Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Rome - Walking Tours, The Vatican, and Home

Wednesday Nov 2

Lee and Lynn do Roma. We've seen The Forum and The Colosseum years ago. So first we go climb The Spanish Steps, which we haven't seen before. Then we meander over to the Jewish ghetto and do a nice Rick Steves Audio Tour of the area. We eat lunch there; Lee has a pastrami sandwich and fries, I have spaghetti carbonara. Then we cross the Tiber and do another audio tour of the Trastevere. Then back across the Tiber once more to the big food market. Then back across it AGAIN to make our way back to the hotel. We stop for gelato and coffee on the way which we have earned by walking eight miles according to my Fitbit!

The Old Synagogue in the Ghetto

That evening we try something different, a modern Roman restaurant with cocktails, ramen, small plates, called Septembri. But it's hard to figure out how their menu works and the confusion is off-putting. I get the ramen, which is huge, and decent, but not up to San Francisco standards. You'd think since it is just another sort of pasta they would get it, but no. Oh well!

View from the Spanish Steps

Thursday November 3

its our last day in Rome and we are all set for a tour of the Vatican. We went to the Vatican when we were here fifteen years ago but the Sistine chapel was closed for a holy day so I must go back.

Our tour is not until 2:15. First I go running along the Tiber. There's a great bike path along the river. It feels better running today, although my bad leg is still very sore. it only bothers me as I change from running to walking. I need to get back to stretching, rolling, strengthening and then I'll be okay, I hope. But it's no problem to run four miles, and soon enough we're ready to stroll about Rome again and find some lunch.

We're early so first we stop at a cafe for cappuccinos. Then we head to our chosen lunch spot, Il Sorpasso. This turns out to be a really good little restaurant. The weather is perfect so we sit outside. We try some antipasti, then a salad, and a parmigiana. I get a cannoli for dessert too!

Frank and a bunch of Busts in the Vatican Museum

Now we head to the Vatican to meet Frank, our guide for the afternoon. He is quite a character, and somewhat full of himself, but he is very knowledgeable and he has a system that avoids the worst of the massive crowds that plague the Vatican nowadays. 

We spend several hours wandering through the Vatican museums with their massive collection of sculpture and art. Frank sprinkles our tour with history and humor. I just wish we could wander more but he has us on a schedule.

We go through the Raphael rooms right before we enter the Sistine chapel. They are breathtaking. Frank has sat us down for a lecture before we get to the chapel so when we enter it we know what we are seeing. God the Creator, the dismissal from the garden of Eden, Jonah and the whale, Moses, and so very much more. I have tears in my eyes. We sit along the far wall and view heaven, purgatory, and hell. It's overwhelming. I try to drink it in because chances are I will never see this again.

We leave the chapel as it is closing for the evening, and enter Saint Peters Basilica. There is The Pieta, so beautiful. I gaze upward in this soaring space but my mind can't take in anything else.

We leave the Vatican in the cool crisp evening air. Back to the hotel we go, to pack for tomorrow's flight home. We choose a little trattoria a few blocks away and have one more quiet Italian meal.

Friday November 4.

Several days ago I got an email from VBT. Air Atalia changed the airplane for our flight and the plane they are using doesn't have premium economy seats. When we get to the airport and check in they give us seats in economy, and the promise of a 75% refund on our tickets. We shrug, it can't be helped, no point in making a fuss.

But when we get on the flight and start walking to our seats we are in for a surprise. There IS a premium economy section after all, perfectly empty! I turn right around and march back up to the front of the plane. I explain our situation. "We had premium economy seats, they changed them to economy, now I see you have premium economy seats after all, and we want them!" Those of you that know me realize that I can be a bit, shall we say, pushy at times. The head flight attendant hands me off to the the purser who rushes off the plane with the stub to my boarding pass to make sure we are really deserving of premium economy seats. Meanwhile the head flight attendant skillfully defuses my indignation. Soon enough the purser returns and escorts us to the empty premium economy section. "Take which ever seat you want!" So we do. We are the only passengers in the entire section. We are treated with a mixture of kindness and amusement for the remainder of the flight. At one point a flight attendant calls this section our private room, and so it is, lol.

This has been a fantastic vacation, although we are both more than ready to be home. I can't wait to see our dogs, our house, our friends. Cycling is an amazing way to vacation, and we both enjoyed being on an organized tour more than we expected we would. We would like to do this again, maybe in Ireland in 2018. We are also considering an upgrade to our bicycles at home, and upping our training before we do this again so that we are in better shape for the rigors of the more hilly landscape we will encounter on the Emerald Isle. Our mileage was sufficient, but it would be good to practice cycling for several days in a row. Stay tuned!

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