When I arrived in Rome, I was on my own. My wife wasn’t due to arrive for 3 weeks, so I had time to myself. I traveled to Rome to see what it was like to get into the natural rhythm of a city. I’ve lived at the beach for so many years, that I missed the pulse that an urban mecca enjoys. I’m not much of a nightclub gal, but I do like it when restaurants stay open until midnight and when you can listen to some music after dinner at a local cafe. Beach towns tend to roll up the sidewalks by 10:00.

I had no plans. No agenda. I love to meet new people, though. And I love to try new things. The first day I walked for miles and miles. The weather was brilliantly cool, with just a touch of winter in the air. I conquered most of the main sights on that walk: St. Peters, the Spanish Steps, Piazza Navona and the Trevi Fountain. I walked until dusk drew down, then stopped into a small market to pick up a few things for the apartment. Mainly, fizzy water. I love fizzy water – ‘aqua con gas’, as they say in Italian. I quickly learned there was a big difference between the brands of fizzy water you purchase. Each one has a completely different level of fizz. Some of them tasted as if they were already half-way flat. Those were the ones I hated. I tried at least 6 different brands before I found out that there’s nothing as good as Pellegrino!!! San Benedetto fizzy water is a close second, but Pellegrino is the righteous king of the fizzy water.

I returned to the apartment and put the groceries away, checked email and settled into a late-afternoon nap.

When I awoke, I had a Facebook message from my cousin in Chicago. He told me that a very famous chef/restaurateur/concept-man/renaissance-man/and all-around great friend of his was in Rome for a few nights to open a sushi place. A sushi place in Rome? Ok, you’ve piqued my interest. He introduced us via a joint message: Rod, this is Janice; Janice, this is Rod. We exchanged a few quick messages and asked me if I’d like to see the restaurant he was working on. Why not? I haven’t anything else brewing tonight. After a quick Google-map search, I was off into the night. And what a wonderful night it was.

It was at Mi Geisha Roma that I met some wonderful new friends. Rod and John; Alessandro and Giuseppe. I walked into a completely unfinished shell of a restaurant and was told that “tomorrow night, we’re having a fabulous opening event for the media.” I looked around and thought: are you crazy? This place will take weeks to finish. It was more like one of those TV episodes where the new owners of the house will return in the morning, yet nothing has been done to renovate the house. I shook my head in disbelief and just smiled. I don’t know these people and I don’t know anything about opening a restaurant. So, who am I to judge??

I always say, when traveling, you never know where you’ll wind up or who you’ll meet. That’s why you need to be open. Be flexible. Try something new. And I did. I went with the flow.

Only moments after meeting the gang, I was wheeling a suitcase down Corso Vittorio Emanuele for Chef, John Wayne while the others schlepped suitcases of their own. They were in need of a new apartment in Rome while setting up the new restaurant. Rent was negotiated by Giuseppe, bedrooms were selected by Rod and John Wayne, and an hour later we were at a small Italian restaurant having a noisy dinner at a big table. The food and the company were fantastic. What a night of red wine and good food. An unexpected gathering of people you meet by chance. Friends.

The next night was the opening of Mi Geisha Roma. I arrived at 9:00. I couldn’t believe what I saw. The restaurant looked perfect. It was full of people eating, drinking and having fun. Food was being served at tables (which weren’t even there the night before), waiters and hostesses were passing appetizers, sushi chefs were making rolls and John Wayne was down in the kitchen, working his magic. Rod was the darling of the evening, dropping by each table with his beautiful smile and brilliant aura – making sure everyone was happy, posing for photos and answering questions about the food.

I just stood by in amazement. Here I was watching magic happen. And 36 hours earlier, I had no idea that I would be experiencing such a fabulous evening.

You just never know who you will meet and where you will wind up when you travel.