Friday, July 29, 2011

when in rome..

2 july 2011

we took advantage of the luxury and slept in.. around 10h, we woke up and semi-dressed. our breakfast window closed at 11h, so we went down and had our “italian breakfast” – a pastry and a hot drink. we came back to the room to get ready, starting our day of touring around 13h. we headed to the nearby “ancient rome” section of the city. the colosseum was only 10 minutes away on foot! we stopped by to evaluate the line and take a few pictures. since it was super long, we walked around once and then went down the street to one of the b&b guy’s restaurant recommendations – and true to his word, it was delicious. after our late lunch, we made our way back to ancient rome, opting to visit the roman forum and paladine first. it was really incrediblew to walk around the same streets and paths as the ancient romans – including emperors like nero and augustus – literally the stuff of legends. i especially enjoyed the panormaic views from the hilltop garden. we decided to round out the ancient day by heading back to the colosseum.. with our forum ticket, we got to skip the lines.. so we pretty much walked straight in. that is one impressive structure. it was really almost surreal to actually be there.. i’m so easily excited by historical or literary significance! i really liked walking around all the different levels and trying to recreate it in my mind. we went back to the flat for a while afterwards and then walked to a great pizza place near the train station for dinner. one of the waiters asked us out for drinks, which we politely declined. haha! we got gelato on the way home (of course), and then stayed up talking and hanging out until midnight or so.

3 july 2011

a lovely roman day. :) we got breakfast around 10h30 and then i took a shower. we headed out around noon, planning on getting some picnic fare and going to the park. we took the metro for the first time, which was average. it started out very impressive, but got more annoyinga s teh trip progressed. we got our food at a grocery store adn made our way up to the roman version of central park, aclled villa borghese. we came out of the metro at a totally randomplace, so we were pretty underwhelmed and confused at first.. but we soon came upon the real park adn we were quickly impressed! the park is enormous and so beautiful. we ate our lunch adn then lounged on the grass for a while, reading and napping. around 15h30, we got up and walked around for a bit, eventually finding a sweet rowboat pond with sooo many turtles! it was only 3 euro per person for 20 minutes, so we took a boat out and paddles around, goofing off and having a blast. we considered going to the museum of modern art nearby, but it was 8 euro.... so we checked out the free, temporary exhibits outside. the a’c units blasting cold air were myfavourite part. after all the park fun, we made our way to the down-town area – piazza del popolo, piazza della pagna, the spanish steps, and some very croded streets. we did a little shopping before going to check out the trevi fountain, which is indeed mindblowingly detailed and impressive. it was also ridiculously crowded. we snapped a few photos and then escaped to calmer streets. the next few hours, we just wandered around, stopping to see the piazza de venizia, the vittorino, the pantheon, have a great dinner at a routard-recommended place, and then end up at teh piazza de novalo. we saw a breakdancer who had more abs than we knew existed. he asked if we wanted “to party tonight”, which we found highly amusing. guess he noticed us staring... whoops. we made our way back to the flat on foot, which was great because we got to see all the ruins all lit up at night. the colosseum and forum were especially awesome! :)

4 july 2011

independence day, italian style. i slept until about 9h and woke up randomly. since i couldn’t really fall back asleep, i sent out some CS requests for paris. i woke rachel up around 10h30 and we went down to our breakfast bar for our tea and pastry. mine was super chocolatey! after breakfast, we came back adn got ready for the day. we left around 12h and walked dwon tot he metro. our first goal was to check out the line situation at the vatican. during the walk from the metro to the entrance, we were offered tours by probably 30 different people. i talked to one guy for about 3 minutes, and that seems like the most frustrating job ever! people just ignore you, all day long. or worse, they get irritated or aggressive at you. yuck. we finally got to st. peter’s square and soaked up the atmosphere for a few minutes before getting in line. there are two separate entrances.. one tot eh plaza/basilica and one to the museum, on the opposite side of the “country”. we opted to just visit the basilica on that day, so as to more evenly distribute the time spent waiting in lines. it actually went super fast though.. 20 minutes from the back of the line to the door! we even went through “border control” – aka airport security sensors. the basilica itself is just amazing.. the amount of detail, decoration, and just general opulence was incomprehensible. the best part of it by FAR was seeing the ‘pieta’ in person.. literally a dream come true. i stood and stared at it for a long time before finally breaking away. we popped by the vatican post office to buy stamps and a couple postcards. once those were sent off, we meandered around for a bit, sort of looking for food but also sort of wandering. we eventually found a trattoria and sat down to eat. the bill was, as usual, 20 euro. i don’t know how we kept doing that, but it’s easy to split! my spaghetti carbonara was good but super heavy. after lunch, we went to a botanical garden where i promptly laid down on a bench and took a nap while rachel read. once i finally woke up, we walked around the park for a while. on our way out, the guard at the little ticket office signaled to us and handed us two big books about ecosystems and forest fires. we were super confused (and amused!), but ended up giving them back because i didn’t want to carry them around all day. the objective for the afternoon was just to explore the neighborhood, so we wandered the streets, checking out bookshops and eating gelato. around 19h, we stopped to check out a bar i’d found online called the ‘cafĂ© friends’. once we finally figured out what ‘happy hour’ entailed, we ended up having dinner AND drinks for 8 euro each! we got to get little nibblies from a rockin’ buffet – two little plates each (with seconds!). plus, my drink was great. so that was a big win. after ‘dinner’, we got to pretend to be glamorous at a film festival on the isola tiberna. we lounged on some beanbags at this swanky riverside bar thing and drank sodas. ballin’. we started the slow journey home around 22h and came back to watch flight of the conchords on rachel’s computer until bed. :)

5 july 2011

last full day in rome! we got up and had our breakfast at the bar down the street. after our pastries, we came back to get ready, leaving around 13h. we took the metro up to the vatican again and stopped by a little market to buy some picnic stuff. after dodging all the pesky tour guides, we had a lovely picnic in st. peter’s square. it was pretty crowded, but we got a good spot right in the middle of the plaza. after lunch, we walked over to the entrance to the vatican museums. usually, there is a wicked long wait – and as it was 15h on a weekday in the summer, i expected the worst. but when we rounded the corner to the entrance plaza, there was literally not a person in line. so much for all those guides saying that their tours helped you skip the insufferable lines! we walked straight through security and were only a few people back in the ticket line. plus, with our international student ID cards, the price was only 8 euro. not bad at all. the rough part came later, when we were herded like sheep through the stuffy, airless corridors. i still enjoyed it so much, though.. nearly all of my favourite renaissance paintings and sculptures are there – especially the school of athens by raphael in the room of the signature. i saw so many of the works we had studied in my art history class in angers. the greatest part, of course, was the sistene chapel. how michelangelo laid on his back on scaffolding (of his own design) and painted that masterpiece will never cease to amaze me. it was just incredible. after the tour, we sat in the courtyard, soaking up the sun and trying to decide where to go next. we opted to make one final big walk across the city, so we set out to walk by the castle st. angelo (of angels and demons fame), across the bridge, and all the way back to the hotel. it took about an hour, but it was a great way to say goodbye to the city. when we got back, we laid down for about an hour, until we got hungry. dinner was just down the street at a restaurant with a 9 euro menu! i had lasagna, roast chicken, and salad. nice. it was a lovely final meal in italy.. a ‘last supper’ if you will. :) the hotel manager had recommended a gelato place nearby, so we walked around for a while before getting our last italian gelatos. :( the place was enormous, and PACKED.. obviously very popular. we went all out for the final go, getting the large ‘three scoop’ cones – i had some funky flavours too; rice, mandarin, and nutella. my final flavour count was 25! here they are; strawberry, lemon, kiwi, biscotti, mango, papaya, cherry, chocolate, cookies, tiramisu, apple, peach, raspberry, pineapple, apricot, wild berry, chocolate chip, strawberries&cream, strawberry yogurt, blackberry, pear, vanilla, mandarin, nutella, rice. NOMS. we packed up 95% of the way and got ready for a verrrry early morning..

6 july 2011 – italy

since our flight was at 9h, we had to leave the b&b at 6h to catch the bus to the airport at 6h30. all went well, and we jumped through all the necessary hoops to get on our flight. and as we took off, another very wonderful, delicious, enriching, and inspirational chapter of my adventure drew to a close.

**for pictures from this post, see the facebook album!*

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