Note: This is a trip we took to Rome in 2017. Chronicling our trips has always been fun, and this is my travel diary from visiting my favorite city.
Day One – Travel to Rome!
It is so much work to get ready to leave and have a good time. There always seems to be a point when I wonder if it is worth it. I have to say, this trip is so exciting to me that the thought was only an occasional flitter. I’m pinching myself that I’m writing this as we wing our way over the Atlantic. Woo hoo!
We weren’t woo hooing at 2:30 am this morning. We had to be at the airport at 4 am, and it is an hour’s drive. George is a man who likes his sleep and the poor guy had to work late and didn’t get home until 11 pm. He got about two and a half hours sleep. As I hadn’t had time to pack all week, I laid down at 1:30 am and popped back up at 2:30. Let’s just say there wasn’t any joyous happy dances or marital hugs and kisses. George’s longest sentence was “Did you feed the cats?” I grunted in response.
Best Friend Hall of Fame Award goes to our friend Cheryl, who drove with us to the airport at that ungodly hour so we wouldn’t have to leave our truck at the airport. That woman is going to find a special place in Heaven.
George has turned the corner into the Old Man Driving Time of Life. I have formally moved from Back Seat Driver to full-fledged Medusa. As a graduate of the Shrew School for Back Seat Drivers, I have honed the fine art of shrieking and screaming repetitive little ditties like “We are going to DIE! “ And the ever-popular “This is a 55 mph zone, could we go faster than 20?”
We took the truck so Cheryl can borrow it to get her husband to take some loads to the dump while we are away. They usually borrow the truck when we are gone, and she knows the first load to the dump will come from the inside of what George has left in the truck. An ardent supporter of the Let Litter Live movement, he believes all garbage has the right to live free, and will forever have a a home in whatever vehicle he is driving. Cleaning his car is like going on an archeological dig. When he realized Cheryl was going to drive the truck, he did fill up a garbage bag and removed enough that we could find the seats. At three this morning, I was wearing a gas mask and towel, trying to wipe the seat free of granola, dog food and bananas.
It was a good thing we weren’t speaking much, because there just isn’t many friendly things I could come up with about the smashed suit coat I found under the dog blanket and empty water bottles. Charlie, George’s dog, goes everywhere with him, so he has a full-wardrobe of doggie coats, water bowls, dog food and various items he has chewed into pieces. As you might have guessed, we always take my car when we go places together.
Cheryl is one of the few people that I would let ride in his truck. She’s tough. So we are late, driving down the freeway at a death defying 45 mph. When the guy on a scooter passed us on the right hand side, I couldn’t take it any longer and asked him if he could please drive faster than the moped. Suddenly, my foot started itching, then my hand and leg. Oh my goodness, there are fleas in this truck. Insects don’t care for old man blood, but Cheryl and I are fresh meat. George laughs nervously and tells Cheryl she might want to bug bomb the truck before they go to the dump.
We finally got to the airport and waved goodby to Cheryl in the Flea Mobile. She found a banana by the driver’s seat and offered it to George. He stuck it in his pocket (now that is a potential nightmare) and off we went. I hope I still have a friend when we get back. We did make it on time, as George predicted, and with minimal scratching, made it through security.
George loves to eat a “real meal” before he gets on a plane, so we had breakfast once I had checked where our gate was and how long it would take to get there. We missed a flight one time because we stopped to eat a “real meal” and now I insist on making sure we have adequate time.
I decided to go full-time vegetarian this summer. Well, not a true veggie, because I still eat fish. This makes me a pescatarian. George has been vegan for several months. It can be tricky traveling as a vegan; the options of no meat, eggs and dairy can be daunting. I ordered oatmeal, because everything was fried – and I usually don’t eat breakfast at 4 am. It was really bland oatmeal and was served with a giant pile of brown sugar, which I didn’t want to use. I asked for some cinnamon, but they didn’t have any, so George pulled the the banana from his pocket, which was now the general shape of a flattened pocket which is stuffed with papers and change, and offered me the option of fresh fruit.
Prior to ordering, George announced he is going to loosen up on the vegan diet for the duration of the trip. I thought that meant he might have an egg or a bit of cheese. So far today he has had a sausage omelet for breakfast, turkey sandwich for lunch and a ham sandwich for a snack. Whoa! This trip just got a lot easier for food choices, and suddenly I am the difficult one. This adds a new dimension to the trip.
We made it to Dallas and easily found our next flight. It even boarded early and it was one terrific plane. Really luxurious, even in the Poor Folks Section, our home club. We taxi’d out to the runway and were just ready to take off when the pilot announced we were returning to the gate. Apparently there was a temper tantrum in First Class that we couldn’t witness back in the tail section. Maybe his luxurious sleeping pod didn’t suit him, but some guy was apparently abusive to everyone, staff and passengers, and had to be removed from the plane. Because we are in the section reserved for passengers with fleas, we couldn’t see anything, but the male flight staff took a rather aggressive physical stance in the aisles and wouldn’t let anyone get out of their seats. They had to open the belly of the plane to get his luggage out, so we sat and waited. Apparently, the upper crust were relieved when he left the plane because they let out a big cheer and the whole plane applauded. We didn’t know what we were applauding about, but we were a jolly group and it just made it all so festive.
The pilot apologized and made a comment that the passenger had come to realize that he would be far happier not being on a plane with us and had decided to remain in Dallas. More applause and we finally took off.
I swear they fed us every 15 minutes. Always worried that I will be left without food at hand, I had brought an entire backpack stuffed with Weight Watchers friendly-type food. I ate a few things when the Free Food Fairies, disguised as flight attendants, were passing out yet another 1,000 calorie treat, but I do admit to a glass of wine and a caramel brownie. Shortly before we landed, George burped and said he thought he had gained four pounds, just from the flight.
We were near the bathrooms, and I enjoyed the people watching. There were a load of Texans, and I swear every woman sported a 12 karat diamond ring, and every man worked in the oil business. Some were from Houston and were sharing flood stories and pictures of their homes while they awaited their turn for the bathroom. I know a lot of people don’t care for seats near the toilets; but I think of it as a reality TV show, glimpsing a bit into the lives of someone we will probably never meet again. And probably don’t want to!
Just as we were on the final descent to land in Rome, a young woman rushed into the bathroom and was violently sick to her stomach. Okay, maybe there can be a downside of sitting near the toilets. She could be heard for several rows back. She obviously wasn’t using a seat belt in the loo, and the flight attendant was pounding on the door shouting she had to take her seat. That made all of us within her vicinity nervous – we all wanted her stomach settled before she rushed by us again. The flight attendant had to get on the phone and let the crew know. Just as the plane was going to divert, she staggered out and sat down. Poor thing, Welcome to Rome!
We could tell it was raining, which was a big disappointment, but George said the weather was supposed to be clearing and not to worry – it would be great within a couple of hours. This is a sweet man who lies to his wife, if he thinks it will make her happy. In fact, it did cheer me up. With minimal difficulty, we found the train to the Rome Termini station and took the 30 minute ride with our luggage. We fully intend to buy our hearts out, so we each brought a large suitcase, mostly empty. Plus we had a carry-on (in case our luggage was lost, my survival food backpack, purse, computers and pillows. A full load for each of us.
As we emerged from the Rome Termini, which is the train station, George’s weather prediction fell apart. Our hotel is only a couple of blocks from the Termini, and we were confident we could haul the stuff. Who takes a cab for two blocks? In the rain? Of course, we can make it!
Only it wasn’t just rain. It was torrents of rain. Blinding rain, accompanied by lighting and thunder – loud, oh so very loud. The kind of lightening that likes to strike tourists standing next to huge metal trains. In fact, it was record rain – Rome had 12 inches of rain this fine day.
George has some health issues and doesn’t walk quickly – anywhere. This includes rain. It is difficult for him to walk on cobblestones, and we were hauling four suitcases, a backpack, and a small bag with books, food, travel pillows, etc. I was worried he would slip on the wet pavement, so I stacked the smaller cases on the big ones, slipped on the backpack and George took the small bag. We invested in great luggage with sturdy wheels, and I sent a mental thank you note to the CEO of Samsonite.
As we stepped out of the train station, the rain hit us in the face. As we stood there, three vendors rushed up to sell us umbrellas. George, with his one small bag, quickly bought himself one and looked inquiringly at me. I stood there with four suitcases and a backpack and shook my head no. He earnestly tried to tell me that I should have one. I rather impolitely asked him how I was going to sprout a hand to hold it and marched into the rain, feeling like a Sherpa.
As an Oregonian, I know rain. This was RAIN. It came in sheets that bent you sideways. We could not read a street sign, nor see where we were going. So we did the obvious – and headed in completely the wrong direction. After three blocks, we knew we had made a mistake. But what should appear, like a shining beacon of hope, safety and familiar comfort? Yes, it was McDonalds! Our first historic shrine to visit in Rome was McDonalds. The one restaurant around the world that I earnestly try to avoid. I have never been so happy to see golden arches in my life.
Ronald McDonald provides, and there was one empty table. We claimed it and tried to cram luggage around the table. George, feeling guilty about the umbrella, went and bought us breakfast – croissants and cappuccinos. How great is that? No Egg McMuffin for us! And it wasn’t bad! Although, I was so happy to have a table that was out of the rain that I would have eaten cardboard and declared it gourmet.
We sat there for about an hour, studied the map and decided to brave the rain. We got as far as the door and realized it was raining even harder. We raced back to our table and ordered French fries and Americano coffees for this round. Another hour passed and the rain actually did have a lull. We raced along as quickly as possible with four suitcases and a gimpy husband over cobblestones and made it to our hotel.
Exhausted, we took a nap to pass the time while the rain poured down. After a few hours, the skies dried up and we went for a walk. While the ground was wet, the air was warm and we ended up dining outside for dinner.
I have no idea how much food I have consumed in the past 24 hours. Way too much, I do know that! Dinner was amazing. I had smoked salmon for an appetizer and a lovely plate of grilled veggies for dinner. George had fresh pasta with mussels, and I had a few bites of it. But the wine? Oh My Goodness. We had some sort of a sparkling red wine that was totally amazing. So amazing that I had half of the bottle. So amazing, in fact, that George had to hold me up to walk me home. I hope we looked like two old people in love, with their arms around each other as they walked back to their hotel. It probably looked like a tired old man, rolling his eyes as he kept his tired and tipsy wife from falling in the gutter while singing “That’s Amore…”
And I slept very well…..