TRAVELSCRIBBLES is a blog featuring travel reports, advice, and idea sharing for those interested in both domestic and international exploration.

Roger Sauer and his wife Donna have spent years traveling the world but have many places yet to see. You can follow their past and current travels here as well as post comments and questions about places they have visited.

Roger and Donna travelled to New Zealand and Australia in September, 2013. They will be in Paris in September 2015 with a train trip to Nice and Barcelona. They will then be aboard the Disney Magic (again) for a transatlantic cruise to Miami. Follow their travels on Twitter @rsauer3473.

Donna and Roger own Disney Vacation Club memberships at Old Key West and Beach Cub resorts in Walt Disney World. They also have other timeshare interests in Maui, Cancun, Orlando, and Palm Springs.
Feel free to contact them at 503-585-3473 if you would like rent one of these properties.

Where Do You Want To Go Today?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

European Trip and Transatlantic Cruise Part 2

ON THE TRAIN TO ROME- September 4, 2010
Arriving at the train station after a boat ride up the Grand Canal we met a nice couple from Vancouver who had just debarked from a cruise. We waited for our train to arrive a while and talked with the two. Our train was an Alta Veloce or high speed train like the one we rode in Japan. We got on the train and went to the place we were told our tickets were reserved for the seats were facing each other with a table in between. An Italian couple and their son sat next to us by the aisle.

It was two stops later hen a new set of people got on that we discovered that our tickets were for first class in another car. We grabbed our carry-ons and trekked to the other car. Our proper seating was two seats facing by themselves by the window with a small folding table. There were four seats across the aisle. Of, course our large bags were still three cars away and at the stop in Florence I walked back and retrieved them, took them off the train and more easily carted them down the walkway and pulled them back onto our car. Of course, all the time I imagined the train leaving while I was off the train. But I made it. We also found out we had free beverage service in first class.

The scenery as we approached Rome was beautiful with gentle rolling hills with. Villas atop and either rows of grapes or olive trees cascading down the slopes. The soil when visible looked like sand. This made a nice contrast to the green foliage and red tile roofs.

We disembarked the train easily enough then looked for a cab. We were approached by a man asking our destination and we told him Westin Excelsior. It was a 25 euro fixed price ride. Another man took Donna's bag and we headed toward a parking lot. It was then I noticed the official taxi stands down the driveway. Donna asked it this was a real cab and he assured us in Italian, yes, yes. We got to a Mercedes van, he loaded the bags and we were off. At the hotel we paid him and went inside to register. Later I found out that the regular fare ought to have been 12 to 25 euros not counting bags and tips, so I figured we were taken for 6 to 9 euros. On the other hand, we were in our hotel room in less than half an hour.

Our room is very nice with 10 foot ceilings, a large chandelier, and a pink marble bath. We had the twin beds remade into a king bed. The room attendant, Abdullah, was very friendly. Donna stayed in the room while I ventured out for a light take away dinner. I found a small shop, picked up some pasta and a piece of pizza and headed back.

ROME- September 5, 2005
Our first full day in Rome. We finally figured out that, since the hotel does not have coffee pots in rooms, they provide free hot water for all the instant coffee and tea we have.

We had already purchased vouchers for the "hop on-hop-off" tour buses here. So we walked down to a nearest stop at the Spanish Steps to catch it. Unfortunately, the bus stops a few blocks away- a fact we discovered after consulting a tour guide. When we caught the bus we were able sit on the top level for a better view. Deciding to take the full route in order to get our bearings in the city, we stayed in the bus until we arrived near our hotel. We looked for a small grocery but could not find one until Donna saw a man carrying a Carrefours bag. This is a large European food chain where we had shopped in Belgium. We went down two sets of escalators through a subway access tunnel and found the store where we picked up some bread, cheese, and wine. The goal cost was €23, about half the cost of a single American Breakfast in our hotel.

After eating we ventures to the underground swimming pool area to swim. It is in a Roman bath type enclosure and is small but not crowded. I swam, Donna did not.

As it was too early for dinner we decided to walk to the Trevi fountain about a mile away.
This led us past many shops and restaurants including the Rome Hard Rock Cafe. The fountain itself is huge and the area surrounding it and the streets nearby were extremely crowded. We found a little restaurant and had some pasta and bread for dinner. It was very good.

Going back to our hotel was harder as it was all uphill. Back in the room we read and watched most of Transformers 2. We could have watched Star Wars in Italian. Or CSI with Arabic subtitles. But most of the time I watch CNN.

ROME: September 6, 2010
The Roman Forum and the Coliseum were our touring targets today. We walked to one of the tour bus stops then headed over to the Forum area. Despite many requests, we were never able to find the start of the tour area until later in the morning, but we walked along a walkway above the ancient ruins and took many pictures. The temperature was very high and walking along the floor of the forum held little appeal. We signed up for a guided tour of the Coliseum and were able to learn a lot through the presentation of the guide, a native Roman who asked that we behave like proper Romans going through the structure. The edifice was huge and we were able to see how the thousands of ancient Romans could enter and leave the place. Much of the Coliseum collapsed in an earthquake in the 15th century and much of the marble and columns hauled off to build the Vatican.

We could have continued later with a tour of the Forum but decided to head back to our hotel due to the heat.

After cooling off and having lunch in our room, we walked back to the Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain where we picked up a couple of dinner pastries.

ROME - September 7, 2008
After we got up we walked up to the Villa Borghese, a renaissance estate given to the city. Besides a gallery there were acres of paths and roads.

We experimented with the public bus system today by going to the Pantheon, the Piazza Navona and Campo dei Fiori. The Pantheon is the oldest bolding surviving from ancient Rome though it has taken on many aspects of the church and a service was about to begin while we were there. Unlike the coliseum which had been stripped of most of its marble this building had marble and porphyry in abundance. The dome is open at an oculus through which the sun streamed.

The Piazza Navona extended for blocks and contained many restaurants around the perimeter and three fountains within. The smaller Field of Flowers was an open air market with some restaurants. We ate lunch at one of these called the Magnolia. Great pasta and bruschetta.

Getting home was more difficult as we misread the map or the instructions to the bus stop were unclear. After a half hour of walking under the hot sun we found the stop or fermata.

After we rested and read a while we walked to the Church of Santa Susanna where we picked up our tickets to Wednesday's Papal Audience. Our concierge suggested we take a cab to the Vatican, so we got some money out of the ATM.

ROME - September 8, 2010
A very exciting, yet tiring, day. We left our hotel at 7 AM so we could take the subway to the Vatican for the Papal Audience. The subway was crowded and the queue near the Vatican was crazy- individuals and school and tour groups all vied to get near the security scanners and there was lots of pushing and shoving. Donna let one guy in a tour group know he was not getting past her. At one time different groups of people
(all identified by either similar shirts, bandanas, or hats) broke into song. We were not sure what they sang but it may have been something like, "Please let us innnnn, or we'll alllll become Lutherans!!" or maybe not.

Finally we were able to get through the screening and bag scanners and headed toward the Aula della Udienze. It is a modern facility to the left of the main Basilica and, once filled, must have held over 5,000 people. We were within about 100 feet of the stage where the Pope entered at 10:30 AM. By this time we had been sitting in hard wooden chairs for about one and a half hours.

The audience is a scripted event but not without moments of spontaneity. The Pope read a long statement in Italian, then clerical representatives of different linguistic/national groups (French, English, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, Italian) made statements to the Pope and audience largely acknowledging various groups in attendance. This is when the crowd became more like a pep rally as some contingents cheered when recognized while some sang a song or, in the case of a Polish seminary group, sang and held up a very long banner and cheered.

At the end of the event those in attendance were able to join in the Lord's Prayer in Latin before the Pope gave his blessing. Overall this was a very interesting event.

When we left in the huge crowd exiting the hall, we considered doing the Vatican tour, but the line extended more than half way around the circular Piazza of St. Peter. So we walked across the Tiber River to the same restaurant we visited yesterday. I am getting better at my Italian. I can easily ask, "Dov'e la Piazza dei Funghi e Cervelli?" and be told that, sorry, there is no piazza of mushrooms and brains. Later, our trip back to the Vatican was made easier because we took a bus.

We opted to do a guided tour in which we have radio headsets and the leader has a transmitter. Traveling from the south side of the Vatican where we got oriented to the Vatican Museum on the north side of a distant building took a while. When we got to the start of the museum tour, we were already tired. The Museums are comprised of artifacts owned or acquired by various popes. The range of Roman and Greek statuary and the sheer size of the collections were staggering. We saw some famous statues such as the Laocoon as well as Nero's red porphyry bathtub. I especially enjoyed seeing Raphael's The School of Athens. The highlight was the Sistine Chapel with Michelangelo's ceiling and Last Judgment.

After the tour ended we walked through the main Basilica of the church in which many of the popes are interred. The size of the church and the splendor of the various artworks were truly overwhelming.

Taking the subway back to the hotel, we were both tired and excited by our very full day.

No comments: