All Roads Lead to Here

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Flag of Italy  , Lazio,
Monday, April 18, 2011

It's time to learn a new language...again!  Today we flew from Athens to Rome.  When we got to the airport we ran into our first real plane problem.  We got to the airport 2 hours early as per protocol and it turns out the plane hasn't even left Rome yet to come get us.  It ended up only being about an hour delay though, so no big deal at all.  We were overdue for something to happen, so if that's the worst of it we're pretty lucky.  During the delay I thought, "Hey, maybe I should call home while we've got a little free time."  Sounds easy enough.  Nope.  We bought an international phone card from a airport shop who said you just put it in the phone and dial.  We went to a phone where it said insert card then enter phone number.  Again, it sounds easy.  It accepted the card fine.  Problem was anything we tried would either say 'number invalid' or some lady talking in Greek.  We tried for about a half hour with no luck.  Phone card fail #2.  I don't know who invented these things but they never work.  So if anyone needs a Greek phone card let me know because I have one with 3 euros left on it.No big deal though, because we are heading to Italy!  We were excited too.  The whole flight we worked on our Italian.  I think we are in pretty good shape.  "Ferrari linguine fettucinni lamborghini."  We came up with all sorts of good phrases that should work well here.  We're also working on talking with our hands.  We've noticed a lot of people doing that.  This was our last flight until we come home next month.  We're also hoping to be done with taxis too, sticking to as many trains as possible.  We have found that trains are by far the best way to get around places if possible.  You don't have to negotiate fares, get stuck in traffic, get lost, talk to anyone, or get seasick.  It's just a low stress way to travel.  
Around 4:30 we had landed and were heading into town on a train.  I had grabbed a slice of pizza at the first possible place in the train station.  Our hotel is called Hotel Des Artistes and is a half dozen blocks from the main train station in Rome (Termini.)   This is the first hotel I've ever stayed at in Europe,and I have heard a million stories about European hotels about how they are all really old and the rooms are tiny and uncomfortable. It is a smaller hotel with probably less than 50 rooms, but they are spread over 5 stories with an old cage elevator to go up and down.  The room is huge compared to some of the places we've been to, and very comfortable with old wood furniture and old Christian art on the walls.
On the ride up the elevator to our rooms we were riding with an asian lady.  Her kids were just outside the elevator and we caught a few words and recognized that she was speaking Thai.  We talked for a second and she seemed really surprised that we figured out where she was from.  When we got off we said 'sawasdee' and she said 'welcome to Thailand' which is what everyone says when you're there.  It was a pretty funny exchange.
It had already been a long day to this point, but we had gained an hour due to the time change (even though we lost one due to the plane delay) and we decided to hit up as much of the city as we could while we had the chance.  It is an amazing city.  Not very colorful or modern, but extremely old and classic seeming.  There are churches absolutely everywhere and you can't go more than a few blocks without running into a plaza with huge statues and fountains.
We wandered around a little bit and slid into an old unassuming church on a street corner.  It turns out that it is an old church called Santa Maria della Vittoria.  The inside of the church was covered in marble with huge statues and paintings that are hundreds of years old.  The ceiling was also painted in bright colors.  The most famous part of the church was a statue from some guy named Bernini.  I had never heard of him before (I think that probably says something about me,) but it turns out that he is a huge deal here in Rome and especially with Catholic art.  You can find his sculptures everywhere you turn around town.  This was one of his more famous sculptures called the Ectasy of St Teresa.  It shows St. Teresa sitting on a cloud being pierced by an arrow from an angel.  Supposedly the pain is so intense and overwhelming that she is overwhelmed by it.  There are gold rays from the sun shining on them, and in the corners there is a scene of people watching from the balcony.  It was pretty cool.  Rome is going to be awesome.
After leaving the church we went to the Spanish Steps.  They are where hundreds of people sit around on these big steps "waiting to get inspired."  It was very crowded, not that impressive, and Jacki bought a pop that ended up being 4 euros (~$6.)  We did sit for a little bit, and there was a big obelisk that they had stolen from Egypt.  So far we have seen 4 big obelisks that were from Egypt.  It's kind of weird to see them so out of place since we had just seen them in their original spots, but at the same time it's kind of cool to see them someplace nice too.
We grabbed some pasta for dinner (amazing) and went to the Trevi Fountain.  It's a huge fountain and if you toss a coin over your shoulder into it then you will come back to Rome someday.  It is an amazing fountain, newer than most in town and extremely white and clean.  For some reason it reminded us a lot of Vegas.
So far Italy has gotten off to a great start.  I think we're going to have a good time in Europe.
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bryan on

there actually is a fake trevi fountain on one of the corners of the caesar shops... funny stuff

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