Trip Start May 22, 2008
15Trip End Jun 14, 2008
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This update comes to you from London! We arrived here yesterday and have been busy seeing the sights, but we will get a few updates in. Still no pictures at this point. We've filled up almost 3 memory cards, so there's a lot to sort through!
Rome was a great and very exhausting excursion. Kristen and I had been preparing for Rome for some time, but really didn't really know the logistics of the stop beyond that of what we wanted to see. The night before we left, however, we were talking with our cabin steward, Ruly who is just the nicest guy, and he gave us the low down on how to get there both cheaply and efficiently. Some of the passengers on the ship were paying $100 per person just to transfer from the port in Civitavecchia (3 hours by bus, 2 hours by train) to Rome. By taking the train and getting off at the San Pietro station near the Vatican we saved more than an hour of time and the train only cost us about $12 per person round-trip!
The Vatican was a short walk from the train stop and it was really amazing. We waited in a long line to get into St. Peter's Basilica, but it was worth it. It is a huge building that was a real treat to see. Every corner of the Basilica has been adorned with some sort of artwork. Throughout the interior are tributes to Popes and Saints and more than a few pieces for the Virgin Mary. As neat as the artwork was, the preserved Popes in the glass coffins were just a little creepy. Some of them had been there for 200 years! We got a lot of pictures and can't wait to share as words cannot do the Basilica justice.
From the Basilica, we left the front of the Vatican and walked all the way around to another line in the back for the Sistine Chapel. Given that we only had a few hours in Rome, this was to be our last Vatican stop. Unlike the Vatican, an admission fee is charged for the Chapel, so the lines back up a little longer but nothing that was too out of hand. Especially given that we were there on a Saturday. The Sistine Chapel was simply amazing. It took us nearly two hours just to walk through the Vatican Museum that precedes the chapel and we didn't even have time to stop and look at everything! It's an immense building and after a while, you start to wonder if you're ever going to actually get to the Sistine! However, that long walk is rewarded with what has to be one of the greatest works of art. The ceiling is beautiful and it's tough to imagine how a person could paint it while on scaffolding 30 feet above the ground and keep it scaled so perfectly. I got some video and some still photography done before the tenders came a chased me off. So, we will have that to share, even though it's just a quick hit.
After the Sistine, we had some Roman pizza across the street. It was good, but nothing like the pizza that we would have in Monte Carlo (more to come on that later). Checking out the map, we decided that the easiest way to see the remaining sites would be to get a cab to their neck of the woods.
After some haggling with a local cabbie, we agreed that 10 Euro was a fair price to the Trevi Fountains. We both made a wish and tossed in a coin. According to local legend, by doing so, we insured that we would one day return Rome (the Eternal City) and the fountain.
After the fountain, we walked down the street and found the Roman Parthenon. It was tough to do the site justice given its size and proximity to other buildings. The Parthenon is well known for the concrete and dome that was constructed using methods not totally understood by today's engineers. Needless to say, it was really something to see.
After that we walked past the Roman Forum and eventually to the Colosseum. We didn't have a lot of time left but really wanted to go inside. The tours get special admission that avoids the line, so Kristen had the bright idea to pay a couple of extra Euro, get with a tour and then ditch them so that we could look at it on our own terms. That tured out to be a great idea as the tour guide wasn't very good. Actually, she was mean and horrible. ;-)
The Colosseum was outstanding and truly worth it to get inside. It was very tough to think that years of plunder and misuse have reduced it to rubble in parts. It's another structure that was way ahead of its time. To this day, though, one can still get onto the second level and imagine 75,000 screaming Romans and see the dungeons that the animals (and gladiators) were kept in below the level of the arena.
From there we headed to the main terminal and back to the ship after a VERY grueling day. We would sleep quite well that night.
We're off to see "Wicked" right now, so that's all of the blogging that we can do for now. "Wicked" is a show on the West End and is actually the prequel to "The Wizard of Oz" so that should be a lot of fun.
Tomorrow or later tonight, we will fill you in on Naples and Monte Carlo.
Joe and Kristen