Winter break for teachers and students is right around the corner. Some folks head for a warmer climate, but my friend Cindy and I once walked the ancient streets of Rome during this icy February break. I thought I’d tell you a little of our adventure, plus include several travel tips that could apply when visiting any overseas country. Also, since it’s long, I’ll spread it over two columns.
First tip is to scout out your lodgings ahead of time, so you know the area. Taxi drivers in any big city can take advantage of tourists who are suffering jetlag and feeling overwhelmed. We caught the late-night train into Rome from the airport, but didn’t feel like trudging the many blocks to our rental. We called a cab.
I’m not sure if he purposely meant to drive us all around the area for extra fare, or if he honestly missed our turn, but thanks to Google street view, I knew exactly where we were. As he shifted gears; rushing past our street in a flurry of dry leaves and loud Italian music, I leaned forward and pointed it out.
“Scusa signora,” he smiled, deftly wheeling the small car around and heading back.
My next pointer involves mistakes that can be made when translating a foreign language. The morning after our arrival, I left my friend sleeping and went out to explore. The sky was a bright, icy blue and the air crisp as I wandered the narrow cobbled streets, ducking under branches bent low with unwanted oranges. What a change from the frigid prairies.
Spying a negozio di alimentary (grocery store) I popped in to buy coffee, fresh fruit, warm ciabattas, and a small pat of butter. Won’t Cindy be pleased when she awakes to find breakfast, I thought gladly. Of course, purchasing groceries, or items in a drugstore, is always a little risky when it’s in a different language. Obviously I knew what bread looked like, and I could smell the coffee, but cream and butter took a bit of guesswork, especially without my translator.
However, I forgot all about it as Cindy seated herself at the table to eat, while I poured our hot drinks.
“This stuff tastes weird,” she called presently. “It may be some type of cheese—but it’s sure not butter.”
A cold hand of fear clenched at my heart as I returned to see her trustingly take another bite of the tan-coloured, somewhat crumbly mixture she’d spread thickly on her bread. Noting the words written across the package, Lievito di birra, I quickly consulted my pocket translator.
“STOP!” I hollered, as she raised the bun to her lips once more, “You’re eating yeast!”
The lesson here is twofold. Keep some sort of language translator on your person at all times, and maintain a sense of humour. Things will always go wrong, but if you can take it in stride, your trip will go smoother.
Forgiveness and understanding are great qualities too. Not everyone could ingest half a package of compressed yeast on their morning bun and laugh about it, but she did.
Happily, we made it up by strolling the bustling streets of Rome, sitting at a small sidewalk café to enjoy frothy cappuccinos and wandering through a lively market. Adventures in other lands are great!