Friday, June 1, 2012

Rome, Day 1

Here it is...Our roman adventure.
To get from Paris to Rome, Andy and I took a night train so we could sleep through the 7 hour trip. Each little train compartment had three beds on each side so 6 people could sleep in there at once. It was so weird sharing such close sleeping space with a middle-aged italian man and two chinese exchange students who didn't speak very much english. I was a bit leery of the italian fellow, but he helped Andy and I convert our seats to beds and gave us some delicious bottled water. I read "Jane Eyre" while Andy indulged in "The Count of Monte Cristo" until we were ready to go to sleep. You don't change into pajamas, so it was nice that we had actually forseen that and wore functional and comfortable clothing. We dug our handy travel toothbrushes out of our bags and crammed ourselves into a very tiny (think airplaine size) bathroom in an attempt to be a tiny bit hygenic on this crazy train ride. And because this adventure is an Andy and Alianna classic, something weird happened in the middle of the night. Our train compartment was pitch black--door locked, windows drawn, lights off. Everyone was fast asleep, no one even fazed by sleeping next to strangers because this is apparently the way things are done. All of a sudden there was this loud, frenzied pounding on the door. We turn the light on and we are so disoriented. No one can quite sit up all the way because there is another bed 18 inches above you. We unlocked the door because the banging and pounding was caused by a group of Italian policemen. Andy and I don't understand the language so I'm still pretty unclear of what happened that night, but we all had to show our paperwork (train tickets, passports) and they asked us if we were travelling with a group of people. They even searched the middle-aged italian man's luggage and had some words with him outside of the compartment and then....left. I wanted to ask what the heck just happened, but considering I was still waking up (this all took place in under 4 minutes) and the only person who could communicate with these policemen was stripped searched, I fell back asleep in no time with absolutely no consideration that we may or may not have been sleeping next to a drug dealer or escaped convict. Sadly, I have no pictures to document this bizzare train ride. We arrived in Rome and were immediately sent on a wild goose chase to find our hotel room. What I didn't realize when I reserved it online was that it was just a room (with a bathroom) in an apartment building. So it was completely unmarked and only under the name of the owner (which we didn't know). I had a printed paper with a hotel name and address. We found the address with no problems. We even ventured to walk the mile or so from the train station to the address instead of wasting our time learn the metro system immediately and then be crammed into yet another train compartment. We arrived at the address and it looked like a plain residential apartment building with names next to buzzers and a locked door. We read through those names over and over again, trying to find the hotel name I had on my paper. We finally resorted to buzzing every single name and trying our best to communicate what we were looking for. Luckily, about 3 tries into this seemingly hopeless venture, a man buzzed us into the building (he must have been expecting someone) and we walked up to his apartment and knocked on his door. He was some young hip italian artist with crazy cool furniture and modern, picasso-like paintings everywhere. And he spoke a little english! We explained what was going on and he pulled out his cell phone and called the bazillion digit phone number I had written on the paper. He got a hold of the woman I reserved the room from and she came right over, gave us a key to the room and proceeded to tell us that breakfast was served every morning at her "actual hotel" a few streets over (finding THAT was a whole new adventure). This whole conversation took place with her speaking italian, Andy trying to communicated with spanish (thank goodness the languages have some similar words or else we would have never survived), and me nodding like a bobblehead. We had a great view of the city from our window though!
Okay, pictures.
The Colosseum was so amazing. It was huge and ancient an not overrated at all. It was really inspiring to be at one of the 7 wonders of the wold with such a history. I wish I had more to say, but there are no words. It was so weird walking around, sitting at, and standing in such a historic arena. I mean the Eiffel Tower was so great and the Tower of London was one of my favorites, but the Colosseum surprassed everything we saw in age and structure. To think that such a massive structure could withstand the people, the weather, the uprisings and war that have happened through the centuries was almost mind-boggling to consider. I mean it's almost 2000 years old!
After the Colosseum we went to the Roman Museum of Art which housed some pretty incredible pieces. It was free and huge and air conditioned so there were a lot of pluses to walking around for a couple hours. After that we walked around that corner of Rome for a few more hours and scoured for food (which ended up being delicious gnocchi in tomato sauce).We stumbled upon this architectural park filled with ruins of what used to be the government building of the roman empire. I'm sure it's a significant place with a name that every body else knows, but I just can't think of it at the moment.
We tackled the Pantheon, the shopping district, our first taste of gelato and the Trevi fountain on day two (coming soon!).