Room of Tears!

 Photo by  Michele Francioso
Photo by Michele Francioso

In October 2012,  I toured parts of Vatican City which is the smallest country in the world with two of the clergy from The Legionnaires of Christ. Father Montanaro and Brother Ryan were my guides.  We started at St. Peter’s Basilica in the lower level surrounding the tomb of St Peter who was the founder of the Roman Catholic Church.  After we left The Basilica we proceeded to The Vatican Museum and viewed their wonderful art collection. 

From there we proceeded to The Sistine Chapel where Michelangelo was commissioned to paint the vault of the ceiling called;  “The Creation of Adam.”  While in The Sistine Chapel, Father Montanaro said I think I know the guard here and asked me if I would like to see The Room of Tears.  I said what is that?  Then Father Montanaro proceeded to tell me this is where the newly elected Pope goes to sign the doctrine making it official that he is The Pope and the leader of the Roman Catholic Church. 

He said;  “and before that happens, there are three vestments waiting in different sizes and The Pope tries all three on to see which one fits the best.  Once he signs the doctrine he is then given a set of keys to Vatican City and he cries with tears of joy.  As he gathers his thoughts he is then escorted down a narrow corridor to the famous balcony we all see on television to meet his flock for the very first time.”  

When I entered the room I was not surprised that it was very modest in size being about 150 square feet in total.  It had one small wooden desk and chair which was situated in the middle of the room. The room was painted off white and was so modest I thought  could have been at my grandma’s old apartment in Brooklyn.  Behind the desk & chair was a small rectangle window narrowing at the top pointing to heaven and a nearby crucifix. 

Who knew in a few months Pope Francis would be here sitting right here at this desk?  Talk about being ahead of the pack  





The Souk, Marrakech

 Photo by  Marwane El Ouakil
Photo by Marwane El Ouakil

Even with a native guide, be prepared to negotiate with the merchants within the souk, which is the open air market in Marrakech where traders have traded goods for over 1,000 years. The merchants are so persistent they will follow you throughout every store to sell you that hand crafted piece of art that will hold your wine bottle when you return home.  

You’ll find yourself, or as I did negotiating endlessly for sport. You will be consumed by the seller’s charismatic charm, persistence & personality and you will laugh as you keep saying no to his counter offers,  However, hold steady because you are negotiating in Dirham, the currency of the country and at the end you will finally get your price if your mate doesn’t pull you away sooner out of exhaust.   …and when this is all over and you are back in your hotel room beating your chest in victory, look at what you bought.  It is still that time tiny piece of tin craft you just overpaid.

I also advise you to be careful of the rug salesmen.  They ship anywhere in the world.  



Learning a foreign language

This can be totally fun gathering nouns and verbs and constructing simply sentences. Don’t kid yourself everyone you meet on your travels appreciates your effort.

I once carried a conversation in Italian with a porter for 15 minutes telling him about my grandparents migration from Italy as we traveled from Rome to Florence. He was so pleased meeting me he refused to take my tip when he assisted me with my luggage.

Instead he said with a big smile “piacere mio!”  which means;  It was my pleasure!

Global Access

It is worth the hassle to submit doc’s and go through the interview process to avoid long lines at immigration. The exit kiosk’s coming into the country simply take your photo and scan your fingers and you receive a receipt from the machine which you hand to the immigration officer at the exit.  It almost feels like an ATM transaction. 

London’s Harrods & Mohamed Al Fayed

A highlight on one of my trips to London, I met Mohamed Al Fayed when he owned Harrod’s a few years back.  One had to enter the side of the building and go up the escalators to the 5th floor to enter an unmarked door.  Once in, the receptionist would escort you to a conference room.  My room had soft lighting and an old parquet floor that you would expect to see in a townhouse on the upper east side in New York.  After waiting patiently for 20 minutes he walked in with his son.  Sitting in front of me were plans for a 100,000 square foot newly developed department store space in Las Vegas that I wanted to share with him.  The first words that came out of his mouth were; “I am not buying anything!”  …and then we both laughed.  The meeting went well and I learnt he was planning on building a Harrods at the base of Harrah’s Hotel in Las Vegas.  He then walked me to the next room to show me a model that was enclosed in a glass case.  It was pretty spectacular.  After the meeting and on the way out he was very gracious and handed me a new Harrods vinyl bag replacing my old one and then proceeded on giving me two table top books.  One was about Harrods and the other about The Hotel Ritz in Paris, while saying, “You know I own this hotel too!”  He was such a great pitchman.  I knew when I was in his presence I was with one of the greatest merchants of the the world.  His parting words were; “Joseph, you do plan to come back tomorrow and shop with your wife, won’t you?”  I smiled graciously shaking his hand and my head, saying:  “Of course, Mohamed we plan too.”