Sunday, October 9, 2005

Euro Trip - Day#1; traveling

Flight from Austin to Chicago wasn’t too bad! Jen kept busy playing on the PSP, while Dustin slept. In the bathroom in the Chicago airport the toilet seats were covered in plastic liners. You wave your hand, and a new liner covers the seat! Wonder if that says something about the people in Chicago?!

Flight from Chicago to Rome was LONG! 9 hours. Dustin was glued to the PSP. The lady next to Jen had her shoes off and it smelled. The meals (dinner and breakfast) were actually pretty good.

We arrived at the Rome airport 45 minutes early at 7am. We had to wait 20-30 minutes to go through customs and another 20-30 minutes to get our luggage. Outside the airport terminal is where we got on the “Leonardo Express” to the Rome Termini station. Since our luggage was so huge and heavy we took up 4 seats for the two of us. Then as the train was leaving two random Italian women started talking to us (in Italian) and pointing to our bags….so Dustin put our bags in the walkway (now completely blocked by our luggage) and away we went. Later we found out there were actually luggage racks to store your luggage on the opposite side of the car we were on.

When we arrived at Termini it was quite a walk to just get out of the station! We had written directions from the hotel on how to reach it from the train station. We quickly found out that street names are not as clearly labeled in Italy than in the USA. After a while we found the street names engraved on the buildings that were street corners. Most of the stores were closed as it was Sunday morning about 10am. We actually walked past our hotel; the names are not labeled very well. The lobby of the hotel was very tiny. We hauled our stuff up one flight of stairs to get to the lobby. Check in time wasn’t until 2pm, and it was 10am. So the hotel let us leave our luggage while we went out exploring. They even gave us a city map. We just decided to start walking with no particular destination in mind.

We ran in the “piazza della Repubblica:” with a beautiful fountain in the center of the street. Behind the fountain was a church called “Santa Maria degril Angeli”. It was designed and built by Michael Angelo. Since today was Sunday, they actually had some sort of mass going on. We were amazed at the painting on the walls and ceilings. There was a huge organ, and a zodiac calendar on the floor (two holes in the wall that allows the sun to shine in on the calendar to tell the correct day…pretty cool). Next we headed down the street a bit to a museum that had a bunch of restored roman statues. The floor below the museum looked to be excavated, but they wouldn’t let us down to take a look.

We started walking down random streets and found a huge horse statue in a park. Turns out it was “Giardini del Quirinale”. Jen wanted to chill on a bench but they were all wet (we think it rained the night before we arrived and most of the park was in the shade). We continued down the road and found the “Quirinale”. It was ope to the public today, and cost us 5 euros each to get it. They had an orchestra doing a concert, and this huge mansion with a courtyard had all the rooms open for exploring. They wouldn’t allow pictures, and there were guards everywhere. There were over 16 rooms in this building…each one had a different purpose. Most of them were for the wife of Napoleon. There were beautiful chandeliers, rugs hanging from the wall with detailed religious designs, and of course some very old furniture!

When we left, we followed a tour group out of the courtyard. They lead us straight to Trevi Fountain, by far the most beautiful fountain ever. The place was packed with tourist, throwing a coin over your shoulder into the fountain was suppose to represent your promise to return to Rome again….of course we took our turn tossing in a coin.

By this time we were getting hungry! We passed a good smelling pizzeria and stopped. Jen got a slice of tomato and cheese, and Dustin had ham and cheese (no pizza sauce?)…our first Italian experience. Of course we got some gelato for the rest of our journey.

We followed the road through some souvenir shops and street vendors. He only thing we bought was a Rome 2006 calendar. By this time it was almost 2pm and we were absolutely exhausted (we had been up over 24 hours). We decided to start heading towards our hotel…and stumbled across this huge building…it looked like Caesar’s Place in Las Vegas. Our map called it “Monumento a Vittorio Emanuele II”. We sat in the shade for a break and could see the Colosseum! We headed back to the hotel.

Our room was ready, we were on the 2nd floor at Hotel Lirico. We had to take the elevator up one floor. The elevator was so small; it barely fit us both with two suitcases. Dustin was surprised how small the room was…probably the same size as a cruise ship stateroom. The shower is tiny. We found one electrical outlet and Dustin immediately plugged in the PSP to recharge. We unpacked a bit and took a 4 hour nap!

When we woke we asked the hotel for a good place to eat dinner. They recommended El Barocco”. A family owned Italian place. Dustin had spinach gnocci’s and tiramisu. Jen had spaghetti and strawberry gelato. We headed back to the hotel, watched some Italian TV (some funny comedy sitcom, we didn’t understand the words but figured it out by gestures) and just chilled.

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