Thursday, 16 June 2016

Surfer Joe Summer Festival 2016 Part 2

Well, we're spending our first morning here in Livorno, having arrived by train from Rome yesterday afternoon. Having checked into our usual hotel (the excellent and so friendly Parking Hotel Giardino), we take a stroll down to the Surfer Joe Diner, where we catch up with Luca, Tonio and Tommi, as they prepare the Tiki Stage for the festival. A little later Lorenzo comes over to say hi, bringing with him JonPaul and Jeff Big Tiki Dude. Now what is the collective noun for a bunch of North Sea Surf Radio DJ's?

A little later we are joined by Clive Lung and it really begins to feel as if we have never been away, particularly once we have adjourned to our favourite local eatery, the Chicken Restaurant (so named because of the large model ostrich which stands guard outside the entrance, although it is properly named La Regina Dello Scoglio). Pizza and wine ensue.

Tuesday was spent exploring more of the sights in Rome. This tends to consist largely of studiously avoiding the eye of one of the various hustlers trying to sell you stuff, whilst wading through vast throngs of one's fellow tourists. We see the Spanish Steps, which are probably pretty amazing, but they are also partially covered up, as teams of Roman craftsmen labour under parasols renovating, or cleaning away. From there it's but a short walk to the Trevi Fountain, where we imagine ourselves in La Dolce Vita, although I'm pretty sure no one was trying to flog Marcelo Mastroianni or Anita Ekberg a selfie-stick.

The streets of the city currently contain large numbers of armed troops, patrolling what I must assume are considered to be vulnerable sites. We live, of course, in dangerous times and it may be that this military presence is in response to a specific threat or simply to provide reassurance. I have to say, though, that to me the sight of uniformed men toting automatic weapons on the streets of European cities is somewhat disturbing.

We decide to head across the Tiber towards the Vatican next, accidentally happening upon the Pantheon on our way. If the Pantheon is huge (it is), the size and grandeur of the Vatican is on another scale altogether (and somewhat at odds with the life led by Jesus Christ, I might suggest). The hustlers are here too, with their selfie-sticks and tickets to see the Sistine Chapel. We politely (and sometimes less-than-politely, I admit) decline these offers and head instead to the pleasingly dark and cool shelter of a Trastevere bar for some lunch.

Now, you might just think that there is a time and a place where you might find use for a selfie-stick, but that sitting in a back street bar watching football on the TV is neither that time nor that place. This doesn't stop someone strolling in and trying to sell us one, mind you. I have drawn Austria in the Euros-sweepstake in our local pub, so find myself with a perhaps surprising amount of interest in their game with neighbours Hungary, which we watch in an Irish bar filled with Hungarians, a short walk from our hotel. This is a proper Irish bar too; Irish barmaid, Irish commentary of the match on the TV and lager served in Guiness glasses, which goes instantly flat. Austria are, apparently, some people's dark horses for the tournament and I briefly discover previously unsuspected enthusiasm for the boys in red. They play poorly and Hungary run out deserved 2-0 winners. I am deflated. Still, the sweepstake only cost two quid and I turned down the selfie-stick.

This afternoon, England play Wales, in what someone will no doubt dub The Battle of Britain. And this evening the festival begins. I can't wait.

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