I know that I have slacked a lot and not posted about my wonderful days in Rome. Oops. But I'm catching up now, and then tomorrow will be a Portugal update.
So. ROME. As mentioned, our flight got cancelled, but we flew out early Friday morning, after spending a few hours in the airport since I made us leave really early in case snow was an issue with traffic and stuff. I'm the mommy of the group and everyone knows it...they even call me mommy. Oops...
When we got to Rome, we made our way to our apartment, checked in, and then went out to grab food. A lot of Italian restaurants close in the later afternoon, so we just grabbed pasta from a place nearby that was closing and headed back to the apartment. Everyone was exhausted cause our bus to the airport had left at 1 am, so there were naps taken by some, and Alex and I worked on planning the trip. Everyone had basically agreed on what we wanted to do, so we tried to figure out what made the most sense to do when.
After everyone woke up less tired and less hungry, we headed out into Rome. First stop, Trevi fountain. It is BEAUTIFUL. We spent a bit of time around there, taking pictures and throwing two coins in the fountain - the first guarantees our return to Rome, and the second was for a wish. We then went to a gelato place touted as the best gelato in Rome (and therefore possibly the world)....and they're not kidding. We may or may not have gone 4 times in the three days we spent in Rome. Yummm.
After that we walked over to the Spanish Steps, which are ALSO gorgeous. The boys decided to race up the stairs, and Alex and I mooned over St. Peter's which we could see in the far off distance. We found a cheapish place for dinner for our first real Italian meal, and Alex got the best gnocchi I have EVER tasted. It was exquisite, melt in your mouth. If I was Andrea, I could tell you what I ordered, but I'm not, which is too bad. But I'm sure it was very tasty :)
The next day I woke up and headed to the Rome mosque, the largest in Europe. It was deserted, since they don't want tourists milling around during worship, but it was gorgeous and I got some good pictures. On the way back, I got on some auxiliary line of the subway and couldn't find a ticket machine, but I figured I could get away with it since they rarely check. WRONG. They were stopping everyone when we got off in the city to switch to the regular Metro, and I was fined 50 Euro. OUCH.
I met up with everyone else outside the Colosseum, and we went around there. We had a brief rainspell, but it was cool to walk around the Colosseum. After that we did the Palantine Hill and the Roman Forum - both very cool.
For lunch we went around Trevi again, since prices seemed within our range there. Andrew, Andrea, and I ordered the tourist menu: a starter (which was a bowl of pasta), a second dish (MEAT!), dessert (fruit or cheese), bread, and table wine, for 18 Euro! It was tasty.
Later we walked around and went to the Pantheon, had very rich hot chocolate at Taza d'Oro, and had what must have been another delicious meal.
Sunday turned into a bit of a wash - we wanted to walk around the boho neighborhood of Trastevere and go to what was supposed to be great brunch and an awesome flea market, but we managed to find neither. And the Tiber River is VERY disappointing. We did go to a cool church, though, and I had the best eggplant parm I had EVER had.
After that we went out to the old Appian Way, walked along that, and checked out some catacombs. There wasn't all that much to see and our guide was...interesting, but I'm glad I got to do it.
We had eaten weird all day, and by dinner time my blood sugar had dropped low. This happens every once in a while if I don't eat enough, and I didn't recognize it at first, but after a while of being cranky and emotional and hungry and then feeling sick, we stopped for a snack and then some dinner, and I had very tasty risotto. AFterwards we just headed back to the apartment because....
MONDAY IS VATICAN DAY! Alex and I were beside ourselves. We walked past the Castel San'Angelo (the one that has a secret tunnel to the Vatican) and then walked up the street towards St. Peter's, which is amazing. Completely amazing. We had to wait in line for a while, but when we got in, we decided to go to the crypts first. For someone who doesn't consider herself very religious, and certainly not Catholic, John Paul II's grave from 5 years ago really touched me. Unlike older ones, it's just a slab of engraved marble rather than a marble sarcophagus, and it's very un-elaborate and staid. There were nuns and others who were obviously very religious and were praying in front of it, but I had a lump in my throat looking at it and thinking of that great man.
Afterwards we headed up into the basilica itself. Mass had just started, and I ran over to it. It was in Italian, of course, but I can now say that I have attended mass and taken communion in St. Peter's Basilica...again, something that just seemed important to me. And St. Peter's is gorgeous. I loved just looking around and taking everything in, including the marble slab engraved with the names of every Pope, starting with St. Peter, all 265 of them. It was great.
After a break for lunch, we did the Vatican museums...amazing Rafaels and other things, but the beauty of the Sistine Chapel is, again, breathtaking.
After a failed detour to find gelato mentioned in Lonely Planet, we headed home for a bit of a rest before dinner. I got to pick dinner because it was my birthday dinner, but the place I picked was closed (a common theme for us all week). Instead, we found a random quaint restaurant, and the waiter was wonderful and italian. I had delicious roast lamb, and spinach for like the 4th time. England is sorely lacking in delicious nutritious veggies.
And at 12:30, like the good Stanford students that they are, my lovely Oxford family threw me in the shower, which is a time-honored Stanford tradition. It made it special :)
The next morning Alex, Andrew and I went to the Villa Borghese, apparently THE art gallery in Rome to see if you only see one. IT was nice. Then we headed to the airport and flew back to dreary cold England :P Oh, did I mention that it was 60 and sunny in Rome?
So, that was Rome. I loved it. I want to go back. I'm so glad we went, and I went with some amazing people who I love dearly :)
Rome pictures: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=306295&id=725549275&l=69e685af46
Not much happened back in Oxford, we were winding down and packing. We said a not-too-sad goodbye, since we'll be seeing each other again in 3 weeks, and then early early Friday morning I headed to Portugal! More on that tomorrow, it's time to head to bed.