Wednesday, May 9, 2007

R and R in Rome

Jim and Sasha say that I need to retrace some ground between the debacle in Newark and subsequent lofty thoughts on how we Americans view the Middle East. So I suppose I could expend a few words on my R and R here in Rome. First of all, I'm one of those fliers who gets the jet lag whack. Secondly, I love Rome. So I've been here in one of my favorite cities in the world, trying to get my circadian rhythms in sync. I'm staying in the Hotel Raphael on Largo Febo, tucked behind one end of the Piazza Navona. I have never stayed here before, and I'm alternately amused, bemused, and enchanted.

Like a lot of hotels now, the Raphael's elegant old exterior belies a completely gutted and Euro-industrial restyled interior upstairs. So the downstairs is quirkily charming, with the original hotelier's eclectic art collection (everything from Miro and Picasso ceramics to absolutely hideous tenth-rate Italian religious painting, from a Russian sleigh in the lobby to a set of exquisite Passover plates and cups--and dare I mention the amusing if confusing John the Baptist baptizing Jesus cabinet?). Upstairs, the eco-industrial takes over. My room is a hermetically-sealed box, all birch wood and chrome, with more wall buttons to push than I have been able to master in two days. The hotel's ecologically-sound air conditioning schema and I have been engaged in a battle of wits and will. Basically, the hotel continually resets all the rooms to a temperature I find too warm, so every few hours I have to get up and re-set from my end. All is forgiven for the rooftop terrace bar and restaurant, however, where the view gives new meaning to breathtaking.

I haven't had time to do much except sleep, read Islamist reformers, and work on my blog. Yesterday, gorgeous day here in Rome, I wandered the medieval cobblestone alleys around here, took in Raphael's Sibyls in the church next door, had a latte at the cafe next to the church and read the International Herald Tribune, and then subjected myself to a medicinal mani/pedi at a men's day spa recommended by the hotel. Clearly, the standards and comforts of nail prep vary from culture to culture.

A German gentleman hovers, waiting politely for the computer. Must go find the bellman and get my bill. It's on to Jordania, as the desk clerks here say. Talk to you from Amman, in sh'allah.

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