Monday, 21 April 2014

Rome Day 4 - Thursday March 27, 2014

I woke up at half nine this morning and had a light breakfast before heading back to my hotel room to pack up and take a shower, before I had to check out. At 10:55 with five minutes to spare, I caught the elevator to the lobby and checked out leaving my bag with the concierge for the morning so I could do a bit more exploring. My foot was still bad but I forced myself to walk to the Spanish steps which was about 20 minutes from the hotel. I decided that they weren’t that impressive though, just some steps really. I decided to try and find this pizza place called Pinsere that I had found on Tripadvisor which had been rated like the the second best place in Rome for Pizza, When I was leaving the steps however, I was accosted by a street seller who wanted to give me a rose. I declined and tried to walk off but he chased after me and insisted that I take it because it was a lucky rose, so I did. Then I walked off, then a few seconds later, he came running after me and asked for some money and when I tad him I didn’t have any, he took the Rose back of me, which was hilarious, I was also relieved, because I felt like a bit of dipstick carrying around a rose by myself. 

I eventually found the pizza place, it was tiny little place tucked away, miles away from the centre of Rome, but there was a queue outside of the door, so that was the first sign this was going to be good. I was also soaked from the torrential downpour that was continuing without any signs of stopping. I was rewarded however as the pizza was absolute incredible, I will link the place here, you absolutely have to go and get a slice or 3 or 4 from here, because it was to die for. Like seriously impressive pizza. Ut was a thick base pizza but the dough was so soft and squishy, and just yum. There were loads of different flavours, but because I am not very adventurous with food, which is a massive flaw, I decided to stick with margarita. I wish I could have had two, it was so good! 

It was getting close to the time I needed to catch my train, so I limped back to the station and witnessed a guy get knocked off his moped, not seriously though, he just kinda fell off then got back up. It wouldn’t have been funny but when the taxi driver got out of his car, he was eating this massive baguette and continued to do so whilst they argued in Italian, presumably about whose fault it was.

I picked my bag up from the hotel, and headed off to the station. My first train was at 2:20 and 10 hours later I was back in my bed, exhausted but full of lots of great memories and looking forward to planning the next adventure!!

Thanks for reading my Rome blogs, hopefully you have enjoyed reading them as much as I enjoyed writing them. 

Rome Day 3 - Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Today I was going to Vatican City, to visit the museum there as well as explore inside St Peter’s Basilica. The Pope was speaking in the square this morning so when I got there it was heaving with people, so they weren’t letting anyone into the Basilica. I decided to hit up the Vatican museum’s first, and I was glad I did because when I got there wasn’t a queue to get in, I had to leave my bag in a cloakroom which I did first before upstairs into the maze of corridors and rooms that make up the museum. I don’t want to complain throughout this blog, but I was in serious pain with my foot by this point so I did take the shorter tour through the museum, so that I could see the highlights, rather than wandering round for hours. The Vatican was pretty cool, there was lots of high ceilings all intricately decorated with paintings, very awe-inspiring. I went to the Sistine Chapel (Cappella Sistina) which is famous for being the place where the archbishops all gather to vote on a new Pope, which the two chimneys etc. The walls are all covered in paintings, I think mostly by the artist Michelangelo, who is the guy that is buried in the Pantheon. The most famous one is probably the Creation of Adam, which you would recognize. There was benches all round the room so I took a seat to try and take all of the paintings in, they were pretty incredible. After the Chapel, I hobbled along to the Borgia’s apartments which were room painted for Pope Alexander VI and belonged to the Borgia fam, at some point as well. There was also this massive Bronze statue of Hercules which I thought was particularly notable because of its history. Take a seat kids, and I’ll explain. At the time, this statue was created a lot of bronze statues were being stolen and melted down, so that their bronze could be sold on for a profit. This statue however, had been struck by lightening and was considered to be a bearer of bad luck, as a consequence of this it was buried and that is only reason that it still exists today, and I think that bronze statues from the Roman past are quite rare so it makes this one very special. 

To exit the building you had to use this staircase which confuses the life out of me and I still don’t really understand how it works despite having walked down it. The staircase is a replica of the Bramante staircase that exists in another part of the Vatican n order to preserve it. The staircase is a ‘double helix’ meaning that it is two staircases, built together to allow people to ascend and descend without meeting other people… 

I went back round to the Basilica, as I left the Vatican, I noticed the huuuge queue to get in and was glad I had stopped here in the morning. By know they were letting people inside St Peter’s Square in order to queue for the Basilica, so I joined another huuuge queue for the security which unfortunately was unavoidable. I stood in the queue for around three quarters of an hour in front of some French children who were so incredibly annoying, and kept walking into the back of me, and pushing and shoving each other. I wanted to shout at them but I didn’t, instead just shooting them evils but they didn’t get the message. THEN when I was nearly at the front of the queue, two Mexican girls casually strolled up, pushing in the queue and stood in front of me. If it had been a short queue I would have let it go, but considering I had stood there for nearly an hour I was not letting this slide, and when the queue started moving I stepped in front of them and gave them a very pointed look and they stayed behind me after that, which I didn’t actually mind at least the separated me from the French children. FINALLY I was through security, and heading inside the Basilica, This was probably my favorite part of the trip, and SO worth the hours wait. It was unlike anything I have ever seen and no words I use will come close to justify to absolute beauty of the interior of this building. My first thought was, and I know this sounds incredibly stupid, but there was so much space between the floor and the ceiling, I don’t think I have ever seen a ceiling that tall and everywhere you looked there was a statue of a painting. It was just gignormous and grand. I was seriously impressed and completely blown away by the scale and magnificence of it. I walked around a few times, just trying look at everything. 

It was around five o’clock now, and it was going to take me a good hour to hobble back to the centre of town so headed back past the street sellers, who were packing up for the day, along the river, back through the Piazza Navona, past the Pantheon towards Il Vittoriano before veering off to the north of the city back to my hotel. I made a plan in my head, to go home, get changed and come back out for dinner and walk round all the monuments once the sun had gone down because they were meant to look really splendid in the night with their lights on. Once I got back though, I was tired from my walk and my foot was too sore, and they thought of having to walk back into the city wasn’t that appealing, so I made Rome food mistake #2, which I think I deserved purely because of the absolute stupidity of this idea. There was a Chinese across the street from my hotel, yeah I know. And I decided that this would be a really great idea, Chinese, film, ice pack and bed - perfection. Urgh no. First the ice machine was broken - hi swollen foot. and secondly the Chinese was so disgusting that I couldn’t even eat it. I asked for crispy noodles and they gave me… well I don’t know what they gave me.  I’ve included some google images for some expectation vs. reality imagery.  I was so put off that I didn't even eat the vegetable in sauce creation I had been presented with. Needless to say I was pissed, so instead I ate some Mikado sticks and watched some TV before falling asleep with the light on and waking up at 3am, majorly confused as to where I was in the world. 

Tomorrow is packing, Spanish steps and trains… lots of trains. 
Fun facts about this blog: 
I’ve written Basilica nine times and spelt it wrong every time and I spelt Chinese wrong twice. What?

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Rome Day 2 - Tuesday March, 25, 2014

I had every intention of getting up early this morning in order to beat the queues around the Colosseum but I am really not an early riser - mornings are just so hard!! After a breakfast of yogurt, melon and nutella on toast (not altogether) I made my way downtown in search of lots of big old buildings. Finally arriving at one of the biggest and oldest of them all. After about a half and hour wait I headed inside. I don’t know why, but I always seem to get ridiculously emotional when I visit old places, or famous monuments and just like the time when I cried on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial I couldn’t hold back a few tears looking out over the Colosseum. It is just incredible to think of all the history and stuff that has happened and all while this building has just stood there. People died in the space in the middle and I was standing the spot where someone was cheering and watching death happen… and enjoying it. And that is just a little bit cray. But there you are. The colosseum was amazing! The rain held off for most if the morning, so I wandered around for about two hours and then left heading towards the Roman Forum. 

The Roman Forum is a big space where lots of different & important government buildings used to stand.A bought a ticket to get in, and then realised that the ticket I bought at the colosseum also included the Roman Forum, so I basically paid twice. What an idiot.
The Forum is mainly just ruins now and you have to use a lot of imagination to try and picture how it used to look. A few temples remain including the one that is supposed to be the tomb of Romulus, the first king of Rome.I wandered throughout all the old stone towards the Capitolina Musuem. I didn't go inside here however as there were other things that I wanted to see more. I did however, stop at the Capitolina cafe, which was one of the first big mistakes I made with food in Rome. 

I don’t know whether I am just a bit fussy when buying food from out and about but the service and the food in this cafe were both appalling. The staff were rude, the kind that make you feel your an inconvenience for wanting to buy food from them. Then despite my panini being taken into the kitchen to be toasted it came back, barely warm, with big slabs of mozzarella all cold. Yuk! After two bites, I gave up pretending that it was even a little bit edible and left. It had started to rain by now, so I decided to visit the Pantheon for a little shelter. The Pantheon was another impressive sight, again one of the oldest buildings in Rome. It was commissioned to be built as a temple to the Gods of Rome, by Marcus Agrippa, around 14AD but was rebuilt and opened in 126AD by Hadrian.  That like 2000 years ago. How is it still standing? It is one of the worlds largest unreinforced domes. From the outside you wouldn’t think any thing of it, as it definitely shows its ages, but I think that is the beauty of it because as you step inside, it is very clear that no expense has been spared in both the design and upkeep. Raphael, who was an artist in Ancient Rome, is buried there. 

After my disastrous panini, I was still hungry so I choose one of restaurants in the Pantheon square to have a bite to eat. I had spaghetti carbonara which was delish, a little different to what I was used to but I guess that was because it was authentic. It was exactly what I needed to keep my going for the afternoon. 

I didn’t really have anything planned next so after stopping at Grom, a famous Italian Gelateria, and picking up a Hazelnut scoop and a Nougat scoop, I just wandered around all the little streets, enjoying the architecture. I eventually found myself alongside the River Tiber so I crossed over and started walking toward Vatican City & the Basilica. There are a lot of street sellers in Rome, you can’t walk 2 minutes down the street without bumping into someone trying to sell you an umbrella if it’s raining, or a some tacky souvenir. It was very annoying. Some were easy to get rid off whilst others wouldn’t take no for an answer and would wave their merchandise in your face, so I had to shoot them evil looks. There were a lot of these on the approach to the Basilica, but I battled through.

The Basilica looked very impressive from the outside, I didn’t go in, as that is on the itinerary for tomorrow, I made my way back across the river and made some monumental errors whilst map reading and couldn’t work out where I was for a good 30 minutes. Eventually I asked a policeman & he pointed out where I was, which was on a completely different part of the map than I thought I was. I wanted to visit Piazza Navona which was meant to be a ‘must see’ which some cool fountains and impressive architecture. I eventually stumbled on it accidentally - which seems to be a recurring theme - and it was a very nice place to end up. There were lots of stalls and street artists, and the whole Piazza, was lined with restaurants, with outdoor seating and patio heaters and of course, two large and intricately carved fountains. 

It was late now so I headed back to the main part of the city, I was still full from my late lunch so I decided to skip dinner and collapsed straight into bed. 


Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Rome Day 1 - Monday, March 24, 2013 - Rome.

I woke up ridiculously early this morning, whenever I have to be up for something important I find it nearly impossible to sleep the night before because I get paranoid that I am going to sleep right through it. After double checking that I had everything I needed for my 3 days in Rome I set off for the bus stop at about 6:00. 

During the day the buses run at six minutes and 36 minutes past the hour, but apparently this early in the morning they only run at 25 past, which meant I had a nice 20 minutes wait at the bus stop. It had snowed the night before so everything was covered in a nice blanket of snow and even though it made the wait a bit colder, the view was pretty so that compensated for the loss of feeling in my fingers. 

Finally the bus arrived, I was surprised to see it was very full of morning commuters. Whenever I had been on the bus before there was usually no more that five other people on it. I got into Zurich okay and stopped off at an American bakery called Blueberry, which does THE best blueberry muffins, seriously they are incredibly delicious, so I picked up one of those for the train and found my platform, after locating my train, carriage and then seat, I settled in for the first leg of my journey about four and a half hours to Milan. I watched a film on the train, and enjoyed the beautiful scenery as we travelled through the Swiss alps, it was very special.

Milan station was packed with people, so I located my train as quickly as I could and got out of the way, there was a lady sitting in my seat when I got on there, so I had to try and indicate as best I could that I had to sit there, and luckily she got the idea and moved. The journey to Rome was not as long, only around two hours, so I watched Stuck in Love, which is becoming a favorite, so mine - go and watch it right now. 

Finally we arrived in Rome, the station was again very busy and I was super paranoid about all the pick-pocketters that I had been warned about, they were meant to be really bad at the station. By some miracle I found my hotel after a 10 minute walk, I had a little help from the map, but I wasn’t sure that I was reading it right, so after a series of lucky guess I arrived outside and went to get checked in. My room was really nice, I had managed to get a great deal on, so thank you to them. It was the Rome Life hotel, just north of the main city, and I only had a short walk to get to the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, Il Vittoriano and all the other main places to see. 

After dumping my stuff, I grabbed some money and my camera and set off to explore the city. I stumbled upon Il Vittoriano, although you can’t really miss it. I didn't have a clue what it was until I went inside and located the gift shop. Just standing outside though, I was completely blown away by the scale of it. It was incredibly big, it is not popular with the locals, however, I don’t know whether that is because of how much of a tourist trap it is or whether they don’t like the fact that it is a monument to Victor Emmanuel, the first king of a unified Italy. I caught the lift to the top, which gave spectacular views of Rome, and you could literally see everything, the Pantheon, the Trevi Fountain, the Colosseum, the Forum - just everything, so if you ever go to Rome, put it on your list of things to do.

I took some pictures, but the pictures don't really justify how much you can see. After buying some postcards, I made my way to the Trevi Fountain. Halfway there it started to rain, luckily the temperature was still mild so although I was a little damp, I wasn't cold. The Trevi fountain was very very busy. There was a school group there as well as lots of tourists taking selfies. If there is another more annoying than crowds of people, it’s crowds of people with umbrellas. And if there isn't anything more annoying than that it is hug groups of school children with umbrellas. I tossed my coin in the & made a swift exit. Not sure how I managed it but I did get slightly lost on the way back but that was okay but I walked through less busy parts of the city and saw things that I probably wouldn’t have done if I had gone the right way. You will find it to be a recurring theme in my adventures, that I have absolutely no sense of direction whatsoever.

I had dinner at this cute little Italian restaurant just round the corner from my hotel. I had passed it on the way back and it had look nice so I popped in, I didn’t really register what it was called though; all I know is the pizza was yummy. There was a group of American students, in there when I arrived and after they left about halfway through my meal, another group of American couples came in and sat at the same table. I had a margarita pizza, which I appreciate is so unadventurous but whatever, I’m not really a fan of thin crust but I really enjoyed this pizza it was the right combination of sauce and cheese and the base was a little crunchy whilst also being soft enough to eat. WHAT MORE CAN YOU ASK FOR? After dinner I conveniently passed a gelateria on the way back to the hotel and stopped in to get what was probably the most indulgent ice cream in the word, a scoop of Nutella ice-cream and a scoop of Oreo. YUM! It was the most perfect 2000 calories end to my day and after I had demolished it, it was time to get into bed, ready for another busy day tomorrow. 

Sorry it has taken a few days to get this up, just been getting back into the routine. Next post on Wednesday - see you then!! xx