We left El Ejido still feeling emotional from the events of the last couple of days. But this would begin a five day break that no doubt we all needed. We boarded up on our Blue Line plane and made the flight to Rome where we would meet up with our family. Amy, Steve and Miles were coming in from Atlanta to meet us, and Ashley was flying there from Boston. I had arranged a van to pick them all up as they landed within an hour of each other this morning. We wouldn’t get there until late afternoon, but I couldn’t resist calling them before we left Spain to make sure they got in ok. They would be staying at the Marriott hotel, a half a block away from where we would be staying…at the Westin Excelsior. I got a very sleepy Amy on the phone when I called…and told her that I just wanted confirmation they were there and to go back to sleep. We landed a little earlier than we thought we would, and when we got to the Excelsior it wasn’t long before our phone rang with Ashley on the other end saying that they were all in the lobby and were on the way up. Of course a grand reunion followed shortly…they all looked great…none too worse for wear from their flights having caught naps. Miles gave us a big smile and seemed to be genuinely happy to see his grandparents. Hugs were passed around the room and we all felt relieved and excited to be together.
We were fortunate to have been given a really great room at the Excelsior. It was on the 6th floor, the top of the hotel….and had not only a lovely and spacious sitting room and bedroom, but a wrap around outside balcony that offered beautiful views of the city. We could barely see the dome of the Vatican, but it could be seen…and below us was the Via Vennetta…one of the main streets with lots of restaurants and shops. We sat for a while just catching up on things and watching Miles explore the room. He’s quite advanced for his 17 months…walking strongly and increasing his vocabulary some. He’s incredibly energetic and inquisitive, which makes for a constant watch on the boy…he knows how to open cabinets, doors, closets and so forth, and is wanting to explore everything in sight. He’s good natured and fun to be with, but can get frustrated sometimes (as all children that age do…) when he doesn’t get his way. But he’s usually smiling and happy, and is learning so fast!
Also arriving in Rome were our good friends Herren and Susan Hickingbotham. We had talked about them coming to see us in Europe, and Rome fit the bill for them. Of course we were really grateful that they could come when our family was there so we could all enjoy some fun together. They had come in a little later…but we got them on the phone while we were all hanging out in our room. Unfortunately they had had a problem with their luggage….two of Susan’s suitcases had not made it. They had traced one of them down and were told they should have it the next day, but the other one seemed to be lost. They had to deal with that for a while before they could get up with us. We suggested that they join us for dinner if they could…and indeed a short time later we all went out together to a place called Giovanni’s not far from the hotel. We ran into Tim Ries on the way…and he had all his family with him…wife Stacey, 11 year old daughter Josia and their twin daughters Elliana and Isabella who are about 3, I believe. They were headed to the same restaurant, but decided to change as they wanted to dine outside and Giovanni’s only offered indoor seating. We stayed with the place, and enjoyed our time together eating some good Italian fare accompanied by some nice Chianti and Chardonnay wines. Afterwards we all gathered back in our room at the Excelsior and drank some more wine that Rose Lane and I had brought with us, and enjoyed the night views of the city from our balcony, talking until about 1am or so before breaking up and heading to bed.
Over the next few days we all had a blast….the first day we mostly chilled out….taking our time getting up and eventually going out for walks in the area. The Spanish Steps weren’t far from our hotel and we walked around there for a bit….and went to the famous fountain of La Trevi….Miles slept through a good bit of it, being wheeled around in his stroller….we had fun taking pictures of him in various settings totally knocked out…“Miles sleeps through Rome”! In the evening we had drinks at a bar next door to our hotel called Doney….which became our “watering hole” for the week….then it was out to dinner with all of us again to a place called Tuscano…again having a great time and good food.
The next day we hired a van for all of us and went to the main sights….the Coliseum, the Forum, Circus Maximus, the Capitolini and other historic places. We had gelato in a nice outdoor cafe near the Coliseum and visited one of the important churches called ?? afterwards. We had a nice driver named Adrian…Miles again took naps during most of the sight-seeing, and did well through it all. The following day we all went to the Vatican, St. Peter’s Basilica and Cistine Chapel. Herren had hired a guide to take us though….a nice lady named Martina. She was very knowledgeable and was herself an artist…a sculptor…and therefore had a unique understanding of all the art throughout the amazing grounds, museums and other interior spaces. Rose Lane and I had been through it all before, but it was as impressive and as beautiful this time. I was especially taken with St. Peter’s…it’s such a breathtaking place, and of course Michelangelo’s Pieta is an amazing and moving piece to see in the mist of the Basilica. Eventually we made our way back to the hotel for our evening routine…but Herren and Susan wanted to have a night to themselves, so we went out with just us family.
Of course we all fitted in some shopping into the scenario in the days we were there….but really didn’t do much “damage”. The dollar to the Euro is very weak…making everything extremely expensive…and also, since the world is so “Global” these days, we didn’t see much that we couldn’t find back home. Still we did find some small things for presents and for ourselves….and we had a good time looking around.
One evening we had a fun time when we decided not to make a reservation and just walk around until we found something that looked interesting and inviting. We were after a casual place, outdoors…nothing fancy. We passed by several possibilities until we came to a place called La bruschette e….. We were “pulled in” by the proprietor who had seen us walking by and commented on Miles. He was a funny man…genuinely nice and Miles seemed to take to him. He sang to Miles…the old song about “There’s a hole in the bottom of the sea….” and a couple of other little ditties. He kept us all entertained….I asked him his name and he gave it as Bonnafacio (good face). It made for a very special evening…and the food was quite good, too.
Rose Lane and I baby-sat on occasion for Miles…and of course we both loved that. We had a crib put in our room so he could stay overnight which he did a couple of times. When he got bored I would put him in the stroller and wheel him around the hotel, visiting the Tour Office or take him around the lobby and try to find him something to look at and occupy his mind. I’d bump into some of the folks in our group, and they would “oodle” over him… he made an impression on all of our Entourage.
So all in all, we had some wonderful quality time with all of us…Ashley seemed to truly enjoy it as did Steve and Amy….and Susan and Herren.
On the 6th it was time to go back to work. We played the Olympic Stadium…which had been built since our last show in Rome which was back in 1990. At that time we played some other stadium, which I can’t remember the name of. Anyway, it’s been a long time…but I did make a point to go back and look at what we did last year when we played in Milan, so I could make sure I varied the set list some from that. Mick agreed to what I had drawn up and we had it printed… so I went to spend time with the family and the Hickingbothams in the Rattlesnake.
Also coming as guests of ours was some new friends that Rose Lane had met in Florence during her “art retreat” experience. She had bought a painting from an artist that she had seen works of at a restaurant in Florence, a fellow named Dejan Bogdanovic.
Rose Lane had invited him to come to the show in Rome, and he accepted. Dejan had brought his girlfriend Anina with him. Rose Lane had gone out to lunch with them in the afternoon while I did some work on my computer…so I met the two of them for the first time back stage. Very nice people, and they seemed very excited to be there. We all hung out there for a while and eventually I took Herren, Susan and the kids back to the backstage area to say hello to the guys in the band. We made the rounds, having fun showing Miles off to everybody. Amy had dressed him up like Ronnie….even trying to fluff up his hair like his…and of course this made for special fun.
It was good to get back on the stage after our break…everyone seemed to have a re-newed feeling and the band played well with strong grooves being laid down throughout the night. Good to be back in the swing of things!
After the show we all (including Dejan and Anina) gathered in our room and enjoyed some wine and each other’s company for a couple of hours. Dejan had brought a photo of many of his paintings…including the one that Rose Lane and bought called “The Passion”. I was most impressed, and look forward to getting the real thing. She had bought it as an anniversary present to both of us, and it fit the occasion perfectly!
The next night was another off night for us…the last one we would all have together in Rome. Having seen most of the sights, we all sort of split up and did our own things during the day. One special thing that was happening in the afternoon was that we were to see a screening of “Shine A Light”, the Martin Scorsese directed film on the Stones….most of which was shot at the two Beacon Theater shows we did last year in New York. It was being screened in a relatively small theater with limited seating. I had cleared it with Michael Cohl for all of our family to go to it, but Amy and Rose Lane said they would stay back and look after Miles while the three of us…Steve, Ashley and I…went to it. Steve Bing, who produced the film was in town as was Scorsese and much of his “team”. Also there was Bob Clearmountain, the audio engineer for the film and who has mixed several of the Stones last CD and DVD releases. So the three of us went down together…along with a few other members of our group. We all arrived at different times at the theater, and we had time to chat and mingle before the screening. I was really pleased to be able to introduce Scorsese to Steve….as Steve is a PhD student in visual arts and is already teaching a couple of courses at Emory University and Georgia State, and he is actually teaching some of Scorsese’s work.
Finally all of us were there and we settled into our seats to watch. While I can’t divulge all here, I can say that we were highly entertained by it….and I think they did a great job in mixing some archival footage with present day footage….and in all the brilliant camera work of the performance. They also cleverly used some good humor throughout the piece. It was also quite interesting to see us at work….we never get to that except for when we watch one of the DVDs like Four Flicks or Biggest Bang. And then not like seeing it in this way…on a big screen and so well shot. Lots of fun and we all really enjoyed it….as I think the general public will when it’s released…which I think will be some time in late September.
After that we made our plans for our final dinner together with all of us. The concierge at our hotel suggested a place called Chippolini which was not a long walk from the Excelsior. We did have some trouble finding it, because the concierge had said to turn left at a street where he should have said right…no matter, we got slightly lost but found it ok. It was pretty late when we finally got there, but we enjoyed our final meal together and lingered on to talk and relax, recounting our experiences in Rome. Then we all went back to our room to celebrate just a little more before saying good night. Herren and Susan were staying on one more day in Rome….Ashley was heading back to Boston. She has completed several courses that qualify her to enroll in Med School and had to get back to deal with final tests and other related dealings. Amy and Steve would travel on to Barcelona where they would meet back up with us in a couple of days. Rose Lane and I would fly with the band to Budva, Montenegro. It had been a fantastic week…full of fun, great experiences and making wonderful memories!