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  • Susan Welsh

From Parthenon to Pantheon


Standing at the foot of the moonlit Parthenon after midnight is enchanting, otherworldly. The gravitas of historical blood, battle and oratory is palpable-- from the Battle of Marathon to rocking the cradle of Western Civilization.

Standing before the tomb of the great painter Raphael in the Pantheon in Rome is equally charged with spiritual and reverential stirrings.

Athens in August was intensely hot and almost startling with vibrancy of color and brightness of sunshine. After a few days of sleep adjustment, though, my appetite was in full swing and I heartily ate souvlaki and drank ouzo and Greek coffee made in a brika. Coffee, its always about the coffee. . .

Rome was different. Having flown first class under the influence of a Valium and in the cozy pod of first class, made for an easy adjustment. I ate bread, drank wine and ate pasta with wild abandon from day one. As mentioned in a previous blog post, there was no getting enough of Rome's rich, aromatic and superior brew. In the Imperial Lounge at the Hotel Cavalieri it was served on a silver platter by women who wore tuxedos and all possessed mellifluous Roman accents. I have NOT been able to recapture a cup of coffee like that since-- context and quality is a powerful blend.

Years later, still longing to be in Rome, drinking coffee and watching the Italian world go by, I'm watching Mad Men--it's the scene where Betty and Don are in Rome and they are shown to their hotel, owned by Conrad Hilton. THAT scene was actually shot from the Hotel Cavalieri and THAT view was the one I enjoyed my morning coffee looking at for 10 blessed days of our Roman holiday. . .


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