Monday, January 11, 2010

Bella Roma (not belladonna)

This whole thing started months ago when my good friend Amy, who is in Afghanistan for her job right now (she is the queen), said she was going to Italy for Christmas to meet some of her friends there and why didn't we join forces in Rome right around the new year?

Uh, okay. I could do that. Of course Hannaford's might be having specials that week, they might even be saying "have a nice day," but somehow, I was able to break away.

The Eternal City.

What would it be like?

First of all, we picked our hotel, the Hosianna Palace on the Via del Pillachia, or it could be Pinocchio; I can never get those right.
I was trepidatious about a hotel with the syllable "ho" in it, but what the heck.
We are worldly dames.

It was very charming, and a cardinal's residence hundreds of years ago. There is a plaque on the wall that commemorates its years as a hospice, which gave us pause as we waited for the elevator.
Still, no problemo, signori. You may notice my many jackets and coats, dear reader. It was an outerwear festival for moi. And what was my best purchase and naturally most unneeded? That's right--a chic Italian black jacket. Put me on one of those little motor scooters--ciao, baby!


Be a ho!

Be a dominatrix!

Wear colors that don't match!

Spend every cent you have and don't look back! I demurred daily over the purchase of blue boots. That's right, dear reader. It seemed like a good idea. I held back and now regret it.

Okay, so the ruins. They are everywhere. You walk around in them. It feels sometimes as though you're in a big excavation site. They are eerie and glorious and remind you of Caesar and brilliant engineering feats and people who wore and enjoyed togas.

But of course it isn't just the Forum and the Colloseum that get your attention.

In your own neighborhood there are ancient ruins that some committee is working on to excavate and share with the world. Look down and see the steps to some ancient temple or theatre or early branch of Roman Hannaford's.

The Colloseum is awe-inspiring. I don't let my students use the word "awesome," but if they were talking about Roman ruins, I would let them.

Can you imagine sitting here and watching a gladiator fight a lion? Or a crocodile? A what? That's right, a crocodile.
I will be honest.
This does not appeal to me, even if Russell Crowe were involved.

I told Amy that we could have fought as gladiatresses. She could have gone out first and distracted the crocodile by running around or maybe telling a few Afghani jokes. Or really any jokes, you know? The crowd would have loved it. Then I could have swept out in a pretty sexy toga--maybe something off-white with lots of folds-- twirled around a little, always staying modest (I wouldn't have been against getting the attention of some cute centurion or magistrate in the front row) and then when the crocodile almost had Amy in its jaws, cleverly speared it with my sword. It would have worked. And it goes without saying we would have worn stylish sandals. Women were not allowed in the Colloseum except sometimes in a tiny box way up in the nosebleed section. You know what? That would be fine with me.

This is the arch of Constantine across the street from the Colloseum. People walk by it and go to work, have their hair done, fall in love, and live life. It seems incredible. Also incredible was the little bar on the other cross street where I had my first "chocolat." Oy. You have to eat it with a spoon, my friend. Oh, just kill me now.

This is Gregory (hi Greg!) , our guide for the Palatine Hill, also across the street from the Forum. The rich people by and large lived up in that section and although I can't remember everything Gregory told us, I learned a lot.
If you're reading, Greg, your English is nearly perfect and the only thing you could change is to say "back in the day" instead of "back in the days." But then again, I am a little bit picky, so don't sweat it.

This is the view from the Palatine. See what I mean about all the stuff? That's what you start calling all the ruins and artifacts and priceless marble statuary. "Stuff."
And lots of it.

One night when we were not dining lavishly, we bought a DVD of Roman Holiday with Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck (coincidence that our tour guide had the same name? Hmmmm.). Amy was sure the movie would play on her computer, but it did not, at least not correctly. We watched it one night in slow motion, herky jerky, with no sound. It was a little like watching the Zapruder film--oh, watch him lean forward now, there he goes, ah yes! It was fine since we were drinking champagne and making smart remarks like "look at those dumb pajamas"--god, we were witty!
Anyway, all the "stuff" is there from 1953, the Spanish Steps, the Trevi Fountain, Castel Saint Angelo. It kind of gives you a shiver to see it. The next night we watched it in correct motion with subtitles. Eddy Arnold is HOT in that movie. I only wish I could forget Green Acres.
I think I have gone on long enough for one blog post, so tune in next time--I don't know when that will be--and see what happened when I had my hair done in Rome!
A rivederci, dear reader.


At 10:43 PM , Blogger sandman1 said...

Hey, welcome home and happy New Year!

I'm glad you were abroad looking at classic ruins rather than home watching the fresh collapse of our local dynasty *ahem*. Nothing to see here, moving on to spring training!

(Still wondering about the "not arrested" quip from yesterday...)

At 4:51 AM , Blogger Becky Willis Motew said...

Not arrested meaning I didn't get into TOO much trouble. I got into the car at the airport driving home and listened to the Pats debacle. Death of a dynasty for sure. Death of the defense. Bummer.

At 9:04 PM , Blogger Kristina said...

Oh, Becky! Someday in person we will swap Roman memories and Roman pictures. We got caught in a minor and mostly cheerful soccer riot. (Football riot?) by the Trevi fountain.

I love this: "People walk by it and go to work, have their hair done, fall in love, and live life. It seems incredible."

I know! Here in the land of aluminum siding when 100 years old seems boggles the mind. That's the magic of it.

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At 5:47 AM , Blogger Becky Willis Motew said...

Kris, I will look forward to that swap!

At 8:39 PM , Blogger sandman1 said...

Heh -- thanks to the miracles of the modern web, I've now read my first spam message in Chinese! It's such a cozy small world. Some of it's sort of on topic, I guess -- "線上小說" (the one below 'bb') reportedly means "Online Novel", although the link it points to suggests that Chinese novels mostly consist of pictures of pretty Asian gals...

More fun is that "嘟嘟" apparently means "toot"!

(I just pasted the above into and guessed that it was Chinese.)

At 10:55 PM , Blogger Marina said...

You're wearing some HOT jacket/coat there. I love that on you. Where ever did you buy it? BTW, Amy looks exactly as I pictured her. Do you think that maybe with the Amy+Audrey thing, I was there with you in spirit? I am psychic, you know. :)

You look fantastic and Rome is so lovely. That's it. I'm going!


At 6:22 AM , Blogger Becky Willis Motew said...

sm, may I say in all delicacy, you are a freaking genius! Wow. I guess I should erase that spam.

Marina, thanks for your kind words on the jacket. I had good advice on it. And yes, you should definitely go to Rome.

At 3:29 PM , Blogger Julie Kibler said...

There's something that keeps US DVDs from playing on European players and vice versa. We discovered this in England last year when we tried to play our own DVD in a hotel. Who knew?

Looks like a fun trip. Great pics! (Browsed here from Backpace, btw.)

At 3:50 PM , Blogger Becky Willis Motew said...

Thanks, Julie! I'm still there in my head.

At 12:54 AM , Blogger sandman1 said...

[Geek alert] There are three different old-fashioned TV systems in the world, NTSC (US, Japan), PAL (most of Europe), and SECAM (France, and iron-curtain nations). This is all pre-HDTV, for good-old analog TV. These were just different solutions to how to have a TV system, not necessarily trying to be incompatible, except that the Eastern-bloc nations did apparently choose SECAM so the glorious workers' TVs wouldn't pick up capitalist PAL signals from over the border.

In the world of DVDs there are two potential issues: they can be in a different format (NTSC or PAL primarily), and they can have different "region codes". The former is just because people have different kinds of equipment, but the latter is malicious, intended to limit playability artificially.

If you buy a PAL DVD in Europe (it'll say so on the box), it probably won't work on your US DVD player hooked to a US (analog) TV in most cases, because it's just the wrong type. Computers are digital though, so they can read either NTSC or PAL and it's just a software difference; they are technically capable of reading anything.

The region code, however, specifically exists to make it difficult to do what you're trying to do, to buy a DVD in Europe to watch on your US equipment. By licensing agreement, players (including computers) are limited to one region, and media *may* be limited. The basic idea is so that they can sell the same movie for different prices in different parts of the world and consumers can't import them on their own, or they can limit distribution to only part of the world. It's just business.

There are ways to hack around both issues, especially when playing on computers, but the system is set up to make it hard to do. With the region code in particular, most computers let the user pick one for the playback (since the same computer might be sold in the US or Europe), and change it only a limited number of times (like 5), and then you're stuck with that choice (unless you can reset it, which is one hack).

All of this stuff is gradually becoming moot, as video become digital, HDTV and computer-video formats come in and so on, so this annoyance will probably be replaced with some new annoyances in the future... hooray for Hollywood!

In the meantime, if you really want to play PAL DVDs back in the US, it's possible, but will take some effort.

(I wonder what I could have done with the space in my brain if this information wasn't taking it up...)

At 7:42 AM , Blogger Becky Willis Motew said...

Very interesting, sm. Amy, living overseas, has dealt with this issue before and somehow thought this DVD would work. Oh well, we enjoyed it anyway, and as to what could occupy your brain instead? Hmmm. Cy Young winners every year since they began? Britney Spears trivia? I'm thinking no.

At 6:36 AM , Blogger Kay McKenzie Cooke. said...

Wow lucky you! And you're lookin' damn fine too young lady! Sounds like it was an awesome - oops - I mean awe inspiring time in Rome. (Okay, it's official I'm green with jealousy!)

At 7:21 AM , Blogger Becky Willis Motew said...

Well thanks, Kay! I was indeed a very lucky person to go. I will remember it always.

At 12:58 AM , Blogger sandman1 said...

Sorry to have presumed about the PAL DVD (Amy probably knew all that). After those basic complications, there are probably a dozen other things that could have gone wrong with trying to play it, it could even be a defective disc...

You're right about Britney -- can't stand her!

Nor would I have known if he was a Cy Young winner or not, but on the subject of pitchers, Curt Schilling made a campaign recording for Brown that was left on my answering machine. I'll be glad when all this campaigning is over -- they're ringing my phone off the hook on both sides!

At 9:06 AM , Blogger Becky Willis Motew said...

me too, sm! It's so annoying. U didn't get Curt Schilling, though.

At 4:17 AM , Blogger eda said...

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