Follow your heart and Soul (a nearly autobiographical) Divine novel - Chapters 4, 5, & 6
Charming and demurely quaint.
I called Stefano from a pay phone with a telecarte, a French telephone card.
Refreshed and feeling bubbly to practice my Italian, I called Stefano from a pay phone with a telecarte, a French telephone card. I only had his number at work and I could reach him there. "Was there a time difference from Paris to Italy?." I figured that since France and Italy are on the same continent, it couldn't be more than a few hours. After fumbling with the telecarte, dialing an international number and listening to the same French operator message at least five times, the phone rang on the other side very peculiarly.
"Buona sera, Hotel San Angelo," a woman's voice answered in Italian.
I quickly hung up (nervously.)
"Great. Good going, Sofia," I sarcastically thought to myself.
Becoming extremely frustrated, I forced myself to deep within my memory of the phrases that I had learned in my nearly three years of Italian classes. I had to figure this out! This time, my call went through on the first attempt.
"Buona sera, Hotel San Angelo?," the lady answered.
"Si, per piacere, posso parlare con Stefano Rossi?" (May I please speak with Stefano Rossi?) At least I got the words out this time.. I wasn't too sure about what the woman told me but I rather understood the context. Stefano only worked in the mornings.
Great (not), so much for that, I thought. At this point, all my effort and energy which required me to make that foreign phone call only caused me to think one thing. "I really could use a glass of wine! I have to chill out."
A crowd was gathered there for free live jazz.
Earlier that day, I saw bars and restaurants opposite the Eiffel Tower near the hotel. As a single American woman in Paris that had cluelessly ordered the wrong food the night before, I didn't feel very adventurous so I popped into a well-lit open bistro that seemed like a safe spot. A crowd was gathered there for free live jazz. Feeling intimidated by ordering another table for one, I settled in at the bar.
"Oui, mademoiselle? Un aperitif?," the bartender asked and placed a basket of warm bread before me.
I remembered the stories that Jake had told me about backpacking as a student through Europe when he was in college and lived on bread, cheese and wine because he was broke. I wasn't starving but really laughed to myself, "actually I'd rather live on bread, crepes, and wine while I'm in Paris for the next three days. I really miss Miami's Cuban black beans and rice!"
Jazz softly played.
A tipsy French young man wandered up to me, "Hey, are you American?!"
"My family is Cuban actually," I hoped to throw him off.
"Ah, oui Cuban. I should have known from your beauty."
I rolled my eyes and wished I had known someone else in this place. By no means am I an unsociable person but I wanted to be alone in Paris to reflectt, meditate and simply feel like a stranger ina town where nobody knew me. Was that too much ask for?
The young man continued to question me, "Is this your first timein Paris? Do you know anyone? My friends are having a party tonight in the Latin Quarter."
I thought about my reply. "Actually, I'm staying with my boyfriend, Jean Pierre, and his family. I am waiting for them to arrive here for dinner. Thanks for the invitation, however," I smiled at him thoughtfully.
"Ah, yes. I will go back to my friends at the table," he replied.
Thank goodness. I was diplomatic enough to him that he kindly backed off.
After a glass of merlot, I took a taxi back to the hotel and mapped out my next few days carefully. My flight home returned in twelve days; twelve more days of Paris? Should I go to Venice for ten days instead? I have to call Stefano first thing tomorrow!, I thought to myself.
"Hello, Venice, Italy!"
Chapter 6 -- "I will recognize her amongst thousands - she held her head in a particular way." - Anonymous
"Buongiorno, posso parlare con Stefano Rossi?," I asked the man on the other end of the telephone. (Translation: Goodmorning, may I speak with Stefano Rossi?)
"Si, sono Stefano. Chi parla?, he answered. ("Yes, this is Stefano. Who is speaking?")
"Ciao Stefano, sono Sofia dagli Stati Uniti -- Miami," I continued to speak in Italian. (Hi Stefano, this is Sofia from the United States -- Miami.)
Stefano had to remember me. We wrote to each other a few times as pen pals after we met in Miami two years earlier.
"Ah, si, bellisima! Come stai?!," it sounded like he was smiling. (Ah, yes, Beautiful! How are you?!)
"May I speak in English. I'm good. Traveling in Paris for a few days. How are you," I answered.
"My English is not very good but yes. Do you have time to visit me in Venice? I will show you around. It would be my pleasure," he told me.
I did not want to impose on him but his offer was very tempting.
"I would love to but I did not make arrangements for a hotel nor a flight and my flight departs from Paris in twelve days," I rambled.
"You can take the train to Venice from Paris -- overnight. I will take care of booking your hotel here in Venice...don't worry," he offered.
"Wow, really? Is it dangerous? I am traveling alone," I hesitated.
"No, but you should take a first class car with a bed to sleep. The trip is twelve hours. The train to Venice should be fairly empty, though, because it is the middle of the week. Don't worry. I will meet you at the station in Venice the morning you arrive -- on the train tracks," Stefano said.
My heart jumped and thought, "Am I really going to Venice, Italy?!"
"Ok, I will see you on Thursday morning. I'm looking forward to it," I rattled off.
"Good. You'll love Venice! You will see." he replied enthusiastically.
I could feel his warmth through the telephone line and it felt great to speak to someone I actually know in person and spoke English.
Being an avid art history buff, I was excited about spending the day in museums. Walking towards the entrance of Musee Rodin, it looked more like a beautiful hotel rather than an intimidating museum. The floors were of polished pine and my shoes creaked beneath me as I stepped towards the pieces that were displayed in clear acrylic cubes. Elaborate paintings adorned the walls. Van Gogh, Monet, Renoir and Rodin himself. The Rodin Museum contained six thousand and six hundred sculptures from plaster to bronze (and then some.) The two most famous works were The KIss and The Thinker by August Rodin. And of course, The Gates of Hell cast in both, marble and bronze, which were inspired by Dante's Divine Comedy in the 9th century. Two hours after admiring the interior works, I headed outside to the sculpture garden shaded by trees and treasures.
In the museum's garden, there were plaster torsos of ancient Roman or Greek men and women presented against a backdrop of daylight.
At the back of the garden, the stroll ends in a terrace and arbour next to a trellis which concealed a children's playground.
After spending all morning with masterpieces, I had forgotten that I was starving. Someone in the museum's souvenir shop had recommended to eat at Le Café de Marches for lunch, a trendy local bistro with huge salads at a decent price.
According to the museum guide, the Beaux-Arte train station became the Musée d'Orsay in the 19th century. It is devoted to works of art during the period between the late 1800's and early 1900s. Beginning with the show-stopping timepiece which hung at the far-end but center of the museum, the collection follows a chronolgical route. I couldn't believe that I was admiring works by my favorite impressionists in person - in Paris! The paintings played with light and dark ("chiaro-scuro" in Italian) -- Pissarro, Renoir, Monet, Manet and Degas. Each brushstroke had an intimate purpose.
As I walked back towards my hotel, past Les Invalides, I stood on a narrow street and caught an unforgettable image of The Eiffel Tower. It glimmered in the sun like spun-gold against a sunset of soft, blue sky streaked by orange and pink stripes. I will never forget that magnificent vision. I would have liked to capture its beauty with my camera but I would not have done it justice. Instead, it remains etched in my memory - as long as I live.
The crepe stand was still open near my hotel and, I craved my favorite Nutella and bananas. On my way to the many flights of stairs back to my room, "ah, oh, sheesh, ouch." I felt the cramps in my legs and longed to run a warm bath. During the day, my mind wandered with thoughts of Stefano. The last time that I saw him was two years ago. His voice sounded happy when I called him but I couldn't exactly remember what he had looked like. And yet, somehow I was supposed to recognize him at the train station? Not to mention, and he intended to recognize me, as well?
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