First off, if you see any weird characters or out of place symbols, blame the Euro keyboard for having characters I’m not used to in the place where I’m used to characters I need. I had less trouble with UK – let me tell you!

I left Atlanta yesterday afternoon in a complete scatter. I was literally getting ready up to the point that I left the house. Well, even afterwards, I was on phone with credit cards letting them know that I was going to be overseas so they wouldn’t question the charges. Yes, in the car, on the way to the airport…

Then on the way to the airport on MARTA, I remembered that I had meant to pick up my eyeglass repair kit and put it in my bag… nope… Then I noticed that my glasses are loose…. of course… So, I worried about this all the way there and through the check-in line. That was luckily faster than expected as some Delta guy took me out of line and put me in the preferred business class line or whatever. No such luck with the plane seat! Once in the airport, I rushed to find a repair kit… $10… It’s above average, but please… Barely managed to grab a salad and wrap that I wolfed down while they called the sections of the plane to board…

I’ve had worse flights and I’ve had better. I did sleep a little, but in fitful bursts. I just can’t find a way to make those seats comfortable enough to sleep. I spent the last half hour on my feet, which I was actually glad about. I went to the bathroom and like a few other people got trapped at the back of the plane while they flight attendants cleaned up… couldn’t get down the aisle to my seat, so just used the time to stretch.

Passport control here is the most lax I’ve ever been through. No forms to fill out, no questions, just a stamp of my passport and a wave… okkkkay…. not that we don’t go overboard back home, but that was unexpectedly easy…. so, I just jinxed myself somehow…

By 10:30AM, I had found the hostel and dropped off bags. Then, it was time to see some Rome.

I had looked at enough maps that I had a vague idea of where to find the Colleseum – my only plan today as it’s not like I had enough sleep or anything… I walked down Via Nazionale and spied part of the forum. My first navigation success! After I found the forum, it was a hop and a skip before I saw the Colleseum loom overhead. I took a tour. I’d read beforehand that there were usually people pushng their tours. The big advantage being that they get to skip straight past the line of people waiting to buy their own tickets. So, I went that route. The tour was about an hour. There were a few new bits of info, but most of it I had read in one place or another. Still, it was nice and more than worth the $9 or so it cost (guessing at Euro rate to dollars). Afterwards, continued on my self and took in most any nook and cranny that they let you into. Then walked over to the Palatine Hill – included in admission to Colleseum. This was part that I have to say would not have been worth it by itself. Even though my guidebook included info about it, there was just no hope. It was a maze of paths that wildly went into any direction and dead-end without seeming to go anywhere obvious. NOTHING has a sign on it. I could have been looking at a demolished apartment building from the last century for all I knew. I wasn’t per se expecting English signage, but something with even a name would be as helfpul as all get out.

Oh well, lest I sound like I hated it, I didn’t. The colleseum was more than I could have imagined and more than filled the afternoon. And after leaving the Palatine hill, I came back through ground level of the forum (before I had only seen it from streets above). Walking through it, you got a good idea of what had been there. And I get brownie points because I was the only one who knew the one pile of rubble everyone was scratching their heads about was the site of Caesar’s cremation. Points to Brandy for her pictures and my guidbook’s comment that people still leave flowers in respects to him there. At any rate, I looked really smart to a handful of rube tourists.

Afterwards, back to Hostel and check-in. Seems like an okay place. The room is nice, but it’s four flights up – and I do mean stairs! Normally not a big deal, but I walked my feet off today and hadn’t eaten since the measley breakfast on the plane, so I really thought I was going to keel over wih my bag. Really, I should say FIVE flights of steps as it appears that Italy, like the UK has this habit of calling floor #1 the first floor above ground floor…

After I sorted out my stuff and stowed everything away, I headed back to the mall at Termini to find dinner. As I said, I really haven’t eaten anything today since a croissant and a banana on the plane. At lunch time, I had an apple and some raisins I tossed in my bag yesterday. No more…

So, where did I eat on my first day in Roma? Well, you know the Romans were masters of the Arch, so I ate under the golden ones -McD’s of course! To give me credit, I did look a bit beforehand but after I passed my third McD’s in rapid succession (how many do they need= and laughed at the Roadhouse grill (thus far the only American places I’ve seen), I gave up.

I can report that the food seems to be pretty constant everywhere so far (Scotland, England, and Roma). And the language barrier struck for the first time. I looked at the signage and was delighted to see a hamburger labeled a hamburger! Yayyy!! But I asked for a hamburger ketchup only and she rung up JUST a hamburger… uhm… no, I wasn’t done ordering… I thought at first she just thought I paused too long, but as I was sitting there eating my hamburger with EVERYTHING on it, it I realized that she thought I mean only a hamburger… hrmm…. Gotta find out the italian word for ketchup…

So, now I get to be glamorously unhip and go to bed at 8pm… I’ll try to hold out a bit and read, but I’m not hopeful about that. Anyway, I plan to get a somewhat early start tomorrow as I want to get the Vatican in before New Years!

Miscellaneous observations so far. The road rules really are different here. It wasn’t as hard to get used to the UK being on the wrong side of the road and there being virtually no pedestrian right-of-way (outside the “zebra crossings”). Here parking is just kind of…. well, it’s more like abandoning your car on the street, curb, sidewalk, you know, just wherever strikes you as a good idea at the time. But more frightening is crossing the streets, which is just a wing and a prayer in my estimation. I’ve tried to follow relative locals across streets as much as possible, thinking that maybe the motherly advice of “safety in numbers” applies. Cars will do their dead level best not to let you by, speed up, dash around, whatever, but the general rule seems to be a polite stop if they fail at that. And last of the road rules, the street lights for pedestrian crossings (for what they’re worth) have three lights, stop (if you want to), yellow, and red. I’m amused that yellow is longer than green… Yes, it warns you red is coming longer than it’s green. And the motorists are so pent up by the time the red light does get there, you better be out of there.

3 Responses

  • Mark,Glad to see you made it there. Sounds like quite a long trip. And you've already seen lots.Good for you. Have more fun.Love,Aunt M

  • Mark, the Italian word for ketchup is…. ketchup. Likely they'll actually say "tomato ketchup"soltanto ketchup is "just ketchup". I'm so proud of you for just picking up and going where your wandering heart leads you. Enjoy yourself, I can't wait to read more. Give Brandy a New Year's kiss for me.-Rie

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