Lady in White

image image imageAs of 9:00 am Saturday morning (3:00 am EST) we are in Malaga, Spain. Our last day in Paris was the usual: tiring but beautiful, with visits to the Notre Dame, the Galeries Lafayettes (mainly for a coffee atop the 7th floor panoramic terrace, as shopping is tres cher) and Au Printemps department stores, and the Sacre Coeur, ending the day off with Dani running around Les Jardins Tuileries and riding the carrousel.

Seeing the magnificent white Basilique du Sacre Coeur sitting atop that hill reminds me of my late Aunt, known affectionately as Tita Peng.   She was a simple and inspiring lady. She had devoted her life to God and only wore white, which is why I thought of her yesterday. She passed away in 2004, in my first year (2nd attempt) of college.   In my early years after first moving to Toronto from Calgary, she was always so kind and supportive. Ever since our arrival, my mother’s 4th eldest sister had always been my favourite.  Though she was never officially ordained (pretty sure that’s not the right word, but there isn’t any wifi for me to google it so it’ll do), we always thought of her as a nun, and were actively part of her prayer group called Rufina’s Family Crusade. We would bring the Mother Mary from home to home and pray the rosary together, and we had even taken a pilgrimage to Montreal to visit churches and spread our word. I remember sleeping in a cot in a bare-bones monastery there, and that it felt cold and quite eerie. There was nothing on the bed other than a sheet and nothing on the walls, so I stuck a small prayer card of St. Joseph on the wall above my head with some toothpaste to protect me.
 I also remember doing processions in the streets of downtown Toronto. My aunt always talked to and never turned away from the homeless, bringing them food and an ear to listen whenever they needed one. She didn’t even own a television in her apartment.
Going through my rebellious years, I would fight with my mother a lot, and I remember one incident when my mother told me to get out of the house. For a week I did, staying with my boyfriend at the time.  Then I received a call from her, telling me she was sorry and to return home because she loved me (she had never, ever in my memory admitted she was wrong, nor apologized for much of anything).  I later learned this was under the influence of my Tita Peng.  After hearing of our fight and the harsh words exchanged, she was appalled at her younger sister and told her to call me and tell me to come home right away. Now, I was a pretty wild teenager who partied many late nights, yet my aunt never doubted that I had my head on straight and I’d make something of myself. In my eyes, she was the only great influence in my life who really knew and believed in me.
I thought of you, that beautiful white presence atop the hill, Tita Peng. I wonder if you can see for yourself, but in case you can’t, I’m working very hard. I’m trying to be the best person and mother I can and I think you’d be proud. I wish you were here to see for yourself.  Danica would have loved to know you, too.
I miss you every day.
Love, your Di-Di

Part 2-FCO

Trip Trippin’ Part 2-FCO

When in Rome… be prepared to be tired and stressed out when travelling with small children!!

Day one: arrive Leonardo da Vinci/Fiumicino airport. Baggage pickup and the Leonardo Express train to Termini (Rome’s central train station) were relatively smooth,  except for one incident in which we discovered that elevators in Rome are shoebox-small, slow, and don’t reach every floor you want or need them to.  The rest of our journey was quite stressful and tiring.
After arriving at Termini station, we headed to the TerraCafe (also in the station) to pick up our OMNIA Rome and Vatican cards, which allow unlimited use of public transportation including the hop-on, hop-off bus systems, and, most importantly, entrance to the Vatican, Colosseum, and one other main attraction without having to wait in line. If you’ve ever seen that massive Vatican lineup (I’ve stood in it once before, actually), you’ll know what value this holds.  Waiting to pay regular admission could take two hours or longer.
Back to picking up the OMNIA cards, or lack thereof. Apparently they’d run out completely, and the only other place to get them was at St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City.  After a long flight with about three hours of sleep (not to mention a 45-minute initial delay, insignificant at this point), each hauling 25-lb. backpacks, carry-on luggage, and pushing an unhappy Dani strapped into her stroller, we decided to just pick up the passes the next day.  We search for the elevator.  After a few attempts on our own and asking a local store clerk (apparently no one knows where the eff it is), a police officer finally points us in the correct direction. Too bad it’s under maintenance and appears to be the only one.  Regretfully, we end up waking up Dani, who is not pleased with us, and yells out her unhappiness as we now balance a stroller, two large backpacks, two heavy carry-ons, and a 24-lb infant down the escalator.  After purchasing two day passes for the Metro, we begin the arduous elevator journey down to Metro Line A- direction Anagnina. It is arduous because, yet again, it is shoebox-sized, and takes three of them to get down to subway level.  Apparently, it is mastermind Roman urban planning that allows such elevators to descend only a few floors each time.  In travel books and on online forums, “they” say that Rome is not child-friendly, but I wasn’t expecting this.  I’ll never complain about the Eaton Centre’s “inefficiencies” ever again.
By this time, around 2.5 hours on foot since exiting the plane, our entire bodies are drenched in sweat in yesterday’s clothes, and our shoulders are caving in and defeated.
We make it to our stop and exit, look around, ask two locals for directions to the hotel, and somehow end up walking in a gigantic extend-a-route square path in the 32+ degree Roman weather with the aforementioned baggage, until we finally find our hotel.
The rest of the day was spent walking around the city, visiting the Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, and major shopping streets Via Corso and Via Condotti, with a stop for some mango and kinder egg-flavoured gelato along the way, obvi.  I almost fell asleep two or three times while waiting for a meal or just getting a chance to sit.  However, none of those details were as exciting as even getting here, so I’ll leave it at that. ‘Til the next…
Ciao!