72 Hours In The Eternal City

Day 1

I was not prepared for the massive beauty of it all, the diametrically opposed textures and styles. The old versus the new. We were in Rome to celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary. I thought we’d laugh and drink a little wine, see a few sights. But, I was not prepared to have this place pull the breath from my depths and throw out its arms like a stone bear confident with its grandeur. If I’m not careful, the love of my life (and this special occasion) will take a backseat to my new, bigger than life boyfriend: the city of Rome.

From the moment we settled in, the mix of ultra modern and ancient architecture left me somewhat discombobulated like only the most seasoned, ardent can do. The old is as beautiful as the new. No wonder its nickname is the Eternal City. I felt we’d been together much longer than me and Anthony. Mean- dering down street after street, taking in the sun-drenched colors ancient buildings made me, well – blush. Down and down and round and round and, and ... oh, my! There stood the monolithic Colosseum. Standing between it and Anthony, I was reminded of that college all-star running back who almost made me forget how deeply I fell for the love of my life. As if on cue, “Ardie? Ardie?” he called my nickname and smiled. I remembered why I married him instead of the thrice-divorced running back. Rome may be a heady flirt, but Anthony’s the only man I would want to come here with. He takes my hand and we head off for another mentally scandalous adventure.

 

Like any tease, Rome’s narrow streets “give and get” all at once. Stadium- sized piazzas replete with high-end shopping and the tantalizing aroma of delec- table food. Seduced, but not smitten, I must admit I am hungry. How does Rome know these things about me! My obstinate stance to resist its advances melts faster than a gelato when the scents of the most delectable cuisine emanates from almost every door on the street. I am, once again, easy for Rome.

We stayed at the Atlante Star Hotel. It was 4-star and that appealed to us a great deal. Anthony’s a tall guy, so the coziness of the room was momentar- ily off-putting. Until we remembered that without the ringing phones, constant emails, and never ending “to-do” lists, we were free to rediscover one another. Suddenly, cozy was good. Very good, indeed. An- thony and I really fell for our Atlante Star oasis. That room was our Venus, of sorts, and we fell in love again and again. We laughed at memories from long ago. We still marvel at how we lived one street from each other in Chicago, but never met until we both relocated to the same city.

Day 2

The next morning, we Vennture down to the lounge. It faces the rising sun and of- fers a spectacular panoramic view of the hills of Rome. We crazy kids are famished! Thank goodness breakfast is included in the cost of the room. We eat like two Americans on holiday — eggs, cereal, potatoes, an as- sortment of meats, cheeses and bread, juice, tea, and coffee! “Hey, Babe, the Vatican is within walking distance. Let’s check it out,” Anthony says as I loosen the belt of my sundress and we waddle out into the bustling street, my boyfriend, Rome, ever-present, confident, and smirking.

A city unto itself, the walls of the Vatican separate the Papal city from the rest of Rome, Italy, and the world. It is, after all, a sovereign nation. Knowing that the Pope lives here is just world. It is, after all, a sov- ereign nation. Knowing that the Pope lives here is just the reason Anthony needs to practice the little Italian we know by asking a bespoke gentlemen with gads of books under his arm, “Abbiamo un appuntamento per vedere il Papa.” The guy scoffs in amazement – tourists! We hold hands and laugh while walking toward the Sistine Chapel. Michelangelo’s work is breathtaking. Of course, other painters left their mark as well. But, we ooh and ahh over it all. The Vatican houses a huge repository of fine art, sculptures books rivaling that found in the renowned museums of the world. It’s worth the price to take a tour in your language; otherwise you won’t know the history or significance you are viewing. We leave speechless, just staring blankly at each other. Can anything so beautiful, be real? Clearly, my boyfriend lacks modesty. But, then, if you got it like that, flaunt it . I’m glad we wore walking shoes. St. Peter’s Basilica isn’t far from the Vatican. Like so many things about Rome, it is breathtaking. For its mammoth size, it is the powerfully small spiritual heart of Catholicism and one of the largest churches in the world. Anthony tells me about a lecture he once sat through at Howard Univer- sity all those moons ago. His brain was always smoking hot to me. As he recalls the story, I think, “Take that, Rome. Ha!”

Looking back, it seems we walked the entire city! It was afternoon when we walked to The Pantheon. Originally used to worship pagan gods, it was later converted to a church and eventually became the final resting place for several Italian kings. The Forum marks the hub of the political, religious and judicial activities of an- cient Rome. It also marked the end of our day. We never stopped to eat all day and again we were famished. It’s tough to get a bad meal in Rome. Neither pizza nor pasta will swim in sauce or add-ons. Authentic Italian cuisine incorporates only the freshest — and simplest — ingredients. It’s the Mediterranean and they use locally grown fruits, vegetables and herbs in abundance. The flavors are incredible.

Day 3

It’s our last day before we head to Florence, and I’m feeling a little sad. I will miss my boyfriend. Feeling a need to express my contained loving fervor, I dance on the Spanish Steps — Piazza di Spagna. This wild abandonment is for you, Rome! Viva la Roma! Watching me, Anthony has a devilish twinkle in his eye. He says I haven’t danced like that since our wedding reception. What a spectacular day that was.

Today is shopping day, but I beg Anthony to make a stop at the Trevi Fountain. He does me one better: we grab a slice and some creamy ge- lato and have lunch in front of Trevi Fountain! He had it planned all along. What a dear, wonderful husband. Of the many fountains in boyfriend’s possession, this is the most beautiful he has to offer. Located at the base of the Spanish Steps, it is extraordinary in size and architectural splendor. Legend has it that if you toss a coin over your shoulder into the fountain, you will return to Rome. I will never tell if I did or not. Time will tell.

After lunch we explore the piazza, where the great names of Italian fash- ion (Gucci, Valentino, Prada, Bulgari, Dolce & Gabbana) sell their wares. I am determined to go home with a fab- ulous pair of Italian shoes. Boyfriend aside, a girl has to be practical, too!

 


Find Yourself Here: Los Angeles


Los Angelenos have the best of all worlds. The postcard- perfect vibrancy of the Pacific Ocean at their doorstep, verdant valleys of tropical lushness and the mountains keeping watch over it all.

Enjoy a weekend in Los Angeles. The pace slows on weekends- even if the traffic doesn't.

Friday

Touch down at the Mondrian Hotel and head to the Skybar for cocktails alfresco. Enjoy city lights while you imbibe your favorite libation. Then pad over to Sunset Boulevard to check out a comedy show or people watch. For more details, visit (mondrianhotel.com)

Saturday

Head back to Sunset and get on the waiting list at The Griddle Cafe. Yes, the wait will be interminably long because the place is tiny, but they serve up the biggest pancakes you will ever see in your life. Afterward, hike the Hollywood Hills to burn off that carb load, your body will thank you and the view from the top is awesome — and free.

Next, head over to Rodeo Drive for some serious power shopping. Shops like Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Cartier, Christian Dior, Tiffany, Valentino, Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue make it a verita- ble shopping wonderland. Of course, the budget-minded can window-shop, too. Celebrities and Hollywood glitterati do shop here, so keep that camera handy to make like a paparazzo.

Dinner: Tuck into Harold & Belle’s Restaurant to nosh on authentic New Orleans fare. The gumbo alone is worth the price of your plane fare. Also good on the menu: jambalaya, po’boys and red beans and rice. If you close your eyes, you’ll swear you’re on Bourbon Street. This joint’s not fancy and there’s limited parking, but the food is top of the line. (haroldandbellesrestaurant.com)

Santa Monica Pier

Make a day of it at Santa Monica Pier. With specialty boutiques, an amusement park, games, an old-fashioned soda fountain, six restaurants and various ec- centric personalities strolling the board walk, there is always something interesting happening. Dip into the Pacific, fish off the end of the pier or just soak up the rays. Then, watch the sunset at an outdoor table over a seafood dinner at Rusty’s Surf Ranch. Rusty’s features live music and dancing nightly.

Sunday

On the way to the airport, stop by Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles. Roscoe’s chicken is a mainstay in the fried chicken Hall of Fame: succulent, crispy, perfectly seasoned and served with a humongous waffle, topped with an artery-clogging mound of real butter. Take it to go if you must, it travels well. (roscoeschickenandwaffles.com)

Afterward, hike the Hollywood Hills to burn off that carb load, your body will thank you and the view from the top is awesome — and free.


Anguilla Beaches: Romantic Wedding Destination

Anguilla beaches are some of the world's most renowned for island destinations because they have everything weddings are made of: romance, intrigue, intimacy, and, of course, love.

Dreams and lovers come together on these beaches.

As you take the time to place your toes into perfect sand, wedding bells will sound in your heart.

As you hold hands and walk the beaches in Anguilla, white, puffy, clouds are so supreme that they lower themselves and tease you with their intangibility.

Wedding couples can feel the special Angels of love present from the warm kisses of sunshine. During the ceremony of consummated love, Anguilla’s landscape creates vivid, breathtaking memories that give strength to your love.

Anguilla Beaches are perfect for weddings.

There is no need to leave for a honeymoon. An extended stay will allow for island hopping around some of the other most beautiful Caribbean islands. There is every type of extra special attention to couples who choose to be married. The restaurants on the island are prepared to accommodate wedding parties and all special events with the world's best food.

Anguilla Beaches are perfect for weddings.

 

Weddings are special when they are done in romantic destinations, and Anguilla will not disappoint.

Anguilla Beaches are perfect for weddings.

Don't wait a minute longer to ask love to be present on the beach; your footprints in the sand will capture the dreams that are remade every time you say “I love you.”

--Munson Steed