Antico Caffè Greco + update

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No better way to start the year than to talk about coffee, right?

But before that, a teensy update. I just started school, well technically it starts tomorrow, but the first day of Welcome Week is officially over. It is basically the week in which we ‘welcome’ the new cohort of Grade 11s with a whole slew of games and events used to promote some nice social interaction and hopefully break the ice between the new and old students. It is my final year and I’m filled with a new energy despite this constant lethargy, seeing the myriad of new faces, my teachers, friends. I actually love my school a heck of a lot, even though I’m always complaining about the volcano it really is, every so often spewing out some internal assessment or test alarm. Alex! Do this and that! Stop downloading episode 2 of the new Sherlock!! I mean really, who would listen to myself. It’s hard. My school is to me a benevolent being, there with me since the very beginning, entrusting me with all sorts of responsibilities, all sorts of experiences, cradling me. To just be part of it is rather extraordinary, as I note the accumulation of happenings and emotional roller coasters over a grand period of 5 years now, and counting. Bulging like a tumour, almost overflowing. Yes, quite extraordinary. I only pray I survive this year, all procrastination jokes aside (dear lord I’m the worst).

Now. Greco. It’s no ordinary café which you may find on the sidewalks of Paris or London (Well we were in Italy, but just go with this imagery). It’s a historic landmark, the caffeinated pride of the whole country. Opened in 176o -bloody hell, it’s two and a half centuries old-, this café was named after its original Greek owner. Before we came here I did a heck of a lot of research on all the best places to have a cup of goodness, be it joe or espresso, in Rome. This was on the top of the list countless times, and apparently historic figures such as Goethe, Lord Byron, Mark Twain and Hans Christian Anderson (childhood love!) hung out here in the 18th and 19th centuries to think and rest. You can imagine, a bunch of old and maybe bearded characters discussing their next literary adventures whilst sipping ever so politely from an embellished teacup, eyes withered, brains bright. An ornate, rustic enclave for artists, poets, thinkers. Yes, I thought, perhaps some of their creative wisdom and literary grandeur could rub off on me. I wish. I always wish.

The mere sight of it made my heart stumble. Trip up, guffaw. My nerves tingled. I needed coffee and dammit, I wanted to drink at the same place Goethe drank! Walking in, I felt a tinge of shame choke my stance. I wasn’t dressed in pearls and lace, the sort of get up appropriate for this gold-embellished half-hall, lined with red velvet chairs and penguin-tailed waiters, noses up, fingers fast. Oh, so fast. We caught a table at the side, quickly sat down, scrolled through the equally lush menu. Browns and burgundies. My favourite tones. What next? Oh yes. The coffee.

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Iced Cappuccino- 8 darn euros

Café Espresso- 6 euros

That translates to more than 10 bucks for a cup of coffee. If you can imagine the most posh café decked out in the Queen’s jewels, this would be it. But come on, the price? No, it’s not worth it. Not at all. So we sat down like normal people would, but that in itself turned out to be a major, major mistake. You actually pay just half the price for a cup if you stand up at the bar, if we were the stand-by-the-bar sort, but what’s more we’re a big family, and we would’ve been quite the crowd. Looking around, all the tourists were jostling about standing up anyway, and who would want to be in the middle of that scene?

Let me tell you more, because frankly I’d be glad to. Cue sarcasm. So sat down, ordered, after flailing our arms about trying to catch a posh waiter’s attention; I feel as if thin curly moustaches would’ve done quite the trick on every single one of them (yes, even the females). I saw the price of a noisette and felt a sharp twang of pain. I couldn’t let my parents pay for that, certainly not! I felt inclined to order an espresso, and yet my thirst for something cool- a kick in the arse on that almost balmy afternoon, was ebbing. I needed it. So iced cappuccino it was.

And iced cappuccino I did not get. I didn’t know if it was tradition or anything, but my first sip was almost painful. Painfully sweet, that is. Yes! Sweet! The syrup drained my tongue receptors of any sense and sensibility, clogging every nerve, everything was just dizzlingly sweet. Cold and refreshing I got, pure roast I did not. I finished it, rather uncomfortably, and lay back, my stomach turning slightly. Took a sip of my father’s cappuccino. It was good, but not nearly as impressive as I thought it would be. Take me to Oriole’s anytime, baby. I’ll pass on this place. Perhaps I was simply missing out on their famous espresso, and I do hope that’s the case.

Now for that limited edition raspberry and dark chocolate nespresso treat…

Magic (and some Rome shots)

We have reached the point of magic.

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Friends, Christians, Romans (ha ha), the magic has bloomed and taken over us all right now. It’s broken down from an anticipating cloud into a million little sparkles, drenching us from the inside out. As I swoon over all my presents, as I write letters and notes on what I got from who, it strikes me just how much we take for granted this one day. I went upstairs to my room’s cupboard, or what I label my storage cupboard, and rummaged through the years’ accumulation of boxed-up presents and toys and stuffed animals. Sitting on their bums. Nonchalant state, blind, hell, probably bored, but sparkling with the memories born of yesteryears. In Singapore right now, there’s no frolicking in conifer-laden forests, no restless gallivanting in the gelid (I learnt this fun word today, which basically means wintery or cold. Accomplishment number one- done) snow. Pity, isn’t it. I haven’t posted any shots of Rome yet, so please enjoy the cigarette smoke you see streaming out of this man’s hole, as well as the crazy espresso culture I immersed myself in.

Pictures. Nothing more, nothing less, but so profound through my lens.

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Yes, I’m the blur-eyed thing on the left.

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My mother got me something quite wonderful this Christmas, something I can’t bear to disclose here because the excitement and giddiness is both frustrating and overwhelming. I’m angry, so angry at her for spoiling me this way. It actually hurts. Materialistic goods are for the faint of heart, or perhaps those overly ridden with the frivolous joys and majesties of this intrinsically materialistic world, and yet here I am gushing about the latest bag or my new New Scientist subscription and recipe book. No critics allowed here, please.

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Sometimes I forget how small I am. In the midst of two-metre tall letters, bundled up in winter gear, heart thumping, internally applauding the graciousness of God made real and beautiful in the gold, ornate interior of St. Peter’s Basilica. Slivers of light to greet us, the warmth and holiness of hundreds of years preserved for us to revel in.

I’m so happy I shall make some rum-spiced tiramisu.

Yes. Right about now.