever forget.

Our decision to stay in Rome for almost the duration of our trip seemed to perplex many other travellers. Cate and I really wanted to get to know the city and give our full attention to each site. We wanted to see how people local to Rome live. Mainly we wanted to wander around the city, and so that is exactly what we’ve been doing.

In order to save a little money, we stayed in a hotel a little outside the city centre. This meant learning to navigate the transit system, a system that services the city well and is very, very busy. Each day involved multiple bus and subway rides, many of which were at peak hours. Cate and I managed to stay close. I’m proud of how well she managed the crowds.

We found it awe-inspiring to stand in places like the Colosseum and the Pantheon. We were stunned by the size of Pompeii and how “modern” it was. Cate routinely used the word ‘breathtaking’ to describe how she felt about something. Touching something built thousands of years ago is surreal. For me, being surrounded by such history has a way of enlarging my worldview, while simultaneously making me feel very small.

Yesterday we heard the Pope speak, wandered through St. Peter’s Basilica and walked up the narrow steps to the dome. As we stood looking out over the city I found myself thinking of Jesus, wondering what He would think of the way one of the birthplaces of Christendom has evolved. At one point Cate said, “how does it feel to be a part of the building-less Dale standing in here?” My only response was, “strange”.

Today we plan to re-visit our favourite spots, including restaurants. We started the day eating cornetto al cioccolato (Italian equivalent of a chocolate croissant) and will probably finish it with pizza. We will add to the thousands of pictures we’ve both taken. The Leonardo da Vinchi museum is calling our names. Most of all, we will be grateful. I hope that one day, should Cate have a child of her own, that a similar trip will happen for them.

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Ciao da Roma (Hello from Rome)

I am writing from Rome, Italy. Had you asked me if I would be doing this even just weeks ago I would probably have laughed and explained that while a trip with Cate was certainly on the radar I couldn’t have imagined it this fall. For some time we have been commiserating as a family about how to mark Cate’s “coming of age” or in other words, becoming a teenager. Not long ago we attended a beautiful bat mitzvah that strengthened our resolve to somehow celebrate this milestone. Together we decided that a mother/daughter trip to a location chosen by Cate would be our special event.

Since September I have been fairly quiet here, in part because life got even more full than my already full norm. I sort of put my head down, wrote a handful of grant proposals, spent a lot of time with The Dale community, did a funeral, went on hospital visits, helped get Cate back into school, choir and dance routine, enjoyed Thanksgiving and tried to stay on top the administration of both my work and home. In the midst of all this we managed to find the money and a window of opportunity for Rome, a reality I’m still pinching myself about.

I think if the only thing I got to do on this trip was watch Cate’s face upon her first glimpse of the Colosseum it would be worth it. Seeing this place through two sets of eyes is a wondrous treat. We are surrounded by history. Yesterday we went to Pompeii and walked where others did until their city was covered by volcanic ash and forgotten in 79 AD. We are being reminded of the beauty and brutality of the Romans. We are also enjoying modern Rome: getting around on its transit system, eating amazing food and seeing where the old meets the new.

I am so proud of Cate and the young woman she is. Cate is mature beyond her years and yet not in a rush to be older than she is. She notices things: the detail in an ancient mosaic, the person sleeping in a doorway, the aroma of a bakery. She also seems to know this is an experience that not every thirteen year-old will have and is doing what she can to not take it for granted. She is eagerly writing about everything in her journal and excited to share it with Dion upon our return. We will only be here for a little over a week, but I know this is an experience we will never forget.