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The International Writers Magazine: Why we (used to)Travel - From Our Archives

Roman Holiday
Gabriela Davies

It is that time of year when we’re all reminiscing about holidays.
Sitting by the kitchen window looking at the boring rain falling as you eat.

Sitting in an office surrounded by agendas and timesheets as your afternoons drone on. Life is too short to work a full year with no holiday, and sick days just don’t do the trick.

You check your bank account and, realistically, you can’t even afford to spend a night at the Holiday Inn in Croydon, let alone leave the country. The flights, hotel, budget, date deciding, it’s all too exhausting and you begin to think it’s easier to just spend a a week in bed with take away food and all the luxuries of cable TV.

But peer pressure is calling and you’re desperate to escape. You want to save pictures of the Roman coliseum to your desktop, spend your hard earned money on overpriced sandwiches in middle-of-nowhere airports. You want to finally put that liberating out of office on, and let all your contacts know that if anything urgent happens, well they should contact someone else, because from today until the 6th October, it really isn’t your problem! And when you return, you want to make sure everyone in the office knows that you put those Italian holiday chocolates on the kitchen table, you’ve been drinking 2 bottles of Frascati, and yes, you have a tan.

Office politics are fascinating. And holidays are almost as competitive as pay rises and promotions. A relative newcomer to the work-world, I am intrigued by its clockwork. You start to see all your teammates and bosses announcing the proverbial out of office. Barcelona, Paris, Ibiza (always a harsh one), even Dublin sounds enviable. The receptionist has taken three days off to do nothing at home. Holiday chocolates are being brought to the office kitchen left right and centre. And you’re still there answering the phones? No way.

My destination of choice was Rome. We got lucky with the legendary £0.00 Ryanair flights. Only to discover it was another £20 to pay on card, £40 taxes (each), £18 for luggage, £12 for travel insurance. Reverse psychology as it is, by the time the total had reached £200 we had already fallen for Rome and there was no backing out. If all roads really did lead to Rome we would have found a better deal, but my lunch break was nearly over and if I didn’t book now, who knows how much they’d be by dinner.

So on a very late Wednesday night my out of office comes on and I begin the impossible task of fitting Italian-style outfits (best dressed people in the world) in to a 50x24x42 piece of hand luggage. Boyfriend arrives with a simple bag of clean boxers, three t-shirts, shorts and a pair of jeans. Two in the morning comes quickly and off we go to on a smelly coach to Stansted airport. By 04:10 we check in at Stansted, Starbucks is just about to open and a tall skinny latte is all that’s keeping me from completely passing out with exhaustion.

We arrive in Rome and the sun is baking. Piazza Navona, beautiful. Lunch, we’re starving. Arrive in the room, lovely flat, quickly get changed and out to sight see. Everything stunning and breath taking – we are in complete happiness. Finish the night having a best-ever-in-my-life spaghetti carbonara in Trastevere, where the locals go, truly rolling with the Romans.

The next few days are just filled with perfect times. Amazing sights, great company, unforgettable food, a day trip to Tuscany, Rome by day, Rome by night, tour guides, churches, tourist traps, ice creams, more ice creams. We’re in awe of Rome, the Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck of the twenty first century, albeit without the looks and the Lambretta. On day two it rained non-stop, but that didn’t stop us.
Day four gave me possibly the best pizza I have ever encountered in my life, as well as a trip down memory lane (to put it mildly) in the Roman forum and coliseum. A complimentary tour done by Jason, a writer for the New York Times who lives in Rome and treats stingy tourists to free tours, taught us all about the Christians, the Popes, Caesar, Marc Anthony, and Rome in general (so that’s who Brutus was).

Next stop: Vatican museum. Bit of a tourist nightmare, but put it this way, if you can still be breathtaken in the Sistine chapel whilst surrounded by tourists, guides, old and young people, families, couples, smelly people, moaning people, trampling into you, pushing against you, and with throbbing feet from walking through a four hour museum to get there – you can imagine what it would do to you in an empty room.

Rome ended with a nighttime walk around the Piazza di Spagna and Fontana di Trevi (no white cats, otherwise I would have totally done an Anita Ekberg) and even more ice cream. I’ve seldom eaten so much in my life. I loved it.

Now I’m sitting in the kitchen watching the London rain fall and fall, loving the fact that, just for a few days, I didn’t have to be a part of it. And tomorrow I’ll be knocking up, tanned and happily plump, into my office with a smile (and the proverbial box of chocolates, Italian). I loved Rome, and I love work, but we all need a bit of both. Roll on Christmas time is all I can say.

© Gabriela Davies October 2008

Gabriela works in Public Relations in London

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