How does one begin telling stories from a 48 hour journey with two Jacobers?
Let’s start with getting to Rome from Valencia. Surprisingly enough, it was so smooth…not one kink…it scared Heidi and I. We just kept thinking…what is going to go wrong?
HA! We found out at the end of the trip…
Hokay. We left Valencia in the morning. The strange thing was that I didn’t have to take off my shoes, take out my liquids, etc. When I’m traveling in the US I get so annoyed because security takes so long. Just from Valencia to Rome and back has made me really appreciate the security that the US enforces. I’m an American and not a European citizen so I had to get my Visa checked and stamped saying that I was good to go.
The way out of Spain was easy-peezy-lemon-squeezy. The Rome Ciampino airport is a tiny little thing. Oddly, when we got off the plane we just walked right out to the bus. There was no security, no customs, nothing. (Refer back to my praise of the security in the US)
We hop on a bus and walk to the hostel. We were told we would get a map at the train station, but we were lied to. As we were walking to where we thought we were supposed to go, I walked into a Best Western (that’s right…a best western) and acted like a guest. I found a map, looked at it for a second, then discretely walked away. Thank you Best Western!
We make it to the Mosaic Hostel and the lady was extremely helpful. She told us that we had better go see the Vatican or we would miss it on Sunday. We needed food desperately so we went down the street to a pizzeria. We sit down and we’re so excited for our first Italian pizza! The waitress comes by and says, “no pizza today. Only kitchen.” Excuse me?!
We take the walk of shame out of the so-called “pizzeria” to another down the road. It was called ReBasilico and turned out to be fantastic! We figured that out later that night because we weren’t being served. We moved on to a third location, which was a sketchy, cheap pizza joint. It did the job. We just needed food or we might have died.
Heidi and I hopped onto the metro to see the Vatican! This part of the story is when one should ask, “what can an American and a Brit get themselves into?” I have the answer! I talk our way into getting a student ticket, which was half the price, without having an ID. One has to know who to ask…I chose the girl who was busy talking on her personal phone. Muahaha.
I will have to explain something…we were trying to do Rome in the cheapest way because we both aren’t made of money. That means that we will be buying a book about Rome to read about all of the things that we saw in those 2 days without any kind of tour guide.
The dress code is strict at the Vatican so we went and changed in the bathroom at the museum. We almost got lost just trying to find the bathroom…we literally had to go left, down the stairs, left again, down another staircase, one more left, and then do the Macarena. After going back through the maze we end up outside in a kind of plaza (I will apologize now for my complete lack of knowledge of what I saw that day at the Vatican museum). There was a large pine cone statue (no joke) and a large revolving gold ball. Tour groups were everywhere, so we hop behind one group and enter the museum. Long story short: after being herded through the incredibly crowded hallways of the museum we made it to the Sistine chapel!
I’m going to be honest with you. I would like to say that I’m an educated person, not the most cultured, but knowledgeable. When we finally made it to the Sistine chapel I had to ask if were there! I was always under the impression that it was a dome! Not an incredibly large room, painted from floor to ceiling. It was one of the most unbelievable things I have ever seen. BUT it was ruined by the hundreds of people and the security guards saying, “SHHH” into a microphone and yelling at people who were taking pictures. It was hard to sit there and soak everything in while men were speaking in angry Italian and broken English saying, “SILENCE PLEASE.” Really?
That was the beginning of my what-would-the-people-of-ancient-times-think moments. Back to the shenanigans…as were leaving the Sistine there were two exits. One had a lot of people leaving through it and the other had no one. Obviously I pick the one with no one in it because it would be quicker. Turns out it was the exit for “Authorized tour groups only.” Whoops! I figured that out after I was walking through a tunnel wondering where in the world I was going. Normally, one leaves the Vatican museum then walks outside and alllll the way around to St. Peter’s square. Well, if one takes the unauthorized exit and acts like she is with a group then she just walks through a tunnel and BAM! The Basilica!
Not only did we take the wrong exit but we were so confused we weren’t sure we made it to the Basilica. We also thought it cost to get into so we thought we were really trying our luck! It was another beautiful place that was so detailed, like the Sistine chapel, that I think you would have to stay in there for days to really see the artwork in every inch. After a bit of time in the Basilica we nearly run out because we thought we were going to get into trouble.
We walk outside to make it back to the metro and it turns out we just missed the mass that blessed all of the Harley Davidson riders! There were motorcycles everywhere! It was one of the most humorous things to see a large group of riders next to a bus full of nuns. Hysterical.
After making it back to the hostel, we had dinner with one of our roommates and had a great time watching the Holiday with other cool people. Hostels are such a cool place because you never know who you are going to meet.
The next day was the day that we conquered all of Rome. No joke. We might have set a record for the amount of things we saw in a matter of hours. I managed to wake up with a somewhat broken thumb. Ok…it wasn’t exactly broken but I could not use it at all. My hand looked like a catcher’s mit. I jammed it the Monday before and I must have done something to make it worse on Saturday. Have you ever tried traveling without using your thumb on your dominant hand? I would not recommend it. I’m still not sure what happened and it continues to hurt, but at least there is movement more and more each day. The bruising continues to get worse…
Our first stop was a church with a famous sculpture called the Extasis de Santa Teresa. Heidi wanted to see it because it was in the movie Angels and Demons. It really was an extraordinary sight. From there we went to the Spanish steps. I hope I don’t offend anyone but…they were really just a thing of big steps with a nice fountain at the bottom. Everything might have been different if I was there with a significant other, in a romantic city…but I wasn’t. From the steps we went to the Trevi Fountain. It was HUGE! There again were hundreds of people and someone trying to sell you something every two feet. I wish I could have made everyone leave to enjoy the fountain alone.
From Trevi we were on our way to the Pantheon but got a little lost. We found another magnificent church and stumbled upon a gigantic white, marble building that I cannot think of the name right now. By then we were powering down and we had to make it to the colosseum. We decided to skip the Pantheon and go to the Colosseum. I wanted to see something behind the large white building and after walking through an alley, I stumbled upon the top of the Roman Forum! Not kidding! I found a spot that could see the whole thing. It was soooo cool! We were thinking about going through it after the Colosseum but there wasn’t a thing of shade down there and we wouldn’t know what we were looking at.
We kept heading toward the Colosseum and eventually made our way in. By far, it was my favorite place in Rome. I honestly think it was because no street vendors were allowed inside so I could walk around without being asked to buy a hat or a keychain. We stayed in there for a while because there was so much to soak in. At the end of that we were nearly dragging each other to the metro because it was so freaking hot and we hadn’t eaten since breakfast.
Pizza from our favorite place saved us and gave us enough energy to go for round two. We wanted to see the steps and Trevi at night because we thought maybe it would change our minds. From the hostel we went to the Pantheon and the four rivers fountain. Both were cool but once again completely ruined by all of the people and vendors. One vendor was literally on the Pantheon’s doorstep. I sat there shaking my head wondering what the people who built these miraculous monuments would be thinking. How can we commercialize such brilliant pieces of work that were not built to make a dollar off a I Love Rome keychain that was made in China!?
My bitterness did not ruin the experience because standing in front of something so extraordinary cannot put you in a bad mood. We went back to the fountain and had some gelato, which was delicious, and waited on the sun to go down and for the lights to come on. The fountain is gorgeous at all times, so it was nice to see it at night. But I will tell you…the Spanish steps were still a big thing of steps with the street lights on.
We went back to the hostel and grabbed some food that my sister recommended and made some more friends. We had to catch an early flight, that turned out to be the most entertaining part of the journey…
Our bus to the airport left at 4:30am. The lines for everything at the airport were absolutely ridiculous! I had to wait in line just to get my ticket stamped, while everyone else was there to get their luggage checked. Why would they not have separate lines? From there I moved onto another huge line at security, which went fast since no one had to take their shoes off and take their liquids out.
I made it just in time to sit and wait for the plane to be delayed because everyone else was delayed. It started with a flight to Paris. One lady didn’t get her ticket stamped so she ran out of line and missed the flight, along with her friend who waited on her. At this airport a bus took you to your plane. Well after the ladies were asking what they should do a group of 14 people from India show up saying that were waiting in the wrong line. I watched the service lady call for someone to come pick up the 2 ladies, but yet she told the group of 14 that they missed their flight, which put all of them into hysterics. Did this lady just like to mess with people? After many tears and angry words, a bus shows up and brings them to their plane.
Well it wasn’t our turn yet because another flight was then delayed so they had to go before us. A man didn’t have his ticket stamped so he flipped out in angry Italian. Another man showed up and did the same and even threw some stuff around. But then the main event showed up. A hefty (not being rude, just trying to give everyone a mental image of this event), African woman shows up without her ticket stamped. She flipped the hell out. And I mean it. Two others showed up after her but had all of the correct things so they let them through. The service people continued to tell the lady that she wasn’t allowed on because her visa wasn’t checked.
She was yelling so loud everyone in the airport could hear her. When they opened the door to let the other people through she made a break for it. They stopped her before she could get on the bus that contained everyone else. She was screaming and crying and probably not saying anything nice about anyone’s mother. This little blonde service lady was trying to get her away from the bus so it could leave. The lady then held onto the bus door and the driver’s arm. That’s right. She strapped herself to the bus with her own arms. She was not allowing anyone to get on the plane without her. Finally security strolls in (by that I mean they casually walked in like they were in slow motion) and one takes care of the screaming Italian guy and the other goes out to the lady. They take her bag away thinking that would make her move. It didn’t. Another bus shows up to take the passengers to the plane.
Well, the lady saw the opportunity and made another break for it. The police chased after her but then we were obstructed by the bus. We heard a lot of shouting and screaming. As the bus pulled away we saw her lying on the ground with police officers. When we thought the fight was over she started to kick the police officers and was finally handcuffed. Curtain please.
How’s that for morning entertainment? This should be a lesson of what not to do when you’re not allowed to board…
Needless to say, I made it back to Valencia and took a long, needed nap. Traveling around is making me appreciate things in life more and more. I feel as if everyone should travel around just to understand what you really have. It’s a great experience to know how blessed I really am to have what I have, live in a great country, and to be able to have the opportunity to see the world.