Friday, September 16, 2011

When in Rome...

Friday September 16, 2011

Tyler and I gave up any notion of sleep last night in favour of arriving in Rome today.  We dumped our car in Belfast exactly at 3 pm as arranged and caught our plane for London after a short delay.  Night found us riding the shuttle between the north and south terminals at Gatwick looking for a place to bed down until 4 am.  We bought a mega suitcase for all of our souvenirs thus far and put it in storage, along with our hoodies and jackets and warm clothing.  Convenient yes, but no one told us how cold it can be sleeping on the benches and floor tiles at Gatwick on a September night and we froze half to death waiting for morning to come. 

By 10:30 am, and much to our pleasure, we stepped off the plane in Rome to full sun and a welcome furnace blast of 36 degree (C) heat. 

Pants Off at Rome!

It seemed a million people also stepped off of planes at the same time and we had a time of it just getting our baggage and finding a train into Rome, though we switched to the subway half way there and popped up just where we wanted to be.  It turns out our Italian is a liitle rusty but we are working on it!  Rome is full… don’t send any more people!  Oh and boy they are well dressed, the men in Armani suits and leather shoes; the women in heels and jeans or dresses hot off the runways of Milan and Paris.  Bling and jewellery like us Kootenay boys have never seen!  We have an air conditioned room in a B&B located right over the sweetest smelling bakery in the world, just off of a piazza called the “Piazza del re Roma” which is an extra large traffic circle with a concrete park in the middle along with fountains, park benches and hundreds of people living life.  The two lanes of traffic around the circle never stop, nor do the sirens and horns but we love it very much. These drivers are no less frantic on the roads though they do drive vehicles with the steering wheels on the "right" side (left) and drive on the "right" side of the road (left).  Scooters are big here and we have already seen our first accident.  There are few stop signs or pedestrian lights and you just walk through the speeding traffic with them zooming around you. Crazy!  The streets are laid out like a spider web... no "blocks" here... After meeting our host who spoke no English and his lovely daughters Susanna and Jorgia who did, we negotiated a two bed room for three nights with a shared kitchen and bathroom, bidet included! Wifi is very very slow.  We had our showers and got settled in and then took a walk up Via Appia Nuova through the thick fortified walls of the old city to a cathedral from the 4th century (yes that’s 1700 years ago), though it’s been well taken care of.  The “San Giovanni in Laterno” was where the Roman Catholic popes hung out until they moved into a neighbourhood across the river called the Vatican in the 17th century.  In a word, Tyler and were speechless walking under magnificent vaulted ceilings painted in gold, archways that are 50’ high if they are an inch and marble statues of saints and angels everywhere you look.  Throw in a few dead saints laying around in crypts and you have a great show!  Afterwards, we sat in the shade of the San Giovanni and smoked our Irish pipes together, suddenly feeling very small among such giants. There are old ruins and cathedrals everywhere you look and you can see for miles!  We walked for several hours, bought some jewellery in an open market and then Tyler froze as he saw the Coliseum up ahead. We circled it in awe promising ourselves to pay the fare and explore it tomorrow.  It was built in 72 AD!  From there we spied Hadrian’s Arch (The same Hadrian who built a wall in northern England to keep the Scots out, which we walked along just a couple weeks back) and Palatino Hill, which are excavated Roman ruins, also everywhere. Finally exhausted, we returned to our piazza, bought two 1 litre bottles of beer and I ate barbequed chicken and roasted garlic and rosemary potatoes while Tyler had 4 squares of authentic Italian pizza.  Life is good!

Tonight we are going to walk the streets and gauge the quality of night life in Rome (after Tyler wakes up!)

Tomorrow it’s the Coliseum, the Pantheon, Fonta di Trevi, a Roman Gladiator exhibition and a tour of Palatino Hill. We will see if the Pope can do tea on Sunday after Mass when we visit the Vatican. Then, on Monday we plan on jumping a train that’s heading in the direction of France with plans to swim in the Mediterranean in Nice and God only knows where after that!  It may be either Madrid or Paris!