Friday, October 19, 2012

Rome Day Two; Walking and Phones and Luggage Found

Rome Day Two:

2:00 am -- I woke up and had trouble going back to sleep.  Ah jet lag and the time change!  I thought working nights and an irregular sleep schedule might exempt me from this particular aspect of travel.  Alas not.  

At 5:00 am, when the girls barged into our room, I gave up the ghost. Time to get up.  

We still didn’t have our bags and I only had the clothes on my back (which I'd also slept in).  Had I been smart I would’ve packed at least one outfit in my carry on.  But I wanted space for the really important stuff (camera, phone, computer and books).  My girls, with other priorities, did bring extra clothes.  Smart cookies.  

I showered using bathroom soap as shampoo.  There was a blow dryer in the apartment and we had a hairbrush.  Thus I was able to feel a bit fresher if not totally clean.  My undies went on inside out and I put my clothes back on.  

The boys also got up and the family ventured out.  By this time it was 6:00 am.  It was still dark. But again, the streets were well lit.  The lighting here is hard to describe.  It's not the harsh street lamp you'd find back home.  The lighting here is more artistic; highlighting the shops and buildings.  Something akin to uplighting.  

I highly highly recommend an early morning walk through Rome.  We were the only tourists out (and if you’ve ever visited you’ll know this is rare).  The only other people on the streets were those going to work.  

We wandered by a fabulous bakery near the Pantheon and got, as Middle put it, “the best doughnut I’ve ever had!”  Then we hit the Bar for “due cappuccino per favore.”  Two cappuccinos please, or, as my iphone translator tells me, two white coffees.  

Want to mark yourself as a tourist?  Order a cappuccino in the afternoon. Coffees with milk are only acceptable before 10:00 am.  After that straight espresso is the drink of choice.  Most coffees are ordered at the bar and drunk standing up.  Each cappuccino is a mere 1,20 euros (~ $1.50).  The best deal ever.  And, as Mr. Peculiar pointed out, they still don’t have coffee right in the states; espresso here is simply perfetto!

We were the only people at the Pantheon Piazza.  I can’t even begin to explain how wonderful it is to see these sights minus the crowds.  The Pantheon, itself, was of course closed.  But the building exterior is just as remarkable as the interior.  

After the Pantheon we wandered down to the Jewish Ghetto.  Then we crossed the Tiber River to the Trastavere.  The Trastavere is a fabulous neighborhood.  The residents are typically young, poor and hip.  It was my neighborhood of choice when looking for a place to stay.  Alas we couldn’t find a reservation there this time around.  The last time we were in Rome we stayed at the Maria Rosa Guesthouse.  

From the Trastavere we made our way upriver towards the Vatican.  We stopped and admired the statues on Ponte Sant’ Angelo (a pedestrian bridge covered with statues of Angels).  I couldn’t help but to whisper “Don’t blink.  Don’t turn your back.  Don’t look away).  Those of you who are Doctor Who fans will know just what I’m talking about.  

Our apartment is just down the street from Ponte Sant’ Angelo.  By this time it was 9:00 am and we decided to head home.  

The kids napped and Mr. Peculiar and I went to the laundry mat to call the airport.  After all we still needed to find our luggage.  The airport reported that our bags had arrived and we would be called when it was time for them to be delivered.  

This presented a bit of a problem.  We did not have a working phone.  At the airport I left the apartment manager’s number not knowing what else to do.  After our check-in fiasco this didn’t seem the best game plan.  

We decided to buy a cheap phone and prepaid sim card* -- which we did.  After the phone was purchased we found it would take twelve hours to activate.  Not quite what we were hoping for.  

Ah well.  What were we going to do?  We went back to the apartment to check on the kids.  Mr. Peculiar fell asleep and I stayed up reading.  Suddenly there was a loud buzzing noise in the apartment; the door bell.  

I answered and finally met Honey -- the apartment manager.  We took care of paperwork and the financials.  The airport had called him; our bags were to be delivered between 4:00 and 5:00 pm.  Honey told us he would meet the courier here and bring the bags in.  I think he was feeling guilty for the night before and was doing his best to make reparations.  

I must admit I appreciated the effort.  And watching him work and the effort he made on day two very much made up for transgressions on day one.  He got three phone calls all with different arrival times for our baggage.  He came to our apartment four times.  Not lazy behavior by a long stretch.  

Our bags taken care of we went to lunch, checked out the inside of the Pantheon, meandered by the Trevi Fountain and returned for a second nap.  We were tired.  After that we went to a late dinner.  

All our meals have been eaten outdoors.  The weather has been gorgeous -- upper sixties to low seventies during the day and mid-fifties at night.  And October to boot!  Apparently it rained the day before we arrived.  We've not needed our rain coats once.  

There is nothing like sitting at an outdoor table on a cobblestone street and having scooters zoom past. And when cars drive by?  Tight and scary.  It’s amazing no one has been knocked over.  

That’s the thing about Rome.  Cars, people and cafes all share the same space.  Pedestrians most definitely do NOT have the right of way.  Some of the main streets have lights that allow one to cross with relative ease.  Otherwise it is everyone for him or herself.  To cross you eventually have to step out into traffic and go for it.  

When crossing I grab Little’s hand and when feeling just brave enough (or stupid enough) we sprint; me running and her dragging along behind. Knock on wood we’ve yet to be hit.  

Another note about walking.  It could be easy to get lost in Rome -- there are a lot of alleys and small streets, twists and turns.  I’ve been here once before and also have an innate sense of direction. Thus we haven’t gotten lost (well not much).  But the boys were just at Piazza Navona (which is a couple of blocks from our apartment).  I had to walk them there and meet them later to walk them home.  They weren't sure of which way to go.  

If you are good with directions then wing it.  If not I suggest a map. 

Map or not Rome is best seen on foot.  Renting a car in Rome proper is simply a bad idea.  Driving is insane, roads are permit only and parking is challenging at best.  You will be much better off on foot and/or using public transportation.  

But if you do go on foot be prepared for tired feet.  But that's a story for day three ... 

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*A note on phone usage.  We elected to bring our phones but weren’t planning on using them as we wanted to avoid high roaming fees.  To do this we were going to leave them in airplane mode and then simply use wifi when available (go to settings --> Wi-Fi and turn it on).  

This is all well and good until you need to use the phone.  Unless you sign up for international roaming (at least through AT&T) you will have no service (though you could Skype via Wi-Fi).  

My suggestion is to bring an old and/or jail broken phone and buy a local prepaid sim card.  

I’ve carried my iphone with me all over town.  The truth is I’m addicted to iphonography and have used my phone camera nearly as much (if not more) than my Nikon d7000.  There are many cafes with free Wi-Fi (with purchase of course).  It’s fabulous to stop for an espresso and/or gelato and upload photos.   

And now it's time to hit the streets once again.  


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