LTHOUGH we had attended (unknowingly) the same nursery school in Rosebank, Johannesburg, it was only after 70 years that my wife and I eventually married. Three months later, we went on honeymoon.
After booking a nine-night tour to the romantic cities of Paris, Venice and Rome, we discovered we had only bought fares and accommodation. Neither transfers nor activities were included.
So we bought the hotel transfers and started planning our time in these beautiful places (even on honeymoon, one can’t stay in your hotel room for nine days).
Fortunately, the Internet is full of advice, with wonderful things to see and do so we set about booking the ones that appealed to us. Most included “queue-jumping”, which paid off handsomely as we were wafted straight past long lines of people waiting to get in to the various sights.
First was Paris. What an amazing variety awaited us. Our tour included a visit to the Montmartre district, as well as the astonishing Louvre museum. Emerging from the funicular on Montmartre hill, we saw the famous SacréCoeur Basilica of white marble, and a panoramic view of the beautiful city.
We enjoyed walking around this delightful artists’ area and seeing the huge variety of subjects and styles they painted. We both love music so we were thrilled to find a piano bistro to quench our thirst with glasses of ice and Coke, accompanied by the excellent playing of a local pianist. When he heard that Anabel (my wife) could also play, he asked her to perform as well.
We did the essential hop-on-hop-off bus tour, as well as a charming Seine River cruise. We also saw the great Impressionist art galleries — Musée d’Orsay with our favourite Van Goghs, and the Musée de l’Orangerie, home to several of Monet’s enormous water-lily paintings. Finally, we took a trip to the Palace of Versailles.
Our modest Paris hotel was very nice. A bit small by SA standards — but with a bidet. The continental breakfasts were tasty and adequate, especially the fresh orange juice, coffee and croissants. There was enough too to take some for lunch. And we were close to the fabulous Metro, to whisk us to the sights once we’d figured out “le system” and learnt enough French to get the residents to speak to us in English (“je cherche le metro/toilettes/etc”)!
Then, off we flew to picturesque Venice, where at every twist of the winding walkways another beautiful scene opened before us. After the obligatory gondola ride (purchased at half price on the Internet), we found a brilliant busker, playing classical music with his wet fingertips on a row of carefully tuned wine glasses.
Of course, now we were in the land of the gelato, with gelaterias on every corner — very hard to pass by. And in the evenings, we ate in great restaurants full of character, with pastas and pizzas to die for.
The beautiful St Mark’s Square was covered in sea water, with thousands of tourists and us slipping off our shoes to paddle and cool our tired feet (we did walk a lot). And then on the vaporetto (waterbus) down the Grand Canal and across the sea to the glass blowers of Murano. What exquisite pieces they make, far beyond what we would expect.
After three nights, we boarded an express train to the Eternal City, Rome. Our driver took us safely to our hotel, pointing out many famous sights along the way — the Colosseum, Forum and basilicas.
Again we saw the main sights from the top of the hop-on-hop-off bus and chose which ones to visit. The ancient Roman ruins were amazing, with some still in excellent condition, including as the Arch of Constantine, the great Emperor who decreed tolerance for Christianity.
We visited the lovely Monument of Victor Emmanuel II, an awesome edifice of white marble built to commemorate the king who united the various states of Italy for the first time. Here we also saw the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier with an eternal flame, and the changing of the two soldiers who guard it.
At the incredible Trevi Fountain, we stood with hundreds of tourists gazing rapturously at the turquoise waters and the beautiful sculpted rocks and statues.
And so, after a glorious holiday, we were whisked to the airport in a Mercedes to find that our Alitalia flight had been cancelled due to a pilots’ strike. But a transfer to Air France, with a few hours’ delay, saw us arrive in Paris in good time for the flight home. — © Bev Lawrence
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