Sirwin
Sirwin
Closeup of The rape of the Sabine women, a historical painting by David

Museums

By Diomedes | Robert O'Reilly | 26 Apr 2023


 

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Monte Carlo

When the weather turned nasty in early December, we took a train to Nice where it was like summer again, the days beach worthy. We met a British couple our age and in love just like us so we spent time with them, one evening going to the casino in Monte Carlo. We dressed our best but at the door I wasn’t allowed in as I wasn’t wearing hard shoes. Our friend has his so they went in and Sanita snuck out a few minutes later with the shoes in her purse while he waited in a bathroom. I put them on, went to a different doorman and got in. Once inside nobody checked so we switched shoes and had a fine night of drinking and gambling together.

The next two weeks we spent in Florence, in a downtown hotel near the train station just blocks from all the Museums. We didn’t know it till we arrived but this was the slow season for tourists. The rates were cheaper and all the Museums were free of charge for that month, to encourage the locals to visit them. I don’t know how well that plan worked. People who visit museums have a curiosity to see their contents. The people who have no curiosity don’t, and a small token price has little to do with it. So many things on this trip were serendipitous for us, as if angels were guiding our steps in our wandering ignorance.

We spent many days at the Ufizi. I had the most delicious meal of my life at a small, plain looking restaurant there. It wasn’t even expensive, a plate of pork cooked to perfection. The second best meal I had, (the runner up) was a large dish of fresh mussels for lunch at the port in Nice. They must have been caught that morning. We did most of our Christmas shopping at the street markets in Florence, all hand-crafted gifts. I bought Sanita a brown leather purse that had to be the most perfect I ever saw. I don’t know if she saw it. But something about the lines and dimensions and curves and symmetry not only caught my eye but captivated it.

This happened to me a few times in museums also, a sight that seemed to pierce my heart. We walked through the Louvre several times. We gazed for a few moments at all the great paintings with mild admiration at best, but as I was walking up a staircase, still thirty feet away, I caught a glimpse of two pictures by Botticelli at the top. They blew me away as I approached them, sent shivers down my spine as if they were unearthly things, not of this life. The colors were unique.

The only other picture to strike me so in that museum was a giant picture by ‘David’ 'The rape of the Sabine women' further down that gallery, opposite wall. I had one more shiver in Florence, in the Ufizi. It wasn’t a picture but a statue. Just like the others it struck me somehow before I even got close to it, shutting out all the other pieces as I walked towards it. It was the statue by Rodin of a boy pulling a thorn from his foot, hardly a noble subject you might think but the perfection of the image had unearthly beauty to it, which no reason can define, only admiration in wondrous, wordless awe.

I forgot to mention one rich event that happened to us shortly before we left Paris. I had called my father and he wanted me to hook up with some good friends of his who were passing through. We gave them a call and they invited us to breakfast with them, telling us to dress well.

The place we met them was a palace. They were very rich, dressed to the hilt, a handsome man in his mid-fifties, looking like a diplomat, and his beautiful wife drenched in sparkling jewelry. The fanciest breakfast was served to us on large silver platters by lackeys in costumes from a King’s era. They never spoke, only served and bowed and retreated. There was no ordering, everything was just brought.

For two hours we talked and ate, relishing the royal luxury. We told them of our fine experiences in Paris over the last two months, our luck with the romantic hostel room, the antiquity of it and a view of the surrounding rooftops, similar to the one in the 1927 silent film ‘Seventh Heaven’ and our love story just like the one in that famous movie. I must have waxed eloquent in my descriptions, in enthusiastic, florid phraseology. Sanita also kept breaking in with pertinent additions, speaking with excitement and beaming constant beautiful smiles, perhaps in the first glow of pregnancy also, while these two Kardashians (that was their name) across from us were equally enthused, polite in their inquiries and reciprocated stories.

I knew this from the visible pleasure we all shone at our parting, they saying what a wonderful meeting this had been, and by a phone call I received from my father a few days later, telling me his friends were ecstatic after meeting us, saying we were the loveliest couple they’d ever met, and so much in love it even recalled to their minds their own first love. Even my father was excited telling me this, and that I acquitted myself beyond all expectation. I forget what I said but I do faintly recall that I quoted some fine passages from books. I do this when I get carried away. And certainly that was the place and company to get me excited, the finest place I was ever invited to, Sanita also, at my side. When you’re in such an elegant setting, you rise to the occasion.

We returned to Toronto a few days before Christmas. There was a large family get together planned at my sister Paddy’s in Albany. Our two suitcases were so crammed with presents we had to discard some clothes from each. I gave away my grey, suede dinner jacket to the Brit. Ted. We had some good evenings together. He was intelligent and well read, making a modest living teaching English classes somewhere. But he loved Paris and that kept him there. Too bad we didn’t stay in touch. Then again, long distance correspondence, with little chance of meeting again, is a futile thing.

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Diomedes
Diomedes

B.A. in Latin and Greek from U.C. Berkley. Writer, Blogger and retired Electrician.


Robert O'Reilly
Robert O'Reilly

I am educated in the Western Classical Tradition, B.A. from U.C. Berkeley in Latin and Greek, English major, one year at U. of Toronto, studied under Alain Renoir and Northrop Frye, read most classics full time for many years after university in French, English, Latin and Greek to the modern day. I am interested in the near future of technology, what changes it imposes upon our heritage and character as humans. Short stories and Essays are my medium.

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