Monday, August 8, 2011

Eurotrip 2011: When in Rome...go to the Colosseum - Pt. 1

The first thing we did on our second day (the first day was spent jet-lagging and eating a nice meal) was a walking tour of Ancient Rome. When you go online there are plenty of options, but one of the more affordable ones with an afternoon start was run by 'Enjoy Rome'. Starting in Piazza Navona, we worked our way through 500+ year old streets, buildings and structures on our way to the legendary Colosseum. This day started late in the late morning, but with our beds turning out to be the equivalent of a plywood panel with springs underneath it, the quality of said sleep wasn't great at all. After the meal the day before and seeing how fast money would leave us on a daily basis (plenty of storefronts are cash only), I decided to make a run to get more cash and some water bottles. I got washed up and headed for the Rome Termini. After some failed attempts to request cash from my VISA bankcard from so-called money exchange places, which were literally everywhere, I took a stab at using an ATM for a withdrawal. After receiving my cash I immediately realized not only would I need some interwebs for some account shuffling, but that we'd been had in the airport the day before hahaww. I swung by a small shop around the corner from our hotel, immediately on the right in that picture from the last post, and got some waters and Gatorade. They had the best prices out of everyone so far, so I would make it a point to patronize them again before our departure. Strangely enough all small shops are called 'Bars', regardless of seating, and all sell alcohol, espresso, sandwiches and bottled drinks.

After getting back to the room I paid for two days of internet, 10 Euros (great deal in hindsight), did my shuffle and checked balances, then left with Beth to the first tour of many during this trip. Months before I booked a walking tour through Ancient Rome and the meeting point was in Piazza Navona. I had done my research on mapquest prior to getting to Italy and had a general idea of where we needed to go, but unfortunately the international simcard prepped smart phone I had with me didn't get internet in Rome regardless of what I tried. Instead of having hand-held GPS awesomeness, we grabbed the tourist map we received the day before and started walking in the general direction. After about a mile had passed, the July sun started becoming a sweaty burden. The lack of street signs didn't help either; typically around Italy you'll see street signs in stone on the corners of buildings, but not everywhere. Also the toy map we received wasn't as detailed as anyone who has plans of a painless journey would want, so we ended up hailing a cab after stopping in a small store. For those that don't know Europeans don't believe in face cloths, so we ended up buying two microfiber cloths that you would typically use for drying a wet automobile. We would've bought face cloths, but no one seemed to...sell them.

After Beth twisted my arm we hailed a cab (ahem) we were dropped off a couple blocks from Piazza Navona. Due to construction and the fact that these historic sections of Rome are so old they weren't designed to have cars drive around them, we made our way on foot. This gave me a better idea of why you see so many scooters and motorcycles here. On the way, we found a small cafe that sold sandwiches. We were starving and decided to sit down as the taxi got us there ahead of schedule. When you see one of the million cafes in Rome and they have the display case with pre-made sandwiches remember one thing; if you think it's turkey it's ham, but it's delicious. After a quick bite and refreshment out of some dirty obscenely water glasses, served by kind old Italian woman who spoke no English, we made our way to our meeting point; the Fountain of the Four Rivers.

We met our tour guide, Ms. Carbonara (like the pasta dish), put on headsets and started making our way past the cafe where we just ate. Our next destination was the Pantheon. The Pantheon was pretty awesome, and the fact that it was cool inside didn't hurt. I'll warn you all now, I won't have as much information on the forthcoming pictures as I'd like. I had so much history jammed into my head that much of it has spilled out over the weeks that have passed. What I do remember is that Inside the Pantheon was the tomb of Raphael, and the structure itself included the largest free-standing dome in the world. Since the roof of this great architectural marvel has a large opening, you find yourself wondering what happens when it rains heavily; Beth reminded me that there are holes drilled into the floor so that rainwater can cycle back into the still functional aqueduct system. Word has it the Pantheon has been around since before Christianity, but had been destroyed a couple times. The most current build of the Pantheon, that we see now, was constructed around 123 AD under the direction of the Emperor at the time, Hadrian.

After leaving the Pantheon I started to shoot some fountains and the square. I then realized Ms. Carbonara's voice was crackling and becoming weaker. Before I knew it I couldn't hear anything through my headphones. So uh, I lost track of my tour group...and Beth too. After a quick walk around our area and where I thought they went, making sure to swing back through Piazza Navona, I decided to make lemonade by shooting what I found interesting on the way to the final destination of the day, the Colosseum. About an hour or so later, I found myself next to what the locals call the Wedding Cake, a large palatial structure with way too many statues that Mussolini used to make speeches in front of.

While I was shooting one of said statues, I started hearing a cracking in my headset. I moved around until the signal got a little stronger and low and behold, my tour was crossing the street to get some cake. Our tour guide and Beth greeted me warmly (twas hot outside) and, now complete, our tour then worked towards the Roman Forum.

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