When my wife, Jessica, first asked me to join her on a business
trip to Rome, I said no. It'll be romantic, she argued. It'll be
lonely during the day and there'll be shop talk at night, I
responded. They're paying for the room, she said. Rome? I said. You
and me? I'm there, babe.
Free hotel rooms always bring out the romantic in me.
Once in Rome, I discovered there are some good things to be said for exploring without your beloved. You don't have to fight over whether to wake up early or sleep in late. You don't have to go see famous sculptures when you'd rather be eating fried artichokes. You don't have to go searching for a bathroom 14 times a day.
A significant downside is that you don't have anyone to help you with the map. I ended up getting lost a lot and looking up at buildings, pretending to be interested in their masonry, when I was actually trying to figure out what street I was on.
I did manage to happen upon a few of Rome's fabled sites. At the ancient ruins of the Roman Forum I walked awe-struck among the relics of millenniums-old religious temples and political halls. Eavesdropping on a tour group, I learned the astounding story of Saint Lawrence, whom the Romans slow-roasted over an open fire for several hours until he died. Later, he was named the Roman Catholic saint of the kitchen. (True story. I looked it up when I got home.)
I also toured the Coliseum, where square-jawed men in gladiator helmets and breastplates clutched swords and posed for photo ops with coeds. At the Campo dei Fiori, an outdoor marketplace, I bought a great vegetable peeler for our son.
"Sam is gonna love this," I told Jessica when she returned from a long day of meetings. "Man, I wish I had a potato. It makes curlicues and waffle fries and "
"Jim," she said, cutting me off. "Do you really think he'll like that?"
"Why wouldn't he? It's amazing. You shoulda seen the guy demonstrating at the market."
"Sam is a 13-year-old boy. He doesn't cook."
"He'll love it," I said. "It's fun."
She rolled her eyes and got changed for the evening.
This, I thought, is another reason why it's better to go it alone. Your spouse can be such a buzz kill.