It’s an overnight stay. The fast train from Lecce to Rome was just that. The monitor clocking it at 233km/hr once passed a few major towns on the way picking up passengers. Eventually it was apparent that the train was full. I had no sense of speed. For a first class seat I was offered at times liquid refreshments. A battered trolley reminiscent of a pensioned off airline equivalent, offered Coke, coffee or Aqua. The coffee was so predictable that I still can’t explain why I habitually ask for it! It dribbles out of one of those vacuum flask dispensers into a cardboard cup that makes a thimble, jereobom like. The coffee is black, warm and as bitter as Tony Abbott last week. Two cellophane wrapped articles are included in this free offering. The first contains two small almond biscotti that are so hard as to run the risk of a stress fracture of my upper left molar crown. The second a moist towelette. The repast has been devoid of dribbles let alone crumbs, so I rip it open and vigorously disinfect my iPhone. I have an overpowering sense that I need to utilise all of these Trentitalia freebies simply because they are just that.
This first class Italian train journey compares unfavourably to the Spanish trip three years ago when it was indeed almost airplane business class standard with a tray of food that was equal to boot.
The hotel Alexandra was constructed in the late 19th century and an historical plaque explains that it has remained in the same family since 1910. It also boasts ‘Still today the hotel is characterised by a glamour of tradition left unchanged…but the careful restoration works have left unchanged the refined style… Even if enriched with all modern amenities.’
This almost breathless fevour reminds me of the Lord’s Prayer confession ‘I have left undone those things which I should have done and I have done those things that should not have done. This is the best and most succinct summary of the Hotel Alexandra and it’s restoration and modernisation.
As a nostalgic aside I remember when studying the catechism prior to confirmation, wrestling with the grammar of this seemingly convoluted prayer of double negatives, or were they?
As at Lecce, I am eagerly informed that I have been upgraded to a deluxe room with King Size bed, non smoking at the back of the hotel. Why a solo traveller would benefit from a half acre bed is beyond me. It is very quiet the receptionist explains. Indeed the trip to my back room involves traversing several flights of stairs that ascend, then descend, cross landings with uneven steps and with every turn the floor covering changes from garish carpet to marble, to polished wood and back to garish carpet.
The room is reasonable, the half acre bed taking pride of place and space. Stained oak furniture so beloved of Country Life magazines attempts to give the ambience of faux antiqueness. However it is the separate bathroom that wins out by a country mile. It is a big room of white and black marble. The hand basin is marble and big enough to almost sit in, if that were your want. Sadly what I suspect may have been a sarcophagus sized marble bathtub has been replaced by plastic. ‘The enriching modern amenities’ obviously dictated a plastic bathtub which had 4 spa like nozzles ar one end.
I an not sure where and how to begin to describe this establishment. When built I know it would have been the epitome of excellence and style. One could imagine Hercules Piroit staying here and solving a murder. The room had tea making facilities which I feel sure reflects that this is a basic hotel now at 3 stars, located in the heart of ancient Rome and whose clientele are overseas visitors including Australians who demand tea making facilities.
But herein lies the rub because finding a power point to plug in the kettle is an exercise that ultimately defeated me.
I have established that the Hotel Alexandra is over 100 years old so whilst our fictitious detective may have had access to Edison electric light bulbs to shed light on his mysteries, he may also have waxed his moustache by gaslight, but as to powerpoints my suspicion is none. Hence this hotel driven to ‘enrich with all modern amenities’ it’s facilities called in the local electrician around about 1957 I would guess and chased the necessary cables down the walls. And in 1956 the requirements were for at least one and perhaps two outlets.
My task was to find them in room 212 of the hotel Alexandra. The first was hidden behind the bed head. Eventually there was a second revealed by crawling on hands and knees having heaved the lounge 4 feet across and 2 feet out from the wall. By now I had worked up a sweat and a well deserved cuppa was a just reward. But eternal frustration as the kettle 2-pin plug did not fit into the power point – either one. It was the same old story trying to put 2 large prongs into 2 small holes. European power points frighten me as there is no on-off button. Plug it in and it’s active. As well most seem to be rather loose and a fatal electrocution waiting to eventuate and for Monsieur Piroit to solve the riddle.
I have an early breakfast in the delightful lead light garden glass house then head off to the ancient Roman ruins and Colosseum before pick-up service to Rome airport. Even by 8am the archaeological sites are being overrun by tourists. Yes I am one!… Why must Japanese tourists invariably take a Selfie with a star jump or a Churchillian V sign?
I finished this latest blog at 39000ft in an Emirates 380 heading to Dubai. It is a full flight.