#cometravelwithme is what I consider my handle (like a truck driver on his CB radio), my moniker, my attempt to build a social brand and build my network of followers who enjoy the stories, grow their wish list and glean worthwhile advice for their own future travels. My friend and my daughter made that mantra of mine come to life this travel season! My friend joined us in Thailand during the Snow bird flight 2018 and her and my daughter joined us for a part of the Spring Fling in Europe! This made the adventure and discovery even more special. The crux of the idea started when they both mentioned to me how “lucky” I am to have my hubby to not only be my travel partner but my travel planner. He is ruthless when it comes to value for the dollar and then there is the cushion of comfort he provides when in new, unfamiliar locales. I dared them to join us. Both of them kind of laughed it off at first and my daughter even snapped at me once about being pushy when I was teasing her to spend some of her hard earned cash. I wanted both these women to know they were welcome to join us and my honey had jumped in with the offer to research and book should they climb on board. In January, the seed I had planted started to burst open and the rest is history, they certainly made #cometravelwithme a reality!
They arrived in Rome early on a Monday morning. Their travel took them first from Boise to San Francisco where they spent the night to insure they risked no issues with making the long haul flight to Rome with one layover in Chicago. We had not been able to get them into our hotel as once they made their decision to join us the price had sky rocketed so the planner found them Stargate just two blocks over from us. Again, we were after economy in room expenditure because we simply needed a place to sleep and shower and this three star covered that base as well as breakfast included. We scoped it out before they arrived, texted pics of their path out of Termini (they landed at Fiumicino Airport) and they were able to easily have confidence on arrival. As they checked in we showered and made our way to meet them. They had made the decision to hit the ground running so they would not miss any of the sites on their must see list. The plan was for about three days for them in Rome with us. We made our way towards city center for some orientation for our “guests” and some authentic Italian food. We found a great sidewalk spot brought to our attention by the host who later invited us to visit his home in Egypt next fall. (I have his card just in case 😉 Mimo at Antica Roma Ristorante definitely added flair to our first Italian meal with the girls. We devoured bruschetta, veal, pizza and wine and then we were off for the girls first sight seeing walkabout. We climbed vine covered stair wells and walked the cobblestone streets taking the walkway to their first sight of the Colosseum , the Forum, Palatine Hill and on to the Memorial To Emmanuel II where they could get their bearings that the upper floor/360 degree walkways and pictorials provide.
We pushed on even though the new arrivals were starting to fade. One of the can’t miss items on their list was Trevi Fountain and although my honey and I had passed by on an earlier stroll we had waited for the girls to toss in our coins. Myth has it that tossing a coin over the left shoulder into this iconic fountain in the midst of the area of Piazza Navona and the Spanish Steps insures a return visit to the Eternal City. We made our wishes (I wished for my daughter’s wish to come true #mommalove 😉 and watched the people a bit then headed to grab some Euro and get the girls back for a late afternoon retiring to shake the jet lag and be ready for the following days tour.
Worth a mention at this point is the fact that we are now convinced that the best source for accessing currency when traveling abroad is via ATM. We simply do not use these machines when in the states due to processing fees but when traveling abroad the best rate is only achieved at these machines and the fees are less than the lower exchange rate and handling fees charged at privately run money booths. It also diminishes the need for carrying as much cash. Rome was somewhat credit card friendly but we certainly could not count on Visa being accepted everywhere we went. As I have mentioned in other posts our Chase Sapphire pays us to travel in rewards points and the great rates offered via it’s travel booking site. We use it to pay absolutely everything we can and are racking up points towards free travel again in the Snowbird Flight for 2019. Help me get more of these points via refer a friend by using this link and get a great bonus yourself! https://www.referyourchasecard.com/6/KZOJW9F90G
After dropping the girls back to their place we spent a couple hours in the hotel lobby trying to take advantage of the meager WiFi speeds to get caught up on email and the “real world” and then headed to a spot just around the corner since it was approaching the 10 o’clock hour and we had decided the girls had zonked for the night not just a nap. l’antica Taverna Alba was a small spot with seating indoors and out. We were promptly offered a table and settled in for some camaraderie with a couple at the adjoining table. The fiancé was living in Texas and her beau was still living in Rome and working to get funds and paperwork together for a move to the U.S. Once again this conversation demonstrated to us that it’s really not so easy for a foreigner to take up residency in our home country. People are enthralled by the idea of the life we lead but as our discussions in Thailand and here demonstrated, the land of liberty does does not have its arms wide open quite the way we, Joe Public, perceive it. We had quickly discovered in this city, and I’ve heard my honey repeat several times, veal is cheaper than chicken; wine is nearly as cheap as the water, antipasto meats and cheese is cheaper than veggies, so….we consumed what we loved and it was mighty tasty. We were entertained towards the end of our dinner by the challenge our friendly waiter was being given by a rowdy patron looking for a free meal which she ending up getting after slamming her fist on the table; shoving the remaining glassware to the floor and demanding the manager. Being in the restaurant industry a long time ourselves, we saw the writing on the wall as soon as she started her complaints. There certainly wasn’t much left on the plates for the disgust she was proclaiming! Our waiter rewarded us for keeping him in light spirits throughout this ordeal by treating us to a dessert he called “one so good”. Haha. Indeed this fluffy dreamy, mocha flavored “stuff” was tasty and fit well with the end of our Brunello we enjoyed with this dinner in tribute to our adventure the day prior.
The following morning I met the girls, who had woken in the wee hours and then fell back asleep and slept all the way through their hotel breakfast, for coffee at a sidewalk spot between our hotels. A note should be made for your future travels that “take away” or standing at the counter of coffee “bars” is less expensive then partaking at a table in these little hole in the wall spots offering drinks and pastries so if you are looking to sit, be sure to be clear about it when you order. We joined my honey and made our way through the city to instigate our plan of the day. We had done some research prior to the girls arrival and had decided on Gladiator Tours which would provide us entry and overview of the Colosseum, Palatine Hill and the Forum. We expected a lengthy tour so thought it best to have a bite to eat (our new companions had not eaten since lunch on their arrival) and to get bottles of water for our trekking. We stopped for paninis and pizza at Rione Monti near our meeting point outside the Colosseum. Joining our group we made our way to the entry of the arena and all of us were in awe as we walked inside the structure. It was one thing to gaze at it from the outside but to wander the walkways and climb the stairs of this ancient battleground took the experience to higher levels. After listening to the history of the era of Gladiators fighting animals and man fighting against man to the death before the gathered masses of 70,000 spectators, we were simply in awe of the capability to build such a massive arena in a time when cranes and tractors and power tools did not exist. From the suspension of the floor over the underground cages made for man and beast to the retractable roof described and depicted in drawings shown to us by the guide to the remains of box seats and stadium arches, we were simply amazed. We continued on to Palatine Hill and oversight of the remains of the buildings making up the Forum. Our guides knowledge provided us many stories which gave us a vision of this primitive, yet elegant past. We marveled at the beauty, the creativity and the lack of our own knowledge of these iconic representations of the Romans and their impact on present society and government. We all agreed this tour was well worth the 30€ it cost per person to gain some enlightenment about this marvelous past. Storm clouds threatened as our official tour ended but we continued onto the Forum grounds to take in some of the artifacts that were pointed out in our tour.
Capitello near our hotels. The food was great, we wanted the girls to partake, the price was right and we wanted to wrap it up at a decent hour for a good nights rest because our next day was planned to be a long one. We did have a night cap on the stoop outside our hotel to insure good rest and being the generous guy my honey is he shared with the night desk clerk as well as random passers by. 😉
Rising early and being at Termini by 8:30 to take the subway to Vatican City we were on our way to take advantage of reservations I had made when I found I was able to when doing research at home in early January. A side note is to remember to take the Ottoviano stop for the least walking to St. Peter’s square, we got off a stop earlier and it made a difference! We had reservations for an Audience with the Pope. We were all excited by this unbelievable opportunity. Information was hard to come by but everything I read indicated that audiences (only held on Wednesday’s) began at 10:30am. My email confirmation provided information that we could pick up our tickets between 7am-10am at the Bronze Door on the wall outside St Peters Basillica. We asked guards as we approached and were pointed towards our destination. As we approached another guard to insure we were on the right path, he shook his head and said to me “he arrives already” but indicated to stay along the rail. Big screens at the sides and front of the square outside the basilica showed Pope Francis arriving. Soon we could tell that the guard had planted us in the position where the pope would pass directly in front of us. As he did, I felt the rush of the larger than life event we were experiencing. I am not Catholic but the power of this man is felt in our lives regardless of religious affiliation. Following the procession, “Papa” as he was endearingly addressed by many spoke his blessings and advice in Italian and then Priests representing other countries spoke them in other languages. We listened in English to the importance of family and insuring the young are raised in the knowledge of the Lord. It was awe inspiring. I highly recommend reserving tickets. Even though we did not retrieve ours I was able to show my confirmation to the guards which allowed us in to the area. People are allowed up to the capacity point and until the gates are closed so arriving early would give you a possibility of being amongst the crowd as well. The gates open at 7am. This was a totally worthwhile experience.
https://www.theinquisitivescorpionstale.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/img_2503.movWe had reservations for skip the line passes we had reserved via Expedia for the afternoon visit to the. Vatican Museums so we made our way out of the square for some breakfast and some souvenir shopping before taking in the Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel and the interior of St. Peter’s Basilica. Words cannot express the beauty that was presented, or the history represented. I did not distract myself by taking pictures and in many areas they were not allowed. These sights are a must see in person to grasp and then I would advise a guided tour to gather more than you can gazing on your own. The only disappointment we felt was how ill prepared we were to absorb all the Bible stories depicted in the artworks displayed here. None of us would claim to have an all encompassing Bible knowledge but many of the scenes depicted lost some significance because we could not relate to them. That is why in hindsight or on a second visit we would hire a guide not just the escort for getting us past the long lines. Be prepared for crowds as we were told they were light on this day and at many points we all struggled with the claustrophobia of it all! Regardless of this we all were brought to tears; felt shivers run up our spines as we made our way through these sacred halls. Overwhelmed would easily be a way to describe this exposure. Totally worthwhile would be the sentiment larger than that emotion that would bring us back.
Our adventure was not done, we were leaving the following day so we wanted to get everything out of the time we had left. My hubby had checked sports schedules as we planned this trip and found Roma Soccer to be playing at home on this night and so he scored some great seats when the girls agreed a pro sporting event would add to the experience of traveling abroad. We made our way towards the bus stop that would take us to the field and grabbed some dinner at a spot nearby. We purchased our bus tickets easily at a tobacco store and boarded with fans dressed in their cardinal and gold gear. We had fun chatting with a guy from Germany as we rode the bus and made our way to the stadium. We parted ways when we were required to enter the gate designated on our tickets. Making our way in to the stadium we felt the excitement of the fans. We bought beers and peanuts and settled into our premium field side seats. We were entertained by the play as well as the flag waving, fight song singing fans. Roma beat Genoa on this evening adding to the festivity. We made our way out with the crowds to take the bus back to the train. I must share a story of “small world; synchronicity” significance. The four of us had commented how fun it would have been to have the German join us, he was traveling alone and we had hit it off. We were standing in the packed return bus and pulled up to a stop and all of a sudden I heard my honey holler “Hey Germany! Come on, get on!” Sure enough we ran back into the new friend we had made earlier in the evening! It really is a small world! Since he was staying near Termini as well we all made our way that direction to stop for a night cap and reminisce about the game. This was quite a fun evening!
The following morning it was time to be on our way. Rome was a great experience and we thoroughly enjoyed food, wine and the sights. The four of us boarded a train at Termini by buying a ticket at the kiosk for 16.50€ each. A note to remember for all public transportation in Rome is the need to validate before boarding which is easily done adjacent to the track boarding area in the terminal. The ride to Fiumicino Airport where we boarded our flight with Aegean Airlines took about fourty five minutes and gave us our last views of the Italian countryside in spring bloom.
Next up, Athens Greece! Watch for a post soon on our discoveries in the birthplace of democracy!