Monday, February 15, 2010

Ciao Bella!

I'm back from Rome! (And yes, doing whatever I can to put off the immense pile of homework I have lurking on my to-do list...) How was Rome, you ask? Well, let me take you from the beginning...

It was 10 o clock and we had just gotten back from getting kebabs. And no, I don't mean shishkebabs... just regular old lebanese kebabs and we all thought they were delicious. Our stomachs were full, we were all clean and showered, and so before we knew it the time had come to leave for the airport. Given that our flight departed at 6AM that next morning, we weren't planning on leaving for the airport until about 2:30 AM, however, one of our professors informed us that Stansted airport can be extremely unreliable and that it would be best to get there as early as possible. Plus, the tube closes at midnight. So, we left at 10pm and got all settled in at the airport by midnight. We sang the Harry Potter puppet pals song on the Stansted Express and all got a little delirious in the airport with no sleep whatsoever (this may come as a shock, but its not the easiest to fall asleep on freezing hard tile in the middle of an airport without a pillow), but lo and behold we finally made it onto our airplane to Rome. I have to be honest, the flight over to Rome was one of the worst flying experiences I've had and I don't think I'll be flying via RyanAir again. I was so exhausted and so excited to sleep on the plane... so when I got all settled in my window seat and they turned the lights off, it felt like heaven. Unfortunately, this lasted for about five minutes before I was dropped down to hell. They turned all of the lights on and RyanAir does this loud intercom system with recordings advertising all sorts of food and giveaway prizes. At one point I remember hearing a really loud telephone ringing in one of the recordings that was extremely obnoxious. It felt like a cruise line where they had to try to keep us entertained and fed! In short, it was horrible, and the seats didnt recline and my legs were cramped into a very small space. I am very grateful for the wonderful planes I ride in back home now... Delta, I miss and love you.

leaving Queensway tube station!
Hogwarts---er, I mean Stansted--Express
Caitlin and I on the plane before taking off for Rome!

Luckily, our flight landed about 2 and a half hours later in Rome! After getting off the plane and purchasing our 3 day metro passes, we caught a bus that took us to the Trevi Fountain and our hotel. Our hotel was called the Hotel Trevi and it was literally right next to the Trevi Fountain. I loved it. We made wishes in the Trevi Fountain and then we went to our first Italian restaurant. I got the classic spaghetti and it was so delicious! It was definitely the best spaghetti sauce I had ever had... so much flavor! Mmm delicious! Afterwards, we got gelato and did a little bit of shopping at the Via Del Corso which is basically the Oxford Street of Rome. It took us up to the Piazza del Popolo where there was some really big horse show going on. It was kinda weird... So we took pictures, got bombarded by tons of little men trying to sell roses, I climbed on top of a statue, and then we headed on to the Spanish Steps. The Spanish Steps were really pretty cause everything was lit up because it was night time. At the bottom, there were carnival street performers (which we had actually been seeing everywhere) providing entertainment for the people. It was such a great atmosphere and it really made you want to "be Italian!" which is probably why we spoke in Italian accents half the time. At the top of the steps we made our way into the massive chapel at the top which was some sort of French Catholic sect. I walked in for a little bit to listen to the service and the songs being sung in Latin. It was cool, but I preferred being outside and looking out on the beautiful city. Here in Europe, I have been able to see tons of different religions and cathedrals, and I am so grateful for the opportunity to do so--not only because it has helped me widen my horizons in terms of world religions, but because it has helped me to become even more grateful for my own religion and it has really strengthened my testimony that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is the only true church on the face of the earth.
Even though these men may look really cool, do not be a dumb tourist like me and take pictures with them. They will be scary and demand three euros from you.
Spanish Steps
When it got a little later, we followed Caitlin's directions and found this cute little Italian restaurant called, "La Bruschetta." It was so delicious! I got a Margherita pizza and I loved it! Our waiter there was a man named Bonafacce and he was so friendly and he absolutely LOVED us... he kept on saying how women are so amazing and how they are smart while men are just simply stupid. From the moment I heard him say all that, I knew I would love him... and I did, even though he charged us for each slice of bread that we ate. But hey, that's Italia. After dinner we made our way back to the hotel since we were absolutely exhausted (I can say thank you to Diet Coke for keeping me awake for as long as I was) and on the way we got some more gelato and it was so so so yummy and helped me sleep that much better...not that falling asleep that night was difficult in any way shape or form... I knocked out, eager to be energized for the next day.

The next morning we woke up at 7AM to get ready and have breakfast. Our hotel provided breakfast for us which was wonderful and it was on the top floor with a nice window to look out through. Unfortunately, however, what we saw when we looked out the window was rain (we thought Rome would have been a nice escape from the classic London rain). But, we dealt with it and headed off to Vatican City. We walked out into St. Peter's Square and then made our way to St. Peter's Basilica. It took me a while to realize that the St. Peter that the Catholics exalted was Peter the Apostle. I felt so dumb for not realizing this instantly, but when I found out who it was I was so happy that I had taken my New Testament class last semester so that I was able to know some of the background for why the Catholics stress such importance on Peter. The basilica was very beautiful and there were statues of popes everywhere. The most interesting thing to me was the golden throne at the far end of the basilica, which Emma told me is where the Catholics believe Christ will return to sit at the Second Coming. After the basilica we went to the Sistine Chapel, and unfortunately on our walk there it started pouring snowing!! Now, this wasn't any regular snow, it was coming down at the speed that pouring rain comes down at. As we were in line for the museum that leads into the Sistine Chapel, I had to shake off my umbrella every so often because it would get so heavy from the snow that piled on top of it! Luckily, Jenny stayed positive and entertained me by playing 20 questions and after we all developed completely frozen feet, we arrived into the warmth of the museum. We got to see loads of paintings and tapestries, but the highlight was the Sistine Chapel. I loved seeing Michaelangelo's famous painting of God and Adam reaching towards each other. Definitely very cool. Well, since we had lost some members of our group, we decided to wait in the Sistine Chapel on a bench for them to catch up to us... which, inevitably caused us to fall asleep. After what was probably a half hour or so, we woke up, headed to the exit, and found Jenny. We never found Jake... we looked for a while, but we eventually got hungry so we left and got the most amazing pizza sandwiches I have ever had in my life! (By pizza sandwiches I mean a large square piece of pizza that they fold in half.)
Breakfast at the hotel
St. Peter's Square
awkward picture of me in the Basilica
stupid stupid snow.
pizza sandwiches! yum!
After lunch, we traveled on over to the Pantheon which was amazing. It was massive and it was just so cool to see a building that had been standing for such a long time. We went inside and I saw the tomb of the artist Raphael and from the circle at the top of the Pantheon rain fell inside! We had all been wondering what happens when it rains... if the Pantheon floods or not, and we were able to find out for ourselves that the rain does indeed fall down inside the Pantheon, however, there is a roped off section for the water to fall onto, and people brush the water away every so often. After the Pantheon, we got some delicious gelato and then freezing, we made our way back to the hotel to meet up with the lost Jake. After warming up, we went back out for dinner at this restaurant that was supposed to be truly authentic Roman food. It took us about an hour to get there due to some confusion with the map, however, before long we made it to the restaurant after randomly running into Circus Maximus (where the Roman's had chariot races and such... kind of a sports track). The restaurant we ate at had a very Italian atmosphere, however, the food selection was limited and our waiter was very unfriendly. Regardless, I really enjoyed the pasta I ordered and afterwards I got the best gelato I had eaten in my entire experience in Rome. Exhausted, we walked back to the Hotel Trevi and fell asleep in preparation for our final day in Rome.
Saturday we woke up and checked out of our hotel. We had a much more relaxed day with less on our itinerary, so we were able to look at a lot of shops and take more time to see everything around us. We went to the Colloseum first and took a tour so that we would be able to know the significance of the place we were visiting. Did you know...

1. The Colloseum is simply a nickname. It's really called Amphitheater Flavium.
2. The entertainment provided at the Colloseum was largely comprised of killing. In the morning they did animal killings, in the mid-afternoon they showed human executions, and then in the late afternoon the gladiators came out and fought (where death also occasionally occurred--1/6 gladiators died).
3. The Romans came up with what we now refer to as stadium seating. The Colloseum is where our modern seating and exit system in sports arenas comes from.
4. Animals from different countries and even continents crossed paths in the Colloseum. The Romans would combine all sorts of different animals--for example, there are records in the Colloseum showing evidence of a fight between a bear and an elephant.

Pretty interesting, eh? I really enjoyed the Colloseum, but mostly because at the top we were able to enjoy the gorgeous sun which had been hiding from us for so long. Standing at the top of the grand Colloseum with the sun shining down on my face was such a surreal moment. Everything was gorgeous and I felt beauty, wonder, and gratitude. I loved it--and my skin loved it too! It had been a while since I had gotten a substantial amount of Vitamin D. After the Colloseum we got more pizza sandwiches and gelato (my 2nd favorite), and then Caitlin, Jake, and I walked around and took pictures of the Forum. Before long, we had to make our way over to the metro station which would take us to a bus that would in turn return us to the airport. After a two hour flight where I slept the whole time, we arrived back in London. While I loved Rome, it was so good to be home. London is truly where my heart is.
General things I learned from Rome:
1. Do not assume that any strangers you meet are ever on your side. Most people are out to make money in some way shape or form. Always ask questions before diving in to take a picture with someone, or before eating a piece of bread from a basket. You can never ask too many questions.
2. Always come prepared. Thanks to the lovely Caitlin, our itinerary and directions were all completely planned out and it really reduced a lot of stress and we were able to accomplish more things than I think we would have been able to had Cailtin not prepared everything for us ahead of time.
3. I am exactly like my Mom. I found myself doing so many things that she normally does in Rome (including ordering the same types of foods and buying the same types of souvenirs) and have learned so many practical things from her, like smuggling extra food into my purse from breakfast (or even from breakfasts here in the Center--I have a tendency to take extra food and put it in my food box in the cupboard, and everyone jokes about how I have a food storage. But hey, I'm the one who never goes hungry or runs out of anything!). And, I have thoroughly developed her identical obsession with tourist shops and gift shops. Every time we go anywhere, my friends will get annoyed at the end because they'll know that we will have to spend time going into the gift shop so that I can scope everything out. But hey, I say it's all part of the experience.
4. I wish I was more like my dad. My dad has the amazing capability of having everyone like him no matter where he goes. He is just the friendliest guy and can speak with foreign people and find out information from them so easily. When I try to ask people questions, I just end up annoying them or making them angry.
5. Life is so much easier when you have blue eyes. If I couldn't rely on my rhetoric to get the price of a bracelet down a few euros, I could definitely count on the foreign color of my eyes to get the job done.

Rome, you did me well. I hope to cross paths again with you again some day.