This trip involved two big firsts for me: my first trip to Western Europe, and my first overseas trip with someone else. I wasn’t worried about travelling in Europe – truth be told I didn’t think twice about it. I’ve managed to get around on my own in Russia and Japan, so Western Europe was a piece of cake. I was more concerned about the second part, but it ended up being alright – even positive.
Our flight was scheduled to leave on Saturday June 8 around 1:45pm. I drove over to my parents’ house that morning to drop off my cat and make sure my brother had properly packed. I’m very particular, you know – I take one carry-on on the way there, with an empty bag inside to fill with souvenirs, because a) I don’t want to haul a bunch of luggage from the foreign airport to the hotel, and b) Can you imagine starting your vacation with lost luggage? Neither can I, which is why I eliminate the possibility.
Mom dropped us off at the airport and we made quick work of security. Our flight was delayed so that our three hour layover in Chicago turned into 30 minutes, but we made the connection with no issues. Approximately nine hours later, we landed in Rome at 9:30am local time. And then sat on the tarmac for thirty minutes because the jet way at the airport was jammed. Not the most auspicious way to start a trip, but as a traveler the first thing you have to expect is that things will go wrong. Customs was fairly non-existent and we caught the 10:35am train to the city center. Our hotel was conveniently right next to the railway terminus. Our first stop was St. Peters Square to pick up our Roma Passes/Omni Cards (Rome’s version of a City Pass which included our subway passes). Since it was Sunday, the Vatican museum itself wasn’t open, but that didn’t stop hoards of people from congregating in the square. We grabbed a quick lunch at an outdoor café before heading to the ancient city center to visit the Coliseum, Roman Forum, and Palatine Hill. I love ancient culture and monuments, but my brother was less than impressed. Part of that stemmed from the fact that he’s a teenager and therefore “too cool to care” and part of it was jet-lag. We spent less time at those three sites than I would have on my own, but I still took plenty of pictures and enjoyed myself.
It was at these sites that we realized that one of the Roma Passes was defective – naturally it was the one with access to the subway and most monuments. Too stubborn to waste an hour going back and forth to the Vatican office for a new card, we got creative. Our subway journeys became a tightly-choreographed, well-executed tango. My brother would enter ahead of me through the handicapped gate and I would follow quickly behind before the gate swooped shut, making sure to go through the motions of swiping my pass over the reader. We made a perfect tag team. As far as the monuments, having one working card helped with the “confused and helpless tourist” act and we talked our way into them all. Hey, we did pay for access after all. It’s hardly our fault that the card was defective.
We decided to get some gelato to fortify ourselves for the afternoon (and to begin indulging in deliciously unhealthy Italian cuisine), and that’s when my brother encountered his first street scam artist. A guy with a pair of parakeets came up and tried to get us to hold his birds and take pictures, etc. I declined, but my brother was more flustered and we ended up giving the guy a euro or two in return for this picture:
The jet-lag was really starting to catch up with us, so we went back to the hotel in the early evening, ventured out to get dinner around the corner, and went to bed early.