So, my European adventure has begun. This is my second day in Rome (first full day) and I'm pretty tired after doing a ton of walking today. Daily recaps:
Thursday, September 21, 2006:
Arrived at FCO airport around 12:15pm. Found my luggage, bought a ticket on the Leonardo Express, just missed the first train, but caught the next one at 1:05. Gwen and I had been texting each other like crazy since she arrived the day before. She met me on the platform at the Rome Termini and led the way back to our hostel, The Yellow.
It's a decent hostel, but if it's rated the 5th in the world, I shudder to think what some of the crappier ones are like. We have beds and sheets in a dorm we share with 4 others. We put our stuff in the room (Gwen had been in a different one the previous night) and then immediately grabbed some lunch at the Pizzeria next to the hostel. I had my first taste of authentic Italian pizza and beer...pretty good stuff, though I have to admit, I wasn't blown away.
We decided to hit the Colosseum first, and walked our way over. It took about 20 minutes - it's weird, I'm having a hard time judging time and distances when walking here. Some things seem really close and others far away, but we walk everywhere, which is free and good exercise, so it's all good.
The Colosseum was magnificent, and though we didn't go in (crazy lines), we did take a few pictures (including some with some Italians dressed like Roman gladiators...we got conned into paying for them and the skeezeballs kissed our cheeks like crazy, yuccch!). After exploring the area around the Colosseum a bit more, we decided to head back to the hostel.
When we got there, we met 2 more people in the room, a really nice Australian girl, Jess (who we found out was 18, much to our surpise - she looks about 21) and this Israeli guy, Tom. He seemed nice but has since turned out to be a bit of a jerk. We chatted for a bit and then went to the lounge area of the hostel to grab a beer. The 4 of us decided to eventually go out to this restaurant near the Trevi Fountain for dinner. It was recommended by the guy at the hostel desk, and he said it'd take about 20 minutes to walk there. When we went back up to the room to get ready, we met a new guy in our room, an Irishman named David. Then the 6th person came back, a girl named Natalia from Argentina that Gwen and I had actually noticed on the street earlier that day. Everyone was game to try this restaurant so we headed out.
The walk was definitely more than 20 minutes, though part of that was because we didn't really know where we were going. David had stayed at the hostel a week before and had been to the Trevi Fountain so we made him the leader and eventually we made it there...much to my relief! I was totally jet-lagged and exhausted and just wanted to eat and then go to sleep. When we made it to the Trevi Fountain area, we realized we didn't have the address of the restaurant! I kept my eyes peeled though, and noticed it as we found our way to actually see the Fountain. :)
Ahh, the Fountain. It's breathtaking...by far my favourite site in Rome so far (we've also seen the Piazza di Spagna and the Spanish Steps, the Piazza Venezia with a monument I can't remember the name of right now, and the Teatro de Marcello..along with various other Piazzas and fountains and stuff). I was totally blown away by the beauty of the architecture, along with the water and the lighting - it was about 9:00pm.
As we were all starving, we went back to the restaurant, Il Chianti, but it was very busy and there were 6 of us. It was clear we wouldn't get a table there. Instead we stopped at a restaurant a bit out of the way of the touristy area, hoping it'd be better quality. The food was ok (I had home-made spaghetti with tomato and basil), but the service was TERRIBLE! We were all starving and I was getting dizzy, I was so tired.
Fortunately Gwen could see I needed to get rest, so right after dinner, we grabbed a quick taste of gelato (again, it was alright, but nothing out-of-this-world), and headed home. I immediately changed into my pj's and went to sleep.
All in all, it was a fun evening with neat people and great conversations. We all exchanged email addresses as David was only there the one night, and the others will be leaving at different times. We also snapped a few photos together.
Friday, September 22, 2006:
Gwen and I set our alarms for 8:30am so we could go on a tour of the Vatican, arranged through our hostel. We got up, showered and made it to the meeting area with about 10 minutes to spare. Our guide arrived but because there was only 3 of us, the tour was cancelled - we're trying to go again tomorrow. So instead of going to see the Vatican today, Gwen and I decided to do what we had planned for Saturday, which was go see the designer shops and boutiques, and maybe see the Trevi fountain again (this time to throw in some coins). We grabbed breakfast at a cafe and walked over to the shopping district.
On the way, we found the Piazza di Spagna and the Spanish Steps. We walked down them, taking pictures, and also bought "an original watercolor" from a street vendor (the same "original" we saw at another vendor a couple hours later!)...we got try out our bargaining skills and managed to buy it for €10 instead of the marked price of €25. The Spanish Steps were great to see and we really enjoyed coming across them before continuing on to see the designers.
There were so many designer shops, it was so awesome to see them all in one place! I just loved it and had Gwen take my picture by the Prada boutique. I had wanted to see Prada, Gucci, Versace, and Dolce and Gabbana. I saw all those, as well as Dior, Fendi, Bulgari, and many others.
We then stopped at another cafe just to rest our feet and grab some water and then headed to the Piazza Venezia, where there's supposed to be the best view of Rome. We climbed this monument (forgotten the name) and took pictures of these awesome statues and architecture...I suck at describing them, you'll have to wait until the pics are up). The view was spectacular indeed and we found this war museum inside the monument. It's quite sad how much we both don't know about history, especially Italian history.
We had another sit-down at the cafe around the back of the monument and I enjoyed a beer while we both read for 15 minutes and rested our feet. It was about 1:00 pm at this point and we were getting hungry, so we decided to try lunch at Il Chianti back near the Trevi Fountain. We had a nice lunch there (again, slow service, but not nearly as bad as the night before), I had home-made pasta with cheese and pepper and Gwen had a salad, as she felt like her body was severly lacking vegetables!
We visited the fountain again, threw in the coins, making our wishes and decided to walk back to the hostel for a nap! It's been a lo-ot of walking so far! We stopped at a couple street vendors on the way as Gwen was looking for a fake Burberry bag, but ended up not getting anything, as she's decided they look TOO fake.
Gwen's resting now in the hostel and I'm finishing checking my email and posting this at an Internet cafe not too far from the hostel. It's been fun so far, my favourite things have been seeing the shops, and visiting the Trevi Fountain (more so at night, but it's beautiful at any time).
We're planning on hitting a pub crawl on Saturday night, arranged by the hostel, and don't know what we're going to do tonight yet. After the Vatican tour and pub crawl all on Saturday, we'll be leaving Rome on Sunday, headed for Paris. I can't wait to see all the sights there!
Anyway, this is costing like €5 or something, so I should stop. I'll try to update again soon, so stay tuned for more tales of European adventures!