Friday, March 27, 2009

Travelogue 270 – March 27
Twenty Million

Taxi drivers will tell you with a sigh of exasperation that Cairo is home to 20 million souls. That’s a big number and probably exaggerated. More conventional sources assign 16 million to the metropolitan area. But what are numbers anyway? To the man in the street, a number like that is an expression of a feeling before it’s a statement of science.

If you would like that ’20 million’ sensation, here’s what I recommend: take a stroll in the late afternoon from Opera Square in Cairo to the historic Al Azhar mosque, through the market district. This is not an exercise for the faint of heart ... nor for the claustrophobic, nor for those sensitive to noise, for those subject to panic attacks, nor those with strong ideas of personal space. Take a deep breath before you take this plunge.

This walk is as near perfect human chaos as I’ve been. But if you’re like me, once you pass a certain degree of chaos, when the street is filled to bursting with humanity and cacophonous sound is rising to fill all of space, you finally have to laugh. An order inside chaos emerges, and you give in to it or you become paralyzed or bruised. You surrender to something like continuous, improvised motion: turning, accelerating, wedging between people and objects, facing down a wall of traffic for just the right moment. Give up on straight lines and don’t look ahead. It’s a dance.

At last you reach history. You will pass a few lovely old mosques from Cairo’s youth, and you will enter the old Muslim quarter. Follow along the murderous multi-lane thoroughfare that has roared at your side for a mile. You will come to the venerable Al Azhar mosque, granddaddy of Cairo mosques and founder of the world’s second oldest university, bestowing degrees by the end of the tenth century. The mosque is open to visitors.

Walk back down Xaos Avenue to the Egyptian fast food outlet, Gad, for a chicken shwarma. Don’t let them lead you upstairs, where you will pay double price. Take your meal out. There’s nowhere to sit and eat, so order a taxi and ride back to Opera Square for a couple dollars. You will have plenty of time to eat, as the driver has to drive out to Heliopolis in order to turn around and rejoin the tooting traffic going your way. Meanwhile learn your Arabic numbers as you sort out the fare.

Don’t worry: Cairo has more peaceful entertainments. The first one is at home, if you’re staying at the Windsor Hotel. The Windsor is a vestige of British colonial presence. It stands tall and narrow above alleyways and noisy cafes (ah, the smell of shisha!), its spacious rooms set round a tiny cage of an antique elevator and its accompanying spiral staircase. On the second floor is a pleasant bar, famously furnished with chairs made of barrel halves and friendly society. Notice in the dining room a painting partially burned during anti-British riots at the time of rebellion against the Empire during the 50s.

Take the subway down to Sabat station. The trains are easy. Tickets are one Egyptian pound and conveniently bought at the station. Just beware entering the women-only car if you’re male, watch your toes, and be ready to push your way off the train at your stop. From the station, find your way to the Nile. Let the god Aman Ra guide you west. You’ll find the southernmost bridge to the neighborhood of Gezira on the river island of Zamalek. Don’t mind the occasional amiable man who sidles up to you and wants to practice English. Eventually the educational dialogue will come round to money, and you’re best to say no early. Don’t mind the cop stationed mid-bridge who smilingly asks where you’re from and shakes your hand and then demands fifty dollars. Smile back and carry on. Enjoy the walk. The Nile downtown is broad and beautiful, and surrounded by glassy cityscape. One afternoon, take an alternate route, strolling down the eastern side of the river from the same bridge. Stop in a few of the high-rent hotels and pay the price for a coffee, soaking up Middle Eastern luxury.

The neighborhoods west and south of the Windsor are fun, especially in the evening. There’s lots of shopping, and it doesn’t stop until near midnight. The buildings are Old World European. The stores alternate between Old World and modern style. Stop for ice cream. Peak in the McDonald’s to see the young Bohemians bitterly swallowing their pride for the free wireless.

Cairo highlight and lowlight: Be sure to stop by the Khalily Musuem on western side of the Nile, just south of the Sheraton, for quiet time with Rodin, Gaugin, Van Gogh, and friends, along with lots of Japanese and Chinese porcelain. Be sure to miss the old Coptic neighborhood, which has been reduced to incomprehensible alleyways like chutes in a stockyard, channeling mobs of tourists among confused and underwhelming sights.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Travelogue 269 – March 23
One Ship’s Cargo

Poppies are blooming red among the ruins. There are oranges on trees along the street. An African immigrant has me by the throat in the Metro because I tripped him. I’m in Rome!

It so happens I’ve arrived on the day of the Rome Marathon, which was the occasion for my first visit to Rome, seven years ago. I catch a bit of the end of the race, cheering on the stragglers, at the Fontana di Trevi. The city is extraordinarily crowded.

The crowds don’t deter me because my objectives on this stopover in Rome are modest. I want to rest up for Ethiopia; I want to take walks in the sun. I want to see what sights I see. Most of historical Rome, I’ve visited at one time or another.

Sun and walks. I’m an effective traveler; I meet my objectives almost immediately. On my first day, I make my way to the banks of the Tiber in the oldest part of Rome, where the old green river curves toward the south, just below the Capitoline and Palatine Hills. This is, roughly speaking, where it all began. It’s also where the oldest standing Roman bridge, the Ponte Fabricio, spans the short distance from the Capitoline side to the Isola Tiberina, Rome’s only river island. The bridge was built in 62 BC, while Julius Caesar was just a young, rebellious praetor and notorious reprobate.

The Romans believed this island in the Tiber grew around a seed of grain tossed into the river after the deposition of the Tarquins (a nasty Etruscan dynasty in the 7th and 6th centuries BC). If it wasn’t a kernel of grain, it was the body of Tarquinius Superbus himself. Silt gathered for a few short centuries until it became this solid, boat-shaped isle. Scientists have something to say about that theory, but don’t they always, those pesky devils?

For quite a while, the island was ignored or even avoided as a disreputable acre, the dark street corner where Albanians and skinheads smoked and plotted. But then destiny spoke out. Battling a plague, the Roman Senate consulted the Sibyl. This oracle recommended a temple to Aesculapius, the Greek god of healing. This entailed sending a delegation to Epidauros. The delegates returned with the gift of a snake, meant to be the centerpiece for a new temple to Asclepius, the god of healing. As the delegates arrived home, rowing up the Tiber, this serpent slithered overboard and swam straight for the isle. This is where the temple is meant to be built, decided the Romans.

Built it was, a temple that stood for five hundred years or so. So enamored were the Romans by the temple and its story that the island accrued a magic and a legend all its own. It was clearly shaped like a boat, this bit of land. The Romans enhanced the resemblance, erecting an obelisk like a mast and buttressing the sides of the isle with a marble keel, a piece of which can still be seen, embellished with a caduceus in relief, the symbol of Asclepius and of all healers. And an aura of healing attached itself to the location, an aura that has never diminished, even with the destruction of the temple by the zealous new state religion imported from far Palestine. The temple was built over by a church for the disciple Bartholomew, whose severely compromised remains are said to lie here, but the other half of the island is given over to a hospital that has been run by healing friars since the sixteenth century.

In any case, the island is a pleasant place to hang out on a sunny afternoon. Below the church, temple, and hospital, as though the boat has run aground, a broad space roundabout the island has been paved. You can walk around the isle or sun yourself leaning against the slope underneath the hospital, along with a host of descendants of the old priests and soldiers.

Thank you, Carolyn, for posting entries while I’m in blog-unfriendly Ethiopia!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Travelogue 268 – March 20
Altered States

I’ve been graced by two unlikely boons in Perugia this week, religion and the blues.

Antonio is a book binder. He comes by it honestly, having grown up with the craft in his family in Puglia. He is a handsome man, with curly black locks to his shoulder, a strong, goateed chin, and piercing eyes. As a boy, he wanted to be a priest but he became a bass player instead. He has lived in London so he speaks English very well, though thankfully not well enough to have lost that melodic Italian accent. His Japanese girlfriend is back home, waiting for a new visa. He has settled in Perugia, and works out of a studio on the Via Sant’Agata, an arched, ground-level space that used to be a stable. You can find him on occasion behind a table in front of the cathedral, selling blank, Renaissance-style, leather-bound books that he has crafted himself. But don’t look for him this weekend because he’ll be in Frankfort for an AC/DC concert.

Antonio has a friend from Sparta, a gentle and serious and saintly man, whom I will call Biff in order to protect his identity. Biff has lived in Italia for a dozen years now but he’s about to return to Greece. He is a graphic artist and piano player. He has studied botany and biology. He’s an extreme ascetic, and he observes a very rigid and healthy diet. He is a loner and a very quiet man. He passes days on end in silence.

Antonio tells me that Biff is a devotee of meditation. What type, I ask. Ah, what type indeed! Biff comes up with something I had never heard of. The answer is Hesychasm. It seems that as a young man, Biff spent some years among the monks of Athos, and not just any Orthodox monks, but ecstatic who can fairly be called the Sufis of Orthodoxy, who seclude themselves from civilization in the mountains. Hesychasm, Esicasmo in Italian, is a meditative practice that Biff compares to certain yogic disciplines. It includes breath control and a kind of mantric use of the Jesus Prayer, "Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner."

I flap my gums about a past and passing interest in Sufism, and a visit I made to a Sufi ashram in Turkish Cyprus once upon a time. My ten words to his one put the lie to any spirituality I might have made pretense to, but I still do harbor a genuine, if dilletantish, appreciation for devotions and discipline like his. Within minutes, I’m Biff’s biggest fan, and I try to keep the conversation going, but Biff has exceeded his word quota for the week: discourse complete.

Genius of another ilk awaits us at night. Antonio invites me to the Thursday open mic might at Busker’s Irish Pub, which is just a block down the ol’ cobblestones from my hotel. Whatever one may think of the tired Irish theme, the space is very comfortable, two floors in an old building, with lots of rooms and a stage at the back of the lower floor. The open mic night is popular. All the Italians there seem to know each other. A lot of them are musicians, entering with instruments on their shoulders and ordering nothing.

We meet Matteo, a passionate young man who sold his ’58 Stratocaster to pay for flying lessons. Now he is a pilot for a small carrier, and he has another guitar. He is an accomplished player, as he proves later in the night. But first, the three of us must have long and impassioned discussions about politics. Their explanations of current politics in Italia seem impossibly bleak. Matteo draws a comparison between Roma 2009 and Orwell 1984, and it’s completely plausible if everything he and Antonio say is true.

Finally, by 11:30, as my red eyes sink low in the night sky, the music starts. I’ve begged the cute MC, Sara, to allow Matteo and friend to go first. In my honor, they perform American blues, including 'Hoochie Coochie Man'. They turn it a laudable performance, and I enjoy the cultural dissonance as much as the show (medieval town, Italian language, Hoochie Coochie Man). Bravissimo!

Tonight, a heavy snow is falling on the streets of the old town. I’m nearly alone as I stroll the Corso. ‘Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da’ is being broadcast from some bar’s outdoor speakers.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Travelogue 267 – March 18

Allow me to introduce to you my old friend and home town in Italia, Perugia, my Umbrian hill town of pink stone, Etruscan acropolis, Porta Sole, my gruff and introverted little Perugia.

Perugia è una città di 164.782 abitanti dell’Italia centrale, capoluogo dell’omonima provincia e della regione Umbria. Sorge su un colle, nella valle del Tevere. Right, that just about covers it. Perugia is situated dead in the center of Italy, about two hours northeast from Rome, among the lovely hills of Umbria, and just above the Tiber river valley. It’s the capital of Umbria. It was first an Etruscan city, but only appears in history when the Romans took notice of it, right around 300 BC. Afterward it’s Roman, of course. In the Middle Ages, (after some rough times with those silly barbarians), it’s an autonomous city-state, until Papal Rome takes her back into the fold in the sixteenth century or so.

This isn’t Rome or Milano. The train won’t deposit you in the center. The reason for that is simple enough. Perugia is one of those hilltop towns that are common in the interior of Italy, situated snugly and precipitously above the perilous lowlands. So do not despair when you disembark and exit the station only to see the bland visage of modern Europe. Head upward. If you’re determined to make it on foot, allow 45 minutes and follow just about any road that goes uphill. Eventually you must emerge at the pinnacle, on the Corso Vannucci, named after Perugia’s most famous native son, the artist Perugino. This is the central artery of the historical center. You can see from one end to the other. Its flagstones are prohibited to auto traffic, so join the passegiata.

If you turn toward the head of the Corso, you’ll come to the Piazza IV Novembre, around which are gathered some of the architectural jewels of medieval Italy, including the Palazzo dei Priori, (city hall, basically) a tall and stately fourteenth century construction of rose and white stone, erected in three elegant layers of classic medieval design, with rosettes and mullioned windows and a grand arched doorway that is set with ghostly and delicate figures, almost cartoonish in that high medieval way that somehow fuses dignity with simplicity, figures that include two guardian griffins subduing, in an odd show of power, two terrified bulls. In the center of the piazza is the Fontana Maggiore, also of pink stone, embellished with two levels of allegorical, religious and mythical characters in relief. On the north side of the piazza is the Cathedral of San Lorenzo (yes, another one, coincidentally – see mention of Genova’s in the previous blog,) the bishop’s seat for the region. It was built during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, and exists today as a curious amalgam of styles and bits, including a Renaissance loggio along one side, a beautiful outdoor pulpit decorated with mosaics set in one of the walls (a pulpit from which San Bernardino of Siena himself preached,) and a large bronze of a pope popular in Perugia for relaxing papal rule after brutal wars in the sixteenth century.

Walk up past the cathedral, toward the north, and you will discover the Porta Sole, the cliff-top site of an ancient Etruscan temple to a sun god, long ago destroyed, where you will be confronted by a sudden, breath-taking vista of the red-tiled roofs of the town below, set along narrow, zig-zagging streets, and of green hills rolling toward the horizon. The fact is, you can find these vistas at each point of the compass in historical Perugia. Most dramatic are those at northern and southern ends of the acropolis. The southern counterpart is at the other end of the Corso, where couples gather at sunset in the Giardino Carducci , where you can stand at the long stone balustrade and gaze out over valleys that lead south toward Roma. On the eastern side of this prospect, you can spot Assisi, a patch of medieval stone suspended on a hillside across the Tiber River Valley.

These are just some highlights, but choose any of the high-walled alleyways leading down and away from the Corso and you’ll stumble upon travertine, marble, and cobblestone treasures left for us by the centuries of cittadini-believers, who want to tell you about their city, about their wars, about Saints Francis and Bernardino, or about the Roman Catholic God and His works.

Here are some personal recommendations for must-see leisure stops while you’re in Perugia:
First, of course, my specialty: a few cafes. I’ll restrict myself to two. Just north of the cathedral and beyond the Piazza IV Novembre, you’ll spot the Caffe Turreno. Here you’ll experience a touch of old world class. There are tables out front and a few rooms in the back where you can sit and study some photos of Perugia from the days just after the Second World War, Perugia in ruins. Sip your coffee and watch Perugia’s equivalent of the ‘Via Veneto’ set, the upscale socialites and artists. If your taste in self-consciousness tends more toward the young and grungy, be sure to stop by the Caffe Morlacchi, where you’ll enjoy hippie chic under low vaults of brick. This is also a good spot for nighttime entertainment, they often bring in DJs and bands.

Please stop by the Oratorio di San Bernardino on the western side of the city, behind the university, down by the old city gate at the end of the Via dei Priori. It’s a beautiful little Renaissance chapel, with a colorful and remarkable façade. The spare interior is worth a look, too, if only for the late Roman sarcophagus being used as an altar.

And, at sunset, try to be on the eastern side of town, at the Chiesa di San Domenico. The colors on its vast and empty western wall are gorgeous. Take a minute to peek inside the cloister to the left, where there is a nice collections of Etruscan urns arranged around the cloister walls.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Travelogue 266 – March 11
Calvary by the Sea

I think of Milano as the city of balconies. I really haven’t seen much of Milan yet, but the hundreds of balconies above the streets have become symbolic of the city. I stay in the neighborhoods near the train station, and I’ve strolled around the centro. In these areas, the architecture is all similar, a heavy but elegant imperial style that I quite like, a style that features lovely, carven stone balconies. Milano is the base for my Genova trip this time around, so I have seen a lot of the massive, Fascist-era train station, (recently featured prominently, by the way, in the film ‘The International’). I’ve exited and entered and exited again from underneath those high, arched shelters in the back of the station.

If Milano is the city of balconies, Genova is the city of stairs. The city has the feeling of having been precariously built on a tiny strip of flat land by the sea, mountains right at its back. When it grows, it grows up. Off every street are steep and narrow staircases heading up those looming hills.

Five years ago, I have a day to kill in Genova. (See the previous blog.) I’ve missed my boat and I’m catching a night train to Perugia. I’ve been up since 3 or 4am, and I’m stuck with my XXL backpack, stuffed with supplies for several months’ travel. What does one do in Genova? One goes to sea, or one climbs stairs. I’ve turned my back on the sea already, so I climb. And climb and climb.

I’m in a state of mind one could understate as ‘distressed’. The physical labor with the load on my back feels just. My thoughts are stilled. The future is as blank as my mind. There are only the hills and the work. I will sweat out my grief. I will push through the pain of being adrift.

Up I go, staircase after staircase, shoulders and thighs aching. Back and forth I hike, across the steep and concave hillside above downtown, sometimes up long series of steps, sometimes following curving lanes past houses and gardens, past tenements of the earners and the rich, stopping occasionally for increasingly dramatic vistas of the city and the sea. I can see the old port and beyond. In the old port are monstrous ferries, these for the luxury voyages going anywhere but Tunisia. I see the whole, rumpled topography of the city, red tile, towers and spires built on the shoulders of neighbors. The sea gleams with dull sunlight.

Eventually, I reach the top of the ridge. I achieve the summit of the final staircase … only to look to my right and see the terminal stop of the funicular. Ah well, it was all about the pain of the climb, wasn’t it, the cleansing labor of it? I cross the road and look out over valley-burbs of greater Genova. The day is reaching its last hours. I stop in the bar next to the funicular station. The several grey-haired regulars are already unsteady with drink.

This time I take the funicular up. It’s one euro twenty and the funicular departs at fifteen-minute intervals. A few bored kids are waiting with me. The funicular arrives, a tired looking set of silver boxes, built at a slant, so my orange plastic seat and its partner are about a meter higher than the next set, etc. The first half of the ride is through tunnels. After that, the view opens up a bit, and I see some familiar neighborhoods, one precarious house after another, some with gardens. In one garden, a pair of floppy-eared sheep watch us go by. At the top, we emerge on top of that old, tame ridge with the wild view. The sea winks at me from its silver, misty peace.

Back in the centro, I make time to see the sights, some of the things I missed the first time around. I head toward the old town. The streets narrow and they meander. The ubiquitous staircases diminish into mere cracks between high walls, vanishing quickly into shadow. In fact, most of the intersecting vie shrink into Genovese vicoli, passageways about a shoulder’s width across. I want to run up every one of them. There’s something compelling, like the lure of mazes, about the vicoli.

Stop by the Cathedral of San Lorenzo, around which the old town seems to organize itself. It’s a beautiful medieval structure, dating back to the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. The façade is a fun example of medieval design, with horizontal stripes in colored stone, and a grand doorway telling many stories in sculpture, framed in groovy twisting marble columns. Huge marble lions guard the wide stairway, though with a meek Christian demeanor.

It’s nighttime when I make it back down the hill five years ago. I wander among streets that seem dark and murderous until the time my first train leaves. I’m beyond exhaustion in both mind and body, but I can’t sleep, even on the train. The first train goes to Firenze. I arrive there in the dead of early morning. In the time between trains, I make my way into the heart of the old town. I stand alone beneath the bizarre façade of the Duomo in the darkness of a winter night, just before dawn.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Travelogue 265 – March 10
By the Sea

One of your first sights in Genova – provide you travel there by train – will be a massive white monument to Cristoforo Colombo. He stands high above the central train station, facing the sea and brooding with lowered brow. Shall we say he’s plotting the overthrow of everything sane and righteous – just so we conform to the intellectual spirit of our times?

Genova certainly looks different my second time around. Granted, the first time I saw it I was in some distress. This was after my first trip to Ethiopia, five years ago. I was only ten days in Ethiopia – a wise bit of planning on my part. First exposure to Addis Ababa is traumatic in the best of times. But this was six months after Leeza had died. I had met her family for the first time. I had visited her grave. By the time I reached Genova, I was quite heart-broken.

I’m back. I’m retracing my steps. These Italian adventures took place just prior to launching the ‘jarvistravels’ blog in 2004. Think of this as investigative journalism – no, let’s call it subjective or even subjunctive journalism. I’m researching for a possible memoir.

I went to Genova in order to catch a boat. I wasn’t in search of a passage to India. I was looking for the thing that Colombo’s sailors must have feared most, the edge of the world. I wanted to disappear. I wanted a break from an unendurable story. New chapter: I had planned a trip to Tunisia, thinking that somehow Tunisia was just the anonymous little oasis of desert that I needed. It’s hard to say why now, although it still seems like it would be a nice vacation.

When you catch a ferry to Tunis from Genova, you find yourself on the very last dock in the west wing of the old harbor, a desolate place. The western docks are all function. There’s no danger of confusing this with the Riviera: lots of concrete, cranes, and lorries. In fact, just to underscore the Genovese concept of their friend, the sea, any view of the harbor from this side of town is blocked by a crazy motorway, many lanes wide and several levels high. Hardly the boardwalk.

You loiter with hundreds of people and autos on the concrete dock beside the ferry. It’s no luxury cruise ahead of you. The boat is blank and beat. The people themselves are blank and beat. They mill around restlessly and smoke, most of them Tunisian and poor. It’s almost dawn. The scene is bleak.

Something in me snaps. The ferry starts loading, but I stand aside. I’m rooted to the spot. I watch everyone embark. Gangplanks are clanked into place. The anchoring lines are stowed away. The engines rumble, churning the harbor water, and the ferry drifts free, moves, accelerates.

What was wrong? Maybe it was the thought of returning to Africa. Maybe it was the specter of poverty and depression on my holiday away from grief and depression. I couldn’t face another round. I wanted to be Nowhere, but try to find it. It always turns into Somewhere.

I’m not thinking. I have no reasons for watching the boat go. All I feel is lost, absolutely lost. I was supposed to be out there, on the water. What am I doing? The sun rises in the Genovese sky, but I am wrapped in a fog of disappointment and renewed grief. I stumble off the dock, out of the port, and off into the bitter streets of town. I throw my backpack down on the steps of a busy bank, and people are staring at me. I must have had a wild glint in my eye.

So this is where she finds me, forsaken by Self and Fate in a trashy foreign town, nowhere to go, and my extra tall backpack tossed aside for bank customers to step over on their way to get money. When I say ‘she’, I refer to Leeza, my angel. She visits me then, and I don’t mean white light and a hush over the street. I mean something like a memory as vivid as presence, or vice versa. I can’t argue scholastically about it but she was there, and she believes in me.

Why has she found me? Is the question absurd? I’m in about as desperate a state as I’ve ever been. She’s come with a message. Translated from near-presence into plain newsprint, it’s something like, ‘Dana, you have dreams. Look where you are!’ Like: maybe it’s not about rest and nowheres and gardens by the sea. It’s about being alive. ‘You’ve been to Ethiopia to tend to my dreams. Now look after yours!’ It’s so like Leeza. She knew about my love of everything Italian.

An artisan in Perugia shares with me a phrase of D’Anniunzio’s: Memento Audere Semper. Remember to dare.

I imagine it’s what resuscitation must feel like, those plates against your chest, heart punched into motion, the sensation of blood coursing again, lungs seizing oxygen, and the eyes seeing. My mind pulses with ideas. I pick up the old backpack.

I know immediately where I’m going: Perugia. I march to the train station. I choose an overnight train to save myself a hotel bill. I set out into old Colombo City to kill the day.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Travelogue 264 – March 4
By the River Thames

In the Victoria Embankment there’s another statue of Brunel, and a much finer piece of art than the one in the Temple District of Bristol. This I discover on a stroll through the riverside park today. I’m making my way from Leicester Square to the Temple Tube Station. Isambard in London looks as though he might have lived, which is a contrast to the Bristol likeness that suggests he was a character in Alice in Wonderland. No doubt it’s tempting to treat a man named Isambard Kingdom in just that way. But in the end, he must have been as opaquely physical as his creations, which were some of the critical gears in the clockwork machine that was imperial Britain.

In fact, a lot of eighteenth and nineteenth century Brittania comes alive in the Victoria Embankment. That includes Arthur Sullivan, whose memorial statue is morbidly arousing, with a glorious, mourning bronze nude draped around the pedestal of his bust. It must be that his Italian blood guided the sculptor.

I’m meeting Felicity at the Temple Tube Station. Once we’ve identified each other – it’s our first meeting – she leads us back up toward her office. We choose a cafe on Fleet Street for our meeting. Across the street is the marvelous building belonging to the Royal Courts of Justice. Here’s another Temple District, inspired by yet another circular temple erected by the Knights Templar. (Oh, the sweet aura of mysticism evoked in our times by those feisty Templars!) The temple still exists, more or less. It serves as the chapel for the Inner and Middle Temple Inns of Court.

After the meeting, I carry on up Fleet Street toward St. Paul’s. I cross the Thames on the pedestrian Millennium Bridge – otherwise known as the Wobbly Bridge, reflecting its early performance. On the southern bank, I walk east toward London Bridge. This is a neighborhood I very much enjoy. It includes the Tate Modern, the Globe and Southwark Cathedral. This church has a fascinating texture to it, faced almost entirely in grey flint. But be sure NOT to pronounce Southwark as it looks. Say ‘Suvvok’. The neighborhood includes a Gibraltar’s-worth of cobblestone, and veritable stacks of bars along the riverfront. It includes the Borough Market, which fits snugly in among a tangle of little alleyways underneath a tangle of railroad tracks overhead. They say the market dates back to the Roman times. In any case, it makes for a fun stroll.