Nights in France

at night at the hotel

The hotel room ceiling has the shape of a lemon. But you do not see the shape in the darkness. What you see is the shadows of the four hotel-room windows on the opposite walls. And the moving shadows of the trees. It is April and it is well after midnight.

In the silence you can hear two men talking on the street. They are French and they are quietly discussing something. Never-ending sounds of their voices. You can hear them from the hotel bathroom. It is big and light and your eyes get used to the white marble with the grey details. White is all your eyes can see. You lie in the tub and do not think about anything. You get absorbed by the whiteness that surrounds you and by the darkness of the night. You listen to the men talking French.

Then there is silence. And you think why your life is not more normal. Why is that you enjoy listening to two strangers talking French under your hotel window while soaking yourself in the bathtub for over an hour? Why closing your eyes and seeing everything white makes so much sense? We probably like to listen to the stories we do not understand. There is no point in understanding everything. Living the nights is different from living the days. At nights we do not have to explain, accept, comprehend, pretend, persuade. We live things that do not make sense. And shadows sometimes are truer than pictures.

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Notes from Rome: on traffic and night air

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We are getting better in crossing the streets. Traffic is hectic here, and you do not know from where the cars, Vespas or buses are coming. You just have to start crossing the street hoping that all transport will stop. The first days it took us a lot of time waiting for the “space” in traffic. Today we got much better; we started crossing the streets like people in Rome do it. Just crossing them, expecting the traffic to stop or at least to slow down and not getting scared of the Vespas zipping right in front of us. Cars go in all directions, independently on the traffic flow, one-way street signs and sometimes traffic lights. However, they seem to be able to stop right on time or elegantly maneuver around people. On the busiest streets we saw traffic police directing the cars. It looked almost like a scene from a movie, traffic controllers all dressed in white, added to the sharpness of this sunny and ancient city.

Ice cream and coffee prove to be very good, day after day. Kids eat tons of ice creams while I get my cup of Americano (espresso with some extra hot water). Not sure what is the secret, but the coffee is good. Much better than in Spain, Norway or the US. I heard before that Italian coffee is good, however, I did not expect it to be good in all the places I tried it. Espresso machines are everywhere; I do not think I have seen a bakery or a small sandwich place without an espresso machine. Also, Italian people are very nice, everybody has a kind word for the kids and is very respectful to me, as a mom. It seems like kids are a priority in the Italian capital and the moms, as a prerogative, too.  Kids are not treated as kids, but just as people to who you pay more attention than to regular grown ups. What I mean is that they are asked questions, sensible questions that require an answer. Questions the people would ask me too. They are asked for their name, where are they from, what language do they speak and what they like in Rome. And as these are not just sweet words and the answers are expected, the kids answer. They like to be these little citizens taken with full respect and consideration. Being able to chose their ice cream flavors for themselves and answer what have they seen in Rome are closely tied together. And it comes down to being responsible people who are exploring a new city.

Nights in Rome are much better than days. At least in summer. After 9pm the air is fresher, there are very few tourists on the streets and the buildings look different. What is visible during the day is obscured when the night falls. All the ‘noise’ disappears when then sun sets. New details, sharp windows, columns, doors and corners strike your sight. You see buildings that were invisible during the sunny hours. After 9pm Rome is full of light spots of illuminated facades, sharper cobblestone pavement under the yellowish light and music from the cafes and bars. Contrasts of light and obscureness, of silence and music, of scattered groups people and emptiness of the streets are becoming. I like Rome after 9pm. The air is light and your steps are echoed by non-ending buildings of the narrow empty ‘vias’. Only at night you pay attention to the light.

Rome, July 6th 2012