Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Leaving Roma.

And now we are off to Florence, with a change of trains in Pisa. We haven't yet decided if we're going to see that tower we've heard about. It's just a fucking tower, and a poorly built one at that. We'll stay in Florence for a few nights. David has found a hotel with a pool, which makes him happy, and free wifi, which makes me happy.

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The drivers in Italy do drive fast, with seeming little regard to traffic laws, but they don't strike me as crazy as their reputation. But, I was a NYC cab driver for ten years, so maybe my perspective is slightly skewed.

Drivers will only very rarely stop for a pedestrian in a crosswalk. The technique is to wait for a wee break in traffic, hope for the best, and go for it. Neither David or myself ever got runned over, so I guess we done well.

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We took a taxi at one point. The driver raced around, weaving in and out of traffic, all the while being passed by scooters on the right and left. It is a touch insane, but copable. The congestion was no where near as bad as I expected. Traffic flowed.

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I did manage to see a few drivers get pulled over while sitting in my busking spot. The police's technique is entertaining. They give chase on scooters, pull up alongside, blow whistles, and start waving. If I was the one pulled over, I would have probably  laughed and waved back, amused by their antics. Good thing I keep my law breaking to busking.

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Wifi is easy to find, but one must be wiling to pay for it. Many cafés and restaurants offer wifi, but a purchase must be made. Establishments do not allow wifiers to idle away all day long and only buying one cup of coffee. You will be thrown out. Considering the near impossibility of finding a seat in any NY Starbucks, I think that's a reasonable policy.

It does make staying connected a bit of a pain. I got blogging, email, and the Facebook to keep up on.

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Floors are numbered differently here. The ground floor is 0, and the second floor is 1, or the first floor above ground. The basement is -1. We are staying on the second (third in America) floor, and the first morning I took the stairs down one flight and wandered around wondering why I couldn't find the lobby.

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David has found his favorite restaurant, and we have eaten there often. This being a tourist town, the menu is in both Italian and English. The English they have for a calzone is "folded-over pizza."

They don't serve garlic bread. We haven't found a restaurant yet that does. Perhaps an American invention?

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Rome must be a hot place in the summertime. It's been in the mid to high seventies the last few days, but the Romans all wear long pants, long sleeved shirts, and often a light jacket. David and I have been perspiring in shorts and T-shirts.

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I have a phone now, with a phone number even. It's a cheap pre-paid thing, not smart or anything. It works, allows family to call me and me to call family. And to keep in contact with David when we wander separately.

Europe is a continent of many small countries, and one would presume (at least I did) that a phone in one part of Europe would work in any other. Or at least  within the EU. But, a call from Italy to France is an international call, even though one can spit from one to the other. It is cheaper and easier calling Canada from America than calling Spain from Portugal.

Using a German phone with a German number in Switzerland will cause massive international roaming charges. Customers must change SIM cards and phone numbers whenever they travel From one country to the next. To make life easier, many phones in Europe, including my cut rate piece, are dual SIM. A user can keep their home SIM card in and add a local card when they travel. Very handy.

I wonder why some enterprising corporation or entrepreneur hasn't come up with plan allowing customers to get one phone with one SIM and use it anywhere in Europe with no international charges. Any company that went with such a plan would corner the market in Europe. I suspect that corporate interests, individual regulations, and varied protected monopolies prevent such an enterprise from getting off the ground. I'm surprised that the always riot ready Europeans haven't thrown an almighty shit fit yet.

The one cool bit about European phones is that they don't charge for incoming calls, only outgoing. That's handy. So, call if you want, but keep in mind that Italy is six hours ahead of New York. Don't wake me; I'll become grumpy.

My number with country code:
0039 331 391 6875

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There are large paper signs announcing all of the arrivals and departures at Roma Termini. Do not trust them. I almost missed the train to Civitivecchia yesterday because I was standing on the right platform. The train left from two platforms over. I guessed something was wrong because the tracks were still empty three minutes before my train was to depart. I asked some official looking dude. He straightened me out.

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I never did see Caesar's house. Rome had a rare snow storm this year, and the place was badly damaged. So, it is now open only sporadically while workers try to keep it from collapsing. Maybe next time.

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Rome has rectangular manholes. For some reason they have yet to realize that only the round ones cannot possibly fall down the hole. Or, perhaps they just like tempting fate.

The SPQR stands for a Latin phase I haven't learned that means "The Senate and People of Rome." Government property has been stamped thus for 2000 some odd years. Maybe longer. I haven't bothered to look it up yet.


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