Alright. I believe the best way to write about my European adventures is to break it up into parts, otherwise I think your eyes would be melting out of your sockets and there would be a nice dent in your mousepad/touchpad from scrolling. That's assuming you'd read it all. In any case, my fingers would fall off. So to save us all...
Part One: Roma!
So in true Jamie fashion, even though I did use my time wisely on Saturday to prepare for the weeklong voyage, I still found myself rushing to Paddington Station to catch the train to the airport. And then almost missing it because the very-helpful-but-not-really- janitor or security officer (they both wear vests...) sold me the wrong ticket. I asked him if he was sure it was the right one three times and he keeps saying yes, "But you can ask the ticket counter if you're not sure." Naturally, I did. And naturally, it was the wrong one. But I got to the airport fine, only the flight was delayed. Shocker.
Ayanthi met me and the airport (yay!), which was nice not only to have someone to catch with on the shuttle train to Rome, but also because my hostel was exceedingly difficult to find. Let's just say numbers increasing in order on a street is not necessary in Rome. We saw the Pantheon that night and did a little window shopping before dinner. We ate at a little restaurant where we were the only people there, so we had a little impromptu photoshoot while we waited for our lasagna. Good times. Finished off the evening with Gelato by the Tervi fountain, which was gorgeous. Would've been nicer though if the sketchy Sri Lankan/Indian vendors would've left us alone. They all wanted to hot on Ayanthi, it got old fast. She snapped at one, "Don't disturb." It was pretty great.
The next day we checked out the Jewish Ghetto and the Synagogue/Museum. It was really cool. I would’ve taken more pictures, but because there was an attack that happened in it recently (sorta I guess... ten years ago now), they have more security measures in place. But it was interesting to learn about how the Jews had to deal with having so many different cultural backgrounds and religious sects all smashed together. Seriously smashed too, the streets we walked down were seriously narrow. Actually, to avoid the obnoxious school groups who went in before us, Ayanthi and I just sat outside for a while on a potted flower trench thing catching up. This may have been the best part of Rome, just sitting with an old friend, swapping stories. She also cooked me dinner that night- another best part of the trip!
I met up with BADA friends David and Anna Tuesday morning because Yanthi had class. We checked out the Vatican. The Vatican is pretty cool, it's a nice and open square with beautiful columns and many statues. St. Peter's Basilica (the huge church in the center), is well, huge. Being in it made me feel very small. The artwork in there is pretty unbelievable. I saw the Pieta statue, which after having seen it in so many history books, was pretty exciting to meet in person. On a sidenote: a large part of the Vatican is made up of red marble, which is now extinct. My guide told me about how there used to be a lot of red marble in the Forum (Ancient Bev. Hills of Rome), but not after the Vatican was built. The Vatican calls this "recycling"...
After seeing the BADA guys off on their way to Florence, I went to the Coliseum. That's pretty incredible. You walk out of the metro station and it's literally right in front of you. Kinda surreal. It's connected to the Forum that I mentioned before, which is a really cool place to explore. It's all these ruins on a beautiful grassy hill. It's like one minute you're admiring the scenery, the next the guide is saying "oh, and here's the oldest temple in Rome..." (incidentally, the original key still works in the lock). And then there's another layer because Mussolini decided he wanted to live there too. Further proof that he was absolutely off his rocker.
I got horribly lost that afternoon trying to find the Piazza de Navarro, but I wound up on the Spanish Steps at sunset, so I must've done something right. That was one gorgeous view. Also, because of my new contacts, I was able to purchase my first pair of sunglasses since I was about five years old. I don't think you understand how cool that was. The shopkeeper definitely didn't. Eating alone that night was a little tricky (something I never like unless I'm reading a good book.) The waiter was like "Why are you all alone?" It was like the relatives asking "but why are you still single?" bah. He got extra points though when I told him I was from Minnesota. He scrunches up his face, and I start trying to explain that it's in the Midwest and then he goes, "...The Vikings!" hah, yes.
I got to see the Vatican Museum before I left on Wednesday morning. No line again, score! Only I totally made up for it in karma points because I got lost again and wandered down some street that everyone and their dog it seemed had used as their bathroom. No joke. But the museum was lovely. I wish they hadn't prohibited people lying on their backs looking up at the Sistine Chapel... I think that would be the best way to experience it. After that, Yanthi and I said our goodbyes over some final gelato (yum- my goodness will I miss that) before I hopped on the train to board the train too... Prague (to be continued...)
To sum up though- Rome was great. It was sunny and lovely and sixty degree weather. It was great seeing all this old history stuff and catching up with Yanthi at the same time. Rome has a quality about it, too, the colors and the...flavor I guess. That's the best way to describe it. It grew on me.