Have you booked your summer holiday yet? Yes? Of course you have! Is it somewhere hot? Well, with British weather being so unpredictable, I’m betting it is! Is it to Europe or are you heading off further afield to the Far East? America? No, sorry, not while Trump is president, fair enough! How long for? One week, two weeks, longer? Lucky you!
My next trip is to Rome in just under a month’s time and I can’t wait! I’m at that happy stage when I can peruse the travel guides and think how fantastic it will be, but without having to pack or worry where to get my euros from.
I’ve been thinking so much about planning on this trip. You see my last self arranged trip was to Florence. I loved it. It is without doubt my favourite of the Italian cities, and Europe as well. I know I will love Rome, but I think it will be going some to beat Florence, and that’s fine.
When I went to Florence, I planned out my mornings in a language school and my afternoons doing the ‘tourist’ thing. I thought that way I could learn Italian effectively and still explore my surroundings. It was a good plan, only, have I mentioned I am diabolical at language learning? It’s not that I haven’t tried, but when I tell you I only retook my French GCSE because my dad told me if I got a C grade he would give me £50 (yes, I retook and pocketed my £50!), then you’ll know I’m not a natural. Similarly I had taken a beginner’s course in Italian and not done too badly. I had enrolled for the intermediate level as well, only with too many students dropping out, the class was cancelled. Not to be deterred I even got some spoken cds and they were rather good, only my impetus was gone and other things took my attention.
I was also going to be staying at an appartment in Florence, so I thought with everyone speaking Italian in the apartment and in class, there was no way I could fail. Hmm, not quite right as it happens. I’m not a confident Italian speaker, I don’t have the vocabulary, and when I saw my class was made up of Japanese, Swizz and Spanish, all of which already spoke several languages, I knew I was going to lose that one. They were all at conversational Italian stage and could talk to the lecturer, with her only correcting if they got the wrong tense, but I was lost looking out the window. There was one class when I got it, it clicked and I felt that wave of triumph when you’ve conquered something tricky, but in the next class I was stumped again. Oh well, I tried. I won’t give up necessarily, but I do recognise my limitations. I still have that promise to myself, you know the one; how lovely it would be to live/work/retire abroad. Then my number one rule is I would have to learn the language as it would be impossible in day to day life not to.
So the ‘tourist’ thing. I’m putting that in inverted speech marks, as normally there is a negative spin on this word. I love exploring new places, but after my Florence trip I learnt I needed to plan better. Yes, I know, me! A constant planner and I was ill prepared! It meant most of my afternoons in this beautiful renaissance city, I was walking to places only to find they were either about to close or had closed. It wasted many afternoons. I then panicked that I would be going home before I got everything I wanted done. So with Rome I have planned better.
I did have a day trip in Rome on my last trip, only, the guide wasn’t too good. He spent ages marching us up to the Vatican only to realise it was a Sunday and closed. Most of the rest of the day follow suit. But I did get to see the colisseum, I quickly realised I wanted to be down there, ie where the gladiators had been. With only a guided tour to do this, I vowed I would book this for my returning trip. Only, being me it got a little bit of hand. I didn’t want to see the Vatican with crowds of people, and I can think of nothing worse than queuing for hours in the heat, so I booked an early morning beat the queues entrance, which now means on my first day I have to be up at the Vatican for 7.15am in the morning! I then got a bit obsessive and decided between tours when that is the only way for access to be granted, and entrance passes for those that didn’t or were timed, I now have tmy travel wallet stuffed with evouchers! It means every day is meticulously planned to make the most of it, but I am being realistic(!), I expect by mid afternoon to feel the cold hand of exhaustion pass over, so back to my apartment for relaxation and dinner on my roof top terrace view.
But now I feel exhausted just at the thought of it. One perk of British Airway’s dreadful service was moving my mid afternoon flight to an alternative airline and now I arrive for lunchtime, so I have the afternoon to ‘lighten the load’ of some of the things on my to do plan. A sort of forward-planning, forward planning if you will!
You know the biggest irony of this though? Other than potentially stressing myself over getting everything done, is how well we can know a place abroad, but not where we live. I suppose because at home there is always another day to do something, there is no flight taking us back home. But it means there are sights to explore which I walk past twice a day on my walk into work. So, I have made an effort, this week I will do more of these things. I will be the ‘tourist’ in my own city!