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Hello.

I'm Jane McIntyre, a voiceover and writer, formerly an award-winning BBC radio newsreader and producer. My blog covers life, love and loss; travel, coffee and chocolate; with some heartfelt pieces in the mix about my late dad, who had dementia. Just a click away, I'm half of the team behind www.thetimeofourlives.net - two empty nesters who whizzed round the world in 57 days.

Monday, 29 July 2013

Rome alone--and a scare in the air.




Just over a week ago, I was waving our 16 year old daughter off at Manchester airport on her first flight alone. It seemed simple enough. Plane to Chicago, plane to Minneapolis, for a couple of weeks volunteering at Camp America, where her big sister`s working her third summer.

She was excited, and anxious to check in, so I left her, and, feeling just a bit misty eyed, sought solace in a fat almond croissant and a big mug of coffee in terminal 3 before heading home.

At lunchtime; a text .One of those that starts with the words: `Hi Mum. Don`t worry, but....`

If you follow me on Twitter, you might have seen what happened. A fire alarm had gone off on her plane, high above the Atlantic. They were still close enough to the Irish coast to head back for an emergency landing--no chutes but fire engines and sirens.She`d been terrified. Hours later, they were still holed up at Shannon Airport, hoping to get airborne again, but eventually bussed to a hotel for the night instead. And then another hotel as the first one was full. That meant rebooking connections and a complete rethink of complicated pick up plans.

The passengers set off again the next morning, 24 hours late. Finally, they landed in Chicago.Without the high kicks. Or their luggage. That was still in Shannon.

And Alice, like many of those on board still had to continue their journeys, not quite knowing when their luggage would follow.

Miraculously, she stayed cool, and her bag was delivered to camp the next day, by courier. She`s now having a whale of a time, but it was no way to start a trip she`d spent months planning; and a scary first solo flight.

Just days later, I was back at Terminal 3, also flying solo, and travelling light by choice. Nothing to lose, see? Luckily (even if you have to endure the Ryanair punctuality fanfare) both my flights were spot on and drama-free .Travelling by myself has never bothered me--even as a young reporter, jumping on planes and trains to cover stories for my paper. I`m fine driving to and from France; and confident shopping solo in New York. But this was Rome, alone, and Robert de Niro wouldn`t be waiting. Or talking Italian. And neither would I, if I didn`t knuckle down and learn some phrases on my flight.

Following friends`advice,(cheers, Debs and James) I`d armed myself with a Lonely Planet Guide, and a pocket full of change. Landing at Ciampino, I found the right bus, then a metro to the city centre, and legged it to my B and B, stopping for a two euro slice of pizza and an icy coke on the corner. Round one.Sorted. Cheap and easy.


Next: the schedule. As much as I loathe coach trips and organised, escorted tours of any description...I booked some. They`re not that cheap (between 30 and 70 euros for the ones I chose). But there`s so much to see, and I only had three days. No point queuing endlessly in the hot sun or trying to muddle through and miss stuff, I reasoned. And there`d be company if I needed it.


So,within hours of arriving, I was on a night time tour of the city, round all the main, floodlit sights. There was time to jump off and take pictures, with tour buddies happy to snap pics while I posed. (Ok, and the odd sneaky selfie). I realised I wasn`t going to drown in a sea of loved up couples on romantic mini-breaks. I chucked a few euros in the Trevi fountain and scoffed my first gelato. To round off the night: they`d fixed a five course meal for the group. So far, so good. And, thank the Lord, no pensioners with pacamacs. I sat with a  family from Australia, a couple from New Zealand, and a beautiful Brazilian girl `doing Europe`. Great night. But a late one, so I scribbled down my address, and handed it to the driver of my midnight taxi home.

He might just have been the maddest cabbie in town. Or maybe they`re all that Italian-job bonkers. Singing along, badly, to early Beatles ...(.....Hi`ll write Ome...hevery dayeeeee....`)he sped me through the city, zigzagging across lanes as if the steering was shot; leaning, Vespa-like round bends; emergency stopping for dramatic effect with whiplash-ferocity, until, thanking God above, I recognised ,on the final roundabout, my street.

Sadly, he didn`t. So, in the middle of Rome...in four lanes of traffic, with a cartoon like screech of tyres and a touch of `darlin`, hi`ll be truuuuee`... he slammed  into reverse ....AND DROVE BACKWARDS TO THE CORRECT ROUNDABOUT EXIT. There were no words. Even if I`d known any. And no tip.

I stuck to the tube after that. It was just one euro fifty to get to into the centre and find my tour groups.One involved strolling round Rome sampling tiramasu, espresso and gelato. Delicious.Louis and Beatrice from Sao Paulo were on that one. His family produce coffee, for goodness` sake, but he came anyway. Along with Chantal and her friend from Texas. And Jess and Mark from Kansas. Tiny tastes of fabulous food at the best coffee shops. More people to meet; more stories to share. I was loving it.

And then the history bit. Three hours being marched up and down the Palatine Hill, marvelling at monuments...culminating in a tour of the Colosseum. Just mindblowing. And an airconditioned chariot to
speed us home. Sedately.

Somewhere in the mix--I stole an hour or two on the Spanish Steps to watch the world go by, and ambled around the side streets for some gentle souvenir shopping. I also got invited on a little private tour with a fabulous Italian called Daniela, starting on foot and finishing in her little Fiat 500--just because she had a couple of hours to spare and a city she wanted to shout about. But that`s another story.

 So. Lonely? Not once. Fascinated? All the time. Going back soon? You bet.







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