Roman remains - part I

I suppose it was inevitable that I’d return to Rome – both here and in reality.

My whistle-stop tour had whetted my appetite and Dan Brown did little to curb it. Angels and Demons had been published and was to be made into a film. As I devoured the book I realised Dan was one smart cookie.

His work may not be classical, literary writing. But he does write darn good stories – so in my book, that makes him a good writer.

Angels and Demons is a treasure hunt that links together some of Rome’s hot tourist spots and I’d seen some of them during my day trip. What better time to return?

I’ve already revealed that I’m a reluctant traveller, but such was Rome’s draw that I had to overcome that apathy and get my bum in gear.

A few years ago I’d travelled abroad with the Ramblers – first on a two-week walking holiday on the Greek island of Samos and more recently to the Sorento peninsular. Both had been a success – apart from Sorento where the food was awful and one poor soul dropped dead.

But putting that aside, the Ramblers offered an escorted holiday, plenty of exercise and a good reputation. So, it was a done deal.

I’d already booked a week off in October and they had a trip that fitted the dates. Destiny was calling me to Rome!

I’ve always been a sucker for a man with a smooth voice and travel guru Simon Calder is the latest in a long line of seducers.

His tales of travel disasters are tempered by cheerful optimism. The broken down train that didn’t make the connection in time for his onward journey to another resort may have allowed him to sample the local hospitality in Outer Mongolia, but would I be so fortunate?

For months I’d listened to him rave enthusiastically about Heathrow’s new Terminal Five. Yes, there’d been lost luggage. Yes, there’d been missed flights. But it was all so bright and beautiful and new. Simon said it would be all right, and in Simon, I trusted.

My taxi drew up at ‘Departures’ and I was nudged through the main entrance. Yes, it was certainly bright, marginally beautiful, and definitely new. It was Saturday morning, about 10 o’clock. And quiet. My travel documents had asked me to check in my luggage and then wait to meet the other 19 T5 virgins in my party.

I was walking where Simon had gone before and the emotion was not lost on me. A smart man in an official looking uniform rushed to offer assistance. I recited my mantra – I knew where I was going. But within seconds my luggage was dropped off at an express counter and I was escorted through to a new area...