24 hours proved to be a remarkable difference at St Peter's Basilica. We arrived at 07.20 and wandered straight up to the security point. Apparently Sundays are immeasurably busier than Mondays. Who'd have ever thought that?!
It was worth the wait, and the previous effort. Rob had earlier in the trip described the Louvre as the second-most impressive building he had seen - the Basilica being the first. All those concepts I have mentioned in earlier posts about scale, grandeur, history and power apply (perhaps even more so) to this building. Perhaps (and here is a possible theme for future adventures) I need to balance my perspective on these issues by visiting great triumphs of not-necessarily-Christian architecture such as the Hagia Sophia, Pyramids and Taj Mahal.
In the last day or so of our trip I have been feeling a sense of melancholy. This is not unusual in itself; it happens to me every time we pack up the shack on Sunday mornings on the west coast of Tasmania. This is different though. In a purely self-focused sense, we have done something significant in taking this trip. It has been, and will continue to be, a highlight in our lives as individuals, and our lives as a family unit. Few families are as fortunate as we have been to make this happen. There have been costs (apart from the obvious elephant in the middle of the room). The girls have missed valuable school hours and we have abandoned many of our responsibilities at home, particularly to family, friends and pets.
We're each very much looking forward to going home and re-immersing ourselves in those relationships and responsibilities; and in many ways we are tired of travelling - yet there is a reluctance to let this major chapter in our lives close, primarily for fear that another chance may never come our way.
Moggy and I had hoped that this trip would allow Mollie and Ella to arrive home with renewed appreciation on two fronts: an awareness of how large and varied the world might be, and a renewed appreciation and respect for the part of it we choose to live in. Even though our experiences on this trip have been of the first-world only, I am confident we have gone a long way to achieving that first ambition. The degree to which the second ambition is achieved is yet to reveal itself.
Our last day overseas had threatened to be something of a trial; having to vacate our apartment at 8am and not departing Fiumicino airport until 10pm. That's a long time to drag luggage around the cobblestones of Rome. In an attempt to turn that day into a pleasant end to the trip we booked a hotel room at Lido di Ostia, which is a town on the edge of the Mediterranean and only 5km from the airport.
We arrived expecting Surfers Paradise. What we discovered was in many ways akin to Indonesia. Funny old place, really. 30 minutes from the centre of Rome and perched on the edge of the Mediterranean, it should be fabulous. But it's not any more. The architecture suggests that it was a happening place in the 1920's and 30's, but these days it's just tired and shabby. Restaurants have been constructed on the beach side of the promenade, and they have been laid out in such a way that access to the beach is all but impossible except for a few easements about 800m apart from each other. Each of the restaurants has a thatched-roofed faux "beach hut" in front of it, invariably called the "Havana Club" or the "Tropicano Beach Night Club", and blocking the view of the sea from the restaurant proper.
So we spent the day wandering the promenade, reading, eating tapas from Toros Don Pepe, hydrating and waiting for the taxi to Fiumicino, from where I type.
Boarding commences in 15 minutes.
Arivadierci Roma. Farewell Europe