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Off to a spectacular start for the new year if you’re a fish. This is becoming a trend for me as New Years in Edinburgh last year was so wet that I went and watched a movie… now there’s an idea… I had something somewhere that mentioned there were english movies – could be interesting to watch my own language subtitled…

New Year’s Eve found me wandering. I post somewhat sporadically to a forum called Virtual Tourist- more often I just use the trip tips for research on things to do in a given place. There had been plans to try to get a New Year’s Eve gathering of travelers in Rome that night. The plan was to meet near the Trevi Fountain around 10:30pm. I wandered through there about 8:00pm. Beautiful place at night – did the traditional coin toss to insure my return to Roma. Sat around awhile and ate a gelato while fending off the street vendors.

Sidebar: I’m glad I’d heard of the umbrella vendors. The past two days have obviously been their golden opportunity. Everywhere you turn there’s a little man hawking umbrellas. There seems to be a height requirment that even I exceed. They’re nothing if not persistent. “No,” “no thanks,” and “no por favore” means little. I’ve taken to fending them off with a raised hand as in “ALT!” The question is, who is their market? Purely tourist trade? Did we all leave our umbrellas and jackets behind? I rarely carry an umbrella anywhere, which is why the nice big one I got in college is still pretty much in immaculate condition. The moths will get it before the wear and tear do. So, why the umbrellas? Do the Romans leave them at home everyday? Are their homes fille with rooms of hastily purchased umbrellas? Or are they considered entirely disposable here? Ah, rain’s over, toss the umbrella!

At any rate, Trevi fountain was crowded with the aforementioned little umbrella peddlers, plus little flower peddlers… Also peresistent, plus the little picture peddlers who would take your picture with the fountain. Ohhhhkayy… I only saw one who combined these trades, a flower salesman who would take your picture. With a flower?

So, I decided to head off and wander for a bit, seeking the infamous Spanish Steps. And I wandered. And I wandered…

And feeling much like Moses, I wandered some more…

Finally, I was back at Republicca Square, by Termini… oh well… It was now about 10:30pm… And the free concert had started. I had heard there was a rock concert, but, perhaps naively, assumed it would be in Italian… Nope, 99.5% English. Mostly rock from the 60’s and 70’s and everyone in the crowd knew the words to them all… wow… And then you begin to understand why it’s not hard to get along here as an english speaker. I stayed through the New Year right there. If nothing else, I give the Italians credit for throwing their all in a party. Granted New Years in Edinburgh was somewhat subdued by the Tsunami news, but the level of electricity in the crowd exceeded what’s billed as the largest New Years Party in the world. Perhaps there was a degree of alcohol to account for that, as well. As about half an hour from New Years, I had to fend off one little Indian guy who wanted to be my new bestest friend. The crowd was having a good laugh, and it was mostly harmless, but I decided it was time to make a move to a different part of the crowd. The funny part was when guy after guy started departing the same area. I passed him again later on my way out, and the entire crowd, which was packed had given him a goof 5 foot radius of empty space. I bet he doesn’t remember much today.

There was no countdown, no special signal, just the words 2005 flashed on a building, wiped clean and then replaced with 2006 and the crowd went wild. I was literally two blocks from where I was staying and it took me a good 45 minutes to get back there. After which, I cheerily collapsed into bed. I was first back in the room… That meant both that I’m a fuddy duddy and that I would have to deal with roomies, I suspected, trampling in later. I was right about the latter, but I reserve judgement on the former. I didn’t hear one come in, but sometime in the wee hours, two came clatterring in. Granted they tried to be quiet, but they’re hushed whispers were hushed in theory only.

And somehow, again today I slept late. It was after 10am when I got up, past 10:30am by the time I was showered and dressed. The noisy roommates were all still sound. I know from the hushed whispers that two of them were supposed to be leaving today… they were past check out by half an hour…. good luck….

I dropped in and checked e-mail and then headed to Termini for lunch. Oh well, no breakfast today… Afterward, spent a good hour sorting out the bus route I needed to get to the Pantheon. I spent 6 euro for the city bus map when there was only really one page – the central routes – that I needed. And then I finally hopped on the #40 watching the areas we were passing through for any sign of where to get off. I actually did pretty good in where I got off, but receive a “C” for then following the right streets. I figured out two hours later that I could have just walked straight there from where I got off. Instead, I took the touristy route and got there 15 minutes after it closed- at least it was open today only “festive hours.”

I wandered around the outside with hoards of other tourists taking pictures and enjoying what I could. I’ll be back! Afterward wandered down to the Capitoline Hill – birthplace of Rome and checked out Trajan’s forum and market. I had seen part already on Thursday but I wanted to scope out where to go when I wanted to go in. Figured that out and then walked up to a museum at the top. They had an art exhibition by Manet, but I decided to take in the free John Paul exhibition first. The lack of English signage for that one discouraged me from paying the 9 euro for the other. I mean, if John Paul II doesn’t have English signage, what chance does another exhibition there have? Still, the John Paul II one brought back a lot of memories since his tenure covered much of my life.

From there, back in search of the elusive Spanish Steps. Wandering up via del corso, I encountered a column that looked everybit like Trajan’s column which I had seen an hour before. Took some photos and then crouched down against a wall to go through my bag for my gude and figure out what the heck it was. I managed to do that all of 30 seconds before the poliza came over and just sort of flagged me to move on… oh… nice… Where are you when the little vandals come out at night?? There’s garbage on every square centimeter of your streets and grafitti next to ancient ruins (if not on them) and you’re busting tourists for loitering? You guessed it Jacko, I came 5,000 miles to loiter and cause disturbances. And at night, I whip out the spray paint. You’re right, the tourists are the problem. Obviously I thought this, not said it. No reason to end up in jail tonight!

So, on up via del corso. One slight side-trip to Trevi again for daytime photos (really much prettier at night in my opinion). And then onward… and onward… and did I mention how bad the street signs are? The signs to a destination seem to invariably run out before the last turn. As if I was supposed to magically know that turn? Maybe the tourists stole them. And even if you know the street name, the chance of it being clearly marked near the intersection are nil. But, after much wandering, I finally walked into it just as the sky let loose with another torrent of rain… Undaunted, I took a pile of pictures of umbrellas bounding up those steps. And then I followed suit. I have to say, they are much taller than they look. As you made landing after landing, you began to understand the need for those steps…. Took a few more shots from the top and then breathed a sigh of relief when I was a metro stop.

Made my first train trip to Termini and survived to tell it. I missed the first JAM packed train. I literally could not get on, along with tons of other people. But we waited all of 3 minutes for the next blissfully empty train. Yayyy!!

Wandered through Termini for awhile window’-shopping and contemplating what dinner will be. Last night was fast food pizza and that sounds awfully nice again. Last night, I thought ordering from the value meal thing would make life easier on me. NOooooooOOoo…. First off, she did’t know what “six” means… hrmm… What’s Italian for six? In French it’s six… hrmm… Finally I had the bright idea to point to the board and hold my fingers up. That got the ball rolling… But the meal I ordered included something like potato chips (that was the difference in all the meals, what the side was). She started asking a question that I could just not get about the chips… I kept listening, she kept saying it… finally the cashier beside her said very slowly, “oregano or rosemary”? Ah, a choice of garnish! Yes! I guess I should have at least READ the phrase book I bought, eh? Then again, it would have been nice if the book had some sort of way to reverse look-up the phrases you see or hear. For the past two days, I’ve been hearing people say, “prego” over and over. I heard it so much in restaurants, I’ve about decided it means “next” but google suggests “preggo” = “preggo” and “prego” = “I pray.” Huh??

Tomorrow, looks like, back to the Pantheon so that I can see the inside. And I want to check out Trajan’s forum and Market. Then, if time, either the Cappchin monks or catacombs. Either involves the final fate of earthly remains!

Today’s Random Observation: I decided to wander through a music store. Wasn’t sure what I’d find. Well, probably 70% of the store was English music. There was literally a section just for Italian and it was less than rock/pop, nevermind Rap. And everything was labeled in English – heavy metal was labeled “hard’n’heavy” = all labeled in English. That was unexpected, but what was more so was the COST of music here if this one store is an example. Even without the exchange rate, the Europeans are paying twice as much for our music! Yikes!! I guess when they visit the US, they must stock up on our music.

And a follow-up on the observation about candy. I did find something other than chocolate today. Some puffed mallow candy that was like our peeps only in a ton of different flavors; banana = yum! And I found some hard candy but the labels meant nothing to me. One was awesome. Not sure what it was. One was wretched, and of course the last thing I tried. I WISH I could remember what it was, but it and the wrapper went straight in the garbage.

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