Monday, May 4, 2009

When in Rome

Pretty cliche title, but extremely appropriate.

I met up with Carolyn in Rome on a gorgeous, sunny, Thursday afternoon at the Colosseum after a bus ride, flight, flight,bus ride followed by one more bus ride. On my bus ride between the Ciampino airport and Rome's city center I sat next to an older woman from Girona who, after seeing the terror on my face when she tried to speak to me in Catalan, spoke Spanish with me for the entire half hour bus ride. It was really fun, she told me all about how much she loves Rome, we talked about Girona and Granada, and she said that my Spanish sounded pretty good (even though I think that's obligatory when you speak with someone trying to get a hold on your own language). Ironically, by the end of my weekend in Roma I had used more Spanish than I did throughout my entire week in Barcelona. Oh, Catalonia.

Anyways, while waiting for Christian to finish classes, Carolyn and I explored the area. I experienced my first Italian gelado, which surpassed all my standards on deliciousness I once had before this trip, and then we split a plate of pasta at a little outdoor restaurant. This is also when I had my first experience with Italian men, our waiter confessed his love for me and said we should come back when he got off of work, all the while confusing our laughter about the clear language barrier with flirting and as Christian warned "if you give Italian men an inch, they take the night." Finally after two hours we convinced him that we weren't going to be worth his time and he reluctantly brought us the check. Spanish men will forever seem unflirtatious after this trip to good ol' Italia.

Carolyn and I met up with Christian and his girlfriend Liz (who is such a sweetheart!) and headed the whole block away to Christian's apartment. His apartment is pretty gritty, but at the same time the coolest thing I've ever seen. It's right on the street level so when we sat in the kitchen with the windows open you literally felt like you were right there on the street! It's a small, boy filled (and therefore pretty messy) apartment but it's got a lot of homey quirks that just make you feel perfectly comfortable the moment you sit down, like you've always been sitting in that kitchen. Anyways, Christian and Liz made us a huge dinner of pasta with spinach and sausage, bruchetta (SO GOOD), five bottles of wine for four people, after dinner espresso and hazelnut wafers. Dinner was so much fun, we just sat around and caught up and laughed and ate for over three hours.

Because dinner went so late Carolyn and I ended up sleeping on Liz's pull out couch because we couldn't find alternative lodging (the nuns wanted 50 euro a pop for us to stay with them, which until learning this had been our shelter of choice for our Rome trip). Liz's apartment is on the opposite end of Rome, in a residential area and therefore a lot nicer and cleaner than Christians. In the morning Carolyn and I made our way over to the Vatican City (after getting lost in a park and ending up on a high way for a decent chunk of time, it was hilarious at the time AND in retrospect). We visited St. Peter's which was overwhelmingly huge and the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican Museum, where I have never seen so many museum goers in all of my life, all the halls, corridors, and rooms were filled wall to wall with people! But the Sistine Chapel was gorgeous, and well worth the trek.

After our morning of site seeing Carolyn and I met up with Christian for more gilado(I have no idea how to spell that by the way, sorry!) and some delicious pizza in a local store he loves. And just walked around seeing all the sites all day. The weather was absolutely perfect. Rome has a similar aura to Granada, it must be that Mediterranean sunshine, but the only difference is that Rome as a city makes Granada seem like it runs like butter efficiency wise. The buses are basically free, even if you wanted to pay to ride them by the time you figured out how to actually do so you have arrived at your final destination. Because of this lack of funds, the buses come pretty sporadically, but you can't really complain because you're paying nothing for them! Also, the drivers are insane. And I have never seen so many mo-peds in my entire life. Spanish drivers seem incredibly tame now after Rome, and I have a new found appreciation for all the cars here the stop to let you cross.

For dinner Carolyn and I went to a little restaurant on a side street where I had the best Gnocchi I've ever had in my life along with more delicious bruchetta. After lots of calls Carolyn and I had decided to use "couch-surfing" for our lodging, where you use a website to find people in whatever city you're visiting who have a free room and enjoy hosting visitors for a night or weekend, they usually cook for you and take you out. Francesco is the name of the guy we looked up and a bunch of Christian's friends had stayed with him and gave him tons of good reviews so we figured he wouldn't be too sketchy, even if he is Italian.

After a lot of chaos (high and low points: brain storming alternative places to sleep at a gay bar with all our luggage, fighting with Italian pay phones, waiting in random metro stations) Francesco ultimatly picked us up and drove us around (he ended up not having room in his house because family was visiting) and ultimatly put us up in a four star hotel for the evening, only after making sure that there was a free buffet breakfast in the morning. He was really hospitable and sweet, and made me see that Italian men have some silver lining in there, you just gotta hunt it down.

The next day was a holiday so it took us awhile to get back into the center city to see Christian. We had consumed enormous amounts of food at breakfast, and arrived at Christian's apartment in time to eat another homemade, gigantic, pasta meal. After wards we hit up the Colosseum and other various ruins. Everything was free that week, so we lucked out big time. The Colosseum was one of my favorites, even though it's hard to pick since everything in Rome is so rich with history. It's incredible to just be walking down the street and look to your left and oh, there's the Colosseum, walk some more and oh, there's old ruins, keep goin and you pass a church that has the steps Jesus walked up when he saw Pilot, no big deal right? Mind blowing.

We walked all around the city because it was yet again another perfect day and eventually went out to the most cliche dinner of my life. We were on a little side street, on a perfectly temperate night, eating a huge Italian dinner of pizza (we each had our own, no joke) and wine under the stars, while a man played the accordion. I kid you not. It was such a nice dinner and way to end our stay. After our huge delicious dinner we wandered around, sat by the fountain ( I always forget its name, its a big deal, and gorgeous, and when you throw a coin in it means you're going to return to Rome) and watched all the tourists and locals, and threw a coin in over our shoulders, assuring a return trip at some point in our futures. Then, even though my stomach was on the verge of exploding thanks to a day of marathon eating, Carolyn and I got one last gelado just because the next time we will be able to get REAL Italian gelado may be years from now! I have never felt so full in my life, I was actually in pain, but in the best way possible :)

We went back to Christians and got our stuff and headed towards our hostal (yes, we actually booked a hostal room! and it was right by the bus stations since we had early flights and therefore early buses to catch). But of course we didn't write the address down completely and we didn't have the hostal's phone number so we ended up wandering around with two sweet italian women desperately trying to help us despite all language barriers. Ultimatly, after learning the police didn't have internet and that the closest thing to it a nearby hotel had was the 1996 yellow pages, we went back to the two italians' flat, used their internet, found said hostal and made it there. In our defense, the hostal was unmarked and in a huge apartment building, and therefore hard to find even after we figured out where we were going.

By the time we made it to our hostal, it was almost five am, and our bus was at six thirty, so we decided to save ourselves twenty euro and walk to the bus station and just hang out. That walk was a whole new adventure of getting a little lost and asking for directions in this standard format: English? Espanol? Duetch? (second part changes language based on reply) how do we get to the bus station?

Finally we made it to the bus station on no sleep, caught our flights ( I had a miserable 8 hr lay over in the Girona airport where there is absolutely NOTHING to do, I'm not bitter at all, I swear) and made it home safe and sound.

Rome was an amazing trip and I loved all of it, the city, and especially being back with some of my Haverford friends. You never realize how much you miss someone until you spend some time with them and realize how much they mean to you!

Next stop: Athens!

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