Following in the tradition of fashionable society, my first (and only!) Grand Tour of Europe took place in the summer of '96. One glorious month of wonder, excitement and new experiences - and I loved every minute of it.
"I now realise all the dreams of my youth" - Goethe
"At last, for the first time, I live." - Henry James
Standing at the foot of the Arch of Titus in Rome, I thanked God for allowing me the privilege of seeing Rome for the first time. Not that I have any Catholic tendencies, but just walking around the city, I was overwhelmed by the history and romanticsm that surrounded me.
Rome was the centre of one of the greatest empires ever built. Julius Caesar, Mark Anthony, Peter the Apostle, Paul the Apostle had walked these cobbled streets, past all the monuments and arches, drinking from the water spouts - just as I was doing. Sigh...
It was very hot and dry when I visited Rome. The thermometer registered over 40 degrees centigrade. And yet, the thrill of seeing the Colosseum, the Pantheon, Roman Forum and temple of the Vestal Virgins, completely overpowered any fatigue I was feeling at the time.
Some of the "less glamorous" highlights I do remember include:
- trying almost every gelato in sight - it was so hot!
- throwing coins into the Trevi Fountain
- falling down with a loud "SPLAT" inside the Basilica San Paulo (the site where Paul was matyred) because I couldn't take my eyes off the gold-covered ceilings. Well, I suppose if I had to fall at the feet of any man, Paul the Apostle would have been the most worthy :-)
- yelling at Harvey in Hokkien - to get away from a bunch of gypsy women who had surrounded him - but they still managed to steal about 50,000 lira out of the money pouch that was underneath his shirt. My poor boy said he felt so "violated".
- being secretly upset at not having my bum pinched, as I had been warned all Roman men would do. What's wrong with my bum? ;-)