Thursday, May 23, 2013

Roaming around Rome...

Bill and I left Florence on the afternoon of May 9th.  Our train was scheduled to depart at about 12:30 pm, but was a few minutes delayed.  Consequently, we had to wait a bit in the train station, which was loud, dirty, and chaotic.  Since we were a little early, Italo's track hadn't been identified.  We put our RedOxx bags down on the dirty floor and Bill went to McDonald's to get sandwiches.  As I stood there waiting for him and the train, I heard the incessant announcements and it occurred to me that it was pretty impossible to hear and understand what the announcers were saying.  The announcements just sounded like incessant squawking, which raised the stress level of waiting in the place.

Our Italo car was fuller on the trip to Rome than it was to Florence.  There was a couple sitting behind us who were American.  They had a very large suitcase that was a challenge to put on the overhead luggage rack.  Bill's polite suggestion to the man sitting behind him that the suitcase would fit better in the storage area between the cars was completely ignored.  I mean, the guy acted like he hadn't even heard Bill speak to him and didn't even acknowledge his presence.  I immediately got the impression that the guy was a major asshole.  When he and his wife got on their cellphone and started having a loud conversation with their son, who was still in the United States, my initial impression was confirmed.  The guy kept asking their son if his "check had come in"; he seemed very preoccupied with the status of this check and asked about it several times in the course of their short conversation.  That was the last I heard from the guy, since I pulled out my new Bose noise canceling headphones.  At the end of our short journey, Bill said that the guy had complained the entire way from Florence to Rome about everything from the boxed lunch he had ordered to the fact that he didn't seem to like Italy.  His poor wife had been trying to placate him the whole time.  I felt really sorry for her.  The man didn't seem like a fun travel companion.

We got off at the Rome Tiburtina station.  Neither Bill nor I had ever been to Rome, so we didn't know a thing about this huge station or where we were supposed to go.  We ended up wandering around for several minutes, trying to find our way to the taxi stand.  Poor Bill's thumb was throbbing and he was being quite the trooper, carrying my big duffel bag.  After we walked through the crowded metro section of the station, we found the taxis and a long haired guy wearing sunglasses took us to the Relais Hotel Orso, another Jetsetter find.

Of all the hotels we stayed at during our trip, the Relais Orso was my least favorite.  It's a stylish new boutique hotel in a very good location in Rome.  However, right next door to the hotel, there is construction going on.  During the daytime hours, there's lots of banging, drilling, and dust.

I had booked us a junior suite, which had sort of a loft look to it.  There were three windows in the room, all of which opened into the elevator shaft.  On the wall, there was a cryptic quote about how we had all become "broken".  I guess it was supposed to be deep, but it seemed kind of pretentious to me.



The bathroom had a rainfall shower, but there wasn't enough water pressure to use all the jets in the shower.  Consequently, the water didn't really come down in streams as much as it blended together.  The toilet and bidet were square shaped, which looked kind of cool.  The bidet took up valuable floor space, but actually came in handy on our last morning when we had run out of toilet paper.  The room came with free WiFi, but I couldn't log on with my iPad; nor could I log on with the iPad that came with the room.  My phone picked up the signal, though.

Anyway, despite the fact that Aunt Flow was unexpectedly still in full force that Thursday afternoon and I was feeling kind of yucky, we decided we had to get out of the room and away from the banging of sledgehammers.  We walked to Vatican City, where we ran into a whole lot of Lamborghinis.  It turned out there was some kind of race going on to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the brand.

A sign about the race...


One of many Lamborghinis we ran into in Rome.  


Vatican City

*Slightly TMI*

I got a kick out of all the touristy religious souvenirs in Vatican City.  I mean, there were pictures of the Pope all over the place.  I would have stopped to purchase a magnet or something, but I was on a mission.  I had run out of maxi pads, thanks to an unexpectedly long visit from Aunt Flow and needed to stop by a pharmacy to pick up some more.  We popped into a little shop on a street just off the main drag through Vatican City and a very kind looking lady sold me some Italian maxis.  My husband paid for and carried them for me, which is a sign that he must love me very much.  I have to say, using those Italian pads was definitely an incentive to pack more American feminine hygiene products next time.



We walked around some more and I looked up and suddenly realized that we were standing outside the Armenian Orthodox church.  I spent two years living in Armenia, so this was a pretty cool thing for me.


I stood there trying to translate, though I never did learn how to read Armenian as well as I could speak it... and I never did speak it very well.  We continued to walk and passed a police station, where there were lots of cops standing around.  A quiet street took us past a church where a homeless looking guy was sitting on the steps drinking beer.  Bill and I watched in amusement as a man passed and yelled something at the guy.  Neither Bill nor I speak Italian, but it looked like he was shaming the street person for drinking in front of the church.  The street person did not seem affected by the shaming.  He casually raised his bottle as if to offer a sip to the guy who had just yelled at him.


Me and my food idiosyncrasies...

We decided to stop for dinner, but it was still somewhat early.  Or maybe we just missed something in the translation.  The upshot is, we ended up having a "snack" at a cafe.  The waiter was a bit pushy and had a tattoo of a spider web on one of his elbows.  He suggested a meat and cheese platter and a bottle of wine.  I don't actually like to eat cold cheese... it's a texture thing.  I can eat mild cheeses that are melted or have been melted but have gone cold (like cold pizza).  But I can't eat a piece of cheese that is just cold.  So I asked for the menu so I could see if there was something on there that wouldn't force Bill to eat a lot of cheese.  The waiter was offended and said, "I'm not dishonest!  It's not expensive!"

I laughed and explained that I don't like to eat a lot of cheese and I wanted to see if he had anything that Bill and I would both like.  It turned out he didn't, so we got the meat and cheese platter.  I must say, it was pretty good...  The wine was especially nice.  Wine always soothes Aunt Flow.


For dinner that night, we stumbled across a German/Austrian restaurant that was very close to our hotel.  I know we were in Italy and who wants to eat German/Austrian food in Italy, right?  But we had been eating a lot of stereotypical Italian food since our arrival and this little restaurant had Scottish and German beers.  So we went in...  Things got off to a good start with the above appetizer, which was sea bass with orange peel and greens.  Our waitress was really young and very cute and there were little teddy bears all over the place, one of which had a German fest hat on its head...

We ordered chateaubriand for dinner, but it came to us in a way we didn't expect...  It looked like slices of beef smothered in hunter's sauce, which is LOADED with mushrooms.  Unfortunately, mushrooms are one of a few foods I cannot eat.  I kind of freaked out.  The waitress was gracious and brought me another serving with just the sauce, minus the mushrooms.  Unfortunately, I was still a little freaked out.  We made it up to her by ordering dessert.  She was careful to tell me there were strawberries on the cheesecake I ordered.  I said that was just fine.  And I did enjoy a lovely beer or two as well.

There was another American couple dining near us and one of them noticed me taking photos.  She offered to take my picture with Bill, but I declined.  People are usually taken aback when I do this, but I actually hate having my picture taken because I hate the way I look in photos.  I think my pictures are best when I'm not in them!  The one exception is when I can take my picture with a web cam, but even those require editing and strategic posing in order not to make me cringe.

This is a photo of one of the ceilings in the Museum of Rome...

The next day, we wandered around Rome and ended up going into many cathedrals.  We also visited the Museum of Rome, which was actually a very interesting place.  Bill loves art and this place was packed with works from artists all over the world.  I even found a couple of works done by an artist from Charleston, South Carolina back in the 1800s.  The museum also had some really beautiful ceilings.  The above photo is one of about a dozen I took of the ceilings in this place... some of which were more interesting than the works on the walls.

More ceilings...

I snuck a photo of this painting...

A ceiling at a cathedral dedicated to Pope John Paul II...

Look carefully at this photo...  There's a guy with his shirt rolled up.  He kept walking around, rubbing his stomach...


I got a kick out of the caricatures that were being done... especially of the one of Prince, who is painted in all his oversexed 80s era glory...



We snuck into this amazing cathedral where I shot yet another rotunda photo...


We went out to lunch on the second day and ended up at a little trattoria close to our hotel.  I enjoyed a fantastic piece of Bolognese style lasagna there.  But when it came time for dessert, I made the unfortunate choice of lemon sorbet.  Actually, I can't say it was unfortunate, since the sorbet tasted good and was very refreshing.  But, it wasn't frozen!  The waiter, a young Asian man wearing braces, told me that there are two kinds of sorbet.  One is like ice cream and the other was like the soupy stuff he served me.  I think that was bullshit, but I didn't complain because it was still cool and tasted good.  Dessert is one of my many vices.  And, I have to hand it to that waiter for his brazen line of bullshit.  He delivered it without a trace of hesitation.


Our hotel offered the use of the Twizy, which is a tiny battery operated "car".  Rome was too scary to attempt driving and parking this thing...

Coffee break



Later, we ended up near the Pantheon, which was teeming with people.  There were street performers there.  My attention was captured by Tibetan monks... or, at least I think that's what they were...


Notice the two guys in orange.  One seems to be balancing the other on a pole.  As I turned away from these two guys, a very tall American man, apparently from the South, said something along the lines of "What in the HELL..."  That made me laugh out loud.


 Ceiling in the Pantheon


   
After taking in the Pantheon, it was time for a beer.  We found an Irish pub.  As we were sitting there, an older Scottish gentleman came in with a pretty blonde on his arm.  It turned out she was just some girl he'd run into and bought a drink.  She ditched him rather suddenly and Bill heard him asking the bartender where the blonde had gone.  Bill felt sorry for him.  He seemed lonely.

Spilled wine...

A couple of hours later, we stopped for dinner at a very touristy restaurant.  I usually try not to eat at the obviously touristy spots, but we were hungry and I desperately needed to pee.  There were two waiters  taking care of the tables outside.  The older one was obviously very experienced and very Italian.  As soon as I put my bag down, he said "The toilets are downstairs."  I thanked him and marveled at his ability to see what I really needed.  The other waiter was a young Filipino man who was very eager to upsell and create a clientele.

We took his suggestion of a dry white wine, which turned out to be very good for what we were eating.  I had chicken, but I don't remember what Bill had.  Anyway, there was a British couple sitting behind us and a third waiter who seemed to be running food, accidentally dumped half a bottle of wine all over the guy sitting there.  Suddenly, there was a scene being made...  The waiter had charged the couple for the bottle of wine, half of which they had ended up wearing, thanks to the clumsy waiter.  The male half of the couple seemed embarrassed and just wanted to GTFO of there, but the woman he was with was very irate.  She said, "Apologies are nice, but you just wasted our wine!"  The incident went on for a few uncomfortable moments and I tried to tune out because it reminded me of my days waiting tables.

When I got up to pee again, the older Italian guy gave me a look and laughed when I explained that water and wine does a number on my kidneys.  By the time I got back, the British couple had left.  We ordered dessert and our waiter came out and apologized that we had to witness that incident, explaining that his colleague was drunk and that was why he had spilled the wine.  I didn't need to hear that and, in fact, know that spilling wine is entirely possible even when a person is stone cold sober.  That kind of shit happens when you wait tables.  I told him that I completely understood and it wasn't a problem for us.  He brought us a round of prosecco, which made the older Italian waiter shake his head in amusement.  He recognized us as tourists who wouldn't be back again anytime soon.  I appreciated the Filipino waiter's enthusiasm, though, even if he did throw his colleague under the bus.




















Mmm...

The next day was the big day.... May 11th, the day we would once again board SeaDream I!  Stay tuned!

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