Friday, flight to Rome, and first day of sightseeing
Quick, hit refresh. Spring break 2k7 is finally here.
I finally have some time to tell you all about spring break. I’m just warning you now that I may forget some things because I had a packed week of vacation. We walked everywhere and things may have become a blur. Spring break technically started on Friday when we were all kicked out of the Tute. (The Tute has become our new word for the Institute…it’s just much easier to abbreviate it.) Since we didn’t have anywhere to go and it was Alex’s 21st birthday, we walked around town for a while. We tried to wakeup the people at the Loyola House down the street, but they were having none of that. Apparently they wanted to sleep. As Alex says, I’ll sleep when I’m dead. Since they kicked us out too, we went to the beguinage and sat there for a few hours. Honestly it was interesting to see what being homeless actually is like. Let me tell you, it’s not a fun experience.
Around 12, we decided to get some lunch for 2 hours. We ate pizza at the local parlor and then decided it was time for Hunky (the bartender) to open up The Wink. By the way, as a male, it’s a little weird calling your bartender Hunky. Good thing he doesn’t talk much or it would be more awkward. After some time at the bar, we had to get the rest of our things from the Tute and store them at the Wink before leaving for the airport at 10. Around 10 or 20 depending on which continent you’re from, Alex and I started the walk to the train station. Dragging a rolling suitcase on cobblestones for 20 minutes was not my idea of a good time, but it had to be done. We finally got to Charleroi Airport and buckled down for a not so restful night of sleeping on the floor. A few things about Charleroi. We had to fly out from there because Ryanair, our discount airline, doesn’t fly out of normal airports. Well this was a hassle, we did fly from Brussels to Rome for €30, so you can’t really beat that. Sleeping in the airport was not really a problem until 2am, when the cleaning service thought it would be a good time to buff the floor with a large, zamboni like machine. Also, the lights and music didn’t turn off all night. Charleroi, which sits roughly 1 hour southeast of Brussels, has the balls to call itself Charleroi – Brussels South Airport. This would be equivalent to an airport in Kingston calling itself Albany South. Ryanair is certainly an interesting airline. While flights are cheap, they attempt to make money in other ways. Mainly this means not shutting up the entire flight while they read ads. My personal favourite was when they attempted to sell lottery tickets on the plane. The barf bags doubled as places to drop film to be developed. They also played a fun trumpet noise when they arrived somewhere on time. For in fact, they are the “on time airline,” which is debatable to say the least.
After checking in for our flight, we went through security. Alex showed that he had a lighter, but apparently it is fine to take open flames onto Ryanair flights. We packed ourselves in like sardines into the plane and buckled down for a 1 hour 30 minute flight to Roma – Ciampino, which is not really near Rome. When we got off the plane, two very nice stewardesses directed us to busses. Again we were packed rather tightly onto the bus, but we figured it would only be a few minutes ride. Well, we were wrong. The bus literally, honestly (I’m not lying) moved one, uno, une, 1, bus length, stopped, opened the doors, and said Welcome to Ciampino Airport. I had to laugh and thought to myself that we were in a cartoon.
We found our baggage and then attempted to find a way to get to Rome. The easiest way from Ciampino is a bus and the subway. This took about an hour and a half. We got out of the train station in Rome and walked to the hostel. Well Rome is one of the coolest cities I’ve ever been to, the buildings are not labelled very well. We had to call Annemarie several times before we found the correct door to the hostel. (In Rome, we met up with 6 other people from the Tute who left two days earlier.) We dropped our stuff in the hostel and then decided it was time to paint the town red, or sightsee. Our first stop was St. Marie Maggiore’s Church, where Mass has been celebrated since the fifth century. The church was really cool and it was nice to not see another gothic church. Rome’s basilicas are all the same, but they are really awesome. The side altars were amazing.
The next stop was the Colosseum, but we had to try Italian pizza before taking a tour. The pizza in Rome is the best I’ve ever had. I can’t really say much more about it. So, I’ll move onto the Colosseum. As we were walking to it, we got roped into one of those guided tour things. We paid an extra €10, but it was kind of worth it not to stand in line for 45 minutes. Our tour guide was interesting to say the least. He loved words like “masses of people” “rippling muscles” and “gladiator blood.” Basically the entire tour consisted of these seven words. The Colosseum is a really cool place and it was awesome to see where the masses of people watched the rippling muscles of the gladiators with blood. The rippling muscles of the gladiators who had blood were watched by the masses of people. Gladiator blood, seen by the masses of people, came from the rippling muscles. This was the tour.
After the Colosseum, we walked around the forum, which was the heart of ancient Rome. I can’t believe I’m saying that I hung out in the forum, but I did. How awesome is that? We sat on some ruins, looked at arches, and generally had a good time. While in the forum, we attempted several times to meet up with the other people from the Tute. Alex and Annemarie contacted each other before we finally heard in a high pitched voice “Alzie. Robo.” We knew we had found them. After more walking around, we sat down with the others while they had lunch. I chose so gelato, which was amazing.
The next stop of the day was St. John Lateran Church. It’s another classical church, with the exception of one thing. It houses St. Peter’s Chair, where the Pope sits when he wants to be infallible. This was cool to see. After this, we walked across the street to the Holy of Holies. This is a church that contains some pretty cool things. First, it has the steps from the praetorium that Jesus walked up and down the day before he was crucified. You can’t walk up the steps. Instead, you have to go up on your knees, praying on each step. At various points along the way, you can stop and see Jesus’ blood still on the stairs. At the top of the steps is a picture painted by God. While this may be a myth, scientists have analyzed the painting and do not know what it was painted with. No known substance created the picture. This whole experience was absolutely one of the coolest things I’ve ever done.
We went back to St. Marie Maggiore’s after this so the others could see it. Then we went to the hostel to get ready for dinner at a Spaghetti House. While it was nice to finally eat some pasta, there were a few problems with the place. First, 9 people were smushed around a table 2 feet wide and 5 feet long. Second, it was around 100 degrees in the restaurant. Third, my pasta was salty. Those are the only complaints. The next stop was the Trevi Fountain, where we hung out and had some drinks. I threw the two stones into the fountain, one for my wish and one to ensure I get to see Rome again. After sitting there for a while, we walked around Rome some more. Some people got tired and went back to the hostel. At this time, me, Alex, Teddy, and Sandra had the brilliant idea to watch the sun rise over the Colosseum. We made it until about 4am when it just got too cold to sit on the ground any more.