Bumpy ride coming down the top of the boot of Italy to Rome. We were a few minutes late and I could not wait to get off that plane. Once we landed, people were very anxious to get off the plane. I wonder how much first class would have been.
Our transfer voucher said that our shuttle will only wait 30 minutes once we land to take us to where we need to go. A lot had to happen though!
Like using the little girl's room which are labeled toilets. I remembered them being called 'WC' for water closet. Rome's airport bathrooms were clean, with tall doors and no toilet seat liners like they typically do in America. Mexico also often does not provide toilet seat liners. So I make my own. Habit.
I let Courtney go first to get her first stamp in her passport. I told her it was going to be addicting collecting them. She was let into the country of Italy! Thank goodness. My first stamp was in Venice and it was faint, therefore a bit disappointing that it was a loud declaration that I'm a traveler!
Then it was time to get our baggage. It took quite a bit of time and people like to stand at the very edge of the carousel to hunt down their bags, basically being in the way of anyone else. I like to stand back and watch from afar. I was but wasn't in a rush. Standing close to the carousel isn't going to make my bags come out faster. What was interesting and worrisome was that I saw a grey sweater with a Hawaiian flower print on the carousel. I don't think anyone within 100 yards of me loves Hawaii as much as I do, but did I pack that? If I did, why is it out here not hanging out of my new, red, Samsonite luggage? I retrieved it. It was definitely mine. People around me joked that that was all I checked in! Kinda funny. Eventually our bags arrived and Ms. Muscles picked them both off the carousel. 'Como sei forte!' as my Dualingo has taught me. 'You're so strong!'
We also needed to exchange our money for some Euros. We did that and so it starts with the flirty Italian men. He was very friendly. Not friendly enough to give me more that what the exchange rate was though.
We exited the baggage claim area and thought we had to go thru customs. Nope! A crowd of people holding up signs with travelers' names were lined against the railing. I quickly scanned for my last name and found it immediately. We checked in and was thankfully asked to sit down and to know that we weren't holding up the group.
The airport has free wifi so we played a bit online while we could. I did buy the unlimited text and some internet coverage for $120 but if I use my phone like I do back home, I would be out of data in three days. I turned off all cellular data for apps I don't need to be hooked up to. I basically just have texting, Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat and Yelp available. No need for that other stuff. It's unnecessary. I want to be less wired and more in-intuned with my new surroundings.
It was then time to go! The shuttle was not parked right out front. We dragged our almost 50-pound luggage down and up ramps, thru busy parking garages with black luxury cars. Eventually we were led to our black van that we crammed other travelers to. I tried to sit in the front but was denied by age and a Disneyland sweater that already claimed the spot. I get motion sick. So back to the van I go. I just had to keep looking out the window and at something in the distance. The air from the vents above also helped.
Though it was overcast, it was still warm. Our driver was booking it. The man was on a mission.
Our first stop was a Holiday Inn that seemed pretty far from the city of Rome. Half of the guests unloaded there including Mr. and Mrs. Disneyland sweater in the front. I jumped into the front seat. When the driver got to his seat, he was surprised to see me there. I said hi and asked if it's ok. He said his English wasn't very good but it's ok that I sat there. His name was Marco.
Front row is always good for me. For concerts, in front of the line and in racing shuttles through narrow roads and crazy scooter drivers. One car came very close to hitting us on my side and I tried to conceal my squeal as I lifted my right thigh up and tensed as if preparing to impact. We all know I've been there a few times! Marco laughed and said they are all crazy. Not him though! We didn't have to dodge the impact. The other driver stopped just in time, thankfully.
Going thru the town, I was reading every sign to see if I knew or could figure out the meaning of the word. Marco loosened up more as I attempted to speak to him. He was very confident in his driving. He took us though short, narrow, tourist filled streets and making multiple turns that reminded me that this city is not laid out in a grid. I have a pretty good sense of direction but he lost me. He squeezed us between a wall and a car that was jutting out into the road. Literally, it was maybe an inch on each side of the van that would allow us to get by. He got us thru. Insane. I would have killed someone and have taken out at least 20 review mirrors on our way to the hotel.
I was happy to be able to communicate a bit with Marco. He was fun. We talked about where we were from and what we did for work. Thank you, Dualingo.
We eventually made it to our street. There was construction going on so he couldn't drop us off right at the door but no big deal. We were thankful that we'll be able to set our luggage down for a couple of days. We said arrivaderci to Marco and found our hotel.
The hotel had a single glass sliding door, a waiting area with beaded chandeliers and white leather couches and a curved front desk where we were greeted by another man named Marco. We were checked in, given a key. I looked at Court, 'Do we just need one?' She said it'd be a bad idea if we got separated. This wasn't Vegas.
We took an old but thankfully well functioning elevator but has a max of three people at a time. Our luggage was definitely that other person. Our room was down the hall and actually opened in, not out, like our cruddy Ramada room in Hawthorne, California. It was small, had two twin beds real close to each other, a tv that I can't figure out how to turn on, a window with shutters and a decent bathroom. We were so excited to get out but I had to check my email and get a bit refreshed.
We winged it and decided to go left, only because Marco recommended it as we were leaving. We saw our first obelisk, learned from our ride with Marco that we will obey all traffic signs and be sure to look both ways and keep moving. There were bakeries with tortas in the window, cannolis that my Cugino would love to try, pizza and gelato on every corner, souvenirs shops, leather shops, a theater that offers opera and dinner and cars and scooters everywhere! It was a happening city.
We randomly picked some spot to eat at because for 11€ we could get a pizza, potato croquettes and a bottle of water. What a deal! That was our first meal in Italy. Of course we had to sit outside. It was a great day. And they had wifi. A requirement to wherever we dined.
Across from us, a gent receive a huge stein of a beer. It was Oktoberfest so it seemed appropriate. I asked him where he was from and he's from North Carolina. Of course I immediately thought of not being close to my nephew soon as they will also be moving to NC. He was leaving tomorrow with his wife who was shopping for leather goods down the way. She came back with a nice, brown leather bag and said the maker was in the shop as well. Pretty cool. Then a couple approached the table next to him wearing a Russian River Brewing Company shirt. They were not Californians but I like that California is present. Another couple sat to our right. Three tables across the way we're chatting up and I turned to them to see if they'd like to join in! The ladies were from London. Nice accent. North Carolina said they were actually traveling with friends from Sacramento and that he's very familiar with San Francisco. Of course I gave them my card before we left. I love meeting people while on vacation. You share these moments and you may never see each other again but perhaps you will!
I was seeing on Facebook that a former Legal Assistant of mine was in Italy as well! I haven't seen Roo, aka Reuben, in probably 4 years when I asked for a ride from LAX to a hotel but he took me to Hamburger Mary's in West Hollywood. Roo's great. So smart and funny. We talked about grabbing drinks and dinner that evening. Court and I decided to go back to the hotel for a 45-min nap and then go out. We crashed immediately.
As it was our first time out during the evening in Rome, we put some dresses and heels on. We would quickly regret that. It definitely was not hard getting a taxi though! Waiters of restaurants on our street stared us down and said they will be joining us later! It made us laugh.
The taxi took us to Roo's AirBnB and it was so cute. Spacious compared to ours. We met his friend Vicente who is a professor in Madrid. Very friendly. Silly of me, I assumed they were dating. Wrong!
We walked up their road in our heels and had to take the boys' arms to avoid a heel getting stuck in the cobblestone and breaking our ankles. Then the flight of stone steps. We were about to get a calf workout! Thankfully the restaurant Vicente had in mind was at the bottom of the steps.
We waited about 10 minutes for a table, then we were sat in the corner with a wine bottle ordered and a mixed bruschetta platter. All of it was delicious including the olive tepanade. I'm not that big of a fan of olives but it was good. I told Court to try it. I was zero for two. Her piece was given to Roo.
Court ordered the lasagna, Roo had the goat cheese and pepper pasta and I had the rigatoni with three kinds of meat and a pomodoro sauce. Mine was incredible! I loved it. Roo's was great as well. We ordered another bottle of wine, this time a Shiraz. Very good.
We then went to a bar close by but they were closed and then had to back track to the piazza with a fountain and a small bar. We then got a bottle of Fiano and they had to pour it in plastic cups. We stood near the fountain. I chose the spot so I could have something to lean against in my BCBG heels. We made our way around the fountain because sprinkles were hitting Court and she was wearing a white dress. It was a happening square. Many people having a good time. No music necessary. Lightning struck above us. Another bottle was ordered. And then it started to rain. Then it rained harder and the piazza cleared with people hugging the walls of the building, finding inches of shelter from the roofs at least three stories above. I took a few sips of my wine. We basically huddled together against the wall and it rained harder. We were laughing in disbelief that this was happening our first night in Rome.
The rain eventually lightened up and we found a taxi assuming the boys were coming with us to the next stop but remembered they were maybe two city blocks away. We said our arrivadercis and grazies and said we'd meet up the next evening.
I jumped in the front seat. Our driver was Danielo. Very flirty and direct with compliments and to seize the day and sleep with him that night! Non grazie, Danielo, but thanks for the laugh!
We weren't quite done for the evening and needed something sweet. We stopped at a restaurant across the street from us at the Hotel California and The Condor, which happened to be the same name of the strip club we went to on my birthday. Hilarious.
More flirting from the waiters and although they were closing up they let us order a bottle of wine and tiramisu. I devoured mine. We asked to one of them to take our photo and he did. But mostly focusing on Court's lady parts!
We took the bottle of wine up to the hotel room and decided to get silly on Snapchat because Periscope wasn't working. We had about 10 video segments that were about things we learned on our first day in Italy. We thought they were hilarious.
And then we passed out. We had plans to work out the next morning at the Spanish Steps, see the Trevi Fountain and take our tour of the Vatican.
Day 1: Done