It’s been a whirlwind the last week with a trip to the Eternal City and the home of Dracula. Traveling abroad always gives me a fresh perspective about my own country and is well worth the time even though it means missing many TV appearances particularly as the midterm election approaches.
Still I’m having a wonderful time with film projects while taking in the culture, politics, and people of these two diverse places.
Here’s what I’ve discovered in my travels.
Rome is not a place for impatient people whose blood pressure spikes over the least little thing. That’s because people in Rome take their time. It seems to take forever to purchase an item, get something to eat, or attract anyone’s attention. The food is great in Rome, but you have to wait for it. While the waiters are very good they also feel obligated to engage you in a conversation every ten minutes. It’s exhausting and tedious, yet elegant and cultured.
The real magic of Rome is the history. Standing in the Colosseum, Circus Maximus, Julius Caesar’s funeral pyre, the temple of Venus, and all within easy travel to the Vatican is rather magnificent. There is so much marble and amazing statues, art, and paintings. You can definitely see how Rome couldn’t be built in a day much less in a decade or century. To truly appreciate it, you need a good month. Taking a Roman Holiday is always a good idea.
Italians are really all about food and art. In Rome, McDonalds restaurants are only filled with broke Americans and maybe a few Russians in a drunken stupor. Instead of fast food places, Italians have convenience stores where you can purchase gourmet coffee, wine, and food. Typically, everyone eats dinner about 8:30pm which is not terribly late in New York City especially on the weekends. The big difference is that in New York everyone is eating at that hour after a hard charging day in the city unlike the Italians who are well rested having taken a siesta religiously every day.
If all you did was eat in Rome, you’d say the trip was a success. The real pizza is Neapolitan where pizza was invented. The coffee is definitely not American style. Instead, it’s cappuccino, espresso, macchiato . . . anything ending with an “o” served by someone whose last name ends in an “o” as well. There is also wine, wine, and more wine. I didn’t have a problem with this part, but I can say I’m actually grateful for the coffee thing or I’d be drinking wine for breakfast.
Rome kind of reminds me of our own West Coast. The people there are very laid back and chill but with a definite sense of style. People don’t get too excited about politics as we do. Perhaps it’s because after Caesar, they realize that doing that could be extremely hazardous to your health!
Right now, I’m in Roman, Romania, which obviously has a very similar sounding name but couldn’t be any more different than Rome. Years ago, I visited Romania on an ACYPL trip which is a diplomatic trip for future political leaders. We visited Bucharest and the countryside then. I also visited Transylvania which was mystical and beautiful with the Carpathian Mountains and Dracula’s castle.
This trip is quite different. I’m in Roman which is the Romanian version of maybe rural Arkansas. It’s very poor and everything seems stuck in a time warp. People drive horse drawn carriages and carry pumpkins or wheat to who knows where. The best part of being here are the people who are all warm, friendly, and love Americans. Last night, I dined at a posh restaurant with pictures of American singers from the 1980’s covering the walls. One room paid homage to who else . . . Lionel Ritchie and Whitney Houston.
A nice thing about Romania is that they use their own currency which has a great exchange rate. They haven’t been sucked into the whole euros nightmare, so if you can get to Romania, you can live very inexpensively.
I hear many people here talk about their relatives who live in Rome and send their money back to their families in Romania. Sound familiar? Evidently, it happens in some form all over the world.
My only gripe if there is one about being here is the smoking. I definitely miss New York City where you don’t have to struggle with trying to eat while someone is blowing smoke in your face.
I’m going back to Rome tomorrow for a day before heading back to my beloved USA. I’ve certainly learned a lot on this trip. It’s easy to see why foreigners get a little exasperated with Americans sometimes. We go in and speak English and act like we own the place. Then we expect them to adapt to us in their own country. I totally get why that can be a little irritating and something we should all work on in our travels.
While I’ve absolutely enjoyed this trip, I’m very much looking forward to returning home. Leaving is always good because it just reinforces to me why our country is still the best in the world.