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First Stop, Brendizi

The street was dead quiet, empty of cars and pedestrians, the shops shuttered and dark. The cab rolled down the gleaming stone pavement lined in towering palms and stopped in front of the hotel. Jet-lagged and hungry, we climbed the marble steps, checked in, and were shown to our room. Once settled, we headed out to find food and coffee. Lots of coffee.

Out on the sidewalk, slick and shiny after a brief shower, we headed toward the water, past Betsy's Cafe, a pizzeria, a fancy restaurant specializing in fresh fish, all tempting, all closed. Up a steep set of steps to a Roman column fenced in with spiked wrought iron, to a gorgeous eatery with outdoor seating and a carved wooden door behind a locked metal gate.

Winding our way through several narrow streets, we finally came upon a small open cafe. We ordered espressos and two bagel sandwiches and sat outside watching a group of students newly released from school, a young couple engaged with their phones, and a posse of girls walking in close formation, their voices echoing shrilly off the hard surfaces of street, sidewalks and buildings. Dazed by lack of sleep on our overnight flight, we drank espresso and ate our sandwiches in a fog of dislocation.

Back in our room, we opened our window to the street, drew the shades, and napped. Napped until the blare of car horns and shouts of pedestrians snapped us awake. From our seventh story window, I looked down on a scene transformed. As though a large cast of actors had taken their places on the stage, the street was alive with activity. The shop doors were open, cars lined both sides of the street, people filled the sidewalks carrying shopping bags, pushing baby carriages, drinking at outdoor tables, a stream of people flowing in both directions.

Later the street will be the scene of the evening promenade. The inhabitants of Brendizi will traverse from one end of the avenue to the other and back again before dinner. Elderly couples will walk arm in arm, groups of stylishly dressed young men will jostle one another and laugh, parents will call to their errant children, women will totter by on perilously high platform heels, all will take part in the nightly pre-prandial parade.

But newly awakened from my nap, I know nothing of what is to come. I only know siesta time is over in Brendizi.

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