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Sunday, September 16, 2018

A week in Rome: alone together

Rome, in early May, was a little wet this year. Aarti had packed a contoured peacock teal raincoat 
and I a loose canary yellow one. We splurged on renting a beautiful apartment near the Vatican and 
each bought a Week Pass on the public transport system for unlimited access to the metro and city 
buses. We were in Rome to see the ruins, visit churches, climb the dome of St Peter’s Basilica and 
to look at art and architecture. But also, we were in Rome to eat, hold hands, take photos and make 
new memories in this ancient playground.

Aarti is my best friend from college and she reminds me of me. Our hands are the same size and we 
are both brown girls who move around a lot. Except, we are not girls anymore. Women in our thirties 
now, with fuller hips and bigger ideas, we remind each other of our younger selves. We studied literature 
together and our kindred spirits were attracted. Friends since 2002 we had last spent a few hours 
together in Amsterdam when I was living there in 2006 and she was in transit between Delhi and 
Toronto. Now, twelve years later, we were meeting up for a week in Rome, alone together. 
Have a look at some photos and scroll down for some tips on how to enjoy Rome!




We took the photos above with our iPhones. Aarti was the official photographer. Here are some pics taken with her amazing camera! The fun part about using your smart phone camera is that its easy to post to Instagram or send photos to family via WhatsApp. That said, an actual stills camera is great for more formal portraits.














Free things worth doing
Here are some recommendations for things we enjoyed for free!
1. Rome’s Ultimate free walking tour:
Guided by a well-versed and passionate tour guide, this walking tour really does show you the “B-side” 
of the Eternal City. There is so much to see in Rome that one has to constantly pause to look back and
look up. Our group of 15 or so tourists learned how to spot the dragons and eagles that distinguish the 
buildings belonging to the Borghese family, why there is an oculus in the Pantheon and where to get 
the biggest choice of gelato flavours.

2. First Sunday of the month fee access to state museums and cultural sites:
Some free things are so popular they’ll make you wonder if it’s worth the trouble. If you want to see the 
famed Colosseum we recommend first going to the Palatine Hill using the entrance on Via di San 
Gregorio (where the lines are not as long) and the free ticket you receive there will also get you access 
to the Roman Forum and the Colosseum. Being in the midst of these ancient ruins will trip your brain, 
you won’t know if you’re in the middle of a film set, lost in time or just losing your mind.

Worth paying for
There is so much to see and do but these expenses were well worth our pennies!
1. AirBnB
Staying for a week? Stay for a week! Find a comfortable apartment with a kitchen you cook your 
delicious Italian groceries in. One with wi-fi and a generous supply of clean towels. A home away from 
home where you can eat breakfast on the balcony, watch Roman Holiday from the couch, and enjoy 
your daily walk home from the metro. Feel like a Roman!  
2. All access tour of the Vatican
This is so worth it as you speed past the long lines and get an informed tour of all the players involved 
in the history of the Vatican City, insight into the artwork and lives of the artists and proper instructions 
on how to act when in the Sistine Chapel. Recommendation: Plan this for a sunny day and climb the 
stairs all the way to the top of the dome of St Peter’s Basilica. Worth e-v-e-r-y step! Also the small gift 
shop run by nuns on the rooftop is the cheapest in all of Rome!
3. Fly comfortably
Qatar Airways offers great fares from Windhoek to Rome via Doha. Make sure to book in advance for 
choice of rates and secure your Schengen visa on time.
4. Eat your weight in pasta
Food is very affordable in Rome. Avoid the tourist traps and follow the working class Romans to see 
where they get their lunchtime pizza and espressos. On a few occasions we splurged a little for some 
have-to-go to restaurants just to see what all the fuss was about. These two come highly recommended:
Da Enzo al 29 in Trastevere. Make a reservation and show up on time or come around early and get 
your name on the waiting list. Have the artichoke or asparagus if in season. And you must have the 
tiramisu (get your own - too good to share).
Alfredo e Ada at Via Dei Banchi Nuovi 14. A small intimate restaurant with only one server and one menu 
for the entire place! Delicious wholesome food from your Italian grandmother’s kitchen.

This is how you take an old-school selfie! We snapped this at the top of St. Peter's Basilica. The guard on the other side of this mirrored window was apparently having a good laugh at us. Ciao bella!

Sunday, March 11, 2018

For the love of... driving


I've been driving an old car. A beautiful, strong, green Mercedes Benz with a crazy radio that changed stations whenever I drove over a bump. The car was so cool it didn't have air conditioning. I loved it and knew it so well after driving it for years... but I was dying (of heat) and was excited to be on the market for a new car. Nobody (husband, brother, friend) recommended getting a new car. But after driving two used vehicles (the Mercedes and an unreliable third-hand Hyundai Tucson) I was ready for brand new. Everybody that I cared to listen to (mother, sister, car saleswoman) all said "Go for it! You'll never regret buying a new car." Well guess who I listened to..?

After endless hours watching car test videos on YouTube, ultimately crushing on one of the finer test drivers (nope, I'm not adding a link) and lunch hours and Saturday mornings spent test driving and ooohing and aaahing at car dealers all over town, I found a brand I could get into. There was endless paperwork. I had to weigh between an older model of a bigger vehicle or the new version of a smaller one (went for the smaller). Could I see myself driving a red car (short answer: no). Was I willing to give out more cash for a higher class vehicle with some negligible perks (also: no).

I went to the petrol station yesterday and the attendant looked at me and asked, "Where's the green Mercedes?" He wasn't the first to ask. I smiled back, "This is my car now".