Monday, March 3, 2014

Rome If She Wants To...Part 1

My first full day in Rome was a Friday, and I was on my own.  Will had to work, so like a good little tourist, I planned out my route, summoned my courage, and boarded the metro in Rome, ALL ON MY OWN!  I was pretty proud of myself, I successfully navigated public transportation in a foreign country all on my own.  Of course, as soon as I walked off the metro, the strap on my purse broke, so before I could do anything else, I had to find a store and buy a new purse.  Unfortunately, I couldn't find one I was really in love with, so I ended up with a cheap one to just get the job done.  I was upset because I really liked the purse I bought just for Rome, and planned my outfits around that specific purse.  Will laughed when he saw the purse I bought and said, "We come all the way to Rome, and that's the purse you buy?!?"   

After purchasing a new purse and transferring everything over, I headed back to the streets and on to my destination of the day, the Vatican!  Will and I discussed going to the Vatican on Saturday, as he wanted to see it as well, but I knew that I would want to spend more time in St. Peter's than he would, and I wanted to make sure I saw everything I wanted to see.  Will and I only had limited time together, so we really had to plan out what he wanted to see and manage our time wisely.  My schedule while he was at work was much more open.  Plus, I got to impress him with my knowledge of the metro system, including changing trains! 

When I was on my own, I didn't want to have my nice DSLR camera out, so I left that in the hotel safe, and just used my little point and shoot camera.  I haven't downloaded those pictures yet (still), but I do have my pictures from my DSLR! 

The Saturday we were there was our first full day together.  We woke up early and headed down for breakfast at our hotel, then we hopped on the metro to arrive at the Vatican!  Once we go through security, we headed to the top of St. Peter's, then up more to the very top of the dome!  The views of Rome from the top of St. Peter's were breathtaking!  It was a perfectly clear day, we could literally see the entire city of Rome! 

After decending back down to Earth (it was a LONG way down), we explored the inside of St. Peter's, including sending post cards to our family!   

We headed to the Vatican museums to see the Sistine Chapel.  The only way to get to the Chapel is to go through the museum, and you have to go all the way through.  It took us nearly 2 hours to just get inside the Sistine Chapel!  Since it was a Saturday during the summer, there were lots of tourists and you could only move as fast as the group was moving.  Many tourists were with tour guides, who wanted to share everything about every piece of art, and while some of it was interesting, most of it I could have skipped.  Once you get in the Sistine Chapel, you cannot take pictures, and they yell at you if you try, so I wasn't able to get pictures. 

Just outside of the Vatican, there is a "fort" called Castel Sant' Angelo, which was once used to defend the Vatican from attacks.  There was a passage from St. Peter's to the castel where the Pope and others could escape.  A few previous popes actually lived there as well, so we were able to see their living quarters. 

After the Castel, we headed to the Colosseum and the Forum, then Mamertine Prison (where Saints Peter and Paul were imprisoned), and finally to St. Peter in Chains church (where the chains that held St. Peter are held). 

All that walking and sightseeing was exhausting, and I have to admit, I was a little cranky, so we headed back to the hotel to rest for a bit before going to dinner.  After a nap and a shower, I felt so much better.  Trevi Fountain was in walking distance from our hotel, so we headed in that direction to find somewhere to eat before going to Trevi for the first time.  Trevi is beautiful during the day, but stunning at night!  It's incredibly hard to get good pictures because there are people everywhere, but I think I managed to get a few good shots! Of course we had to finish our evening with gelato!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Back in the Saddle

Soo...I haven't written in a long time, and no one will probably read this, but I'm blogging anyway! I just went back and re-read my last post and it was about our last day in Costa Rica, so I'll pick up right where I left off!

Will and I came back from Costa Rica to some very exciting news, Will was being sent to Rome, Italy on a work trip, and Lockheed said I could go as well!  Rome has always been my #1 place I wanted to travel, not only because of the beauty of the city, but because of all of the Catholic history that can be found there!  Since Will would be there for work, the room was paid for, and he was on a very generous per diem for food each day, so other than my flight and our spending money, we got away with a trip to Rome for an amazing price.  Since the trip was last minute ( 2 weeks notice), Will and his co-workers flew to Rome first class.  By the time I could book a flight, a first class flight for me was a bit out of our price comfort zone, although looking back now, it might have been worth it!

I really almost couldn't believe my "luck", I got married, honeymooned in Costa Rica, and went to Rome in a matter of 5 weeks.  I went from having no stamps in my passport to have two, on two different continents!

Boarding the flight to New York was very nerve racking for me.  Even though I have flown by myself countless numbers of times, I've never flown internationally on my own.  I was nervous about going through customs in a country that I never visited and didn't speak the language.  Luckily, I found some very nice Americans that clearly knew what they were doing and followed their lead!

On both flights (DFW to New York and New York to Rome), I was assigned a middle seat, but again luckily, on both flights there were aisle seats that were available in the exit rows.  More room and aisle seats...yes please!!  Even with the extra room, I wasn't able to sleep on the trans-Atlantic flight, which made me even more anxious.  I knew when I left the airport, I would have to get in a cab and get to my hotel, all on my own, since Will would be at work.  He couldn't take off work, because work was the whole reason he was in Rome in the first place.

After I made it through customs, at about 7 am Roman time, I went outside to try to find a taxi.  Like most airports, taxis are not hard to find, but making sure I got in a legit taxi, with someone who spoke enough English to get me to my hotel was a different story.  I'm sure I looked like a lost tourist, since a man (who spoke very good English) came up to me, tried to take my bag and put me in a private taxi.  Will and I researched before I left the States and I knew that the "official" Roman taxis have the city crest on the side, and had a flat fee from the airport to any hotel in Rome.  When I asked about the flat fee, the man told me that was not what he was offering and walked away.  I found a cab with the crest on the side and felt a little better...that is until he started driving.  Let's just say I spent a lot of time looking down at my phone so I wouldn't freak out that we were about to crash!  Like many other drivers overseas, Roman drivers were a little "less cautious" than I would be.  The driver didn't appear to speak much English, so it was a pretty quiet ride, but thankfully he brought me to the right hotel!  I was able to check in without any issues and went up to my room to take a short nap.

I knew that I needed sleep, but I also knew that if I slept too long, I wouldn't sleep that night, which would make jet lag set in very quickly.  I set my alarm and let myself sleep for 2 hours, then got up, showered, and pulled out my map of Rome and book of sights.  I hate walking around with maps out (makes people look too touristy), so I tried to plan out my sights while still in the room.  I wrote the directions on small pieces of paper that I could take out much easier than a huge map.

Since I was on my own and was still tired, I stayed pretty close to our hotel on that first day.  We were a few blocks away from the Spanish Steps, so I spent a lot of time there, wandering in and out of shops and exploring that area.  I ate my first bowl of Roman gelato (which would be a daily treat for me while I was there) and tried to act like I didn't just get off a plane.  I was pretty proud of myself for not getting TOO lost.  I was able to find our hotel fairly easily.

I went back to our hotel to rest for a bit, and wait for Will to come home.  I don't think I had ever been so happy to see him as I was that night (ok, maybe on our wedding day), but I was so relieved to see a familiar person after being scared and on my own for 36 hours.  Will had been in Rome for a few days already, so he felt a little more comfortable navigating the streets.  While they had rental cars, no one really felt comfortable driving, especially in the city limits, where there are a lot of one-way streets, some streets are restricted, and most signs are in Italian.  We walked around, found the metro station (which I would use often) and had a traditional Italian dinner.  We both fell asleep early that night, since I was still tired and he was exhausted after working all day.

Stay tuned for more posts and pictures from Rome!!!