So, you all know by now that I'm a horrific procrastinator (I keep hoping it will come in handy some day), and preparing for this trip was no exception. With all the house stuff going on, I didn't really get to packing in earnest until the night before we were to leave. Of course by then, all the laundry needed to be washed, and my checklist felt a mile long, and it takes ten times as long to pack when hubby and I are playing pass the baby. We did manage to get everything done in time to leave to go to the airport in time to get on our flight, but by the time we got the airport, I was a bit of a wreck. I don't handle flying well (funny for someone who claims to enjoy it...which I do...but that whole fear of falling out of the sky thing sometimes is a bit prohibitive), so that added to the stress. I swallowed my fear, frustration, etc., and we got on the plane to New York City to make our connection that would take us to Rome. Because of traffic going into JFK, our flight sat on the runway for a good 30 minutes before taking off, which then meant that we were going to be cutting it close to making our connecting flight. The flight to JFK was really bumpy and on a snug little Embraer jet which just added to my stress.
When we finally arrived in New York, we hopped out of the plane and double-timed it to catch our connecting flight, which was an overnighter on a 767. Thankfully, we made it with a few minutes to spare. Our seats on this flight were at that arse end of the plane, the last row before the flight attendants' seats. There were no windows for our row, and the restrooms for our cabin were on either side of our 3-seat row. This made for a noisy, restless flight. I did not sleep over the entire 8-9 hour flight because just as I would doze off, the baby would readjust her position or squirm, or someone would need to go to the bathroom and would brush past, or the toilet would flush with the sound of an industrial vacuum, or the little bell would ding for the flight attendants. During the flight, there was a malfunction of this bell, and it would ding for no apparent reason at irregular intervals. Highly annoying.
Apparently, Amer1can A1rlines is the Patrick Swayze airline because the second movie on the way to Rome and the way home was a flick he starred in. First movie on the way there was the Beatrix Potter film with Renee Zelweger, second movie was Dirty Dancing. I watched bits and pieces of the first with the little earbud headphones the attendants provide but eventually had to give up because the baby kept pulling them out of my ears. I just lip read the second movie. The food was not particularly memorable, beef and noodles with a salad and a roll for dinner and a croissant with juice for breakfast. The baby was a real trooper and handled the whole flight with ease. She slept for a fair bit of the flight and really didn't cry at all. Hubby actually did manage to catch some rest over the flight, but mostly we just sat and watched the movies and the animation they showed with our progress toward our destination. I might have knit a little on a sock. When the sun came up and started to brighten our cabin, it was much easier to stay awake. Though with all the turbulence, I wasn't feeling too sleepy anyway.
When we finally arrived at the airport in Rome, the time was somewhere around 7:30 Roman time, which was 6 hours ahead of Ohio time (we left at 5 pm tuesday here and arrived on wednesday morning there). So my body was thinking it was after 1 am and time to go to bed. We picked up our baggage and got through customs without a hitch. Next task was to get to the hotel. Our traveling partners J. and A. had booked a shuttle bus to take them to the hotel. We decided to try to hook up with them rather than try to navigate the train system while stupidly tired. While waiting for the shuttle to arrive, we wandered through the Gastronomia, a mini-market of sorts. Our palates were desirous of typical American breakfast things and fresh fruit. This was not to be found here. Smoked whole pig legs wrapped in heavy plastic (prosciutto, I was assuming?) hung from the ceiling, and various other Italian culinary specialties were in abundance such as pasta and packaged goods. Needless to say, no food was bought.
We finally hopped aboard the shuttle bus with our driver (who seemed to not speak much English), and sped off for our ride. Our bus was a very small one, probably smaller than a panel van. Our airport, Fiumicino, was on the outskirts of the city, so a fair bit of the drive was by freeway. I was instantly struck by the insanity of European driving. Teeny tiny little cars (the Smart car is no longer than a Vespa scooter and not much wider) driving very fast and changing lanes frequently. There was heavy utilization of brakes and short braking distances given the speeds, but everyone seemed very courteous on the freeway, and somehow there weren't any accidents. There were beautiful bushes that were in bloom in the medians, and I was taken by the beauty of the countryside. There were hills in the distance dotted by stuccoed villas.
It wasn't long and we were coming into the city proper, and the scenery became less and less green and more inner city. One of my first impressions was how dirty everything seemed. Graffiti was apparent everywhere, but didn't appear any different in style than what you'd see in any American inner city. Under one particular overpass, a homeless family who apparently had been living from their car was preparing breakfast. Traffic thickened and slowed in winter molasses fashion, and lane markings became not so apparent. The number of scooters multiplied exponentially, and I was struck by the makeup of their drivers. Business men in suits and women in skirts rode along side twenty-somethings in tank tops and casualwear. Scooter and motorcycle riders in Rome also have a different set of driving practices than here in the States. In America, motorcycles are expected to ride single file behind the vehicle in front of them. In Italy, they weave between the lanes of traffic like shoelaces and pretty much anywhere they can find space, except maybe the sidewalks. Being a pedestrian in Rome is much like taking the leap of faith. You pretty much walk out into traffic on the crosswalks knowing that everyone will stop. Otherwise, you'd run the risk of dying from old age from waiting for a break long enough to get across.
We finally started to really get into the heart of ancient Rome, and ruins could be spotted interspersed between city buildings, many of which were 5-6 story buildings of various warm muted colors of stucco. Our driver pointed out the grassy field that once was the Circus Maximus, and then we were quickly upon the Colosseum. Our hotel was not far from this monument, and it seemed we were there within just a couple of minutes. The hotel was tucked down an little side street that really wasn't much more than an alley. Along the street were a few small shops, a restaurant, a couple of bars, and a pizzeria.
When we came into the hotel lobby, we noticed a breakfast room off waiting area. The hotel appeared a little dated, (after being there a week, we got to realizing that most things in Rome are dated to one extent or another) but we were glad to have arrived. I think I nearly kissed the ground once I got out of the bus. The time was close to 10 am, and official check in wasn't for another 4 hours. The desk clerk was kind enough to go ahead and check us in early so we could catch some Z's. We wanted a room close to the other couple we were traveling with, so the clerk hooked us up with a 3 room flat off the garden that had two double rooms and a twin room, which was one room more than we really needed, but we weren't going to argue. One of the doubles and the twin were upstairs. The double rooms really were just that-two twin beds doubled together to make a larger bed. I have yet to decide whether this was an Italian thing or a European thing in general. With the shades drawn and being on the garden, the room was blissfully dark and quiet. We both collapsed into the very springy bed, and not a peep was made for a couple hours.
Coming next...getting out Wednesday afternoon after our nap to do our first bit of sightseeing...