Thursday, 28 November 2013

An Ode to the Taxi Drivers of Rome, Italy!



Rome, Italy No city in Europe is easy to drive in. I used to drive in them twenty years ago, but no more. Traffic in most European cities is horrendous. Each country, indeed each city, seems to have its own protocols known only to the locals. I value my life too highly to risk driving in Paris or Rome, Athens or Budapest traffic. No. These days I take taxis. I drive happily in the countryside, through Tuscany, Provence, the Swiss Alps, but when I come to any large city I head for the airport (always some miles distant from the city) and turn the car in. From that point, I am at the mercy of the taxi drivers. 

Which brings me to the taxi drivers of Rome. They are amazing. First of all, they are the friendliest I’ve ever encountered anywhere. They converse happily about where we are, what we’re seeing, where we’re going, and life in general. They manage to drive safely through unbelievable mazes of traffic, always knowing another way when one is blocked. They chat on their cell phones and speak volumes with their very Italian hand gestures while still managing to steer their vehicles through crowds of tourists. They never seem to lose their cool. They impart words of wisdom. “Did you know é Roma backwards spells Amoré?”, and “the Rome of the Caesars, Roma Antica is Romantica?” 

They are a gallant lot. When we unknowingly booked into a hotel a full block down a pedestrian- only lane, our driver pulled over on the densely trafficked Via del Corso and dragged our too many bags all the way to our hotel entrance, without regard for the traffic jam he caused in the process. 

Taxis in Rome, Italy
I never heard a Roman taxi driver yell at another taxi driver or beep his horn, even in the most frustrating circumstances. In fact, unlike Paris, where taxi horns are part of the music of the city, car horns are never heard in Rome. Perhaps there’s a law against blowing horns, I don’t know. But Romans don’t pay much attention to other laws. There’s little reason to think they’d observe one about blowing horns. I think the answer lies rather in the sense of community and the innate old world courtesy of the men and women who drive taxis in this ancient city. Rome taxi drivers are invariably courteous to one another. In the tightest places they give way to another of their kind. And somehow we always get where we’re going safely and by the allotted time.

On a recent excursion by taxi to the Villa d’Este, several miles north of Rome, our driver, Gianni, gave new meaning to the words “multi-tasking”. He owned a fleet of some twenty taxis, and was in constant contact with his drivers on three cell phones, entering each call in a large notebook on his lap while driving.  He dispensed advice on the best routes from A to B, sent cabs to places where they were needed and in general kept track of his entire fleet, all the while gesturing and telling us all about the country side through which we were driving.  It was a brava performance. And the most amazing thing about it was that I was never once nervous. I’m normally a very nervous passenger. I much prefer to be in the driver’s seat. But I would have staked my life on this man’s ability to get us safely where we were going.

I’ve been in Rome countless times. In all those times, I’ve never seen a traffic accident. That says something about Rome drivers in general, and about Rome taxi drivers in particular.
So here’s to the taxi drivers of Rome!

......................................................................................................

Following are my published novels. Go to my Goodreads page, to find more info and reviews.  

To purchase one of these books, just click on the book link below and select the vendor of your choice.
.....................................................
 
COMING SOON!  Blair's latest novel, Romantic Road, is a romantic mystery set in Europe.  It is set for release in 2014!  Stay tuned.



Romantic Road ~ My latest novel takes you on a chase across Europe with our heroine who finds herself in a series of precarious situations.  She encounters a handsome stranger, but is he helping her, or is he dangerous?  This story has hair raising suspense, romance and a sprinkling of humour


To be released in 2014 through Wild Rose Press





.................................................................



The Memory of Roses, Blair McDowell
 • The Memory of Roses ~ The story of a secret and how it impacts two generations of the McQuaid family.  It unfolds on the beautiful Greek Island of Corfu and is a tale complete with beautiful and passionate women, handsome and fiery men, and an intriguing mystery.


"The Memory of Roses by Blair McDowell is simply an incredibly lovely story. It’s also a love story, and a story about finding yourself, and about closure. The theme running through the book is “all’s well that ends well.”  --  Marlene, Reading Reality


.................................................................


Delighting In Your Company, Blair McDowell
 • Delighting In Your Company ~ Delighting In Your Company is a paranormal romance set on an exotic Caribbean island, featuring a handsome ghost and an adventurous heroine who travels back in time to solve a mystery!

"Delighting In Your Company is a unique paranormal romance that brings together island folklore, history, and mystery with an unlikely romance between the past and present that had me going through a torrent of emotions and made it impossible to put down." -- The Romance Reviews


..............................................................


Sonata, Blair McDowell
 • Sonata ~ Sayuri McAllister has just arrived home to Vancouver to find some shocking situations 
~ A robbery has taken place at her family home, and it is being investigated by her old flame;
~ Alyssa James who she barely knows, is about to become her new stepmother; 
~ and Alyssa’s brother, Hugh James, is a charming Irishman who is intent on bedding and wedding the rich and beautiful Sayuri. 

It’s a confusing and difficult time for Sayuri, especially when dangerous accidents happen to her father and herself – or are they accidents?


“I found Sonata to be a charming novel that left me laughing out loud in parts and gnawing nails in others. It was a delight to read.” – Night Owl Reviews

....................................................................


Abigail's Christmas, Blair McDowell
 • Abigail's Christmas (short story) ~ An enchanting tale of love and romance, with a magical touch of fantasy.
 
Abigail's Christmas is a holiday story about Abigail who goes looking for a tree on Christmas Eve, and ends up with the man of her dreams in a sleigh in the Rockies --- with a wedding in the offing! Is it real?  Is she dreaming?  Or is it just Christmas magic?


















Wednesday, 20 November 2013

My Review of 'Finding Isadora' by Susan Fox

Finding IsadoraFinding Isadora by Susan Fox
My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Finding Isadora is the delightful story of a young woman who has everything she thinks she wants, a successful career as a veterinarian, a safe conventional engagement to an attractive, conventional man with a good future ahead of him, a thoroughly conventional picket-fence sort of life well planned. As far as she can get from her parents’ life style. She loves her parents but wants her own life to be as unlike their freewheeling hippie lifestyle as possible. She wants predictability, marital fidelity and financial security above all. Or at least that’s what she thinks she wants, until she meets activist lawyer, Gabriel DeLuca, who just happens to be her fiancé’s father.

Fox is skillful in her storytelling and in drawing her characters, making them grow in believable ways as they face their problems. Almost imperceptibly we see Isadora come to understand who she really is and what she needs in her life to be true to her own nature.

I recommend Finding Isadora to all readers who enjoy women’s fiction.


View all my reviews

.............................................................................................................................................


Following are my published novels. Go to my Goodreads page, to find more info and reviews.  

To purchase one of these books, just click on the book link below and select the vendor of your choice.
.....................................................
 
COMING SOON!  Blair's latest novel, Romantic Road, is a romantic mystery set in Europe.  It is set for release in 2014!  Stay tuned.



Romantic Road ~ My latest novel takes you on a chase across Europe with our heroine who finds herself in a series of precarious situations.  She encounters a handsome stranger, but is he helping her, or is he dangerous?  This story has hair raising suspense, romance and a sprinkling of humour


To be released in 2014 through Wild Rose Press





.................................................................



The Memory of Roses, Blair McDowell
 • The Memory of Roses ~ The story of a secret and how it impacts two generations of the McQuaid family.  It unfolds on the beautiful Greek Island of Corfu and is a tale complete with beautiful and passionate women, handsome and fiery men, and an intriguing mystery.


"The Memory of Roses by Blair McDowell is simply an incredibly lovely story. It’s also a love story, and a story about finding yourself, and about closure. The theme running through the book is “all’s well that ends well.”  --  Marlene, Reading Reality


.................................................................


Delighting In Your Company, Blair McDowell
 • Delighting In Your Company ~ Delighting In Your Company is a paranormal romance set on an exotic Caribbean island, featuring a handsome ghost and an adventurous heroine who travels back in time to solve a mystery!

"Delighting In Your Company is a unique paranormal romance that brings together island folklore, history, and mystery with an unlikely romance between the past and present that had me going through a torrent of emotions and made it impossible to put down." -- The Romance Reviews


..............................................................


Sonata, Blair McDowell
 • Sonata ~ Sayuri McAllister has just arrived home to Vancouver to find some shocking situations 
~ A robbery has taken place at her family home, and it is being investigated by her old flame;
~ Alyssa James who she barely knows, is about to become her new stepmother; 
~ and Alyssa’s brother, Hugh James, is a charming Irishman who is intent on bedding and wedding the rich and beautiful Sayuri. 

It’s a confusing and difficult time for Sayuri, especially when dangerous accidents happen to her father and herself – or are they accidents?


“I found Sonata to be a charming novel that left me laughing out loud in parts and gnawing nails in others. It was a delight to read.” – Night Owl Reviews

....................................................................


Abigail's Christmas, Blair McDowell
 • Abigail's Christmas (short story) ~ An enchanting tale of love and romance, with a magical touch of fantasy.
 
Abigail's Christmas is a holiday story about Abigail who goes looking for a tree on Christmas Eve, and ends up with the man of her dreams in a sleigh in the Rockies --- with a wedding in the offing! Is it real?  Is she dreaming?  Or is it just Christmas magic?






Monday, 18 November 2013

My Review of 'The Devil in Music' by Kate Ross

The Devil in Music (Julian Kestrel Mysteries, #4)The Devil in Music by Kate Ross
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Devil in Music is number four in a series by Kate Ross featuring dandy, musician and amateur detective Julian Kestrel and his side kick, former pickpocket turned valet, Dipper. We find the pair in Italy on Lake Como in the political turmoil that followed the Napoleonic wars, trying to solve a murder of a nobleman who loved opera and doted on spectacular voices. Is his death related to his most recently discovered singer “Orfeo” who mysteriously disappeared the night of the murder, or could the murder have been politically motivated? Among the principal suspects, we have the count’s daughter-in-law, who has deserted her husband for the love of a castrato.

The story is intricate and rich in texture. The author clearly knows and loves music since it forms a major part of the tapestry of this intricate and involved plot with its surprising conclusion. I found every moment of this novel of intrigue enjoyable. I recommend it to all lovers of period detective fiction, and particularly to music lovers.


View all my reviews

.........................................................................................................................................


Following are my published novels. Go to my Goodreads page, to find more info and reviews.  

To purchase one of these books, just click on the book link below and select the vendor of your choice.
.....................................................
 
COMING SOON!  Blair's latest novel, Romantic Road, is a romantic mystery set in Europe.  It is set for release in 2014!  Stay tuned.



Romantic Road ~ My latest novel takes you on a chase across Europe with our heroine who finds herself in a series of precarious situations.  She encounters a handsome stranger, but is he helping her, or is he dangerous?  This story has hair raising suspense, romance and a sprinkling of humour


To be released in 2014 through Wild Rose Press





.................................................................



The Memory of Roses, Blair McDowell
 • The Memory of Roses ~ The story of a secret and how it impacts two generations of the McQuaid family.  It unfolds on the beautiful Greek Island of Corfu and is a tale complete with beautiful and passionate women, handsome and fiery men, and an intriguing mystery.


"The Memory of Roses by Blair McDowell is simply an incredibly lovely story. It’s also a love story, and a story about finding yourself, and about closure. The theme running through the book is “all’s well that ends well.”  --  Marlene, Reading Reality


.................................................................


Delighting In Your Company, Blair McDowell
 • Delighting In Your Company ~ Delighting In Your Company is a paranormal romance set on an exotic Caribbean island, featuring a handsome ghost and an adventurous heroine who travels back in time to solve a mystery!

"Delighting In Your Company is a unique paranormal romance that brings together island folklore, history, and mystery with an unlikely romance between the past and present that had me going through a torrent of emotions and made it impossible to put down." -- The Romance Reviews


..............................................................


Sonata, Blair McDowell
 • Sonata ~ Sayuri McAllister has just arrived home to Vancouver to find some shocking situations 
~ A robbery has taken place at her family home, and it is being investigated by her old flame;
~ Alyssa James who she barely knows, is about to become her new stepmother; 
~ and Alyssa’s brother, Hugh James, is a charming Irishman who is intent on bedding and wedding the rich and beautiful Sayuri. 

It’s a confusing and difficult time for Sayuri, especially when dangerous accidents happen to her father and herself – or are they accidents?


“I found Sonata to be a charming novel that left me laughing out loud in parts and gnawing nails in others. It was a delight to read.” – Night Owl Reviews

....................................................................


Abigail's Christmas, Blair McDowell
 • Abigail's Christmas (short story) ~ An enchanting tale of love and romance, with a magical touch of fantasy.
 
Abigail's Christmas is a holiday story about Abigail who goes looking for a tree on Christmas Eve, and ends up with the man of her dreams in a sleigh in the Rockies --- with a wedding in the offing! Is it real?  Is she dreaming?  Or is it just Christmas magic?






Thursday, 7 November 2013

Our European Adventure: Day 35 - Arrivederci, Roma


As all good things must end, so too does our time in Rome. But I did not want to leave without being in old Rome, the antique center. I wanted to walk once again in the footprints of Julius Caesar and Marc Antony. To revisit the remains of the temples of Diana and Apollo.  To gaze once more at the arch retelling the story of Constantine and his battles and of his conversion of all Rome to Christianity. What must those other Gods have thought as their temples crumbled into obscurity? And what of those people who had to be eradicated, the way the Mythras were, when they could not in conscience “convert”?
The Borghese Gardens, Rome, Italy
The Borghese Gardens

What a strange world we live in. Men were being killed over religious beliefs two thousand years ago. Do we learn nothing from history?

However my step back into history was not to be. Today’s world intervened. The entire area of Rome around the Colosseum and the antique center were closed off today. Our hotel concierge told us he thought we would not be allowed anywhere near where we wanted to go, but our taxi driver gave it a try anyway. Impossible. There was a European Union Marathon and it began right there. No one allowed anywhere near.

We were sorry to have our plans disrupted. We had hoped to visit the ruins in the morning and then see the two Capitoline Museums and have lunch in their roof top restaurant. We’ve done this before and enjoyed it. But it was destined not to happen. Furthermore, it being a high church holy day, All Saints’ Day, Vatican City was out. The Pope was saying Mass in the square.

The cab driver shrugged his shoulders and used both hands as only an Italian can, to say, “What now?”

Old Roman Walls in the Borghese Gardens, Rome, Italy
Old Roman Walls in the Borghese Gardens
So we had him take us to the Borghese Gardens. We knew that in all of Rome this would be the most peaceful, pleasant spot to be. We were right. We had a lovely leisurely stroll through paths lined with umbrella pines and cypress, beside rose hedges still in bloom in November, around fountains and by a statue on a horse with nothing anywhere to identify him. (I think it was Napoleon. His brother married a member of the Borghese family back when most of Italy was in the hands of the French.) At one point we sat and listened to an accordion player give a very credible performance of the Bach Toccata and Fugue in d minor. I wouldn’t have believed it possible.

We ended our stroll at the top of the Spanish steps, the living room of Rome. We couldn’t take pictures because the lovely little boat sculptured by Bernini that adorns the foot of the steps is under repair. The whole lower part of the famous steps is encased in tall, obstructive, board fencing.
The Spanish Steps in Borghese Gardens, Rome, Italy
The Spanish Steps

We’re back in our room now. Nothing is left but to pack. It has been a full, wonderful five weeks.












.......................................................................



Following are my published novels. Go to my Goodreads page, to find more info and reviews.  

To purchase one of these books, just click on the book link below and select the vendor of your choice.


The Memory of Roses, Blair McDowell
 • The Memory of Roses ~ The story of a secret and how it impacts two generations of the McQuaid family.  It unfolds on the beautiful Greek Island of Corfu and is a tale complete with beautiful and passionate women, handsome and fiery men, and an intriguing mystery.


"The Memory of Roses by Blair McDowell is simply an incredibly lovely story. It’s also a love story, and a story about finding yourself, and about closure. The theme running through the book is “all’s well that ends well.”  --  Marlene, Reading Reality


.................................................................


Delighting In Your Company, Blair McDowell
 • Delighting In Your Company ~ Delighting In Your Company is a paranormal romance set on an exotic Caribbean island, featuring a handsome ghost and an adventurous heroine who travels back in time to solve a mystery!

"Delighting In Your Company is a unique paranormal romance that brings together island folklore, history, and mystery with an unlikely romance between the past and present that had me going through a torrent of emotions and made it impossible to put down." -- The Romance Reviews


..............................................................


Sonata, Blair McDowell
 • Sonata ~ Sayuri McAllister has just arrived home to Vancouver to find some shocking situations 
~ A robbery has taken place at her family home, and it is being investigated by her old flame;
~ Alyssa James who she barely knows, is about to become her new stepmother; 
~ and Alyssa’s brother, Hugh James, is a charming Irishman who is intent on bedding and wedding the rich and beautiful Sayuri. 

It’s a confusing and difficult time for Sayuri, especially when dangerous accidents happen to her father and herself – or are they accidents?


“I found Sonata to be a charming novel that left me laughing out loud in parts and gnawing nails in others. It was a delight to read.” – Night Owl Reviews

....................................................................


Abigail's Christmas, Blair McDowell
 • Abigail's Christmas (short story) ~ An enchanting tale of love and romance, with a magical touch of fantasy.
 
Abigail's Christmas is a holiday story about Abigail who goes looking for a tree on Christmas Eve, and ends up with the man of her dreams in a sleigh in the Rockies --- with a wedding in the offing! Is it real?  Is she dreaming?  Or is it just Christmas magic?







...............................................................................