I spent my last day in Rome wandering around Trastevere. I had high hopes for the area after reading various sources on the Internet about how charming and special and old-school-Rome it was. Alas - I was quite disappointed. It was pretty ordinary, even boring, and so small that I unwittingly circled the same area at least three times. The only up side was that I had this amazing pasta for, yes, 20 euros, but it was totally worth it.
I also had a random pastry thing from a shop I read about on a blog and it was really, really, REALLY good. I was really full after my lunch when I stumbled upon the bakery, but it smelled so good inside that I had to buy something. It was something with chocolate. It was delicious.
I spent my last couple of hours looking for a cafe that I read about online but when I finally found it, it was closed. I settled for another one I saw while looking for the one that I wanted to go to and it turned out not too bad so it was all good.
Rome is a beautiful historical city and seeing the Colosseum was a dream come true. Rather tragically, it's precisely because it has so much to offer in terms of history and sights and an atmospheric beauty that permeates the air that it suffers for it. To be more precise: it has too many, way too many, tourists. The irony of my complaint does not escape me, of course, but it's entirely reasonable that I would prefer to enjoy a new city without pushing through throngs of tourists, the majority of whom consisted of organised tour groups from places as diverse as China, Eastern Europe somewhere, the US, even Italy itself. Going to the Trevi Fountain was both a nightmare and an exercise in being patient; it made Piccaddily Circus look way more palatable in comparison (to recap: I hate Piccaddily Circus because it's ALWAYS full of tourists for reasons that escape me because there's nothing special to do there). It was also simply insane how long one had to queue just to buy tickets to enter sites like the Colosseum, and it was for that very reason, plus the fact that I simply couldn't be arsed, that I didn't go to Vatican City (I could've gone to take a look around without going to the museum or whatever but I really cared THAT little). Trastevere was supposed to be a tourist-free haven a couple of decades ago, but ever since it was discovered for being a tourist-free haven, it has become a tourist destination.
It's also because of this problem of too many tourists that so many restaurants in Rome serve terrible food. To me, it's a travesty to find bad Italian food in the Italian capital; it's like finding bad French food in Paris, except I don't think the problem is as prevalent in Paris because French people seem to have way too much pride for that. It's a shame - Rome would have been a way better experience if I didn't have to take special care to pick where I eat, and it got to a point where I planned my itinerary around my eating places. Undoubtedly, this is a function of my Singaporeanness and our nation-wide obsession with food, but who wants to have bad Italian food in Rome, of all places, when one usually has pretty good Italian food everywhere else in the world, right?
Another thing about Rome that I found seriously lacking was its public transport and its severe lack of location maps, a problem confounded by its obscure road signs. On the first point: Rome's metro has a grand total of two lines. That pretty much sums it up, but I have to complain about its buses. I took a bus on my last day to get to Campo de Fiori (quite a waste of time) and after spending 20 minutes locating the bus stop, then another 10 minutes waiting for the bus, I discovered, three stops later, that the marquee screen on the bus did not announce the name of the upcoming bus stops. In effect, it was utterly useless that I knew that I had to stop at a particular bus stop because, unless I kept track of how many bus stops I had already passed (I didn't), I wouldn't know that I had arrived at my desired bus stop. In the end, I got off with a group of American tourists (what kind of packaged tour makes its customers take public transport? They were so robbed) which turned out to be a stop too early.
On the second point: I am too spoiled by the 10 million location maps that are all over central London, because when I visit a city that does not have the same facility, I can't help but wonder why it's so difficult for its authorities to just put some maps around the usual tourist places so that people like me, who can't read paper maps very well, have some way of orienting themselves when they get out of a Metro station and have no idea which direction a certain road is, because it would avoid them having to turn on data roaming to use Google maps. Even when armed with a paper map, I had trouble using it sometimes because the street signs were not very prominent. I still managed to get around, obviously, but it would have been easier if there had been maps around.
I was also somewhat relieved to be back in London even though I did enjoy the city, if only because I definitely didn't feel as safe in Rome as I do in London. It may seem like an obvious thing to say, considering I've lived in London for over a year and I know the place better than a completely foreign city; but I felt way safer in Rotterdam and even in Paris than I did in Rome. The reason is simple: Italian men were so...friendly, to put it kindly. I didn't really mind talking to men that chatted me up, but I was really uncomfortable with the way some men stared at me. Case in point: when I was at the airport waiting for my flight back to London, I went to the only eating place that Ciampino has to get some food. Literally the second I stepped into the eating place, the group of men that were at the counter started staring at me. This pretty much happened for four days in a row, as if Italian men had never seen an Asian girl before - which is clearly not the case because there are so many Asians, especially Chinese and Korean, in Rome. While I did get hit on by two weirdos in Paris (one was obviously drunk and gross; the other was kind of old, fat, and seemed to have a fetish for Thai women), I definitely did not get stared at even 1% as much by French men as I did by the Italians. Even the fucking manager at my hotel tried to hit on me. And of course, that creepy encounter with the creep that asked me if I wanted to fuck was a definite low point in terms of getting unwanted attention from men...not to mention the masturbating man. Ew.
On a positive note, I did appreciate strangers coming up to me on three separate occasions and asking me if I needed help when I was quite clearly lost; I also definitely appreciated that they were just normal people and not weirdos. That said, when I was trying to get to Campo de Fiori, I asked this guy at a souvenir shop for directions - a black guy - and his Italian boss got all angry and he was seriously unfriendly and mean. He even glared at me as I walked away. What an arse!
Oldest bridge in Rome, if I remember correctly. It links Trastevere to this random little "island" in the middle of Tiber. It was not very impressive.
Now that I have been to a few major European cities, I must say that Paris is still my favourite - and no, I am not biased by the fact that I am dating a French guy (he's not even from Paris despite what he put on his Facebook profile!). The sheer beauty of Paris is undeniable and irresistible; it is certainly quite incomparable. Rome and Berlin are tied for second, though I think Rome edges it a bit because of its ancient history. Amsterdam, to me, was just overrated and dull. I definitely won't be going back anytime soon. In fact, I now find the Netherlands utterly unappealing after being bored shitless in Rotterdam and being quite unimpressed by Amsterdam.
I'll most likely be going to Madrid with my folks in December...and Paris again! I really want to go to Paris with Arnaud despite how cliched it is, and the fact that he'll be speaking in French the whole time with the people around us is a really yummy cherry on top. I find it incredibly sexy when he speaks French even though I don't understand anything. I wish I could make him have a bilingual conversation with me, with the bilingualism coming entirely from him, of course. Like, he'd answer me in French to satisfy my new-found, Arnaud-specific fetish, then translate it into English so that I can understand what's saying.
I am sometimes surprised - in a major way - by how tolerant he is. Yesterday I told him bluntly via Skype messenger that I had enough of being irritated by his erratic texting habit, that I didn't want to be annoyed anymore when he doesn't reply to my texts, and so my solution was that I would just not text him, reply to what he says, and talk to him on Skype. For the record, he doesn't reply sometimes; for the record, too, I have a major issue with people not replying to my messages and of course, Yalan Logic dictates that my boyfriend gets the brunt of it.
I honestly didn't think that he would care that much. I was wrong. He got a bit upset, and we had a chat about it and it was okay in the end. I half-expected him to get angry and ditch the Whatsapp conversation halfway, give me the silent treatment...but he didn't. I probably would have at some point if I were in his shoes.
Ever since he left for Bangkok, I have struggled with too much negative emotions. First it was the very morose way I had of missing him, which I think I am largely over; then it was this texting thing and how it made me feel like he didn't care as much. I find it difficult to feel what I feel for him without letting it completely cloud my reason, my better judgement, my reasoning, my rationality, such that I latch on to a particular thing that makes me unhappy, rightly or wrongly, and I'm so focused on how bad it makes me feel that I can't see past it. In my mind, he's supposed to do certain things if he really cares about me, such as doing things that I told him that I wanted him to do; and so when he doesn't, I interpret it negatively and I forget everything else that he has done. I've always had this problem, but it's a little bit worse now because this relationship happened before I knew what was happening, without my planning for it to happen (although, of course, you can't plan for these things to happen), and without my being quite ready to give up singlehood and commit to someone all over again; and the result is that when I'm mired negativity, I can't help but wonder why I'm exposing myself to being hurt by someone - a guy - when I could just not care, not date this guy, date others, date many guys, have zero expectations, and not get hurt.
I cease to wonder when I see the way he looks at me on my computer screen...and when I realise it's a mirror image of the way that I am looking at him. I am amazed by the fact that, after everything that I went through and all that I did to myself, after becoming more cynical and jaded than I ever was, all it took for me to take back some (all?) of what I have lost was the simple sweetness of a boy, willing and able to love me.